In continuation to My Tale of Life (Part-I)
She now realized why her mother always insisted her on going somewhere far from home. She could vividly remember her saying, “Actually, I feel so much relieved and happy to have you around with me, but you will find peace elsewhere than here”. Though reluctant at first, she relented eventually. Her heart murmured, “Better be slavery at others' door than being in a hell like this”. But what about her mother who has to be in the hell her entire life? She deeply empathizes and sympathizes with her and she reassured herself that she is going to change everything sooner.
For the first time in ages, Namgangmo felt a little bit of the heaviness drifting from her head and her tired eyes brightened. It was a new lease of life to her with her relatives. She would babysit, clean the house, wash clothes; and in the due course of time, she learnt how to cook meals. She could give some rest to her ears. She was careful not to let them to find any lapse in her doings.
In addition, they would bear her educational expenses. On the contrary, her grandmother would pile stakes of money in a box and lock it up. She would collect the money given to her by her sons and the tourist guests they often bring home; from the sale of her locally brewed wine, ‘Ara’; and of course from the sale of butter and cheese; and she would subsequently add it to the already existing pile to make it a bigger one or to make another one.
Forget about spending a single penny on the girl who sacrificed her holidays herding cattle, she would be deprived of the very right to eat the butter and cheese. It was even more pathetic to see that her mother had to purchase butter and cheese from others while her grandmother sold the same. It was astounding as to how a mother could be so cruel to her daughter and granddaughter but it was a fact.
Her mother gave birth to the second girl when Namgangmo was two years old and she was the one to run to the kitchen to fetch the cutter to have the umbilical cord cut. It was shameless of the father who worked as a manager at a nearby farm, who had her sister traded for worth of a pack of rice and a tin of oil and disappeared. Only her mother was left to face the cruelty and the reality of life.
Since then, the number of slaves at the mercy of grandmother’s door increased from one to two. Slaves get paid in cash for their service but they got paid with cartloads of brutality and humiliation.
Her grandmother hated the two sisters being together. “These two bastards would sit together always; can’t you be without each other?” They would exchange a glance of dismay, hated being called so. “Always sticking together, talking unnecessary things, eating like a pig but what is the output?” Their eyes would be welled with tears and they would avert their heads from the monster in front, blinking.
“You…coal-hearted girls, from where do you think all that you push down your mouth come from? Have you ever seen them falling from the sky? Did you know that your fathers didn’t feed you even a single bowl of rice? You are eating from my hand, staying at my house, what did you have from your useless fathers?”
A slightest act of rebel would put her grandmother in the deepest mood of anguish. Once she lost her control and said abruptly, “You bitch drove my father away”.
“What did this bastard utter from her mouth? Are you trying to spit on the face that fed you? I can’t tolerate such things at all. Get out of my house right now! Go and live with your father”, saying this, she dragged her out of the house. She could have fled to somewhere far but it was already dark. On this account, she took shelter in the cattle shed. As she laid there on the dry pine leaves scratching one of the calves on her neck, she murmured her pain, “I am nothing different from you. You are even luckier as my grandmother loves you more than me”.
A third man came along her mother’s life and yet added another member to the pool of tragedy. No sooner was he driven back. Her poor mother didn’t have any say in all those acts. People took advantage of her innocence, kindness and submissiveness. It was only when the last child and the only boy brought back their father several years later that her mother found some relieve and solace to her mind.
But the chaos in the house didn’t come to a cease. Her grandmother’s daily humiliation and orders from dawn till dusk had led to nothing more than an argument and soon they became the worst enemy. Indeed, she was an implacable enemy. Her grandmother’s implacability rather astounded and unnerved her. She would rarely be at home but even for a short while when she did stay, she was sick of the emotional turbulence in the family. She would wonder how her mother is bearing all those.
One thing that makes her emotional and upset as well was the frequency of the forms that she had to fill up in schools, which always had father’s name and occupation. She had seen none with mother’s till now. That made her to approach her teacher one day and enquire, “Sir, can I write mother’s name in place of fathers?” When the response was not what she expected, she raised her voice, “Sir, but that’s insane to write one when I don’t have and don’t belong to him”. “Whatever, write his name”, and the teacher would zip her mouth.
But all those miserable scenes had not discouraged Namgangmo. Instead, she drew courage and strength from it. She felt the need to study hard, the need to be someone great enough to change the situation and the need to take her mother out of the whirlpool of turmoil. She realized the potentiality to do so only if she excelled in her studies. That was the only motivation behind her hard work.
Accordingly, she came to the proper notice of the teachers when she was selected to go to Japan on a month long cultural exchange program. It was when she was in the fifth standard that she was selected through an interview. The following winter vacation, she got a call from the VAST, the Voluntary Artist Studio Thimphu, to attend a week long art workshop and to collect the prize for the painting that she has sent earlier.
Apart from her studies, she took an active part in extra-curricular activities. Not only does it ease her painful memories but every activity taught her something new. She was always ready to learn though not always liked being told. Singing and dancing was one of her passion but she limits this to only her national and traditional ones.
Besides, she played games and sports. Though not good at it, she acknowledged it as it soothed her physically as well as mentally. Often, she would be on the stage, delivering an extempore speech, Elocution, inter-regional quiz or inter-dzongkhag debate competition, etc. She never regretted for being a part of everything. Consequently, she was given due recognition and she was awarded the Best Female Student twice which added further motivation to her act of will.
The little pocket money that she brought from home would she wrap in a piece of cloth. Along with the money earned from some sort of competition or dancing for a movie, she shall reach it back to her mother or buy her something. Nothing makes her happy than to see her mother in a blissful mood.
She would console her mother, “Ama, don’t be depressed because I am there for you. Once I complete my studies, I will take the sole responsibility of ensuring you all a happy life. I mean it and am I not meant for that?” the only response would be a humble smile accompanied by a simple nod. Despite her mother’s pretext, she knew how much her heart wept for freedom and happiness.
In fact, her encounter with the man of her life enlightened her path of darkness. He was a man of dignity, a man with understanding, a man with so much merit and value accumulated in him. She has so much to learn from him, including the values of life which she has failed to receive from her parents. The two could never be the same, but she found worth it. It was coincidental that every character of hers resembled his, from being silent to reserve. He was a gift from god to her.
So often would she lament, “How pathetic of me that I didn’t get my father’s love, not even got to utter ‘Apa’ like you do”? Her friend would tease her, “No matter, now that you got more than a father, you can call him as apa”. And yeah, he is a father to her, a friend, a teacher, a companion of her lifetime and after all the very source of happiness and tranquility in her life.
And now, she is dwelling in the other part of the world, millions of miles away from her home. Though out of sight, her mother wasn’t out of her mind. Neither has she lost the focus in her life. His Majesty the fifth king has emphasized during the Royal Audience, “Good is not good enough, you should excel” and a briefing at the Department of Adult and Higher Education outlined, “Your first priority should be your health and then your studies. If you neglect the former, you can’t excel in the latter”.
Every time, she reminds herself of these words, a flash of new energy would splash through her mind and thrill her heart to motion. With God as the sole guardian and trustee of her soul, she is determined to move forward in pursuit of happiness for her mother and her family.