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HOW BHUTANESE STUDENTS BLOSSOMED INTO MY LITTLE BUDDHAS.

Dear God,
I understand that you are fully aware of my thoughts, mind, actions, dreams and passions, yet I am earnest to express myself. Because I believe in the philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore who said, ”Man is born in the world with only one advice from God –That is EXPRESS yourself.” And like the little girl, Anne Frank, I want to pour out what is buried deep in my heart. By your lofty will and bounty of blessings, I had been on the Himalayan mountains of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan since February 14, 1987 as a teacher. But after about three decades of my stay in the kingdom, I left the kingdom, not as a teacher but as a pupil, a hungry learner. I have been so much blessed to discover many great teachers in my students and in the pristine natural environment of the holy mountains.
Initially I was placed at Tsebar Primary School under Pemagatshel district of Bhutan. After three years, my matrimonial life began in 1990 at that remote hamlet. My wife (Jasoda) who came into my life like a Yogini with divine wealth of YOGA and a great Yoga teacher, Late B K. S. Iyengar, has been a gift for me from the holy Himalayan kingdom.  She was humble a home maker.

 In 1995, there was acute shortage of teachers at my School. Sometimes some lower classes would go without any teacher for a whole day. I felt pained to see the angelic children in the classroom blank and unattended for lack of teachers.. Driven by my conscience, I proposed to my headmaster, Mr. Sonam Tobgye, to offer my wife’s volunteer service for those precious gems. Sir was happy at my thought and granted permission. From the next day, she started teaching the twinkling stars in her handicapped English. After some weeks, the headmaster observed her lessons. Satisfied with her performance, my wise headmaster requested the then Dzongda, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, for her temporary appointment. Dasho was generous to approve the request. Thus, after several months of her volunteer service in the school, she was appointed as a temporary teacher. I was happy that my humble wife was employed in the service of the budding nation builders.

 In April 1997, we were transferred to Nangkor Higher Secondary school when the school was just born as a junior high school. At the new boarding school, apart from my regular teaching, I was entrusted to serve as the Matron, Health in charge and Librarian by my far- sighted and dynamic principal, Mr. Sonam Wangyal, the present Dasho Dzongda of Lhuentse dzongkhag. At this new school, initially I was living in a private house and wanted to continue in that secluded house as I wished to have full freedom during my private times before and after school. But my visionary principal had asked me to shift to the girls’ hostel to look after the girls. I was shocked at his thought and decision. Due to my Indian cultural background, being a gent, I felt awkward at the thought of living in the girls’ hostel. I disagreed to the proposal of my principal. But being an altruistic leader, he went on persisting. Every morning in his divine voice he would ask me, “Mr. Chowdhury, when are you shifting to the girls’ hostel?” I continued to remain passive signaling my reluctance. But after a few days, I heard direction of my inner voice and my new thought was: “ As I am a part of this school, Principal’s matron problem should be my problem as well. And to a teacher who should be more than the biological parents of the students, the narrow sense of girls or boys should not exist. We teachers are born and destined to safe keep, nurture, educate and elevate these little angels.” Thus, the frail little Indian teacher,Santosh Chowdhury, was matron at Nangkor Higher secondary School for eleven years transcending all disadvantages and barriers and lived in the girls’ hostel and served the divine children. From then onwards the Bhutanese students became my ” Little Buddhas”, not merely boys or girls. And from the new OASIS of thoughts and feelings, my first poem germinated under the title: LITTLE BUDDHAS.
O Lord, I have myriads of thanks for you. You have manifested so much through my principal that he had made a superb matron selection. My joy to serve the students round the clock as matron, teacher, health  in charge, librarian and counsellor was boundless, endless and fathomless. The more I served, the more the tree of my love for the children grew. The girls’ hostel became my home and hundreds of boys and girls of the school became our sons and daughters. We lived in a singled-roomed apartment on the ground floor of the double storied girls’ hostel which gradually turned into a Mother Teresa’s Clinic in the services of the hundreds of needy children. Every evening and morning dozens of boys and girls queued at my door for different kinds of support and services. My wife assisted me in rendering my services in numerous ways. The 5th principal of the School, Mr. Tashi Chonjur commented:” Madam Jasoda Chowdhury was like a mother to many of our students at Nangkor H.S. School. As I was fortunate to be entrusted and trained to render health services to my school family members, in order to be more equipped and resourceful for prompt services, I bought lots of medicines with my personal money in consultation with the medical professionals in my motherland, India, and happily used them in the services of the little gods and goddesses. As my job responsibilities demanded, I visited my daughters’ rooms at any hour and all hours. Sometimes, I was hesitant to enter their rooms at odd hours but they were always comfortable, and never felt uneasy at my presence in their rooms, be it mid-day or mid-night, because to them my identity was their beloved APCHI sir as they fondly called me. My wife was their favourite AMCHI.

