31 December 2011

Last Post of the Year 2011

This is my last post for the year 2011 and I am so happy that I wrote over 90 articles this year with many of them printed in national papers. At this time I could hear the last minute count down to the New year and here I am doing the thing I love the most -blogging. Fire works are cracking in the Phuntsholing sky and hundreds of people are screaming but I am celebrating the 202882 hits and 228 followers on my blog.

United States
United Kingdom

As the year ends I would like to thank all my readers for inspiring me and cheering me up in doing this thing that means the world to me. You have made me a serious thinker from a casual blogger, and given me so many reason to find joy in simple things. My host family and their friends are all gone for party but I am here with my family writing this because this is what I want to do each day of 2012 and not partying. We hold a strong belief that we will keep doing the same thing that we did on the new year day, and I sure don't want to be drunk and out partying every day, therefore I am here putting my babe to sleep.

In 2012 I am eager to see how the biggest lie of mankind will be exposed. I have never believed in the end of the world but many secretly do and each day of the year is going to be very painful for them, I just wish they could live their life each day at a time.

And finally My New Year Resolution (motivated by my friend Neil): All this years I drank Whisky with Coke and I became sick, I tried with soda and still felt bad, and tried with water, which still made me unwell. Now I promise I will never drink Coke, Soda and Water!
Seriously I am resolute that I will not change any good thing in me and will try to work on doing away with every bad energy that comes out of me.
As always I will never overstay in the school impressing my principal. I will reach home five minutes after the final bell and be with my wife and children. I will always take my family along with me on all my workshops. I will call my mother every two days and tell her something to make her smile. I will spend lesser time watching TV and browsing. I will read more books than webpages. I will only drink at home and on weekends. And I will write more than 100 articles on my blog in 2012.

See you next year:) with the sunrise tomorrow morning!

Our Faith, Their Business

I am a true Buddhist but I am still amazed at the amount of money people are investing on pilgrimage to Bodhgaya and other holy places across India. At this time if you are in Phuntsholing you will see how our people are struggling, sweating, arguing, fighting and what not to get a ticket to Bodhgaya.
Buddha sure attained his enlightenment there but he didn't promise enlightenment for us by coming there, rather he left behind the road map to enlightenment and that didn't have any place in particular.
There are several double-decked buses leaving for Bodhgaya each day and I see them all cramped up with dedicated Bhutanese people. Each Bhutanese will be at least carrying over Nu. 50,000 excluding the massive shopping they did. They are on their way to find Buddha and may land up being robbed or murdered but their faith keep them going, not knowing the impact on our economy.

Every day affair below the bus station
Pilgrimage is supposed to bring about peace of mind but half of the time you have to spend on taking care of your luggage and worrying about it. Each day of your Buddha-finding journey has to be spent sleeplessly worrying about your belongings and the huge amount of money you are carrying.Rest of the time you are either complaining about the heat and dust or cursing the huge number of beggars coming after you. At the end of journey you are bound to be disappointed that you didn't find any salvation but lost all you compassion.
Bhutan has the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site and I wonder why Bhutanese are so much after the risky voyage. Is it about the status? Then it's very unBuddhist. If it's not about showing off then Paro Tasktshang, Bumthang Kurjey, Paro Kichu, Haa Lhakhang Karpo, and so many others are place you could find perfect peace of mind without having to worry about accidents, pick pocketing, murder and heavy expenses. After all Buddha is there where there is a good heart.
As of the "Very Important Wang in Bodhgaya", a resident of Phuntsholing told me that it's an annual business strategy the Indian use to lure the Bhutanese. The "Very Important Wang in Bodhgaya this year, which is going to be the last" was announced for the last ten years and Bhutan still believe in it.

