December 11, 2014

His Story

Yesterday evening I was in a bar in town. I had dropped in to meet a colleague for a drink. After a round of whisky, he got a call from his wife and had to leave immediately.

As I sit there alone, I espy a guy sitting at a darkened corner. He is drinking beer, so wanting company; I invite him over near the bukhari where I am warming myself. Reluctantly he joins me.

Now that he comes into light, I see a young man with week-old stubble on his chin.  His jeans look faded and tattered at the helm. The jacket he is wearing has seen better days. His hair is hidden under a woolen cap, but it escapes in thick dry locks behind his ears. His weary eyes and chaffed hands speak volumes of the work he must be doing.

As he sits beside me, I introduce myself. He is ‘Dawa’, working in the tunnels of Mangdechhu Project, somewhere in constructions under the mountains. He is a tunnel digger.

I am surprised, because I usually hear of Indians laborers doing all these kind of manual work, especially in dam constructions. Here I am hearing of a bona fide Bhutanese working these tunnels. Surely there is a story behind it, but I dare not ask. Instead I call the bartender for a refill of my whisky, and offer him beer.

At first he is suspicious, but I tell about myself, where I work and why I am here in Trongsa these days. He accepts my offer, and we start chatting, I mostly asking about the project. He shares a little about himself; seems he completed his class ten from a local high school.

I ask him why he is working here when he can easily get a decent work somewhere with his class ten degree. He mumbles something unintelligible. I feel sorry for him so I ask him how long he’s been here. 3 years he’s been working the construction site at various places, before he came here to the dam last July. I want to dig more but I dare not, because I can sense reluctance in his voice. Still we chat, I sharing about my work at Bumthang. Minutes passed, and the evening drags on.

Still he wouldn't let me into how he landed in this situation. I doubt drugs but there aren't any tell tale signs of addiction. He is into drinking, but since he stops after a bottle from me, so I rule out alcoholism as a possibility. Jilted love? Ignored son? My curiosity grows on as the minutes pass.

But then around 8:00 pm, my colleague calls me on my cell phone to inform about dinner at his place. I bid farewell to the stranger, and wish him luck as I pay for the drinks. I head out into the cold Trongsa night. 

Behind every sad guy is a story, but he may not necessarily share his story with you.