30 June 2012

iWitness Bhutanese Unity

Last Sunday afternoon we had the baddest dream from which we can never wake up but last Sunday Afternoon we also had the chance to see the utmost unity among Bhutanese like never before. We lost a Dzong but found the Bhutanese in ourselves. We came together to share the lose, we felt the common pain, and shared a strong dream- the dream of building a better Dzong.
24.06.2012 The Day that Broke National Heart
Before the smoke over the burnt Dzong disappeared, before the heat on the stone slabs cooled and before the firefighter could wash their shoot coated face Bhutanese across the world started seeking information about raising funds to reconstruct the Wangdue Dzong. Facebook group by Passang Dorji gather over 27,000 members within two days, which is almost every Bhutanese on Facebook, to discuss and contribute towards rebuilding the Dzong. BBS on the other hand is reaching out to almost everybody across the country. If we are so united Dzong is just a structure to build.
Rescue Worker resting for lunch with the smoke still rising from the ruins
Firefighters and rescue workers worked day and night and some of them haven't been home for days but they showed no sign of giving up until the last curl of smoke is put off. People from far and wide came in buses and cars filled with refreshment, business communities and schools cooked meals and made sure that no worker on the site went hungry and thirsty. Sponsors are lined for many days to come.
Behind everybody's notice Dzongkhag offices were struggling to reestablish themselves with nothing left at all. Our school arranged offices for at least three sectors but they decided to put themselves up at the BPC building under one roof. We have housed the education office for now. They need computers, printers, tables, chairs, shelves, files, cupboards, staplers, punching machines, seals, stamp pad, dustbins, and most of our moral support to restart their lives. They all seem lost and confused and they don't know where to begin from. I saw our education officer asking for a paper and drafting a letter to be sent to all the principals to send their staff details, using his knee as his table. This letter has not letter head, no seal, and no file number. But he said, he will buy a file and start with this letter. While we were all focused on the Dzong and its reconstruction, there were people across the country who shared their concerns- Every Dzongkhag is sending in a computer each, some Dzongkhags are send their extra furniture and looks like this is not going to take long either. We must rebuild the Dzongkhag to have the Dzong back.
Smoke From Wangdue Dzong seen from Bajothang
And in this great tragedy my heart goes out to our honorable Dasho Dzongda. The Dzong was under his control but the fire wasn't. He was among the first people to reach the site and he has tried all that was possible of him to fight the fire. Human efforts didn't fail this time, it was the equipment. When he knew that the fire has gone wild, he rushed to rescue the Nangtens. He sort assistance from the monks to identify the important relics and packed them in those heavy black boxes. But the entrance was already blocked by fire and they had to throw the boxes through the windows. One of these boxes fell on his foot and broke his toes. He badly needed medical attention but he didn't bother about it. Doctors on site instructed him to take rest but he refused to heed until the next day. Now I heard that he might lose his toes, I hope and pray that what I heard is wrong. May him get well soon.
The Heavy Black Boxes- Job Well Done
He should know that the fire was our collective misfortune and that he should not take it too much on himself. If there was someone we could call a hero this time, it is Dasho Dzongda who went through the fire and rescued the relics for the Bhutanese to hope for, despite the painful injury. I hope he felt better after meeting His Majesty and our prime minister, who reassured to him that the disaster was god's will and that we will rebuild a greater Dzong. The Royal words spread fast and soon we stopped crying over the lost Dzong and started wondering about the opportunity of creating new history.
We are grateful to Zhabdrung for his Dzongs and the history, but thousand years from now they should read more than Zhabdrung. They should look at the Magnificent Wangdue Dzong and say, "that's the Dzong built by Fifth King and His people in 2012"

24 June 2012

iWitnessed- Wangdue Dzong Fire Images

First siren of the fire engine made me run out to find where the fire was. Thick curl of smoke from Wangdue Dzong stunned me. I quickly made a tweet and ran to my car. I made myself believe that the fire is not in the Dzong.
By the time I reached the Dzong, half of it was already consumed. There were thousands of helpless people around, many crying and praying. As I watched our history burn, I constantly lost my senses; I was often thinking of it as a dream, and then I return to my sense. I could feel the heat from the fire and million voices. I felt sorry, felt helpless and felt useless.
There were people running with buckets and running without anything, everybody wanted to save their history but even the fire engines' best efforts couldn't help.

