I was born on 4 January 1961 to Dip Bahadur Nirola and Kaushila Bhandari as their eldest child in a small village called Nainatal, under Dalim ‘geog’[i] (block) in
My early education started in 1968 in a small primary school at our village. In fact this was the school which our father started in 1950s after he got elected as the ‘gup[ii]’ (village headman). He had ardent desire to educate all the children of our village. He probably regretted his own inadequacy in education due to lack of opportunity. However, in spite of his ability to just read and write Nepali language without formal training in grammar, he was very popular person during his time. He is still fondly remembered by many people of our village as a dynamic gup.
The school was initially situated near our house but because our father wanted it to be accessible to many more children, got it shifted to almost an hour’s walk away, at Dalim. This is actually the centre of the whole block. Due to this I had problem walking the distance, which got solved later when I was made to stay with one of the teachers, Mr. A. T. Sill, an Assamese. So by the age of 9 or 10 I had started living independently and this acted as some sort of survival training for me to cope up with harder life I was to lead later.
In 1972 my father started showing some signs and symptoms of a chronic lung disease. I had observed him making visits to some health centre in
Whether it was our fate or our parents’ love for each other, our mother joined our father in the heavenly abode within a gap of about three months. She could not survive the heavy post partum haemorrhage following retention of placenta after the birth to our youngest sister. I remember many people trying to help her; some to the extent as to try manual removal of placenta without any modern day aseptic precaution! Nothing helped though and after three days of delivery she was no more! The complication could have possibly resulted due to too many parity, age and severe lack of maternal and child health services in those days. This sad picture would always guide me to be more compassionate and extra cautious towards women in labour later in my career as a doctor.
Following the death of our mother we landed up in great trouble. We had become orphans without any guardian! All the well wishers got together and convened a meeting immediately after the funeral of our mother. We were to choose a guardian from among many uncles and our half brother, Ghana Shyam Thapa, who was by then living with his wife and a child in a separate house. Our father had one brother, and six half brothers from mother’s side; his brother being Karna Bahadur Nirola. After a lot of deliberation our half sister, 2 years senior to me, the eldest in the group, made the decision to choose Karna Bahadur uncle (we call him father now) as our guardian. He never had a very cordial relationship with our father because of his (uncle’s) short temper. However, he had no option but to accept a bunch of tiny orphans, eight in number, as young as three days to fourteen years old. He already had four of his own kids, oldest being fourteen and youngest just a year and a half. His wife was expecting another child very soon! There were a total of 12 children to take care of. Now I awe at his ability to have kept his mental frame intact in spite of the enormous task of taking care of twelve helpless souls!
In the mean time I continued my study and completed the fourth standard, the highest level of education available at our village during those days. Our father’s last wish before he expired was that I should be allowed to complete ‘matric’ (matriculation[iii]). He knew I was an intelligent boy and probably could manage to study up to that level. Arthaman Rai was the idol from our village in those days. He had completed matriculation and had joined government job. All of us aspired to become something like him and do government service.
In order to pursue further studies I was to go to another school, some 200 kilometres away from home, at Tashigang in
Within two years of our admission some crises happened at our school (I have not been able to comprehend even today) and it suddenly got downgraded to a Junior high school. All the students from class 9 and above got transferred to Paro and Monger; Suk Bahadur Subba, thus, left too. Mr. O. P. Arora from
In the mean time back home things were not so good. Our aunt, who was pregnant when I left for Tashigang, delivered a baby boy and due to some post-natal complication she too had expired. This gave our uncle a lot of mental stress. He became irritable and abusive due to which my brothers and sisters had to face immense amount of wrath. They suffered a lot! Now I realize that it must have been the most difficult time in my uncle’s life. Inability to take care of two infants, our youngest sister was given to our ‘thuli-ama[v]’. Thuli-ama readily adopted her as her own daughter and gave all the love and affection she lacked so far. Of course, she lived a very short but happy and healthy life. She expired at the age of 16 while she was studying at Pemagatshel in class 8 due to Typhoid fever. Paradoxically, the year was 1989, the same year that I qualified as an MBBS doctor. Unfortunately my medical knowledge was of no use to her for I got the news of her death and not the illness!
In that stressful period of our uncle’s life, some people claimed that our father had taken loan from them. In order to clear the debts our herd of about 30 water buffalos and our famous ‘Gopal’ horse had to be sold. At that very moment the government objected for the amount of land we had and a substantial portion was confiscated; the remaining was shared between my brother and me.
In an attempt to find solace our uncle married to a lady from Chirang. They subsequently had three children out of the new wedlock. Our uncle’s life seemed to change thereafter. He built a new house, he started living more luxurious life than before and people attributed this to the wealth he acquired from his late brother along his children. He dismantled our old family house and we saw the materials being utilized to make the new house. He, however, always insisted that our parents left nothing except some land and eight of us; we had to believe that. I escaped the harder lives my sibling had to lead at our uncle’s house not out of choice but because I was away at ‘not-so-comfortable, hostel in Tashigang. It may seem a little mean on my part for not being able to give up my studies for farming to support my brothers and sisters but I had my father’s words to keep. I had to pass ‘matric’!
