Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Loponla, Chapter 17, the Final Chapter

I have three more chapters left to finish reading the book. Whenever I read a book, usually, I read it sitting on my bed, playing my favorite music but the music, the taxi driver is playing not so soothing even then I have to concentrate. I have to finish reading this book before 9 today. Having finished 14th chapter, I am about to start the next chapter, when the taxi driver says lowering the song, “Sir, where are you going?”
Bookmarking the page with my fingers, closing the book I ask him, “Where are we?”
“In front of Changlimithang stadium.”
Keeping the book on the seat, I take out my wallet. Giving him the fare, I look at him, “Uncle, from where will I get the tickets for the tonight’s match?”
Surprised by my words, he asks, “Tickets? It was sold out day before yesterday only.”
Looking at my desperate face, he says, “Sir, don’t worry. You can get the tickets in black.”
He nods. Thanking him, I get out of the taxi and as I take a few steps away from the taxi, he calls me, “Sir, your book.”
Going back to the taxi, picking up the book from the seat, I look around walking towards the entrance where the guards are standing looking very serious. I have no tickets. Taking out the phone, I check time. It’s 7PM. The match would have started by 6.30. Without going to the gate, I walk along crossing the gate, as I see a few boys standing and talking with each other at a corner a few meters away from the gate. Walking to them, I ask them if they have got tickets. Taking me away from other boys, a boy says, “It’s Nu.500.”
“Take or leave.”
Giving him the money, I walk towards the entrance. Checking my ticket, the guards let me inside. The stadium looks very crowded and I cannot find an empty seat. Going to the space behind a few boys where there is light, I stand there, reading the book when I hear the crowd shouting, “Bhutan. Bhutan.”
Having finished reading a chapter, I look down at the football ground, when I can hardly see the players. Taking out my phone, I take a selfie to save this memory as today Bhutan is playing against Sri Lanka, U-18 Asian Cup Final. It’s Bhutan’s first final, after decades of struggle. Boys standing in front me are cheering shouting their lungs out, with painted face and waving our flag. Some are beating drumming while others are busy taking selfies when the Sri Lanka scores the first goal and the crowd goes silent for a while and the referee blows the whistle for the first half.
As soon as the players disperse for the break, my phone rings.
“Are you in the stadium?”
“Where are you?”
I ask, when she replies, “Me, too. Let’s meet after the match. Wait for me at the gate.”
Hanging up the phone, flipping the pages, I start reading the second last chapter, when the unusual silence engulfs the stadium and even the crowds are sitting silently after the first goal. Soon, as I finish a few pages, the crowd starts shouting, “Bhutan. Bhutan.”
Without watching the match, I keep reading the booking, finally the crowd shouts again, when the Sri Lanka scores the second goal. Angered by the goals, the crowd starts to leave the stadium. When the stadium is half empty, finally, a boy from Bhutan scores a goal. Then, the empty seats begin to fill up again and I keep reading the last chapter, when the stadium becomes full again, then the referee blows the final whistle, Sri Lanka winning the Asian Cup.
Reading the last line of the book, I close it and stand up as the crowd rushes out through the entrance doors pushing very angrily. Considering my safety, I stand waiting for the stadium to get empty when finally, Chezom appears in front of me. Hugging me tightly, she whispers into my eyes, “Tenzin scored the goal. Bhutan is proud of you.”
After waiting for a while, we finally get out. Going to the taxi parking, she gets inside a taxi. Sitting next to her, I say, “But you didn’t say Tenzin is playing today. I didn’t even get time to watch the match as you insisted on finish reading this book.”
Looking at the book in my hand, she asks, “This book?”
“Yeah. The story in this book looks like my life story.”
She laughs out loud. Controlling her laughter, she says, “This is the first book written by Deki. She asked me to send you and you are the first reader.”
“Oh! I forgot to check the author.”
