Storia personale di Wangdi Tsambo, primo medico della Regione del Mustang
I was born and grew up in a small village along the riverside, north to the ancient walled city called Lomanthang, which lies at an altitude of 3800 meters in Mustang District of Nepal an hour drive from Tibet-Nepal border. When I was a kid, I spent summer time in village school and helping out my parents with their daily chores such as working in farm, collecting dungs for fuel and grasses for the domestic animals and things like that and as school closed during winter for four/five months because of the cold and harsh weather my family and most of the people from Upper Mustang Migrate to southern part, mostly India, Kathmandu and Pokhara. My family used to go to India for sweater business which we buy from Punjab state of India and sell them in another state called Varanasi, our family used to make a little money from a lot of hard work in this business which was not enough to make things keep going, so my family had to engage in agriculture and other small business which most of the people in our village do. So during winter I used to help my parent with the sweater business, and I was kind of my father’s secretary as I know how to read, write and mathematics and he is illiterate. During my childhood and till the age of 18, I have done so many things that makes me smile sometime even now, like selling eggs to the two popular restaurants in village, selling firecrackers during famous festival called Tiji but I felt the importance of education early in that age, specially in becoming a medical person and I was very fascinated towards English language. Being from poor, remotest part of the country and so called low caste family; my childhood was not like these days kid’s childhood. But I think it taught me so many things that todays school cannot teach. There is so much discrimination in the name of caste in our village, like we can not build two storied houses, we can not ride horses during Yartung festival, we can not wear this and that and the list goes on.
When I was a small boy, my younger sister died of infected wound in her neck; there was nothing we could do. There was not a proper health facility in village. People were dying of diseases that could be prevented and treated. I thought of becoming a medical person when my younger sister died. I worked hard in school and I was good in study but not in sports. I got lots of prizes for titles like, the first in the class, scoring the highest marks in the school, quizes, regular student, most discipline student like that but I never got prize in sports. I was not sure what to do after school; there were few people who have obtained higher education so there was lack of advisors. After passing my SLC (School leaving Certificate) or grade ten, I got scholarship to study proficiency certificate level in general medicine in the year 2003, funded by American Himalayan Foundation (AHF) through (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) an NGO working in Annapurna Conservation Area with the theme “Conservation for Development”. I completed the course in 2006 with lots of hard work. At the beginning in college I was kind of lost, being from government school my English was very poor and I had to spent lot of time learning English to study English medium course but with tenacity and hard work, I did it with good score and returned to my village and served my fellows lowas. During the service in Mustang I felt like, to provide quality health service to people I need to enhance my knowledge of medicines and skills. But to do that I had to do the course MBBS (Bachelor in Medicine and Bachelor in Surgery). A boy from low socioeconomic background cannot dream such thing, as it is extremely expensive to join medical school. It cost millions and millions of rupees and my family were not in position to afford in fact my family didn’t even know how many zeros are there in one million. During my work in Upper Mustang, sometime I provide health service to the tourist who comes to enjoy the landscape and “travel back to time” I guess. One evening, a girl who works as a cook for my friends Luigi, Federica and Davidae from Italy who were restoring centuries old monasteries in my village, came to my house and asked to come their place and see a tourist who is quite sick. I went and I see two gentlemen who looked like father and son and a lady and their guide told me that the lady was not feeling well. I went immediately and did my job and explained the situation and prescribed some medicines. And my Italian friends introduce me to the gentleman who was interested in helping someone from Upper Mustang. I came to know that his name is Alfredo, his son is David and his wife name is Eliska and their guide is Mr. Kumar who talks very fast. He asked me about my goal in life and I told him I want to be a doctor and he gave me his card and asked me to write him an email and he will see what he can do. I emailed him couple of days later and I got reply and he asked to wait for sometime. That winter I was doing one month long in-service training in Kathmandu and I got his reply saying that they are willing to support for my medical education and asked me to move to town as soon as possible. But I was in the middle of my contract with AHF funded job in ACAP, and I felt I should not betray them, I promised them two years of service in Mustang after completing the health assistant course. So I emailed back and told them that I have to finish the contract first. So we were in touch through email and I completed the contract moved to Kathmandu, done the three months long pre-requisite course and spent another two years in premed education in Kathmandu. Finally in the year 2009 I got admission in KIST medical college and teaching hospital in Lalitpur, which is in Kathmandu valley. During these five years in medical college, I was in touch with my generous sponsor, through emails. We email every week or so and share news and communicate, for me honestly speaking, Alfredo and his family is like second family, a second parent; they have done so many things for me and my family. And I will never ever forget their support and love and care. In one email I shared him this tragic and very discriminative story that happened last year in my village, which made me question so many things and hurt and wounded me so deeply. What happened was, there was solar electricity project funded by government of China for the whole Lomanthang village, which includes our village too. Lomanthang was already lighted with 29 kW capacity hydropower. The well-established and key persons of the Lomanthang village said to our folks that they are not going to distribute solar energy to our little village, because it’s not enough, a diplomatic way to say ‘you people are lower caste and weak and we can do to you whatever we want.’ This raised a question in my mind if 29 kW hydropower is enough to provide electricity to whole village then how 70 kW solar energy is not enough? Despite so many polite request, and then protest and meetings with conservative minded people they didn’t distribute the solar energy to our village. Instead of helping those who are poor and socioeconomically weak, which is what they are appointed for, they choose to suppress and discriminate the weak one. This is just one example; lots of discriminative acts have been happening in the name of so called ‘CASTE’ in my region. After hearing this story and other discriminative story in my place, Alfredo was really saddened and advised me to keep studying and do post graduation after completing MBBS course, become a specialized doctor and show the people of upper mustang a good example, a source of inspiration. And I said, “Alfredo, you read my mind”. I am going to do post graduation and become a specialized doctor it doesn’t matter how many years it takes, how many sacrifices that I have to make on the way, I am going to show the people that with tenacity, hard work, intelligence, and lots of sacrifices you can do something great.