It has been three and half months now, since I started teaching in one of the private schools in Paro; every time I went to class, I felt sad on seeing a particular student. I wanted to ask him, why? But my profession acted as a barrier (should I ever get involved in my student’s personal life? Will he not act wild after getting closer? Will he stand in the position to take my words positive?). These doubts in my mind stopped me from getting closer to him more than I usually do with rest of the students. I was feeling sorry on seeing a youth full of potential to succeed in life simply running away from the responsibilities. When I see in his eyes, I could understand myself that he has got many stories to tell, but neither somebody approached him nor did he confess to someone. He was getting weaker day by day and was missing his class very often that a student shouldn’t do. I was observing him for more than a month silently but I couldn’t wait further for him to come to me and share everything. (we should not let any student down by any sort of discrimination).A class of 50 minutes is too short for me to deliver a speech aiming to change his life. I should generalize and include everyone in the class as character in my story in order to reach the message to his heart without meaning any hurt. I requested their Dzongkha Lopen to sacrifice his class for me so that I will have two period with 100 minutes. I prayed in front of the Jampelyang statue before I got inside the class(God of wisdom, something is going to happen in next few seconds, don’t bless me with vocabulary but bless him and open his heart for once so that I can touch his innermost feelings).
As usual I entered the class, but before a warm greeting they notified me of having my class in second period. It was never tough for me to have convinced them of the engagement of their lopen in official work. The class was not very silent. I initially wavered as to how to begin my lecture. Looking at his face I found it true in what other teachers usually say about him (he starts his class by sleeping and ends in the same way).
Thinley, will you bear some of your time in listening to me? As I persuaded him, he woke up and nodded…
I was confused at the beginning as I didn’t know how good he will get the messages I prepared for him though everyone is included. I then started “unlike our regular classes, today I will teach you all about something called LIVING LIFE”. I could see eagerness in the face of many students except Thinley.
I wrote on the green board “1. Suicide. 2. Addiction, 3 Depression. As soon as he saw the words of habit he has been into for so long, he showed some interest( I believe the expression I saw on his face must be what I was then looking for).
It took me another 30 minutes to narrate a story; I am even lost in the words I spoke. I narrated all things happened in my life making them believe my life engulfed in sadness, talked about suicide and the reasons why people usually decide to quit their lives. On addiction, I begun quoting someone ” An addiction is a disease, everyone can be caught in the web of Addiction”. As I started, I brought up another story about my friend studying in Sherubtse College. I learned through him a bitter experience of being an addict. I was never an addict but cannot say I will never be. I narrated his story as he got some strong reasons for himself to be an addict. I was trying my best to make the story as sad as in movies and as important as their lives to themselves. I took me another 40 minutes to reach to the conclusion before I talked about Depression. I saw some of them blush, some with tears but I couldn’t see the expression on Thinley’s face. I heard someone sobbing louder and louder; the class pin drop silent, suddenly someone hugged me tight and confessed that it was his story. (“Sir, you need not have to tell many stories about Tom to reveal true character of Harry, I got you and I got myself).
I couldn’t stop my tears at the thought of being very selfish to my student like Thinley who was waiting for someone to listen to his stories. The entire class maintained silence like never before; few cried and the rest melted down with Thinley’s submissive act.
Those 100 minutes never came too short for one to change someone’s life. I wrapped up the class with few words ” Get ready for your next class with happy faces, bring one essay about Life next morning. See you all tomorrow”.
After leaving the class with deep sense of satisfaction, I turned to the statue and thanked him for his blessing. I shared the story among my senior colleagues (Many taught me when I was in class 12). That day ended for me with pride, myself deriving satisfaction out of my profession. I was keen to see changes in Thinley’s life thereon, a brand new Thinley.
The next day, I asked one of his friends about him. He quickly responded before I could finish, “Sir, I have seen Thinley in his morning and evening studies since yesterday for the first time. I am sure he is getting better.”
But, instantaneously, somebody called me from behind; he was none other than Thinley with a piece of paper in his hand to give to me with exchange of smile with me( I saw him smiling for the first time in my three months as a teacher).
