Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don’t cry for me, my beloved country

The nurse has just left the cabin after dropping some tablets. My wife is complaining of a severe headache. It is close to midnight and there is silence at the JDWNR Hospital. She is groaning from the deep pain. My elder daughter is lying on the sofa trying to get some sleep. She is still terrified to stay home alone – even during the day. And she has her board exams going on.

As my wife slowly goes to sleep I walk off from the bed towards the window to get some fresh air. The night is clear and the stars are shining down on my gloomy world. “Why her?” I ask myself with a heavy heart. I must have asked that question a thousand times. “Someone whose life just revolved around the family and the house and my siblings.”  What is happening? Where are we heading as a society?

More than a week has passed since my wife was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood. The CT scan revealed a fractured skull and head injury with internal bleeding. She went into coma regaining consciousness only after a long and agonising night - assisted by a team of dedicated doctors in the intensive care unit (ICU). When the incident happened, I was in Lhamoi Zingkha, in the south. It was night and already dark. But I drove off against the will of just everybody who didn’t know whether to be concerned for my safety or feel sorry for my wife. As far as I was concerned I was suddenly going through hell, and as they say, might as well keep going. It didn’t matter to me that I had to pass through a thick and dangerous jungle of Buxa Duar in India before re-entering Bhutan in Phuntsholing. Save for few hours of stop there, where I let my drivers rest, I drove whole night reaching Thimphu the next morning to be near my wife - and my daughters who were terrorised by the incident.

They say that one often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it. While as a journalist and filmmaker I have highlighted the youth issues before, I have always thought, like any average middle-class Bhutanese, that the problem of youth was a problem that won’t affect me. I thought if I led my life, raised my children well and stayed away from certain places, I would be okay. How awfully I was mistaken. As a man and a father, I am angry and outraged by this incident. As a concerned citizen, I am sad and worried. When I grew up, getting assaulted or robbed was the last of our worries. My wife and I lived in Italy for over 8 years and as students we backpacked in the most 'dangerous' places on Earth and we came out without a scratch. How ironic that we get assaulted here – in my own country and at our age.

Mind you, we have been young too and we have committed our own share of mischievous deeds. But our biggest crime would be to raid some orange trees or slip out from the boarding school to watch some Hindi films. Taking drugs, indulging in gang fights, hurting someone or even smoking was totally unthinkable. Not that they were not possible but we knew what was right and what was wrong. Nowadays for these kids, the definition of crime seems to have changed.

Who is to be blamed? I have always said that the solution to youth issues lie not with the youth but with the adults. For, it may sound a clich̩, our children mirror us Рthe adults. What has happened, and continues to happen, is that in our bid to pursue our (adults') own goals, ambitions, hobbies and vices of life we have neglected our children and our youth. We have neither taught them to dream, aspire and work hard nor have we taught them the values that have defined us as Bhutanese. On their part, they have even failed to get some fundamentals of life straight. They seem to be moving in an ignorant plane of human existence with no memory of the past, no respect for the present and no aspirations for the future.

It is six in the morning. There is a knock on the door. The nurse has come again to check my wife and take her temperature and blood pressure. I let her in. I then unplug my cell phone from the charger and switch it on. Many text messages pour in adding to hundreds I received since the incident happened. Some wishing my wife a speedy recovery, many outraged by the incident and many more simply shocked that such a thing has happened. Many parents visiting me have expressed how they have been living in fear for their children getting attacked or involved in gang fights. Now they say that they have to also worry about themselves. If it can happen to my wife, it could happen to anyone.

After the nurse leaves, I pour some coffee and walk towards the window to watch the sunrise and the ray fall on distant mountain peaks. I go through the text messages again. This single incident, no doubt, has instilled fear among a section of the population that was otherwise cut off from this reality. This is of course sad, unfair and dangerous. But on the “brighter” side I hope that there is a serious reflection and a lasting solution to this growing menace. I hope that the trauma that my family and I are going through will at least bring about something positive in the society at large. My wife and I will be the happiest if that happens. I don’t want any vengeance or hatred or claim damages. 

Whatever happened has happened. Although hell seems to be little behind now, I still have to keep going for a while. But I guess the worst is over. And those were moments when I felt my world falling apart. I felt like I was at the bottom of a well - scared, lonely and confused. From there, every piece of hope that showed that my wife would survive and every word of comfort, concern and support I received, starting from the highest authority, gave me the reason to believe and the strength to move on. I felt that the whole nation had come to my rescue. In these gestures - big and small, I see a glimmer of hope. That one day our sons and daughters will walk the streets of Thimphu, like we did, without fear and without causing endless worries to parents at home; that our youth will discover themselves, find the wisdom and know the difference between right and wrong and strive to be good human beings, and that our children will be able to dream and work for themselves, and for the generation that will come after them, a brighter future.

(Views expressed are personal and does not necessarily reflect that of the institution I work for)