Tsagay Nima: A gardener par excellence

In an age when employment is hard to come by, Nima Dorji, 87, known as Tsagay Nima because of his speech and hearing impairment, is earning his own livelihood and is an independent, industrious man.

Nima Dorji who lives with his half-sister, Aum Pem, 85, in their two-storied traditional house in town is a gardener who is expert enough to give some lessons on farming.

Nima never got married because of his disability but his sister looks after him and takes care of his needs.

He does other chores like digging and chopping of woods as well.

Aum Pem said that he puts his heart and soul into every task assigned to him. However, he has flexible timings: his work starts from 8am in summer and 9:30am in winter.

Aum Pem has been his caretaker since their mother’s demise but later on, he started working on his own. People often gift him clothes. Sometimes, expats hire him and reward him handsomely.

However, Nima’s worst nightmares are the times he gets sick and is admitted in the hospital for months. He rarely gets any visitors therefore Aum Pem has to take care of him despite her own frailty and age.

But when he does work, Nima earns Nu 300- 400 per day.

Nima is a man of integrity and honesty because despite his struggles he has never begged or cheated for a living. Given the opportunity, he does not waste even half a day. Unless he is bedridden, he never stays home.  He believes in the joy of independence and engagement.

Aum Pem sometimes fears that people may take advantage of his disability. “I fear people may not be paying half of what he should be earning.”

Her other fear is that he might run into an accident with vehicles.

Nima is fond of eating delicious food and often with his earnings buys meat and groceries. He cooks on his own as well.

An employer, Tshering Dema, said that Nima is now an integral part of her household since he has been tending to her garden for four decades now. “Though he is old and disabled, he carries out chores efficiently.”

The only thing that Nima is worried about right now is that with buildings cropping up everywhere, the number of people cultivating gardens is dwindling.

Another one of his hirers said that the present generation of youth can glean lessons from Nima’s diligence and perseverance.

As he walks off to work, spade in hand, he flashes a radiant smile that only a life fully-lived can produce.

Sangay Dema from Thimphu