**This article is published in Yeewong Magazine's June issue
 

As she sat watching a beeline of people at the polling station booth A at Chang Bangdu on the morning of the 31st May, 2013, Tandin Wangmo, the thirty eight year old candidate for People’s Democratic Party(PDP) from south Thimphu constituency couldn’t believe the unexpected turn that her life has taken, from being a struggling single, divorced mum of two to having more than a thousand supporters from South-Thimphu constituency vote for her.


As Neil Gaiman would say, when you fall, sometimes you wake up from that fall, sometimes it kills you but sometimes, when you fall, you just learn to fly. Tandin is one of those few people who have learned to fly after a fall – a fall that has taken more than thirty years of her life but her luck hasn’t entirely run out yet for her wheels have now taken off and her flight has just about begun. Though academically brilliant, she left studies after high school to tie the nuptial knot at a tender age of seventeen. Nonetheless, the individualistic spark in her pressed her forward to pursue a career in teaching after marriage; a decision that would determine the entire course of her life.

At eighteen, she had her daughter, now nineteen years old followed by a son five years later.

Her childhood was far from a cream-clogged boot walk. Born as the eldest to four siblings, she was forced to mature beyond her years. She believes her foothold in the household even as a child was equivalent to any other adult, as were her responsibilities. She struggled day and night to help build the house that is now her parental home in Chang Lutey, Lungtenphu. Despite being born in a family that was better off than most families, she was inevitably ravaged by the tough times that were then, where sustenance was a critical factor and people toiled hard to see through winter. Those were the days when she would milk the cows, herd them, prepare meals over fire, toil the earth for food and look after her younglings – in essence, she played the woman in a little girl’s body who was hard at work and no play.

Some of the most horrifying moments of her childhood include tumbling by an adult corpse left in the forest below Thara Gonpa while she was looking for her cattle at dusk, cooking zaw and maggi in a cup over a candle in a desperate attempt to sate her hunger in a boarding school which was the final lap of her normal academic life and being in charge at home while sending off her parents on pilgrimages. But despite all her struggles, there was always a leader blossoming innately within the girl who was often consulted on matters by her elders and revered by peers. She ruled the school in her own time – if not a class, cultural or a house captain, she would be seen leading the school as the school captain, and was almost always popular. She was therefore, a public figure in her own right and of her own time – but withdrew into a sabbatical of sorts until much, much later in her life

Her marriage, in a sense was paving the road to the spirit of escapade that she had developed overtime from the harsh routine of her life. Even though she married for love, she lamented over her academic lifeline being prematurely flicked out. But she has a fiery spirit that hardly lies low for long. After her children arrived, she went on to continue her education albeit with a pace, the tale of which can put anyone to sleep but with her unwavering determination, she has never looked back since.

Her long years of perseverance finally paid off when she was given the opportunity to pursue her Masters degree in Educational Studies from the University of Newcastle in Sydney, Australia. Around the same time, she realized that happiness was not something she could postpone for the future but something she needed to design for the present. What didn’t kill her only made her stronger. Realizing that her life needed a facelift and more than anything, she needed to find herself that has over the long.. long years, been buried alive in shoes that she wore to serve those around her, she walked out of her marriage, took her kids along and got a new job as the Deputy Executive Director for the GNH Centre in Bumthang.

She loved her new job and her newfound freedom but little did she know that life had more to offer than she had bargained for. Her first real-life glimpse of the former Opposition Leader was at Mojo Park where she had gone out on one of her rare outings on a special occasion with her younger siblings, unbeknownst that only two months later, the charismatic Tshering Tobgay that is the former Opposition leader, would invite her to join the nationwide marathon in a bandwagon that he is the captain of.

On joining politics, Tandin said “Of all the things politics was the last thing on my mind but then, I thought, why not? Of all the possible potential candidates in the country’s most powerful constituency, they came to me because they believe in me and in my capacity to lead the people of my constituency if given an opportunity.”

She continued “People often ask me why I joined politics and I tell them that politics is something that shapes our lives and our destinies and consequently that of our country. Politics can cause war or peace, life or death. We are all political because we have opinions but would we rather have opinions that are concealed or opinions that are freely voiced out and heard? In a democratic nation, we have choices and if done right, much of the choices should be that of the common people because the will of the majority is supreme and they outnumber by a large margin, the rich and the powerful”

When asked how has it changed her life, she replied “Oh totally!! I am like a wheel that never stops turning and I am beginning to feel that 24 hours a day is inadequate to do all the things I could do for a day. There are struggles surely, but unlike the struggles of my past, I fully indulge in my current ones having realized that my learning curve has begun to spike. I am not sure about the destination but I am certainly enjoying this journey.”

Despite her optimism, women have had a marginalized role in the Bhutanese political scenario so far. How would it be any different for her, especially given that Aum Dorji Choden and Lily Wangchuck have had tough luck in the primary round? To this she says “I believe that a woman can be as good at it as any other man, if she works relentlessly at it. For Bhutanese women, it is mostly about missed opportunities. The political ladder particularly can be pretty long for anyone depending on his/her luck but one has to keep climbing it undeterred, no matter how long the ladder or how small the steps maybe.”

On the results of the primary round election, she says “Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. While most educated lot placed their faith in Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, DPT seems to have a strong base in the villages. Yet, on my door to door campaigns, I met many people who had faith in me. And they have been true to their words. I jumped headlong into politics all of a sudden and within a month of it, I have a huge number of supporters. I am grateful to all those people whose faith keeps me going.”

Tandin says she advocates her gender and youth issues including unemployment amongst others.

One thing is certain about PDP – it will sail through the general election either as the next government in charge or as the opposition party but Tandin’s future is not. She has an opponent who will not lose easily, having been a prominent leader for possibly more than half her lifetime. If she loses in the general election, she goes back to being a commoner. So, will she regret at her own leap of faith if she loses in the general round? But as always, the fiery spirit that is Tandin Wangmo quotes Martin Luther “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go into pieces, I would still plant my apple tree”


7 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting write up. I love Tandin Wangmo.


  2. Anonymous Says:

    I feel life isn't that pretty with sharpening pros and cons associated within us.....................likewise, I find overwhelming crossroad situation with mixed life in her entire unfolding journey. Good Luck..........rock the political floor.


  3. Tshering Says:

    ...the line, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger....." i love that note.


  4. Anonymous Says:

    if i m not mistaken the date g 31 May rather than June.


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Gr8t......


  6. Anonymous Says:

    Be political, when we are loving one we will be hurting the another who hates whom we love. Speed is mostly show, be slow to be sure.


  7. inspiring piece. I love the lady, and love it more after reading this ... Wish her luck


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