A friend, a very best friend dear Tshering Wangchen. Yours was quite a turbulent life but somehow you faced it with your own choosing. A personality of different seasons and a true friend of all seasons that's who you have been. Different personality because you had to adapt to vicious seasons of life but kudos because you still survived with your honest simple heart and character. A friend of all seasons because you remained the very same Tshering Wangchen whether you were in the royal environment at Samteling Palace or in Dhobjee village environment.
Nothing stood between us. You understood my disciplinarian ways and I comprehended your carefree almost irresponsible attitude to life and living. Your character was shaped by the lush rich golden rice fields of beautiful Paro valley and mine by the icy stark blue but heavenly valley of Haa. You loved life in whatever manner. You loved archery, songs and dances and pretty good in all yourself. It shocked me to the core when informed 4 days too late. I wish I had the privilege of standing by your bedside before you left for your next abode.
I feel very sad maybe more of loneliness. Yet as memories flash by there are so many that makes me smile. 1965 at North Point School, the Sisters ( Nuns ) from Kerala complained about our names Wangchen and Wangcha being too confusing and we thought the Kerala tongue just impossible to decipher. At Ugyen Wangchuck Academy, Paro when I decided that I was fed up with the group punishment. Morning study was one hour duration 6:30 to 7: 30. But our Principal decided to count the time starting with the last arrival and so the study never ended at 7: 30. One morning I walked out at 7:30 and sure enough Mr. Filby ordered me to get back because last arrival was timed 15 minutes late. I refused and got into a debate with him on the irrationality of group punishment and life being largely individual liability. A few minutes later you had walked out and the Principal told you to get back into the study hall. And you protested saying that I was already out there. From that morning, it was one hour study for all with own timing and surprisingly even our friend Tally started coming at 6:30 am sharp. Actually no one wanted to be late for breakfast served immediately after the study. Ha ! Ha! Students always have hungry stomachs. Another was when your wife of original Love passed away. It did not sound incredulous then but every time I recall how you broke the news to your son who had just come from the school in India baffles me. You said, " Son, you know Happy Hunting Ground? Mummy has gone there ". I guess we really enjoyed as students those Cowboys and Red Indians movies and you like Red Indians just related Heaven to Happy Hunting Ground. And that's really the whole of You: Simple,Straight and Uncomplicated.
Then more than 16 years ago, you shocked me by turning up most unexpectedly during one of the 21 days period of my mother"s last rites. My shocked reaction was, " Tshering, you are not supposed to be here ". And you calmly replied, " I knew you would say so but don't worry, I took necessary permission." I was glad to see you though apprehensive about your personal well being. Thank you my friend for being there.
Mom knew of you as my first friend beyond Haa valley.
Yes. There are so many instances of the past that makes me smile even in grief.
I often wondered why Fate made life so complicated for such a simple honest person. It was fine and smooth sailing until your wife of original Love passed away. Then came the short period of your crazy love that led to insane deed which undid the anchor of your family. Years later you found another Love and this time thankfully you loved sensibly and found some steadiness in your life.
You are survived by your three children of original Love. I really admire them. They were put under tremendous strain at such tender ages and they have come through wounded probably but far stronger and healthy in all sense. Your daughter from second wife is beautiful,too. Then your wife Rinzi Pem and the two children son and daughter. The elder four are well settled and do not worry about the younger two. Your eldest of children wonderful Deki who I think later became your life anchor says she and others can take care of and guide the younger two whom you already have nourished and guided up to their High Schoolings.
There is not much earthly worries that you leave behind. They will miss you as much as you are fond of them. But your families especially your six children are closely knitted together. I guess you know that. And I was so happy to hear that your friends from Dhobjee Village came in droves to mourn for you and stand by your large Family. Your wife tells me that on the third day of your 11 days illness, your condition panicked her and she called home. And in about 2 hours or so, 29 men from her village barged into your chamber brushing aside the Thimphu Hospital security staffs and pleas from your family members to respect the hospital rule. They told Deki your daughter " Sorry, we owe your father too much to stay away from him at this stage of his life ". And this scene was repeated even in the wee hours of that fateful Sunday when you chose to fade away. How very, very wonderfully touching !
Its your Dhobjee group led by your friend former Dhobjee Lam, your grandson Truelku and others who are leading the prayer rituals all the way to the 21st day.
