27 May 2016

Dirty Toilet is a Mindset – Clean it!

“No, the toilets shouldn’t be here, it would be an ugly sight. No, no, no it can’t be there, the wind would blow the smell into the tent.”

This is a typical instruction from the commanding officer at any event site while deciding where to build toilets for the public during big events. Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I was engaged in few such committee meetings and it’s disappointing to observe that even the most educated official among us had to be told that the toilets won’t be dirty and it won’t smell if we don’t want to. But almost all the time they win, and these people who won’t have to worry about managing the toilets in the following days make the decision on where and how toilets should be built.

Having grown up with dirty toilets, it has now become a mindset that all toilets will be dirty. The moment we discuss about public toilet we imagine all the filthy toilets we have seen in the past and even remember how it smelled. This very mindset affects all the decision we make now and stops us from moving forward into better future. This has happened to all our existing public toilets in towns across the country.

Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I had the privilege of managing toilets at three major events in last few months. We began with Paro Tshechu, went to Punakha during Zhabdrung Tshechu and Peling Tshechu in Thimphu. We must have served at least fifty thousands people.
During those events, standing near the toilet door for days we had fun giving people the surprises of their lives. People would walk into our toilets with their nose covered because they knew from all their fond memories that the toilet would be dirty. A moment later we would hear them exclaim from inside, “Wow, it’s so clean”. And few good people would come out without their pride and thank us for the clean toilet.
At Paro Tshechu 
We surprise the people more by sitting under the shade of the toilet and enjoying our lunch while they come in and go our of our toilets. We believe that a toilet should be clean enough to sit by and enjoy a meal. We aren’t obliging anyone to live by our belief but because toilets are kept so clean our volunteers voluntarily enjoy their lunch near the toilet.

We have a long way to go on this journey of providing clean toilets to everyone and longer way to go in making people appreciate clean toilets and develop sound toilet habits in them. Many organizations and individuals are working on this. Everyone seems to understand the need for change but what must change first lies within us. We must change the dirty toilet mindset.
We must acknowledge that a public toilet can be a nice refreshing place. It should be given its due importance. We must stop pushing toilets away from us into the locations that are hardly accessible. At least the highly educated people who make decision on the design and location of public toilets must have clean toilets at home to base their perception of toilets, unless it’s so dirty at home.

This article is originally published in Business Bhutan on 21st May 2016.

09 May 2016

No School on Saturday

One regret I have from my childhood is not having spent enough time with my parents. I thought I would get all the time in the world to be with them once I finish my school. I didn't see this coming. After school came college and then came job, in between I lost my stepfather. Now I only get to meet my mother for less than a month each year. Soon life will be over. 

The cycle continues with my daughter. She is in school six days a week and returns home exhausted. We wait for her till afternoon on Saturdays to go anywhere. Sundays are full of activities, mostly going around and before we figure out how to make smart use of the lone family day in a week she will be gone to college. Then we will be gone. 

Typical Saturday in School
Can we not have school on Saturday? So that by Friday evening we feel so relaxed and for the next two days children can do real things in life. Even children in hostel could undertake various vocations or visit home and do real things that really matter in life. Across the world, in all countries known for best education systems children don't go to school on Saturdays. In fact children are not given homework during the weekends. 

Ever since Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk took office as the new Education Minster I felt a sudden gush of energy in the Education Ministry. People are motivated and therefore things are going to change. Many positive changes that are on dusty paper are finally going to flow into schools. But often in the name of change we push for more. It's the natural way things but did it work so far? We have overloaded schools with news things when they haven't figured out how to do the old thing very well. 

For once could we try lesser in the name of change? Because we have never tried that, so let's take away Saturday from the school week. It will avoid school-fatigue in students, and lesser they get to be in school more they will appreciate their time in school. Moreover, we talk a lot about youth issues perhaps we should give them more family time to sort things out. School is taking lot of family time away from them, and perhaps we should stop thinking that school has all the solutions. We don't, it's proven. 

