MAIN STORY: It’s 4pm. A shrill alarm pierces through the air. It’s time for the students to head home.
Tandin, 12, however, has a different plan for the day. Instead of heading home, he makes his way out the school gate through the throng of other school-going children. He heads towards the Changlimithang stadium. There, his best friend, Sonam is waiting for him.
The sky is overcast, yet the stadium is partially filled with spectators. A football match between two popular football clubs in Thimphu is about to begin.
Tandin and Sonam rushes through the stadium and changes into a casual pair of trousers and shirts. They wear a black raincoat on top, which reaches to their ankles.
Five other boys of about the same ages, who are positioned in different places around the stadium, accompany them. They are instructed to stay in their positions by a senior working at the stadium.
These boys are working as ball boys at the stadium, a part-time job when the school sessions are over. It’s a perfect way to earn some extra cash.
Tandin has been working as a ball boy since last year. He earns Nu 100 for each game he attends. He earns the most during the weekends.
“As a ball boy, my job is to retrieve and supply the balls for players during the game,” Tandin said. “There are times when the ball heads outside the stadium where we have to be careful while retrieving them. Other than that, our job is easy.”
I love being a ball boy since it gives me a chance to meet our local football celebrities and practice football for free, Tandin said. “It was my brother who told me to be a ball boy and now I’m loving it.”
Drawing his inspiration from local popular football players, Tandin said he hopes to become a national football player one day.
Sonam, 14, hopes to become a football player too.
“Whatever amount I earn from the game, I give it to my mother hoping I could contribute and help her in some ways,” Sonam said. “I love coming here and guarding the balls. It’s exciting.”
“Although the amount we earn is not much, we enjoy being at the stadium and fulfilling our duties,” Sonam said. “We make sure we don’t compromise with our studies. We come here only during free hours.”
For the next 90 minutes, the boys are thoroughly engaged in the game. Whenever the ball heads outside the court, they are there to assist the players.
Around the same time, at the Royal Thimphu Golf Club, Hari, 15, works as a part time caddie after school hours.
Hari can be always found at the club grounds whenever he has free time or whenever there are no classes. Today, he has been at the golf course from the morning since there were no classes at the school.
Wearing a warm jacket and pleated trousers, a comfortable shoe and a cap on his head, Hari easily lifts the golf set and carries it across his shoulder through the course. The golf set looks unusually bigger than him.
Hari has been practicing golf and working as a caddie for the past two years. For each game, he earns about Nu 500. He has been participating in golf tournaments as well.
“By working as a caddie and learning golf, I learn how to discipline myself. I respect the game a lot,” Hari said.
Hari saves whatever he earns from the game. “Believe it or not, I’ve opened a savings account at the bank, which my mother helped me. So that it will help me in my future studies.”
Hari encourages young people like him to do part-time jobs. “I get to learn so many things working as a caddie. I know how to talk and deal with people and I value money more now.”
With the experience gained about golf by being a caddie, Hari hopes to become a pro golfer when he becomes older. “I hope I can participate in games and make a name for myself. For now, I’m polishing my skills at being a caddie and assist other pro golfers.”
Accompanying Hari is his classmate, Jigme, 18, who also works as a caddie at the golf club. Jigme works as a caddie during weekends and on other days he takes golf lessons.
“My favourite part is learning about overcoming the challenges and obstacles of the game,” Jigme said. “I hope to make my parents proud by being a responsible boy. I hope many are thinking the same too.”
Jigme recalls the difficult times he faced when he became a caddie for the first time.
“I didn’t know how to select the various clubs from the set. It took time but now I’m pretty good at being a caddie,” Jigme said. “I’m going to play golf for the rest of my life and hopefully become a pro golfer too.”
As the day winds up, the boys at the Changlimithang stadium head home. Although it doesn’t seem much, they have learnt something valuable beyond the classrooms. Hari and Jigme heads home as well with the hope to return to the golf course soon.