31 August 2011

Battle of Wangdiphodrang

By tomorrow morning Gangthangkha town in Wangdue will be a history- or so is expected to be. Today is the deadline for the town to shift to Bajothang. In last twenty nine years the town has grown from amazon of cactus to city of matchboxes. Many were born in the tiny hurts and have become adults now. But it was clear from the beginning of history that Gangthangkha was never meant to be a permanent town. Bajothang was destined to be the place where everybody will move to one day, though it came way too late. The time has come yet again, after the failed deadline of 31st December 2010, to leave the slum like homes into the concrete jungle of Bajothang.
Unlike homes in Gangthangkha, Bajothang has homes with multiple rooms, so your no more have to share room with your parents after your marriage. Ceiling of the rooms are high enough for the fan to spare your head. There are at least two toilets in one apartment, so you no more have to take public bath or wait till the night falls to release yourself in the bushes. Literally Bajothang means luxury to people who lived in Gangthangkha.
Gangthangkha as seen this morning. The last day!
As busy as always, but it will never be the same again.

However, not many people want to leave the dusty town yet for reasons of their own, and on the contrary there are many who don't want them to resist beyond tonight. Thus the battle of Wangdiphodrang begins:
There are four groups of people who resist the deadline:
  1. People who are yet to get plot in Bajothang. They want to wait until their plots are given and until they finish their building.
  2. People who got plots in the first round but didn't finish constructions yet. They wish to stay until their buildings are ready. They are not ready even after the deadline was extended for 8 more months.
  3. People who own shops or are tenants in Gangthangkha but are not eligible for plots. They didn't get space in Bajothang to live or operate their business. 
  4. People who got plots and finished constructions also but because their business is running well in Gangthangkha they don't want to shift yet.
There are rumors that a group of people went to Thimphu to ask for yet another extension on the already extended deadline but was denied. Tomorrow we will see what they will do to get what they want.
But on the other side of the same town there are two groups of people along with the government who insist on the deadline:
  1. People who have already shifted into their new building. Because the business is not good yet the tenants are not willing to pay good rent, which leads to difficulty in repayment in housing loan. Some seemed to have threatened that if the deadline is not followed the dwellers of Gangthangkha must bear burden of housing loan.
  2. People who are operating business in Bajothang. Because of the Gangthangkha, business in Bajothang is unsustainable which is why these group also strongly insist on the deadline.
The insistent group has the backing of the government, who had fixed the deadline in consultation and agreement with the people of all sides. However, the resistant group is questioning the readiness of Bajothang to accommodate and deliver needful service to the whole population. 

Whatever happens after today, it should be accepted that the decision to embrace the change was fairly democratic though it still leaves many unhappy. There cannot be a road without a pothole, not at all on the road to Bajothang, after years of controversy.

30 August 2011

Selling Books in Wangdue- Nothing business about it!

If selling books were as easy as selling beer I wouldn't have chosen to sell Yeewong Magazine and Student Digest in Wangdue. And I am ready to accept any proposal to sell Bhutanese books here. I am a busy teacher and also forbidden to do business but I am a literature lover more and there is nothing business in what I am doing.
Student Digest on Sale!
Bajo town though merely born yet, has over 50 shops selling alcohol. If you don't find a bar in every next building, you win a lunch from me at Hotel Phuensum- well they sell alcohol too. On the contrary, if you find one shop that sells books in Bajo Town I bet you a copy each of Yeewong and Sutdent Digest. I am already sorry!
The adventure of selling books is something like the journey to Mt Everest- hardly possible. People have lots of excuses when it comes to buying books but I have way around each excuse. It is irritating, humiliating, saddening, and less often exciting. Many talk straight about my commission, that which but goes in travelling around and I don't mind forgoing it as long as I can spread the books in every corner of Wangdue Dzongkhag. I want to do business which gives me more satisfaction than money.