As for the teachers, they are exhausted people, often frustrated, they deserve good rest over the weekend just like any civil servant, if not more, which actually should have been the case. They need time with their own children as well. What's the use if at the end of the day your own children are deprived of everything you boast to have given to your students. Therefore there can be no greater incentive than Saturday with their own family. 

In Finland, the number one education system in the world, teachers only work for 570 hours in a year, half that of the United States and third of ours. Our teachers work 1440 hours in a year. But where are we in comparison? Therefore less is more. If anything should be more it should be the salary because in Finland (again) teachers are paid almost Nu.5600 per hour. They earn our monthly salary in half a day. So lets forget about the salary, and concentrate on Saturday because it's possible. 

Other civil servants who have their Saturdays off don't really get to relax because they have to prepare their children for school and drop them to school. Then wait till afternoon to go anywhere. So even when so many offices are closed on Saturday we still see traffic jam because the schools are open. 

I had this on my mind for the longest time but now seems the right time to share because of the optimism that has come with the new minister. So I hereby request Education Minister to consider removing things from our system, instead of adding and let Saturday be the first to be removed.

11 April 2016

Dechen: A Girl Who Was Lost and Never Found

Dechen still wonders why her father didn’t come looking for her. She wonders if he knew she was actually lost before he died. She remembers having an elder brother who she wishes to meet once.

This true story begins with the death of Dechen’s mother. They were living in Dechencholing where her father was a gardener. After her mother died her father left little Dechen at a neighbor’s and left for Punakha with his new wife. She learned later that she was given away as babysitter. When her father didn’t return for a long time she ran away from her new home and started her journey towards Punakha to find her father, on foot.

Picture and story shared with permission 
Seeing a nine-year-old little girl walking alone on the highway above Simtokha a car stopped. She told the person that her father was in Punakha and she was going there to look for him. The car gave her a ride till Khuruthang. Upon reaching there she didn’t know where to look for her father. She had thought Punakha would be a small place. Having knocked all the doors in Khuruthang town she finally reached a house where a lady took her in.

The lady asked her to live there and work for her until she could find her father. She agreed but when she couldn’t find her father after many days she decided to head back to Thimphu. When she reached Thimphu she went to her maternal uncle’s place in Changzamtog. Her uncle had long moved away. The new tenant occupying the apartment took her in and persuaded her to live with them. With nowhere else to go she stayed with them hoping her father would come looking for her.

Her new guardian soon took her to their village in Paro Shaba and made her babysit there. She grew up from a little girl into a young woman in the new place and became part of the family and the place. Though she wasn’t sent to school or treated equally at home she was happy to have found a place to sleep and feed. She would walk her master’s child to school and work in the field. Often she would take their vegetable produce and sell them by the roadside along with other farmers. 

After six years in Paro, in 2010 she finally met a woman, among the mothers who came to drop their children to school, who knew her parents. It was from her that Dechen learned her father had passed away recently. The woman helped her find the number of her uncle living in Thimphu. And from her phone she made a call. Her uncle asked her to come to Thimphu.

She went home that day and shared the good news with her master’s family only to upset them. She expected them to pay her for all the services and let her go but it turned out that they didn’t want her to leave. Her master’s daughter had gone to Australia and they needed her hand in raising their grandchild.

During her conversations with her uncle over the phone she told him about the situation, so he asked someone in Paro to help her get out of there and pay for her travel till Thimphu. Early one morning, before anyone was awake she ran away from home and went to her uncle’s connection and escaped to Thimphu.

She found her uncle in Thimphu and met many of her relatives whom she never knew existed. But her brother was not among them. Nobody knew where her brother was. Her relatives were nice to her and she was on high demand because she was good at household chores and most importantly at babysitting.

After a while she felt the need to work and earn for herself because she knew no one was going to pay her at the end. So she joined as a laborer at construction of Le Mariden hotel in Thimphu. That’s when her relationship with her relatives soured because she couldn’t be as useful to them now. At her worksite she met a man with whom she finally married and found a place to call her own.

