(A Highly Inspiring and Motivating Life Story of Cheten Zangmo, Tsebar, Pemagatshel)
The wondrous life story of Mrs Cheten Zangmo might be an inspiration to many, as it is to me. The great lesson I have learned from her life is we can change anybody’s life through our sincere prayers, wishes and earnest desire coupled with the person’s cooperation. I had desperately wanted to see the little girl, Cheten Zangmo, in a noble position in her life and it did happen. This is the wonder of the mystery of mind. Her entire life story could be filmed into a good movie. The story is thought-provoking and insight-giving.
Her life is one of the greatest rewards for me as a humble teacher. It is so amazing that a poor village girl who one day groped like a blind child lives a brilliant life today. Cheten Zangmo is a teacher in a school in Samdrup Jongkhar, Eastern Bhutan. Her husband, Mr. Tshewang Tashi is an engineer. Both of them were my students at Tsebar Primary School, Pemagatshel Dzongkhag. Though Cheten looks small and emaciated, she possesses a strong character with high morals, ethics, values and virtues.
She was born to poor and illiterate parents. Her late father, Mr. Lujai Wangdi had to sell his horse, the only tangible material property he had, as the last resort to support his daughter’s education when she was in Class X at Khaling High School. Though the parents were poor but lived a pious life. According to the Holy Bible, the quality of parents’ life affects generations. Parents’ virtuous life is the greatest blessing for children. Cheten Zangmo’s life speaks volumes about the wonder of education and the magic of parents’ virtues.
I had joined Tsebar Pry School in March 1987 as a teacher when Cheten zangmo was in Class TWO. Girls’ those days in that area were meant only for marriage and household chores. As bound by the societal practices, none of the girls could dream higher than that. As a result, all the innocent and submissive girl students of Tsebar Pry School were married before they could complete their Class VI though they were talented and angelic. Cheten Zangmo ushered in the life of girls in that school in 1991 by completing Class VI and breaking the age-old tradition of early marriage. Since then girls’ education in that area started rising and early marriage practice sinking. She kindled a new light in the life of girls in the entire gewog (block).
Now let’s see how. I got married in February 1990 and my wife joined me as a home maker in that remote life. Cheten was then in Class V. Inspired by our life, she developed an inclination and devotion towards us. We also extended our love and affection towards her. As the days went by, she felt freer and more comfortable with us. Then as willed by providence and supported by her parents, the little girl started visiting us. As part of the Bhutanese culture, every time she brought something for us as a token of their love and honour in spite of being poor. We valued those small things. Even a few leaves of mustard green were a great prize for us as the leaves had come through the touch of the holy hands of the holy child. The children are splendid! I did not meet God but I did experience and saw God’s divinity in the Bhutanese school children. And now back to my home town I seek for God’s face in the faces of my Indian students, God’s touch through the touches of the students and God’s presence in the presence of my students. I know why 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 priest.”
I remember the angelic children of Tsebar village who used to invite us to their houses to pour their love, kindness and gratitude to us. We visited their houses occasionally on Sundays. Some smart students led us from house to house and whispered to the family members: “Our teacher has come. Give something.” Even by offering a few potatoes or leaves of garlic they felt happy and we felt exalted. The children collected vegetables from the entire village and carried to our house. Love and kindness of the people of Cheten’s village is unforgettable.
When Cheten was in Class VI, I was her class teacher. I taught them English, Mathematics and Geography. In the class as I was her inspiration, so was she for me being the best performer in the class. I taught the class with great zeal and enthusiasm and expected Cheten Zangmo to produce a remarkable result in the Class VI Board Examinations. That year almost every Sunday Cheten visited our house. We spent hours talking to her, motivating and igniting her spirit. Sometimes, we even shared meals together. I desperately wished her to continue her study without interruption of untimely marriage, and guided and counseled her accordingly. She listened to every word I spoke with great devotion and studied and lived her life with utmost sincerity. To her, my words were like the words of God. As we wished and prayed, she not only topped in the merit list of the PSCE -1993 in the school but also created a history by being the first girl in the locality to complete class VI. Our joy was boundless.
Now a new chapter appeared in Cheten’s life. When all the students of the school were placed by the government at Pemagatshel Junior High School, Cheten’s placement was at Khaling High School, known to be the best school of the Eastern region, as recognition of her very good performance. This was a fresh challenge to the continuation of her studies because the school was far, in another district. But with the Royal Government’s free education, free health services, free job opportunities and all other support polices for every child to blossom, Cheten found light in her career path. We provided our support, guidance and motivation. She joined Khaling School in Class VII as a boarder and continued her studies.
Now she is far away from us. But she has had such a faithful and grateful heart that she did not lose her contact with us. In the world without cyber service, she remained attached to us through her hand-written letters. Every month she wrote. Her parents in the village also maintained close touch with us. During her short breaks, she came home and visited us. Sometimes her father shared with me his financial hardships in the way of supporting the daughter. I did what I could. She spent her long winter vacations at home in the village when we were away in India on winter break. She was so firm to pursue her higher studies that untimely marriage temptation could not distract her. She rose to Class X. An amazing success for the entire locality! But a new challenge stealthily walked into her life when she was busy preparing for her final exam (ICSE) due in March. Impressed by Cheten’s angelic qualities, her husband’s parents approached Cheten’s parents to have the girl as their daughter-in-law. Seeing the boy and their family good and worthy in every respect, Cheten’s parents easily accepted their proposal. But the girl with a grateful heart was reluctant to enter into matrimonial life without her teacher’s approval. She opposed the parents’ move.
