‘……………………….. I have never come across such a fine fellow like Dorji in my life and never will.’ I thought as I moved on through that maddening crowd in Phuentsholing town.
It was a snowy morning at the capital in the mid 90s. The people were busy moving in and around the bus station, waiting for the buses to reach at their destination.
I was on winter vacation heading towards Phuentsholing. I felt so cold, so old in the dazzling snow near the standing bus. Thinking who would be next to my seat I got in. The passengers were in, except for the one who, was to be next to me was missing. I sat quietly near the window, watching at the sight of lovely snowfall over the naked apple trees.
In a moment, I watched at my watch. It was exactly 7.AM. There was hardly 5 minutes left for the departure. I became a bit worried least my co-passenger may miss the bus. My eye surveyed recklessly over the station just to trace for the signal but it was all in vain.
The bus started to move then. ‘A passenger has not come yet’ I shouted at the top of my voice. ‘Who cares, we are getting late!’ there was chorus reply from the passengers. To which I felt disappointed and kept silent.
Just at the nick of time, I heard the deep sweet voice, ‘wait for me!’ I peeped hopefully through the half condensed glass window and. Saw a man running towards the bus. ‘He must be the one!’ I thought undoubtedly.
He came in and sat next to me. He breathed so heavily chewing Doma at the same time. He looked so simple and dignified in his faded Mentse Mathra Gho, with a neatly placed Gong and Lageys. I hadn’t chance to meet such a person on formal dress, in such freezing unfriendly weather. His simplicity and identity were what impressed me most at the very first sight.
He tool a few minutes to normalize his breathing. When he did it successfully he just gave me a bear welcoming smile and said, ‘HI!’ ‘Hello’ I replied strangely. I felt somewhat uncomfortable, so returned his smile.
Though we were completely strangers we became friend within a short range of time. I had never expected it would happen the way it happened. That was a strange thing, a strange way how I became so closed, so fast with that unknown person.
After sometime, we chatted casually, freely on varying topics, as if we were seasoned friends. There was a free flow of thoughts between us. A sense of apprehension developed with a little comprehension yet I did not bother it much.
Feasting our eyes at the snowfall outside and listening to the sweet music inside, we were deeply engrossed in our won deep thoughts when I broke the silence, ‘How many children do u have?’ ‘I have two’. He answered proudly. Without nay rhyme or reason I requested. ‘Tell me your love story’.
‘It’s a very simple one. It began just twenty one years back.’ He disclosed it gladly. ‘Dema my wife, came to my life like the first snowfall when, I first met her in one of the New Year celebrations. It was on 21st February 1975. I still remember that day, that first sunshine of the day of my life.’ He took out Doma from his Hemchu, offered me one, had himself another and continued his story’. You know, my feelings towards her began barely in the mist of uncertainty and, in an utter confusion. Of course, she was aware of it.
Consequently, I made an attempt to express my feelings personally and privately to her. When I had done it, she did respect and reciprocate my love, of and only if I love her only. Thereafter, we loved each other and reached at high height and got married….’
As he narrated his fond memories, I saw some indication of delights in his a pair of blue eyes. Equally I found passengers were listening attentively the conversation.
Motivated and urged by the story, I once more questioned, ‘what is your idea of love?’ to this he responded immediately adjusting the gong around his neck. ‘Love is tying happiness in happiness’. He whispered as if, it is a matter most important.
Then staring at my eyes he said, ‘What is your ides?’ ‘It is a sweet joy….. something that sort of thing.’ ‘Ha…….ha……..ha…he laughed in a tone of great appreciation.
How our time dragged on our moment we did not notice and realized where we had reached up to. The bus stopped. ‘It’s lunch time.’ Shouted one of the passengers from the back row. We went to hotel and had Red Rice and Ema Datsi. It was nice it met our appetite.
Subsequently, the bus moved on. Once more for the last time, I put another interrogation, ‘Did you give presents to your wife so far?’ I tried to criticize him. ‘so far t haven’t. I felt it but I failed. Until recently I had an idea. Am I going to do it soon’ he explained regretfully – a compunction indeed.’
‘this is the one’. He took out instantly from his Hemchu’. ‘What is it?’ I asked deliberately as I caught hold of it from his hand. He answered’ A New Year gift!’ this time his voice became a bit sentimental.
It was an envelope but something in it. ‘Must be very precious thing’. I imagined. ‘May I look at it?’ I asked intentionally. ‘Yes why not! He said without any hesitation.
Then I put my fingers inside the enclosed envelope and fumbled for sometime. To my madness, I found a piece of paper0 a locally made paper (Dheysho) in which he had written.
Dema my dear,
I have been waiting so long for this day just to remind, I love you only.
Dorji critically observed my face when I returned it. Then he smiled sweetly adding another unexpected beauty of his face. At the same time, for him, it was a matter of pride and shame. Pride, because, it is a wonderful gift for his humane expression. Shame because, I have known it, be it a highest form of gift or a just simple one.
After all, gift was and is to be known.
I patted on his shoulder and remarked, ‘it is so appropriate. That is it….’ At this critical moment, the bus suddenly came to a grinding halt. We were already at bus stop. So we said goodbye to each other. It was a time- a time to be; on our own way, in our own place and at our own work.
(This story was a written by my husband as my New Year’s Gift during our first Anniversary. It was also published in the Kuensel many years ago. )