J.Brands Clothing

Northface to Southface
One place you will get the best brands of clothing is the J.Brands, the brands everybody wears and nobody wants to admit. The J.Brands, or in short JB is the only place I know where second hand clothes are sold in mass. The clothes come from far as the USA and Japan. The very business is illegal if you dig its roots- it was donated for the poor Asian people but somehow it went on to become the hottest brand for the Bhutanese.
For all ages
Keeping aside our ego, if we are looking for true brands, JB is the only place you will find them despite having to invest lot of time making selection and even more time in bargaining.  I confess my fondness for the place since I visited Phuntsholing for the first time as a high schooler. Today I have enough money to invest in new clothes but I still can't help going there looking for something special- which you often find if you are lucky.
When I go there I don't wear face mask like many people do. More than the time I spend in choosing clothes and bargaining I spend watching the Indians seller, their patience and their ability to read Bhutanese minds. Amidst the drama I get to see lot of high class Bhutanese setting their high class foot on the low class market- because after you are out of JB nobody knows where your clothes come from! Some JB guys leaked to me that many overcoats in branded shops in Thimphu goes from here.
Pepe, Lee, Levis...(watch for defects)
If you are new in the JB, you may be shocked when the shopkeeper tells his price and you may want to run right away but wait for sometime, you get to tell your price as well. If they say Nu.1500, you close your eyes and say you will pay Nu.150. He will pretend to be angry but don't worry you increase by Nu.50 at a time and by the time you feel you have reached the price you actually wish to pay just walk away- I promise you he will call you back. In case he doesn't then go back and increase Nu.50 more. Always remember that those brands you get in Thimphu are nothing compared to ones you get in JB, except the newness- which is just a matter of days.
By this article don't assume that I am fully covered in J.brands clothing but at least know that the best clothes on my body are from there.

27 December 2011

Phuntsholing Youth and My Car

I was surprised when police didn't see the forest fire under the clear blue sky, but later today I was surprised no more- Phuntsholing police has too many thing to take care of. There wasn't a day I didn't see groups of youth swaying by road under the influence of some intoxicants. And today some of then crossed their limits on to my car. My poor already-injured car was peacefully parked alongside several others when a group of boys practiced their boxing skills on our side mirrors.
My wife and another car owner shouted from their windows only to get back all sorts of slang. I was in the class when my wife called me up, she informed me that the culprits were head in my direction and that I could track them down by the side of the Doti river.
The kids were totally senseless and one boy was bleeding badly from the cut he got from punching our mirrors. To my disbelieve there were two girls in same conditions making a show out of themselves on the road where hundreds were passing by. I asked myself, would I help these girls if they were raped? With the border so near, and so many warnings, I will never understand why these girls had to do this.
Three cars were broken and police was informed, the culprits were under my watchful eyes. By the time police arrived the two girls were gone- good for them, I can't imagine how their parents would feel if they were arrested. After a hard chase three boys were brought down, and thanks to them I got my mirror broken and now I have to waste my afternoon in police station giving statements.
The very moment I saw the mother of the bleeding boy my heart broke. I wished if the boy spared some of the money invested in his fashionable clothes on his mother's clothing too. Her pitiable condition and her begging eyes melted my anger into sorry. All three of us soon withdrew our case, which was to be done in writing. I went to the boy and requested him, "Please, never do anything that may bring your mother to police station- this is the last place they want to be.  We are withdrawing the case not because your crime is minor but because your mother has to take the punishment. She doesn't deserve this."
Other two parents looked ok but all their self esteem faded as they entered the office and they were literally on our feet. They may be some respectable people but thanks to their kids they had to bow to their knees before us.
Please watch where you kids are going and what they are doing during the holidays.

Reporting Forest Fire

As seen from PHSS
There is hardly any forest in Phuntsholing and the little they have was on fire this morning. During the tea break we saw a thick curl of smoke rising over the Toresa and right then we knew it was from across the river. I quickly took a snap in my iPad and reported it on Breaking the News- Bhutanese Social Media, the group I created on Facebook to tip off news media. 
We made a mistake of assuming that the police would have known by then since there were over 40,000 people on the home side of the river. But just to confirm we made a quick call to Police and I did the talking- to my surprise it was a breaking news for them. I had to show them the location of the fire.
Later today I realized two things: that the hundred things happening around here keeps the police too focused on the town to see anything in the forest, and that even over 12 hours later there was no respond on my Breaking News page. I hope the fire is contained by now, else the wind tonight is going to take it on a long ride.

