16 February 2021

How Two Bhutanese Telecoms are Unfaithful to GNH

There were times we didn't have mobile phones. It came and changed our lives. We are grateful to BMobile for leading that change. 

In the early 2000s, the mobile service was at least five times more expensive than today. Without smartphones, the purpose of phones was limited to talking and sending SMS, yet it was so exciting. Bhutan Telecom enjoyed the monopoly and exploited the people's curiosity. The fascinated people didn't realise that they have been robbed until Tashi Cell came by to help us understand that it could be done at a lesser cost. For that, we remain eternally grateful. 

However, now the two telecoms seem to have ganged up and decided to watch each other's backs. Their products are almost identical. And they have chosen to misplace their values at the same time. Of the several things that don't seem right for a business in Bhutan, the following two top the list of reasons why they are so unfaithful to the core values of GNH. 

1. Paradoxical Data Package Costing

It's good that we now have various small data packages to choose from unlike in the early days where the smallest voucher we could buy was Nu.300. However, the way the packages are priced is shockingly so pro-rich. 

For Nu. 99 you get 1330 MB of data, and for Nu. 699 you get 22,370 MB. Do the maths. If you can pay seven times the price at once, you get 20 times the data. They may argue that it's a typical bulk discount scheme, but for Bhutan, such a paradox is insulting the core value of GNH. 

Bhutan TelecomTashi Cell
Rate (Nu.)Data Volume (MB)MB/Nu.Rate (Nu.)Data Volume (MB)MB/Nu.

Obviously, it's about who can and cannot pay. If you can afford to pay more, you get it cheaper. We want to rain where there is water. If you can't afford it, you have to pay more. The margin is significant enough to raise the question; why can't they share that offer with those who have no means to opt for bigger packages, if so much can be spared? 

It's much like the Duty-Free shop where the prominent people in society with all the means are given handsome discount quota. In contrast, the people who desperately need these discounts are selectively deprived—such a paradox. 

2. Unlimited Plans to Ruin a Generation 

The cheapest data package on offer with our telecoms is the unlimited plans sold at Nu.55 by BT and Nu.57 by TCell. But the catch is it's effective between 1 AM to 7 AM, the prime sleeping hours. If I have no other means, and I get unlimited downloads at night that's right for my pocket, I might as well put aside my sleep. Thus, thousands of people, mostly youths, are sleepless every night, ripping the benefit of this misguided scheme and missing on real things happening during the day. We are creating a generation of strange young people, who haven't met their parents for days because when they are awake, their parents are asleep. And vice versa. 
TCell Sleepless Scheme

BT Sleepless Scheme

When the telecom sales team sat to brainstorm and invent this 'brilliant' product, have they considered for once what would happen if their own children fall prey? When they watch the night traffic soaring, they see the money flowing in but do they put faces and stories to those numbers? It reminds me of the movie, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008). I don't have to explain this. 

A still from The Boy in Striped Pyjamas

My friends are petitioning against this scheme. Here is the link. I am signing the petition. We need you to sign and put pressure on the telecoms to do some soulsearching. 

There is a book called Proposed GNH of Business by The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS). The summary of the book on BOOKNESE reads;

The idea of incorporating GNH values into business was first proposed by Prime Minister (2013-2018) Dasho Tshering Tobgay in 2015. He mentioned that the current business model of overemphasizing profit maximization and increasing shareholder values at the cost of environment and community was unsustainable. He expressed the need to recognize and manage these costs and risk and called for integrating GNH values into the business operation. Essentially, it meant measuring the success of a business by its ability to serve, facilitate, and engage with its stakeholders. -

24 January 2021

Habit of Writing Without Publishing

Writing is a pleasurable hobby. It's an easy job. A cup of tea. It gets difficult only when we plan to publish it. Suddenly. Then we spend hours watching the cursor blinking (like I'm doing right now). Writing a line. Deleting it. Editing even before anything is written at all. I ambush my own thoughts and words before they come out. I stop myself from writing. 

My Old Journal Notebooks

The following anecdotal story from Atomic Habit opened my eyes;

The Danger of Aiming for Perfection

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

This story revealed to me where I got messed. I was expecting too much from every piece I was attempting to write. I was not allowing myself to enjoy the process of writing because I was too focused on publishing it. I needed to start writing for the love of writing without the nagging pressure of publishing on my blog or anywhere on social media. I needed to do some private writings, ones that are not to be made public in any form. 

