31 May 2012

Life Changing Show: Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate

My Singaporean friends were surprised at my fluent Hindi, I surprised them most when I told them that majority of urban dwellers could speak better than me. Who wouldn't doubt we were immigrants from India but I explained that our homes were invaded by Indian TV Soaps, and even before we had TV the only cinema we knew was Bollywood.
Indian shows on TV are part of our lives and our choice of show defines our lives, and most importantly the lives of our children upon whom we enforce our choices. My cousins grew up watching my aunt's choice of family drama and I am not surprised by how their personalities are driven by those on screen.
Now is the time to switch our channel to something that will change our lives for better, and inspire dreams in our children rather than letting them learn how to fight their mother in-laws. If you were a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show then you already have the best taste, and perhaps you must have been watching the show I am going to talk about.
Aamir Kham's Show on Star TV has a very difficult name- Satyamev Jayate but it's worth practicing because no one can help telling about the show to friends and family once you watch it. It's telecast at 11 AM (11:30 BST) every Sunday on Star World and Star Plus. The show has the power to change an individual, better a family, transform a culture, improve a system, and uplift a nation.
It makes me cry, it inspires me to be part of change, it motivates me to fight for good, it's the best show India has ever created. And the Magician Aamir Khan add five stars to the show. If Indian shows have entertained us so far, it's now time to get inspired and think of a better world.
Only four episodes have been shown so far (Click on the links to get the whole picture):

  1. Daughters Are Precious
  2. Break the Silence (About Sexual Abuse of Children)
  3. Marriage or Market Place
  4. Every Life is Precious ( About Health Care)
Dying to see what Aamir is going to bring up in the Fifth Issue, which will be on Sunday 3rd June at 11 AM (11:30 BST). Every episode ends with a heart breaking song and long after you walk away from the TV, the song echos in our soul. If this show doesn't change us then nothing else can.
If you are using iPhone (Click Here) and iPad (Click Here) you could download the StarPlus App from App Store and Watch the show live.

27 May 2012

Notable Bhutanese Cartoonists

Chimi R Namgyal of Bhutan Observer and WangChuk of Kuensel are the reasons I buy these two papers. Their cartoons are worth running from shop to shop even when I already know  the whole news content. These two guys have such intelligently funny brains and god know how their fingers understand the satire of their crazy thoughts. Their stories make hard stuffs easy to digest, or at least it seems. I wish to thank them for all the good times they works gave me.
Chimi R Namgyal's in Bhutan Observer

WangChuk's in Kuensel
If life would allow it, I wish to publish my book of short stories some day and I want to run after one of them to do the illustration of each story in their crazy ways. I love their witty fingers.

25 May 2012

IELTS Questions Our Credibility

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam has become a superstar exam in Bhutan with everybody wanting to do it no matter what the cost- because it will be recovered. It's the dream exam that everybody does to reach their dreams. 
Royal Institute of Management(RIM) conducts four tests in a years under the administration of British Council Division in Kolkata and they always had houseful despite the Nu.8000 fee. Some people I heard traveled all the way to Delhi Kolkata to sit for the exam because RIM ran short of seats.
I have a dream to go for masters too, and I know I will do well in this expensive exam if only I wish to. The registration fee is huge going by the Bhutanese salary but I can afford it if I wish to. However, it is not about the exam that I am worried about, and it's not so much about the fee too, I am afraid by sitting for the exam I am questioning the credibility of our education system. After spending seventeen years studying in English language we can't insult our education system by agreeing to sit for English Language Testing, and no friendly country should doubt our English Language proficiency as long as Bhutan government doesn't send illiterate farmers for Masters Degree. 
I am grateful to the host countries for offering scholarship to our people but I would be more grateful if they recognize our education system, and make exceptions like they do with some native English speaking countries because we place no less importance on the English language, if at all it is to test English proficiency. The test not only spoils the goodwill of the scholarships but also has big implications on individual's financial strength and the poor nation's weak economy. 

