The remote village of Langdhurbi in Zhemgang District is 7 hours walk from the nearest road head. Far removed from the razzal-dazzle of modernity that is fast changing the social and cultural landscape of urban Bhutan, the simple folks in this pigeonhole of a village live out their lives devoid of dreams. They are incapable of dreams for, they know not what to dream for. All their lives they have been wrapped within the bounds of their cocoon – living a way of life that is a slice right out of the medieval times. This lot has not seen electricity, television or a motor vehicle in their lives – until Rotary Club of Thimphu decided to change that for some of the children from this village.
In July of last year, the Rotary Club of Thimphu transported 20 young children from this impoverished village and brought them to Thimphu for a week. For the first time these children took a bus ride, saw motor road, vehicles, electricity, animated movies and experienced for the first time the throbbing, pulsating waywardness of modern times and way of life. This trip was designed to show these children what stuffs of dreams were made of – what to aspire for and what possibilities existed for them. And, for the really smart among them, the trip would have given them cause for rejoice – in the revelation that the life they have in their village is far more meaningful, healthy, harmonious and sustainable, than that offered by the urban centers where every new medical breakthrough has seen increased number of new and strange diseases, every new scientific invention has seen the world inching closer to annihilation, and every new smart electronic device turning human beings into less smart beings and more forgetful and disjointed.
Among those 20 young kids, there was this really talented singer and artist – named Sonam Dorji, aged 11 years. He had such a wonderful voice and more amazingly he loved singing Zhundra – classical songs. So, this year during the winter holidays we brought him back to Thimphu once again and got him to be coached in singing and drawing. He attended classes at the iBEST and M-Studio who were generous to teach him without charging him a fee. In between he took singing classes from such luminaries as Lhamo Dukpa and Namkha Lhamo, Bhutan’s most accomplished Zhungdra divas.
Sonam Dorji under the tutelage of Bhutan's foremost Zhungdra singer - Namkha Lhamo
Sonam Dorji is back to his village in Langdhurbi and continues his studies at the local community school. What the future holds for him is anybody’s guess. The talent that is latent in him is something I wish I could help him unleash but I do not have the means to do so. And I suspect I am the poorer for leading him to the stars but not being able to help him touch them.
As I prod along on the path of life that must inevitably end in nothingness, I think of this extremely talented boy languishing in abject helplessness in some remote wilderness. If he were a little bit luckier --- if I were a little bit more economically able, he could have one day serenaded the best of the best. But that is not how the story will be written – for all his talent, he is destined to be lost in the sands of oblivion – one potential shining star whose luminosity will not see the light of day.
Sonam Dorji’s trip to Thimphu this year was sponsored by Hotel Jumolhari and writer Chador Wangmo provided food and accommodation for the boy and his aunt who escorted him. Hotel Druk was generous to provide one end-of-session dinner for the boy and his tutors.