It was August 28, 2010. Jigme Pelden and his friend Lhawang were painting the new telecom building in Phuentsholing. Scaffold gave way and they tumbled down the four-storey structure.
Lhawang died on the spot.
“I didn’t hear any cracking sound. It happened all of a sudden,” says 36-year-old Jigme from Goembakap in Lhuntsi who sustained spinal cord injury that left him paralysed hips-down. Jigme lives in patients’ guest house in Thimphu, alone.
Jigme was a cook before he took up the painting job following a problem with his kidney. Painting, comparatively, was a much lighter job than cooking in a hotel. Now, of course, he cannot cook. But, a ‘good cook’ by his own account, Jigme sometimes cooks on special occasions.
Jigme’s wife left him after the accident. She was his second wife. Jigme had two daughters – one studying in Class 10 and another, four years old. They live with Jigme’s cousins.
Troubles compelled Jigme to take some decisions in life, one of the many being to commit suicide. He attempted to kill himself more than three times. After his third or fourth attempt (he can’t be sure), Jigme met film actress, singer and producer Lhamo Dukpa. She taught him to be strong and helped him by way of financial and other support.
A certain Samten Dendup, a Bhutanese who lives in the US, sent a wheelchair for Jigme. Jigme calls the wheelchair his legs.
“I very thankful to Samten Dendup and all the people who help me. I am here because of their encouragement and love they give me,” says Jigme. On the table opposite is a book on which he has scribbled in Dzongkha. It’s a story of his life he is writing.
Says Jigme: “Writing a book is not easy as I imagined it would be.”
Jigme is a disciplined man, however. He wakes up at 4 every morning and prays until 9. In between comes the tea at 7. That’s his breakfast. After lunch he begins writing. After 2 hours of routine writing spends some time on embroidery, from the sale of which he saves Nu 500 monthly for his 4-year-old daughter’s education.
“She is growing prettier by the day. I am going to send her to school very soon,” says Jigme with bleary eyes. “I don’t want her to regret being my daughter.”
Lately, Jigme has been seeing a lot of dream that keep on repeating – of visiting lhakhangs, crossing the bridges, and hiking on the mountain.
“I hope I can stand on my feet again someday. I have been trying for the last two years,” says Jigme. “I want to go back to my village and want to do a mural of Zangtopelri in the new lhakhang in Khoma.”