20 October 2021

Tsirang Damphu Swimming Pool

I thought I was ridiculous when Tsirang made news about opening a swimming pool in Damphu to attract tourists. What? Who would want to go all the way to Tsirang for swimming? Which tourists are they talking about?

It only made sense to me when I visited the town myself. My daughter had only one thing on her mind when she reached Tsirang; to visit the swimming pool. October in Tsirang is still warm enough for swimming in cold water- can now count the months the pool is going to serve people. 

There were dozens of local children in the pool, thoroughly excited. Many of them can swim so well, unlike me and my daughter, who never had so much opportunity to learn the art. As a landlocked country with limited access to water bodies, swimming is an art that only a few Bhutanese have mastered.

Therefore, it was big news when Sangay Tenzin made it to Olympics in swimming from Bhutan where the only public pool in Thimphu is not even operational for the last two years. Looking back, we could applaud the school pool in Ugyen Academy for nurturing the swimming dream that ultimately took him to Japan 2020.

Some day, we may hear of a swimmer who began in Damphu pool go on to win an Olympic medal for our country or bravely jump in the river to save someone from drowning. It's not just a perfect getaway for the locals in this warm Dzongkhag, it's a national asset.

As of now, It's one of the only two public pools in the country and the only one that is operational. I happily added it on Google Maps.

19 October 2021

Learning to Cook in School

There is a growing pressure on the education system to prepare children for future jobs that don't even exist today. It's a race between our preparation for the future and the changing landscape of future jobs. The bitter reality is that we can never win this race. Our milestones are often outdated by the time we have achieved them. Are we even in this race? Is it worth it? That's not a great education system. It's a pressure cooker.

The Little MasterChefs

A great education system is one that prepares children for a good life. They should be taught to learn on their own, use kindness as a tool to achieve happiness, and be able to convert stuff in the kitchen to food and feed themselves.

The Chef and Her Happy Father
Let's not even talk about the worst kind of education system where everything revolves around tests, exams and marks. This is where a child is only as heavy as the marks he fetches in the test and exams. Even the school is judged on the exam results of the children. So even the principals are sucking up to the marks-politics as much as the students are.
What My Daughter Served

The above thought played in my head since experiencing a beautiful culture in my daughter's school, Thimphu Pry School. I was invited on the final day of her cooking class to taste the food she prepared. I loved both the food and the fact that her school considered it important to teach her cooking. After a decade in school if our children can't even prepare a cup of tea, what a shame would it be?

Emptying the Plate
Annually, her school playground turns into an open restaurant where the class VI students prepare and serve their parents the foods they have learned to prepare over the last several Saturdays.
For us, it's an emotional moment to watch our little ones walk across the ground with a trayful of food for us. One could see their pride reflected in the eyes of their parents.
Honestly, I didn't expect the food to be good. I was just happy that my 11-year-old daughter managed to prepare a trayful without burning anything. But the MasterChef junior getup wasn't for nothing, it showed both in the beautiful presentation and the great taste.

Their principal shared how some of their past students had surprised their parents with bedtea and helping hands in the kitchen after their cooking classes. I'm looking forward to such surprises but even if it didn't happen I will be as grateful to her school for adding a beautiful dimension to their school experience and giving them the most basic skill to survive as humankind. 

28 September 2021

Why Bhutanese Students Admire Hitler? -A Letter From Germany

In March 2019, my German friend, Annalena Lohaus wrote the following letter to our education minister, Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai. Since it was written to none other than the man at the helm of the education ministry, I didn't think I needed to write this blog. But it's almost three years, and there is no sign of the letter having made any impact whatsoever, so I am obliged to share this letter and let the people whom Lyonpo forwarded the letter know how significant it is. 

Anna- The Letter Writer

Anna told me how she was taken aback by several Bhutanese friends holding high regard for Hitler and Nazis. Of course, if she was not from Germany, the conversations wouldn't have happened. I helped her understand the mystery by pointing at the class VIII world history textbook. She didn't believe me. I had to get a tattered copy of the textbook that was published before I was even born and gave it over to her. 

