It was a close call for Pema Ngedup from Gelephu yesterday.

He had travelled, with other former soldiers from Gelephu, to celebrate the national day in Samtse.

It was time for the biggest prize for the day. A complete set of power tiller and related accessories was up for grabs for the lucky winner.

Her Majesty The Queen picked the lucky numbers. As it was read out, Pema Ngedup became nervous. He had hit four digits out of five.

Realising they had not won the prize, everyone on the ground began looking around to see who had hit the jackpot.

The final digit was announced. Pema Ngedup didn’t win. His numbers were 13791 and came second.

His elderly friend, Duepa Wangdi had the magic number – 13792- and booked the power tiller.

Even after riding around the ground on his new asset, Duepa Wangdi could not believe he had won the prize.

Duepa Wangdi, 54, from Pemagatshel had just retired as a security guard at the Bhutan Centenary Distillery in Gelephu. He had worked at the distillery for more than 10 years after retiring from the army after serving for 21 years.

The father of five had come to see Their Majesties and join the celebrations. He had expected nothing, definitely not the power tiller worth more than Nu 0.4 million.

Now he says he is never going to part with it.

“Even if I die, I shall leave it to my children but no, I can’t put a price on it,” he said. “It’s priceless.”

There were 13 different items, mostly farming equipment, awarded as prizes to the gathering. Those in the crowd were handed a lottery each. Members of the Royal Family picked the winning numbers.

The prizes included a mini tiller, mini reaper, mini floor mill, mini rice mill, milk churner, refrigerator, deep freezer, a jersey cow, and brush cutter, among others.

Pema Ngedup said he was not disheartened. He will help Duepa Wangdi take the power tiller to Gelephu today. “I’m happy to be here and see the leaders and His Holiness in person,” he said. “There is no substitute to that.”

Rajesh Rai & Tshering Palden | Samtse