After completing our class 8 examination we were supposed to go to Sarbang Central School but Rabilal and I requested Father Mackey for seats at Sherubtse College in Kanglung (22 Km south of Tashigang). Sherubtse (‘the peak of knowledge’) was the highest seat of learning at that time and to get a seat there was a great privilege. Since two of us had topped the class, Father Mackey readily accepted us. We became ‘Sherubtsian’ in February 1978; the same year Father left Kanglung to start a new High school at Khaling (another 20 km south of Kanglung).
In 1979 I finally fulfilled my father’s dream by completing ICSE[vi]-equivalent to older matriculation. However, by then I was determined to continue my studies as long as I could; I wanted to be a professional- an engineer or a doctor. With sheer hard work and some luck (actually I am more of a lucky person than hard working when it comes to studies!) I passed the ISC-12[vii] with good percentage. I stood second, after Dr. Duptho Wangmo, in the science group. Dr. Duptho is a Gynaecologist at JDWNRH[viii] at
I joined the civil service of Royal Government of Bhutan in March 1989. My career began at
In the mean time I fell in love with Paizeen, whom I knew for almost 4 years, she being the sister-in-law of a close friend and accomplice, Mr. Suk Bahadur Subba (the same person who shaped me during the teenage years). I got married to her on 14th February 1990, incidentally the Valentine's Day. She was working as a draftsperson in the Department of Public Works in
Because of the political problem the Zonal Office got closed and my wife too got transferred to
By November 1991 the government had decided to transfer all the loyal southern Bhutanese civil servants to the northern dzongkhags. This way I landed up in Punakha in November 1991 to work as the District Medical Officer. The health centre where I initially worked was just a 10-bedded Basic Health Unit grade 1. Ultimately it got upgraded to a new 20-bedded hospital, which was constructed under funding from German Bhutan Hospital Foundation- a non-governmental organization, and inaugurated in 1996.
I was fortunate to have taken part in the planning stage of the new hospital in the capacity of the DMO. I was also fortunate to work in there as the first DMO along with Dr. Schmidt, a German doctor. After a long stay of around 5 ½ years at Punakha Basic Health Unit and just a few months of privilege of working in the new setup, I got transferred to another very old hospital at Trongsa in Feb 1997. Trongsa hospital up- gradation was also underway that time, so I got involved in site selection and planning of a new district hospital with modern amenities funded by the DANIDA. By 1998 we completed the planning process and in 2000 the construction works began. The hospital got completed in December 2003 and was inaugurated on 17th December, coinciding with our national day. Dr. Man Bir Ghising, who later died in a road accident, was the first doctor to work in the new hospital as DMO.
While in Trongsa went to have our second child after 8 years of long gap since Preeti was born. We opted for an elective caesarean section and took help of Dr. (Mrs) Norbu in
In 2001 my post graduate studies got approved due to which I was sent to
After a long wait of 1 ½ years, finally in September 2003, I got the confirmation about my seat for PG in Psychiatry at
From May 2012 was undergoing a training program conducted by the Colombo Plan Asian Centre for Certification and Education for Addiction Professionals and completed the basic level course in November 2013. I sat for a certification examination and qualified as International Certified Addiction Counsellor. I am also one of the regional trainers for the same course.
Over the period I have been able to gain trust in my profession and I am currently holding various positions in the government of organizations. Beginning of 2014 left me alone to handle psychiatry department at JDWNRH after Dr. Chencho Dorji left for Australia on a long leave.I am currently heading the department of Psychiatry. With the establishment of University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, I am gearing towards becoming a teaching faculty of the University.
My brother, Om Prakash Nirola, graduated from Shree Ram College of Commerce,
Out of five sisters, three could not get education. They were married off and sent to their in-laws. As mentioned earlier, the youngest one expired in 1989. The second youngest, Hema Devi, graduated with diploma in Agriculture from Natural Resources Training Institute (NRTI) at Lobeysa. She is working as Research Assistant at Agriculture Research Centre in Yusipang,
Our foster father, Karna Bahadur Nirola suddenly fell ill in April 2009 and his health continued to deteriorate further. He had multi-organ failure and succumbed to the illness and left for the heavenly abode on 20th November 2009 at 8:30 a.m. in the ICU of JDWNR Hospital. He was +78 years old by then. His body was taken to his home at Bhangtar where he was cremated on 22nd November 2009.
My daughter has graduated from Pailan School of International Studies in Kolkatta with Bachelor degree in Media Science. She is currently employed with Bhutan Media Services where she works as designer for a newspaper named "The Journalist". My son is in class 11 in Yangchenphu Higher Secondary school.
Life is full of twists and turn; it is up to you to negotiate or take a shortcut!
[i] Geog= A smallest administrative unit, also referred as block consisting of a number of villages under one headman or ‘Gup’.
[ii] Gup= Block head
[iii] Matric= Short for matriculation, an educational qualification equivalent to Secondary School Certificate (Class X).
[v] Thuli-ama= mother’s elder sister
[vi] ICSE= Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Class 10)