Showing posts with label Wangdue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wangdue. Show all posts

05 September 2014

Face of Buddha on the Rock (Update)

My last post Face of Buddha reached far beyond my regular audience. It has fascinated people all over. I was counting happiness on my blog, it's the moment we bloggers dream to see. The story has done magic to my blog, it was as if the story was long waiting to be told. But more than what the story did to my blog, this time I pride in what my blog has done to the story. I was seeking attention for what seemed like an ignored Face of Buddha but it turned out that the people have never heard about it, not even the oldest of people here. It was as if they waited for this moment, now people are all over the place.
Face of Buddha
Before it went viral I accompanied group of my colleagues to complete what was left half done, to go up close to the face of Buddha. The path leading to the site was worn, it was walked by thousands across the generations. How the gigantic natural art piece never caught generations of eyes remains a mystery. Standing right before the overwhelming rock, it's hard to make out the face distinctly. The eyes, the cheek, the nose, the lips and the chin that look perfect from across the river are just natural fault lines on the almost flat rock face. This confirms that there is no human manipulation at all. The compelling image of Buddha's face is a natural composition of fault lines, their shadows, and the color texture. The rock is almost two dimensional but from a distance it three dimensional. It's magical.  
Close Up
It was on Sunday I posted the story and by Monday I started receiving pictures from people who went there to see for themselves. By Wednesday the site was crowded with people, and that evening authorities decided to put fence around it. Today when I went there I could see long queue of people across the river, and many breaking through the fence already. On the other side of the river cars and people are causing traffic jam on the national highway. This is more than the attention one can ever ask for.

From the View Point
Long Queue of People 
Some people jokingly call me Terton PaSsu Lingpa and I funnily wish but like I shared in the last post, I wasn't the one to see it first. My friend Yam Rinzin show me a picture from his phone a few months ago. Today he told me that he was told by his lady colleague Tshering Yangzom, who seemed to have seen it through her window, which was facing the hill. That makes her the tertonma. 

I humbly accept the credit of making it public. It gives me great pleasure to see overwhelming number of people gathering around there and wondering how on earth it happened. Number of people will increase by the day, and in seeing the compelling image on the rock, good thought will be evoked in their minds and prayers on their lips. Perhaps this is my parting gift to the place where I lived for seven defining years of my life.   
Visitors (Even a Mobile Bakery has reached there!)

06 April 2014

Bajothang is Becoming a Town Soon

'Bajothang Town' had been a new phrase to describe all the problems in the world. There is limit to failure, Bajothang crossed all lines. It's a town build on problems and it never failed its history. Reconciliation with its failed past was long overdue.
Death Traps
Well now things are happening finally. Looks like we are soon going to have a town around here. I can see people mending the broken pavements and dusting the potholes. I can see thick smoke from the middle of the town where they seem to be mixing blacktopping materials. I can see some roundabouts are resized. I can see some drains reappearing from underneath tonnes of earth. I am happy.

Mending the broken town
Smoke of Hope
There should be strategic planning to make adjustment with irreparable structural errors, because streets cannot be widened now- if every street is allowed for parking there is no room for traffic. With the drains repaired the sewage overflow will find its way and with the roads blacktopped the dust will be gone. This is the town Bajothang deserves to be and I hope the contractor will deliver it, and I hope the municipal will see to it. Because contractors are business people, they will try to make profit from every corner.

Redesigning the errors

I am eager to see how they will go about this!
Work Done so far
The few patches of finished work that are visible aren't so promising but we are optimistic people and we hope the contractor will learn to do better, and that he will leave behind a legacy that he can be proud of rather than endless court orders.

If you are visiting Bajothang these days you will find it too dusty to live but for people who are living here it's the dust of hope and change, it's the last of dust and stink, and we are enjoying it. Wish us best of luck.

15 September 2013

Incomplete Wangdue Tshechu

In June 2012, We lost Wangdue Dzong in a tragic fire accident but things moved on unexpectedly quick. In just a year the tragedy is forgotten, which is evident from the uneventful first anniversary of the fire. Perhaps it's our extraordinary strength to move on. Even for a person like me who sees the ruins everyday, the heavy feeling has disappeared and I can look at it with no significant emotion now.

But Wangdue Tshechu is a harsh reminder of what we lost. It digs into the cold ashes of the past. It reminds people of the great Dzong we don't have anymore. Some elderly folks take it very emotionally because they had worshipped it for decades. The excitement of Tshechu is no more the same, and I haven't been to both the Tshechus held in Tencholing ground. Without the Dzong the essence of Tshechu is hardly felt, I couldn't straighten my mood to get into my best gho and walk to the festival.

Today, 5th Sept, is the last day of three day Wangdue Tshechu and all of sudden I started wondering how Thongdrel is hung in Tencholing ground. I haven't heard of any structure being built and even if there was one built I wondered how would it withstand the power of Wangdue wind.
The Wangdue Thongdrel (Pic from
Not long after, it dawned on me that the gigantic Wangdue Thongdrel too was lost with the dzong and there is no more Thongdrel on the third day of Wangdue tshechu. Not having the Dzong and not having Thongdrel make Wangdue Tshechu painfully incomplete.
Where the Thongdrel used to be (Pic from Kuensel, edited for PaSsuDiary)
Watch the following Youtube video of Wangdue Thongdrel I shot in good times- 2009 Tshechu.

24 August 2013

Swimming Pool in Bhutan

A Swimming pool in Bhutan is almost equivalent to Eiffel Tower in Paris or Taj Mahal in India not for any special reason but for having just one in the country for many many years. That lone swimming pool is located in Thimphu and it has become a landmark, the whole area around it is proudly named Swimming Pool. Many people died without seeing this pool but seriously it’s no better than a pool seen in an average hotel abroad.

Much later some hotels built their own swimming pools and interesting any average Bhutanese can name the hotels with swimming pools in chronological order like an intelligent child can name the oceans on the earth. Yes, if you want to be famous in Bhutan built a swimming pool. It’s so rare than even today people consider going to swimming pool like going to Disney Land, including myself.

Swimming is known to be the best form of exercise to our body. It engages our entire body parts including buttock where usually no exercise can impact. Swimming gives muscles to our heart and lungs. And when you are injured or pregnant swimming is the safest exercise. But where to swim? Our rivers are killers where parents and teachers would never send and thus swimming is very uncommon among Bhutanese.

I am learning the basics of swimming at this age because I didn’t have the opportunity before. I heard about the swimming pool in Thimphu long ago like a legend but I didn’t have the confidence or money to go there.
Now that we have a swimming pool in a Hotel near Bajothang, which is commercially open to public. I am investing in my swimming skills- better late than never. I have learnt enough to safe myself in case an emergency happens but I am yet to master the skill to rescue others.
Bajothangu Swimming Pool- Picture by Hotel Pema Karpo

With the confidence gathered from swimming pool here in Bajothang I dare a visit to the Swimming Pool in Thimphu with my little sister, niece and nephew. I was not allowed to go in because I wasn't going to swim. They told me my little ones will be taken care of. So I had to go in but they wanted me to wear swimsuit and not my regular boxer. So I had to hire a swimsuit for an addition cost on top of the heavy fee. Worse even, the suit was wet, someone just removed and passed it to me.

I could see so many children stopped outside because they either didn’t have full amount to pay or weren’t carrying swimsuit. And inside there were about hundred. The big hall felt like an army firing range with noise echoing endlessly. I badly missed Hotel Pema Karpo Swimming Pool in Bajothang then.

Few Reasons why I loved Bajothang Pool more than Thimphu’s:
Thimphu Swimming Pool
Hotel Pema Karpo Swimming Pool
Indoor,suffocating and noisy
Outdoor with views of Paddies and sky
Restrictions: Only swimmers, family should wait outside.
Only in Swimsuit.
Family can visit and only swimmers have to pay
Nu.200/hr for Adults
Nu.75/hr for Children
Nu.150 for 3 hr for adults (Nu.50/hr)
Nu.100 for Children for 3 hrs. (Nu.30/hr)
No privacy in the restroom and change room.
Private Restroom and Change room.
Water Heated to comfortable temperature
Water Naturally heated to comfortable temperature.

Why Bhutan didn't have many swimming pool? Well I think we must forgive the past and swim into the future. Swimming like any other thing must begin in school and schools in warm places should have a pool each, where every child gets to jump for free and without restrictions that insult their financial ability. It can not only beautify the campus but also make children fall in love with the school. It will not only keep children fit but also keep them from running to the river during hot seasons. This list of advantage goes on and on.

I and many teachers in Bajothang dream of a swimming pool in our school, our principal shares our dream and our Dzongda is the inspiration behind our dream, therefore it won't be long before we have one in our school. Wish us luck.

25 June 2013

Wangdue Dzong Design

Today, 24 June 2013, is the first anniversary of Wangdue Dzong Fire disaster, which seemingly was forgotten too quickly by many Bhutanese, including media. Disasters across the world are remembered for ages and each anniversary they find out how much people and things have moved on, but today there was nothing about Wangdue Dzong in newspaper nor on television, perhaps we have moved on so much that there is nothing to reflect on or recount about.

I am as insignificant as any one of you when it comes to having any stake in the reconstruction of the Dzong with a contribution of just a few thousand Ngultrum, but having seen the disaster firsthand it created a lasting impression on me. I often have nightmares. I see the ruins everyday and everyday I am reminded of that fateful day. Everyday I wonder how the new dzong would be like, everyday I design the new dzong in my head, and everyday I wish if someone could consider my
Today, on the first anniversary I would like talk about my wishes for the new Wangdue Dzong. I have seen demolishing work in progress and I have heard of timbers be readied for the construction. I also know many great architects are putting their head together in coming up with the most magnificent design for new dzong. But at the back of my head I am deeply worried they might land up replicating Zhabdrung's design because I know how literally we relate Dzongs to Zhabdrung.
Today when we look at a Dzong, it relates us to Zhabdrung and his times, of people and their lives in seventeenth century. Hundreds of years from now when people look at Wangdue Dzong, they should be able to relate to us in twenty first century, and our lives. It must tell history of our Kings and not of Zhabdrung, because it's not the Dzong from Zhabdrung's time, it's built during the reign of our Fifth king and it's must be the history of our time. There are many other Dzongs that will tell tales of Zhabdrung. The purpose of Dzong has changed completely.
Wangdue Dzongkha Office after Fire-An Example

In this light, let's define 21st Century Dzong. It's must be a modern state of art with technology that defines our time. The walls need not be three meters thick anymore because we have no wars to fight now. The southern tower of the Dzong should accommodate a windmill to harvest the enormous power of wind that comes from there. The roof of the dzong should be made of solar panels to harvest solar energy.
The interior of the Dzong should house a theater for any form of art and cultural performance, not restricting to just tshechu. Royal Textile Academy infrastructure in Thimphu is a great example. It should have an international standard conference hall to host any regional and international meetings. The basement should have space for storage and parking, and access road to any part of the dzong, incase of emergencies like the last fire.
As museum is a must in the Dzong with outlet for handicraft sales that can showcase Bhutanese history and art to our people and to the outside world. National Library should find a space in new Wangdue Dzong too.
One pressing question is, should Dzong be housing all the Dzongkhag offices? I recently visited Wangdue Dzongkhag office, which is temporarily set up in Dzongkhag Choekhang, where a huge hall is divided into cubicles. It looked like a international corporate office, fine example of how future Dzongkhag office should be. And it can be outside the Dzong so that security and safety could be maintained easily.
The future Dzong should not waste space like it does now, it should create spaces that will generate revenue to sustain itself for all times to come- like Theater, Museum, Handicraft, Conference Hall, and Library. It should be the most sort-after public space ever seen in Bhutan.
It may take billions of Ngultrum but it's worth investing because Dzong are not built everyday. In building this Dzong we are writing the history of His Majesty the King and people of his time on the face of time. It must be the greatest structure ever built in Bhutan. So much I wish for...

11 June 2013

Politically Correct

I found out that throughout this season I am the only fool who has not written anything political on my blog, nor anywhere else. It's not because I am the social media monitor but because I learned from hundreds of debates I read night after night that everybody is right in their own views and that nothing is going to change. Some friends think I must be among those many anonymous writers but I must clarify I didn't find the need to because among thousands of views expressed I saw views that matched mine and that's it.

