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 cliché, our children mirror us – the 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)


  1. Dorji Sir,

    I am deeply saddened to hear this. I am worried too. It appears that something is really not right with our youths.

    By the way, my prayers are always there for you and your family. I am sure your wife will fully recover to her former glorious health.

    Take care of her.


  2. Sir I am terribly sorry to hear about the unhappy incident and I didn't know about it until I went through your post. I am really disturbed - why on earth would our youth do this? I don't understand. Anyway, I am so sorry andI wish your dear wife a speedy recovery. Regards to you and your family.

  3. So sorry about this traumatic event. Wish your wife a speedy recovery, and your family rest from the trauma.

    I think you are absolutely right, violence starts from violence at home. And from studies done, the teens (I'm assuming they were young) feel alienated, unloved, aggressive, full of hate, envious of other people and have violent fantasies.

    This raises larger questions: Are we as a society alienating these teenagers further/ or not helping then by not providing a safety net away from factors that trouble them?

    Are drugs and alcohol too readily available to these already disenfranchised youth?

    Is the unrestricted viewing of violent tv shows and games adding to their violent fantasies? (I honestly think along with we are what we eat, we are also what we view/observe through media)

    What can the police force do to provide more protection to citizens?

    Not that you should trouble yourself with the questions above, but I think these questions need looking into to at least attempt to resolve some of the issues such as teen violence.

    Wish you and your family all the best. Prayers and thoughts are with you.

    Bhutanese observer/citizen from abroad.

  4. Dear Dorji Sir,

    I am sorry to hear that it had happened to your wife. What brutal, little monsters these kids can turn out to be... but glad that she's recovering well.

    As for the youth problem, there are hell lot of issues that need sorting out and begins from substance abuse, unemployment issues, urban migration issues, social security issues and so on and so forth and I am not sure these can be sorted out at the rate that we are going. We need a government that thinks like a parent and resolve issues like a parent would.

    God knows when these youth issues began..but I remember my brother who often had to work at nights for mission critical work problems and he would drive through the town to his office but not without something like a piece of metallic stick or sth of the similar kind for protection for 'just in case' situations.

    Where youth problem is concerned, I am pretty pessimistic at the moment but one must keep hoping. But for the moment, I am just moved by the depth of feelings that your write up portrays. Wishing your wife a very speedy recovery..

  5. Dear Kinga, dear Penstar, dear PSN and dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for all your kind words. And thanks for asking all those questions.

    Alone and in the silence of the hospital ward for days, I have reflected a lot on the questions you all have raised. And on my own life.

    This blow will certainly change the trajectory of my life. I would like to think positive and believe that it is some sort of fate’s way of putting me on my predestined orbit of my life from where I could have possibly strayed.

    I am thinking of going for this issue, irrespective of what it takes, so that no other Bhutanese go through what I have just been. I am thinking of facing head on.

    It is going to be pretty difficult, I know, with huge probability of failure. But I would like to die one day having tried it and failed rather than not trying it at all, in which case I would have failed by default.

    So keep in touch, all of you, because I can't do it alone nor can any single agency or individual address this issue son its own. It would require the participation of just every family and agency in this country.

    Time for some actions now.

  6. Dear Dorji,

    Wish your wife and family a speedy and full recovery at earliest. It is not just the person who is assaulted develops fear but as your mentioned earlier, the confidence of the family and extended family (friends, relatives, society) gets a huge blow.

    About current youth and their behaviour / attitude - there is no single reason for the breakdown of norms.

    1) Society as a whole is changing with demands and aspiration for more materialistic living.

    2) The whole world is our society now while earlier it extended only upto few kms around us.

    3) Parents and teachers themselves are changing. They want to be considered successful and success is defined as good living, large amounts disposable money, moving in select circles, driving large cars etc. Earlier people were judged on basis of the work they did for the community but now they are judged on basis of what they own (does not matter how they earned it). Children will catch the same attitude.

    4) We are facing a dearth of inspirational people - people who want us to explore life beyond immediate acquisition of goods. Without these inspirational points, youth does not have any alternatives to explore.

    These were possible cause of the problem which occurred and grew over a period of time. Solutions will also take time to show results. Those who care to find solutions will need to put in a lot of work to create circumstances which changes the current course for our youth - not because we say so but because they choose so. Just like you and your wife chose not to indulge in drinks and drugs even though these existed, we need to create right environment for the younger generation so that they too make such choices. Currently defined morality or law of land can only do so much. If these were the only things that led to the younger generation being in a certain way, then as soon as they could get away, they will go astray.

    Personally I have seen that despite having the freedom to choose and availability of choices, I choose according to what I have learnt from my parents and people who have inspired me. Even close friends have not been able to affect the choices I make (so that takes care of peer pressure too).

    I wish you well in your decision to work on this subject. I hope many more will join you and commit themselves to creating a future that they really want to see.

  7. Sir, It is very disheartening to hear that such events took place with your family. I'm glad that your wife is recovering at JDWNRH and hope that your daughter has done well in her exams.My prayers are with you and your family.

    I also want to thank you for sharing this incident on your blog, it has enlightened us to take extra precautions. It has raised many questions pertaining to the safety of law-abiding citizens. I just hope that the higher authorities will revisit juvenile laws and make it stringent in a professional manner.

    I hope that hell is far behind you now, take care.

