Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Bhutan : Sherubtse to Abi’s rescue

10 June, 2008 - Home is where the heart is. For 60-year old Abi Tashi Wangmo, her heart lies in a small shed situated in a field in Pangthang village, a half hour walk from Kanglung, Trashigang.

It has been her home for more than fifteen years.

Loose bamboo sheets, patched with rusted tin, thin rugs spread on the floor, stones pitched in one corner that serve as a cooking stove, three pots, and a stack of twigs outside are what makes up her “home”.

“Life is difficult with no children or relatives to look after you. This is the only place where I feel secure,” said Tashi Wangmo in a mumble, her hands gesticulating frantically owing to her challenged hearing.

Last week, however, Tashi Wangmo’s lonely life took a turn for the better and her shelter, which had almost crumbled, was restored to a compact mud house in a single day.

A group of about 30 members from Sherubtse College’s social service unit showed up on Sunday with the necessary materials and built a new home for her.

“One day a stranger came to me and asked where I lived,” she told Kuensel. “When I showed him my house, he went through my belongings and took photographs. He said he would return soon and build me a proper house.”

“Later, I was surprised to see a whole lot of them. They moved my stuff and began working. Before night fell, I had a beautiful new mud house,” she said.

Besides a spacious room, the house has CGI roofing, a raised bed made of wooden planks, a mud stove, and wood stools among others.

According to lecturer Ugyen, who took the initiative, the social service unit members built the house with funds donated by lecturers at the college.

“We trekked several times to the village and initially we thought it was a cowshed. During our third excursion, we found that it was actually a house belonging to Tashi Wangmo,” said Ugyen, adding that, owing to her hearing problem, they gathered information from her neighbours.

For Abi Tashi Wangmo, it was an emotional experience. “I did not give birth to them, I did not give them food or a drop of water yet they were kind enough to build a home for me,” she said.

Born in Pangthang, Tashi Wangmo had encountered many challenges in life. Things took a turn for the worse after her mother died and her husband, who brought in a second wife, began mistreating her. She had given birth to two children but both had died in infancy.

“I put up with my sister bu,t after she died, her children were mean to me. That’s when I left everyone behind and started a separate life on my own,” she said.

To survive, she had gone begging and ran all kinds of errands. After collecting enough material, she built the hut on her own on the tiny plot that was in her name. She ate whatever was given to her and slept on rags spread on the ground.

On several occasion, neighbours and tshogpas had voluntarily reconditioned her hut.

However, since last year, she became one of the beneficiaries of kidu and received a certain amount monthly, which was managed by one of the tshogpas as she failed to collect on her own. “Over the years I learnt that there are times when you can’t trust your own blood while there are strangers you stumble across who treat you like their own,” said Tashi Wangmo.


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