Old, blind and disabled a woman waits for death

What has kept the 63 year old is dedicated kindness shown by strangers but Bhutan has no facilities and centers to help those like her

She lives in unspeakable conditions with no proper food or a decent place to rest at night. It is a desperate situation.

For Pem Zam, a 63 year old, fate has upped the bar of misery as she is blind, one of her legs was amputated three years back and she is a widow.

Pem Zam’s case also represents many like her across the country who suffer silently due to the lack of facilities to take care of such people.

She lives in a one room apartment below the Rinpung dzong in Paro.

Originally, she is from Kheng, Zhemgang but after her marriage she shifted to Paro. In a tragic accident she lost sight in one of her eyes and following some years, the other eye also gave up on her.

She came to the Thimphu national referral hospital (JDWNRH) thrice to get her eye treatment but all hope shut on her as doctors told her there was no treatment.

Misfortune followed her as a small wound appeared on the left side of her leg which she left unattended. It was too late for treatment when it turned into a cancer which eventually made her undergo an amputation adding to her handicapped state of life.

The 63 year old lives all alone though she has a 50 year old son who is as good as non-existent for her.

Talking to The Bhutanese, Pem Zam said ”My only son despite being my support, is dependent on me and more over he is a jobless and chronic alcoholic who wanders from place to place”.

Old and blind Pem Zam said “It’s like living in a hell and I am just waiting for death”.

Luckily she has some good neighbors who look after her whenever they have time. “I am also grateful to my ex-daughter in law for the help,” she said.

“But of all, Yeshi Pelden is one woman to whom I shall remain in debt for the rest of my life. Had she not been there my life would be more miserable than it was before. Ever since she came in my life, my life has become much better. Despite her own responsibilities to handle she visits me with food and some other basic needs,” she said.

Blood is thicker than water but Yeshi Pelden a principal of Thuksel Day care in Paro has proved it the other way round. Though she does not have any kind of relationship with Pem Zam but she looks after her like her very own mother setting an example that humanity does exist.

Every evening she makes a point to visit Pem Zam so that she can collect and throw the urine and stool stored in the container. She also washes the clothes and brings food for her. It has become a daily routine for Yeshi Pelden to help Pem Zam.

Yeshi Pelden said ”I started to help her about few months back and seeing her in this condition hurts me. In my own small ways I try to help her though it does not help her much”.

Prior to Yeshi Pelden, it was Pem Zam’s ex-daughter-in-law who was helping her and it is also her house where Pem Zam is living now. It is a two storied house and she lives downstairs in a one room apartment.

The Rinpung women association plays a very vital role in helping Pem Zam. Every month they collect an amount of Nu, 700. For almost two years the association has been paying her the money.

Yeshi Pelden gives Nu, 2,100 every three months as a stipend so that Pem Zam can buy some basic needs for herself.

With no movement in the body and eating all the time, Yeshi Pelden fears that Pem Zam might fall victim of obesity since her body has become so heavy that she can barely lift her own body. Sometimes more than one person is required to help her stand.

Yeshi Pelden has brought her a bead so that she can chant prayers as there is nothing she can do besides it. When Yeshi Pelden or any other neighbors visit her she takes time to chat with them.

She almost broke down when she said that she lived passed half her life in miserable condition but she hopes to live a better life before she takes her last breath.

Pem Zam does not have any relatives and is in faint hopes that people might come to help her. With teary eyes, she said that every time she says her prayers, she prays for death.

Some of the people in Paro felt that it is high time Bhutan should now have authorities who can safeguard vulnerable and elderly people in the community as such cases might be in existence across the country. Many voiced that without some kind of move from the government many older and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances struggling alone, living in misery and fear.


Chencho Dema / Thimphu


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  1. It is very sad that in the land of much acclaimed GNH, we have people like her who lead a life of an animal and there is no shelter for people like her. Its high time we have a shelter for our desolate, destitute and abandoned people.

    It is also good to hear that we still have some human living amongst us by caring people like her. Bravo to those who help them

  2. What a heart wrenching story. Yeshi Pelden, God bless your heart. You are a humble person with a big heart. It is not easy to physically take Care of a disable person. If I may add my two cents…. for her weight problem, may be a nutritionist  can advise on a balanced nutritional diet to maintain a healthy weight.
    Government needs to seriously think of a facility for seniors without family support. I am sure there are many Pem Zams in the land of GNH in dire need of help. 

  3. These is one amongst many of heartbreaking story concerning our homeless and desperate senior citizen around the country. As country with time tested compassionate culture and government with GNH values and welfare at the center of its policies, its high time the state build old age nursing homes for our senior citizens who have no choice left but to be on the streets. Bhutan has always lived up to high standards to being a compassionate society with very enlightened leadership and public policy. Perhaps with the changing dynamics in the economic and social environment the need seems rather urgent to consider how to take care of our senior citizens. In this initiative the government, corporate and business sectors and CSO need to seriously give a thought and show more social responsibility. My heartfelt appreciation to Mrs.Yeshi Pelden for such benevolence, compassion and generosity in an era where fewer and fewer people are willing to give to the poor and the needy and open their hearts. My prayers that such generosity and compassionate culture in Bhutan flourish ever more through public policies, governance and the civil society as a whole.

  4. God_in_disguise

    Dear Yeshi Pelden, it is so kind of you that you are helping such persons.. your good deeds will never go in vain. In fact, you are god in disguise. Continue helping her. Hats-off to you Yeshi Pelden la. I would love to see you in near future. Really, I am touched by your good deeds. Love you Yeshi!

  5. We should have more of Yeshi Peldens in Bhutan. There are people who can spend lot of money for rituals and ceremonies and these people could help such people and earn merits. I think this news should be reported to the Gyalpoi Zimpoen Office to receive kidu from His Majesty. We cannot let her die especially when we talk a lot of GNH to the outside world. Perhaps there are thousands of others in the remote corners in the same fate as this lady.

  6. this is height of GNH

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