Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A shared vision for the future

The three small bamboo huts stand close to each other, their thin roofs shaking in the wind. The porous walls make it easy to see everything inside.

The single-room huts serve as a bedroom and kitchen. Tins and old clothes lie stacked in a corner while water boils in an aluminum kettle on a mud stove at the other end.

Outside, three women sit under the sun, chatting and laughing. They share similar features; thin, tall and good humoured. But what makes them stand out are their eyes. They seem hazy and slightly open; the sisters suffer from poor vision.

Married with children, the three sisters, who live in Gomchu, five kilometres from Khaling, Trashigang, subsist on a plot of land they own.

The eldest, 42-year-old Sangay Choden, is completely blind in one eye. She said the condition became worse when a stone particle struck her right eye while she was working on a construction site.

Three of her five children also suffer from blindness. The two elder children suffer from low vision and are currently studying in the Muenseling school in Khaling. The youngest is completely blind.

Thirty-three year old Rinzin Lhamo, the youngest of the sisters, has the poorest vision among them. She has been almost blind since her early days. However, her two children have normal sight.

Tandin Tshomo, 37, is considered to have the best sight of the three. She said that she could see as well as normal people do. Tandin Tshomo said that there were nine children in her family but only three of them suffered from poor sight. “We must have inherited it from our mother,” she said. While their late father did not have any problems, their mother, who earlier had normal vision, became blind as she grew older. “Our brothers and sisters went away and settled in different places, but the three of us decided to live close by and be with each other,” she said.

Life has not been easy on the sisters and every day they face new challenges. With all their three husbands unemployed, the family does all kinds of errands to make ends meet. “We have bad eyes but good stomachs that need to be filled,” joked Sangay Choden.

Most of the time, the sisters work for others on a daily wage basis. It is mostly farm work or carrying stones for constructions.

“That’s the only thing we can do with our kind of eyes. We can’t weave like other women because you need good eyes for that,” said Sangay Choden, adding that they could not work properly on their own field. But the amount they earned was hardly sufficient and, with more children in schools, the sisters said that expenses had increased drastically.

“At times, when our children return from school saying they need Nu 5 for class collection, we don’t have a single coin to give them,” said Sangay, adding that shopkeepers donated the school uniforms for their children this year. They also have residents of Khaling donating clothes and food at times.

“That helps a lot, yet there are always times when we run out of food and money,” said Rinzin Lhamo. “Rain seeps in from the roof and we worry that the wind might blow off our shelter. We make all efforts to make life comfortable.”

The three sisters say that they intend to stay together until the end and work hard to give their children a future.

www. kuenselonline.com

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