When His Majesty the Fourth King was there at my darkest hour
Memory is what we have to re-live moments and there are those moments, which critically mould life. And as I re-live that particular moment, it is one of mixed emotions, as it always will be.
19 May 1992 – Zhemgang High School, at twelve minutes to midnight under my blanket with a torchlight, I was penning down my day’s thoughts. I could hear a few senior girls whispering and suddenly with no warning we heard our matron come in with the Dzongda (Governor), looking for the Gelephu Drungpa’s (Deputy-Governor) daughter. In a great hustle I found myself in a big white vehicle, hugging a plastic bag stuffed with my clothes, heading towards Gelephu.
When I reached home in the early mornings, I felt confused and lost in the midst of all the adults hugging, staring, and patting. As my mother gently broke the news, I wanted it to be a bad dream from which, I would soon wake up to assume my daily boarding school schedule. Well, I never did. I woke up to find that I would have to grow up without a father around. I woke up to find happiness distanced away every day.
In the array of floating lows of this feeling, I tried to find myself. I found myself, each time a bit differently. While as a teenager, every time my memory brought back this moment, it made me angry and bitter deep from my soul. In my twenties, this memory made me ask a thousand questions. Why? Today, this memory I realise, always had one very intricately woven moment of its own, which has and had given me tremendous hope and strength through the years.
22 May 1992 – Samtenling, Thimphu. Along with my recently widowed mother, grandparents, and two younger sisters, we were seated in a warmth-filled log cabin; we were all intently listening to the most powerful and at the same time the kindest voice. I was just thirteen and these words have deeply made a difference in my life:
You have lost a son, father, and a husband and we deeply feel your loss and as we grieve together, do know this, that Druk Gyalghab [Bhutan] has also lost one of her true sons. Chimi Dorji’s loyalty and sacrifice to his motherland will be remembered. And be assured I will take care of you.
Sincerely, at that moment, the statement “I will take care” superseded everything else; I guess I knew the meaning of ‘Hope’ then, at that very moment. His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in our darkest hours, lifted our souls. Yes, we were all blessed to be touched by such compassion.
Over the years, my King’s words kept echoing especially during times when I missed my father terribly. The words “Druk Gyalghab has also lost one of her true sons” gave me solace that my father’s death was not in vain, that his life had a higher purpose.
And at times when I felt desolate, I found myself drawing lessons from His Majesty’s life. I had by the time learnt about His Majesty’s own loss and responsibility at such an early age and I had a living example of someone who faced enormous pressure with such wisdom and still found unwavering faith in the good of humanity.
On His Majesty’s command, my whole family was re-settled in the capital, Thimphu. We felt he wanted us safe and near. His Majesty ensured that we had a permanent house, which we could make our home and most importantly, His Majesty granted education scholarships for my two sisters and I, if we wanted to pursue higher learning in the future.
Today all three of us are university graduates and our education is truly our strength. Together, on the land His Majesty gave us, we have been able to build an enterprise that will provide more than sustainability, a true test of relationship bonding and unity amongst us siblings. I feel every day that I am so blessed to be born a Bhutanese, for the beautiful life my sisters and I have and this could not have been possible without our King.
Well, ours is just one story, there are deeper, more meaningful bearings His Majesty has made for our motherland and his people. Every Bhutanese probably will have a story to tell. Accounts of how His Majesty has travelled under harsh conditions and visited homes of villagers in remote areas, met with the poor, felt their hardships, and kept his promises for their well-being, are known to all of us.
A very few have been fortunate to witness first hand, how superbly sharp and intelligent His Majesty is and I have heard these fortunate people mention that Bhutan is too small for His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. For this, I am truly grateful to our Khoenchosum for favouring us with the birth of His Majesty in this indeed small yet independent sovereign country.
We still hear soldiers and volunteers narrate personal stories about His Majesty’s bravery and wisdom in how the 15 December 2003 operations were planned and executed. While they continue to relive these moments, one can sense in their voices the tremendous admiration and loyalty they have for His Majesty.
And like myself, many others have had moments with His Majesty that we cherish and treasure. Undoubtedly, each one of our personal stories collectively makes our King not just a king but a selfless leader, whose greatness truly lies in his profound sense of duty to his country and people. It springs from humility and not pride, from wisdom and not knowledge alone, from compassion and not just passion, from love and not because of power.
His Majesty shall live in our memories forever and for generations to come; his legacy will be passed down through a conduit brimming with our memories.
Opinion by Chimi Zangmo
Chimi Zangmo is a successful entrepreneur and an active social worker. The article is an extract from the soon to be released book, ‘The Bodhisattva King’ by Tshering Tashi & Thierry Mathou.