21 May 2012

Losing Drinking Water for Lemon Grass Oil

I am watching the people of Mongar struggling for drinking water on BBS and asking to myself- has the time come already? By any logic Bhutan should be the last country worrying about drinking water given the bounty of our forest resources, but we are already losing so many water sources across the country.
With so many fresh water rivers flowing down the valley the world must think we are crazy to complain about water shortage of all the things- we are forgetting the moral of Kuchu&Kumbu story ourselves. But the question is not about going down to the rivers yet, we have been blessed with so many spring water sources running down our hills which we forgot to value so much so far.
Kuensel Photo
As I watch the people of Mongar running with their empty buckets and complaining I remembered the countless forest fires this Dzongkhag had over the last many years- of which many were deliberate. Mongar was blessed with lemon grass, the herb that adds scent to many cosmetic and toiletry items in the international market. And because it generates good income the forest was deliberately set on fire every year for the greed of better lemon grass growth, but those many fires are finally charging their interest- Mongar is now paying the huge price, they had traded they fresh water sources with lemon grass oil.

This Article is not supported with any research and therefore please treat it as an opinion.

18 May 2012

Replace Vehicle Import Quota with Bonus

One of the recommendations submitted by the team that assessed Rupee Crunch was to stop Vehicle import quota for civil servants. At first it seemed like we are going to be deprived of a lifetime bonus but it didn't take long before I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Government may not be worried about the 35% of the total cost of the car it's paying to the quota receiver, it's the 75% that gets dragged along across the border.
Government gives vehicle quota to senior officials upon attaining grade 6, which means at least ten years in service and therefore it's an expression of recognition for unfailing service. But canceling it altogether could be misinterpreted in many demoralizing reasons, thus it's important to device a way to address the rupee issue without depriving civil servants of their rare gift.
As far as the trend goes, most of the civil servants own good cars by the time they reach grade six, and they resort to selling their import quota to private businessmen. The value of a quota is over Nu.400,000 but best price I ever heard of was Nu.150,000 and some surrender at Nu.50,000. By this the bigger portion of the gift from government goes to buyers of the quota. More over quotas are indirectly making the import of cars compulsory, which is the biggest concern now.
Therefore, I suggest my government to replace Quota with Bonus. Pay six months salary as bonus to the employees upon attaining grade six, the amount will be far lesser than what quota is taking away at the moment. This is not only economical for the government but also has big impact on the employees who could receive the full value of the gift. And with this the indirect-compulsion on import of cars will cut down to zero, solving the biggest question without hurting a soul.

16 May 2012

Dasho Tshering Dorji's Answer

Dasho Tshering Dorji is a National Council Member from Haa. People in my village have high regards for him for his numerous visits and meetings with them. I almost got a chance to meet him in my village after the earthquake last year but missed by some hours. The only place we ever get to meet is on a Facebook group called Haap Dorros, where he presents his works, progress and achievements. We haaps have created our own forum for regional discussions, where he participates a great deal and I thank him for that.
But yesterday some Haap Wangchuk posted the following:

As this is the page for Haap Dhoros, that did our elected Members bought any changes in your area.Did they helped you when you were in trouble.Did they fulfilled their promises they made. For me i will say they are neutral. What ever the decisions taken by the Dzongkhag administration and gewog administration is final. They dont even have guts to justify the complaints made by victims.
I have never seen or head of them correcting the errors made by Dzongkhag and gewog Administrations.
And before anyone could write any comment Dasho Tshering Dorji replied as follows:

