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KP Nayar, the teacher whose neighbours call him Bhutan

KP Nayar was at his home in Kerala, India surfing the Internet when he came across an invitation to visit Bhutan.

The invitation was particularly for senior Indian teachers who worked in Bhutan.

Fervently, he responded to some questions along with some pictures to confirm his stay in Bhutan.

However, he was apprehensive because of his need for an escort while travelling. Following an accident three years ago, he has hearing difficulty and suffers from occasional giddiness. “I was worried and disappointed that we wouldn’t be allowed but after some days I saw flight tickets booked for me and my wife. Babrey! I was really happy. I wanted to visit Thimphu once.”

When he landed at Paro airport, the 83-year-old teacher was returning to Bhutan after 26 years. He recalls a stretch of road running between eastern and western Bhutan. The development he saw today, amazes him, he said. “I worked in Thimphu for three years but my god, I couldn’t recognise Thimphu.I wonder how many roads run through Thimphu today. I thought this was a different location.”

But his stay in Thimphu was during the later years of his stay in Bhutan.

He was 29 years old when he first came to Bhutan in 1964. He remembers being held up for days waiting for a vehicle in Samdrupjongkhar.

Along with a section officer called Thomas, he had travelled in a power wagon truck, spending nights at the General Reserve Engineer Force(GREF) camps. His journey on foot began after reaching Khaling, Trashigang. KP Nayar’s first place of posting was Trashigang School.

He witnessed the first batch of students graduate from Trashigang, most of whom went to Australia for further studies. Among the many students he taught, he remembers former finance minister Wangdi Norbu, Dasho Kado, former education minister Thakur Singh Powdyel, and Achyut Bhandari.

One of his students, Thakur Singh Powdyel greeted him soon after he reached Thimphu on April 27 for the teachers’ day celebration. During his time here, he met about 13 students who are working in various ministries, and the armed forces.

“We believe that mother, father and teachers are god. I think His Majesty The King also believes in similar views. That is a great thing. Who cares if we don’t have enough today? I am really happy that the students and people here still remember me and my work.”

As he speaks of his stay in Bhutan, he shares a significant fragment of Bhutan’s history. “One day the Third Druk Gyalpo visited my class when I was teaching in Trashigang,” he said. “I still remember that I was teaching about heart and its functions. His Majesty attended my Science class and asked me so many questions. Later he appreciated me for my effort.”

Although he served the longest in Trashigang, he also taught in Thimphu, Sarpang, Samtse and Dewathang in Samdrupjongkhar. KP Nayar was also the first principal of Thimphu school, now Motithang Higher Secondary School. It was also during his tenure as the principal when the country’s capital was shifted to Thimphu, KP Nayar said.

Being a southern region school inspector, a title also held by Father William Joseph Mackey and his work as an in-charge of the national day celebrations are among his significant achievements, he said.

“The national day those days were grand. I would travel to all the schools in the country and select a group of students to perform march-parade. I was in-charge to prepare the students for celebrations at Gelephu, Pemagatshel, Mongar, Paro and Dagadzong.”

KP Nayar married during his stay in Bhutan in 1969. His two daughters grew up and studied in the country until 1992.

Following retirement from Bhutan, he joined several schools as school inspector in Kerala. He retired from work after the accident.

Although he had never regretted his choice to teach in Bhutan, he said he has faced challenges. Since he left his job in India and chose to work in Bhutan, he doesn’t receive pension today. “If I were there I would have got it. Those who worked with me then are now getting a pension of Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000.”

This might be his last visit to Bhutan, he said and while it has been decades since he left Bhutan, his time and experience in Bhutan remains with him. He still speaks sharshop and his email ID is still kpnayarbhutan. His neighbours in Kerela still recognise him as Bhutan. “After spending about 30 years in Bhutan, my neighbours wouldn’t know me by my name,” he chuckles. “But if you ask for Bhutan, they would bring you straight to me.”

Phurpa Lhamo

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