Usha Drukpa, Thimphu
Life can at times be bitter and unfair, with poverty and mishaps enveloping you for years. Penjor Tshering, 33, who earns a living selling homemade momo (dumplings) and thukpa (porridge), personifies the dark face of life. While most of his friends go out playing, Penjor Tshering would be busy working in the fields in Punakha. Now 33 years old, he still hasn’t found an end to his miserable life.
“There is no end to my suffering. We have always been poor. I was just nine when I had to go through the burden of being poor. Life is unfair!” says Penjor, heavy heartedly.
In most cases families and relatives come to your rescue, when one is in trouble, but it wasn’t the case for Penjor. Soon after his parents died, 10 years ago, his brother took almost all the land that belonged to their parents, saying that they needed money to pay for their father’s funeral.
“He sold all the land. The remaining one land was mine but he sold that too. I appealed to the Supreme Court but I lost the case. I have only 21 days left to pay Nu. 45000 in order to reopen the case and I don’t have the money,” he sighs.
Living in Hejo, Penjor looks after his divorcee sister and her three sons. His eldest nephew, studies in Kelki Higher Secondary School in the 11th standard but due to their financial problem, Penjor says he may have to discontinue his nephew’s studies though Penjor wants his nephew to complete class XII.
“I just studied till class VI. My education background has always been a problem; I couldn’t get any suitable job. I do work part time in RSTA canteen, other than that I try selling porridge for few bucks. That is how I look after my younger sister and her sons,” Penjor says, with bitterness in his voice. “Selling porridge and momo is the only thing I can do with such little qualification. I have trouble buying kitchen items and moreover City Corporation restricts us to sell these items,” he mumbles. “I wish they would allow us to sell our homemade goods.”
He feels suicidal at times. “Sometimes I think of killing my family and committing suicide. I hate to see my family suffer,” he sobs.
Adding to his problems, his sister was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“My sister is sick, that’s why I don’t let her work these days,” he says.
The irony is that Penjor has always been a man helping others, even to the extent of donating his kidney to one of his friends. “In 1999, I donated my kidney to my friend, not for money but as a friend,” he says with a sense of pride in his voice.
Penjor narrates stories of how he had to borrow money from others in order to feed his family, “Once I had to lend money around Nu. 1, 80,000 for my mother’s funeral but I covered up the debt by selling porridge. Even Ashi Kezang Wangmo Wangchuck helped me,” he says.
However, a silver lining is now appearing in his life. “My situation is much better. I earn around Nu. 400 to Nu. 700 per day and much higher during party nights,” he says.