Thursday, 18 September 2014

Trip to Alma Mater – Ecstasy in travelling to Sherubtse

Conquering five passes in Dochula, Pelela, Yutogla, Thrumsengla and Korila and traversing through series of canyons and beautiful valleys, notably Rukubji and Ura takes one from Thimphu to Kanglung, the home of Sherubtse College. Early autumn scenery passing through the lush green forests coupled with crops nearing harvest nutmegs one’s all senses. Retracing one’s own footsteps took back to those youthful and compelling years in my pursuit of education. Taking the Thimphu-Mongar Highway took me back to February, 2009 when I first travelled to Thimphu all alone but with strangers. It was the command from the Office of the King’s Chamberlain for His Majesty the King would grant us the audience. In succeeding years, as necessitated by my educational aspirations, I travelled to the capital and other places where I found myself always in the company of unknown faces. However, the tales of historic fortresses of Zhonggar (in ruins today), Jakar, Trongsa and Wangdue Phodrang (under reconstruction), race of three brothers – Kurichhu, Chamkharchhu and Mangdechhhu and the mysterious Nyaladuem kept me engaged all through. The beauty of serene environment, the home for rare fauna and flora gave the life to live with. Plying the Mongar – Trashigang Highway four times a year for three years in pursuit of tertiary education gave me a vivid picture of a 12 year old boy compelled to leave his beloved parents. In quest of education, an immature boy so attached to his parents and home whose locality of 13 households was his world, have to leave for Drametse to attain his Lower Secondary Education. On the other side of the road at Kilikhar, he would find his helpless Ama with tears running over her face. In early March, 2002, on our way to Drametse, I told to Apa for us to return back home. The place happens to be Zalaphangma, loosely translated as Monkey - Shoulder between Yadi and Pahadrang. Leaving your home fueled by continuous vomiting for a person travelling by a vehicle for the first time saw no solution but want of escape. To worsen the scene, one would see your Apa in tears. However tough the departure was, the call from education was too important to decline. Today, as I travel, I not only travel in present but also in past with vision for the future. For my last trip to Sherubtse to observe the International Democracy Day, the scenario, however was different. We were eight in numbers and as interactive as it could be. On our journey to and fro, our Driver knew almost all drivers who passed by. It testifies how closely knit Bhutanese society is. Roadside peeing and shouting at vehicles passing by suggests there is ‘Outrageousness’ of Drukpa Kuenley in us but do we have that ‘Elegance’ of the Divine Madman? Chewing doma was frequent in the group, rather munching it nonchalantly, depicting the place of betel and areca in Bhutanese lives. Pubs and night clubs have gained their places among Bhutanese and it has reached far and wide. Going to bars, karaoke and clubs was relatively new to me, at least in Bhutan but it was worth trying. However, my pledge of lacto-vegetarian, non-smoker and teetotaller shall be upheld whatever may the circumstances be for I see myself as, if there is one such term called, a ‘social observer’. After observing the Day, we received blessings from Venerable Trashigang Lam Neten who was presiding the dByar gNes (sic. Buddhist practice where monks do not go out so as to refrain from committing unwholesome acts as walking would take the lives of fellow beings who are growing at this time of the year. They recite prayers and meditate in the temple for certain period of time for the benefit of all sentient beings) at Thubten Chokhorling Monastic College at Kanglung. On our way back, we offered butter lamps at Korila. Earlier today, we paid homage to Saint Guru Rinpochhe and Great Tertoen Pema Lingpa at Membar Tsho. On the other hand, a group of six males perceived inauspicious, imposed in us the fear of insecurity and uncertainty. Superstitious? However, we reached safely to Thimphu thus doing away with any suggestion that traveling in a group of ‘SIX BOYS’- males in our case is inauspicious. The blessings of Venerable Lama and our respective sKyelhas and Yuelhas brought us all safe. On the other hand, vehicles carrying corpse reminded me of the “Ultimate Moment” that we are bound for. In observing the International Democracy Day, I have heard the grievances of my young friends for lack of opportunities, have seconded the lecturers and academicians’ assertion for reforms and have listened to Leaders’ call for participation. The dilemma – how do I mediate? Upon reaching Bumthang, I discussed with Mr Kinley of ECB and Mr Jamba of RUB on my research proposal – civic education. That should help me in transiting back to students’ life and possibly train me towards becoming that Mediator.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