Tshering Dorji 
Haap Wangchuk, Before you shoot your mouth, as a responsible citizen, you also have the responsibility to consider the following 1. Please go through the constitution and and the NC and NA acts and also the recently passed Local Government Act to understand and comprehend the role of NA, NC and the local government. 2. As a haap yourself please find time to come and attend the public meeting(zomdu) that I conduct after every session as mandated by the law or atleast make an effort to call up your local leaders-gups, mangmi, tshogpa or elderly people from your village to find out as to what I as an elected representative been doing within my constitutionally provided responsibilty as a parliamentarian in general and in specific to the recent earthquake event. You must also understand as a good citizen that while there is tremendous temptation to overstep our feet on the toes of the local administration due to misunderstood, personalized and politicized pressure such as one that you are giving, it is also in the larger interest of this nation and people to be reminded of the Constitution and do whatever I can within the legal bound. However, you will only know this only if you are still in touch with the ground reality and genuinely concerned with the overall welfare of all the Haap victims. However, you have a lot of guts in publicly criticizing us and the public institutions that we represent based on your ill-informed imagination. As per the section 317 and 320 of the Penal code of Bhutan, what you have posted in the public media in nothing less than the offense of defamation and Libel since you are intentionally trying to causes damage to the reputation of another person or a legal person by communicating
false or distorted information about that person's action, motive, character, or reputation in writing. However, you are right, I dont have guts to take the matter further but if I do please also consider what could happen to you. Fellow Wangchuk, please remember that democracy does not mean going beyond the rule of law but it means fulfilling the nation's and people aspiration within the rule of law. Freedom of speech and expression does not mean speaking recklessly or mindlessly, you never know where a slip of your tongue will land you up. So think twice before you shoot your mouth irresponsibly.
false or distorted information about that person's action, motive, character, or reputation in writing. However, you are right, I dont have guts to take the matter further but if I do please also consider what could happen to you. Fellow Wangchuk, please remember that democracy does not mean going beyond the rule of law but it means fulfilling the nation's and people aspiration within the rule of law. Freedom of speech and expression does not mean speaking recklessly or mindlessly, you never know where a slip of your tongue will land you up. So think twice before you shoot your mouth irresponsibly.

I didn’t find anything “publicly criticizing” in what Haap Wangchuk wrote for Dasho to narrate whole law on defamation with section number in the Penal code of Bhutan. He was just asking a few questions to his fellow haaps like anyone of us would do. He was also presenting his opinion as “neutral” since he seems to have some grievance, which if possible Dasho could have ask and clarified. But the threatening reply confused me totally- aren’t we allowed to question about the work of our representatives?

15 May 2012

Book Fair Should be More Than Business

It was a great joy when National Book Fair happened in my school for the first time, putting my school in the center of over hundred schools from western half of the country. It also gave me satisfaction knowing that we are finally understanding the need to equate events in and out of Thimphu to narrow the gaps between the extremes. Just by know that Thimphu is not the center of earth we could ease lots of social issues.
The organizer and the book stores were bombarded with pleasant surprises- they never seemed to have expected beyond what they had seen in Thimphu for last four years. Many of them literally ran out of stock and spent all seven days in Bajothang smiling. Unlike Thimphu there were hardly any preoccupations that distracted people away from books and therefore people who were sent to buy books were really buying books. For the first time I saw so many school buses parked in my school. As far as sale of books is concerned the event was a grand success, though the buyers were only school libraries with government funds.
However the bigger question is why we are investing millions in books when we know that reading habit is almost extinct in schools? Is being optimist enough? Shouldn’t we invest in building the culture of reading? What is the purpose of Book Fair? Is it to spoil the business of book stores that didn’t participate?
My idea of a Book Fair was an event where the organizer will involve schools in activities that glorify books, where the best readers from different regions will present their reads and suggestions over the seven days, where Bhutanese Writers will be invited to read and autograph their books for buyers, where buyers are inspired to invest in books… But I was wrong. 
The book fair here was an absolute business; everybody was engaged in buying and selling of books with money that didn’t belong to them. And some, I heard, were capable of finding half a million worth of books in a single stall ignoring 24 others. It was already sad to know that Book Fair was just a business, and now some were making it dirty business for the sake of relationship.I believe official who were monitoring the event took note of that. 
My school had the luxury of sending every subject department to look for our own books and our democratic approach led to diverse choice and subjects, and we finally found that we have purchased from 16 stalls.
I personally bought Dear Seday- …letter from the mountains by Ugyen Gyeltshen, one of the most promising writers on Writer Association of Bhutan blog. His story was born on our blog and it grew there day after day, until one day his readers insisted him to turn the story into a book. I am reading it now and will write about it soon. 

