Not many know about the tiny Himalayan country, Bhutan. They may know about its two neighbouring giants, India and China but not so much of the country sandwiched in between.
Even fewer would know about the ethnic diversity of Bhutan.
Born in Jangbi by Damber S. Mongar is a fictional account of one Monpa, Sangayla’s struggle to achieve something in his life and bring about the development of his fellow people as well rather than continuing to languish in poverty.
True to its title, Born in Jangbi is set in the village Jangbi and begins with a birth. A very painful birth. One that ends in death of both the mother and the child. Birth and death commingled at the very beginning.
Instantly, we see through that pain the isolation of the village and the lack of amenities.
The mother, Aum Galemo’s, death makes her children, Sonamo and Sangayla orphans. Their father remarried and similar to the oft repeated step mother trope, even this one is not loving but rather abusive.
And thus begins the struggles of both the children. Sangayla works hard on construction sites to pay for his school so that he does not have to depend upon one of his benefactors from the Jangbi village.
Unfortunately for Sonamo, her father decided to cut off the money for her studies and she was left doing house hold chores for at her home for her father and step mother.
Slowly and gradually, we see how Sangayla progresses steadily in life first with his studies and then with a teaching job and finally becomes an important District Education Officer of Trongsa.
Through his steady success he did face other problems as well such as being separated from his sister is having problems at his work and with his wife.
The most touching aspect of the novel is reunion with his sister at one of the schools he worked in.
Born in Jangbi is a quick read that would give you a glimpse into the country along with its unique cultural aspects and even more than that, it helps you to learn more about an ethnic group you may not have heard of before.
Though the novel could have been more polished with further editing, overall it is a positive story about hard work and perseverance no matter where you come from and what your identity is.