my nearest distant star
...for his small fast legs in the football ground people called him rocket but for his short stature and Rai look, I called him Rai Daju. He was Daju because he was two years elder than me. His father called him Ra Thong (hammer) while his wife now calls him Nokola.
His wife recounts that he sent her his first gift when they dated. The mobile phone didn’t work after few days so she went to the mobile repair shop. The mechanic told her that the phone could not be repaired because it was Nokla and not Nokia. While the phone was out of use and could not be connected, my Rai Daju had become restless. So he dared face upto her and asked if she was trying to ignore him by switching off the phone. She was outraged. She screamed, songo bu Nokola, phone bu Nokola (both the person and phone are Nokola). Nokola in sharchokpa roughly means slow and clumsiness.
Interestingly, he was known by another name too. He was registered as Kinzang Thunley in school. Our time, we had many Indian teachers in our school and most of them pronounced his second name as Thrungney (someone who stings). Then he named himself Kinzang Thunley Singh during exam time hoping that those Indian teachers marking his papers would be more considerate if he made his name sound like Indian name. Well, it didn’t quite work.
After class eight, he joined RTI and passed out from there. Even though our roads forked from then on, we did manage to keep our friendship going since our families lived in Phuentsholing.
A very quiet man-silent and composed, he would not open up easily to others. As a kid, he would spend hours dissecting toys. Born technician, he was fascinated by gadgets and machines. He started as power tiller mechanic and upgraded himself by learning other skills. Then he part timed mobile repairing and electronics and now has his own house with workshop in Phuentsholing.
However, what intrigued me most was his composure and reliability. Given the nature of his business, it was rare that we met. But when we met, I was able to lay bare my thoughts without having to worry about what he thought or said. When I went through roller coaster life, he would walk alongside me even if he didn’t have anything to say.
Few weeks ago, his mother passed away. I went back yesterday evening to apologize for not being able to attend her 49th day ceremony. We spent hours talking and on my way back, he came to see me off till my car. As I was about to get into my car, he choked. “Tshering, I think you need to know that my mother who died didn’t give birth to me. My parents used to work for PWD. My father was an alcoholic so he died many years ago. My mother could not raise me so she gave me to my present parents. When I came into the house, there was a promise between my blood mother and my present parents that no one should talk to others about me being adopted by my present parents.” There was an uncomfortable silence for few seconds. We looked at each other seeking reactions. I was lost in words. I was only feeling guilty for having called him Rai Daju since school days.
When back at home, I could see his reasons. I admired the strong character he had developed when we whiled away our time. I sms-ed him a note, “thank you for burdening me with your secrets.”