08 May 2012

Comments: Lost and Found

I could finally locate all comments hidden in spam box, which my readers claimed lost over the past months. I am very happy to have found them before some of my favorite readers become suspicious about me restricting freedom of expression.
I don't like being moderated and censored, though I will be careful about what I write and how I put them, and therefore I don't believe in moderating any comment on my blog unless it's too heated to be reasonable, as long as it remains within the topic of discussion.
My sincere apologies to all the readers whose comments went missing, it will never happen again because I have figured out where it gets hidden. Keep reading and commenting, I will never forget your hand in my growth.
All the disappeared comments are now published.

05 May 2012

Shanghai to Paro Taktshang

Three friends from Shanghai were on holiday in Bhutan last week. A man and two ladies were walking their way to Paro Taktshang when we met last Sunday. There were people from across the world that day, but these three came into focus because of what happened to them then. My family and these three friends made it to the place, where the uphill climb ends, almost at the same time, of course we rode horses. We took a long rest there, the spot where Je Gaden Rinchen was born.
The three Chinese seemed to be in hurry, with their guide panting after them. Just then the man slipped and fell, almost falling down the hill. He lay flat on the muletrack crying in pain- his left ankle was twisted. His two lady friends were shocked and screaming. Their guide was loaded with their cameras to do anything. Another ten minutes walk would have taken them to Paro Taktshang.
They immediately attracted lots of attention but they needed help more than mere attention. That's when I ran to them with my sister in-law, who was once a doctor in China and therefore carries whole set of first aid in her handbag. She assessed the injury and massaged it with balm. The huge man was still crying in pain but my sister in-law had pain killer with her. She even gave him a few more tablets for the evening. The man was shivering and his faced looked scary. We wrapped him in our kabney and I used my teacherly skill to calm him, " It's a very lucky sign that you fell right here where a great saint was born- Je Gaden Rinchen. We consider it very lucky." The magic worked on the two ladies. They were nodding and even smiling. My brothers carried the man to a comfortable spot and ask him to rest while we sort out what to do next. It was confirmed that the man cannot walk anymore, and his journey from Shanghai to Paro Taktshang ends here.
I asked the guide to call his office for backup, but I was only talking to the office himself. Like many tour operators his was one man army- he is the guide, the agent, the office and the final backup. He was funnily blaming the man for not walking carefully, instead of worrying. I didn't want our guest to feel helpless, so I told him to wait for my family to return so that we could carry him down.
The two ladies were biting their nails, seemingly not wanting to go back without completing their journey but their guide was even more perplexed. Then I decided to guide the two ladies with my family so that the guide could stay back with the injured. They happily agreed, even the injured.
It was my fourth visit to Taktshang and I can comfortably be a good guide but I had with me seven members of my family who were there for the first time. It took me over an hour to explain everything to the nine of them with special attention to my sister in-law and the two ladies, knowing that they can never make it back for second time. Because I agreed to be their guide I couldn't help see them struggle with their heavy cameras- so I carried them as well. As if nine of them weren't enough a group from Bangkok asked me to explain to them a lot of things.
I then met two senior guides to who I explained about the injured man and the indecisive guide, and requested them for help. By the time we walked out of the monastery I got a call from the guide saying he got assistance from the senior guides and that they were carrying him down. I told him not to worry about his guests who were with me.
In one of the Goenkhangs I was explaining about the prophecies of Guru Rinpochee, and knowing my two guests were Chinese I asked if they were a big fan of Chairman Mao Zedong. They excitedly replied yes. I sorrily told them that "about 1300 years ago Guru Rinpochee prophecised that a man call Mao will come one day and become the greatest threat to Buddhism". Two ladies looked at me in disbelief, "1300 years ago?" "Did all his prophecies come true?" By the time they walked out, they told me I have changed their mind.
I had to carry my daughter and walk slowly with my wife and sister in-law, so I let my brothers deliver the two ladies to the base where the guide and the injured where waiting in the car. By the time we reached the base they were gone. The guide didn't call me after that. But I am happy that the Chinese will remember fondly about Bhutan and Bhutanese despite the unfortunate journey.