When I finally did that I found it extremely liberating. The spontaneity of my thoughts surprised me. The flow was smooth and beautiful. I rediscovered my ability to writing.  Like the 'quantity group' in the story, I began writing more. And the more I wrote the more I loved the process. I felt my confidence coming back to me. I could see myself getting better at writing. 

Besides improving my writing, I revived my habit of daily journaling. I had made a mistake of confusing journaling with writing articles for my blog. Now I know that I should never put the burden of publishing on private journal writing. 

By the way, daily Journaling helps you organize your thoughts and give you clarity. It can help you in self-reflection, goal setting and driving personal development. It's said to relieve stress, boost memory and unleashes creativity. I am taking it more seriously than I ever did. 

Nothing beats the experience of writing physically in a notebook with a smooth fountain pen, but if you want to make it exciting and revealing, try writing on 750Words.com. It's an online platform to write privately, exactly the kind I explained. 

What's exciting is the way you are tempted to come back every day to write your 750 words because you are awarded points, and you will get beautiful stats that analyze the feelings, themes, and mindset of your words. You discover a lot about yourself more from your writing. The platform makes you a disciplined writer, you need to be on time, and your speed is tracked, even your distractions. You can write more than 750 words, which is approximately three pages. Your daily quota is only counted if you have crossed the 750 words mark. You cannot be lazy.

The site was created by Buster Benson and his wife Kellianne

Stats on 750Words

The mindset of your words


In helping find my way back to writing I want to thank three people; Dr Adrian Chan for inspiring me to write daily journals, Nawang Phuntsho for introducing me to 750words.com, and Bjob Ganchu for taking me to Audibles where I listen to Atomic Habits. 

20 January 2021

A Bhutanese Local Guide on Google Maps

I must have confused many of you when I talked about Google Maps as a thrilling online activity. I made it sound like a game. It's a game when you are into it. I have made 4653 contributions as a Local Guide to this day (20th Jan 2021), accumulating a staggering 16 million views on them. If you are new to this subject, let's work on finding some clarity. 

A Local Guide in Bhutan

Well, we all use Google Maps to look up places. Google didn't come around to add those places on their map. Local people like you and me added them. Anyone with a Google account can sign in on Maps and add, edit or review places. Once you begin doing that, you are a Local Guide. I got into it by accident and it started getting exciting when I discovered I was earning points. And Badges. I reached Level 8. Google really knows how to use people to happily work for them for free. But the benefit is mutual and that's why I don't mind doing it. 


Earning Points

Adding New Place


Reviewing a Place

5 per review

Review with more than 200 characters

10 bonus points

Adding a Photo

5 per photo

Adding a video

7 per video

Editing a Place

5 per edit

Adding a Road

15 per road

Star Rating


Answering a question


Fact-Checking Others’ Contributions


I try, without success, to influence young people to play around with Maps instead of PUBG. Three years from now the hundreds of hours and infinite data put into paying the games will leave you with nothing to show. Even the chicken dinner is fake. But the same effort on Maps would have earned you thousands of points and massive credibility as a local guide, with a chance to win surprise gifts from Google and to go to local guides conference in San Fransisco. I have won 100 GB space on Google Drive some years ago. 

Places I reviewed (Most Viewed)

To be an effective local guide, you must go to places, take pictures, observe things and write about the place. You would have travelled to so many places, taken thousands of pictures, written so many reviews and created a lot of memories, which can't be done by playing some mobile game. It's an exercise that will help you be in the moment and be aware of things around you. Once you are into it, you will find it exciting to explore new places. While it seems like you are thanklessly working for Google, you will realize that you are only contributing toward improving the accuracy of the map of our local places. We are helping ourselves and not Google. 

Top 4 most viewed photos I posted

If we could add all our places accurately on the map, then we are ready to embrace map-based services such as taxi app, home delivery services, etc. Even the postal service will improve. We can get to any address using our phone. We need not tell the colour of the building or the name of the building owner. 

As you earn more points and climb to higher levels your credibility as a local guide becomes stronger. The places you add get approved faster. This gives you the power to help add small businesses on the maps. It could be an alternate career, going around adding places and reviewing them. Businesses may pay us to add them and write reviews. Sometimes, we get to name a place.

One Place I named "Yak Monument" in Haa

And finally, if you just want to have fun on Maps and do none of the above, let me tell you how you could virtually visit all the places you have ever wanted to go. If you want to be more adventurous, go to Doklam or visit Nubtshonapata or hundreds of lakes on the northern frontiers. You could measure the dimensions of the lakes and declare which one is the largest. I found out that there is one lake that is bigger than Nubtshonapata in Haa, but it's not as popular because it's closer to the Tibetan border. 

08 January 2021

10 Movies Bhutanese Teachers Must Watch

In 2003, I walked two long days to reach Sombaykha Pry School to become an apprentice teacher, where I spent a year. Reflecting on the experience I could relate so much to Lunana: Yak in the Classroom. Mine would be, Sombaykha: Leech in the Gumboot. 

In 2015, after over a decade of teaching, I resigned to establish and run Bhutan Toilet Org. But a teacher can never fully resign. I have remained in touch with everything related to school and education. 

As an immediate response to His Majesty's National Day Address calling for reform in education, V-TOB has initiated EduTalk: Together Forward, a platform to generate data to inform the reform. The 7 episodes of panel discussion produced at least 21 hours of meaningful conversation. During those long discussions, I have noted some speakers sharing that a good movie can have a huge positive influence on shaping an empathetic teacher. 
Passu Diary Top 10 Movies for Teachers

With that in mind, I started listing movies that had a bearing on me when I was searching for myself as a young teacher. I have left traces of those movies that have influenced me on my blog since 2012, which are listed below along with the new ones I found more recently. 

Following are the 10 Movies I wholeheartedly recommend for my fellow Bhutanese teachers. They are arranged in chronological order, from 1967- 2019 as it's difficult for me to put them in any order of preference. 

I have a habit of reading about the movie I just watched, especially if it's based on a true story. I insist you do so with the movies on my list as most of them are based on real-life stories. 

1. To Sir, with Love (1967)

Adapted from the novel of the same name by E.R. Braithwaite, To Sir, With Love was the highest-grossing movie in 1967. Sidney Poitier played Mark Thackeray, an out-of-work engineer, who takes up a teaching job at a high school in London's East End, where discipline has completely broken down and the delinquents rule. 

Unaffected by the rowdy students, Mark implements his own brand of discipline in class earning the respect and admiration of his students. Even after half a century, the movie is still relevant and influencing people across the world.

2. Dead Poets Society (1989)

Starring Robin Williams as John Keating, a progressive English teacher who tries to encourage his students to break free from the norm, go against the status quo and live life unapologetically. 
His unorthodox teaching methods shock his colleagues but inspire his students to think beyond the careers ahead of them.

3. Dangerous Minds (1995)

The story is based on the true tale of a dauntless California educator named LouAnne Johnson. The screenplay was based on her 1992 book, "My Posse Don't Do Homework."

Marine LouAnne Johnson leaves military life behind and becomes a teacher, but struggles to earn her pupils' respect in the tough inner-city school where she is assigned to a class that's much like the one in "To Sir, with Love".

In an early scene, she shows off a flashy karate move but declines an invitation to battle a class thug. "I'm not allowed to touch the students," she explains. But of course, she goes on to touch her two dozen pupils in profound ways.

4. Finding Forrester (2000)

Little similar to "Good Will Hunting" (1997), Finding Forrester is about a friendship between Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown), an African-American student with natural talent in writing and William Forrester (played by Sean Connery), a reclusive writer who is hidden in his apartment for a long time, after writing an award-winning novel. The two seemed destined to meet; Jalam finds someone to share his writing brilliance with and William finds the reason to come out of his isolation.

This movie will work magic on literature teachers.

5. The Ron Clark Story (2006 )

The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry is based on the true story of a gifted young teacher leaves his home in North Carolina to seek adventure and a job in the bright lights and tough schools of New York City.

The movie which I blogged about way back in 2012 shows us how far one can go with passion. Ron Clark takes up the worst class in New York City and walks them to the top, quite similar to several movies in this list but the way it's told will make you cry. 

6. Taare Zameen Par (2007)

One of Aamir Khan's masterpieces, Taare Zameen Par is about a brilliant boy called Ishaan who is seen as stupid by his parents because of his poor academic performance. He sent away to a boarding school where he meets Ram played by Aamir Khan, an art teacher who recognizes the boy brilliance hidden under dyslexia. The movie opens our eyes after wetting them thoroughly. 

