21 January 2012

Hotel California in Punakha

Tea Break
I only heard of it like a story from a far off place, though I am into teaching for five years now, that it's such a fun at the winter correction camp in Punakha High School. They say it's like hotel California- "You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave."
I am in Punakha School as well but on a different mission. I am training teachers of Punakha and Gasa under Chigphen Rigphel Project. And this is the closest I ever came to the place from where my fate was decided years ago, from where fates of thousands were decided every year, and from where fates of many teachers are changed year after year- yes teachers make big money here, I only heard of it like a story you know.

What Makes it Hotel California? 

  1. All your lost friends suddenly reemerge from their isolation and it becomes the best vacation down the memory lane.
  2. Meeting old friends helps you forget your age, and this is exactly what happens in Punakha. Weeks in Punakha helps you fight aging and wrinkles better than Ponds Age Miracle. 
  3. The amount of money you make and the relationship you build here in the camp makes you feel like you belong to the place forever. Therefore most of the teachers in the camp are almost permanent staff, having booked their place for eternity, which so much connects with hotel California's closing line: "but you can never leave."
One Teacher One Car
Over hundred teachers gathered here to check class ten papers, and I am surprised to see so many familiar faces. They were surprised to see me as well- a new face among them in Punakha, but I confirmed them that I wasn't with them.

19 January 2012

Girl Who Found Her Way

These few months the news of youth going wrong never stopped taking the headlines. My month long stay in Phuntsholing gave me all the reason to worry about next generation of Bhutanese we are bringing up. From robbery to gang fights, drugs abuse to stabbing, lost of obedience to as far as homosexuality- they are leaving behind no bad stone unturned. I almost gave up all my hopes on them and just then I saw this 16 year old Yeshey Choden on Youtube, which gave me an insight into what is there beyond our eye and beyond the interest of Bhutanese media. Her magical voice and her very own lyrics held me stunned for a while. As I watch her fingers dance smoothly over the strings of her guitar I realized how guilty I was of those many assumptions.
While there are hundreds of kids who didn't find their purpose in life, and hundreds others who lost their purposes in the midst of influences but on the brighter side there are hundreds who found their way in life like Yeshey Choden. We just don't know about them because they are not put on the stage.

Update (2 Feb 2012): Yeshey Choden received an offer to sing for Yarkey Flim, on the recommendation of Bhutan Street Fashion.

17 January 2012

Why Everything Happens in Thimphu?

Night in Thimphu,   From  bhutanmajestictravel.com   
"Why everything happens in Thimphu?" was the question I often asked, sometimes in desperation, often in frustration and at times in sadness. Wherever our works begin it has to end in Thimphu, and without going there for umpteen times nothing gets done. From wherever the buses travel the road must end in Thimphu. Every taxi seems to head to Thimphu. All the offices operates from switches in Thimphu. Businesses find Thimphu favorable. All Jobs are in Thimphu. And therefore people move to Thimphu.
At one time we were scared of Thimphu, believing that the city spoils our children but now we know that Thimphu is scared of us because our kids are spoiling the city. Everybody wants to live in the city and nobody seems to take ownership of it, nobody cares about it. It's only now that I understand Thimphu is just an innocent little town who wants its dwellers to own her as their own. But the tragedy is that everybody just wants to use it.
So many stabbings, so many robbery, so many arrests, where are we taking Thimphu? It's amazing how much money is put on helping the youth, but the most amazing of all is the amount of effort kids put in running away from the helping hands. It's natural to be naughty at certain age but our kids have gone far beyond. They have lost their respect for humanity, they are out for kill and that was the last thing we were expecting from Bhutanese youth. There are more parents in Thimphu than Police, if every parent takes care of their child the problem won't be as grave. We have to be social police.
Why are these happening in Thimphu? The answer is in the question, because everything happens in Thimphu. It's time we realize that Thimphu is not the center of the earth, let there be limit to how much it can hold. Don't we have any other place for the IT Park? Are we still going ahead with the Medical College in Thimphu?
Thank god we don't have enough space in Thimphu, otherwise someday we might consider bringing all the Dzongs to Thimphu and make a Heritage Park there. Don't just Think from Thimphu, Think for Thimphu!

10 January 2012

The Other Gender

When you sign up for an account on internet you have to fill in a form, and I bet you must have wondered what that "Other" below "Male" and "Female" meant. I always thought Bhutan will never have to worry about it but looks like the time has come.
Funny No More
All brows in Wandue went up when Dechen first came there from Paro. She was the boy who appeared in headlines following an issue with her school not letting her be a girl. She set herself free by dropping out. Now she runs a BEauty Palour in Wangdue, where she is accepted as she is and doing good business. My wife wasn't very comfortable when I took her to Dechen's saloon for the first time, but later admitted that Dechen had the softest hand. I didn't see the other man people were talking about in Wangdue. He seems to be a taxi driver. who often dresses himself in kira.
While some people find it strange and unacceptable- denial of God's creation, I had to explain to many that they were born with woman's soul and they are NOT pretending to be what they are not. 
Bhutan government has already realized the change that is happening and discussed on the issue sometime last year. I don't know about the content of the talk though but I am happy that things are put into perceptive on time. Because after what I saw around me these days I am seriously worried. Dechen in Wangdue was just the tip of an iceberg.
During our lunch breaks we rest under the tree watching over two hundred girls practice football in Phuntsholing School ground, and the point of worry is that almost half of the girls have denied themselves as girls- from the way they keep their hair, way type of language they use, to the names they kept for themselves.  If it were a few of them I might sympathize with them just like I did with Dechen but here is the case of peer influence or a fashion of sort. Or is it the effect of Football on them? 
I wouldn't want to wake up one day and suddenly find my daughter wanting to be a boy just because it's a fashion. And I don't think the parents of these girls will want that either!

31 December 2011

Last Post of the Year 2011

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

United States
United Kingdom

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

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

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

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

Our Faith, Their Business

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

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

J.Brands Clothing

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

27 December 2011

Phuntsholing Youth and My Car

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

Reporting Forest Fire

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

23 December 2011

Ngultrum Identity

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