Stopping the taxi in front of a hotel, shining with the light, hanging down from the roof giving me the feeling of Diwali. Getting out, I follow her not keeping the book in the car. Walking past other tables, she leads me directly upstairs. As we land on the first floor, she stops and looks around when I see Nima and Deki sitting at one of the tables. Tapping Chezom’s shoulder as she tries to find them, I say, “There, they are.”
Walking towards them, I calm myself as their faces make my body very light, as if I am flying. Standing up they greet me, as I hug them. Sitting down next to me, Chezom says, “Let’s wait for others.”
I ask her, as Nima and Deki sit together, as I look at them wondering if they are in relation. But I sit calmly when Chezom says, “Nima qualified for Engineering course in India.”
Not believing these words, I look at him, remembering his drunkard face two and half years ago, when I met him first time in the shop. When I was in Australia, after class 10 result, Chezom informed me that Nima got Ugyen Academy’s scholarship as he helped all others to become the toppers. He was second last in the first test, so helped the last to become the second last. Test after test, he improved his positions and in the final test, he was the topper, on the way, he has helped all others. Thus, Ugyen Academy’s scholarship was given to him.
My face brimming with happiness, I ask Deki, “So, what about you, writer?”
“I am taking Media in Sherubtse College, sir.”
She smiles, when Chezom says, “She has written stories for two Bhutanese films and she is very rich.”
Chezom looks at the entrance when Dargay and Yethro walk towards our table. Hugging me Dargay says, “Welcome back sir.”
As they sit down next to Deki, I ask her, “I am so happy to know that you two are still in relationship. No children, right?”
“No, sir,” says Dargay, when Yethro keeps smiling. Talking about their studies and results, I feel happy to know that both of them will be joining Gedu College. Then finally, as Norbu, the guitarist walks inside, the girl walking with him steals my heart. How sweet they look? When I heard that Norbu and Delkar were in relation, when I was in Australia, I could not sleep for a week as her smile kept flashing in my mind. 
Two years ago, that night after the dinner with my coaching, I met her as she was waiting for me at the school canopy. Listening to her life story, I was very touched when she told me how she spoilt her class XII result, staying at a relative in Thimphu, where her uncle always came home drinking and never let her study. So, being the eldest of the family, she joined the school as librarian. Then, I promised to help her and gave her money to redo class twelve exam by repeating in one of the private schools in Thimphu. She did her exam well and now she has completed her first year in Royal Thimphu College, as she got scholarship there being a commerce topper. Norbu will be joining the same college, as he could not get government scholarship but the sales from his hit songs, he is one of the richest and youngest singers of Bhutan.
Drinking tea and sharing my experience about my stay in Australia for last two years, I shared them everything about cleaning toilets to herding cows. As finish my story, Deki asks me instantly, “When are you going back sir?”
Everyone looks at me, when I stay silent for a while when I take out the book and look at Deki, “I didn’t know, you would steal my diary but I am impressed by this book. But I have one suggestion, Deki.”
She brims with excitement, “What is it?”
“Change the title as ‘Lopenla’ and not ‘Loponla.”
“Okay sir.”
She takes the book, and looks at me, “My book will end well if you help me with two situations, sir.”
“What are they?”
“When are you marrying miss Chezom? When are you going back?”
Thinking for a while, I look at Chezom, who stares at me as if she has seen a ghost.
Looking back at Deki, I say, “I am going to stay in Bhutan forever with her. No more Australia.”

(Thank you all for reading la. Love you all my readers. See you soon with a new story, titled, “Lhazom,”, inspired by a true story from one of the readers.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Loponla, chapter 16

As I finish wearing gho, I look at the mirror trying to remember my first day in this school. I can see the difference in my look. Today, I look happy. I feel satisfied. I feel, whole today. Making my hair, I pick up my textbook when my phone rings. Taking the phone from my bed, I look outside through the window as it’s Chezom. Without receiving the call, I walk outside when she waits at the road a few meters above my apartment.
Waving hand to her, I shout, “Just a minute.”
Wearing my shoes, locking the door, I walk towards her as she waits smiling as the wind waves her shiny hair. As she stands with face glowing in the morning warm rays, greeting her, I ask her, “How was your dream?”
