A beautiful Sunday just can’t be wasted by being a couch potato. A Sunday in the field makes your day worthwhile if you get there with a purpose. And our purpose was to take basic foodstuffs, clothing and shoes to some people at Khariphu village in Khasadrapchu, Thimphu living below the poverty line. Can you imagine people in Thimphu Dzongkhag living in poverty forget about being below the poverty line? And it is just about 40 minutes drive from the glittering Thimphu city.
From the outskirts it will appear that no people would be living in poverty. One will find huge houses in a very beautiful village. But once you get into the interior you will find the ramshackle huts without proper doors and basic necessities to live a decent life.
It was a project initiated by my two wonderful friends – Choki Tshomo and Ugyen- and thanks to them I got a chance to contribute my service in my little way. They made it possible for me to see the realities of around 10 households in Khariphu. They collected rice, oils, soaps, clothing and even plates and mugs to be distributed for the families in need of the help. I too did a spring-cleaning of my wardrobe and contributed clothes and shoes of our entire family and got some good new stuff from my friends in Shop No 7 in Olakha too.
We met Aum Dago Bidha, a small stunted old lady who did not even know her age. She was bare feet and looked like she has not taken a good bath for ages. We were told that she lives with her two children one of whom is stunted like herself. Ugyen and Choki handed over essential items and clothes for the lady and for her daughters too. We got hold of two local boys, gave them a pair of shoes and sought their help to help carry the old woman’s things till her house.
Then we met Zam and Tandin- a couple who makes lime out of limestone and sells it at Thimphu. They did not seem to have some decent clothing on their bodies and two little kids of theirs were shabbily dressed. We distributed some clothes and things to them.
We then went on further to stop over at Paydey and Choden’s shack. The mother-daughter duo live with their children in a small hut. They looked very much in need some clothes. So once again we sorted out and gave them clothes of their size.
The most interesting person we met was Ap Dhew. He came out with huge smiles on his face dressed in a little short on a very cold and windy day. We immediately took out a nice long pant and shirt and got him dressed up immediately. He looked much smarter and had even greater grins.
We then went on to meet Dago Dem, her daughter and granddaughters whose conditions we felt were the worst of all. The mother and daughter came with three little kids. We took the maximum time at this place to sort out the clothes.
We were touched by the conditions of the children living in abstract poverty. Both the parents looked healthy and the daughter specially turned out to be very pretty and at a very productive age. But we learned that they were bit complacent and spoiled by alcohol.
We felt these innocent kids did not deserve the kind of life they are being provided with. It is one thing if the adults choose to live their life by drinking but then it is completely another thing to be dragging their children into the kind of life they are living.
We advised the young mother to be more mindful from hence onward and to take care of her children.
The last household we visited had around twenty-three members living under the same roof. Imagine the living condition? It is too harsh be put into words here. We found a little boy of PP doing a huge pile of dishes and it appeared like he was going to take the entire day to finish the dishes. The remaining of everything was equally distributed among the family members lest they fight after our departure.
All in all, it was the experience of a lifetime. The most important thing we found out was that these people need more educational programmes in the form of counseling, awareness and knowledge of what they are surrounded with and what they can actually make out of it. There were a lot of productive age group people who are found to be simply wasting their lives by abusing alcohol.
Khariphu is a beautiful village with access to road, limestone quarry and the people have cultivable land. It is found that most of the lands are left barren and we did not find even a single person working in the filed.
The one good thing we learnt was that the person who operates the quarry (Khuenphen Norden Mining) has not only taken roads to the doorsteps of each household but also provided the village with a school bus to drop and pick the children to and from schools. Most of the children I believe go to either Sisina Primary School or Khasadrapchu Middle Secondary School. It was the only ray of hope we saw for the little kids of the famished family.
Relevant agencies could really look into the matter. After all it is about the future of those little kids we met today.
Editor’s Note: The Gyalpoi Zimpon’s Office, is looking into the matter.
Opinion by Karma Choden
The writer works in the Ministry of Education and is a Desuup.