My wife runs a shop that entertains children with Play station games, computer games and internet. We chose to do this business even after known that our costumers are the generation with no money in their hand. While the whole town is madly busy intoxicating adults and drawing huge cash we are patiently enlightening children and exciting them on their crumbled changes. There is nothing business about this either.
Two magazines have already made it to our shelf and we are willing to accept more as long as it goes on to educate a child- anything for youth. If parents don't want their children to swim in rivers, get into fights, do drugs, drink alcohol,... put some cash in their hand and bring them to KPS- buy them books, let them Google, and let them see what it feels like to be Ben 10, after all a Students Digest cost less then a bottle of beer, and if your sacrifice another bottle your child can enjoy hours of gaming and surfing!

29 August 2011

What is Ugly about Bajo Town?

When I first read Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay's article on Bajothang Town being Ugly I didn't believe. I wanted to counter blog immediately but as I sat down I realized I had misplace my point of justification. I looked back at the town and asked myself why I always thought the town was so beautiful. And it occurred to me then that it was my mere attachment to the town that made me like it- I have seen the town grow from deserted ground to countless structures. The other reason why I found the town beautiful was because I found the old town frustrating. The old slum-like town, which people are not letting go, misrepresent the social life in Bhutan.
I may not fully comprehend the reason why Tshering Tobgay found the town ugly, but why I finally agree with him is the restriction imposed on design of structure- all building are constructed on a single drawing. There wasn't freedom to chose what type of structure the owners wanted. There is no variety to watch for except the colors, and some colors are outrageous. The road network may look very good but the width of the road will cause lots of traffic congestion once there are open. I didn't see parking spaces for the residences and don't think the road can adjust.
And the ugliest of all is the never ending controversy that has become the part and history of the town, but since I am not involved I am loving the town and enjoying the war. Come September, let see where the war goes.

26 August 2011

Oil and Canvas for Royal Wedding

There are million things happening at a time in Bhutan for the celebration of Royal Wedding and I am involved in half a million of them- at least I like to be. I am chasing deadline after deadline, personal to official, and moving out of my comfort zone in making the occasion something I can cherish forever as my personal achievement.
I am being approached by two groups of students to help them record their song, direct their MTV, Edit the Video and send it to BMF for the Book of Congratulations. They won't believe when I say I can't and therefore I am into it. I promised them that even if their MTV doesn't make it for the book it will go to Youtube. Then there are poets who want me to edit their poems, type it and send. On the other hand I am collecting pictures from students for the Bhutan Observer collage creation.
I am advising our school carpenter on the engineering of a giant structure he is building for the royal wedding dance, helping Dzongkhag in writing felicitation message to be published in Newspapers, assisting school administration in coming up with ideas to celebrate in our own school... I have copies of all the letters addressed to school for the celebration and I am celebrating it already.

Far in the corner of storeroom, my colleague Hemlal Pokhrel is doing his magic on Canvas. He is the artistic branch of our school and for the last few days he has set up his studio in the desolate room. He is doing a larger then life portrait of the royal couple to be used as the central piece during the celebration in Punakha. I visit him often in his studio to appreciate his work and push him ahead.

Hemlal going larger than life

I haven't yet thought of what I and my family would do to celebrate the auspicious wedding...

Good bye Gaddafi

The infamous Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi may so much look like Kadhar Khan of Bollywood but the damn man has the rotten guts of Hitler. I don't know how he loved his people for the last 42 years, but since February this year I have seen how he hates them. This one year has shown how he ruled his country for the last 42 years. And even as he runs for his life he triggers war among his people and promote terrorism.
I am not a sadist but these days I am so much excited to see the old man die. As the opposition force takes control of Tripoli I wish him Hitler's death, I wish him Saddam Husain's death, I wish him Bin Laden's Death... I wish freedom for the people of Libya.
It's just matter of days until we see the dramatic end of the  four decades of dictatorship, so I want to bid farewell to Col. Gaddafi, good bye old man, you are unwanted in this world!

