For the past few days, Yangchen Lhamo has been experiencing sleepless nights. Her husband is bedridden and hasn’t eaten for three days.
Excessive alcohol has put her 67-year-old husband, Leki, on the bed once again.
“At least when he is not sick, he prepares food when I’m out for work,” said Yangchen Lhamo. “It worries me a lot to see him in this condition. I almost lost him once recently.”
With no children to look after them and her husband’s deteriorating health due to alcohol, Yangchen Lhamo is the sole bread earner in the family.
The 61-year-old works at the neighbour’s fields in Yonphula, Trashigang. She collects firewood whenever possible and fetches water from neighbouring sources while returning from work.
Initially the couple lived with Yangchen Lhamo’s elder sister at Namla, Kanglung. After her sister died some eight years ago, the couple had no place to stay. Since then the couple hopped from one location to another in and around Yonphula seeking shelter for almost seven years.
One of the residents, Sonam Gyeltshen, said that the couple was found staying in the open near a village prayer wheel for few days.
Following this, some residents decided to build the couple a temporary shelter. Today, Yangchen Lhamo and Leki live in a makeshift hut built using tattered CGI sheets.
“We have seen them being chased from one house to another,” said another resident, Namgay Dorji. “While some owners chased them for their personal problems, some chased them for memay Leki’s behavior after he gets drunk.”
Namgay Dorji said that looking at their deprived condition, he and his friends decided to build the couple a shelter. “Using old materials from my poultry farm, we built them a temporary shed,” the 57-year-old said. “It was a pity seeing the old couple chased from one place to another. At least they wont be chased from here.”
Located below the Yonphula domestic airport, the hut lies below a farm road. “We are thankful for the shelter they provided us. But there are people who throw stones at night,” said Yangchen Lhamo. “The sheets are damaged with the shots and we have no where to complain to.”
Breaking into tears, Yangchen Lhamo said, “Everyday I go to work worried if I will be able to see my husband alive when I return. I could give up doing the work but then this is our only source of income.”
Yonphula tshogpa, Langa Dorji, said that it was difficult to work out a kidu application for the couple since they didn’t have a census at the gewog. “It is not that the gewog didn’t want to help them. But for them to receive any sort of kidu assistance, they have to have census at the gewog.”
The tshogpa said that providing kidu to the couple could open opportunities for others to come and settle in the village.
Meanwhile, Leki is from Dagana and served in the military in the past. He first came to Kanglung some 30 years ago as a security guard at Sherubtse College. Yangchen Lhamo is from Khaling. They have been married for about 28 years.
Younten Tshedup | Kanglung