But life had more misery in store for her; she gave birth to a premature baby and lost it shortly. Her husband who now had a steady job took extraordinary leave to pursue degree in India. And to make ends meet Dechen came looking for a hotel job in my sister in-law’s small restaurant. That’s how I knew all about her. She was still recovering from her C- section surgery when she joined. It’s been two years since she joined the restaurant. Her husband returned with a degree but lost his old job.

Last year during Thimphu Tshechu her husband had taken a loan of Nu.43,000 from a friend on a ridiculous interest rate of 10% per month to run a stall. Their stall had run into loss and ever since the loan shark has been harassing them. They have already paid over Nu.30,000 in interest alone and their friend has been raining calls on them. Once they were locked inside their own house when they refused to open the door... 

Dechen once asked me ‘Achu, people say if we suffer we will prosper, but why is my suffering never ending?” I couldn’t answer her. I’m still trying to overcome haunting images formed in my head. It’s almost a horror story and she is brave enough to have survived.

I have so many questions; why did her father leave her? Why he never came looking r=for her? Did he once think of her? Where could her brother be? Why didn’t those families help her find her father? How could all these happen in Bhutan? Why is life so unfair to her? How could Dechen be so happy despite all these?

And through this blog I would like to seek everyone’s help in finding her lost brother. His name is Sonam Tshering and he must be in his mid twenties now. He may be illiterate. Let us make at least one thing fair for her. If you wish to help her more, get in touch with me. I can share other details or even let you meet her personally. 

30 March 2016

The Moment with His Majesty the King

It was the last day of Paro Tshechu and my team was celebrating our four days of success, having delivered our mission of providing clean toilets to thousands of people and literally putting an end to open defecation in the place of worship. 

We were paid a surprise visit by His excellency the Prime Minister and the honourable chairperson of National Council among others. They didn't go to VIP toilet but our public toilets were kept so well that we could impress all our esteem guest and our Prime Minster. 

Thank god His Excellency visit before we faced the water problem. There was about an hour of water shortage and within that short time our toilets were overwhelmed by problems. When I heard the arrival of His Majesty to the Tshechu ground I was anxiously running after people to get the problem fixed. I was sweating and panting. I bothered every official I knew in the area and finally we caught hold of the plumber, Ap Jochu, the only person who knew how to fix it. I nearly kissed him. 

By the time I caught my breath back I was told His Majesty was leaving. I didn't even get a decent chance to look at my king. From the extreme corner we were located at I saw waves of people struggling to get closer view of His Majesty as he left. I could have joined the crowd and pushed myself forward to get a glimpse too but we were running low of Toilet Paper supply. So I had to run to a shop nearby to purchase toilet paper rolls. On the way, from above the wall I saw His Majesty briefly on the last turn on the road down to the valley. 

I reached the other toilet to check if they needed toilet paper. Just then I got a call. It was Dasho Zimpon. He told me that I was summoned by His Majesty. I couldn't believe this was happening. I ran to the location Dasho called me to and down the valley we followed the entourage. I was flying in the air. We got ahead of the royal entourage and Dasho made me wait on the bridge. I was the only person kept on the bridge and the next person I would see was His Majesty. I could see thousands of people on both ends of the bridge waiting to get a glimpse of His Majesty. I was frozen, I didn't move an inch even though no one was watching. 

Then came the moment, I couldn't look up directly but I could make out from the radiance that His Majesty had come. I bowed down to pay my respect and froze back to stillness. His Majesty congratulated me on my teams' work during the Tshechu and told me to walk alongside him across the bridge. 
The Moment that will live with me forever

I had crossed that bridge thousand times in my life but even in my most beautiful dream I haven't seen myself walking with His Majesty the King and talking about the work I am so passionate about. I could share Bhutan Toilet Org's Roadmap and the challenges faced in maintaining public toilets. His Majesty talked about the importance of behavioural change in making our efforts sustainable. And at the other end of the bridge His Majesty spent some more time blessing my dream with his guidance and assurance of royal support henceforth. Everything seemed so possible suddenly and I couldn't wait to tell my team. 

To make this priceless moment live with me forever His Majesty granted a Kupar with me with the permission to share it here. I shall look at this photograph and stay motivated for the rest of my life. And this picture shall remind me each day that I can't take rest on my dream anymore.
My Asset, Motivation and Reminder 
For making this priceless moment possible I would like to thank His Excellency the Prime Minister, my toilet team, my volunteers across the country and all those people who believed in me and supported Bhutan Toilet Org.

28 March 2016

Toilet Experiment During Paro Tshechu

Tshechu being the oldest and the most popular festival in Bhutan brings thousands of people together. It happens in every Dzongkhag from three to fives days every year. That gives Bhutan Toilet Org the perfect setting for our Toilet Experiment. Actually it’s more than an experiment, it’s a campaign to provide clean toilets to people and make them appreciate the experience and learn to play their role better in keeping the toilets clean.
We call it experiment because after our November 2015 Nationwide Public Toilet Cleaning campaign we gathered some myths about Bhutanese toilet habits. Therefore we wanted to see and hopefully breaks those myths. 

1. Would our people put in a little effort to look for toilet when they need one?
2. Would people go inside the toilet when they find one?
3. Would people flush if the water were available?
4. Would people use toilet paper if provided free?
5. Would people wash their hands after visiting toilet if water and soap were provided?

Our first successful experiment was conducted in Paro last week during the Paro Tshechu. In preparation our staff and volunteers visited the event ground three days ahead of the Tshechu and in collaboration with the Dzongkhag Administration all the three toilets around the venue were cleaned thoroughly, all damages were repaired and each toilet was furnished with buckets, jugs, waste bins, soaps, room fresheners, and toilet paper (Hung right on the doors). Maps showing the location of the three toilets were placed strategically in the ground and on the routes. Direction signs were put at various points to guide people to our toilets.
Toilet Location Map 
Throughout the five days of Tshechu the three toilets were maned by at least five volunteers and with support from community police all corners, which were used as toilet in the past, were block.

We found out over 10,000 have visited our toilets but we had to redirect hundreds to our toilets from open spaces. Old habits of doing in the open reduced drastically by the third day. By word of mouth most people have heard about the availability of clean toilets.

Only about 150 rolls of toilet paper were used, which was quite less given the number of people. Most people took toilet paper only after verbal reminder. We had to remove only one stone.

People flushed very well in the toilets that were supplied with buckets and jugs but in the toilets that were equipped with flush tanks there were several case of un-flushed pots. Our people seemed to have issues with flush systems.

Use of waste bins inside the toilet had to be verbally advocated because despite the availability of bins we had to remove several sanitary pads from inside the toilet pots and window frames.

Washing hands after using toilet was found to be a rare habit among out people. Doma spit caused much of stains in the toilet pots, washbasins, toilet floor and walls.

We also found out the there should be more chambers for women because unlike men they need to get inside a chamber whether they pee or poop, which led to over crowding outside women’s toilet.

One-hour water shortage on the last days in two of our toilets caused a huge problem to our team. Several toilets were blocked and they started stinking almost immediately. Next time we are going to have a backup plan because without water everything can go wrong within no time. Thank god, the officials helped us find the plumber right away to solve the issue.

We received enormous appreciation from our users. Some happy users took time to tell us how things used to be in the past. They told us that they could hardly find a space to put their feet among the open faeces down the hill. They shared how the change in wind direction would bring the smell onto the tshechu ground. It was natural for everyone to fall sick after the tshechu.

But this year we changed it all. And on the other side Clean Bhutan volunteers from Paro College managed the waste so well that the ground remained clean throughout the event as if no one threw any thing at all. They have collected over 250 bags of waste.
Visit by Prime Minister
Because we maintained the toilets so well the organizers didn’t have to worry about having separate toilet for VIPs. We have the honour of serving the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of National Council and the Cabinet ministers among others and impress them equally. We have received very good feedback from tourists and their tour guides expressed their pleasure lavishly.

Dasho Dzongda and Dzongrab personally monitored out activity and expressed their appreciations and gratitude for doing them proud. Their officials made sure that our team had our meals and refreshment on time. But beyond everything, on the final day a magical moment happened, that’s my next blog.
Our Volunteers and Staff
Our volunteers were from Yeozerling Higher Secondary School and I must thank principal Chencho Tshering for sending a group of amazing young people. In five days they have showed their endurance, patience, and positive attitude to work. They have inspired me so much that I shall keep our organization’s door open for them in the future because they are they kind of people I want to work with.

I would like to thank our following friends for financially supported our activity

1. Tashi Namgay Resort (Karma Jigme)- Nu.5000
2. Chencho Handicraft (Choki Wangmo) – Nu.5000
3. Bhutan Made (Tshering Penjor Shaka)- Nu.3000
4. James Brady- US$. 100
5. Indo General Store: Refreshment worth Nu.1600
6. Sangay Wangmo T/khang: Refreshment worth Nu.500
7. Yeshey Dorji Central Store: Refreshment worth Nu.310

26 March 2016

Mother's Sweet Revenge?

I saw an elderly woman completely drunk and making scene near Paro Dzong on the first day of Tshechu. Everybody was avoiding her. She was flat on the ground crying and cursing, occasionally begging to be taken to hospital or home. She was wearing a complete set of Tshechu clothing, except it’s all covered in dust. Like Cinderella she has left one of her shoes some distance away from her.

My son Jigme and I went close to her and asked if she really needed to go to hospital. A nearby shopkeeper cautioned us through her window, 
“Sir, stay away. Just let her be. She is drunk.”

I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a woman of my mother’s age in that condition even though she was wasted. I picked her shoe and like prince charming tried it on her foot. It was a perfect fit. Lol.
Tshechu is full of Show

“Ama, you must have come to watch Tshechu, why are you becoming the Tshechu yourself? People are watching you perform here.”
She tried to crawl but fell back heavily on her back. We brought some cardboard pieces and gave her a thin layer of mattress and pillow.
“You don’t seem to need hospital, you need to go home and sleep. Where do you live?”
She pointed in random directions. I knew she was totally disoriented. She stopped throwing tantrum and began paying attention to me. We bought her water knowing very well how it would feel.
“Ama, if you must drink you should wait till the evening, reach home and enjoy your drink. Here in Tshechu you have made a joker of yourself. And where are your friends? Even they have gone into hiding.”
She would laugh and cry at the same time and cursed her friends for leaving her. Not surprisingly she was in agreement with my suggestions, like all seasoned drinkers.

Then it struck me that she might own a mobile phone. So I asked if she had one, which I could use to get her people pick her up. She dug into her hemcho for the longest time and took out a cold drink and handed it over to me.
“Don’t drink this. It’s mine.”
“Give me your mobile phone.”
She went into her hemcho again and came out with her purse, then few changes but not her phone. So I helped her search for it. Bingo, it was just there.

I went into her call log and dialled the most recent number. It was someone in Punakha. Then the next, it didn’t answer. Then I checked her contact list and surprisingly there were names saved. So I read out each name and asked her whom to call. She suggested a lady.
“Sir, I’m in the town. I have to be here for a while.”
“Can you tell me whom I should call to get immediate help?”
“Try her son and nephew. They are both in the Tshechu.” The lady gave me their names. I checked back in her contact list and found the son’s number.
“Hello, you mother is here near a shop beside the Dzong. She seems too drunk. Can you come and take her home.”
“Sir, I will send her nephew immediately.”
I put back her phone, purse, changes and most importantly her cold drink into the safety of her hemcho. While waiting for her nephew I casually remarked,

“Ama, you have to understand how your children would feel seeing you like this and embarrassing them in the crowd…”

“Dasho, my children are not like you. They too must understand how I feel after all these years of raising them… they have done their share of embarrassing me!”

I didn’t have anything to say after that. It seems embarrassment was mutual. Her son and nephew came and took her home. They were thanking me but I told them to be more thankful to their mother.
I am hoping the shopkeeper lady who cautioned me to stay away must have learnt how to help. I am also hoping my son would have learned something because I have learned something.