  8. Dear Dorji Sir,
    I knew your wife was very sick from your tweets and I felt your deep pain therein but I couldn't imagine something so unforgiving happened to your family. I am totally shocked and heartbroken. When I was sending you get-well-soon tweets I was unaware of this but I am very happy that your family fought it through strongly.
    Falling victim to youth, people you always worked for and thought of, it must have hurt you badly but unlike the rest of us who would be in want of revenge you call for improving their conditions and helping them find themselves, touched my heart one more time.
    Sir, you best know what's badly going wrong with our youth and you can best lead us into a safer future. As a teacher I feel guilty each time I hear about youth getting into trouble and creating trouble in society, I always wanted to walk out of my shoes and better our future, please use me in your quest. I will keep working harder so that something so disheartening like this never happens in the hands of my students.
    My prayer and regards for madam and children. I wish your daughter all the strength to perform her exam at her best amidst the problem.

  9. That was one poignant read for me. I commiserate with you for that gruesome incident and wish speedy recovery. It was too amazing on your part to have braved against that tragedy.

    I loved the way you gave us the insight into our own society. Reading your post I felt like it was happening to me too.

  10. Dear Asmita, dear Tenzin, dear Passu and dear Sonam,

    At the time of writing this my wife is walking around the house, doing some chores and almost leading a normal life. But still, neurological cases are very complicated and hence we plan to get a second and a third opinion to the one given to us here by our doctors here.

    As for my daughter, she has one subject to go with her Board exam and she should sail through for which I am very happy. Of course the school won't be, as they were expecting a lot from her and she was capable for that. I think to be able to sit for exams was already a huge accomplishment given that she was traumatised and terrorised by what she saw.

    In the silence and loneliness of the many nights I passed in the hospital I have thought about this incident over and over again trying to give some sense to this untoward tragedy. I have only one conclusion to make. And that is - fate is knocking on my door harder and harder.

    I guess I need to come out of my comfort zone.

  11. Sir,

    I was taken aback to know that such an alarming incident happened with your family. But I am as happy as I am alarmed that your wife is getting better.

    May the incident that happened with your family benefit all fellow Bhutanese in becoming extra-careful and also, may the government and the authorities concerned take tougher stance to the people devising such spiteful deeds.

    I wish your family a speedy recovery from the distress.

  12. Dear Dorji Sir,
    I was equally shocked and aghast at this terrible event that happened to your wife that i heard through the news la. I would like to send you my heartfelt prayers for your wife's speedy recovery. It is heartening to hear that she is now able to walk and do some chores at home. I would also like to express my respects to you for the wisdom, compassion, hope and courage you have shown in dealing with this sad event. This is to let you know that you are not alone in your grief and the resolve you have made to do something about this growing menace.

    With my limited understanding of the growing youth issues and the fact that this brutal assault could have happened to any one of us seems to point to few things:

    1- There is a growing level of anger and intolerance in our youth towards a perceived sense of inequality, elitism, injustice and unfair treatment in schools, institutions, employment and other such opportunities in life. Now the larger question is whether that is the reality or that the youth are being unreasonable in their thoughts and how much is our government and the civil society doing to address these disparities?

    2- Nowadays, the usual scapegoat for the degrading values in our youth and the problems related to it are our education system and parents (adults as you rightly pointed out) and it does seem like a sort of diagnosis to a certain extent for the mere fact that this two institutions have the biggest impact on shaping the minds of our young, vulnerable and impressionable youth. Is it the truth that they are responsible remains to be seen through deeper research on the growing youth related crimes and drug abuses in our country and i am hopeful that this unfortunate event will contribute positively in finding solutions.

    3- Have we given due respect and care through our public policies in addressing youth issues? How much of meaningful opportunities have we created through our investments in education system which is largely responsible in producing dignified, civilized and most importantly responsible youths with values who will ultimately have to take the baton from the elders in serving our nation.

    All of the above question comes to my mind as i offer my prayers to you and your family during this ordeal. I am hopeful that your wife will get the best of medical treatments in the hospitals at home and abroad. Perhaps, with all your years of experience, i feel assured that a broader perspective on the reality of some of these issues will result in dynamic solutions for these growing ills in our society.
    Unfortunately this time it happened to your family and the next could be any one of us and we need a collective discourse and effort in finding solutions. I strongly feel that we do not need to look very far, as most of the solution lies in our backyard with centuries of value system emanating from time tested indigenous wisdom.

    With best wishes and prayers la,
    Tshering Dorji
    (from Kolors collaboration)

  13. This is a poem "Everything Will Be Okay" by Kelli D. Williams, which I dedicate to you and your wife.

    "You must stand tall
    You cannot fall
    You must keep going through it all
    You have to walk forward
    Not look back
    You have to stay strong
    'Cause it won't be long
    Until...everything will be okay!"

    My prayers are with you.

  14. Dear Sonam, KK and Tshering.

    Deeply moved by all your prayers and thoughts. Thanks a ton!

    We have done the reviews in Bangkok. Doctors here have reassured us that she will be fine. Few things to be taken care of in the next few months after which she should be 'normal".

    To you and to all others who had us in your thoughts and prayers a very Happy Sharchokpa Losar.

  15. Sir,
    It is really disheartening to go through the blog and i hope she is all well by now and where are you btw???

    with respect