“You can write your own destiny” – Excerpts from Royal Address

Reiterating his trademark message, His Majesty the King addressed the graduates and audience in general during the 18th Convocation at Royal Institute of Management that, He is taking a coffee  in the beautiful mug made in Thailand, Coffee and Milk Powder both manufactured by Nestle and Sugar produced in India. Water is the only component that is the produce of Bhutan.
This article, some might see it more of a report, is solely based on my comprehension of His Majesty’s speech. I am solely liable and responsible for, should there be any misinterpretation of the Royal Address, most of which His Majesty delivered in Dzongkha.
Recognizing the graduates’ accomplishment, His Majesty acknowledged the lecturers of their dedicated service to the Country. Paying tribute to our forefathers – blessed by the Great Buddhist Master Guru Rinpochhe, built by the Great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and consolidated by the successive Monarchs, Bhutan is uniquely placed in her pursuit of peace and happiness. The unscaled mountains to the North, serene environment - the home for different species of fauna both in the East and West, and beautiful plains in the South with enough potential to have airports and easy access to India, Bhutan have huge opportunities for growth.
Although Bhutan has come by leaps and bounds since the second half of the twentieth century, “We are still the generation of Nation Builders.” From youth unemployment to rural - urban migration and subsequent rural depopulation are the concerns the Country is grappling with. While the massive increase in budget outlay from Nu. 70b in the 9th Five Year Plan (FYP) to Nu. 148b in the 10th and Nu. 213b in the 11th FYP, with major chunk of investment going into Hydropower projects reflected our growth, associated problems such as lack of expertise (human resource and technical know-how), technology and equipment gave way to problems such as rupee shortage.
Making special reference of His Majesty the Fourth King, His Majesty apprised the audience that the Fourth Druk Gyalpo from the very young age of 16 without completing his studies took the reins of the Country and ushered unprecedented reforms in all spheres of Bhutanese lives. The current generation with educational attainment ranging from University Degree to Masters and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is expected to serve the nation with dedication, commitment and fidelity guided by ethics and codes of conduct. Administration and management vis-à-vis leadership is the way forward. “You can write your own destiny”, His Majesty said.
Formulation of National Goals is envisaged as a measure to solve these concerns. Security of the Country’s Independence is crucial for landlocked country, sandwiched between two populous nations of the World – China and India. The tragic and brutal death of Forester Tashi Tsheirng of Phibsoo and similar cases of the past – cross border kidnapping is matter of great concern. Ensuring peace and unity within ourselves transcending regional, religious and socio-economic differences is vitally important for us to say, “We are Bhutanese.” Rule of Law is a cohesive force that would not only help achieve harmony but also lay robust foundation for democracy to build on. Towards that end, as much as good governance, intelligent governance is equally important, if not more. In addition, the goal of achieving self-sufficiency, a certain degree of self-sustaining economy is important though we live in globalized and interdependent world.
Narrating a story of His trip to Manas where His Majesty divided his entourage into two groups – Changaps and Chagzhumi and made them compete in boat race, His Majesty stressed that working with concern is gateway to success. In the said race held twice in two days, on the first day, two groups were made to race and the group that reaches first on the other bank was to be declared winner, while His Majesty accompanied by Gyaltsuen witnessed the race. During the race, there were shouts, arguments and quarrel and worse, both of the boats were carried away by the river. On the second day, His Majesty sent Changaps group with the warning that if Chagzhumi’s group in which His Majesty was also present, happen to get pass them, then all of them will be thrown in the river. While the warning was a joke, as His Majesty clarified, the Changaps organised and handled the race remarkably well as they were too fast to get pass  for His Majesty and the Chagzhumi’s group. The difference, His Majesty emphasized is people’s approach to life with or without concern.   
Perfect was the only superlative that I could think of His Majesty’s Address. Hope! At least half of the 400 or so audience are equally inspired for us to work with the concern at individual level in particular and national level at large for Bhutan to move forward.   

