The Aging Population: Wearing the dishevelled look of someone who hasn’t rested for a long time, and clad in an old navy blue jacket over his gho, Churpu, 55, has been walking around the hospital area and the memorial chorten for about a week now.
In his slurred speech, Churpu said he is from Bartsam in Trashigang, and that he goes around asking for food. He is usually spotted sitting at the edge of a hospital bench, or sleeping on a patient’s bed, or going around town with his duffel bag, a sack and an old red backpack.
“I’m in pain right now,” he said, but with a smile that shows his few remaining teeth. “I don’t have any money in my pocket as well.”
With his five children scattered around the country, Churpu said he doesn’t want to go to any of his children’s places, because he doesn’t feel comfortable living with them. “I came here for treatment, and have been here for more than a week now,” he said.
One of the medical examiners in the hospital said he was suffering from a urinary tract infection, known as Benign prostate hypertrophy. “Because of this disease, urine has to be excreted out through tubes from his stomach into a bag, ” he said. “But due to lack of sanitation, he’s suffering from an infection at the place where the tubes come out.”
Hospital officials said they made him stay at the patient’s guesthouse, but he was always on the move. The staff on duty on Thursday night told Kuensel that some people had accompanied Churpu, when he was first brought in. “But they disappeared after a few days,” one of the health assistants said. “Maybe no one wants to look after him, since he stinks due to the disease.”
But that night, Churpu was very happy, since a stranger had given him Nu 300, which he kept counting until his eyes, turned red. “One should have seen the smile on his face, after the man gave him money,” the health assistant said. “If people started donating their old clothes to people like him, it would help patients like him.”
Despite being always on the move, Churpu was again taken back to the patient’s guesthouse by health officials and will be kept there as long as he is willing to stay. But Churpu has other plans. “I just want to go back to my village,” he said.
By Thinley Zangmo