7. Freedom Writers (2007)

The Free Writers is an American Drama adapted from the best selling book The Freedom Writers Diaries (1999) by the teacher in the story herself, Erin Gruwell. This is another movie I have blogged about in 2012.

She takes up the job of teaching English on Long Island at 23. She is put into a class, which is almost a war zone where children nearly of her age and a lot bigger than her size are divided by racial hatred. These children walk with guns in the pockets and bitterness in their hearts, looking for any chance to start a fight. They come from a community that is divided into gangs and has a bloody history.

Our problems are nothing compared to what Ms Gruwell faces, she teaches in a classroom filled with resentments, where every careless word every minute starts up a fight. Her initial efforts to unite the divided class ends up making herself another enemy for them. The turning point in the story is a cartoon of a thick-lipped black boy passed around in the classroom that catches the attention of Ms Gruwell. Deeply saddened by the racism in the classroom she relates that cartoon with the cartoons of big-nosed Jews drawn by the biggest gang ever, the Nazi. She tells them about how that gang hated other races and divided countries and how that ended up in holocaust, taking away the lives of 6 million Jews.

This movie, which is based on the true story will show us how reading and journaling will transform us.

8. 3 idiots (2009)

If you haven’t watched 3 idiots yet you are the idiot of the century. Surprisingly nobody minds being called idiot after that movie. Everybody wants to be the 4th idiot. I am sure there won’t be anyone who didn’t watch it over three times.

Rancho comes to college to learn engineering for the love of doing it and not to get the certificate. He gives 'Millimeter' money to buy a school uniform and join any school the kid likes. If he is caught ‘uniform change, school change’. Going to school is not about passing the exam, getting the certificate and going to the next level and finally landing up in a job. It is about learning. Rancho himself gets kicked off from class often but he gets into another class. This is something I want my students to seriously reflect on.

My favourite scene in the movie is when Rancho was asked, “What is Machine?” Despite his excellent answer, he gets kicked out. This happens in most of our schools. But what doesn’t happen here is what Rancho does when he returns for his book. The message goes out to students who are fond of mugging up books and most of all to teachers who fail to understand the depth of students’ mind.

I cried when Farahan’s father finally asks him to return the laptop and to get himself a professional camera. Life is not about what people would say, as is in our society too, it’s about what makes you happy. Farahan says, “If I become a photographer I may earn lesser, but for the rest of my life, every day I wake up I will happy”.

9. Hichki (2018)

Hichki is said to be an adaption from Front of the Class (2008) but because of our closeness to Bollywood, I included it. 

Rani Mukerji Plays Naina Mathur, a young lady who has Tourette syndrome. She lands a teaching job in an elite school but she is given class IX-F. I think we can all relate to this because, in most of our schools, the best students are put in Sections A and B. Her IX-F is filled with poor children from the slums. 

Quite like The Dead Poet Society, Ron Clark Story, or Freedom Writers, you will see through your teary eyes how she takes IX-F to the top against all odds. 

10. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019)

Now, let's come home. Lunana: Yak in the Classroom is inspired by and adapted from School Among Glaciers 
(2003), a documentary by Dorji Wangchuk. Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, it is a recipient of numerous international awards and has been considered for nomination at the 93rd Oscars. 

It's about a young teacher, Ugyen, who dreams to go to Australia to become a singer.  but gets posted to Lunana School, to complete his service requirement before he leaves the service. 

After trekking for 8 days he makes it to Lunana where he finds himself in a classroom with no blackboard. He decides to quit and run back home right away. He asks the Gup to arrange horses for him. During the few waiting days, he discovers his purpose in the warmth of the poor village's hospitality and the smiles of the young children in his class. 

The Australian dream has taken away so many of our teachers and even Ugyen leaves finally but his short stay in Lunana transforms him as much as he does to the school and the children there. Watching Ugyen become a spiritual son of Lunana, it's so heartbreaking to watch him leave. You could see how badly he misses the warmth of Lunana when he performs Ya Labi Lhadha in a cold Australian pub where he landed his dream job of singing. 

P.S. I wish to put all of them in a pen drive and send to the two colleges of education to be shown to and discussed critically with the student-teachers.