Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Old age—the autumn of one’s life—is relaxation seeking spiritual pursuits.

Padma Lal Biswa, 80, and his wife Rupa Maya, live in their makeshift hut, located in a deep forest in the Tashipang chiwog in Mendrelgang.

“Are you from the health sector?” she asks.

Rupa is arthritic. He has severe back pain.

Born in Surkhobari, Sarpang, Padma Lal Biswa is Rupa Maya’s second husband. She has two children from her first marriage.

Rupa worked on the Kalikhola road construction in Dagana. The Nu 3,000 she saved goes to running the household needs. She alleges that the current landlord forcefully took their land in Barshong.

The landlord now is asking Rupa and her family to move out.

“The landlord is becoming more violent by the day,” Rupa said.

Her neighbours confirmed Rupa Maya’s allegations. The owner, they said, suffers from mental illness.

The couple’s makeshift home has two rooms. One serves as a kitchen. The bedroom is barely a room, with rags and old clothes strewn across the mud floor. They still cook in a traditional earthern oven. The smoke from the kitchen fills their bedroom.

Rupa Maya said that in the monsoon season, the rain drips into their room and it is unbearably cold in winter. They have covered the holes with old pieces of cardboard and clothes.

There is a visible risk of fire.

The couple has lost their belongings to fire in the past.

With her official documents lost to the disaster, Rupa Maya is unsure about her age. She could be 60 years old, she said.

Mendrelgang Central School’s Tarayana Club volunteers made a wooden bed for the old couple. They, however, do not have a proper mattress.

Nearby villagers are also taking turns to look after the couple’s welfare.

The neighbours share the basic necessities required for the couple through a Wechat group.


The old couple cooks on the traditional earthen oven

Ugyen Wangmo from Tashipang said that a high school student washed and cleaned the hut and bathed the old man from time to time.

A gewog extension officer takes the old couple to the hospital when they are unwell.

“One time, the old man was seriously ill. But the official asked a lama to conduct rituals. He got better then,” said Ugyen Wangmo.

With old age, it has become more difficult for the couple to visit washrooms and water taps that are located outside the house.

Rupa Maya said they received support from the Tarayana Foundation in the past two years but it stopped suddenly.

Villagers said that since the old couple is vulnerable in the current place, it would be better if the authorities concerned could help them move to Barshong and build them a home with easy access to a washroom and water.

“It is not secure here,” one said.

When asked why she didn’t stay with her two children, Rupa Maya said that it was difficult to adjust to their ways of life.