19 August 2011

Jigme's Surprise Morning Speech

On the morning of 18 August it was Jigme's turn to give speech in the assembly and coincidentally I was the teacher on duty. I saw him excited about it for a few days. He told me that he was supposed to speak on a great personality, therefore he wanted to talk about Albert Einstein. I prepared a small note on Einstein to supplement his speech as any duty teacher would do. And as he spoke it took me by surprise:
Jigme loves football: Jersey No.17

"The great personality I am going to speak about today is someone who brings changes in everyone’s life, especially to my life. He is charming. He is tall and he is funny. He has not won any Oscars nor has he built any great structure but what he has done to my life far surpasses the legend of Albert Einstein or arts of Picasso. He didn’t invent the telephone, he wasn’t the man who landed on the moon, and he didn’t even act in any movie yet... He has simply touched hearts and made differences in lives. For me he has brought a light in my life and has given me the reason to be happy. His words are pure and simple and he is the best person I or you will ever encounter in life. He will walk into your life and walk you out of your sorrows forever.
He is my Google for he has answers to my entire questions; He is my Facebook for he connects me to the world. No one can fully understand the effect of this man than I who lives in his reliance.  He is the man I look up to as my role model, my icon and my idol. And he is none other than my dad, our teacher and your friend Mr. Passang Tshering." 
As he finished it was my turn to supplement his speech, and my note on Einstein won't work. I grabbed the mic and didn't really know how to begin for a long time. I could feel an emotional knot tightening somewhere inside my chest. With my voice lilting I began finally:

The great personality my son is speaking about is me. He told me he was going to speak about Albert Einstein and I am surprised that he chose me over Einstein. Many of you already know, and for those who don't know, Jigme is my step son (avoid the "step" when you say). But two of us share many things in common and thus we have build a relationship which stands the test of time.
There are many of us who perceive Divorce as something very negative but Jigme accepted it. Many blame their parents for breaking the family and try to take ruthless revenge but Jigme didn't do that. Ever since our time, children from broken families use their family problem as license to be naughty but one thing you must understand is that it wasn't easy for your parents to go separate ways either, but when things don't work well between the two there is hardly any option left. It isn't about a day or two, marriages are for life time and no one would want to waste this one life in an unhappy relationship. Jigme accepted the truth and accepted me into his life and it should be a message to everyone who share similar fate to respect your parents' decision and give them their rights to happiness. And because of our very special relation we make up a very happy family and I wish happiness to all of you.
And Jigme, thank you for speaking about me, I know how you feel about me even if you hadn't spoken.
I had so many thing I wanted to share about me and Jigme but I had to keep note of the time as well.

P:S: Jigme and I have always thought of each other as our own and I don't appreciate when people address me as his step father or him as my step son.  

17 August 2011


The only thing I know about butterfly is that it comes from Caterpillar- I don't know their names, I don't know their family, I can't even say if it's a butterfly or a moth but I still love photographing them. I wish to learn about them.
The story of Monarch Butterfly on National Geographic amazed and inspired me to take a closer look at this beautiful insect.
This is my fourth post on Butterfly and interestingly my Butterfly-II fetched me huge number of hits from search engines. But I know it must have disappointed the readers since I didn't have anything worth in there. So each time I put up a new butterfly post I am thinking harder and defining what I want out of this modest interest in photographing Butterfly.

Here are links to my older Butterfly posts:

15 August 2011

The Joker Becomes Druk Superstar 2011

Don't get me wrong by the title of the post, I mean literally the joker of the show won the title. My choice didn't win but Lakey was my second choice among the top five. Something striking about Lakey was the promise he repeatedly made that he won't just disappear after winning, he would continue to entertain people like he has been doing so far. That message goes out to the winners of earlier shows, who didn't consider it important to be accountable to the society after they needed votes no more.
Personally I love listening to Minzung, Karma Phuntsho and Dechen Zam when they sing and it is Lakey who captivates me once his singing is over- his wit and humor. Since it was a singing competition the result didn't really justify the cause of the show, but since it's all based on money what could the organizer do?

Congratulations to Lakey, Druk Superstar 2011.
Congratulations to Kencho Wangdi, for making the show!

P:S: Something needs to be done with BBS TV Signal in Wangdue, we had to watch the whole show like it was played from an old scratched CD. I hope the problem is not from Thimphu.

