20 May 2021

Chaychay’s Tree House

When Charmi called me up to cast my daughter Ninzi on a television show, my wife and I agreed without question. Charmi had taken Ninzi on a stage show before, and we have seen how she was a magician in bringing out the best in people and more. Therefore, when she asked, we knew it would be a great learning experience for our little one. Knowing our daughter, we were worried if she could go the length of a 10 episode marathon. But Charmi had no doubts. She was confident, having worked with Ninzi on a show before and seeing her cute videos on Ninzi Show.

While it was Ninzi whom they signed, my wife and I had to be on her duty throughout the shooting. When we began, I had little hope. First, I was worried if my daughter could handle the volume of the script she had to study for each show and to shoot for hours- wouldn't she be a burden on the rest of the team?. Then, I wondered how the show's format, which is shot in the studio, would appeal to the masses in the era of great cinematography and special effects. 

The entire cast and crew with Dasho Kesang Chuki Dorji

The shooting of the first episode alone shot down all my doubts. My daughter was completely in her elements in front of the cameras. My wife looked at me with teary eyes when she said, "It's as if she is not our daughter Ninzi once she is on the set." At home, we struggle to get her to be serious about anything for an extended period, and here she was doing an entire show with such maturity. 

When the show went on air, it was warmly received by the people. Children hummed the tune of 'Chaychay's Tree House' jingle when they saw Ninzi, while the parents were grateful that such a show laden with knowledge and wrapped in fun replaced the foreign cartoon shows for a while. The reviews were great. 

As the youngest member on the set, my daughter was a real Chaychay in the studio as much as she was on the show. She was showered with affection. And soon we didn't even have to drop her or wait for her, she managed with her new family. She enjoyed her time with them no matter how long the day stretched. You will see the chemistry between them on the show. She was playing along with rockstar Aue Kunga Tenzin Dorji and little star Sonam Choney Dorelma, who helped her in getting a better grip on the art of acting and performance.

Episode 1: Funny Weather 

Episode 2: Little Me

Episode 3: Fun with Numbers

Episode 4: Jojo and I

Episode 5: King's Love

Episode 6: Young Archer

Episode 7: Oval Face

Episode 8: To Sir and Madam

Episode 9: World of Colours

Episode 10: Pride of Lions

And behind the camera, besides the show writer and director Charmi Chheda, there were two other ladies, Tashi Dema and Neelam who juggled so well between their professional roles and being a crazy sisterly figure for the girls. Thank you to the ladies for being a memorable part of my daughter's life. And thank you to all the crew members who worked so hard in the background to lay the foundation for the success of this show. 

16 May 2021

Open Letter to New Thimphu Thrompon

Thimphu Thrompon 

Thromde Office

Subject: What Happened to Chubachu Footpath?

Dear Dasho Ugyen Dorji,

Congratulations on your electoral success. Your victory was people's yearning for change. Former Thrompon was a charismatic leader who has won hearts and earned respect from every quarter of this town, yet people chose you. Your victory comes with a lot of responsibilities. People's expectations from you will be overwhelming,  unforgiving and, at times, unreasonable, yet you must strive to remain faithful to your duty.

At least I have a firm belief that you will be seen as an insider, having been a Thromde staff so far, to enjoy the goodwill and cooperation of your former colleagues, unlike former thrompon. Dasho Kinley used to share how the senior staff members often ganged up against his decisions and didn't let him go forth with most of his out-of-the-box ideas. I know this cannot happen against you because you know the masterminds in the system. 

Well, Dasho, a hundred things are begging for your attention in Thimphu today. Everything seems more important than the other, and I wish you the composure and wisdom to see things with clarity and know which one deserves to be on the priority list. 

A footpath that became a drain

I write this today to draw your attention to a small footpath that seems to have fallen in the shadow. It starts from Chubachu traffic, runs along the stream to the bridge above Land Commission (Passing along the Telecom wall). It was a busy footpath used by hundreds of people who don't have or use cars, including students. Among the hundreds of people using that path was my former teacher, Pema Chhogyel, who is visually impaired since childhood. I saw him walking along that path independently using his white cane to get to his office in the Ministry of Education.

Sir Pema Chhogyel and his son on their way home from the office

Unfortunately, one day toward the end of 2019, we saw people and machine urgently digging up the entire stretch of the footpath. People could no longer use it. They had to find alternate routes, which were much longer detours requiring cars. I understand that for the city to develop, we need to tolerate brief inconveniences every now and then, and for bigger development, we have to make bigger sacrifices. 

But what I can't understand is that the urgency with which they had dug the footpath was not followed up with any other urgent activity. It's been two years, and the footpath is still unusable. The initial excitement was only to destroy the fairly good footpath and make it unusable. 

I am a witness to this failure, along with hundreds of officials working with the Land Commission, Health Ministry, Royal Audit Authority, Anti Corruption, RSPN, WWF, UN, Ministry of Education and Bhutan Telecom. 

Alongside Ministry of Health toward NLC

In February last year, I read sir Pema Chogyal making an online plea to Thrompon and urban planners asking them when the path will be made useable. It's his daily route to and fro office, and ever since it was destroyed he had to be dropped to the office by his wife and picked from office by his school-going son. When he wrote that you were in the office as an urban planner but now you are the mayor. Sir Pema must have thought that the ordeal would only last a few months but we are into May 2021 and nothing has been done. 

Dasho, since the unfortunate destruction of the footpath, we saw people struggling to manoeuvre through the dug up path and making do with the pathetic condition of the road until a group of workers came and started some concrete works and put short spikes of metal rods along the side as if to prevent people from using this already scary path. No alternate route was paved, nor the old one was made safe for use.

Footpath along the Telecom Wall (With metal spikes)

Dasho, I can see no justifiable reasons for such a long delay. If there was no budget, there was no need to rush and dig the path in the first place. If there is a budget and the work was given out then shouldn't there be a deadline? 

Dasho, I know that the entire Thimphu is dug up, and some places are dug more than necessary because of our incompetence yet we look forward with the hope that when the dust settles down we are going to have a better city. But when it comes to the footpath that suffered the unfortunate digging, and series of negligence from 2019 to 2021, I urge you to find out what really happened and do whatever it takes to give back the footpath to the hundreds of people who rely on that, including sir Pema Chhogyel. Let him get back the joy of juggling between his home and office independently. 

Thank you

(I don't use the footpath yet I care.)

10 May 2021

Thimphu’s Traffic Turning Dark Red

From as early as 7:45 AM, Thimphu's traffic was in a deep mess. The traffic status on Google maps shows how bad it was (see the map), from yellow showing moderate to red and dark red showing severe jams in most parts of Thimphu. It's pretty unexpected for a small city. 


However, it's a matter of great pride to observe that despite the jam causing frustration, there is hardly any honk or overtaking. In fact, the right lane is left absolutely free from oncoming traffic to pass without hindrance. 


We are all well-meaning people causing this big problem unintentionally. How do we resolve this issue without compromising our lives?

I offer my two chheltrum to address the issue; from immediate fix to long term solutions

1. Immedicate fix

Odd-Even Rule. Allow vehicle with odd digit numbers to ply on odd dates, and even digit nubmer to ply on even dates. Nothing new. We have tried this before. This will not only reduce the traffic to half its mess but also encourage neighbours and communities to talk and start car-pooling.

2. Medium Term Solution: 

Improve public transport or at least add more school buses. Encourage or subsidise commercial school buses. One school bus can take away at least 20 cars from the road. Druk Ride should enter this game.

3. Long Term Solution

Enroll our children in the schools that are within our Zone, so that we don't have to crisscross into other zones and cause jams, or don't event have to use cars. We have seen how dividing the city into zones helps in more than one front.

4. Long Long Term Solution: 

Have a network of good footpaths linking every part of the city. Plant trees along the footpath and make walking to school and office a trendy culture. Once major cause of the current traffic mess is the sudden loss of footpath across the city. So many busy footpaths were dug up seemingly to do a major facelift but even after two years, we are waiting to see when we can use the paths again. If we were to wait this long, why didn't they rush to damage the old paths?

5. Not a Solution: 

DON'T increase taxes on cars following some ill economic advices. It solves nothing. It only makes cars unafforable for the poorer section of the society with no impact whatsoever on the growth in sale and use of cars. 

6. Stupidity 

If you hate traffic jam and don't want to be part of it then start your day before Thimphu wakes up. The road is hauntingly empty till 7:30. But the funny part is you have to wait near the school gates until it opens at 8 AM. This seeminly smart hack turned out to be stupidity.