“There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every one who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success,” so wrote the American journalist, George Matthew Adams.
Tashi Phuntsho (aka Tosh) happens to be one of those who dropped in occasional encouragement which contributed to my writing journey. We were not that close. I knew him mostly through his cousin, and my friend and the-then work colleague, (MP) Ugyen Tshering. Back then he was in Kuensel and we often ran into each other in bars and newsrooms. Those were the days when media persons partied together and ruled the dance floors and the streets. I always admired his writings. The way he structured the articles, his choices of words, and the flow – were all a gem.
When Bhutan Times opened in 2006 the founders, Tosh and Rigden, asked me to be a guest columnist. Tosh was the editor-in-chief. They told me that they had seen a piece I wrote to Kuensel and were impressed by it. It was a letter to the editor that I had written on the emerging youth issues. The year was 2005.
“What is a column?” I asked Tosh.
Coming from a broadcast background, I was not familiar with the jargons in the print media. Tosh got up from his chair, put the cigarette he was smoking in his mouth, weeded through his book shelf and pulled out copies of Time Magazine and told me to read the works of Pico Ayer, Fareed Zakaria and a few others writers.
“You will figure it out right away, I know,” he said.
I didn’t get it right away, actually. It took me 35 days to write my first column. It was a steep learning curve – and an uphill task, for someone who was on TV doing more talking – and not much writing.
Bhutan Times published it right away. And I went on to pen over 120 columns between 2006 and 2009. Tosh always had nice things to say about them, and coming from him (he is one of the two Bhutanese I held in high regard when it comes to writing) I used to feel simply elated, and kept going and kept improving, and made a name for myself as a “good” columnist. I must also add that the skill I perfected writing for Bhutan Times ultimately came very handy in my PhD journey.
So, this time while I was in Paro for Paro Tshechu, I asked my good friend, Ugyen, if we could make a visit. I knew from various sources that Tosh had suffered a massive stroke and was bed-ridden.
I was happy to see my former idol and equally sad to see what fate had done to such a brilliant writer-thinker.
But Tosh was Tosh – in his element as always – in high spirit. He told me that he was following me on Facebook and reading everything I wrote – but then I disappeared.
“I am sorry I vanished. I was completing my grad school,” I told him.
He shared with us that he was doing OK, and that he is able to move a bit and most importantly that he is now able to write.
“I can type with only one finger, but that’s OK. And I just sent a manuscript to a publisher,” he added.
I was like, “Wow! You are always amazing. You know that I have always admired your works. Let me know when your book is out”.
As I left his place I couldn’t help but feel inspired by Tosh again – his will to live, and to do what he loved despite the massive physical challenge. It was a reminder to me to make the best of my own life – to cherish each moment, to celebrate the time and opportunities laid in front of us.
Between many things I do, I vowed to keep writing. And post them. At least I know, now, that there is one person who is going to read my post.