29 October 2010

Close to Heaven

Fountain at the gate
Today, the descending day of Buddha, was a nice day for family outing. Jigme had planned his day with his classmates and Samten wanted to remain in our shop. So it was just the three of us. Our best friends Ugyen and Pema joined us. We visited the new monastery in Punakha on the way to Talo. It looked impressive on TV, which pulled us there.

On reaching there I realized it was the best place I could choose on this auspicious day. Today was the day Buddha descended from heaven and for me it would be the day I ascended to heaven. What more could heaven be? The place overlooks the entire valley, right from Thinleygang on west to Khuruthang and Punakha towards north through Wangdue down below to south. I wish I could just sit there watching the sun rise and set over the valleys.

Golden serto of the Jangchub Chorten
Apart from the spellbinding view the monastery itself is one masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture I ever saw. Every pillar has art carved on it, the doors have more of them and wall paintings are just stunning. Even floor didn’t miss the designer’s touch, nor did they leave the gutter. The Jangchub chorten has the entire history of Drupthobs immortalized into statues around it. The magnificent golden statues in the main temple are housed within gigantic dragon carved alter and the state of art lighting adds soul to them.

Thousands of people rushed there today and everybody I talked to has only one word to say, “Wow”. Amidst my bliss I missed my mother so much. I always wanted to take her to Bodhgaya and today I found a better place. I called her right away and shared my excitement.

Apa and Bumo, so close to heaven
A piece of heaven has been brought here on earth by Jab Ugyen Dorji and there can’t be a better pilgrimage for your parents, that too right at home; closer, cheaper, peaceful and so close to heaven.

Khuru and Women

Women playing khuru has become a hot topic on Kuensel forum. The cultural shift has received as much praise as it’s been mocked. There are ones who appreciate the participation of women in keeping the spirit of the traditional game while others consider it gross and even ominous. There are ones who think women are finally seeing life beyond their kitchens while others think they are creating mockery of the game.

And there are a few people, including khuru players themselves, who declared (on BBS) playing khuru is a sign that women are equal to men and that they can do what men can do, which is when I started laughing and even doubting the intention.

If ladies truly enjoy playing the game then they must play. It boosts social interaction and physically fitness. It kills boredom and punctures daily frustration, and yes even let their husbands know how it feels like to be left alone on weekends and losars, ha ha ha. But if it is done to prove their equality with men then I wish to tell them how wrong they are. It is a gross misunderstanding of the principle of gender equality. In that case wearing gho instead of kira would speak louder than just torturing themselves under scorching sun playing khuru.

Woman playing khuru. Graceful?  ( From Nopkin.com)
There are a thousand ways women could justify their strength; there is no short of inspiration, motivation and right. Khuru is a wild game; throwing khuru and hitting target is one thing while screaming and dancing like crazy is another. Women are icon of beauty and grace but watching them play khuru on TV really freaked me. Khuru was a wrong choice. It’s like selling your hair to buy a comb.

Khuru: a traditional Bhutanese dart game, played usually by men.
Losar: new year day, but now it refers to any special holiday.
Gho: National dress for men
Kira: national dress for women.

26 October 2010

Biggest Fire Disaster in Bhutan- Chamkhar Fire

Bhutanese architecture is known for its lavish woodwork. Until recently even nails were shaped from wood. It is the wood that gives beauty to country’s various infrastructures. The rich forest provides easy supply of cheap timber for construction. However this very material that we pride in is the greatest weakness of our architecture.

Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. Destroyed by fire in 1950s
Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong in Paro and Singye Dzong in Mongar are chilling reminder of how vulnerable our structures are against fire. Thimphu Tashichodzong and Paro Rimpung Dzong had to be reconstructed after major fire disasters.

Every year several families are made homeless across country. In 2002 February my village lost twenty five houses to fire. I was then in Monger working in construction of Kurizampa. When I returned home, it was gone. Hundreds of years of family memories are smoked into the frozen sky. Those were the hard times in our life; sleeping in tents with icy ground underneath. My baby sister was only two days old and had to spend her tender days in the open winter air.

When I heard of the biggest fire disaster in Bumthang Chamkhar this morning it broke my heart, because I truly know the pain of being homeless at the face of approaching winter. It is sad to share that disaster has just begun for them, what follows after today will devastate many families. In building my village back we saw lots of deaths, which were the aftermath of the fire. It became impossible to get manpower and cost of material and labor shot record high. It took us over five years to get back into the warmth of our homes despite the generous help from the throne. And just when we had our home back my tired stepfather gave up on his life. Eight years on, we still have a few families hoping to get their house roofed.
Photo by Kesang Tshering, Kuensel.

With already high demand for construction labor across the country I can’t imagine how long it would take for the many victims to have their homes back. For now it is very inspiring to see how quickly government reacted in dealing with the disaster. In few years time they will have new homes but what they lost today would go on to change the course of their lives. I only wish them hope and courage to go on.

24 October 2010

3 Idiots- The movie that taught me more than my schools

If you haven’t watched 3 idiots yet you are the idiot of the century. Surprisingly nobody minds being called idiot after that movie. Everybody wants to be the 4th idiot. I am sure there won’t be anyone who didn’t watch it over three times.

3 idiots- the movie that touched my heart!

The movie must have made fortune enough to forgive me for downloading it from The Piratebay. I regret it but if I haven’t done that I would have to wait until it comes on TV. After having watched it over ten times now I feel like I have to pay for it. It has taught me more than I have ever learnt from school. I would like to say thank you to everybody who came together to make 3 idiots and enlighten the world.

I, being a student once and now a teacher, got the most out of the movie. Every character seems to have something to teach me in becoming a good learner and a better teacher.

Rancho comes to college to learn engineering for the love of doing it and not to get the certificate. He gives Millimeter money to buy a school uniform and join any school the kid likes. If he is caught ‘uniform change, school change’. Going to school is not about passing the exam, getting the certificate and going to next level and finally landing up in a job. It is about learning. Rancho himself gets kicked off from class often but he gets into another class. This is something I want my students to seriously reflect on.

My favourite scene in the movie is when Rancho was asked, “What is Machine?” Despite his excellent answer, he gets kicked out. This happens in most of our schools. But what doesn’t happen here is what Rancho does when he returns for his book. The message goes out to students who are fond of mugging up books and most of all to teachers who fail to understand the depth of students’ mind.

I cried when Farahan’s father finally asks him to return the laptop and to get himself a professional camera. Life is not about what people would say, as is in our society too, it’s about what makes you happy. Farahan says, “If I become a photographer I may earn lesser, but for the rest of my life, every day I wake up I will happy”.

Failing to understand this costs ViruS his own son. The son never appears in the movie but plays a major role in shaping the theme. He wanted to become a writer but his father forced his dream of engineering onto his son’s life and he has jumped from the train.

Joy Lobo has invented a helicopter with the camera (Now known as a drone) but ViruS declares it ‘unrealistic’ just because Lobo fails to submit the assignment on time and worse ViruS calls up Lobo’s father to tell that the boy will not graduate this year, which forces the bright boy to take his own life, leaving a message, ‘give me another chance’. That song is my favourite.  It calls for us teachers to be sensitive, tolerant, and appreciative of students’ creativity and not mere name-sake deadlines.

Telling ourselves “Aal is well” even when things are not so well does not solve the problem but worrying about it only makes it worse and gives us exaggerated pain. Raju is a victim of countless worries and therefore leaving himself with lesser energy to focus. After his suicide attempt he realizes Rancho’s ‘Aal is well’ wisdom. And his job interview shows us the magic of honesty and faith in one's self. When his two friends bring him the stolen paper, he throws it away and says, “I will pass if I can and fail if I must but do it honourably”.

“Go for excellence, success will follow you”, is the biggest message of the movie. Such abstract nouns are hard to explain, however, the movie has boldly personified the two; Rancho illustrates 'excellence' and Chature is 'success'. The movie goes on to illustrate success running after excellence at the end.

ViruS’s college is just like any school in Bhutan and the movie questions the way things are going. It questions the system, questions the teachers and parents and it even questions the students. It’s one movie all of us must watch and for those of us who have come to love the movie, it is an indication that we are heading in the right direction.

I sat for Chiphen Rigpel TOT selection test

Chiphen Rigpel is a big ICT project in Bhutan by NIIT. It has an ambitious goal of training five thousand teachers and setting up computer lab in every school across the country. Read more on this in MoE website. To kick start the project it needs to set up a core group of 50 members from among teachers. The announcement was floated on the website, which many missed- I nearly missed too if not for my brother in-law. On 12 October the list of applicants were shown on website and were called for selection exam today.

Surprisingly I was not there in the list. In fact no one is there from my school though we all filled up the form and sent. Upon inquiry we realized the our application went missing somewhere on the way. Nobody to blame. Thank god, MoE gave us (me and Mr. Kailash Shongben) the chance to sit for the test today.

Technical paper (1 hr) and Aptitude test (30 min)- it was fun doing exam on something you know quite well. Of course I don't mean the Aptitude test; it had simple questions that could fool a complex man. But I have done well.

Ask me if you wish to try out the Aptitude Test, I can publish the questions...I think it is set by NIIT.

23 October 2010

A Show for Tourists

I watched Jampa Lhakhang Drup live on BBS this morning. It has something different to offer than Tshechus and I want to watch it once.
 However, as the camera turned around to show the spectators I was surprised to see more cameras than eyes and more pants than ghos and kiras. It almost looked like some press conference of mask dancers. Whole thing only looked like a show for the tourists.

21 October 2010

Loving Jungle Book and Hating Tiger

Mowgli Riding on Bagheera (alexross.com)

Mowgli playing with Baloo (startedbyamouse.com)
Shere Khan- the hated tiger (bandofcats.com)
Tiger- almost disappearing from the wild!
I first read Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (Ladybird edition) somewhere in early 90s, when I actually couldn't read well. I enjoyed the pictures. And recently I watched the animation movie of the book with my friend's son. It was amazing. I borrowed the DVD and watched to over and over. I want to get a copy for my daughter. I can already imagine how exciting it would be for her.

She would love Mowgli, and may fantasize herself riding on Baloo or Bagheera and sleeping in the curl of Kaa. She would hate Shere Khan, the tiger and wish if Akela, Baloo and Bagheera could come together and kill the cat. I hated the tiger back then. So must be the feeling among children across the world who read the book or watched the movie.

Could it be the cause of disappearance of tiger population? Everybody was a child once, and therefore must have love The Jungle Book and hated tiger. We grew up with the feeling that tiger is a bad animal. I have forgiven Shere Khan and started loving tigers, but will tigers forgive Rudyard Kipling and his The Jungle Book?

It may not be possible to change the character in The Jungle Book but someone could write a nice book on tigers for children and let Save the Tigers publish it, and let Disney make a cartoon. If we have to start something it should be with children.

20 October 2010

B Mobile vs Tashi Cell as Dual SIM Mobile Comes in...

I was thankful to B Mobile when it first came in the market. I didn't mind paying Nu.600 for the sim card and loading Nu.300 voucher even when I didn't have enough money to buy my shoe. I even found Nu.5 per minute cheap, though I didn't appreciate it being deducted even when the line gets disconnected a few seconds later.

But it all changed when Tashi Cell came to break the B Mobile monopoly. Three months of free talk time, Sim card free and rate as low as Nu.3 per minute, which is again divided into three units. That's when I realized how cheap it could be. I instantly used Tashi Cell but problem was all my contacts used the senior service and it was not fair for them as B Mobile charged higher on calls to Tashi Cell.

The two cellular services lived along in the market for last few years and Tashi Cell couldn't gain as many users as B Mobile had since people already have a sim. Over the years both tired different strategies to market their product. And by any count Tashi Cell was generous, may be it still had to multiply its subscribers three folds to catch up with the senior rival. 

My Dual SIM Mobile using both B&T
Now with the dual sim mobile everybody is going for two sims, one of B Mobile and other Tashi Cell. And it won't take much before Tashi Cell gets equal number of subscribers as B Mobile and that's when occasional smartness could mean huge turnover.

I used Tashi Cell more when they offered Losar bonuses and these days when B Mobile's Power Voucher came in I am using B Mobile more... We have a choice now, smarter choice!

18 October 2010

Dear Students- IV : More you study Luckier you get

How was the first paper this morning?
I was on invigilation duty this morning and the three hours of silence really put me to test. Three hundred thoughts ran across my mind and three hundred bones ached in my body- how many bones are there in our body actually? Doesn’t matter, because every bone ached.
Luckily my chair had cushion on it and I had the freedom to move around and out. I was given tea and biscuit. But I was worried about you. If you have undergone the physical training I prescribed earlier, it would have helped. Did it?
Many of you had running nose; not that I saw your nose running over the table but I heard and felt your utter discomfort as you rubbed your nose between the words. It is not because of cold as you might assume, rather because of the unusual physical and mental stress. You can call it exam-flu. If your body is used to such stress on regular basis the problem would disappear itself. This is where your physical preparation comes handy. I bet you won’t have the nose problem by the time you do your last two papers, and that’s because your body gets tuned finally.
One girl grew restless in my hall and I was worried she might be up to something. Halfway through she handed me her finished paper. By rule nobody can leave until the last half an hour of the exam time. She was however desperately in need of toilet. It is a big funny problem. Everybody laughed. Lucky for her that it happened during the trial exam otherwise it could compromise the quality of all her answers. It can happen to anybody and taking care of your body especially during the exam should be considered important. Keep yourself warm, do not eat unusual food, don’t overeat, don’t under-eat even, and do your businesses with toilet before you enter the hall.
I have my best wishes for you and want to wish you all the luck in the world. But as far as I have known exam it always occurred to me that the more I studies luckier I got.  If you didn’t study anything at all even luck will be helpless. Same is the case with visiting lhakhang and offering butter lamp before your exam, no matter how many kgs of dalda you offered finally what matters is how much you studied. You can’t bribe god it write exam for you.
Your trial is a scale that measures your readiness for the final exam and I hope you will put in your best to get the correct reading, which will motivate your additional preparation for the board exam.

16 October 2010

Business Bhutan?

My friend Ngwang (link to his Business Bhutan profile) writes often for Business Bhutan and he would ask me if I read his stories. But the sad story is that I could never get the paper in Wangdue. I was looking for it since last year when I heard that they have published my article "Freestyle Dance and Bhutanese kids". They didn't ask for permission and I didn't mind even but I wanted to read that paper, especially Ngwang's stories.

Ngwang was in Thimphu a few days ago and visited Business Bhutan office. Though it was his first meeting with the people there he was very happy about their impression about him through his contributions. He took my frustration of not getting the paper to their notice, to which he was told that there is an outlet in Wangdue.

I knew it was the shop which sold the other papers and went straight there. The shop had all the papers except the one I wanted. I bought a copy each of Kuensel, Bhutan Observer, Bhutan Today and Bhutan Times and dared to ask the harsh lady if she sells Business Bhutan. Without even looking at me she announced,
"Business Bhutan?? There is no such paper". As if don't know!
Then I asked, "Is there any other shop that sells papers?"
A costumer quickly answered for her, "this is the only shop that sells all the papers."
Then the shop lady added, "Did you mean 'Business'? I think you are talking about that yellow headed paper, it's not 'Business Bhutan', it is Business".
Then I knew she never saw the small "bhutan" under the big "business". Well whatever, "do you sell that 'business' ?"
She said, "you will never get one because I get only 10 copies and they are all subscribed."

The small 'bhutan' under big 'business'
Today I went to the same shop to buy BMobile's power voucher; unfortunate though but she happens to be the seller for that too and even magazines. She didn't have that but to my surprise I found a Business Bhutan paper on the shelf. I quickly took one. My god, it is the 56th issue and so far this is my first buy. I don't know how it is available today! After I paid her off I couldn't help pointing at the small 'bhutan' to her. She didn't seem happy about that though I enlightened her...

P:S: I couldn't find The Journalist in Wangdue either.

13 October 2010

A Casual shot that served a purpose

I drove my wife and mother to Sunday Market, and unlike other Sundays I didn't have to accompany my wife through the crowd since she had my mother, so after I found a parking space I went out with camera to shoot Wangdue in morning sun. A group of western tourists soon joined me with their cameras, only one of them had a little better than mine. It was a great location to catch the Dzong and the bridge towards south and upon facing north we get clear view of the Bajo town and my school.

Western tourists. Look at the man on the left, he has the Camera I envied!

It was a long wait. I already finished shooting in all four directions.By then the tourists left. Then I sat there and took close-ups of anything that came into my view. I shot two varieties of flowering plants, they didn't come out well. I shot the maddening crowd in the market with full zoom and previewed it to see if I can recognize anybody- yes I knew most of them. I enjoyed shooting behind the bush scenes, every now and then a persons runs behind the bush and hurries their clothes off to give way to nature's call. Only then I realized there is no toilet constructed anywhere around the vegetable market.

I got back in the car and started deleting the pictures which weren't good, and which were just taken for nothing, like those behind-the-bush scenes. I don't know how I missed out deleting the flowering plants, my friend Ugyen Tshering upon see them later in the evening exclaimed,
 "Where did you click this pictures?"
"Why? it's above the vegetable market"
"Good, good, good, let's get it. This is the plant class XII are going to do Biology practical exam on."

The Flower that was needed- I don't know the name even!

For last three years I joined him in his specimen collection and I still remain his savior. It could have taken him days to locate the plant. He was grateful and I was happy too.

10 October 2010

When Kids are made to Fight

I was supposed to photograph the fight actions but I rather found the expressions more charming. I was laughing most of the time and missed many good expressions. To save space I have photoshopped the four pictures into one:

Amused, Anxious, Hurt and Shy- all too honest!
Memories from Drukgyel

It reminded me of my silver medal in Drukgyel High School back in 2002. I was then 72 kg heavy, which put me up with a tall red belt guy Karma Tenzin. I requested him early on not to knock me out and not to hit me hard. I wasn't even white belt. During my trainings I was put far behind because I wasn't so pleasing to the master, whose sharchopka I didn't understand. Thanks to Jakie Chan, I had picked up some kicks from his movies.

During those longest two minutes of my life I was running around the ring. Karma was kind enough to spare my head until I used one of Jakie Chan's kicks to push him down. I quickly regretted it but by then he was upset and I had to pick my helmet from the ground. I lost the match to win the silver medal because there were just two of us in our weight category.

09 October 2010


This is my first time trying my hand on Macro Lens. I got some self satisfaction but I know they have nothing special in them. I took care of a few aspect of photography, like positioning at the side, but despite my long chase I couldn't get the butterfly rest in the shade.
It's hard to believe that this little creature will soon become a butterfly

A flower near my lab

Face of a flower

Another guest on flower

butterfly with torn wings

amazing colors on a butterfly wings

08 October 2010

Something More Serious than the Decorated Case of Rape

Tashi Dema's "A romance gone wrong" in Kuensel today digs into a love story which was decorated into rape, and it landed up exposing something beyond rape to worry about. The court had all the time and reason to interfere into a consensual relationship,yet I don't know (seriously don't know) if it was not the Law's responsibility to concern about why the girl's parents denounced their marriage. 

Bhutan has long done away with caste discrimination but it prevails subtly across the country and I am concerned that there is no known measures taken to combat it. This time it came right at the doors of Tsirang court, yet it goes unattended. Don't we have law that cares for such serious social ill?

I have very limited knowledge on this social division called caste and it will be the last thing I would want to know. It seems to be totally based on traditional beliefs; the beliefs that are deep rooted in age of darkness and ignorance. How could god discriminate his own creations? It was men who drew those dark lines between brothers- men who said widows have to be burnt alive with their dead husbands.

The girl's family has conducted the final rites for the girl, accepting her as dead just because she eloped with her low caste lover. For social pride one could go that far to give up ones own child. However the boy's parents, despite the bitter experiences, has housed the girl and I am wondering who is of bigger caste in the eye of god.

All these traditional dirt lingers in the minds of uneducated folks and it is only matter of time until it becomes part of history. Parents can no more pour their poison into their educated children because they have wiser minds.