Initial Stage of the fire
Office block completely destroyed 

The fire began from the northern tower and by the time people are mobilized the entrance to the dzong was blocked by debris and flame. Just when we thought our firefighter could penetrate the entrance then the fire spread to the central tower.

Best Human efforts failed.

Fire rushing toward the Utse. No way to reach there.
There were hundreds of people around the Dzong and in their emotional effort to make difference they exposed themselves to falling stones, and debris. From where I was watching i could see a group of people right under the roof which was about to fall, but they weren't aware because from where hey were they couldn't see the fire, I whistled and shout at them to move out. They couldn't hear me. So I made the whole group of people around me to shout and signal with hand together to move them out. It worked. Some moments later the whole roof collapsed. They made it out on time.
When Utse Caught Fire- Even God couldn't help
Until this moment we were very hopeful that a divine intervention would save the Utse of the Dzong, and for quite some time the wind was pushing away the fire into opposite direction. I even spotted some monks and people on the rooftop near the Utse, seemingly not trapped but trying to evacuate important nangtengs from the passage that runs through the toilet. Divine intervention was the only hope since there was no way anybody can carry a bucket of water through the burning entrance.
Even god seemed helpless, Utse of the Dzong soon blazed and we all shouted, we cried and cursed god and we lost hope. Thats when I made the most heartbreaking tweet: We lost Wangdue Dzong. Even God couldn't help!

When all hope was gone

Just this morning I was looking at a very old photograph of Wangdue Dzong with the ancient bridge intact, perhaps taken in 1950s, and now I am feeling very sorry. We just lost the Dzong that stood there for nearly 400 years...

22 June 2012


My family may be among a very few in Wangdue who didn't have fish for dinner tonight. Even a small child is walking with a fish half his height this morning, when the Punatshangchhu swelled from flashflood in Gasa. With water so muddy fishes rush for riverbanks gasping for air, which is when fishing becomes a cup of tea.

There are hundreds of people along the riverbank banking on fishes, with buckets, sacks, baskets, and whatever can hold fishes. We caught up with a few young boys along our school fence who were generous enough to spare over fifteen live fishes for our fishery pond- but I heard none survived.

Two sights that shocked me most were;
1. A mother walking with her little son along the river bank, she had a shopping basket in her hand and her son was wearing just the underwear- ready to fetch fish from the water.
2. Two boys were swimming among the thousand driftwood with a chain of plastic bottles tied around their waist as safety.

By this it's confirmed that all the education on safety during and after flood that was broadcast on BBS (asha churi) has failed to alter people's greed for free fishes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


19 June 2012

Tear Drops on my Chair

I have known this high school principal for sometime and have gathered a lot of regards for the man he is, the Education officers he was, and the principal he has been so far. He is known for reforming and reconstructing system into very friendly environment that every time he leaves a place people feel the emptiness he has left behind.
This time I came into close contact with him, over and over, and he spared me enough of his time to talk about his school and listen about my school, yes we were talking about students' problems and relative solutions, without ignoring the origin of the problems. It's interesting but disheartening to know that we actually have ideas about where the problems come from and how we could prevent them but there are major stakeholders who wouldn't do enough.
His few sentences touched me so much and made me think over it for days; he said, "I think I should quit this job before I make myself a merciless devil, who sits on this chair and watch parents cry for the mistakes their children committed. How many parents cried here in front of me! Those parents leave behind all the self respect for their children and beg of me to give them another chance.
"Our intention of helping the child together fails to convince the parents, they don't want to take their children home for some days and talk things out- they are backing off from the little help we are asking in helping their children. And finally when we leave them with no option they leave with bitter hearts.
"In a small society like ours I am already hurting too many people, who wouldn't understand, there are too many tear drops on my chair..."

