One Saturday, during my regular weekend visit to my aunty at Punakha she showed me a certificate from 1990. It was awarded to her for successful completion of NAPE course then. What is surprising is that the certificate was wrongly addressed and she just got it from her contemporary after 20 years. The paper was neatly kept and looks as fresh as it was delivered this morning, though in these many years my aunty has become grandmother to two granddaughters. Perhaps now you can guess how many years she served as teacher.
She is new in Punakha and houses in Kuruthang are not at all welcoming. She has lost some weight over the week climbing to the tiny room beneath the roof. We scanned the whole town with all the relatives we have around in search of a decent house, and this is what we had to agree with; a three unit attic with lights coming in only through the transparent roof. The new place and the tiny house have stolen away my aunt’s soul. She looked defeated and depressed, and that’s why I always find time to give her company with my family.
Twenty five years ago, or ten years ago if she was posted to Punakha it would have been very usual and she would have taken it with joy. At this age when joints start paining it is hard for her to believe that she has to move out of Thimphu on compulsory transfer. It is a policy well thought over by the ministry when it comes to making it fair for the system but what about the humane side?
Many of her mates are directors and secretaries, a few are even ministers now, sad but true some have passed away but she is still living and teaching. Recently she tells me that even her students are there among directors and secretaries, sadly they won't remember her because she taught them in PP. Young teachers have new system in place whereby there is a strong career ladder. If it was there during her time by now she would be reigning somewhere on the top. But since 1985 she has only grown horizontally. She has no complains. She knew her service is delivered and therefore would be acknowledged. Not in her wildest dream did she see herself being punished for 25 years of service.
Her children suggested her to resign and take rest because she has already shown sign of wearing of her lung and vocal cord from quarter century of shouting with little children. Money has never been their problem and will not be, now that uncle earns triple his old salary with the new job and their daughter is in job. It is about dedication to work. With her degree of perseverance and experience I would be expecting a medal of honor from the ministry and not punishment.
Why am I calling it a punishment? My aunty and uncle are all by themselves far from the crowd of Thimphu. They planned the cottage on their own to spend their old age. Uncle is in late fifties and worse he is a bad cook. Tears welled in my eyes when he started learning how to cook last winter after aunt’s transfer was confirmed. Their three children are away on job and studies. Uncle may be used to staying alone from his lifelong experience in arm force but not hungry. If he falls sick there is nobody around to offer him a cup of water.
On the other side of Dochula my aunty, who has always lived in crowd of children, has to sleep with TV still on, she is a good cook but with her husband surviving on Maggie she can hardly enjoy a meal. She is overweight and very much vulnerable to sudden illness. But if she wishes to lose weight now, her wish is granted already. I have never been old so far, therefore I don’t know how true it is when old people say they feel lonely. If it is true I feel sorry for them that the system has made it worse.
Writer’s Note: With this article I don’t mean to question the policy because I know any policy is bound to hurt some people. It must look at the majority, for even God himself couldn’t create something that could please everybody. I only wrote it in sympathy and love for my aunty.