It was reported that the car he drove went off the highway near Ganglakha in the early morning of 18th April, 2013. This stretch of Phuentsholing Thimphu highway between Sorchen and Jumdra area is prone to foggy weather. There could be many reasons for the fatal accident like fast driving which most young people do without such fatal consequences. It could, however, very well be low visibility in the early hour fog.
Dasho is the son of Her Royal Highness Princess Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck and Dasho Thinley Dorji. But a straight forward short cut comprehension of who he really is would be to simply state that Dasho Zillnon Dorji Wangchuck is the 1st grandchild of their Majesties King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (the 3rd King of Bhutan) and Her Majesty Queen Kesang Choeden Wangchuck. By Bhutan’s strict official definition he is not a royalty but royal blood definitely gave birth to him. This paradox of birth - being neither royal nor commoner can be as confounding and difficult to adjust as would be an unprepared person of a tropical region teleported suddenly to a hostile tundra region. Dasho being the 1st grandchild, he was old enough to remember the grand old days but not mature enough to cope with the social changes in status that came about in the 1990’s. For anyone, I feel, it is a tragedy to have to travel through a no-man land. And it is much more difficult if one had never been prepared for such a trek.
I met Dasho in person few years back, lean, handsome and charmingly soft spoken. Dasho’s resemblance to the 4th King amazed me. By then he had his share of life’s joy and sorrow, love, wives and children. I believe he had on occasion darker moods but generally a gregarious personality of immense goodwill and passionate character so I am told.
I wondered what kind of funeral it would be that day on Thursday the 25th of April, 2013 at Thimphu crematorium. It was a sobering day not much sun and no rain but it was a royal funeral. Thankfully and rightfully, blood triumphed over official dictates. His Holiness Thrulku Jigme Choedra, the 70th Jhe Khenpo led the Mitruk prayers with the venerable Lopons and monks of Central Monastic Body. Life after death could be anyone’s guess but it is generally believed that when Mitruk prayer is offered by such a holy lam as His Holiness Jhe Khenpo, the deceased does make a brief appearance. If so Dasho Zillnon would have appreciated the royal honour offered in death. Along with his immediate family members, almost all members of four generations of the royal families were present led by His Majesty the 4th King. They were all soberly dressed as befitting bereaved families.
Unlike the royal bereaved members, I was dressed differently like few other attendees. It was an important day for me. The Kings have been gracious to me and as a senior Bhutanese citizen and subject of the Kings, I wanted to be properly attired to be presentable when making the final adieu to the royal grandson, royal nephew and royal cousin of the Kings of Bhutan. I took my bath, wore my ancient bura gho, and purified a note of 100, 10 and 5 ngultrums with incense smoke and holy water from the bumpa. If an occasion presented, I intended to pay my respects before the make shift alter customarily placed in front of every funeral pyre. If not I decided to make the offering to the Thimphu river flowing nearby. After all, the ash from the pyre ultimately would have to be immersed in a River.
But an occasion did present itself. I approached the alter decked with offerings, and Dasho’s photo so alive and noble looking placed on the top-most choetri. I bowed, lowered my kabney till the frills touched the sacred ground, offered the Nu: 100 note in lieu of a khaddar and wished Dasho a less complicated and more comforting next life. Then I approached the already lit funeral pyre and offered the NU: 15 as part of Dasho’s offering (chhan-jay) to the next world Lam who will guide his path.
Much later, I had the honour and privilege of being graciously hugged by His Majesty the 4th King. I wanted to say how sorry I was but the air was already heavy with sorrow and loss. Instead I held the royal person in embrace a second longer than correct protocol. But protocol was far away from the scene of a royal life cruelly felled mid-way and now within a burning pyre.
No outsider can fathom the pain of bereavement. But still I hope as time goes by, it becomes bearable for those near and dear ones left behind so suddenly. I hope Dasho’s children successfully go through school and college so that they would be prepared to fend for themselves along with other citizens of their age. When one is neither royal nor a commoner, the most advisable approach would be to get a good education, mingle with the crowd and learn the ways of both societies. The nobleness will remain within the blood regardless of official definition and practical experiences, education and exposures would provide the required impetus to cope with both the world of the royal and the citizen society of Bhutan.
I humbly offer my prayers to the bereaved royal members especially to Her Highness the royal mother and Her Majesty the Queen Grandmother of Dasho Zillnon. Her Majesty, Grand Queen Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck has sacrificed so much and borne so much pain for the Nation, the royal families and now this personal tragedy. I hope the royal mother and the royal grandmother will find solace and comprehension of life in the Buddhist scriptures and prayers.