She smiles, “I don’t dream.”
Walking along with her, I say, “Only angels don’t dream.”
“Which means, I am an angel.”
She laughs out hitting my shoulder. It feels good to be walking with her. I know I have feelings for her but I cannot confess besides I don’t want to hurt her. But being friends is much better. Talking about last night’s concert, we walk up the slope towards the school when students greet us on the way.
As we reach the staffroom, before entering I check the notice board when a notice reads about an urgent meeting. Checking my phone, I look at her, “Meeting?”
Making a childish face she says, “I hate meetings in this school.”
Keeping our books on the table, we walk down towards the conference hall. Getting inside, sitting beside me at the back, Chezom says, “Students really loved the film.”
“Thanks for your help.”
I thank her, when other teachers start to walk in one by one. After a few minutes, the Principal walks in. Reading the papers in front of him on the table, he says, “Please, start with the last night’s film.”
I say to myself, when the Vice Principal stands up. Looking at me, he starts, “This film was very misleading as it promotes love affairs among our students. It was an open rebellion towards our hard work to fight couple case in our schools. Though, I warned Mr. Tobgay, not to screen the film but he did and now we know, how this film will affect our students. As a teacher, he should not have taken that project which promotes relationships among the students.”
He sits down, when other teachers look at me. Then the Principal gives opportunity for other teachers to make comments about it and I expect the eldest teacher to stand up and support the Vice Principal but he sits calmly. Waiting for a few minutes, getting no opinions from the floor, Principal asks to start with the second agenda.
The staff secretary stands and says, “As Tobgay is leaving tomorrow. There will be a farewell tonight. I would like to welcome everyone.”
After an hour of heated discussion on various agendas, finally I stand up when the Principal is about to give the concluding remarks.
“Good morning to everyone. I would like to thank the staff secretary for taking initiative to organize a farewell party to me but I am sorry, I will not be able to attend, as I have dinner with my coaching group. I am leaving this school but my three months stay in this school will be the best part of my life and the memories will be cherished forever. Many teachers hate me for breaking many rules of this school. I was not here to challenge the school management but my instinct to help students forced me to break rules.
I still remember the words of DEO when he said, “Finish what you start.” Considering my situation, people may think, I am a liar as I am not keeping my promise. But I am not feeling guilty as deep down inside my heart, I am happy that my six students will do well be it trial or main exam. They don’t need my consistent guidance hereafter as I am sure that as a teacher I am being able to teach them how to fish by themselves and survive rather than feeding them every day by fishing myself.
My last words to our teachers sitting in this room would be that setting boundaries and using fear tactics while dealing with students will no more work as the time has changed and it’s important for every teacher to understand a student by getting into their shoes and being sensitive to their needs and wants, rather than using stick. Teachers need to win the hearts of students, for them to accept you as their teacher.”
Ending my speech with these words, I sit down when other teachers look at me looking confused as if I have spoken Chinese. After the concluding remarks by the Principal, teachers get out when Chezom looks at me, “Thank you for your words.”
“Thank you for supporting me.”
As the sun sets, a feeling a happiness fills up my body making it lighter. Walking towards the shop where I will be having dinner with my coaching group, I check time in my phone. Having ordered the dinner, Chezom and I wait when students walk in one by one. Standing up, Chezom welcomes them and as they sit round the table, aunty gets tea to the table. Then greeting them, I thank them for coming when my phone rings.
“I am Delkar. Can you meet me once after the dinner?”
Since the day, she left the classroom after seeing Chezom, Delkar never talked with me. She didn’t come to teach dancing. I tried to talk with her a few times but she always ignored me. So, a call from her today surprises me. Keeping my phone down, I look at Chezom when she stands up and says, “Since sir will be leaving tomorrow. If you have got anything to say, please the floor is yours.”
Looking at each other, they go silent for a while finally when Nima stands up, “This is the shop, I met sir for the first time.”
He smiles while others laugh out loudly.