Being Health In-charge, every morning I had to sign several sick leave letters to grant sick leave. On one occasion, when my wife was supervising girls’ toilet cleaning work and I was in my toilet to answer nature call, some students in time constraint had dropped the leave letters at my toilet door for my signature. Discovering the matter, I laughed heartily while sharing with my wife and the friends. Of all incidents and memories, piggery in charge, Kinzang Yonten’s has been the most striking one. When the boy was in class IX, I was his class teacher. After the summer break the boy had become a victim of depression and some physical ailment. He stopped attending the classes, lost interest in everything and spent his days lying in the bed in the hostel. Upon my enquiry, he replied:  “Sir, I have been suffering from severe stomach pain. My mother told me that our neighbor had applied black magic upon me out of enmity to kill me that resulted in the stomach pain. Now I have only a few days to live. That’s why I have stopped going to the classes.” I was able to understand the root cause of the problem instantly and acted promptly. I called the boy to my house, counseled for some time and advised to meet me every morning and evening at my house. Confident to be able to rehabilitate the boy, while counseling I said, “My dear Kinzang Younten, you know that I am a YOGA practitioner. I am more powerful than the black magic. I will kill the devil by the power of my Yoga. You just follow what I advise you.”  My words had profound influence on his mind. A ray of optimism shone on his face. He visited my house every morning and evening after breakfast and dinner. Daily I gave him a Digine and a Rentidine tablet to consume and had sessions of sharing and hearing. Sometimes even we had snacks and meal sharing. After about three weeks, the boy amazingly bounced back to normalcy and emerged a good performer and achiever in everything. He became a superb boy, smoothly completed Class XII and contributed so much to the school. It was so inspiring, educative and rewarding incident that when he was in Class XII, the school selected him as the best student of the Year in recognition of his all round growth and   services to the school.. O Lord I thank you for enabling me to recuperate the victim boy. I am sure that Kinzang Yonten is living and will be living a happy life.

Many of my summer vacations voluntarily I devoted to the services of the students as some far away students had to stay back in the hostel for different reasons. On one occasion in 1997, I had a call to come home in India to attend my younger sister’s marriage ceremony which was a very important family event but had coincided with the Mid-Term Exam of the school. Officiating Principal Mr. Tshewang Dendup approved my leave but my conscience responded differently. The inner voice that I heard was: “ If I go home and remain absent from the hostel for some days, students might face difficulties in their exam days as I look after the girls hostel and the health matters of all the students of the school.” Accordingly, I prioritized students’ interest over my personal and family interest. I had given up my sister’s wedding ceremony and protected students’ interest.

 I and my wife had gained incredible passion and capacity to serve the students. Lord Anukul Chandra said: “Teaching is the most sacred of all jobs.” I believe a teacher can rise higher than the angel. Mother Teresa rose to the pinnacle of glory through the ladder of teaching. It is my belief that to a true teacher God reveals Himself the best and most through the faces and voices of students. Many parents while handing their daughters to us said: ‘’ Sir, from today you are our daughters’ parents. O Lord, I have bottomless gratitude to you. You enabled me to care and nurture the Himalayan children as their biological parents wished and expected.

In 2005 I had a serious injury in my knee which occurred when Class VIII boy, Samten Wangchuk, in a football match between students and staff accidentally happened to kick on my knee with his football boot dislocating my knee bone cap. The knee swelled so badly. X-RAY was not possible in the Pemagatshel General hospital as the X-RAY machine was in Thimphu under repair. Doctor Bhim had advised two weeks’ rest. Sick leave was granted by my kind principal, Mr. Sherub Gyeltshen .But I became worried for my Class TEN students’ study and exam preparation. I did not like their English teaching to be discontinued. I said to my principal: “Sir, Instead of staying on bed rest, I want to sit on a stationary chair in the M.P. Hall for all the class hours each day and want my students during English lessons to walk into the Hall so that I can continue their teaching that will not demand movement of my injured leg. I can kill two birds with one stone.” Sir wisely granted my request. Thus with my unfit body but fit mind I continued my teaching in the hall for two weeks. And in the evenings, hiding even from my wife I  practised YOGA in the hostel sick room when students were at evening study. I had strong faith that yoga would recuperate my dislocated bone.The idea woked miracle. I was perfectly alright after about a month without any medical treatment. Such is the healing power of yoga and service to students. Thank you Sherub Gyeltshen sir!

 Looking after the girls’ hostel was truly a mammoth task! But I was successful. Today I feel so much enriched and ennobled to think of the responsibilities that I was able to shoulder. There were nights when like a Florence Nightingale carrying a lantern in my hand at late night I walked into the rooms of boys’ hostel then back into the girls’ hostel rooms to attend to the sick students. In those days there was neither electricity nor health service centre at Nangkor. I had incredible patience and energy, whose source was my passion to serve you, the Almighty Lord, through my service to the students. Warned by my subconscious mind I always alerted my wife:” Since we are living in the girls’ hostel, every second of our life style will have character building impact on the children’s life. So we should always live exemplary life and show good examples and practices in our day to day life for the children to copy.” When my wife cooked meals in our Indian style, the smell of the delicacies pervaded the entire school campus tempting the students’ noses and tongues. In reaction, they would jokingly speak to my wife: “ Madam we are enjoying nose party” When my wife shared this with me I said to her, “Please make sure that  at our every meal a boy or girl is invited to join us to have breakfast, lunch or dinner with us.”My wife performed this holy task happily and faithfully.

