Restoring lives transforming souls
In a land of more than a billion and half, you will probably find a maximum of four hundred Bhutanese students in one state of India. India has 28 states and 7 union territories and Bhutanese students are present in almost every nook and corner of the sub continent. Most of them would have never stepped outside Bhutan when they were home; home grown, home bred and home fed. When suddenly you are unleashed into a chaotic world of freedom, the search for one’s individualism seems scarily just to yourself, where family ties are far and forlorn and you yearn for mother’s food, but you are all that you have, and all that you will find. Relationships are put to test, while some adapt over a period of time, others for whom familial relationships are a necessity to live everyday and is otherwise emotionally draining and a feeling of emptiness overpowers, such people have a greater need to associate with fellow Bhutanese. It’s a special feel in a land of a billion strangers to find a Bhutanese. What binds a Bhutanese with a Bhutanese? It is our cultural values.
Most students who aren’t used to living outside home yearn for the community support and friends from home, especially during trouble and sickness and in such a vast land such can be hard to find, easily. Often times people go ashtray, sometimes and most often than not because of drugs. Most drug abusers share stories of rejection in common, be it friends, family or lovers, the rest could be just the curious ones. Adolescence is the curious age.
A common college lifestyle comprises of experimentation and exploration; body, mind and soul. Situation in India is no different, amongst many who come back with accolades of honor from their universities, there are some who never come back and who enter the realm of the dead, some who come back with tuberculosis or some such disease, some who come back with their 12th year mark sheets without completing their degree, just wasting their parent’s or relatives hard earned money and their precious time- I call these the dumb drug abusers.
Amidst such situations in India, which is very similar to the mushrooming scene in Bhutan, a foundation sprung into existence in October 2008 and Ugyen, a young student who died in Bangalore is in most parts responsible for the birth of Druk Warriors foundation. “In October 2008 when my student Ugyen died of drug overdose, he had fallen down from a building and when I saw his dead body, so cold and lifeless yet speaking to me, it was a turning point in my life. I realised certificates and degrees have no value unless we try to understand one another and appreciate our human lives. When I saw him at the morgue covered with blood, I remembered him dancing in Ugyen Academy when I was a teacher there. I felt like I had to do something for my people and I questioned myself, what is the purpose of our life? That is the moment I understood the purpose of my life, which was to help the Bhutanese youth find the purpose of their life, to transform lives and restore souls. That was the beginning of the Druk Warriors foundation,” says founder and mastermind T. B. Rana. Since 2008, he has seen three of his students die of drug overdose and three other because of bike accidents in the city of Bangalore. Since the inception, the foundation has brought back to track many drug abusers who are now clean and are doing exceptionally well in life.
Is prison the solution for drug addicts? I don’t call them addicts, it brings a negative connotation. These abusers firstly need a hug says the founder of Druk Warrior foundation, who I met on a train journey from Banglore to Bhutan. Throughout the journey I could feel the love he had for his students and the nostalgia he felt as he left the city where he had made a difference and touched and saved many lives. T. B. Rana has multiple degrees; M.A in History from Tripura University, PG Leadership, MD Philosophy and contemporary religious studies from Bangalore and has worked as a marketing manager for APTECH in Shillong and as a teacher in Ugyen Academy for four years. He believes that he is still a teacher but he is someone who goes beyond the four walls to reach out to his students and tries to enter their world. He believes that acceptance is what leads to change amongst the abusers and the most effective way is to make them feel loved and as part of a family. Unlike the prison act that the nation is implementing, Rana’s method of love and hugs seems to be a more effective way of de-addiction.
The Druk Warriors Foundation started with one member Jamtsho, who was a student of Rana in Ugyen Academy and was into drugs when he met him in Bangalore. Jamtsho said “when I saw sir in Bangalore, I had fear of not being able to live upto his expectation as a good student that I used to be, and that fear gave me the will power to quit drugs. I also could not go counseling others if I did not change myself.” Today the strength of Druk Foundation is about 200 in the cities of Bangalore and Coimbatore. They do not distribute forms or pamphlets but recruit mainly because of word to mouth form of advertising. Students seem to find the foundation a healthier way to invest their time and sharpen their skills. The presence of an elderly teacher seems to bring much comfort and security to their lives in these metropolitan cities.
The Druk Warriors Foundation aims to promote brotherhood and community values when they are away from home. They also conduct sports and co-curricular activities to promote team spirit amongst the Bhutanese and the international community in India. Other activities include celebrating Bhutanese festivals, visiting institutes and hospitals, conducting seminars and workshops on drug awareness, leadership, character cultivation, live in relationships, love and other topics of relevance in colleges and institutions where Bhutanese students study. They also have a quarterly print magazine called voice of the warriors where students write articles on issues concerning the youth.
The foundation has three divisions. The legal department where LLB students can exercise their knowledge by helping other Bhutanese students in need of legal help or to sort out college matters. For instance, once, a fight broke out between some Manipuri and Bhutanese students. The Manipuri boys were chronic drug addicts and this happened sometime on a Wednesday. On Friday one of the Manipuri boy was found dead and a Bhutanese was arrested on alleged suspect of murder. He was not a member of the Druk Warriors then but Rana says they actively also look out for Bhutanese and ensure that the nation’s name is not tarnished. With the help of Bhutanese Students Association (BSA) and Druk Warriors they hired a lawyer and released the Bhutanese. The Manipuri boy was later suspected to have died because of drug over dose since he possessed pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.
The second department, sports and cultural caters to organizing international basketball and football tournaments. Recently they organized an international basketball meet where students from thirteen countries participated; Mongolia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ivory coast- who won the trophy. Deki who was once a vice president said “such tournaments provide a very good platform for the Bhutanese to socialize with other international students and helps them get good exposure.”
The third, Media department is led by students studying computer applications and journalism. These departments seem to provide a platform for students to exercise the skills they learn while in college. The foundation is governed by an elected President and two female and two male vice presidents. They also have in-service candidates studying in Bangalore who help the foundation.
Most Indian cities have a Bhutanese Student’s Association and they receive funds from the government which is one thousand rupees annually per student. It is no news that certain BSAs have on previous occasions misused funds and often times the governing bodies enjoy the fund facilities. When Druk Warriors started they faced a bit of a clash with the BSA. These days people who sign up for Druk Warriors are first made to sign up with the BSA. Druk Warriors foundation was issued a letter by the Department of Adult and Higher Education “recognizing them as a club that counsels students in need and that it should be seen as a wing of the Bhutanese Students Association (BSA) Bangalore.”
Now that T.B Rana has moved back to Bhutan after completing his course in Bangalore, he wishes to expand his foundation and his mission is to use the Druk Warriors model to help children in schools. They want to be present in India wherever BSAs exist and in all high schools in Bhutan. He also wishes to have a forum where students who study abroad and in-country students have a platform to share their thoughts and experiences. While he hopes that the government will recognize the necessity of such a foundation and that they would be interested to fund the Druk Warriors’ projects. Till date most funds have been shelled from his own pocket and also the warriors themselves who pitch in money for their activities. The Druk Warriors hope to become the bridge between the government and the Bhutanese youth.