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The solitary Yak-herder of Gasa

 A lone, frail and old female figure can be spotted walking in and around Lingmithang town of Gasa. She goes around picking up scraps of rubbish but always wears a cheerful smile on her time-worn face.

A lone, frail and old female figure can be spotted walking in and around Lingmithang town of Gasa. She goes around picking up scraps of rubbish but always wears a cheerful smile on her time-worn face.

This is 78-year-old Sangay Om, popularly known as Yazay Lem (yak herder in Layap language). She has been staying in Khathoed gewog in Gasa for the last 17 years with no one to look after her. Originally from Nyenlo village in Laya, nobody knows why she moved to Khathoed gewog.  She is also mentally ill as she cannot communicate properly with people.

Sangay Om has received a monthly kidu of Nu 1,200 from His Majesty’s secretariat for the past six years after former Laya Gup Kinley Dorji approached the Kidu officer of Gasa on her behalf and following His Majesty’s visit to Gasa.

The amount she receives from Gyapoi Zimpon office is deposited in the account of Kinzang Dorji, a 40-year-old teacher at the Gasa Primary School. His wife runs a restaurant in town and they have taken up the responsibility of feeding Sangay Om three meals a day.

Talking to Business Bhutan, Kinzang Dorji said, “We have been feeding her since September 2015. She comes at 7am, but sometimes in winter and during the rainy season she arrives late, but never misses any of her meals.”

Kinley Dorji said that despite being mentally ill, she is calm and never a nuisance to the public. People are nice to her and give her clothes and edibles. She is adorable and always wears a smile but sometimes she can become a bit violent.

“We visit her regularly to check on her condition.”

Meanwhile, her relatives do visit her once a year and they have tried to take her back but she always refuses to go. However, they seem happy with her condition and the help rendered by the community. Her census is registered with her relatives.

According to the former Laya gup, she was a lonely spinster and yak-herder back in her village. By the time she was 40, Sangay Om was working for one of the chimis of Laya, who also happened to be her relative. “Both her parents died when she was young yet she does have relatives living in Laya,’’ said the gup.

For years, Sangay Om wandered from one place to another until she finally reached Kohinar (a camp site), a good day’s walk from Gasa town where people halt for the night before continuing their journey to Laya. It is also called Kuenangsa, believed to be a resting place of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal based on which it derived the name. From Kohinar, Sangay Om then walked to Gasa Tshachu (hot springs), 22-kms away from the town, where she stayed until 2008.

During the 2008 flash flood at Gasa Tshachu, she was rescued ad moved by the dzongkhag officials, finally settling in Lingmithang town of Gasa. She had no possessions or a place to stay and would sleep at the manidungkho, in the heart of the town. Eventually, the dzongkhag officials built her a shack, a few meters away from the center. Her humble abode is made up of bamboo walls with a CGI sheet roof. It is a fragile dwelling and very cold in winter.

Gasa Dzongdag, Dorji Dhradhul said, “I visit her often and bring food.There is nothing much we can do as it is difficult to communicate with her. Although it is a sad and lonely life, SangayOm is no trouble to anyone and seems content.’’

As Sangay Om continues her solitary sojourn, she will be remembered as a name among the locals who despite harsh conditions never created a stir or a flutter.

 

 

 

 

Chencho Dema from Gasa

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