06 October 2010

Dear students III

When you feel the cold in morning hours, see the greenery fading away and leafs falling from tree what comes to your mind? Don't be philosophical and tell me it reminds you of impermanence of life. As winter sets in you should be better worrying about examination. It is unfair though that an exam decides your course of life but fairer part is that you have the power to choose how you write your exam. Destiny is not written in one day; it is drafted and edited according to choices you make day after day.

Writing your exam is closest to writing your destiny and therefore there is need for serious considerations. Of
course I see a lot of you getting busier by the day but I am concerned still of some important aspects which we take for granted. As a student myself, I would spend enough time on studying the content and I would gamble with certain chapters' probability of coming in exam having read through many past question papers. By the time I set foot on the threshold of exam hall I would be fully ready. But I never really came out with good score. And you see, it doesn't matter how well you know, at the end of the day what counts is how well you scored.

Now the question is what went wrong in my preparation? After this many years I have found the answer. All the while I forgot to physically prepare myself. I realized that until exam time I have never sat in one fixed place for over an hour, I haven't written more than two pages in one go, and I haven't spend hours thinking hard, not ever until exam. No matter how much you know, as you keep sitting for longer duration than you ever did your body denies you proper functioning, then you start losing focus. Your fingers were never used to writing for three hours and therefore even your fingers ask for excuses. And most importantly, your attention level fades away after sometime and you can hardly recall what you know. This is how you come out of exam hall defeated.

I remember telling you in assembly about this thing right in the beginning of the year, and I am hoping you are
doing your regular physical training for your exam. Weekends are the best times, please give yourself three
hours of non-stop sitting and writing, without toilet, water, music, mobile and friends. If you haven't started
yet, you are not late.

I can't assure you great marks because it will also depend on how much you studies but I can at least guarantee that you can bring out everything that you have inside. I am not sad about things I didn't know but about things I knew, which remained unexpressed.
Best wishes

04 October 2010

Dear Students... I studied in Dawakha

Have you heard of Dawakha Pry School? It is in Paro by geography but it could be easily misunderstood for a place in Ha because it falls between Chunzom and Ha. It was a great location for a war movie or horror movie but people chose to construct a school there. Worse, my guardians sent me there. Much later in life I realized that I was sent there on punishment. What was my crime? It is sad to share with you that my crime was nothing more than occupying space in the room and emptying pots in the kitchen. I was rustic, ugly and born to poor mother but I have never demanded for new clothes, not for food my cousins had or for a brighter room than the store I was put in. yes, I confess I hated cleaning their pets shit every time I came home. I was eight yet washed my own clothes and bought my own shoes from money I saved in beer bottles. I washed dishes for them carried water from the well. I still remember how heavy that well bucket was. I didn't deserve to be sent to Dawakha.
As if I didn't have enough already Dawakha was full of hateful people. Captains didn't have to have reason to make us naked and peel our skin, the head master would tie us naked on the volleyball post where the girl could see, and teachers were very choosy about the sticks they use. I don't remember a day I didn't cry in Dawakha. Headmaster was so fond of using WFP supplied Oak hammer to knock us down- it only takes a few minutes to regain consciousness but it takes days to heal the swell, of course it never healed until I passed out from there because before the first one could subside we would be blessed with next. Of all the people there I remember Lopen Dawa fondly for being kind enough to use flat planks which gave louder sound than pain. In his eyes I saw mercy.
Today when I remember the hostel I can only relate it to Nazi Concentration Camp. Thirty students were squeezed into a room, where our beds are made on muddy floor. There were lice on every fiber of our cloth and smell of urine even in our plates. But my biggest pain was hunger. School had WFP supply but I don't know why they couldn't feed us enough, I would be dead if not for the peaches and apples we had in stock from our labor during the weekends. Headmaster's chickens had better amount than us. There were times we were fed only ata boiled in water and worse two small potatoes per meal.
That was the school I studied in and when I look at you today I find no reason why you can't study. You are lucky, the only person who can cause you pain is you. Be kind to yourself and gift yourself a good life.
Your lovingly