Profile: The chilly winter air is yet to leave Kanglung town. As the cold evening slowly engulfs the town, Ugyen Lhendup, 38, turns on an unusual looking room heater that hangs from the ceiling of his kitchen.
He says he has made it all by himself using a steel bowl and few heater rods.
It was somewhere in the late 1980s when electricity first reached Yongphu village in Trashigang. Ever since, Ugyen has been fascinated with electricity and electrical appliances.
Today, he is a household name in Kanglung town and repairs almost every electrical appliance, from rice cookers to televisions. He is also capable of carrying out electrical wiring work.
“I had an eye for repairing electrical appliances from my childhood days. I may not be a professional but this is what I love doing during my leisure hours; it comes to me naturally,” Ugyen says.
When Ugyen was 10, his aunt bought him a tape recorder as a souvenir from Arunachal Pradesh in India. It was the first time he saw such a device. He tried to connecting it to a plug point using a wire but it got damaged.
“Scared that my parents would scold me, I immediately started disassembling the tape recorder,” he said. “Though I couldn’t repair it, the experience was enough to drive my curiosity to learn more about such gadgets.”
Without any electrician in his village and being the only son in the family, Ugyen was exposed to electrical jobs early in his childhood. There would be times when shot circuits would leave his house without electricity for days.
“Although I didn’t know much about electricity back then, I would keep trying until the power would be restored,” he says. “During power failures in my village, I would be the first one to rush to help.”
In his late teens, he left for Paro and started a tailoring shop. There, he made friends with technicians from Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) and would often tag along with them to carry out electrical wirings in villages.
“Once you know the basics of electricity and how it works, it is not some rocket science to apply it in your daily chores,” he says.
When he returned to Kanglung about a decade back, he also tried his hand in dealing scrap. Whenever he would see new electrical appliances in the market, he would think of ways to make it at home.
“Because of my scrap business, I already had old electrical appliances and other usable items in my store. I would fix them and try making appliances similar to the ones being sold in the market,” he says.
Ugyen remembers a time when the power of a private building in Kanglung was down for quite some time. The house owner called BPC technicians to fix it but they could not. Finally, the owner asked for Ugyen’s help and he managed to restore the power.
“I was paid for the service and since then, people call me whenever they have any electrical appliance to fix or to get electric wirings done,” he says. “At times, I do it for free and sometimes, I charge them a nominal fee.”
As the clock strikes seven in the evening, Ugyen says it is time for him to do the dishes. He heads for the kitchen and turns on his geyser (water heater) that he has made using a curry cooker and a drum.
“This is as good as any geyser. When the water level is full, the valve closes automatically and when the water is heated, the power supply shuts by itself,” he says, as he washes his dishes with warm water.
By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang