Monday, October 19, 2015

Currency Symbol of Bhutan

In 2011, I wrote a short piece on our currency, titled Ngultrum Identity, wherein I have said that the existing symbol of our currency Ngultrum (དངུལ་ཀྲམ་) which is kept as ‘Nu’ could not be taken as our currency symbol because it could be written only in English.

Four years have passed since, but my article can be read like it was written this morning because no development has taken place. We still don’t have a symbol for Ngultrum in a real sense, though it has the ISO 4217 code since its appearance in 1974 that is BTN.

It’s fairly ok to use abbreviation like Nu in countries where English is the national language but for us we have Dzongkha, which we are proud of and using an English abbreviation seems like disregarding our own language. For that matter using a Dzongkha word can also be inconvenient as much of our written works are done in English.

Therefore, it is a conventional requirement for an independent state to have a graphical symbol to denote its national currency. It may seem like a small thing but it’s a status symbol of a nation. It’s like any other symbol that defines our identity as a nation state. It’s not something we should be taking for granted. We should not be so complacent to live with an easy Nu.

Ever since my first article on the subject I have been on a personal mission to create a symbol myself. I have played around with traditional signs, combined letters in Dzongkha, crossbred letters in Dzongkha with English and explored Ranjana script but the more I tried the more complicated my symbols became. I then realized how complex it was to create simple thing.

It was after a long gap that I resumed my mission and recently I found something I was satisfied with. I am sharing it here hoping to find people who could refine it and make it creditable enough to be submitted for consideration to The Royal Monetary Authority. And I found out that for a currency symbol to be implemented it requires the adoption of new Unicode and type formats, which means a computer geeks could help too.
Ngultrum Symbol 
I have taken the 'ངུ' from between 'དངུལ' and changed the direction of the tail a little bit to give it a sense of completeness. 



Inspiration: India got its currency symbol ₹ through an open competition in 2010. The designer D. Udaya Kumar used a combination of Devanagari letter “” (ra) and the Latin capital letter “R”.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Stepfather

(Good people in my life-II)

“Does your stepfather treat you well?”
“You should hit him on the head when he is asleep.”
“Why don’t you go and live with your ani?”

Some people in my village diligently let me know that the man in my family was not my father, and that he would treat me bad. I was only over three years old to understand anything but they made me into a suspicious little boy. It was their usual rustic way of having fun; teaching me all the tricks to challenge my stepfather.
I would happily report to them, “He is scared of me.” Because my stepfather wouldn’t hurt a fly I really thought he was rather scared of me. I wish they had taught something good, or just nothing at all, so I would have thought he was my father or at least as someone who wouldn’t hurt me. I regret having never called him apa. I didn’t even call him aku. I would call him by his name until I was much older.

His real name was Phub Tshewang, which only our grandmother fancied, rest called him Aatsho. A serious infection in his childhood had left him limping. He was a natural introvert who mostly had nothing to say. But he had another dimension to him though which he was capable of expressing himself; he was a man of many skills.

He was homeschooled by his tyrant father who taught him religious scriptures, tailoring, carpentry, and the art of making torma. This set of skills made him one of the most sort-after persons in the village. Perhaps he must have been the only person in the village with such versatility, a man who was useful across all seasons.

Though his earnings kept us well fed in the village, we have had difficult times meeting my school expenses when I grew up enough to need a pair of leather shoes and sports shoes simultaneously. In village we all wore those greenish Chinese canvas shoes, which came for Nu.120, but he understood I couldn’t take those to school. One evening he returned from the town with a pair of sport shoes for me worth Nu.700. It broke my heart, because that was a lot of money in the village and I knew how hard he toiled to save so much, but those were the moment that helped me become a responsible youth. I gingerly wore the shoes for many years.

When I reached high school he started communicated with me more, more than to anybody in his entire life. One evening when he didn’t return from woods, we were so worried at home. We had even planned to go searching for him if only we knew which direction he went to because he wouldn’t tell anyone. He didn’t need company. After dark when he finally returned appearing so casual and took his place near the fire, my mother shouted at him for not informing us about the late arrival. He gave a few words explanation. After she went to bed he quietly called him and showed me his leg. He was in extreme pain. His axe slipped of a log and hit his already limping leg and left a deep gaping wound. He lost much blood. Though freaked out, I carefully nursed his wound and put him to bed and he told to keep it between us. Since then there were lots of things that were kept between just the two of us.