Friday, 8 August 2014

Positive outlook – the way forward

Revelation, Admission and Realization (Part I)

From a belligerent toddler to Scouser faithful, I have had exciting journey thus far. Reflecting upon hitherto experiences compel me to reveal and admit some of the wrong paths that I pursued. This realization, I perceive will go a long way to attain manhood.  
Born in the hinterland Mongar and nurtured by an illiterate parents, the road travelled was not so friendly. Rewinding memories of the past – to fetch water early in the morning before leaving for schools during Pre-Primary days, taking a day leave during hot summer days to guard corns against the marauding monkeys were burden at that point of time, but not necessarily now. It was the opportunity afforded to serve one’s Benefactor and the only Creator. Attending calls and providing lip services do not qualify one to be a son in the hours of need.
Venturing into the world of intellectuals was a tough call. In hot pursuit of broadened mind, often landed up being the victim of corporal punishment. From nettle leaves, cans and rulers on one’s fingertips to tying one’s head and making graze were some of the harshest of retributions for failing to solve some algebraic and arithmetic problems, let alone for poor handwriting. Blacklisting the teachers, turning away from them ostentatious of one being stranger at some point of time in future do not set a good teacher-student relationship. On the contrary, it was the moment to explore alternative strategies to tackle the problem at hand with tolerant and open mind for what they have bestowed to us.
Being one of the smallest and youngest amongst one’s peers, one is presented with threats as much as opportunities. Bullying and teasing are the two commonest moments one has to confront with. However, reacting with reporting to Teachers and see them getting punished, piercing with sharp pens with scars still today as vivid as ever,  hitting with gravels at ankles and see it swollen should not have been the approach. At this point of time, saying Hi and Bye, How are you to your friends do not in itself justify the spirit of friendship. Tolerance, patience and acceptance could have built the ties stronger.
The realization is too little too late, the only consolation is to admit and express one’s regret. By then, one would have already lost something precious…. (Part II to be continued…).

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Life in a ward – highs and lows of being a patient

Nothing is certain but the unforeseen emergencies. Immersed into the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2014, watched what was dubbed as the clash of the Titans between defending Champion, Spain - La Furia Roja and the losing Finalist of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Netherlands - the Orange. The match; however, was one sided as Spain were humiliated and humbled 1: 5 by the mesmerizing Dutch. It was 3:00 in the morning when I went to bed. Suddenly, I began to feel the pain at my left chest stretching up to the waist. Fever further worsened my health.
From 05: 00 Saturday, June 14 to 12:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Rethinking the processes and products of Development

