One Colour More to Life
My friend Tshering Yangzom had just moved into a new house after divorcing her husband. She wanted me and other friend Thuji to help her shop for her new house. So Thuji and myself were there listening to her sad story and also carrying her baggage in sweltering Phuntsholing Sun. It was already past five hours that we shopped but there was no sign of Tshering ending her shopping spree nor her sad story. Like a camel in the desert, being dragged from one sand dune to another, I was following Tshering from one shop to another mutely until we reached a momo shop. I always call this place a “momo joint” because it was here that I nearly broke my knee joint last monsoon while falling down a slippery stair. Tshering and Thuji left me there with thousand abuses but it didn’t matter to me that time. What mattered to me now was a cold cup of coffee and some rest. As I sat there waiting for my orders, I crowed through a piece of newspaper left behind by another customer. I was lost trying to find words between the washed out lines. Just then my coffee arrived and it arrived with a pretty woman. She smiled as she looked at me but my memories needed upgrading. I sheepishly excused myself for not remembering her. I felt like “Gajjini” here but I did reason out to her with an apology that I meet lot of people everyday both at work and outside and it is very difficult for me to remember everyone. “Sir, I am Pem Deki. You and your Doctor friend had come to my place long time back to write some paper,” meted young girl. “Akhai!!! Gila,” I blurted. My brain needed that spark. How could I ever forget Pem Deki?? As I pulled a plastic chair and ordered for a coffee for her, we exchanged news. It was way back in 2003 when I last saw her. She was pretty then and prettier now. I guess some flowers never wilt. Like plastic rose, she bloomed forever. Pem Deki is now happily married with two children. She also runs a shop in Thimphu for which she had come to shop in Phuentsholing. Her husband also has a business of his own and they now planned to build a house in Thimphu. Well, I am really very happy for Pem Deki. That’s Pem’s story for now. What was her story then? Way back in 2003, Kezang was doing some research on women in Bhutan for her Master Degree. With all the soft words, she enslaved me into helping her collect data and information. So, with a roll of tissue paper and two bottles of mineral water, we scavenged for possible subject. It was during such a time that we came across Pem Deki. When we first met her, she was into drugs. She was wearing a pair of glasses then and she dressed casually as she sat at one corner of her house. Her hands were shaking as we asked her questions. After some conversation, she calmed down and told us her experiences. Pem Deki was embarrassed about her experiences. “First time, I got 3000. He gave me 200 extra for taxi. He was married with two children” He was 42 and she was 19. On their first date, they talked about themselves and their aspirations. She told him of her broken family and how she landed up doing drugs. As she smiled, her face switched from cute to pretty. As she talked about her life, she nervously tapped her fingers on her knees. She said yes to the man’s advancement because she needed money to buy her drugs. “We went to his friend’s house and …I pretended I liked it.” She said. The 42 year kept calling, and the next time she saw him, Pem Deki went all the way. For two years, she saw the man. He took her on official tours so that he could enjoy sex with her whenever he wanted. There were many other men she saw but she only wanted to talk of the 42 year old because he was the first guy she saw and dragged her into this. While continuing on her business, she was very choosy about her clients she served and never mentioned even their names. She told us that both her parents were alcoholic. Nobody told her to do her homeworks. There were no boundaries, so she said she went crazy and started to do drugs and doing bad things. She dropped high school but what I liked about her was her ability to talk about her own experience like a natural-born scholar. She had grown up with abuses and never really had the care and love she needed as a growing child. She thought that the way to get a guy to like her was to sleep with him. After she dropped school, she moved to Phuentsholing. Because she could not afford house rent in Phuentsholing, she rented a small room in Jaigoan. In Jaigoan, she had an easy access to drugs so she preferred staying there even after she got some kind of job in Phuentsholing. She said that doing drugs drove off all the problems from her mind. As she did more drugs, she needed more money. She budgeted her meagre salary for drugs and not for food. Her clients bought her food when she served them. She said, “I have family problems”. Doing drugs was her escape and it also changed her reality. That was the story till that time. During our interview, Kezang offered her a choice between normal life and life with drugs. She reluctantly said, “ I want to lead a normal life like other women of her age.” “What kind of normal life you want to live?” was a question that was in my mind but Kezang snatched it out of my mouth and blurted it out to her face. “I want to run a small business, get married and have lots of children to love, care and worry about.” Pem Deki had a cousin sister in Gelephu who suggested that she sell miscellaneous things to villagers in Gelephu. Well, she needed principal money to start business. And she hinted on us that everyone offered just the advises and no one was willing to invest on her. Everyone just wanted to sleep with her. When she said that, Kezang and myself exchanged “ she is so true look” with each other. We were feeling guilty because we had come for our own purpose and not to help her. With just seven thousand eight hundred as my salary then, money was hard to come by but I was a bachelor then. Savings was never on my agenda. She asked for thirty thousand and that she said was a loan which would be repaid within two years if the business went well. We decided that we would let her know of our commitment ( or our escape) within one week. That evening, Kezang and myself discussed our ability or inability to pay her. While I was reluctant in the beginning, Kezang convinced me to share half the burden. As a woman, she had some savings and me as a bachelor, I had to depend upon someone’s savings. I took a loan of 10,000 from my staff welfare scheme and Kezang topped another 5000 to my commitment over and above her share. We now had thirty thousand. Exactly after a week, Pem Deki had come to my house to check our commitment. She looked anxious and skeptical in the beginning about our commitment. However, she had come because we said we will give a try to help her. When we told her that we were ready to help her, she was silent for a long time. As she raised her hung head, I could see her moist eyes. She didn’t have anything to say and neither did I. Few minutes later, she said that she will repay us as soon as possible. We were not very sure then but we have saved ourselves a shame and it was all that mattered. Over few weeks and months we didn’t hear anything from her. Kezang left for studies again and I got busy with my mundane work. Some eight months later, Pem Deki surprised me in my office. She was carrying some money in her bag. Over a cup of tea, we talked about her business success and there she was, very happy and completely metamorphosed. She carried transistor radio, clothes and all miscellaneous items that she thought would sell and toured villages in Gelephu. I was happy for her. I repaid my staff welfare loan with the money she gave me and also deposited Kezang’s share in her account. We had added a colour to Pem Deki’s life. Now, she was paying for my cold coffee and yes, she promised me a vodka treat soon. I really deserve Vodka treat, lol. Well, Kezang don’t drink vodka so she may have to carry me to my house. That’s the story of Pem Deki.