Our Dzongkha lopen walked into the class and we stood up to wish him. We were doing revision and each student had to memorize stanzas of the poem-like text, write it on the board, read it and explain it to the class.
He nodded and we took it for permission to sit down. Though the day was bright and pleasant, it contrasted his mood. We could tell he wore his wrathful face that day. I was nervous and bit scared, as it was my turn to write and explain certain stanzas.
He sat on his chair and called my name after running through the name list. I walked up towards the blackboard and received the chalk in my cupped hands from him. He gave me a mocking chuckle that, to me said, “Here comes the stupid no-nothing tsagay (fool)”. I had not memorized my stanzas, though I had some idea about what they meant after consulting with a friend who was good in dzongkha.
I did what I had to do.
When I finished my task, the first look on his face was sheer bewilderment. He must have thought, “What was that?” He read and reread what I wrote on the board and looked at me standing before him. I stood with my back bent like a bow. When he was certain that there was not a single mistake he told me to go back to my seat.
Then the unexpected happened. For the first time in two years lopen praised me. He told the class he was proud to see me improve and work hard, that everyone should take me as an example.
I said nothing but I could feel the blood rushing into my face. Few of my friends knew how I managed to complete my task error free.
The ingenious idea came to me as I pondered the impossible task. It was impossible for me given my interest and knowledge of dzongkha. The previous day I was memorizing and writing the stanzas on the board. I couldn't even get through the first line without making substantial spelling mistakes. I knew I would finish badly if that repeated the next day. I wrote and rewrote but I failed and I didn't have much time. I finally gave up and sat on my chair very mentally spent from my endeavor.
I sat at my desk, cupped my chin in my hands and decided to call in sick the next day. But how long could I be sick for? Because when I do come to school lopen would make me complete my task. He never forgets and failing to recite the text was a serious offence and he would take no excuses. Sitting there, I looked at the blank board, which metaphorically was like my mind. I stared at it for a long time and then the lines came to me. I could faintly see the letters I had written. I jumped up and closed up on the board and I could see the letters more vividly if I strained my eyes. I had pressed the chalk hard on the board while I was practicing. I went to the teacher’s chair, where lopen usually sits and looked at the board, I couldn't see anything even if I squinted my eyes for clarity. I wrote a line, cleaned the board and again went to the teacher’s chair to confirm my discovery. I asked a friend if he could see anything written on the board. He looked up from his books and said he couldn't see any thing and told me not to disturb him. I was totally thrilled.
So the next day, lucky for me, dzongkha period was after the recess. During recess I wrote my stanzas and lightly cleaned the board.
It was a good plan and I did well. But I did well only to cheat myself. I did not cheat my teacher, I realized later.