As matron we were entrusted to check scores of students’ letters. In the envelopes, there were dozens of big currency notes. It was another test for me. But I have been blessed to know that for elevation in life, sacredness in dealing with money and women is the prime requirement. So temptation could never overpower me. On an occasion of Regional Sports Meet at Nangkor, through my Home science Club in three days we earned about thirty thousand ngultrums, a big amount, about which other than you, Dear Lord,  nobody knew. On completion of the sports meet when I handed the large amount to my royal Principal, Mr. Jigme Yangtse, Sir was overwhelmed with joy and surprise.    

When I was at Wangchhu Middle Secondary School, Chukha, from 2008 to 2013, I told my wife that no student should go back from my house without some nourishment of love. She treated them accordingly. On holidays whenever I initiated to launch cleaning campaign around Chukha, dozens of students voluntarily joined me to clean the mother earth’s limbs. Many parents enjoyed watching us singing and cleaning the holy mother, Chukha. In 2011, with the help and kindness of CHP and my class students (X-C), we initiated to grow a forest above the market and the archery range. In every sapling we planted, I have seen a student’s face. At the centre of the forest area, the students designed a seat for my meditation. Almost every morning in 2011, 2012 and 2013 I visited the paradise, and gave loving touch to the happy and healthy saplings. I always ensured that the area was clean and healthy because for me each plant/ sapling is a student. On November 4, 5 & 6, 2014, when I visited Chukha and the forest, to my utter surprise I happen to detect a baby Pipal tree on the spot where my students had marked my meditation place. Pipal is a fig tree native to India and south East Asia with broad pointed leaves. It is regarded as sacred by Buddhists (Buddha having attained enlightenment under the tree) and also by the Hindus and Jains. As far as I know, it was not planted by us. I believe the tree surfaced there by the will of some divine force and for some divine purpose as my students wished and prayed. Such is the might and magic power of students’ holy hearts.

Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore said: “FROM THE SOLEMN GLOOM OF THE TEMPLE CHILDREN RUN OUT TO SIT IN THE DUST. GOD WATCHES THEM PLAY AND FORGETS THE PRIESTS.”  
O Lord I am so much thankful to you for engaging this frail and little body for such noble causes. My gratitude to THE ROYAL GOVRNMENT OF BHUTAN knows no bounds for giving me the privileges to devote this humble life in the sacred services of my Little Buddhas. I bow to all my principals—Mr. Tshering Dendup, Mr. S.B. Rasaily, Mr. Sonam Tobgye, Mr. Sonam Wangyal, Mrs. Yanki Dem, Mr. Jigme Yangtse, Mr. Sherub Gyeltshen, Mr. Tashi Chonjur, Ms. Deki Choden, Ms. Kencho Lham and Mr. Dhan Singh Tamang, Vice principals—Mr.Narad Sharma, Lop. Gyeltshen and officiating principals—Mr. Tshewang and Mr. Chuzang Norbu for their kind support, care and guidance to enable me to live a righteous professional life and a virtuous personal and family life.

Though the twinkling faces of the students that fuelled and filled my heart and soul for a prolonged period are hidden today from me by geographical barriers, I am aspiring and striving to see them in the night starsof the wall- free broad sky and hear their voices in the melodies of the cuckoo birds. e day before yesterday morning (Thursday,18 June),suddenly there was pattering on my roof. It was raining. For me, it was patter of the feet of my Little Buddhas. Hurriedly I went out in the rain and got myself soaked. Through the touch of every drop of rain on my body, I felt the divine touch of my thousands of Bhutanese students. In the evening, the sky was clear. I and Anilda ( a friend) went to a school to meet the Principal. But my eyes got fixed to the twinkling stars in the sky. I gazed and gazed and fed my hungry soul by the smile of the stars because I found the smiling faces of my Himalayan students in each shiny star. O Lord, give me vision and qualification to be able to see your face in the faces of the children in the entire globe as I have been able to see you in the Bhutanese children!

(……Up and down my Little Buddhas go
When all the Bhutanese schools,wind up day’s flow.
But the vision of the Buddhas does appear

Only in the eyes of those who sincerely aspire and perspire!)

Comments

  1. It never stopped me in middle though my tea was losing its hot. At last for you empathy to develop the sympathy into Bhutanese Student i wish i were under your guidance... whatsoever blessed are the one who love being blessed.... and regards to you sir, all your students will be missing u all time,,,, at the end of your post i cant believe i am in ends.....

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    1. Thank you dear friend, Sangay Tshewang, for your kind words and good will. I need your support and kindness for my survival and growth. May you enjoy divine health and happiness.

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