The waves of development have turned the tide in Bhutan. Interpreting development as an improvisation and advancement of a certain thing, its impact has been felt in all areas, viz. politics, economy, culture and the society as a whole. From democracy to mixed economy, and the changing habits of daily lives in the areas of foods habits, dresses and expressions, forces of development have reached in all spheres and in all walks of the Bhutanese lives.   
On the political front, institution of democracy has opened up the system of the governance bringing those rulers ever closer to the ruled. Transparency and accountability have been the hallmark of the system while ensuring maximum people’s participation starting from voting to decision making. On the other hand, party politics and hunt for votes have divided communities, neighbours, friends and families on party lines thus building foes in place of fraternity.
Our economy has transformed in form as much as its size. From pastoralist economy and barter system, transactions in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) products and hospitality services testifies Bhutan’s transition. The reverse effect has come in the form of closure of household production of goods such as mustard oil, dwindling fate of cottage and small indigenous industries and local delicacies.
In the areas of culture and aesthetic expressions, the change has been significant. From constant modification of Gho and Kira to our perception and involvement in festivals and rituals, it continues to be an item of necessity result of its historical significance and accord established long before rather than feeling of an innate responsibility to be part of it. As rural setting give way to urban structure, the biggest change is seen in our architectural designs from dovetail technique and mud houses to quality tested concrete buildings. Growing popularity of night clubs in the urban centres, decreasing practices of night hunting in some rural pockets and lingua franca in the form of Dzonglish, at least among literates are some of the changes that have come about.
Telecommunication and transportation have been the biggest drivers of the development. Mobile phone connectivity, access to internet, installation of telex and postal services coupled with road and aviation connectivity have sped up the delivery of goods and services both within and outside the country. The olden day practices of messenger and luggage carrier of the masters, and the practice of potter and ponies is also declining except in some remote parts of the country. Television in particular, through news, entertainment programs and advertisements has brought the globe ever closer. One immediate effect we see is, our kids are ever attentive to cartoon series and play stations while folktales of ageing grandparents go unrecorded.   
Our consumption pattern over the last decade has seen significant shift. From fast foods to fizzy drinks, rice and ema datshi (Chili and Cheese) propelled by inflows of rice and curry cookers, ladles and water boilers, the place of flours of barley, wheat and buckwheat, pots, zaru and zencha is almost non-existent in rural households, let alone in urban Bhutan. The ripple effect it has brought about is declining role of our smiths and artisans. Ever convenient plastics have dislodged the role of fig and banana leaves, once commonly used for rolling butter and cheeses. In the same vein, hot cases, flask, plates and mugs did for bangchung, torey and locally made wooden cups.
Much has been changed in the spheres of games and sports. While the archery continues to be the dominant game, partly due to it being the national game of the country, the zest for football is on the rise, particularly among the urban dwellers and those coming through the modern education school system. Other games that have found its place among the Bhutanese includes, basketball, badminton, tennis, volleyball, carom, snooker and playing cards. On the other hand, games such as khuru, doegor, soksum, jigdum and pungdo (shotput) with exception to the khuru are left on the fringes. Archery also has undergone considerable changes in the form of compound bows and arrows.
Introduction of modern education system has brought about changes in societal views and ideologies. Individualism, capitalism and feminism has all established their roots in the country. Individualism and capitalism has implanted in every individual the belief and confidence in oneself vis-à-vis entrepreneurial instincts. Inquisitive mind furthered by drive for profit making, has encouraged rural illiterates venturing into Hazelnut plantations. Assertion for equal rights have seen women come forward in all spheres from academia, diplomacy, and politics to sports. On the other side, individualism, possibly has delinked ties from families, neighbours and communities as evidenced by unattended elderlies in Bus stations and Hospitals and those street beggars.
From schools, hospitals and Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) centres in far flung rural areas to well-maintained cowsheds, toilet and dustbin put in place in hamlets, the transformation has been unprecedented. This has contributed in increased life expectancy and literacy rates, improved living standards and ensured quality life. However, with the growth of urban centres accompanied by the forces of development, social evils in the form of pollution, unemployment, migration and rural depopulation, the phenomenon best described as Goongtong, are on the upward spiral.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Teachers – the unrivalled heroes

