From Tsirang, 71-year-old Bhawan Singh Ghaga came to Thimphu 20 years ago to process citizenship identity card for his wife and children. He did not succeed and now has almost given up.

With his dream dashed, Bhawan could have returned to Tsirang but he did not. Nothing much grew on the small plot of land that he had and crop loss to the wild animals was increasing.

“A year’s hard work would all go in vain,” says Bhawan. “It was a hard choice to make to leave my home and come to Thimphu.”

In 2019, Bhawan went to Greener Way, a waste management company in Thimphu, looking for employment. He is today the company’s oldest employee.

Scraping food from foil containers and compressing carton boxes, Bhawan does his work well. He is the in-charge of this department and no one dares to meddle with him in this job. The first to arrive at work, Bhawan is also the last to head home after work. He doesn’t like to leave any work for the next day.

 Once in Thimphu, Bhawan and his 58-year-old wife tried their hands in different jobs to provide for the family, sometimes as cleaners, as security guards at other times. Making ends meet was difficult.“It still is for us and with age challenges are growing,” says Bhawan, who earns Nu 12,500 from Greener Way. His wife brings home Nu 6,500 from her job as a cleaner of a residential building.

“For me, a job is a job. At least I don’t have to beg or steal for my daily sustenance. I work hard for the pay and that gives me certain sense of satisfaction.” Bhawan said.

Where are the children?

The couple has four children. Two got married and left the family altogether. They do not support their ageing parents; never have so far. A daughter, niece, mother-in-law, and a son live with the old couple at Babesa, in a two-bedroom hut near Ford showroom. Bhawan’s son has been jobless and is drunk every day.

Aware that he might not be able to work soon, Bhawan borrowed Nu 150,000 from a bank to open a small shop. His daughter, who runs the shop, tells Bhawan not to work but Bhawan has been adamant.

“It gives me special happiness to be able to buy new clothes and candies. If I didn’t work, where would they come from?” asks Bhawan. “I love candies very much. I am an old man but I crave for such things.”

Bhawan says he would work as long as his two feet can hold him up. “I just can’t go away to an old-age home. At this age, my greatest friend and supporter is my wife. I can’t think of leaving my wife and family behind.”

Rigzin Dorji, head of material recovery facility at Greener Way, said Bhawan was always on time. “We do not give him heavy work. If the load is bulky, younger employees help him.”

Bhawan said if it had not been for Greener Way no one would have employed a man like him. “I make sure that I do justice to my work and to every penny the company gives me.”

Would you go back to Tsirang?

“No,” says Bhawan. “Why would I want to go back? There is nothing there to go back to.”

By Yangyel Lhaden

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk