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 design.lol.
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...

24 June 2013

Gentle Giant-King of Dogs

Nobody would want to mess with a dog that stands taller than a full grown man. But if you meet Titan, my cousin's dog, you will see what a gentle giant looks like. He is the largest dog I ever saw, perhaps he is the largest breed- Great Dane also known as King of dogs. He is very friendly, gentle and peaceful. He hardly barks but when he does you can almost feel the vibration.

Titan and I

16 June 2013

Voters, Vows and Vouchers

A typical Election Campaign vow would be like, "Please vote for me. If I win by the grace of your vote I will make sure I put myself at your service and help find solution to all your problems, big and small."
There are rural voters who take the vow very seriously, not quite innocently though. Recently I was talking to a friend who got elected to National Council, who shared about his experience after winning the election. 
He was overwhelmed by the phone calls and messages he received from his voters. He went on thanking callers for hours after hours and after sometime he hesitated to answer, he badly wanted to switch off his phone, not because he was tired of those calls but because many calls were strange. But he didn't want to be rude, and didn't want to welcome filthy remarks by doing that.

What do I mean by Strange calls? While there are so many calls for shameless personal favours claiming that they voted for him, he was shocked by the number of calls and SMS asking for mobile vouchers. He went to share this strange story with other members of NC only to find that they have their share to share on the same. Are these voters innocent? Have they misunderstood the meaning of 'help' promised in campaign promises of the candidates? 

In no way these voters seem innocent to me, they are either taking advantage of the democratic process where they are pimping their votes or they are trying to pull legs for political reasons. One clear evidence of how cunning some people are was seen during the campaign period in one Dzongkhag, where a surprised candidate showed an SMS asking for voucher to his opponents, and discovered even his opponents had received same SMS from the same number. 

There are too many fingers pointed at politicians and some of those fingers carry stains of dirt on them, which are responsible for making politicians dirty. Clean voters will never produce dirty politicians. Trading vote for personal favour is the biggest risk to democracy that must be slapped on the face right now and here. I would like to urge all contesting candidates not to fall prey to such cunning voters. Tell them straight that you are going to earn votes not buy them and if possible report them to police.

We are all one vote powerful, it's this one priceless vote that makes us all equal in democracy, it's not something that should be joked about for a voucher.

12 June 2013

At the Mercy of Chimi R Namgyal's Pencil

Three things government officials and politicians don't like to come under are Tripper Truck's tyre, Tenzing Lamsang's Pen, and Chimi R Namgyal's Pencil. But crazy adventurous soul of mine seeks to put me under the mercy of the famous pencil of the great young cartoonist. I always had this deepest desire to be caricatured by Chimi, but it's going to take a long time for me to become his subject at his freewill because I have no intention of joining politics and nor have talent enough to be a great personality worthy of his artistic investment. 
So I chose a shortcut to this dream, I directly asked him to consider me as his subject and threw myself at the mercy of Chimi R Namgyal's Pencil. For days I spent sleepless nights worrying what this artist would make of me. I know what he has done with so many people. I buy Bhutan Observer paper only to have a look at his cartoons. It felt like waiting for Board exam paper in High School days. And the Result came out on 11 June 2013.
Kezang and my daughter couldn't help looking at me and the cartoon from time to time in between their laughter. I spent hours marveling at the magic of his hand. Now I am going to use this as my profile picture on all my social media accounts. Thank you Chimi, you are great!

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!

10 June 2013

Place to Escape Heat in Wangdue

Hotel Pema Karpo is a three star hotel in Bajothangu, opened recently, that's not important because I don't need a hotel here. The best part of this hotel is the swimming pool it has in the backyard. It's the first and the only swimming pool in entire Wangdue. The hotel has opened its swimming pool facility to public on pay per use basis or on monthly membership fee.
I have a Dream, yes I have a dream that one day I will jump into the pool without floater
Just a thought of swimming pool brings a cooling effect in place like Bajothang and actually having it is a heavenly feeling. This afternoon it was very hot, right time to take my family to the pool along with two family friends. The idea excited my little mermaid while Kezang was there just to watch us. She wouldn't even touch the water but my little one would not come out of the water until we called the security to scare her out.
While I talk so fondly of water and swimming pool I must confess I can't swim, the only style of swimming I know is so rustic that it was banned by my wife. So until I learn a decent style I spend my time on floaters and on the children's side of pool.

Information for interested visitors: The water is very clean and management very friendly.
The fee is as follows:
Adults: Nu.150 per person for 3 hours and children Nu.100.
Monthly membership fee: Nu.1500
Location: Bajothangu (Between Bajothang and Samthang)

09 June 2013

A Piece of History in Bajothang

There is an old traditional house standing in Bajothang School and it seemed to have been there before the idea of school came around it. The school itself was founded in 1997 and the building looked like it was there for ages.
The old structure didn't receive any renovation and is slowly giving way to its unknown age. However, my school uses it for storage of books and sports gears, it also houses the Geography lab, and on the ground floor one huge room is used for carpentry and other equally big room is the school agriculture store.
The new developmental plan has two huge structures coming up and to create space for growing numbers of cars in our parking, school has planned to demolish the old house to expand the parking lot. Aesthetically, the building is an eyesore in the beautiful campus and I was looking forward to the change.
However, one afternoon I had a history lesson from the contractor who was building our new structures. He presented a vivid picture of Bajothang some 40 years ago, with names of people who had anything to do with the old house, as if things happened yesterday. His father was among the men who had worked here and he happened to visit the place with his father.

It was during the Third King's reign, when idea of business was farfetched to Bhutanese, that his majesty, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk ordered the construction of the house. It was intended to be the business center for the people of Wangdue, Punakha, Gasa and probably even as far as Trongsa. It was the first known shop in the entire region, and was operated by people on rotational basis. Those day, the entire Bajothang was uninhabited and it was the first and only structure standing. His Majesty instructed people to come and settle in Bajothang but people found the land infertile and not many came, just like the history of Changlimithang.
The business center was later handed over to Tencholing Army and they handled the business until the shop shifted to a new location in Tencholing, currently known as Army Canteen. The man who sustained the business and flourished was granted Royal Kasho to run the business as Army Canteen for generations to come.
After the shop was shifted to Tencholing the house in Bajothang became the center for Agriculture, from where seeds and tools were distributed to people. When the center first brought in a power-tiller and did the demo somewhere near the present football ground, the news reached far and wide. Large number of people came with packed lunches and to see the 'Iron Ox' ploughing the land. 

After hearing the story of the historical house, I went to my principal and shared it, but to my surprise he knew the history already because his brother had engineered the school back in 1997 from whom he learned. He gave me clearer details and when we were finished, the idea of demolishing the house seemed very brutal. We then discusses the possibility of converting the house into a Museum. Though the idea is wild and vague at the moment I strongly that the house deserves to stand there and tell tales of modern business in Bhutan.

***This is a weak attempt to write history, which was not written before, therefore I am in search of more information and old photographs. IF you happen to have please post them to my inbox.

05 June 2013

Lamperi Park- A Place to Visit

I have travelled this road thousand times and for thousand times I have looked at the gate of Lamperi Botanical Park and wondered what must be there beyond the gate and wall. But I never had time to stop for a while and walk into the park- well today I asked myself, how long am I going to deny my excitement? How long am I going to rush through life and leave behind simple joy of living?

It's a wonderland beyond that gate. Nu.10 ticket has priceless experience to offer. There is a lake (tsho) with boating facility on the side, Orchid garden, Rhododendron Garden, Rock Garden, Children's Park, Medicinal Plant garden, library and the whole park is connected with Bike trail where mountain biking facility is offered (Nu.100/hr). If you are hungry there is a cafeteria and if you are pissy there are clean toilets around, but don't go behind the bushes- keep the park clean. The park is also open for night camping at Nu.30 per person and if you opt for guest house it's Nu.250 per person. (Full Details can be seen in the picture)
Enlarge and look for details
For a man like me who grew up in country it's like going back home but for someone like my daughter and all the kids who were born and bred away from roots it's like taking them to a fairy land and connecting them to who they really are.(entry for kids below 12 is free)
And for couples who haven't had much to to talk to each other recently, the park offers you the correct mood and setting to look at eachother and talk life. There is no TV, no WiFi, no Cars, no shopping, just the person you love in front with birds singing from the woods. Refresh your romance once in a while.
Taking my hyper daughter to the calm lake

One of the many interesting creations

After The Queen Grandmother- Rhododendron Kesangiae, seen in Rhododendron Garden

Another place to sit and romance

See the Orchid Garden beyond the bridge

 I am already planning my next trip there with pack lunch during a sunny holiday. I hope you will do that too.

31 May 2013

Jigme Couldn't Find Taxi From Thimphu

My son Jigme was rushing home from Paro this afternoon. He wanted to spend this election holiday with us at home. But he is stranded in Thimphu tonight because he couldn't find a taxi coming to Wangdue. The taxi he got into asked him Nu.450, almost 100% more than normal rate, and when he questioned the driver, he was told that all taxi charge same rate today. His repeated protest made the taxi driver change his mind and direction. The taxi politely threw out my boy and went to Paro.
I made the following request on Facebook (see picture) and only respond I got was to note the number of the taxi and file a formal complaint against it in RSTA office. 
It was not about my son alone, it was about the illegal fare hike going on and I thought RSTA will go there and catch them red handed, but it turned out that we have to follow procedures, which indirectly meant there is no heart in dealing with the problem. Like a friend on Facebook commented,
 "That is the problem we have la; even, if we file a formal complaint with veh. registration No., they will ask for evidence and will go on..."
This was a problem since my school days and I am shocked even during my children's time the same problem bothers our country. I am sure many desperate travellers during this election must have been harassed by these taxi drivers, which will make the very voting experience bitter. Now I know why Monggar election officer chose to hire private cars rather than taxis. 

28 May 2013

My Lost Turtle, The Free Turtle

When something wrong is going to happen you feel the energy from the first hour but because we are just human we can comprehend it only after it has happened. This morning I was up by 6:30 AM, something very strange for someone who sleeps at 3AM, and then by 7:30 AM I sneaked out of home with our pet turtle. I was like a little boy, wanting to let my turtle play in the Blue Pond which my class created in the school.
The Pond
The little creature lost its friend last year and had been alone in the aquarium so far. If he could talk he would have asked us to set him free rather than being alone among colorful stones in glass confinement. I took him out once and promised to take him once the pond is done. Yesterday I changed the water and cleaned the pond to welcome him there. kezang hates my rashness, therefore I ran out when she was still in bed.
The turtle in the Pond was an instant hit, there were students who never saw one in real before and there were teachers who knew everything about it but yet to see one outside TV. Excited kids wanted to touch it, feel its hardness, see it react, throw pebbles at it when I wasn't looking. I said nothing, I wanted them to experience it. There was crowd after crowd around the pond when I left for class.
During the First Outing
I finished my class with VIII C and rush back to the Pond to find no one around, and my dear turtle gone. The boy who was supposed to look after it has gone to his class too. I searched for my turtle everywhere around the pond and soon called off the search hoping the boy would have kept it somewhere safe.
The boy came to me asking where the turtle is, and perhaps he saw the color change on my face. Soon it was toilet break and dozens of students came to see the turtle but the poor thing was lost. Everybody helped in the search operation. There was no clue about what happened to the turtle, given it's speed it couldn't have ran so far from our reach, its hard shell would have protected it from birds and dogs, what else could have happened?
I couldn't go for lunch, because I was answerable to Kezang who has invested so much of herself to the little animal- from feeding to cleaning. It was her companion when I am in school. I snatched it away from her.
But looking at it from the other side, turtles, or for that matter any animal, are not meant to be kept in glass confinement, there are born free and deserve to be free. We humans exercise our supremacy over all species; eating what can be eaten, taming what can be tamed, and imprisoning beautiful creature for life by giving them a sweet name called 'Pet'. My lost turtle is finally liberated, hope it didn't land up with someone else to be confined in glass box again, hope it didn't land up in a dog's mouth to be crushed to death, I only pray that it finds its way to the river to be washed down to where it belongs, where he will find his kind, to play to mate and to reproduce his genes. Bye little one, farewell.

Lesson: I shouldn't be rash, must fence the Pond before I bring in the fishes and other aquatic lives I could get.