Sunday, August 2, 2009
Two families intersected and made two distinct journeys this week. As one family of motorcyclists came back rejuvenated; another family is rediscovering joy and generosity.
The road to Zhemgang from Thimphu itself was the biggest metaphor; as members of the Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club coiled, curved, sloped and straightened out their backs on this marathon twelve-hour journey, another family had already begun their three-day hike along the ancient trails of Tingtibi to Zhemgang, bare-footed and scantily clothed.
The rendezvous was Zhemgang town and the meeting could not have been better scripted- reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s classic ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. But this had nothing to do with aliens; it had more to do with people and their humanity. And it had particularly a lot to do with the rugged passion of the Dragons to help a poor and battered family.
Kinga Wangmo, 60, her daughter Sangay Pemo, 24 and five-year old Tashi Lhamo, Sangay Pemo’s daughter, was the driving factor behind the club’s decision to help the destitute family.
“The whole family was out sitting in the sun having their lunch. They look happy and comfortable,” said the club’s president, Ghost-Rider in a phone interview. He said the transformation was very palpable and the family was adapting to life in a new location.
He said the family is housed in a nice setting with electricity, rooms, and bathrooms. The location was kept anonymous due to the father’s violent tendency and the danger he might pose if the whereabouts were made public. However, the president went on to clarify that the family was relocated with the explicit decision of the grandmother, whom he described as an incredibly resourceful and talented woman, well versed in weaving, gardening and plantations and the family’s only next-of-kin, the grandmother’s brother.
The family had made the three-day hike to rendezvous with the club’s members. Until then, they had been living in a bare knuckle shack in Zhemgang town but had been forced to go back to their village after the landlord evicted them. The club had begun communicating with the family after a story in Kuensel highlighted the family’s dismal plight and violent environs. The little girl, Tashi Lhamo, was unanimously chosen by the club as their beneficiary.
The Kuensel correspondent in Zhemgang who broke the story also initiated contact and acted as the intermediary. The father was apprehended upon charges of domestic violence, the family was barely scraping a meal a day.
Ghost-Rider said the grandmother, though capable, had also been a victim of her son-in-law’s violent outbursts and had been confined to looking after her daughter and granddaughter. He said all of them carried multiple scars and bruises. The father apparently knew no boundaries when enforcing brute strength.
The mother was practically rendered mentally disturbed after the last major assault. He said the whole family will undergo medical check-ups. As for school, Tashi Lhamo requires a Birth Certificate before the club can start processing her school registration.
At the moment, the family is well set up with people pitching in to help. It was an incredible experience, he said, that when they actually met, the family had barely any possession, that the grandmother had such a likable quality, that their initial insecurity was gradually replaced by a feeling of joy and hope, as they shared meals and made small talk.
The ride back was even better. He said the family enjoyed the HiAce bus; it was their first step outside the boundaries of Zhemgang. Club members bought the family slippers, clothes and other necessities. They camped a night in Chendibji, where they were warmly welcomed, lodged and fed hot meals by the Chendibji Restaurant staff.
Though they carry scars of a violent past, he said the healing process has begun. A member’s wife, a former counselor with RENEW, will use her expertise to ease the transformation and the trauma.
Sounding positive and relaxed on the phone, the club’s president said the experience was well worth it- that all the bruises on their butts and the blisters on their hands riding a 622 km journey was significant seeing the little girl smile and the family, happy. Now they want to make certain the little girl gets a belated head start- an education to ensure that she does not become a victim of domestic violence as her mother and grandmother did.
The intersection of so many factors truly makes this episode a compassionate vehicle built on the myriad crossroads of life and, well, the dented butts of a few.