But today I found something political to write about. National Council Election was long done and forgotten in the midst of National Assembly Election. And where are all the Campaign posters and Banners gone? Those huge pictures are very expensive but within few weeks it is nothing more than a huge pile of toxic waste.

Interestingly, my colleague Lopen Phuba has requested Wangdue NC Dasho Tashi Dorji to give us his campaign banner. And this afternoon we have created the biggest framed photo of Wangdue Dzong using the campaign banner- without the picture of the candidate on the side (:D)

Campaign Banner minus Candidate's Picture is equal to the Biggest Framed picture of Wangdue Dzong!!
This huge frame will be the centeral piece on the enterance wall of the Administration Building in Bajothang High School, thanks to Dasho Tashi Dorji and Lopen Phuba. I am sharing this to let you know that no matter who wins this election, right after the campaign period is over you must try and grab some of their campaign banners to create something like this. This is politically correct!

21 May 2013

Private Tuition in Bhutan- Where Teachers Can't Teach

This is one very interesting story about a licensed private tuition company writing complaint letter to Dzongkhag about some of my colleagues stealing their business. I say it's interesting because a businessman thinks that it's his business to tuition our children and not ours. It's even more interesting because there is a policy which states that teachers cannot take private tuition classes after school hours, and that's the legal point the businessman is catching at. Technically he is on the right side. 
Before I express my surprises let me clarify that none of my teacher colleagues take any tuition classes this year as far as I know and I have no time, space and intention to do it myself, therefore it's with clean conscience that I choose to be surprised.
The biggest surprise is that our own ministry thought teachers should not do private tutoring for money, and the justification was that some teachers would do half hearted job in the classroom so to gather good number of heads for side business. This mistrust is heartbreaking. Should there be any teacher who would resort to such cheap means, can anything stop them?
Another Surprise, licenses have been issued to businessmen to operate tuition classes, now justify the logic, if any, behind trusting some people, who may or may not be trained, to teach our students better than they were taught in the classroom.
If any student has problem with any subject no teacher will ever say no to
them during free hours and holidays, so where do we need tuition at all? And if some parents have enough money to blow off and wants to send their children to tuition anyway, who would be a better person- child's own teachers or some licensed businessmen?
Coming back to our ministry's decision, which may be guided by many wisdom I didn't know of, but I must say I was impressed by health ministry move at providing off hour clinic opportunity for doctors to earn some extra cash. I also envy the way engineers spent their off hours making drawing for private individuals to earn handsome cash. But we teachers are lavishly showered with rules after rules, instead of some smart ways to improve our livelihood. Name one teacher who has a car without loan, or name one teacher who has children in private school without two loans?
I would most respectfully accept the rule that says teachers are not allowed to drive taxi after school, or teachers are not allowed to do business in school involving students but excuse me on the rule that says teachers can't teach. What else can teachers do then?

15 May 2013

#SherigCollection in my School

I am very happy that Sherig Collection brought Boaz Shmueli and Galit Shmueli to my school, which was a sudden decision of Boaz after he saw my tweets about the Book Fair and teacher crowd in our football ground. We pitched a tent outside the book fair stall with two computers and ended up stealing the show from the main event. We invited every passing teacher to our tent and no teacher left without being thoroughly amazed.
See how we stole the show!
Sherig Collection is a selfless initiative by Rigsum where Boaz and Galit work. It's a collection of offline learning resources for children, and if you are a teacher, student or a concerned parent you must get it. It's now available in nine Dzongkhags, with teachers who attended the Book Fair in Bajothang. Details of the sources can be obtained from Sherig Collection Facebook Group. If you are in or close to Wangdue I am your server. 
Busy in Bajothang
The Sherig Collection is basically a 24GB answer to all Bhutanese issues such as internet connectivity, internet speed, budget limitations and computer efficiency. It's too good to be true and you must own it to believe it. Come with external hard drive! 

When two of them were not so busy I chanced to  show them around. They were full of appreciation for the so many creative works done by our students.
At WiFiPark gate with Gasa Principal

Near Curiosity Post 

Thanks to my 8 C students who helped in pitching the tent and to Chidanand and other eLearning Club members who sticked around helping the team during the weekend. And Thank you Rigsum and team for Sherig Collection. I hope, and will work toward reaching, the collection to as many schools as possible. 

09 December 2012

Dawa's Coffee

You know I don't leave any chance to express my appreciation to anybody at anytime, and last night we spotted BBS anchor Dawa outside our regular café. He was busy on his phone while we discovered that both the families in the café were his fans. Café owner asked me to invite him in for a cup of coffee and she had already ordered her kitchen.
It was very late and Dawa was still on phone and I was waiting for him to finish. The moment he finished, which was after a long time, I ran to him and asked him in for a cup of coffee with his fans. He politely decline the coffee but joined me into the café. We were all standing and introducing and telling him that we were his fans. He looked as nervous as we were. His phone started ringing but he silenced it to spare a little more time with us. It rang again and he silenced it again. I knew he had to go, he was only trying not to be rude by walking out so I thanked him and showed him out.
After he was gone we were talking about him outside when group of men appeared from next building which houses the Karaoke. Dawa was among them. And all of a sudden another Dawa appeared from behind- same height, same face. It was his twin brother Nima (for your kind information and necessary reaction next time). Now we were embarrassed fearing if it was the real Dawa we invited in. Kezang was paranoid because she didn't know Dawa had a twin and thought it was an illusion. Thank god they were wearing different coats unlike many twins, and I confirmed we had caught the right Dawa. He came to us and said 'good night' before he left.
Then the café chef brought a cup of coffee which was actually for Dawa, and I drank it. 

11 October 2012

Congress Grass and Bad Nose

Sinusitis is a very common disease among Bhutanese and most common among people living in Wangdue. This is based on no formal research but every other person around me has the infection, including myself. The local medical pharmacy tells me that thousands have come to him with the problem because he is known for his ability to treat this disease with his own combination of medicine. People trust him more than they trust hospitals.
Depending on the severity of the infection people go to extremes to free themselves from the suffocation disease, and like a myth this disease has strange treatments; Smelling the stinking waters in Gasa Hotspring, smoking cigarette filled with fragments of samba deer's horn, inhaling smoking from burning human body at the cremation ground, and of course the regular medical treatments at hospitals and indigenous hospitals.
People have come up with various causes of the disease in the region, (of course we can't expect our hospitals to do this out of their box), some say it's because of our water source that carries dirt from several villages from Samtengang to Boelangda, while others say it's the strong wind that carries all sorts of dust in the air we breath in daily. However, the water and wind story prevails across the country and attributing Wangdue's mass infection to it comes with little logic, that's when I heard and discovered the story of a toxic grass.
Santa Maria Feverfew or Whitetop Weed is originally from American tropics. It became widespread in Asia through contaminated wheat that the Congress Party of India imported from the US, which is why now the plant is known as Congress grass. It doesn't take much intelligence to find out how the grass made it to Wangdue. The grass is invasive and can spread at epidemic proportions triggering pollen allergy in human and even livestock. Due to toxic parthenin it contains it causes dermatitis and respiratory malfunction in humans, which explains why so many of us are struggling with out nose every day. 
The Political Grass- Imported from India

25 September 2012

Tshechu Without Dzong

Wangdue Tshechu appears more than any other festivals in ancient literature but in recent times it disappeared from the list of important festivals, literally or figuratively, for it shines in the shadow of Thimphu Tshechu and Dromchen.
Picture from Kuensel
And this year we are receiving the most painful attention because for the first time in the living history Wangdue Tshechu is celebrated without the Wangdue Dzong. Without the Dzong the very charm of the festival is lost, it feel so empty to get into the best dresses and ornaments anymore. I don't even have a clue about how things are going in Tencholing Army Campus, but young folks returning from the festival look exhausted from so many fun stalls to choose from.

28 July 2012

Maths Teacher at The Fuel Pump

I have various stories of myself at the fuel pump, and in the last many stories I was either the clown who ran on empty tank to the empty pump, or the villain who shouted at the manager who thought he had nothing to do with the empty pump. But this time I didn't switch my role, I remained a teacher- a Maths teacher.
I don't know if you are used to keeping your investigative eyes on the fuel meter while fueling your car, because there are pump boys who are out looking for chances to steal a few drops from your purchase. You have to be extra careful while fueling at the stations where the old model pumps are still serving after their retirement age because you don't see the price and the rate.
I was at a Fuel Station in Paro this morning and I was already displeased at the old machine. I asked to be fueled for Nu.1000 and the boy stopped at 14.4 L. I thought his machine needed a break but no, the boy was done.
I just fueled in Wangdue yesterday and argued over why I was only given 15.2L when I would get 16L normally. I was informed about the latest price hike. It's surprising how a faintest news of hike in India could be taken so seriously and swiftly in a place where the hiked fuel trucks are yet to arrive.
The boy came for the money and I denied him, I inquired him about the rate and he started stammering and changing colors. I knew it wasn't a mistake, he was only trying to rob a little bit from me just as he did from many others, but this time he messed with a maths teacher who not only teaches his kids how to do maths but also live mathematically. I gave him a short division lesson and made him add 800ml more, which was rightfully mine before I gave him the money.
Now, it doesn't really take a maths teacher to figure out such simple robbery, your mobile phone has a calculator in it in case you have to stop at a gas station where they use old machines that do not show the cost. Every drop counts in such times and 800 ml is more than some drops. Be careful.

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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...

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...

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. 

27 April 2012

Telling Girls the Truth- Our Principal Speaks

Bajothang finally received a man who could nurse its injuries and help her not only walk but run marathon race. Mr. Shangkar Lal joined us as our new principal last February from Gyalposhing and he has already shown us how he could lead us to a great change. For the first time I going to work under a man who would allow me to be creative, who himself is an artist hungry for creativity.
There are already so many reforms this man has brought to talk about in just three months but for now I would like to pick on the speech he gave to our girls some mornings ago.
He is a powerful speaker and uses his own choice of words, and here I will use my own words to express the same thing he conveyed that morning:
"I come from Gyalposhing, a small town that grew because of the Kurichhu Project and I have seen firsthand the impact of huge population fed by project on to our young school girls. And here am I again, in a place where two big projects are exploding the local population, where you all could fall victims of change. You could be sweettalked by any man with hundred promises but you must remember that you are the greater promise. You should know that you are capable of being more than just a mere woman dependent a man. Look at your vice principal here, tomorrow if madam Deki's husband treats her bad, tortures her and kicks her, she could kick him back and choose her on road in life. Because she has created her own life where she has hundred choices. You have the same right to create your life where you have hundred choices, you must resist any influence from men at this age. I am not saying relationship with men is bad, I am saying the time is bad. There is charm in doing right thing in the right time. If you fail yourself today, you are failing yourself for the life time: the when your husbands kick you, you may have to hold their feet and beg for mercy because you have nowhere to go. Don't let that happen. Give yourselves time to grow, give yourselves time to make good judgement, remain a student when you are one."
 This speech was well timed and well framed to protect our young girls from thousands of men pouring in because of the Puntatshangchu Project. We keep hearing rumors of our girls getting influenced into relationships and I hope this goes on to help them know that they themselves are the greater promises of their lives, the happiness that no man can give them.


03 April 2012

Demolishing the Palace of the Tshomem

Tshomem (mermaid) is believed to be the keeper of water bodies. My school is on the bank of the Punatshangchhu, the river that has the legend of having a tshomem. Astrologers have repeatedly mentioned that the construction of the school has displeased the keeper of the river, but for the last fifteen years of existence school has done nothing to come into harmony with the spiritual power. The consistence disaster these few years forced the school to take the threat seriously.
We lost a boy to the river in 2009, the spot where astrologers said the mermaid lived. The same place was flooded the same year, washing away our fishery tank. An old woman committed suicide near the fishery tank. Over four cars accidents occurred on the adjoining road, of which one fell right into the river killing a young man. School faced fire disasters, theft cases, and even bomb pranks.  All this has reminded us to listen to the silence for once.
School, with the help from Dzongkhag Dratshang, picked the spot to construct a Tshomem Phodrang (palace of the mermaid), it's the traditional and spiritual negotiation of peace with the unseen owner of the place. Only the name is 'Palace', otherwise it's just a stone and mud structure, where no metal,cement and chalk can be used.
Site Map of School
However, in the twist of the story- in our quest to please the mermaid we have displeased a rich businessman in Bajothang. We have reached halfway through the construction of the palace, when the man came and claimed the stones we used. The well shaped stones were lying in the extended school campus for years and we knew the owner. But after we finished fencing the whole campus we had wrongly assumed our ownership over the stones. The construction committee had the intention of asking him, knowing that the old man would agree if we told him our story. But the angry rich man came twice and asked, "Do you think these shaped-stones emerged naturally? I have invested Nu.25 in shaping each stone. Nu.25 those days was powerful. I myself stole the stone from Nobding in the darkness of the night and you think you can use it at your will?"
School apologized, begged and asked him to be our patron for the construction of the palace but he remained angry. Then we asked him to put his price on the stone. We are already halfway and if he would give us at a reasonable price we thought we would buy. Teachers could contribute about Nu.10,000 to pay him up. But his price shocked us to demolish the palace right away. He wanted Nu.50 per stone, which means we should be paying him Nu.50,000 for half structure alone.
This school educated four of his children and his grandchildren will come here soon but he didn't want to spare some stones. This is the sort of public help our school is getting. If we had a legal support I have a feeling that the stone might belong to us after all these years, or may be he might have to pay us for keeping the stone in our area for so long.

Disclaimer: The views reflected in here are NOT School's, it's just my personal observation and interpretation of what is happening.

Update 7th April 2012

School helplessly demolished the structure built with those stones and rebuilt it with mud bricks. The construction committee engaged senior students and any helping hand they could get to erect the phodrang within three days, so we could consecrate it today during the school annual rimdro. Now the palace of the tshomem is built and consecrated as if nothing has happened. And we hope this brings peace to the invisible power and to the entire community of Bajothang.
The Palace of the Tshomem- built in three days

03 March 2012

How Does the Flood Siren Sound?

I live close to the bank of the Punatshangchhu river, and the area was declared red-zone by the experts who were also kind enough to let us know that eight glacier lakes were waiting to burst downstream on to us anytime soon. I am surprised to find myself having a good night's sleep everyday even after knowing that my bedroom may become the riverbed someday soon.
Astrology has pointed at many natural disasters this year, especially flood, and I think I should stop my Bhutanese complacency and strive to know a few things in preparation for the year. I have heard of GLOF mitigation project, where hundreds of people were engaged in lowering the water level of the potential lakes.  I don't know what finished first- work or the money! I also heard of installation of lots of early warning systems, where by people could be alerted before the flood reaches them. Awareness programs were conducted among people living in red zone, to let them know that they are at risk. However the most important piece in the whole puzzle is yet to come in and I wish to know when is it coming.
Three days ago, it was cold and raining and I was working late into the night as usual. When I was about to go to bed I heard a siren. What was it? Any ordinary Bhutanese would ignore it but I live in the red zone and I know there is an early warning system in place, which immediately made me panic. I went out to confirm the source of the siren. It seems to come from the police station or may be the hospital. I waited for a long time before I finally convinced myself that even if it was the flood it may not reach me.
So the missing piece in the puzzle is how does the flood siren sound? How different is it from the sound of a fire engine or an ambulance? If we can't make out the sound of the flood siren, what it the use of investing so much money in having them? When is the right time to tell us the secret of the flood siren?
A mock drill in the red zone should be possible when mock election was possible across the country, and the right time to do it may be now because  natural disaster may not wait for us to prepare.
And as I was sleeping that night I also wondered where to run if at all the flood comes. Yes, where to go? Have we identified the safe place to run to? And who will come to give us instructions- Police, Dzongda or the Gup? Or are we going to repeat the mistake we made during the last earthquake of listening to rumors and spreading them in the absence of proper information dissemination system?
Well, experts were kind enough to let us know the bad news that we are trespassing the way of raging water but I wish they also told us the good news of how we could keep ourselves safe.