My Team-Eight of them including my daughter

03 May 2012

A Cup of Tea at Taktshang

I was talking about a cup of tea in the cafe halfway to Paro Taktshang on my Facebook wall and the few comments there inspired me to write it in my blog.
The Cafe is beautifully located, facing the gigantic cliff and the breathtaking Taktshang Monastery. The benches are strategically setup that one could just sit there and lose oneself. Who won't like to sit there and enjoy a cup of tea? If only a cup of tea was just a cup of tea! The cafe belongs to BTCL and they only had tourist in their list of costumers. In their description tourist means someone who earns in dollar, and therefore no Bhutanese can be tourist. A cup of tea cost Nu.84 and there is no concession for Bhutanese who could buy a whole meal with so much.
Bhutanese are expected to bring their own packed lunch and tea, and it is written in bold: "No picnic Lunch allowed here", which also goes out to Bhutanese. So I say, there is a beautiful Bhutanese Cafe half way to Taktshang that is only meant for tourist. And this is one among many beautiful and luxurious facilities in Bhutan catering to just foreign tourists, because there are some people up there who think Bhutanese don't deserve to have fun.

My Family Drinking Golden Tea
But the twist in the story was that I always wanted to visit that cafe, and coincidentally we were hungry and tired so we had to sit on those beautiful benches and drink funny tea- it didn't even taste good, we had to ask for more tea bags. Lesson learnt is that, there is no gold in that tea therefore don't forget your packed lunch and tea if you are head to Taktshang.

02 May 2012

The Best Gift We Teachers Expect From Our Students

Today is the Teachers Day in Bhutan, the day for Bhutanese students to thank their teachers. It's also the day our country has set aside to let us know that she has high regards for teachers.
On this day our students across the country struggle to buy gifts for their teachers, some lucky ones have their own struggle of choosing the best gifts, it has almost become a trend to celebrate the day with gifts.
Let me describe the best gift a student could give and make their work easier because I am teacher and I know what every teacher wants.
The best gift is not on sale in the town, therefore you don't have to go looking for it. The best gift for your teacher is within you- on this day let us know that you have a dream, and that you will work hard each day towards that without letting your age come in between. Let us know today that you will be part of every solution, and that you will give us the chance of talking about you with pride now and forever. Show us today that you will be good to yourself and to people around you. Show us that you are growing each day and that you will be independent very soon. Show us that you will become someone who will only ask what you can do for your country and your parents, and when someday we meet again we sit for a drink and you are capable enough to pay up the bill.
This is the simple gift I am describing that only takes a willing heart to achieve, and perhaps you must be wondering how could anyone show so much in one day- it's not something you could do in one day but it could be started. Everyday is a teachers day and everyday you will have to let us know we are making a difference in your life. We will not remember you for size of your gift, we will but remember you for how well you do in your life.

Today, I would like to thank my teachers for making their share of differences in my life and making me proud of myself. Thank you Lopen Dawa (Dawakha Pry School), Karma Wangchuk and Sanjay Kumar (Paro Jr. School), BB Mishra, Boaj Raj, Muktan, Wangchuk Namgay, Surja Lapcha, KC Jose and Lopen Namgay Wangchuk (Drukgyel HSS) for being part of me when I was changing.