“This shop connected me with sir. One thing that I learnt from sir is that he is a person who is committed to doing small things wholeheartedly. I am very grateful to sir for bringing brightness to my darkened life.”
Saying this he sits down, when other five students stand up one after another, speaking good things about me. All of them spoke only good about me. Only good things. Finally, Chezom gives me opportunity to say a few words when I thank her and start.
“I am very lucky to have met you all. All I want to say is that if you think that I have been a good teacher, say those not only from your mouth but prove to me by doing well in exams. If you fail in exams, I will assume that you were just bluffing. Your marks will tell whether I have been a good teacher or not.”
Concluding my speech with these words, I look at Dargay and Yethro who are sitting together.
“I didn’t expect you two will be in relationship. School is against relationships, so be careful. I am not against the relationships but as mentioned in the film by Deki, students need to understand the difficulties and risks involved when students are in relationship. Dargay and Yethro, I don’t want to see you two becoming parents before completing your graduation.”
They stay smiling as I mention these words, when I look at Deki, “I see a great writer in you. Keep writing and I want to be the first person to read your book.”
She thanks me when I look at Norbu and say, “I want you to be the greatest singer in Bhutan but you need to know that education is very necessary as when your fans asks your education background, you cannot just say, “I am a class 10 drop-out.”
Looking at Tenzin, I tease, “Cristiano Ronaldo. Be the best and I believe in you. I want to see you representing our nation, one day.”
After this, aunty comes with the dinner. After dinner, I thank them as they walk back to the hostel. Sitting down next to me, Chezom looks at me, “Where are you going?”
I smile at her and say, “Australia.”
“To make money.”
Chapter 17 Tomorrow 9PM!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Loponla, Chapter 15

Walking towards my table, I stand looking at the marks obtained by my group from the first test. As the final bell rings, I pick up the answer sheets and walk outside when the Vice Principal stops me.
“Can I talk with you for a moment?”
Leading me to his office, he sits down as I stand before him. Looking at me, he clears his throat, looking hesitant he says, “I heard your short film is about school love? Is it?”
I reply, “Yes, sir.”
Then he goes silent for a while and looks outside through the windows, looking at the students buzzing around the MP hall with the hall decoration for the night, he says, “You have broken every rule of this school and even then, you are still in this school. So, lucky. Please, think it over before you screen your film tonight.”
“Okay, sir.”
Thinking about his words, I walk down the staircase towards the classroom 10D. School concert is tonight and my film will be screened and students are very excited about it being first of its kind in this school. It took two weeks to shoot the film. For last weeks, students have been busy practicing for the concert, for the concert is the night on which they get opportunity to showcase their talents.
Reaching the class 10D, I walk in with unusual heaviness in my heart, when they stand up faces brimming with concert excitement. Greeting them, I look at them carefully.
As they wait for me looking excited, I pick up the papers and say, “Here are the answer sheets.”
Their faces change and Nima stands up, “Sir, can you give us the papers after the concert, please?”
Listening to him, I wait. As he sits down, I say, “I want to give today because you all have performed well.”
Giving them the papers, I look at them as they busy themselves counting the marks. It has been two months and they have become my family now. It pains to know that I will be leaving this school very soon.
“Sir, who is the topper?”
Norbu asks me, when I show him the list based on their marks.
“Please, note the person after you and your responsibility is to improve his/her marks by 50% in the next test.”
Wishing luck to Norbu for his performance tonight, I look at him, when he says, “I am very afraid, sir. But I will give my best.”
Locking the door, as I walk outside, when Chezom waits for me.
“Did you set up the projector?”
I ask her, when she says, “I did.”
Walking with her towards the hall, we stop at the canopy. Sitting down, she looks at me, “Are you sure you want to screen the film?”
Remembering the Vice Principal’s warning, I stay silently not knowing what to say.
“What if they terminate your contract?”
She asks me, looking sad.
Looking away from her at the mountains far in the distance, breathing in the fresh air of the campus, I say, “I am leaving this school.”

Chapter 16 Tomorrow 9 PM