In this post, I recount our very first college journey to India. Mrs. Jamyang, Mr. Karma Tshering, Thongjay, Kuenzang Dorji (Panglane), Jigme Loday, Sangay and myself, — seven of us — whose journey was terribly difficult, yet a memorable one that ingrained into our heart.
We come from different villages but from a same background, a background that none has travelled out of eastern Bhutan ever before. We all come from innocent family, both in terms of social and economic, and we lacked fundamental city exposure to travel to one of the most populated countries in the World.
It’s almost eleven years since our first adventure, and that puts me in a very difficult situation to recall every single account of it. My ignorance has delayed to pen our enriching moment into beautiful sentences, and yet, I intent not to regret for not writing ever.
In early 2005, we first met in the Department of Adult and Higher Education. Collectively, we did our scholarship documentations. We were briefed on the scholarship, signed the bond, and departed until we meet next time again, a time we will have to start our first ever journey to India.
The Month of June has hastily come to us; and it was a time to say goodbye to our parents and friends. Early morning, crossing the lyrical river from the Lungten Zampa, we found our bus. Waving our hands (and Mrs. Jamyang wiping her eyes), we started our journey.
Pin-drop silence, no one seems to be in a talking mood. Half asleep, woke up when driver shouted “lunch time, are you guys not eating anything?” By then, we already crossed Chukha, and the bus was parked by the side of a Hotel at Wangkha. Can’t really recollect our lunch menu, but I still remember how I wished if Karma Tshering, the only [rich] guy in the group, could sponsor for us.
Started our journey again, and this time, we pretended to be happy, talked to each other, chit-chat until we reached Phuntsholing, the first destination of our journey. Booked the hotel, and spent two nights in Phuntsholing.
Meanwhile, as said, many were traveling away from their home-town for the first time. Perhaps, I was the only person in a group who have been to Phuntsholing before. Jaigon is a famous place for Bhutanese to visit, to spend few bucks, bargain for best, and we followed the same trend. In the evening, I collected “Nu. 10” each, and handed over a ticket. “What is this?” they asked me. “This is the ticket for our entrance. We are going for pilgrimage.” I uttered. We entered, and every one had a pin-drop silence again. Guess what? Those days, people would book the tick to watch pornography. And we were the victim of the day!
The third day, at 3 o’clock evening, we started our journey towards Kolkata, in a Bhutanese bus, operated by the Post Office of Bhutan. Quite worried, thinking that we wouldn’t know where to put ourselves in Kolkata. But, as God would save you from a horrifying dream, we met a guy, who pursue his legal studies in the University of Pune. He was our guide then.
Almost after 25 hours of journey, covering 1,037.8 km, we reached Kolkata. Checked-in to the Kolkata Guesthouse and spent a night there. And we have almost 16 hours before we start our next journey.
Kolkata, the capital city of the State of West Bengal is considered to be one of the most populous metropolitan area in India. Being a complete alien to the place, we remained in the room the entire day. As rest of my friends would recall, Mr. Karma Tshering was already in love with Ms. Jamyang, and he warned us “don’t dare disturb her.” Their love story was about to be written beautifully, but somehow their pen ink was exhausted, and we couldn’t help either.
Meanwhile we were preparing for our next journey, packing things and getting ready. We are going in a train for the very first time. Mixed emotions — happy because we would experience the train journey for the first time in couple of hours; sad because we left our parents back home.
We were advised to take care of our belongings, specially the petty cash we have been given by the Scholarship Department. We were specifically told that traveling in a train is not really safe, people are not good, and things like that. That was the information, and of course, it was very valid those days. But we took it very extreme, and that was too funny. We wrapped the cash with a piece of cloth (kha-sha), and then tied inside the pant and under wear. That was too much, and I was not really comfortable putting cash (which bears the picture of our Kings) inside underwear. We did it, however. That was a decision made out of fear, and of course, fear is the mother of safety.
Howrah Train Station is too huge, and wikipedia says “it is the oldest station and largest railway complex in India with maximum number of platforms (23) in the entire railways systems of India.” And our first experience comes from the largest railway complex! As it is, it was difficult to find the platform, and then getting the right seat was challenging. Gradually, we managed to settle everything.
We started. We were going! The never stopping train runs and runs. Looking around, we were asking “where are we”? As sun goes by, we got to sleep. But we have to take care of our bags and luggages. If we sleep, we may loose them. So, we decided not to sleep all-together. But it was almost a complete sleepless night for me.
Next day, it was in the Visakhapatnam Station. Google says “Visakhapatnam railway division is one of the three divisions of East Coast Railway Zone (ECoR) of the Indian Railways. It covers the northern district of Andhra Pradesh, parts of Chattisgrah, and Orrisa.” We were completely lost, didn’t know where to go, which platform, and to which direction. Crossed one platform to other, through train-tracks, and that gives me a goose bump thinking about terrible crossing of the tracks.
Asked here and there and somehow we managed to find the platform. We were entering the train. And as unfortunate as we were, Mr. Sangay’s slipper slipped under the parked train, it fell on the track, and we had to ask a standing beggar – a small kid – to help us getting back the slippers. We laughed, made fun, not realizing how terrible it was. Had the kid been killed, we were completely responsible. It was also a moment to realize how helpful the kid was. Whether we are rich or poor, we need a helping-heart to help each other. That will give us a complete freedom of happiness.
As we travelled for 12 hours, the sign board read “Secunderabad.” Mr. Thongjay and Jigme Loday did geography in their 12 grade. Using their geography knowledge, they said “we are here. Hyderabad is known as twin cities – Hyderabad and Secunderabad. So we better get off here.”
We were already out of the Station. Didn’t know where to go again, and asked the auto-drivers “bai-ya, apko NALSAR University ma-loom hai?” (Do you know the NALSAR University?).
NALSAR — National Academy of Legal Studies and Research — was very young then —established in 1998, it was just 8 years old. That is why the auto-drivers were not so confident, and therefore, we decided not to take risk. We put ourselves into a small hotel, and spent a night nearby Station.
Woke up early morning, worried where to go and what to do. Fortunately, Mr. Sangay was carrying a prospectus of the University. In it, we found the telephone number of the University, made a call and gave our address.
Few hours later, two Bhutanese students came looking for us. Atta Karma Yeshi and Tenzin have been studying in the NALSAR for three years. What a big smile, what a big relief! We met our seniors, we found our destination. We most heartedly thank our seniors – and would thank for our entire life – for making a comfortable stay, saving us from ragging, and advising us when wronged. Thank you!
NALSAR University is almost 60km away from the city. Today, it stand one of the best law schools in India, and perhaps in Asia?
This is a very brief account of our first journey, a journey for legal education. I shall write some of the accounts of the first time in the law school soon!