He is still alive and kicking. And I saw him this morning at the Semtokha Mani Dungkhor. He is as healthy as he was then, 13 years ago that he was at the Thimphu Memorial Chorten.
I and my high school best friend Sushma were heading home from school. We always made a point to circumambulate the Chorten every evening from school. Sushma and I shared a great lot of interests, ranging from attitude to likes and dislikes, one prominently our passion for gardening.
Even then, the Chorten area had lots of beautiful plants adoring the pavement. Day after day, we admired the beautiful flowers, often wishing we could get some seedlings. So, that evening we decided to get some help. An elderly man – well built, stout and tall walked by with a rosary in his hands. We jointly asked, “Apa, are you the caretaker here?” He nodded. We pleaded, “Can we take one of these seedlings?” He nodded again.
Just as we were uprooting the seedling, the “real” caretaker flung in his fury shouting slogans of accusations against us, “You theives, I will get the police after you!”.
Sush and I stood like immobile statues in the midst of the moving crowd, hundreds of eyes fixed on us, and with that tiny seedling in our hands. We tried explaining about the permission well sought, but the “real” caretaker was not to be explained that easily. We pointed to the man who permitted us, he stood smiling at the other end.
We somehow escaped the scandal. But that face remained implanted in my mind since then.
13 years and I can still remember the face. Just as I saw this morning. Except that this man is mute.