There are times when one is reminded of adages, which tend to comport you philosophically. For the last two days, I have been seeking solaces of different adages. “The rising morning cannot ensure that you shall end the day, for death stands ready at your doors to take your lives away.” “Impermanence is the only thing that is certain.” And several others.
The tragic demise of Dr. Dorji Wangchuk and his wife, stirred my mind, with my cerebral fluids taking me to the zones of these adages. I still cannot comprehend that I will now need to refer to doctor as “late.” Yes! Many people leave the world and their near and dear ones. But when someone with whom you have lived, ate, drank and laughed departs forever, one cannot reconcile with realty. I still cannot believe that the one who always used to call me “hero” has left us. I still cannot accept that no one will dearly call me a “hero” henceforth.
My experiences with Him, who climbed up the rungs to become director, director general and then secretary is immense. Of all, I cannot forget that day in 2002, when we walked from the base of Kamichu till Lajab in Dagana. We had never been to Lajab. Our guides did not tell us that it was an uphill trek through forests without inhabitants. The journey was one of the toughest that I experienced. But His Company kept me going. Lord Tennyson says that experience is an arch, where through gleams that untraveled road, whose margins fade further and further as we move. The walk to Lajab was such an experience, for He enlightened me on several subjects: challenges that Bhutan’s health sector faced; opportunities; the roles of health staff in the head quarters; demerits of privatization …..The list is endless.
Beyond the subject, I was taken on a journey about visions of Our King and the roles citizens should play. He even told me the sharchop names of several herbs, shrubs and trees. The knowledge He possessed went beyond the domains of His profession.
As we walked, He offered His pony to me several times. I refused, saying that I am a junior staff. He replied that everyone is equal and that for the purpose of ensuring order, hierarchies have been created. I received a lecture on the traditional form of Bureaucracy, which originated from Britain and the new form that the world was imbibing. Yet again, He knew more that the texts of public health.
The Lajab tour is just one example from the series of tours I went with Him; journeys that were expeditions for me, from the social, economic, historic and cultural lenses. I made best use of the opportunities availed. The horizons of my knowledge expanded.
Within the office too, He was always a teacher and a parent to me. I cannot think of any moment or occasion, where I was not offered a cup of tea. And as always, it used to be classes. He would ask me questions on health and other subjects; prick my brain to make it more analytical and matured. The words still echo. “Wai Hero. What do you think about privatizing cleaning services in hospitals?”
These mattered to me, for I was a junior staff. The fact that He talked with me and asked my views bolstered my confidence. Every meet with Him was one that took me to a higher level of inspiration.
My last meet with Him was at Taba, about four months back. He was there with His wife. If I was a gifted artist, I could easily bring out a portrait of His smile; the plump cheeks and eyes of humility. Again He said. “Hero! Sit here.” He asked how my family was and conveyed that I should make it a point to go to my village at least twice a year. With Yongphula airport set to open soon, He said that the journey home and back would be comfortable. “We should not forget our roots. If you are what you are today, it is because of the combined prayers of your family and most importantly the blessings of your local deities. Don’t forget this.”
Different people would remember Him in their own ways. It is difficult to come up with a word or phrase, saying that I remember Him in this particular way. The closest would be to say that I remember Him as a person who served the nation wholeheartedly; a loving father and husband; an encyclopedia of wisdom; an excellent teacher and the only one who used to call me “Hero.”
The past cannot be changed. What happened on December 21, 2017, cannot be altered. All we can do is to pray for the departed ones; invoke the Triple Gem to send the two souls back, for they are priceless gems of our country.
Dedicated to Late Doctor Dorji Wangchuk and wife