THIMPHU - On a wide expanse of pale brown field, farmers of Lakhu, a tiny village in Punakha ready the soil for mustard plants, occasionally taking quick breaks between works to drink water or alcohol.
One among them drinks neither.
A popular character among villagers of Lakhu, Azha Rinchen, as he is fondly addressed is known for his quick-wit, complemented by his sense of humour and fine conversational skills.
In his late 40s, the scrawny man has a neat shave that plays up his lower jaws to make it jut out slightly, pulling the corners of his lips down toward them, smacking his face of a perpetual frown.
Besides his physical features and character, the other unique thing about this man is, he never drinks water.
After a tiring work in the fields, Azha Rinchen quenches his thirst with a medium-size Chinese flask of suja (butter tea with salt), which he drinks aplenty at long lengths.
He prepares a potfull (medium-sized) every day. That is his regular dose.
"I used to drink water when I was little, but then it always upset my stomach," he said, scratching off his worn out handwoven cap and rolling them between his hands with an air of respect and mild submission.
"I don't remember when I stopped drinking water all together," he said. "I never felt the thirst for it."
This attribute continues to baffle many doctors and people who come to know about him.
"He must be super human to be able to live without drinking water," a doctor said.
Another doctor requesting anonymity said suja, which Azha Rinchen consumed in substitute for water, contained salt, an antidote of hydration that does not quench thirst.
"Salt water will basically pass through a body cell and do nothing, but cause dehydration," he said.
Drinking suja, he added made a person more thirstry instead of quenching it.
"If one doesn't respond to this by drinking pure water, the body could undergo damaging results," he said. "It'll start drawing water from other places like blood."
A nutritionist said water was crucial for proper functioning of body organs, as a transporter of nutrients within the body and also to regulate body temperature.
"Not drinking water and substituting it with other liquids could stress out vital organs like kidney and liver," he said. "This could result in their failures."
One doctor, however, disagreed with what his colleagues had to say.
He said drinking suja could substitute water.
"Body tissues directly absord fat and salt before it passes on to organs like kidney and liver," he said.
Besides, he said vegetables and fruits contained huge amounts of water, which was sufficient.
Azha Rinchen said he did not remember how many times a week he ate vegetables and fruits were a treat.
What the doctors said mean nothing for Azha Rinchen, who dreads drinking water.
Narrating his experience, Azha Rinchen said during a harvest season, he had forgotten to bring along his flask of suja and with his home located a little far away, rushed to the nearest shop.
"I bought myself a bottle of Coke," he said.
For Azha Rinchen water is not an option at all.
"Many people advise that I drink water and list many benefits of it to convice me, but I never listened," Azha Rinchen said. "Even without drinking water I look as good, or rough as any other villager and I can do what they can."