23 December 2011

Ngultrum Identity

Ngultrum (Nu) is almost losing its identity even before it had one. Forgive me if you find me ignorant but I can't help wondering why our currency is not acknowledged as it should be. I don't know why we have to pay over Nu.50 for a US$, I am just thankful it is as powerful as Indian Rupee. It's surprising to learn that there are many powerful country whose currency value is lower than ours, which gives us all the reason to be proud of.
However, going by the trend, a kid says, "Mummy, give me ten rupees", and an adult would say, "Do you have change for 500 rupees?" or if it is in Dzongkha, we say "Turu". Nowhere we use the term Ngultrum! On the fuel pumps you will see the rates of fuel reflected in Rs, and every commodity in the shops has price tag written in Rs, that can be forgiven as stuffs are imported. The recent announcement of domestic airfare by civil aviation was in US Dollar, and that was the biggest surprised.
Currency Symbol for Ngultrum for the  time being.
In written scripts we don't yet have a currency symbol, something that can be used to represent Ngultrum universally. The abbreviation Nu. might be mistaken for symbol but it's usable only in English. India realized it and they have come up with symbol for rupees recently. It's beautiful and now they can use the symbol in every language. In Dzongkha, we can't us Nu. therefore it's up to the writers either to write "turu", "ngultrum" or "ruub". Though it's none of my business, I spent many days thinking, designing, discussing, and redesigning a symbol for Ngultrum. I looked at all the currency symbols of the world to gain some insight into it but at the end  I agreed with the fact that it's none of my business after all. But that doesn't mean that Ngultrum can be left without a symbol. We need it now and here! If that can't be done soon, you might chose to use the one that comes to your head when you think of Ngultrum (see the picture).

22 December 2011

Snake and Ladder in Bhutanese Public Service Delivery

Tshering Wangdi's report on "Revolutionizing Public Service Delivery" in Bhutan Times on 18th December brought me immense happiness after having gone through a long procedure of acquiring a trade license for my brother last week. My eleven page thick application form required signature from over ten individuals from different locations and needed over six legal stamps and numerous photocopying. If it weren't for my support and diligence my brother would have given up on the idea long ago and chose to remain a jobless youth rather. We are still waiting for the committee verification, and recommendation before going to Thimphu again.
G2C in Bhutan Times
Bhutan Times' report highlighted government's move to make services easily accessible by public through Government-2-Citizen (G2C) services. Once done it promises to make acquiring services simple and effective, inexpensive, time saving, and hassle-free, thus guaranteeing costumer satisfaction.

The picture illustration with the report didn't impress me much, because the current situation depicted alongside their vision didn't really tell the truth. The series of ladders in the picture shows that, though time consuming, there is progress in the way services are delivered today, which we all know is not true. Today if you are going to Thimphu for a work you must prepare yourself like your parents prepare for pilgrim to Bodgaya, for in there we are bound to be caught in Snake & Ladder game. I have invested good amount of my time in the following model, trying to depict the way public service is in our country today.
PaSsu's Model of Public Service in Bhutan

20 December 2011

Preserving Paro Town

My visit to Paro last week gave me an opportunity to look at the town in a whole new perceptive. I have spent seventeen years of my life in Paro but it never felt that way until I spent these five years away. After having seen the changing faces of many Bhutanese towns the old street in Paro town is something that made me stop and wonder and then wish.
The Beautiful Paro
Paro Tshongdue the forgotten names means the business place, where the Bhutanese and Tibetan businessmen met to barter their goods long before we knew India and Bangkok. This town has history and it has the structural design well preserved to be called the Iconic Town of Bhutan. Interestingly many of these houses are converted into Handicraft showrooms thereby promising to remain so for years. But the desire for bigger and better houses has slowly eaten away at least two houses and many might want to follow soon. 
Government could adopt the street and preserve it creatively, without hurting the sentiments of the landlords and without freezing their desire to move forward. 
The Last Bhutanese Town, Paro

Towns bigger than Thimphu are bound to come with time but if we lose Paro history may never forgive us.

