“Our heads would develop bad sores from the frequent beatings of our step father. In a few years, my sister ran away and I too left home. He still continued his abuses and forcefully took all my earnings made from the drayang. Once, he started beating me on the street and that’s when I decided to report him to the police- he never dared to pester me again. I married a guy and moved in with his parents. Life seemed much better and I got the idea of selling thukpas on the street.

Next day, I made a fire in the courtyard and cooked a bucket full of thukpa. They sold out in a few hours. Motivated, I continued the job and paid all our bills. My friend, Aum Penjore even followed me. However, my husband got into drugs and alcohol. Once, he threw me from the first floor of our house, where I broke my back and was unconscious for days. I even suffered memory loss. When I recovered, I knew our marriage was over.

Failing on my rent, the landlord took me to court. I lost the case and seeing no other ways, I left for P/ling to join a drayang. Leaving my 2 kids here with my in-laws, I prayed everyday to see them again.

In P/ling, I worked hard to join each ngultrum to pay off the debt and send money for my kids. It was the hardest part so far. When the money was paid off, I came home and took my kids with me. The next day, I was back on the street.

Selling thukpa comes to me naturally and it has helped keep a roof over our head. It wasn’t always easy: Cops confiscating our buckets and getting arrested for doing business past late hours had become a norm for us. But there are always hungry mouths on the street who will buy from us. I don’t pride myself on breaking the laws but it’s the only way I know to survive. I bought a second-hand car and taught myself to drive, which even shocks me today.

In the lockdowns, the situation at home went from bad to worse. With new laws and norms, I was even forced to sell thukpa clandestinely from the back of my car. When my father-in-law offered to adopt my son, hoping for his good future, I agreed. Afterall, what I could have given him when he grows up, some bucket of thukpa?”

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