When I had my first girlfriend I showed him her picture and told him everything about her but he laughed at the picture and told me she looked like a sick horse because she was thin and fair. He rather had another girl on his mind for me, a huge wrestler like girl in the neighbourhood. I laughed at his choice too. We were gradually beginning to understand each other.

But he never let me or my brothers touch his tools. He didn’t pass down any of his arts to us. He never wanted us to learn his arts and live his life. He always told us that life would be easier if we rather went to school and used books as our tools. All three sons in the family grew without any of his skills, but his bigger plan worked. We all completed our schooling.

When I was in college first year he came to meet me with some stuff my mother had sent. He had sent a boy to call me behind the college building, thinking I would be embarrassed if he came limping in front of my friends. His shyness and being a loner must have been because of his disability. But I couldn’t be bothered; I took him around and show him my college. I saw pride beaming in his eyes as he scanned the Dzong-like structure of my college.

One of the first things I was going to do after I began earning was to take my stepfather for treatment and give him the comfort of walking without having to limp and wear any kind of shoes. But just one year short of my graduation he passed away. He must have suffered for a long time but he never disclosed it to my mother, if only I was around he would have told me and I would have taken him to hospital on time. He rather went to his mother’s place and died peacefully. More than ten years have passed since but I still couldn’t fully overcome his death. I live the regrets that he never truly knew how I felt about him, I had only begun to open up with him and he left. 

A few years after his death I became a stepfather myself and that’s when I found a new purpose in life and that’s when I found him again in my stepson. Over the years I realised that the best thing my stepfather taught me was the delicate art of being a good stepfather. Jigme was a much better stepson than I had ever been; he knew I was his stepfather yet called me dad. Our affection flowed naturally; stepson to stepson.

Some good people never cease to love you and guide you, not even after their death. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Surprise Gift from my Wife

My wife Kezang said she had a surprise gift for my birthday last June. Now that was a surprise in itself. It got be nervous because she wasn’t known for any kind of surprises, in fact she hated surprises.

I assumed she was going to do something romantic for once. If she woke me up on my birthday and gave me a flower then I would be surprised because that was the last thing she would do. She’s very romance shy woman, who thinks what happens in movies and books should remain there.

Anyway, my birthday came and went uneventfully, as usual, without any surprise whatsoever. I didn’t show any obvious sign of disappointment but deep down I was upset that she forgot her surprise gift. Few days passed and when she never mentioned about it I had to bring it up.

Me: Where is your ‘surprise gift’?
Kezang: I already gave you, you didn’t notice?
Me: No, is it kind of invisible?
Kezang: Sort of, it was something visible that became invisible.
Me: Come on, just say you forgot it.
Kezang: No, I gifted you your wife’s health!
Me: What do you mean?
Kezang: I quit smoking since your birthday!

Kezang has been smoking even before we met. In between she quit once for three years, from the time she was expecting our daughter till she stopped breastfeeding. But such was a smoker’s urge, only few days after she stopped breastfeeding she just restarted smoking. In three years her urge didn’t die. Those three years were the biggest sacrifice the mother in her had done for her child.
I tried everything I could to make her quit but she just couldn’t. I had blackmailed her, scared her, sweet-talked her, read articles, share inspiring pictures, showed YouTube videos, and even bought substitutes like nicotine chewing gums. She would agree to every word I said but she just couldn’t give up.

I told her that we had to grow old together and see our children grow. I even reminded her of how her skin rejuvenated and glowed when she stopped smoking for three years. I always told her that she was committing a gradual suicide and planning to leave us alone helplessly.



I couldn’t imagine a life without her and she was smoking her life away slowly each day. Soon I began to feel that if it was so much part of her I mustn’t take it away from her, though both of us knew we would have a wonderful life without smoking. She was fighting her own losing battle against it.

But just when I felt so hopeless my unromantic wife gifting me the most romantic gift ever. She has made her choice before it’s late, when the time is right, where there is still enough strength left in our age to rebuild our health. It’s been four months since she quit and now she tells me that her urge is gone completely.

It was indeed the biggest surprise gift ever and I wish this happened to all the couples that are so much in love and have the longing to grow old together. 


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