Those who served on the frontline thank His Majesty for inspiring them in fighting Covid-19

Jigmi Wangdi 

June 2021. Somewhere near the Trashigang-Arunachal Pradesh border, De-suup Tenzin Wangchuk and his nyamros are on Covid-19 duty. It has been more than a month patrolling the border. With Covid-19 infections across the border at its peak, the possibility of the virus coming in from the northern border was high.

It was no familiar territory. At an altitude of about 4,032 metres, the de-suups, mostly from warmer places, struggled without knowing the rugged terrain and the unforgiving weather. They even tested positive for Covid-19. However, they were on an important mission and couldn’t let their guard down.

Any kind of motivation like a warm day, a clear sky or a change in their meals was welcomed. During early June, they received more than what they expected.

His Majesty The King was on a tour of the east from June 8 to June 13.

It was during this tour when Tenzin and his team met His Majesty at Gerphu, situated high above the Merak-Sakteng border where the De-suups were patrolling.

“I cried when I saw His Majesty in trekking boots carrying a backpack,” recalls Tenzin who is now in Bumthang. What followed touched Desuups even more. “His Majesty was concerned about our well-being and even asked us what we were eating,” says Tenzin.

One of the team members told His Majesty that they survived on potatoes most of the time. “His Majesty immediately commanded that we be given rations and the next day we received canned foods and other items from Trashigang,” says Tenzin.

As De-suups the thought of quitting had never crossed their mind. The brief audience with His Majesty, however, renewed their energy, emboldened them and got the best inspiration.

“His Majesty told us that we were the real sons of Bhutan and that we were setting an example to others,” Tenzin added.

Tenzin and his nyamros were not used to the high altitude and got severe altitude sickness, sometimes losing their way in the mountains. A thumbs- up from His Majesty, which has become one of the most popular Kupar, was the best Tenzin remembers. “We were prepared to face all odds and said if we die serving the nation, then we die,” Tenzin said.

Tenzin looks back on the day he met His Majesty. “It was because of His Majesty’s tireless efforts that the pandemic could not affect Bhutan like other countries. I will always be grateful for everything His Majesty has done for the country. “I will always pray for His Majesty’s long life and good health,” Tenzin said.

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, His Majesty taversed the length and breadth of the country meeting with people, trekking along the border to motivate frontline workers and reassure people under constant lockdown that they would be looked after.

His Majesty ensured that the lockdowns should not strain the lives of the people and repeatedly shared his concerns for their wellbeing.

Gup Nima recalls the harsh weather when His Majesty visited Merak. “Officials with His Majesty told us that His Majesty was looking forward to meeting the people of Merak, but it was not possible at the time because of the lockdown,” Gup Nima rues.

He added that all people watched from their windows when His Majesty was walking by.

He added that His Majesty once said that he would like to celebrate his birthday in Merak. “The people of Merak hope we can have the privilege of celebrating His Majesty’s birthday together, it will be our way to thank His Majesty for all he has done,” Gup Nima said.

During His Majesty’s trek to Lauri in Samdrup Jongkhar the monsoon rains had come and the terrain was muddy with leeches along the way.

The former mangmi of Lauri, Tenzin, remembers His Majesty’s arrival at Lauri.

“His Majesty could not visit the gewog and walked along the border. It is difficult for us to imagine what His Majesty had to endure while trekking to Lauri,” he recalls.

The people of Bhutan should be grateful to His Majesty for containing the virus, according to a Tempala of Lauri.   “His Majesty’s visit to the Covid infected places was the most effective measure,” he says. “No amount of announcement from the health ministry of orders from the Covid-19 taskforce was as powerful or effective as His Majesty’s visit. It was the epitome of a selfless ruler.”

In Thimphu, De-suup Jignam just returned from the Samtse border. A few days later, the first lockdown was announced and he along with his nyamros were deployed for duty at a local school.

“We were patrolling around Kawanjangsa when we saw a few cars driving by and an officer seated at the front of a minibus. My friends and I saluted,” Jignam recalls.

He said that the car suddenly stopped in front of them and the back window rolled down.

“It was His Majesty,” Jignam said with fond memories. “His Majesty praised us and told us to do our duty with dedication,” he added. “After the brief audience, my team was ‘boosted’, especially considering that we were patrolling for more than 12 hours straight.”

The young de-suup feels Bhutan would have lost the battle against the pandemic if it was not for His Majesty. “It always has been His Majesty’s leadership, guidance, dedication, commitment and sacrifices that inspired every Bhutanese to do the same, and that is why Bhutan was able to triumph over the pandemic.

As Bhutan celebrates the 43rd Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the King, it is time to thank the leadership His Majesty provided in our battle against the pandemic, a senior de-suup said. “Like a commander of a battalion, the wisdom and strategy worked well in coming out victorious,” he said.