Chencho Dema

Pema Tshering Tamang, 43, found himself in the depths of despair after losing his beloved wife to alcohol-related illness last week.

Rather than receiving the support and sympathy he so desperately needed, he was confronted with a shocking revelation as his father-in-law travelled all the way from Samdrupjongkhar. His motive was not to offer comfort but to collect the death certificate of his deceased daughter to claim the life insurance amount he believed was owed to him by the gewog.

The story of Pema and his late wife is one fraught with heartache and struggle. Pema relocated to Punakha five years ago, leaving his roots behind in Samdrupjongkhar. His wife, from Tsirang, spiraled into alcohol addiction after the birth of their older daughter, leading to a turbulent home life filled with distress.

Friends and neighbours say that Pema Tshering Tamang’s wife was a chronic alcoholic, often neglecting her responsibilities as a mother, leaving Pema to care for their two young children.

“She would have passed out, and two hungry children would be wailing when I got home from work in the evening. She never paid attention to me when I begged her not to drink,” Pema lamented.

Despite her destructive habit, Pema remained resolute in his commitment to his wife and their children. He never considered leaving her for the sake of their offspring. When his wife was battling pain in the hospital, Pema implored his in-laws to come to her aid, but they turned a blind eye, claiming they were too busy. Balancing the care of his ailing wife and the needs of his children became an overwhelming task.

Now, with his wife’s tragic passing, Pema faces the daunting challenge of raising their two children on his own. His older daughter is enrolled in first grade at a local school in Punakha, while his younger son, who is three years old and physically challenged, is unable to speak.

The family resides in a dilapidated tin-roofed hut that seems on the verge of collapse. Pema’s desperate financial situation has left him unable to pay two months’ worth of rent amounting to Nu 2000.

The kindness and compassion of strangers have, to some extent, eased Pema’s plight. Staff at Punakha hospital raised over Nu 13,000 and provided food supplies to support him in conducting the necessary rituals for his wife. The generosity extended even further, with local residents coming together to contribute towards these expenses.

Despite the outpouring of support, Pema faces an uncertain future. As a daily wage earner working on construction sites, his income has been severely impacted due to his wife’s extended hospitalization. He now seeks employment opportunities in the Wangdue or Punakha construction sectors to secure his family’s future.

“I am not literate, and the only work I can do is to work at sites like building walls, drains, etc.,” he expressed.

Pema’s younger brother, a truck driver in Rinchengang, Wangdue, has offered to provide shelter for him and his children once his daughter’s school closes for the winter. This act of kinship offers a glimmer of hope in a challenging time.

Amidst these hardships, Pema’s wife left behind a debt of Nu 15,000 with local bar owners for her alcohol consumption. Pema has appealed for understanding, asking for time to repay her debt. Grateful for the sympathy and financial assistance he has received from the community, Pema stands as a testament to resilience in the face of adversity.

Pema’s friends and neighbors attest to his dedication as a father and a loving husband, acknowledging the immense challenges he faced due to his wife’s addiction.

“He was a good father and a caring husband,” one neighbor said, underlining the unwavering love and strength that Pema has exhibited throughout this heartbreaking journey.