The madman in town
C hoten Dupchu, 56year old, is a sorry sight sitting by the roadside near taxi parking in Mongar. Holding the empty tobacco covers firmly his hand, his skin is thick with grime prominent on every wrinkle of his aging skin. As you approach him, his body odour drifts up and hangs in your nose sourly. And while he begs for some money, one is disgusted with the foul smell vapourizing from him which resembles nauseating smell of the rotting trash. So the locals shun him. Most of the time he would smell of alcohol. Shopkeepers in the town have grown skeptical of giving him money to sympathize with his situation. One shopkeeper judged that he uses the begged money to buy alcohol, gets drunk and drives everybody crazy in town.
Sometimes, he would keep talking to himself. Wandering around the town and bothering people are his daily rituals.
One can only wonder what happened to him. And we tried digging deeper into his story.
Eighteen years ago, Choten was an army personnel based in Shaba, Paro. A time came when he lost his sense of reasoning one day. And nobody knows what put him to that situation. Soon the dedicated army turned into a psychopath. The authority became wary of his behavior and apprehensive of his services. So he was laid off from his job.
“I petitioned the officer in charge to consider keeping him in service but the Dasho denied saying my husband is sick and needs special treatment,” recollected his wife, Pema, who now takes care of their two children and live in the village estranged from him.
After taking him to various hospitals within the country and in India, it was discovered that his brain was filled with water. He went through countless medication and treatment but in vain. No rituals could help him recover from his madness.
“So I was going mad of his madness,” said Pema, taking a deep sigh.
Gradually he suffered severe mood swings, moving between elation and despair. They would last for weeks or even months.
As the years passed by, his family experienced the darkest phase of their lives. The poor children whom they would call father was lost and now refuses to recognize them. The children are afraid to go near him fearing his crazy behavior.
“It became very difficult to handle him,” says his wife. “Since he was running away from us, we locked him up in the room and tied him up. Even then he broke the door and ran away. So fearing he might commit suicide, we set him free.”
His wife complains that he keeps talking to himself. “That is what he loves to do every day,” says his wife, clearing her voice on the phone interview.
Today, he lives his life lying by the roadside near the taxi parking and spends his time above the public playground.
Many shopkeepers think that giving him money is further aggravating his problems than doing him any good. “We don’t want to see him coming to us, so we chase him away if we see him coming,” said some shopkeepers.
Doctor Enery Perez Bartutis, the Psychiatrist at Mongar Regional Hospital, said, “Even today we possess no consensus on the nature of mental illness, what it is, what causes it, what will cure it.”
“So, peer support is very, very important,” he says, “and it is something that should be given a lot of attention.”
Sadly with Choten, the contrary has happened with him. People want to avoid him. And he has become a nuisance in the society.
“I don’t know if he will ever come back to us,” tells his wife, almost breaking down over the phone, “and we have lost our hope.”