She said, “I cannot marry without Chowdhury sir’s consent. Sir is away in India on winter vacation. Let’s decide when Sir comes back after the winter holidays.”
But she could not resist the strong wind of the parents’ persistence till my return. So she was married and the journey of their holy matrimonial life set in. But she was so conscientious that her guilty feelings for the marriage without my presence and blessing kept on punishing her. When I returned to Tsebar she did not want to face me. She kept herself away from us. I got upset and worried about her career and future life. I contemplated on the matter for a few days and discussed with my colleague and friend Mr. Indra Kumar Chhetri, who was a tenant at their humble house. Then as willed by the Lord, I took initiative to visit her in order to get her out of the guilty conscience and to rehabilitate her for the fulfillment of my goal about her career and life. With Mr. I. K. Chhetri’s support one Sunday morning my wife and I went to her house to visit her. She was busy weaving in their traditional loom behind the house. We walked to her. Blushed with embarrassment, she kept her head down but did not forget to greet us. Understanding her condition, I felt sympathetic and felt more responsible to guide and support her. I began to counsel her though I was not a trained counselor; neither had any idea about counseling.
Today, when I know quite well about counseling by virtue of the trainings provided by the Royal Govt. of Bhutan, I feel I was born blessed with the counseling attitude, aptitude and skills. It is mainly because of my counseling character I used to be called Apchi sir by my Bhutanese students and their parents.
I used tact and affection in counseling Cheten Zangmo. We convinced her that marriage was an auspicious duty of life. And when it was decided and blessed by either side of the parents there was nothing wrong. My counseling produced amazing effect. She was fully rehabilitated in a few days and came back to our care and guidance. In spite of the drastic change in the course of her life, she prepared her ICSE exams and appeared in the exams. Unfortunately, though she had passed, could not qualify for college. Now neither she nor her parents or parents-in-law knew what to do about her career. Earnest and passionate about her career and life, desperately I searched for a path and it was found. I talked about the girl to my new headmaster, Mr. Sonam Tobgay, and proposed for her appointment as a temporary teacher at Tsebar Pry School. The generous headmaster took the matter up to the then Dasho Dzongda, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, and got Dasho’s approval. Thus she was appointed as a temporary teacher at Tsebar and began her teaching career under our love, care and guidance.
But as the Almighty had a higher aim and better place for her, I remained restless about her career. I wanted a permanent job for her. My exploration continued. I got in touch with the Director, TTC, Paro and obtaining the director’s approval through a letter, I advised her to discontinue the temporary job and to join the Teacher’s Training College. She followed every piece of my advice and direction in unflinching faith and devotion and joined the TTC. But soon there came a fresh shadow on her path. Before she could complete her first year, she realized she was going to be mother of her first child. Confused and knowing well that she would not be allowed to continue her training in this condition, she gave up all hope and went back home. Our hopes and aspirations were obscured in total darkness.
Her father despaired and bemoaned: “Sir, abhi keya karega! Saab rasta to bandh ho gaya. Chhana Dorjika (Chheten’s father-in-law) dokan aur bacchcha dekval karnai Chetenka jivan hoga.” (Sir, now all hope is lost! My daughter’s career path is closed. Looking after Chhana Dorji’s shop and her baby will be her life.) I became disappointed. But being a persistent dreamer, I did not give up hope. The more obstacles came in her path, the more the fire of my dream and hope burned. My expedition for further exploration continued. With lost hope the poor girl stayed back at home and we all waited for her first child to be born. I kept my fingers crossed that the holy child might bring fortune to the mother. Fulfilling my wish, the child was born like a God’s messenger bringing new light for her mother’s career. God had chosen me to combat the final battle for her career achievement.
A new idea sparked in me. I decided to direct her back to the TTC for completion of her teacher’s training. But Cheten Zangmo expressed that since she had left the first year incomplete, as per TTC rule she might have to start again from the beginning of the first year which she was unable and unwilling to do for several valid reasons. And I was unwilling to give up my effort for the helpless girl. So as my intuition guided me, I wrote a letter to the then Director of the TTC, Paro, presenting the entire heart rending situation of the girl. And as providence willed, the compassionate Director replied me asking to send the girl back to the institute. Accordingly, I was able to send her to the TTC along with a letter to the Director and she was accepted in the second year without repeating the first year. Her lucky child was left at home in the village to the care of her mother. Then without any further interruption she could complete her training and was placed as a regular teacher in a pry school. Later she upgraded her qualification through distance education and rose to a better position in her career ladder. Now they are living a respectable life. And her fortune brought comfort, happiness and bliss to her old widowed mother.
Cheten Zangmo and Tshewang Tashi not only look after their two sons but also Cheten’s old widowed mother. A true heaven at home! What else do we need to understand the miracle of God!
Cheten Zangmo’s greatest virtue is her gratefulness. Cicero said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the mother of the rest.” On our departure day from Tsebar Pry School to Nangkor HSS on transfer, as a gesture of her gratitude, love and good will, Cheten had cooked and served our last and the most nourshing meal of our a decade’s life at Tsebar at their house. This was the inauguration for us to start eating meals from the homes of my Bhutanese family members. To fulfill her final duty, Cheten had carried my son, Babu, whom she named Sonam Dendup, on her back from Tsebar to Nangkor for about five hours, while her mother and a group of generous villagers carried our luggage.
What a rewarding, sublimating and igniting, enriching and educative experience! Holy Himalayan daughter, Cheten Zangmo, may God manifest His glory through your life and work!
|Cheten Zangmo's words of gratitude and humility.|