Motor road connectivity to Bongo is only four years old. Before the motor road, do you remember how we received post mails to Bongo? It was through the Drak Wala system. Drak Wala is the man who carries letters from Post Office to the rural areas in the past. They were called a ‘Postal Runner’ in English. Our Drak Wala brought letters, parcels, information and most importantly the ‘money orders’. Alumni of Bongop Primary School would surely remember how it felt to see our Drak Wala when he reached Bongo school with letters and all other mails. And ‘money order’ is what we looked forward to. He brought along cash money sent by our relatives living in different parts of Bhutan.
The postal service to Bongo started 44 years ago in 1973, as per our Drak Wala Mr. Ram Bahadur Khati who is now 65 years old and lives in Darla with his wife. The Post Master of the then Post Office located in Darla was Mr. P.B Pradhan. There were two Drak Walas at that time. Our Drak Wala Mr. Ram Bahadur had to go to Sinchula on Tuesday and to Bongo on Thursday of every week. For his services, his monthly salary was Nu. 180. He worked with Bhutan Post in total of 41 years!
To walk to Bongo, it took our Drak Wala over six hours from Darla. Around 1:00 PM he reached Bongo. The route taken by him is from Arekha-Meritsemo-Bongo and then back to Darla. But most of the time, he had to halt nights at Meritsemo. On his walking journey, he also hands mails on the way. Ap Draw in Arekha collected post mails for people of Arekha and Shinchekha. At Meritsemo, he handed mails to Miser Ap of that time Ap Phub Dorji. Late Ap Joogo collected mails for Jungley village. In Bongo Primary School, all mails heading to Zamsa, Phasuma, Ketokha, Damji and Baikuenza were handed over. Can you imagine how difficult and how long it would have taken for the people of Baikuenza to get their letters?
From year 1998, when the road to Bongo was connected through ‘Diphuna’, our Drak Wala walked from Tozhi to Phangseychen to Phokeyna to Bongo. He walked for the next two years only though, as he finally got promoted to the post of a Post Master in year 2000. He studied only class six.
The interview with Drak Wala Ram Bahadur was exhilarating and evoked nostalgia at some points. He could recount the names of all Bongops, well most of them already ‘Late’. He recollects how fun and lovely it was to walk through the villages and how much people trusted in him when he handed over the money orders in honest manner. Our people at that time could not even read numbers. How much they received from the ‘money orders’ sent by their relatives would have dependent entirely on the honesty of our Drak Wala.
More than anything, it is fortunate that we were able to trace him and also talk to him in length about his days of walking to Bongo for the 27 years. No one would have had the energy and perseverance to perform duty in such a manner. We could see that he was built for this job and all his heart and mind spoke out on the day we interviewed him about Bongo. He narrated to us about spending nights in Meritsemo, in Phasuma and even going as far as Zamsa and Baikuenza. We hope we can reunite him and invite him to Bongo once this winter. He narrated how he encountered Bear, Snake and all hostile wildlife on many legs of the journey.
For those of you who have seen our Drak Wala in his Khaki Postal Uniform walking from the Boys hostel to the Head Master’s office in Bongo Primary School, you will only feel the importance of this great man who did a great service to all Bongops, not for one, two, three or five years but all of the 27 years!
Written by: Nima Wangdi, Sherubtse Graduate (2017), from Bongo.
Interview and Photos by: Sangay Thinley