13 December 2011

My Home Haa-ppiest

Why the study showed Haa as the happiest Dzongkhag? I know it's not a mistake, I grew up in Yangthang and despite all the shortcomings I have fond memories from my childhood. When I look back I wonder how it was possible for us to be happy. Today, I know all the factors that are necessary for social well-being and therefore happiness in the community but surprisingly Haa is deprived of many of these, and more surprising people are happy without them.
Yangthang- the village I grew up
Haa is harshly cold during the winter season, nothing can be grown during the winter months. Even during the summer months weather conditions allow only few low yielding crops to grow, which brings no commercial benefits. Everything has to be imported and despite Haa being very close to Phuntsholing and connected by road commodities are very expensive.
No industry or company ever showed interest in operating in Haa due to all the disadvantages. Tourism is only a recent thing in there. Only three bus services operate from Haa and none of them is a Coaster Bus. There are only few taxis and most of them done move at all. Though a solid Dongkhag, we don't have a full fledged hospital. Our Dzong is housed in a common house and court in even smaller house.
One half of the entire Dzongkhag was completed isolated until recently, and it took over four days to reach them. Food prices in these places are insanely high due to transportation problem.
AND despite all these shortcomings we are the happiest, how was it possible? The answer in hidden deep in the root of social lives. It lies in our strength not only to survive but also live and enjoy without some many thing in life.
Happy Lomba to the people who could locate happiness in hardship.

Invitation to Bhutan

My sister in-law is a Japanese, living and working in Taiwan. She visited my brother for the first time after their long Facebook relationship in September and spent over a week with my family. She enjoyed her times with us so much that she sacrificed her job and bonuses to meet us again in October. Fifteen day stay made her even more happy and wanted to come here again.
This time I thought I should invite her as our personal guest so that she won't have to pay so much as she did during her first two visits- she paid cost of a car already. However, I didn't know that the Immigration in my country won't acknowledge her relationship with us. My application for invitation was rejected. By the rule they have in their book, we should have met her outside Bhutan to qualify for invitation, which otherwise means that she can't be my sister in-law because she met us in Bhutan. What could be the possible logic behind recognizing acquaintance outside Bhutan? What I think should be important is the authenticity of the relationship. 

At Dochula, during her second visit.
Many people I contacted for information advised me to find a person who has been to Taiwan and prepare the application in their name, or to cook up a story of having met her in Singapore during my visit there but I defended knowing our true story was far better than those lies- after all they are humans at the other end! If I had known there are all robots interpreting the rules rigidly I would have listened and lied.
It's not all about money. I just wanted to show her the Bhutanese we are, our courtesy and hospitality to guest, and that's not possible after letting her pay thousands of dollars. She was supposed to visit us for the third time in February 2012 but she couldn't wait that long. And here my application was rejected. I couldn't tell her that she could will have to pay a huge price to meet us again but it turned out that she was more Bhutanese than the people who rejected my application. She consoled me saying, "Hey brother, don't worry, money can be made." 
And thus she came here for the third time as tourist and these days she is with us in Wangdue having a wonderful vacation with my family.

P:S: If you happen to be a wanna-be guest or a host and stumbled upon this post while Googling, please note that this article is not to encourage you to cheat your way out in this process, but I am not responsible if your application is rejected after telling the truth either!

US Dollar Across to the Eastern Bhutan

Many Bhutanese like me must have excitedly waited for the completion of airports in Bumthang and Tashigang and I personally wanted to make my first trip to Tashigang by one of the domestic aircraft.  The long wait finally ends at the announcement of domestic airfares; looks like it was never meant for us. The airfare is not only insanely high for most Bhutanese but also proudly converted in US dollar. What meaning can you draw from a Bhutanese airline announcing its airfare to Bhutanese people in Bhutan in terms of US dollar?

Domestic Airlines in Bhutan
Seemingly the two airports were built for tourist and tourist alone, the shameless airfares show that the airlines only had tourists on their minds and never for once thought about the state of our own people. If the airfares are not revised to a reasonable level then I can see no other way than to stone the aircraft down from Dochula- after all it's not going to make a difference to Bhutanese lives.