I opened the piece and ran through it keenly and with some sense of guilt that I have to share. I feel everyone of us should know what he actually wrote in that piece he gave to me. Here it goes:
Dear Pema sir,
My name is Thinley Namgay and I am 20 years old. When I think about my past I feel ashamed for many reasons but I do not clearly remember. So, I would be stressing one topic, probably the one which the youths of world experience or tend to take it…..”ADDICTION”
“Thinley, you are an addict and you need treatment”, the principal of my former school said while the disciplinary committee decided to expel me from the school. That particular incident made me realize that I was in fact an addict. Yeah! I was an addict, I was severely into Marijuana.
To begin, I was grown up in middle class family but very strict. My schooling started much before I went to a primary school. I mean I was taught by my father at home along with my siblings. We were made to recite prayer every morning and evening and unlike other kids around, we were never given chance to explore the world, not even outside our residence. At any petty issue like failing to pronounce some Sanskrit words, sometimes we could face beating blue and black.
As I grew up and started to explore the world, I noticed that my friends and family were a small world where I was living very complicated. The real world seemed to be different than what my father used to tell us at home. Life seemed to be monotonous even, there was nothing like what my father told me inside closed door of our living room. I started to do things delayed– going to school and coming back late. At first giving justification was very difficult for me as my father couldn’t tolerate disappointments from us, but when I did it again and again telling lie was only means to escape scolding and beatings.I even started arguing with my parents, sometimes when I was normal and sometimes not perfectly normal. They lost hopes on me and in order to take me back to original normal life, my father resorted to beating me mercilessly. Soon afterward, I started another habit evading from my home for weeks and sometimes even months and my mother was one to suffer in the conflict with my father( mom, I am sorry, I do love you).I was depressed, anguished and grieving because I could differentiate between my life and life of some other friends. All in all, I was being very judgmental in the conflict between me and my thought, ending up abusing drugs. I was thinking the drugs could easily eradicate my problems ; instead the problems followed the substances I was into. I quickly picked fights with my friends; I went against my teachers and spent another time in taking my certificates and going from one school to another in search of admission. I thought “life was interesting this way” because I accumulated the entire universe within. “I” was the first world I preferred ‘ I am the boss, I don’t like this, I will kill you if you don’t etc.’
My daily routine changed too. I had no time for my breakfast and lunch as I had to smoke and dope in these times but dinner was compulsory as I had to survive.
I was popular for doing bad things in my community; my friends were restricted by their parents to befriend me any longer. But, that doesn’t mean that I had no friends. I had same category of friends and enemies in various corers of the same locality. Including in gang fights, doping and getting home drunk was my regular chores then.
My parents had no ways to stop me from doing those things, their strategies have failed and had already enough. They gave up on me and let me decide whatsoever. These things continued for two years until I was in verge from being expelled from that school. The situation worsened when one night I was caught up by teachers on duty smoking weeds. My expulsion had strongest reasons acceptable to both my parents and other elder members of my society.
I changed my school and came here but I couldn’t do away with my drug habits. I was unnoticed but still doing the same all nights and mornings. I was admonished, reprimanded and advised by different teachers in my life.I was even forced by some of them to quit, but they failed to stop my habit. I heard about you and your advices from my friends but I didn’t damn to care. I thought even you cannot bring changes in my life but I failed this time. You changed my thinking first, and entire my body and mind. Your words really touched my heart for the first time that I am even ready to sacrifice my habit and I am decided to go with your advice. I promise you like never before that I am ready to see change…
sir I will change…
Sir, I do not know you personally but your words have the power to change and motivate people like me. There are few more who are waiting for the change and I request you to change their lives as well. I wish you were here with us right from the beginning..
This self narration clearly introduced himself and his problem to me. Today he completes one month of being a clean and active student, a humble son and citizen. He came to me this morning and said, ” Sir, I am clean now for a month”.
These days Thinley is seen happy as he got back lost love from his parents. I talked to his parents over the telephone and conveyed the message of Thinley’s improvement. If you happen to come across a rough sketch of Paro Taktshang on a rock near our Multipurpose hall, it is the hidden talent of Thinley exhibited after long time. If you hear the melody voice from Arts faculty of grade 12, singing “Ama kadrin chey”, he is Thinley and if you see one smiling all the day, he is just Thinley again..
Note: This was originally posted in facebook wall of a youth in Bhutan. The content is edited for grammar and space only.