Thursday, December 23, 2010

The longest Paro-Thimphu drive

Even the intense winter sun fails to warm our hearts. Instead the unprecedented chill only makes it worse. The aircraft carrying the coffins of the victims of the Nepal air crash makes the touchdown. Finally the long wait is over. Most of us (HMS staff) had neither slept well nor fed ourselves well since the tragedy – coordinating the relief works and providing information to a stunned nation.

The cargo door swings open and the conveyor belt starts rolling. We take our turns to receive them, according to the names of the victims we were assigned to. I wait for mine, joined by the only surviving family member - a monk. He lost his mother. The royal command was for us to be with the family throughout the cremation process and look into all their needs.

We drive out of Paro. And as luck would have it, I am penultimate in the convoy and the sight of sixteen bodies ahead of me makes my heart bleed. Unable to hold back my tears, I look out of the window aimlessly far into the horizon. But I am not alone. The entire Bondey town is out. The stern look on their faces says everything. Some women are sobbing away. Some men pray for the departed souls.

Although I try not to think of it, my mind is pulled back to imagine the face of the woman I had never met. The Paro-Thimphu drive seems unusually long. As the convoy snakes along the long and winding road, I enter into a serious contemplation. Is life really worth living? Especially the way we were living. Our dreams and our ambitions, our greed and our intrigues. Is everything worth vying for?

When we make our entry in to Thimphu we are greeted by the same horrified faces. Thousands of relatives and friends are waiting to receive the bodies at the duthroe. The next day, as the mass cremation moves on, everyone is asking, why so many tragedies? I only wish we had the answers. By late afternoon as the fires turn the bodies into ashes, I check with my family if there was anything they required. "What can I expect more?" The monk tells me. "Our King has taken care of all these and the Je Khenpo did the rest. I don't know whether to be happy or sad, but I am relieved. I am just a monk living in the mountains and my only worry was how I would be able to cremate my mother". I hug him and I promise to visit him in future - wherever he would be.

I hit the road for Paro again. I had fixed a coffee meeting with a visiting journalist at Aman. As my colleague negotiates the long and winding road, the picture of convoy of bodies plays vividly on my face. But this time the drive is much shorter. And as for life, I guess, we can only move on. And be good human beings while we are still alive.


  1. and i thank you for being there with the families of the lost ones.....may their soul find peace.....

  2. that's a journey i never want to repeat n hope no one has to do it too....

  3. Choki T, I will always think of this drive every time I hit the Paro - Thimphu highway. And as you say pray that I don't have to do that again.

    Sigyel, thx, I think we should be proud of being Bhutanese.

    Sonam D. I don't know.

  4. the news broke my heart, the sight of bodies on TV broke my heart, the name list that appeared on TV and papers broke my heart...the very thought of it breaks my heart over and over again...And I can feel your pain through your words...But thank you so much for the Hug you gave to that monk.
    My deep gratitude for K5 for never letting anyone feel alone.

  5. i heard people talking in this regard but i wasn't sure whether it was true. now after visiting ur blog it has really touched me....
    So let’s pray for their soul.
    The only way to see them is in our dreams.
    All we can say is “rest in peace”.

  6. Last month I read this extract to a group of friends and they all had tears when I finished reading. A week after that when I reached phuntsholing, incidently I met the surviving son of the late major. Such a tragedy. "May their soul rest in peace"