Homeless in the heart of a spiritual town

Bumthang is still cold. Many residents still use the bukhari to keep their homes warm. But spring is colder for a resident who stays in a makeshift hut. He has only worn out blankets to warm him.

Lobzang, in his late 70s, stays below the new Chamkhar-Dekiling bypass road alone. He doesn’t have relatives or children to look after him.

A small pot and a kettle are on the traditional earthen oven. But there is no fire. He has no firewood and his hut doesn’t have electricity.

He said he collects firewood from nearby bushes to cook. He fetches water from a nearby hotel. Sitting on a thin mattress, Lobsang says he is from Bumthang but he doesn’t own any land. The hut he lives in belongs to a shopkeeper in Chamkhar.

He says he works for others to earn some money for his rations. “People pay me Nu 250 to 300 a day.” But now that he is old, he said people hire him for work. “I have to beg for money when I don’t earn much,” he said.

Life, he said, was different when he was young and energetic. “I used to rent a house in town and work for business people,” he said. He said his parents died when he was young. He doesn’t remember his parents owning any land then. But he said he was living at Jakar where the Royal Bhutan Police’s detention centre stands today. He was 15 year old then.

“But old age is different, he said. “I suffer from backache.” Some neighbours get him food and tea when his backache keeps him in bed. “People knock my door and call my name to check on me,” he said.

Lozang’s worry is however not the cold or backache. He is anxious that the owner may decide to dismantle the hut. “I will go homeless then,” he said.

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang

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