Though enclosed within quotation marks, the words are not exact to the scale but I made sure the meaning and the intention is preserved.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

15 June 2012

Passing Star

Call it our luck or my daughter's sharpness; Comedian Gem Dorji was passing by through our parking lot and my two and a half year old lil girl who always laughed watching his movies and imitated him spotted the passing star. Then my wife insisted on calling him. I was left confused and nervous halfway through my work in kitchen garden.
I didn't have time to worry much about how he would react, I just greeted him and told him my family is a big fan of his with special emphasis on my daughter's fondness for his jokes.
Not so surprisingly he turned out to be a humble guy who came forward and played with my daughter and agreed to pose with my daughter. Thank you for making our day and leaving behind a special memory. And thank you for being a joker.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


13 June 2012

Please Review The Pedestrian Day

I am a big fan of pedestrian day, not because I live in campus but because it time we slow down and think before we reach a time we have never anticipated. I have other reasons in loving this initiative which was reflected in a post last week: Friendly Road for Walking. While I was writing that piece I was only worry about the sun, as was the weather in Wangdue all the while, and totally ignored the rain.
Get Out in the Rain. Source: Kuensel
Today I see a Kuensel report of Pedestrian Day in Gelephu by Dawa Gyelmo, and though the report reads bright the picture along with the report tell another story. It was raining on Tuesday (of all the days) and people are expected to walk their way to schools and office anyway. Shouldn't we consider this? While umbrella will cover the head and body, who will take care of the wet shoes? We can't control the rain but there are things we could.
Another things to consider is- are the monitoring authorities ready yet? Considering the cases in Wangdue I think officials themselves need to understand what they are to do and where to do it. My brother was heading for Thimphu yesterday and he really had to convince people to let him go, and one of them told him that it's not allowed at all, since Thimphu is observing the day as well. Look who is talking!
And one last thing that didn't do justice to the divine intention of the pedestrian day is allowing taxis to do their business. This idea is attracting taxis from other dzongkhags to join the feast in Thimphu. And so many taxis in the town is more than enough to nullify the whole idea of reducing whatever...

11 June 2012

The Changing MRP

MRP is supposed to stand for Maximum Retail Price, but it's badly misunderstood in Bhutanese Market. People think it's the price shopkeepers paid to the sources, or shopkeepers convince people to think so. Therefore they think is reasonable to pay a little higher than MRP and if on some rare occasions they get a few things on MRP it makes them very happy.
But the truth everybody knows is that MRP printed on goods are way higher than its actual price so that it covers all transportation expenses and taxes and still leave good room for profit. But some shopkeepers who charge over the MRP share their sad stories of having paid so much themselves, which is either a big lie or they are foolish enough to deal with third-person suppliers. Whose ever fault it is, costumers like us are the ones who are paying the price on daily basis.
However our misery with MRP doesn't end with getting some things at MRP because it's on a constant change. Prices of goods are changing with every new stock and shopkeepers shrug innocently, indicating that they have no power over the Indian inflation. That's true we can't control the Indian market, and we can't survive without importing from India but what about Bhutan?
One Bhutanese good I buy regularly is Orange Fruit Squash, it's not only economical but also less harmful compared to fizzy drinks. Till last week I was buying one liter bottle @Nu.78 and today it's @Nu.115, a 47.4% increase in price. I checked the dates and found that the ones I bought earlier were from last year and the new stock was the one which came with new price tag. I am just wondering what happened so suddenly in Bhutan that this company had to increase the price insanely.
Orange Squash 47.4 % inflated over a few months (look at the prices)
Prime Minister sure told us Bhutanese to take advantage of the Rupee Crunch but He mustn't have meant to do this and kill fellow Bhutanese. Orange Squash was a poor-man's drink, we could increase the amount by adding water but now they have even charged for the water we will add.
I am also wondering why the juice which is produced in Bhutan and also has "Bhutan Sale" written on it has it's price printed in RS.