On the last day I saw the woman again. Not drunk.

08 March 2016

Publishing PaSsu Diary; Blog to Book

My favorite Oscar Wilde said ‘memory is the diary that we all carry about with us’. Another wise man said ‘God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.’

It’s already June in my life and spring flowers should keep blooming in my head till December but given my punctured memory I don’t think I can remember the color of the rose I picked this morning. I often meet familiar people on the street, shake hands, pretend to know them and wonder how I knew them after they are gone. They talk about a fond family incident I am clueless about.

As if I knew this was coming I never really trusted my memory, perhaps I never had a good one I could trust. I scribbled everything all around and one day in June 2006, in Ms. Loh’s class, I began this blog PaSsu Diary. It was just another classwork. I never thought it would go on with me for ten years and become my memory keeper.

Talking about so many years I am wondering how the hell a decade passed with nothing so significant to call as my achievement. Did I sleepwalk across years? I’m still struggling with the first car loan I ever took and every month it’s the same old tale of endless compromises.

But then I look at my blog archive and there are over 620 fragments of stories telling me that I have lived in little moments for little things. There are over a million hits telling me that the little things mattered. O’ I shall have roses in December after all.

I think I owe my blog something for its 10th anniversary and this is where the idea of publishing my blog into a book comes. But I swear I am having hard time picking the best 100 articles for the book. If you have been reading my blog I am sure you would have liked some articles. Please let me know your favourite PaSsu Diary article(s) and help me narrow down my choices. I hope it has at least 100 articles worth publishing into a book. 

Draft Book Cover
Note: I am aware of my terrible grammar and typos. I trust my editor Nawang Phuntsho to deal with that. The cover is just the first draft. Our designer Che Dorji will have to work on it and I may have to sit with Chimi R Namgyal for another art work.

29 February 2016

Birth Place of Khandro Sonam Palden

Across the river at Wang Sinmo, the sight of the ancient house in Danglo is so prominent that one can't help stealing several glances from the highway at it. The house, blacked with age was the home of Khandro Sonam Palden, consort of Phajo Drogom Zhigpo who lived from 1184 to 1251. The fascinating details of the lives of the divine couple has survived centuries undiluted. Their popularity is evident from the Bonko festivals held in most village in western region, which is an enactment of life of Phajo. 
Ancient History of Bhutan can be compared to a blank sheet of paper with few dots separated by huge gaps. After Guru Rimpoche's visit in 8th Century the next dot of history documented is probably the story of Phojo and Khadro. 

To pinpoint the 900 year old birthplace of Khandro Sonam Palden today is intriguing, although the house itself being that old is out of question because over these many years we can assume the house must have been rebuilt and renovated dozens of times.
I stupidly asked if there was any direct descendent of the khandro, since there was noone currently occupying the house. The monk said, 'it has been over 900 years and if we trace back we all would be direct descendent of Phajo and Khandro.'

I must have travelled on that highway for hundreds of time and that many times I have looked at the house and wished to visit it. It was just there across the river and all these years I have pushed it for another day. Now I think I have reached the age where if I wish to do something I go and do it because I have realised the importance of take charge of my life. It's equally important to have friends who share your passion to make every moment worthwhile.

With Nawang Phuntsho I just have to tell him my next plan and he would be there ready to go. Our passion dragged our families and even my cousin's family to the place. And from there I looked at the highway and wondered why I took so long to take this short journey. 

Our Guide Passang Dorji
Our Tour Guide 

Upon reaching the village the road winds away from our destination, so we stopped to ask a little boy standing by the roadside for direction. The boy said he would show us and began running ahead of our cars. We followed him for some time and realized that it was farther than we expected and though full of energy the boy was exhausted. We asked him to get in the car and he did. Once in the car he introduced himself as 7 year old Passang Dorji studying in PP. From the way he talked he sounded like a 50 year old. By and by he became our tour guide and stayed with us for the entire duration. He didn't know the history and significance of the place, which I am sure he will learn now, but he made our tour special. What I envied most about the boy was his independence, which can't be taught in the school. He led a group of adults with so much confidence. He rightfully earned a decent fee for his service.