Several days later, she wrote back to me expressing how disgusted she was about the content of the book where not only was Hitler celebrated but also Stalin and Mosulini. She couldn't believe that students were given tasks to collect the picture of Hitler and write notes about him. You will feel the significance of portraying Hitler in such a light in the letter below, which comes from a young German lady who carries the great burden of her history to this day;

Dear Minister Jai Bir Rai,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you directly. I am writing to you today to speak about an issue I've encountered several times in Bhutan as a German citizen. While Bhutan is a wonderfully welcoming country and the people I've met have been very warm and curious I was confronted multiple times with statements that are deeply troubling to me.

When people have learned that I am from Germany I was told more than ten different times how much Adolf Hitler is admired for his leadership and how he strengthened Germany during the early 1900s.

These statements are deeply problematic and as well as incorrect. The first time I heard this I did not know how to react. I also did not think much of it. However, it happened more frequently and I started to wonder where it was coming from. I would speak to my brother and friends at home who were equally as shocked by these remarks especially as we have our own personal experiences withNeo-Nazis nowadays and the uprising of far-right ideology.

For a German, positive remarks about Hitler are very insulting as our history is a great burden that we carry until today and it should not be treated lightly,

I was born many years after the war had ended, however, I still feel the shame and guilt of what has happened during WWll as we hear about it from our grandparents, in our schools and in books, art and movies.

I remember quite vividly one evening when we were staying with my grandparents and my father was talking to my grandfather about WWll. My grandfather grew up in central Germany as part of a low ranking family. His parents weren't Nazis; the Nazi propaganda didn't have a place in their homes. They were however members of the Nazi party as far as I know - but merely to protect themselves. lt wasn't a free choice at all. My grandmother's father refused to join the party and spent several years in prison for it. This resulted in a lot of hardship for his family. Many people tried to avoid these situations by joining the party as my grandfather's parents did. For children, there were special organisations: Hitler youth ("Hitlerjugend" in German) for the boys and League of German Girls ("Bund Deutscher Mädel")for the girls. My grandfather was not allowed to join the Hitler youth as his parents wanted to protect him from the propaganda as much as they could.

He was born in 1933. During the war, he was only a child. He went to school in his village. Every morning the children would gather in the schoolyard and sing the national anthem together; standing in one line. For a young boy, this generated a feeling of great pride. However, some children were not allowed to join: Jews especially and those, who were not members of Hitler youth or League of German Girls. These children were made to stand at the side in shame as th€ others proudly sang the national anthem.

My grandfather told me that he went home one day and begged his parents to allow him to join. Years later he was still ashamed of how easily the propaganda worked on him. He probably was wondering which role he would have played in the war had he been older and able to work and fight. I am afraid it would not have been a positive one. He had a small room in his house with bookshelves on every wall stuffed with books on WWll. He read everything he could get his hands on. History books, books on mäss psychology, biographies and even Mein Kampf and other books written by Nazis. He wanted to understand thoroughly how the crimes during the Nazi era had become possible and how the propaganda had worked on so many people.

My father was born after the war. During that evening at my grandfather's house, he claimed that every German back then knew about the concentration camps and the holocaust. My grandfather denied it. He wanted to explain how people fell for the propaganda without knowing about the horrors of the genocide. He was at the brink of tears. The shame of having been a part of it all even though he did not commit a crime himself never let go of him.

But whoever receives a regime like the Nazis and a dictator like Hitler as positive is an enabler to their crimes. This is what we learn in Germany as part of our history lessons. We speak in great detail about antisemitism and the ideology of the Nazis that put humans into different categories and allowed the enslavement and murder of millions. We visit concentration camps and listen to talks of survivors so that we remember our history and our duty to make sure that it does not repeat itself.

Even though I was born so many years after WWll I still feel the same historic guilt as my grandfather did. When I visited a friend in Poland and heard that I was going to meet his grandmother I was deeply worried about how she would receive me. Luckily she was a very lovely lady and welcomed me. However, in Finland, I was told by friends that I couldn't go to their grandparents' house because I was German and they would never open the door to me since they suffered greatly from the deeds of the Nazis during WWll.

I hope these stories help you to understand why it troubles me and other Germans so deeply when people in Bhutan or anywhere else say positive things about Hitler. The second world war is not my fault but it is my duty to do my best to prevent the ideology from growing again. Every family in Germany has its own story. Some were perpetrators, many were victims. Some stories I've heard from my friends' grandparents are too horrible to repeat here. Every family has lost loved ones and many innocent lives were lost in an unjustified war that was started by Germany and fuelled by a twisted and inhuman ideology.

