Very often my heart is filled with nostalgia of my hometown back in Bhutan. In every such situation, a snapshot of my generation-old house vividly appears in front of my eyes. Tears trickled down my checks as I look at a picture that was taken somewhere in 1988. I have almost doubled my age, while my Kamala, who was just five years at the time of taking this picture, has turned into a married woman of 24 years
My grandparents Tulshiram Pokhrel and Gayatra Pokhrel had built the house depicted in the picture in late 1890s. They had migrated from Nepal to Sibsoo Bara, Bhutan. When my grandfather passed away in 1920, the ownership of this historic place called our ‘home’ was transferred to my father, Kula Nanda Pokhrel, who was a noted priest in the village. My father died in 1975, again switching its ownership to me – thanks their efforts to award me such a historic dwelling place, which was, indeed, no less than a well-furnished palace for me and my siblings. All of my three siblings, Kamala, Sita and Khemraj, were also born and brought up in this house. While, my mother Chandra Kala, aunty Narbada and elder brother, Pashupati Pokhrel, have also spent years in the same house.
The house built with red mud, stones and thatch roof was designated as GP-84 with its THarm number 76/116. I was born and brought in this house. In fact, I have spent my complete 38 years in this house. The house might still stand there as a solid proof of my ancestral identity in the heart of Gopeni block of Tsirang district challenging the government’s allegation that my forefathers and their fellow-countrymen had entered into Bhutan as illegal immigrants in late 20th century from Nepal. On what basis, were those illegal immigrants allowed to build their houses and dwell on a permanent basis?
Later in mid-1980s, I constructed another house with CGI sheets (metal roofing) close by my antic house. I converted this building as a grocery shop with an investment of Ngultrum 90,000 (equivalent to same amount of Indian currencies).
In 1987, I remained no longer as a valuable civil servant. The Department of Survey under the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to kick me out from the serve, where I was working as a surveyor for more than 16 years. My contribution was, somehow, counted with a nominal remuneration of Ngultrum 200,000. I decided to invest this remuneration in building yet another concrete house in 1987.
With a capital investment of Ngultrum 170,000, I constructed a two-apartments building with adequate facilities. The construction didn’t touch the antic house, it was kept standing as it did for generations. Upon completion of construction of the new house, I decided to lease those apartments for two schoolteachers as they offered a rent of Ngultrum 200 each. All my dreams, however, shattered in 1990 when most schools in my hometown starting shutting down. I had to cancel the lease agreement for my apartments, and keep them empty for an indefinite period of time.
All my efforts to continue owning the antic house, the new building and the grocery shop failed in 1991. Though it was never a desired choice, I was finally made to abandon those assets, and travel somewhere in search of safety. Without a fixed destination, I, my wife Dhan Maya and three siblings first arrived in the banks of River Mai Nepal. Later, my family was shifted to Goldhap Camp. Hundreds of thousands of fellow-countrymen followed the same route suffering similar fate! While in the refugee camp, I owned a ramshackle hut built out of bamboos, mud and plastic shed as its roof. I spent more than 16 years in that house before I decided to move to Vermont of the United States of America in 2008.
I have an entry-level job in the US. I am never free from nostalgia of my hometown, and the antic house. Currently, I rent an apartment and hopefully this will continue for a few years before I would be able to materialize my new dreams to be a house owner. A reality to speak here is that my transitional movements from one place to another has never kept me away from nostalgia of the antic house that my forefathers had built in Bhutan.