Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Memories of Playing Degor

The first game I was introduced to as a child growing in dusty playground of Yangthang was degor. The game needed just a pair of disc-shaped stones and a bunch of friends. In 90s it was a luxury to play any other game that required any equipment. It took a strong string to make a working bow and a sharp metal to make a arrowhead, both of which were hard in find in the village those days. Therefore, degor remain the most popular pastime.
Now when go home I don’t see anyone playing degor. In fact the huge craters we created on either end of the degor range over many years have disappeared, without leaving any trace of so much memories. Now the elders have shifted to fancy modern archery and young ones are on mobile phone games. Degor has become a game from stone age for them.













However, this seemingly outdated team game actually may be the ancestor of all the other indigenous games that emerged over the years, be it khuru or archery. With the history of centuries of monastic influence and dominance, the game that monks predominantly played could be traced back as the first of its kind, if proper research could be carried out.
Degor was the only form of entertainment that wasn’t forbidden in the monastic institution in the past. Monks could be seen playing it outside their Dzong or dratshangs. We have heard of incidences of monks getting punished or even expelled for engaging in game of archery, which is forbidden for monks. This prohibition, though not vividly written anywhere could be because of the contradiction between the nature of the game and the basic Buddhist conducts. Archery, unlike degor, is a lavish game that involves possession of bow and arrows, colorful flags and women dancers. Degor on the other hand is just a pair of rocks, which is why monks were confined to playing just degor.
The pair of rocks is but not as ordinary as one would assume, I remember scouting by the riverside for hours looking for the best pair of degors, while we could see the elders crafting out their pair from a large chunk of rock and carefully chipping it over hours at end. Each piece was so unique that we could identify the owner.

After the game, everyone left their degors in the playground, while some would find a safer place to hide theirs. No one would touch someone else’s degor, though some close friends would switch at times.

The most exciting part in the game of degor is the drama and suspense of scoring. The degor that has land on the target can be knocked off any moment by an opponent or at times accidentally by a team mate. Therefore, we would keep those sharpshooters with bigger degor toward the end to do that job. Similarly, a degor that’s nowhere close to the target can be pushed in onto the target, often accidentally. So the drama is intense until the last of degor has landed. 

Then the suspense of scoring begins. Because the target that’s a wooden peg nailed into the ground and is not visible, we can’t say whose has scored when there are more than one degor around the target. We have to hold on to our celebration until each degor is scrutinized by the two team leaders. We use indigenous measurement system of tho (Stretch between the tip of thumb to the tip of middle finger) and sow (breadth of a finger) to negotiate scores. Any degor within a tho range will score a point unless countered by an opponent’s degor that’s closer. There would be another round for drama while negotiating point, especially if we have someone who could cheat smartly by kicking away opponents’ degor or kicking in a teammates’ degor in a blink of an eye.

The excitement, drama, and all the noises have faded away with time, the playground looks desolate with haunting silence. We don’t even see monks playing degor anymore. The glamour of modern games have outshined the simple game of two stones.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Two Precious Years to Mature- by Removing Class X Cutoff Point

(Re-sharing my facebook post made on Feb 4, 2019) 


Unlike in the past, class X graduates are now barely 14-16 years old. When such young teenagers don’t qualify to study in class XI and if their family can’t afford them private school education then they have to go out trying to make a living on their own. 

They are not yet ready to make good decisions for themselves, and they are not physically ready for laborious jobs or worse for marriage. But once out of the school, they are on their own and vulnerable to all sorts of social ills and abuses. We all know that.

Government allowing them to stay two more years in the school, by sending to to class XI, is a blessing of two precious years to grow, mature and become more ready to face the world. 

There are many examples of people who went to private schools after X because of their bad results, and had their awakening in the two years, thereafter acing their class XII exam and doing so well in life now. Therefore, these two precious years are vital in allowing children to grow from child to young adult. Not everyone will make the best of it but what’s important is the opportunity that must be there. 

Talking about the whole cost of giving scholarship to thousands of otherwise disqualified candicdates, we must remember that it’s a priceless investment in our national Human Resources Development. Of course, like Tenzing Lamsang suggested, we could reduce pressure on the cost by giving it just to the needy one. But at the end everything will be worth it.

Constitutional or Not, In my opinion, without trying to play with legal words (which I don’t know), if Constitution could speak it would say, “I’m so happy that you did more than what I thought would be possible.”

Simple example could be that of our forest cover, we are required to keep 60% of our country under forest covered, but having 71% is not unconstitutional. It’s rather a pride. So is the move to give free education till XII.

Some are questioning what this move would do to the quality of education. Well, rethink equality of education. What schools and teachers can do to transform these children into good human beings (without caring about their exam marks) will determine the quality of education. We often mess up in thinking that the exam marks determine the quality of a human begin. We must stop that.

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