I am writing to you because through conversations with my friend Passang Tshering I have come to know that the remarks about Hitler I was confronted with are partly rooted in misinformation during history classes. He was able to get me the Vlll World History Book that is being used (as far as I am told) in schools in Bhutan and it was very surprising to me to see how Hitler and Nazi Germany are being portrayed as victims of the other nations and Hitler as the liberator of the oppressed German people. The holocaust is not even mentioned in that book, which would be illegal in Germany. The denial of the holocaust and public praise of the Nazis is a crime punished with up to 3 years in prison.

The depiction of history in that era is very one-sided and simplified, leaving out major events and painting a wrong picture of Germany's role in both wars. Even WWI was caused to a great extent by Germany and the conditions set by the peace treaty of Versailles were harsh but justified. Germany was by no means a victim and Hitler no liberator. He rose to power by killing and capturing those opposing him and by manipulation of the masses. The book talks of great economic advancement and development of infrastructure in that time but fails to mention how the momentous buildings were constructed: By taking property from non-German people and Jews, by using forced labour and by enslaving Jews as well as whoever was deemed to be of lesser worth than the "Aryan master race".

The book talks very positively not only about Hitler but Stalin and Mussolini as well. Millions of lives were lost in WWll and I strongly believe that these dictators should not be glorified. The tasks for the children to solve in the book are especially disturbing: They are for example asked to collect pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini and write short texts about them as if they were Popstars.

The book is poorly written and seems to be very biased in order to depict history in a certain way. This results in Bhutanese admiring Hitler and thinking that this is a compliment for Germans when in fact it is an insult and disturbing to anyone aware of the history.

I hope that the lessons and books can be changed in the future. I do understand the fascination with Hitler's charisma, however, a man that ordered the murder of 6 million Jews should never be idolised. The ideology behind the Nazi era is extremely harmful and their role in WWll should be recognised as what it truly is: One of the greatest crimes against humanity and all of their doing needs to be clearly condemned.

Thank you very much for your consideration; I would be glad to talk to you further about this issue if you have any enquiries.

Kind regards,

Analena Lohaus


12 September 2021

Mikyo Dorji- The Big Promise in Bhutanese Sports

Mikyo Dorji is on the national news several times. Each time it was for breaking a new barriers and setting a new benchmark. It's hard to believe that he is just a college student who is already on the national cricket team and now singed by an international club. 

Last week, when the news of Mikyo Dorji joining Lalitpur Patriots came on BBS, I was reminded of the first two times he came on news. It was in 2015 May, when St. Joseph's School in North Point recognized Mikyo for his excellence in cricket, volley and basket with the rare White Coat. It's said that the prestigious award was conferred to only 12 students in the entire history of the school. Mikyo was the first Bhutanese. 

Mikyo joins the defending Champion, Lalitpur Patriots, Nepal

In the October of the same year, his school awarded him the most coveted Depelchin Gold Medal. That was for the overall 'most outstanding student' in the school up to class X. That's like the life time achievement award for the entire school years. That talks about his consistancy over the years he spent in the school. 

2015 May on BBS

Going by the two huge recognitions coming from a reputed school in a country as big as India we can guess what stuff Mikyo is made of. He was only 16 then. We would think it's way too young for him to handle professional sports but in the world of sports that's where the shining must begin. Younger the better. His career in India was set.

But I am proud that he returned to Bhutan and joined the national cricket team first. Signing with the Nepali cricket club is just the beginning for the young man. I foresee Mikyo joining an IPL team and make whole of Bhutan watch him play on TV aganist the best in the world someday soon.

2021 Sept. BBS


Much like Chencho Gyeltshen has forged the path into the international football arena, Mikyo is the next generation. When Mikyo makes it to the biggest cricket league in the world, one can only imagine the kind of money he will be signing on. When that day comes, Bhutanese cricket will shine too. 

May Mikyo inspire younger Bhutanese to embrace sports professionlly and achieve excellence. 

07 September 2021

An Olympic Swimmer From a Country With One Swimming Pool

It didn't occur to me how significant it was for a swimmer from Bhutan to go to Olympic 2020 until I received an email from a Dutch journalist, Fabian van der Poll. He worked with a Dutch daily newspaper, NRC. He had found my contact through an article I wrote in 2013 about swimming pools in Bhutan.