And my friend, you must be in double Heaven with the honour that our great King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck accorded to you on the 4th day. The 4th day into the after life world is said to be the awakening and realisation day of one's change of state. So possibly you were spiritually conscious of the Royal Blessings. His Majesty visited your bereaved Family where also you had laid in state. His Majesty had your wife, all your children and grand children seated in his audience and shared those tales of our incredible youthful happy memorable days at Ugyen Wangchuck Academy. I am told that it was His Majesty who graciously told Deki to inform me of your passing away. How so very thoughtful His Majesty still remains ! I never faltered in my faith and respect for our King but this incredible epitome of Love and Kindness shown to you and your Family by His Majesty is just beyond humane humanity. I have bowed to the Royal Person but never to the Royal Portrait. But I have started since I heard of the event. The King is Buddha alike so like Buddha statue is HM portrait. I am so happy and feel honoured because you were so richly honoured by our great King and Guru. With such a Blessing from a kind of living Chenrezi, your soul would definitely be in Heaven. I feel like congratulating you on your death but I miss you my dearest friend.
You had passed away in the early hours of Sunday the 14th of February, 2016 at around 1.30 am, Deki tells me. I got the shocking news on Wednesday evening. On Thursday I got the opportunity to greet and pay my respect to you and be among your Family sitting around you as the monks chanted and offered lunch to you. The monk reading the Vardo Thudruel was into the 7th day passage. I had to whisper to you that it was the 5th day. Hope you were listening. Later both your wife and daughter Deki told me that they wished they had served you a drink before you passed away. The thing is we are never able to let go and keep wondering what else could have been done to ease that pain or add on few more hours or days of life. Love and Affection are not bound by reasons. But now you would know far more than any of us here because in the after life world you attain ninefold wisdom and everything else. Yes, hereafter, I will be the one seeking advice.
The cremation day Friday the 19th February turned out to be beautifully calm and sunny. Looks like you had no demands upon anyone. But there were lots of tears and many mourners. The lady friends consoling your wife seemed dumb founded when I told them to let her cry but keep close company. Tears somehow help to ease that near suffocating pent up emotion of despair.
The day passed too soon and I kind of felt real void as the ashes got carried away by Thimphu Chu. The only consolation was accompanying your spirit to your childhood home at Paro. In the jumble of disarray that follows in leaving the cremation ground and Thimphu traffic, somehow, I reached your home in Paro before your convoy. How did you feel me welcoming you to your own home? Old days moh ! Those Sartsam Chorten days when two of us raced to your home. Did I out race you as I did this time? Maybe you were with me all the time in that final return journey to your home and hearth.
Before I left your Home, I told your daughters Deki and Tshering Lham to count me in if they are ever in need of an emotional father. In all other matters, all your elder four children are doing very well. They are determined and capable of guiding the younger two. You know that,too. And my friend, You must join me to salute your son Chencho who to me symbolise " True Grit ".
And your wife will be alright because you have so many who adore you and love you in her village. Strange but true that Dhobjee has turned out to be a place of your life yearning though it did not start that way. Your wife tells me that even late into the nights you would not stay at Thimphu or Paro. But insist on gong to sleep at your humble Dhobjee home. Why ? A Khendum waiting there in your dreams ! Perhaps you were a kind of Milarepa,too. It is said that the statue of Milarepa brought from Tibet refused to budge upon reaching Dhobjee. There is even a very tall Dzong perhaps a replica of his nine storey one in Tibet.
Wait ! Oh My God ! It just occurred to me that the two lives have great parallels. Yours and the Buddhist yogi Jetsuen Milarepa. And Dhobjee is where pilgrims go to be blessed by Milarepa statue brought from Tibet and purified by Milarepa Spring which too originate at Tibet. Life is stranger than the unknown. But today finally, I am beginning to find the answer to my initial query. Why did Fate complicate the life of such an honest simple man ? I have been so troubled by your departure and got down to write away my agony. And as usual I am rewarded. Writing from the heart reveals truths and connects those dots to reveal values and essence. You are simple but not that ordinary my friend !
This time I suddenly make the happy discovery of the parallel life of Milarepa. How very incredible ! Milerepa had Marpa Guru and you a Maha King. A beloved woman the mother in case of Milarepa and yours a beloved lady who were reasons of similar unholy tragedies followed by years of penance of 12 years or so and final deliverance by the Guru and in your case again His Majesty our King. You had physically laboured to contribute in the reconstruction/renovation of Tan Gu Dzong and operated later in life a stone quarry for livelihood gains. And Milarepa quarried stones to build the Tho Gu Dzong by himself for spiritual gains. Now I recall Deki telling me. She said, " Uncle, my father was not a religious man but surprisingly he got blessings from so many holy Lamas during his last few hours of life." And my response strangely was, " Well dear, he may not have appeared religious but all this proves he was pure in heart." In retrospection, I had hit the bulls eye ! Didn't I dear Milarepa parallel ?
Dear Milarepa Tshering. Thank You for being there from those days of 11 years of age till now. A Friend for Life is a precious soulmate. Rest in Peace. You earned it.
P.S Today Thursday the 25th of February,2016 is the 12th Evening since your departure. I just had to release my emotion because its difficult to contain, alone, all bottled up. I know it is not fair to monopolise the conversation but you give me no alternative my dearest Friend. With Love and Respects.