09 June 2012

Friendly Road For Walking

Of all the changes that happened in recent times I loved the idea of walking to office on Tuesdays. And I loved the way many people received it. We were walkers until recent times, our ancestors walked all their lives, and our living parents walked the best part of their lives. We have walking DNA in us, which should still be very much there. It's only Tuesday we are going to acknowledge our DNA, and I hope we don't cheat ourselves by taking cabs and buses. If two cars meet on the road its called accident but when two persons meet on the road the story is different. Walking together will provide long opportunity to interact and form relationships and some day we will look at Tuesdays as vacations.
Chimi R Namgyal on BO
I walked the best days of my life, and it was a day in 2009 that I finally bought a car and became lazy. Cars are like pampered kids, they suck through our pockets day in day out and we still love them. And I love my car best because I have some really bad experience with walking. I wanted my revenge on the once-upon-a-time of my life. Those first two years in Bajothang gave me a few occasions to visit Wangdue Dzong, that was when I asked if we really had 72% of forest cover because that wasn't one tree on the entire road from Bajo to Wangdue Dzong. After having baked and roasted three times on that road I put together all my guts and bought a car.
Typical Treeless road in Bhutan
We have hell lot of trees but they are all in the jungle where monkeys live, if we are to encourage walking we have to have tree by the roadside and make walking a pleasure. I love the road from Paro Town to Nemizampa, we could replicate that very easily. I prefer walking over driving if only roads are friendlier.
Mission Possible
I hope to see the Pedestrians’ Day become very popular throughout the country, and I hope to see green roads where everybody loves to walk. Because in Walking we can regain our lost tradition of social interaction and relationships. 

07 June 2012

On My Birthday- June 6

My birthday has never been a special day during my childhood, I never had a cake in my name, nobody would remember the date, and I would cry but things started getting brighter as I learned to expect less. Now my birthdays are special because I have mastered the theory of expecting nothing, and therefore if nothing happens then nothing happens, and whatever little things come my way becomes pleasant surprise.
Birthday Picture for the Record.
But life is strange, best happens when you least expect and I often wish if some of these happened to me when I was desperately wishing for them. Now I have a beautiful family who would remember my birthday for me and treat the day like a national holiday and I have friends all over who would send their best wishes as if they have waited whole year to do that. I don't know why they are so excited about letting me know that I am growing old lol.
This is my last year in twenties and I am getting a strange reluctance to agree, because this one year unlike other years will change the whole story about me- now I know why some items' cost has _99 as suffix, one Nu. makes a great difference when considered at critical point. However, with this birthday I have broken the record of my father who died at 28- I think I am going to live longer.
For all the wishes and kind words, early and belated, long and short- some as short as 'HBD', from near and far, thank you so much. Your words made me feel wanted and useful in this world, they gave me joy and pride, and they gave me good reasons to live longer and bigger. Thank you all so much.

05 June 2012

Tattoo: The Permanent Character Certificate of Temporary Mischief

Written for Student Digest April-July 2012 Issue.

