Archive for November, 2010

When the poor bite the dust

Posted: November 6, 2010 in No- nonsense

Four generations of women flounder in the depths of poverty

Cuddled in rug in a scanty makeshift tent made of tarpaulin sheet, exposed to the vagaries of the cold weather, 90 -year old Tashi Tshomo spends her twilight days in complete deprivation. She is old, sick, and suffering.

Her 60-year old daughter, Yanglham, who cannot speak and is mentally unsound, fumbles around the tent, smiling to visitors. Next in the line, YangLham’s daughter, Dechen Pelden, 27, is also partly physically impaired.  The youngest of the generation, Dechen Pelden’s daughter, 10 year-old Pempa, is lost and confused.

The four of them live below a farm road running to the village Langru near Khadsarapchu. Two dilapidated tents, stuffed with old household paraphernalia are what they call a home. Leave aside basic amenities like drinking water and electricity, they barely have enough to survive on.

Dechen Pelden’s husband, an old gomchen (lay monk) feeds the family by begging for alms in the capital.

“The gomchen is out to get vegetables and cooking oil,” says Dechen Pelden. “He returns by evening.”

The family lived near the Dolma Lhakang in Hongkong market earlier in a squatter settlement, depending on the dole-outs served by the Lhakang’s tshgogpa. They had to vacate the hut when Thimphu City Corporation dismantled squatters in the municipality.

Ever since then, the four women have been on the run.

For couple of years, a woman from Khadsarapchu gave them shelter in her empty cowshed. However, last month, they had to shift out as the owner had got a herd of cattle that needed a roof.

Although registered voters from Thrim Throm, the family do not have land or any property.

“We could do with a little help from the government,” says Tashi Tshomo, who has been ill for few years now. “Maybe they could give us food and clothes,” she adds.

“If someone could build a small hut for us to live would be a blessing,” cuts in Dechen Pelden.

The youngest daughter in the family, Pempa, wants to go to school.

“But her great grandmother refuses to allow anyone to take her,” says Tshamchoe, a woman who runs a hotel at Khadsarapchu. “Several people wanted to help her but theangay would not listen.”

Tashi Tshomo and Yanglham receive a monthly pay of Nu 100 each from the Dolma Lhakhang’s tshogpa through the City bank in Thimphu.

“We collect the money every six months but for that my mother and grandmother have to go to the bank in person,” says Dechen Pelden. “It is difficult when she cannot walk or move out of the house.”

Leaving the two elderly women back in the tent Dechen Pelden and her daughter, Pempa, scurry downhill to Khadsarapchu. To wait for their bread earner.