My father (seen in the picture seeing off my nephew to the UK), briefly worked as a royal chauffeur to His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan, and Their HRHs. He was assigned to HRH Princess Sonam Choden on most days but also drove HRH the Crown Prince (later the Fourth Druk Gyalpo). It was the late 1960s.
Those days the Third King was pouring his heart and soul and the country’s limited resources into school education. And day in and day out, per my father, was fully engrossed with the modernisation proess that Bhutan had just launched under His personal stewardship in 1961.
On one of the drives, the King asked if my father had children. My father replied that he had two (my younger sister and my brother were not born then).
“When they turn 5, I want you to enroll them into modern school,” HM told my father. HM went on to elaborate how modern education will change the lives of the Bhutanese.
So, in 1972, when I was about to turn five, my father appeared in our village to take me and sister away. And with his measly salary (by then he was transfered to the erstwhile BGTS in Phuntsholing) my father educated almost every member of the next generation, including all the nieces and nephews. He started with me. The year was 1972.
50 years on, he still gets super excited when anyone in the family wins a scholarship or aces in the academics. When I completed my PhD, he visited every temple in the valley and thanked every divinity he saw.
Now he is on the seventh heaven. Two of his grandsons (my nephews) got Chevening Fellowship to the UK this year, and although the news is months old, he is still celebrating, and walking around with pride everyday.
And yet, sending children to school during his time was hard, as more hands were needed at the farm. Affluent families in those days bribed state functionaries to keep their children home. Besides, in my case, being from a religious line, I had just started my monastic training under my maternal grandfather, when my father showed up to fulfill the Royal Command.
If there’s one staunch believer in the power of education, it’s him. His commitment has resulted in our household in Tashigang producing more masters grad than the entire village combined – something that made him an envy among his peers. He still insists on education over material wealth, and wants to see few more PhDs in the family.