Nurtured in the hinterland Bynangri, an untamed and isolated mind if unattended could possibly have created nuisance in the community. Enrolling in school education and timely intervention from ever committed teachers transformed my mind for better; however, not discounting values infused in me by my illiterate and humble parents. This has come about by schools put in place, curriculum in the system and teachers in the classrooms. Courtesy to our visionary Monarchs, Bhutan has grown by leaps and bounds in so short a time. From infrastructural development to emergence of newer ideologies from tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, education played significant role in transforming Bhutanese society, though not singly. Policies formulated and decisions made by our Monarchs, notably King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third in the line of Wangchuck Dynasty revolutionized internal system as well as her external policy. Hence, he is deservedly idolized as the Father of Modern Bhutan.
Delving deeper into the discipline of modernization without education forming part of it would be unfounded. Interpreting modernization as a process of refinement and improvisation, education with investigative and inquisitive outlook propels the former. To materialize this combination, effective and efficient medium is very much essential. Aside curriculum and classrooms, teacher’s role is instrumental in transforming the minds for good.  Starting from alphabet A, B, C and Ka, Kha and Ga to Civic Education, Collective Wellbeing and Dependent Origination, the road so far travelled afforded me varied and enriching experiences. In the process, I reached Nalanda to listen to teachings of Shantideva, sailed with Christopher Columbus and Vasco Da Gama, explored with Copernicus and Galileo and walked with Mahatma Gandhi and Sojourner Truth.  Through these, I got to see the wider horizon of the cosmos, compounded with differing physic, interests, faith and attributes. With your receptive, inquisitive and appreciative pedagogical instruments, today I can get along with fast evolving dynamics of our diverse community.
As the Nation comes together to pay tribute to late Majesty for steering the country on the path of modernization, observing Teachers Day reiterating his contribution in the field of education and also acknowledging the selfless service of our noble teachers,  the moment  is a perfect union. Kudos to Late Majesty and my Teachers – the unrivalled heroes, Dechen, an inept being has found his place. However, the road ahead without the guidance of you all, my beloved teachers would be unimaginable and troublesome. For me, you all have guided me safely up to here and definitely are the torch bearers as I venture farther.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Snowfall Holiday – A Reflection

It was 20 past 8 when I received a phone call from a friend of mine enquiring if it was holiday today for the snowfall for people have shared in Facebook the post of His Excellency, the Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs declaring the day, holiday.   Upon inquiring friends, it was confirmed and Bhutan Broadcasting Service’s Radio, the only broadcast media in the Country also reported the same. No sooner did these convince us of the decision than friends of mine who have already put their Ghos, took off their respective Ghos, quite enthusiastically. For certain, same might have happened to Office goers, trainees and students of Thimphu, however, the happenings in other Districts are matters of enquiry.   
As soon as I learnt that Royal Institute of Management (RIM) will remain close today, possibly after coming across the announcement from the Honourable Minister, I have to think on possibility of having presentation on Youth Initiative for Debate, Deliberation and Development (YIDDD) scheduled this afternoon. After consultation with Dodum, friends and my fellow presenters, we reached to a decision that we will present it tomorrow, Thursday, 6th March, 2014.  While our program may not have significant bearings to the community and general people alike, same might have happened to my fellow countrymen who possibly might have had appointments, works to be completed, so forth and so on that could materialize only with government, corporate and private offices delivering its routine services. A day missed, and potentially a significant part of their lives, taking into consideration that the decision was ad hoc. Is it a different dimension of the State of Emergency? Possibly not! What then?
The Bhutanese, a weekly paper, covered a story on the day being declared as ‘Public Holiday’ by the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs. While today’s snowfall was not the first of the Julian calendar in Bhutan for Thimphu experienced the first snowfall of 2014 on Saturday, January 11. Since it was during the weekend, Government has to wait for the snow to fall on one of the weekdays. So, today was the day! While ‘Public’ was mentioned, the scope of it was not defined for Civil Servants, Corporate and Private Employees in other parts of Bhutan, Bumthang for one, went to their respective offices though it also experienced the snowfall. May be it was not their first of 2014. I wonder, if people (civil servants, employees) in the Districts of Haa, Bumthang, Gasa and others get ‘Public Holiday’ during the first snowfall of the year, at least in their respective Dzongkhags. Thimphu is in Bhutan but Bhutan is not in Thimphu.   
While the history of ‘Snowfall Holiday’ is mystery to me, I see room to reflect on the decision. People in the helm, repeatedly stressed on reducing number of ‘Public Holidays’, plausibly to complete work on time and ensure service delivery to the masses, snowfall holiday may contradict its stand. Quite recently, Blessed Rainy Day (Khrues Babs) did not qualify in the lists of Public Holidays; however, it was incorporated later. Last year, Meeting of Nine Evils (Ngen pa dGu ‘Zoms) met the same fate, possibly to reduce the number of ‘Public Holidays’.   These days have place in Bhutanese history and have been part and parcel of people as an annual event but then their significance seem secondary to the first day of snowfall in a District. A day missed and a place lost, may be for greater good!