26 February 2016

Third Bhutanese Bloggers’ Conference

During the Annual Bhutanese Bloggers’ Dinner we unanimously decided to have the 3rd Bloggers’ Conference on 6th February in Thimphu considering the schedule of many members of the community. Bhutan’s alpha photographer and blogger Aue Yeshey Dorji took charge of the logistics. He showed us all how tough a taskmaster he was and how things were done; he pushed things so hard that we were ready a month ahead. This happened for the first time.
He not only had the venue ready but also the location map of the place, not just the menu but also the fund needed for all of it. The core team had only to get the four speakers ready and a moderator. The community co-founder Nawang P Phuntsho jokingly shared that he should first look for the moderator next time considering the difficulty he faced in getting blogger Nim Dorji to moderate.
With the opening remark by Rekha Monger the conference kicked of at 3pm in the RSPN conference hall. We had a cake cut to celebrate the birth of our Gyalsey. 

The first speaker to take the stage was our very own Chador Wangmo, the author of La Ama. She shared about her journey to Langdorbi in Zhemgang to help the children of men who lost their lives in a boat accident. She said that she had only been the bridge between the charitable souls and the victims, but I know she has been more than that. Mother of three little children and jobless, Chador showed to us how possible it was if you really meant to help. Her project not only took care of basic necessities of the children there but also gave them their fair share of childhood with gifts of toys.

The blogger who went beyond his blindness and showed us wit and wisdom of life spoke on what it meant to be disabled in Bhutan. He made us laugh with his humors as he narrated the story of his life. He said that ‘Bhutan is a compassionate country for the disabled people to live in’. He has never suffered any sort of open discrimination but he lamented that our infrastructures were not at all accommodating. We hardly have buildings that have access to wheelchair let alone the streets and shops.

The star photographer, Aue Yeshey Dorji simply ran us through some of his best photographs and on each slide he stopped to tell us stories, either of the subject or the process. By the time he finished I was wondering if there would be any other Bhutanese who would have travelled the length and breadth, height and depth like he had done. Then I realized that he didn’t become him by luck.
During the question session he was asked how he could be so bold on his blog, to which he said, “ Since when did we have this feeling that writing the right thing would get us into trouble.” He however said that it’s important to research and get the facts straight.

The final speaker was Binu Creativedonkey, one of the sweet naughty boys on social media who has thus far treated us with his instant wit and satires on almost every social subject. He runs three special blogs one being the satire blog called Shobnews.com. He began by insulting himself and then told us how satire was not one of the favorite subjects in Bhutan. He shared about how his satire on film industry cost him some contracts. He promised he would rock the hall next time because it was his first public appearance.

Just when we were about to wrap up Dawa Knight landed, four hours late for the conference. But over the phone he expressed his desire to do a standup comedy and that was exactly what we needed over the post conference drinks and dinner. Upon little persuasion he started his usual comedy, which I have heard hundreds of times. But with a mike in hand and facing the crowd he was magnificent. I laughed all over again.
Now we are seriously considering coming up with a YouTube Channel of Bhutanese satire and comedy with Dawa Knight and Binu Creativedonkey.

The most memorable part of the Bloggers’ conference is usually the social break after the conference where we get to meet the community members, take pictures, and share light moments. And because I am a night person and I bring my family along I don’t need to rush anywhere therefore I am usually the last person to leave the hall. I love the look on people’s face when I ask them to stay a little longer. It’s always Nawang, Che and Tharchen with me in the end. Dasho Sangay Khandu never missed any conference and would be the last guest to leave. He would kindly agree to drop off a carful of bloggers.


The conference was fully funded by five members of Rotary Club of Thimphu including Aue Yeshey Dorji himself. The partial support we received from BOB shall be used for next conference. The magnificent venue was provided for free by RSPN and their communication officer Pema Gyamtsho stayed throughout the conference to make sure we have the best of audiovisual and WiFi connectivity.