Reporters of various media being busily involved in reporting others' stories doesn't mean they don't have a story of their own which is newsworthy.
I was going through the saturday's issue when I stumbled on the vacancy column. The vacancies announced by one of the Organisations demanded a minimum of five years' experience and a maximum of 12 years. Wonderstruck, I had spent almost an hour trying to discern how is this possible for a fresh graduate like me.
'The world is so demanding,' I disgruntled with a little hesitation. 'I've just got to be proud with my graduation but here is another qualification that I will have to pursue if I ever wanted to be employed.'
I walked up to my home—a home no bigger than a bird's nest—with my heart drenched with the thought of the 'experience'. I dug into the rice cooker and chewed the last day's hardened leftover rice with the thought of the 'experience.' I drank the water and the 'experience' throated me. I pulled the blanket and the 'experience' also came along overpowering me. Experience! Experience! Every job I sought came with the 'experience' tag.
A thought ran over me. I thought I will have to do something to gain what people call—'experience.' I have an experience of looking after the cows but now they demand the experience to look after the man. I am an experienced basket weaver but they wanted a man with the computer knowledge. I am an expert milker but they wanted an expert technician.
A mismatch of my profession and their requirement! 'I have do something and acquire the new need,' I thought and the only way to gain experience was to join some organisations as an intern being a tyro.
Being a media student, urge rose within me to join Kuensel—one of the counrty's national newspaper. My first few days passed looking at the office premises. The next few days passed looking at the internal functioning of the system. And in the mean time I had not realized that the duty has beckoned me to run for the beat.
One early morning I got an unexpected call. Unusual number! “Where are you, Tempa?” spoke over the phone sounding to be familiar. “Good morning, who is on the line?” I responded softly and reverently as I always use to do to a new number (stranger).
“Managing Editor,” retorted back. “You have to immediately go to Wangdue and file a report of the damage brought to the Dzong by the last night's earthquake.”
“Yes sir,” like a loyal army I promptly agreed.
I threw myself out of the warm blanket against the cold winter morning. Rushed quickly with a brush tucked in the mouth to the kitchen to see what I have for the breakfast. I opened the rice cooker. It was licked from the bottom. I ran my hand into the rice sack, reached the bottom and unearthed a handful.
I turned 90 degree and ran swiftly to check my wallet. An old note of ngultrum five—which the Doma seller had refused of accept the previous day—was the only surviving member. Its big brothers and sister have all flown away.
'No breakfast! And more importantly what is my lunch?' I had no time to think of all these. Order had already befallen me and I had to rush immediately irrespective of my sufferings.
The Maruti van I travelled swung me left and right as it wound the meandering road churning my empty stomach. I urgently needed to have a cup of tea. My cameraman who was sitting in the front asked me if I had had the breakfast. I said I did not get the time to have it hiding the reality.
Hunger drew in more with the fleeting time. It was 1:30pm when a sheer hunger caught me. The driver, cameraman and I went to a hotel. I knew the driver would not pay for the food as most of them depended on the reporters saying they aren't paid enough. And I was unsure whether the cameraman possessed the adequate money.
I refused to ask for expansive food. Rather, three maggi plates were ordered. Even as I was ravishing the maggi, my spoon rubbed against the basal plate making a sound that went through my head concerning who would actually pay the bill. The food was over. No one of us stood up. It was almost half and hour after the food. None of the other two made any signs of standing up to pay the bill despite a tight schedule to visit Talo in Punakha, the very next.
I just could not wait to waste the precious time. I stood up and ran out pretending to fetch my wallet from the vehicle parked just near the hotel door. I kneeled down near the vehicle and watched the other two. They stood up slowly and the cameraman walked straight to the counter. Seeing him walking forth, solace returned to my heart. I could not have afforded to be insulted by the waiter.
The total expenditure incurred was Nu 90, Nu 30 for each plate. However, the cameraman had only Nu 85 and the driver had none. The owner at the counter had demanded for another Nu 5. The cameraman came out, wiping his mustached mouth to ask money from me. And I had no other notes than the one refused by the Doma seller. 'Will the the owner accept?' thousand questions flashed over my head.
'Bring quick,' the shopkeeper had yelled at him. I gave my note and the cameraman walked in humbly turning my note over and again. The owner frowned and rejected as the note was all torn. I saw him begging and I joined him from behind. Despite our request, the owner used every bit of the foul words he has mastered particularly to defame customers and yelled at us. He went on shouting at us for being unable to pay even Nu 5. “You all are ridiculous,” he said adding how could we be so poor to be unable to pay the meagre amount. Finally, after bowing down for a long period, a solace returned to my heart when the he said “its okay”.
“But on one condition,” he started again returning my old five ngultrum note. “Pay me the remaining amount early morning tomorrow.”
“Yes, dutifully I will do it,” I said. “But I will be a little late because I live in Thimphu and may reach here by the sunrises' time.”
Before I could complete my sentence, hearing my late arrival, the owner had already fallen unconscious.
He derailed us for not being able to pay Nu 5 but what about him, a rich merchant, who is so greedy to forgive just a meagre amount?