Tattoo is a design on the skin, achieved by changing pigments of skin. The process is done by repeatedly pricking ink into the skin using sharp needle.  And because it is done inside the dermis layer of the skin it can’t be erased unless done surgically. The technology of removing tattoo hasn’t yet been introduced in Bhutan and therefore to have a tattoo removed could cost fortunes.
Why am I talking about removing tattoo, when everybody does it for keeping? Well I have learnt from experience that at one point in life you would die to get them removed. You would look at it each day and wish if you had never done it. I know you won’t believe me today, because I didn’t believe them then.
I was just like anyone of you, if not naughtier. I was full of energy, energy waiting to explode and there were always choices ahead of me. I made many wrong ones amidst my youthful excitements. And you could land up doing your share of wrongs too, which as you grow up and as you realize, time will forget and forgive. But there are certain wrongs that would last beyond our realization, beyond our righteousness and beyond our repentance.
One such wrong is getting into drugs. It’s addictive and destructive. It gives you an illusion of happiness and stops you from growing. It clouds your judgment and forces you to multiply your wrongs beyond your intentions. Every morning you wake to find that one more person has left your life, and yet you keep moving away from your family and friends. If you are lucky to receive a timely help you may be able to jailbreak but I have seen how the ghost of the past visits your happy home in future. Just when you finally overcome the addiction and decide to settle down, have family and play with your kids then you realize you aren’t left with much life. You had already damaged so many vital organs in your body to live a normal life. Then you feel the unforgiving grip of your youthful wrong holding you back.
While drugs problem is talked about enough there is a subject equally important that didn’t receive much attention. The aggressive love for tattoo is another youthful folly, which literally last forever. At one time you don’t find anything wrong with tattoo because you see so many celebrities showing off their designs, you see all your friends having them and because you probably think you will never grow up. But you have to grow up and you have to know that those celebrities have millions of dollars and that your friends are wrong too.
Technologies with which celebrities create their tattoos are medically safe and the tattoo makers are professionals, they know what they are doing. Do we have professionals? What type of tools are we using? Last year a student of mine tried a tattoo on his neck and landed up infecting some nerves inside. He couldn’t move his neck and had hard time talking; it took over a month of treatment to regain his speech. He was lucky that it was just a normal infection and not tetanus. There are other infections associated with careless pricking that could ruin your life.
Surviving the infection is just the first stage; living with tattoo is another challenge. My tattoos didn’t give me infection because I sterilized the needles I used but tattoo itself is an infection, more so when you are someone responsible in society. People associate tattoo with drug addicts and gang members but I am a teacher and I don’t like to be assumed that way. How could I change that way people think?
When you are young you don’t care a thing about the world. Tattooing your body is just another mischief you try among hundred others. To gain little extra attention you tattoo strange designs and shamelessly find it cool. I have seen arms and legs filled with vulgar words, phrases and signs displayed openly in public. But someday you are bound to change, and you can’t read your future. Look at me; I never thought I would hold this respectable position in the society. All my youthful follies are forgotten with time except these tattoos on my arms but I am very grateful to myself for not having filthy and disrespectful symbols and words.
Your future is waiting for you with greater opportunities and you could be someone everybody looks up to. And from where you are then you can’t afford to show your tattoo and escape wrong assumptions. Future can’t lie in the tattooed arms. Even if you choose to lead a quiet life you have to become a parent someday and when your little child points at the sign of middle finger on your arms and ask you questions, how would you explain the vulgarity of your designs? Therefore, if you don’t yet have a tattoo, don’t bother about having one. You don’t have to keep a permanent record of your temporary mischief. 

More Rejected Jobs Than Jobless Youth

There are thousands of jobs, and thousands of jobless youth. It doesn't take an economist to figure out what went wrong- these jobless youth rejected those jobs and chose to remain jobless rather. Why would a hungry man deny an offer of food? Well we still don't need an expert to figure out the answer- who would want to eat stinking food? The rejected jobs are not worth taking in all sense of the word.
And then from our cozy offices we shun the attitude of our youth, we recite the whole document on dignity of labour but what we are ignoring is the dignity of the work. It has never been the question of indignity of labour that repelled the job-seekers from the potential jobs though many proclaim it to be. Youth were always ready to work on all fronts if only the job has enough dignity to deserve their effort. These rejected jobs in Bhutan are dirty and cheap, and still expect young ambitious children to embrace them.
Bhutanese, young and old, hold their heads high and look down upon those jobs, but most of them are dying to babysit in New York, dish wash in Amsterdam, house keep in New Brunswick, collect grapes in Queensland, and do laundry in Perth. Someone who keeps three house keepers at home doesn't mind housekeeping for someone in the west. All these prove that Bhutanese don't mind sweating, they don't mind getting their hands dirty as long as they are paid well, yes money matters. Money draws thick lines across society and it takes a life time to cross those lines. How could we expect our youth to work for a salary that is lesser than someone lunch bill? This is one thing that makes up for a dignity of work.
The other thing that gives dignity to work is the respect to the worker and his work but who gives a damn to a sweeper? Who cares what a peon thinks? Who listens to a driver? Who wouldn't shout at a security guard? Who greets a cook? Therefore who would want to work for a job where there is no respect? We don't think once before we send an elderly sweeper to buy doma or just a packet of wiz, we want our driver to open the car door for us, we want our driver to carry our shopping bag, we want our security guard to carry our baggage. In short we don't respect their job. These and many more factors make those common jobs very unattractive, and thus these jobs are rejected.
The bothering question is not that there are many unemployed youth, nor that there are many vacancies without takers, what is important is how to bring the two sides to an agreement. And I propose my suggestions.