“I was the eldest of the four and Apa’s favourite. He’d hold my hand and take me wherever he went. Everybody liked him for his jolly nature. In the winter after my 7th grade, he was hospitalized due to a chronic heart illness. To our shock, when my siblings and I were taken to see him, we were dropped at the cremation ground instead. I was old enough to know what happened to him – I fell unconscious. Too young, my siblings went about playing with each other as if nothing happened. To this day my heart breaks knowing that they will never get a father’s love.

The sole duty to raise the family fell on Ama. The help from our relatives made a big difference. But money scarcity got too bad and our education became her biggest worry. When nothing seemed to help, she approached His Majesty the 5th King for Kidu and we were all taken under the Gyalpoi Tozay program. Finding it hard to survive in the city, our whole family moved to Dagana, and I was sent to study at our relatives’ at S/Jongkhar.

Until his death, I was not very good at my studies. But I missed my family terribly and studied very hard. I did well in class and got a scholarship to study at Gedu college. At the college orientation, I met my roommate and namesake, Pema Choden. We became best friends. All through college, whenever I had to visit Thimphu, I found a home at her family’s place.

During the breaks, I’d help Ama with farming and other household chores. I even worked on other people’s farms. It was hard labor but as the eldest and without Apa, I had to be strong.
After graduation, Pema and I stayed and studied together for RCSC at her brother’s house in Thimphu. They truly were my biggest supporters. When the result was out, I was placed 4th overall. By then, I’d already gotten a job offer and I took it. With my first paycheque, I sent Ama some money.

It’s been 7 months at my job now, and I work very hard at it. It was only because of the grace of my King along with family, relatives, and friends who always supported me, that I made it this far. By serving the country well, I hope to repay all the blessings especially to His Majesty who in our most desperate days, became our Guardian.”

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