My dad and me, we usually cover every topic on the first day of our meeting - as of the second day, he will go back to howling his prayers at the top of his voice as if the Gods were deaf and I will make a beeline for the woods and the riverside, shooting whatever there is to shoot. So, here we were, talking of things this and that. We began with the LG elections.
I knew exactly which Gup and which Tsogpa would get my vote but as far as the Mang-Gey-Aapa - that is what we Khengpas called them; others call them Maang-Gi-Aap or Mangmi - was concerned, although I did not know a thing about the candidates, my dad told be exactly who I should vote for. Well, why not? The old man does not realize it but in accepting to do his bidding now, I am thinking long term. Come 2013, if need be, I am going to remind him that it is pay back time. By accepting to do what he wants me to do now will give me the moral right to ask him to do a return of favor - to vote for the political party and the candidate of my choice. You see, the world over, horse-trading is accepted as a skillful form of effective negotiation.
Well, I agree that it is rather foxy of me, but the reality is that he is the local guy and thus, my dad, and not I, has to face the consequences of voting in a wrong Local Government candidate. So, it is only fair that his decision and wisdom should override mine. As a dweller of the Gyelsa Tewa, I am more concerned with the government at the national level. When it comes to that, I cannot have my dad farting around with opposing views to mine. If he does, I will, most pleasurably, remind him of this day :).
One topic that my dad unfailingly brings up is the unfair manner in which the government took over his family land at Tingtingbi - with the proposal to relocate the Zhemgang Dzong and to set up a modern Township. In the process, his family lost 13 acres of prime irrigation land. After two and half decades, the Zhemgang Dzong remains perched on the same ancient hillock where it has always been and, the proposed Township site is now overrun with grass and weed. Particularly for my dad, it was a painful loss because he spent 21 years of his prime youth - plodding to and from the Dzongkhag Court and the High Court - fighting a legal battle with his cousin who attempted to wrest the ownership of the land from him and his family. He won the case, only to lose the land to the government.
However, this narrative is not about the injustice done to my dad but the pathetic attitude of a Dzongda the likes of who, it would appear, may be behind a lot of suffering of the poor rural folks. This is the first time my dad told me of the incident and I am disgusted that such a moron can be appointed as a Dzongda.
My dad’s grouse is that the compensation offered for his family’s land was way too low as opposed to what was given in the Western part of the country suffering similar losses - such as those in Thimphu and Punakha. He appealed to the central government, through the local government (Dzongkhag in those days) requesting that his family be given enhanced cash compensation or, failing that, be recompensed with substitute land, in addition to the pitifully inadequate cash compensation that was paid his family. His argument was that since the land tax paid by him in Tingtingbi is at par with that paid by people in Thimphu and Punakha, it was not justified that he should receive lower land compensation rates than that which is paid to those in Thimphu or Punakha.
Term after term, he unfailingly appealed to every new Dzongda who took office in Zhemgang Dzong in the hope that the new appointee might be of a different mind set and see his viewpoint and thus, take up the issue with the government. No such luck. Then one day a very smart Dzongda took office in Zhemgang Dzong and suggested to him a way out. This Dzongda told him the following:
“If you wish to get the same compensation rates received by those people in Thimphu and Punakha, you ought to dislodge your land from Kheng area and carry it on your back and take it to Thimphu or Punakha.”
There is no dearth of smart-asses in this world.