12 August 2011

I Nearly Failed as a Father

It takes huge guts to confess that I nearly failed my duty as a father. I don't blame my mother for my long nose, I rather thank her for keeping it intact on my face throughout my restless childhood. But damn I nearly lost my daughter beautiful nose two days ago. I woke up from my nap to my daughter's cry, then almost went back to sleep when I heard her cry again.
When I checked she wasn't in the kitchen with her mother. I ran out on to the balcony to meet my little girl running to me with her face covered in blood. My heart broke right away. I hated myself for having taken a nap, I blamed my wife for not having noticed her slipped away. I wasn't sure what happened to her and what to do.
Upon investigation we found that our baby fell of face-down from the veranda, thank go we live on the ground floor, just about a foot from the ground. I had left some carpentry work unfinished, among which there were several planks with nails on. Her face was scratched by one nail, from middle of her brows till right nostril. Then she had toppled down and hit her head on the cement ground. Despite the fall she has managed to climb back and came to us crying. During this whole process of falling, bleeding, crying, and climbing back, her father was sleeping and that gave me the greatest pain. It was the mercy of god that the nail didn't go into her eyes or her soft skull.
It was such a relieve when we discovered that the cut on her face was not deep and that it wouldn't leave any scar. Swelling on her temple soon subsided and she started playing with me again, and I swear I will never leave her alone. I want to urge all my friends who are parents to be extra careful with your babies because I have had friends in school and college whom god had created beautiful but their parents failed their duties when they were babies and thus they had to live with their parents' mistakes forever. God saved me this time!

08 August 2011

Without Minzung Lham on Druk Superstar...

Forget about who will win Druk Superstar, at least it stopped mattering to me now. Just ask yourself when you are in an honest mood- Whose song do you have as your ringtone and caller tune? Whose melody stops your heartbeat? Whose songs do you hum subconsciously? If your answer is not Minzung Lham you are probably not being honest.
Minzung Lham, Kencho Wangdi and Dechen Zam. Picture Source: Bhutan Observer
Why is she eliminated from the competition? Is it because she doesn't a word on stage? May be not, her songs are thousand words stronger. Is it because we have fail her our votes? No, we voted but that wasn't enough. The hearts that beat from her are younger generations with lesser money to spare. The voting system is not about how many people love the singer, but about how much money! Honestly I don't have a better way of voting  to suggest since the show has to sustain. It is sustainability verses credibility- and nothing could be done about it across the world- from American Idol to Indian Idol.
But for a small country like ours nobody is going to make living out of the show, not even the winner but a voice that shall keep soothing you every moment of the day shall be Minzung Lham's and without her on the show there is no excitement. I don't know whether she lost the show or the show lost her.
The next singer to watch is Dechen Zam, but she is gone too. Now I am watching Karma Phuntsho and Ulap Lekey.
Thanks to Kencho Wangdi for entertaining us all on weekends.

04 August 2011

Why should women have all the breast?

This week the focus is all on the breast and therefore men are out of focus. All these months I have had good nights because both the workable breasts are on my wife's chest. I feel sorry for all the babies whose mothers are working but my daughter enjoyed all the luck. Though a housewife, my wife had her own share of tiring days and sleepless nights, and I hope all her sacrifices will reflect in our little girl. I shall always remain so thankful to my wife for giving up almost everything for our baby.
My baby became a year and eight months on 29th July, and she is still enjoying full-time breastfeeding. But there are many babies born around here who had to be trained to survive without breast milk before their third month in the world because their mothers wouldn't have time to feed them once the maternity leave finishes.
There are lots of awareness campaigns on "6 months compulsory breastfeeding" and working women are given  only four months leave. The irony began right at the gates of heaven- why should God plant both breast on the mother?
When I see the lives of my lady colleagues, who have to sooth their babies on one end and please their boss on other end, I can't help wondering how different the world and the system be if one of the two breasts were on father's chest. I just wish if men could put a breast on their chest or just imagine it at least when they decide how long should the Maternity Leave for Mothers be!