While researching on a debut swimmer, Sangay Tenzin from Bhutan, Fabian stumbled upon my blog post that read Bhutan had only one swimming pool in the whole of the country until recently. It intrigued him to do a story on the 17-year-old. It's a goldmine sort of discovery for a journalist to learn that a boy who learned to swim in the river has made it to the Olympics.

Sangay Tenzin, 17 (PC: Bhutan Today Page)

We either took it for granted or were ignorant but Sangay Tenzin's journey to Tokyo deserved more attention. From the river in Gelephu to a school swimming pool in Ugyen Academy, Sangay's destiny kept swimming despite all the limitations. It's through the various news sources that we learned how he had to train in Bangkok for the last two years because we don't have the kind of pool for him to train in Bhutan. 

Sangay is 17 and has at least two more Olympics to look forward to. He will swim far in life. But more than his own career, he has paved way for generations of youths to follow him, much like Chencho Gyeltshen did with football. 

Because of him, Olympic size swimming pools will be built in Bhutan. He has drawn the attention of the people in the most magnificent way. He didn't demand anything, he just worked his way to the Olympics 2020. He caused the splash to talk for him. He created the future he wanted. 

31 August 2021

Switched Off - A Book Review

'Switched Off' is the fourth book on crime and investigation from an ex-police officer turned author, Karma Tenzin Yongba. He has built a reputation for himself as a crime writer with his three previous books; The Restless Relic, The Barnyard Murders, and The Darkest June

The new book is about a girl named Sadey, who has two men in her life; Karma Rigzin and Ram Bdr Gurung. From a crime point of view, the book is about Ram Bdr who is found dead on the dancefloor. He was poisoned. Police find Sadey's number on the dead man's call record. And on Sadey's phone, they found a frequent caller, Karma Rigzin. 

Author Karma Tenzin tells the crime stories with the authority of someone who has been there and done that. The dashing cop, Max in the story is unmistakenly the portrayal of the younger version of the author himself, or so it seems. The character of the officer is carefully crafted with the right doses of courage and compassion, discipline and vulnerability,  intellect and rawness. It's a character built to win hearts, one that is a fine image of an admirable policeman. 

Besides the thrilling crime elements in the book, Karma subtly brings out the deep-rooted social prejudices when discussing why Sadey's parents won't allow her to marry Ram. Poor Sadey is stretched between two men both of whom she cannot marry, because the older man she loves, Karma Rigzin, has his family. The honesty with which the author presents these delicate subjects sets him apart. He seemed to have planned to give these strong jabs of social messages across our ribs while still keeping us hooked on the apparent murder case. 

However, the major complaints I have is against the presentation of the book, choice of paper and the cover design. How can we wrap such a thrilling story in something that looks like a high school project work? You don't design your book in MS Word anymore. It takes a professional book designer to layout a book. 

The story could have been seamlessly woven together if they are divided into chapters. An editor would have smoothened the rough edges and brought about consistency in terms of use of names, dates, quotes, paragraphing etc. The author need not take the burden of doing everything himself. A storyteller must go on telling stories and leave the technicals to professionals. 

Note: If you are interested in buying a copy, get it from BOOKNESE. It will be delivered to you. 

27 August 2021

Restoring a 1984 Photograph

This black and white photograph from my Ama (mother's sister) Lhaden and Asha KB Gurung's marriage in 1984 is the oldest known picture of myself and even my mother's. It was taken in Haa Imtart officer mess where the ceremony was hosted. I was only one year old. Since my father was not in the picture, I am assuming he may have passed away already. They say he died in a truck (that was operated as public transport) accident when I was a baby. 

Standing L-R: Angay Tashi Dem, Jojo Dorji, Angay Lamkey, Asha KB Gurung, Ama Lhaden
Front row: Ashim Karma Lhaden, Mother Gaki holding the cute me. 
The Scanned copy of the original photo from 1984

I remember seeing this photograph before, but I didn't realized how important a piece of memory it was for me. It was in better condition then. I could have taken care. By the time I saw it last time in my sister's possession, it was already in bad shape. I am so grateful that she took care of it, becuase this time when I saw it, I felt so nostalgic. It was a completely new feeling. I think that comes with age.

Just when I was wondering what to do with the old picture, something random made a perfect sense. I was invited to give an inspirational talk at ScanCafe in Thimphu Tech Park last month. I made new friends there and discovered what hundreds of young Bhutanese are doing in that massive office. Jagat and Neten showed me samples of their works. As of today they have scanned 193.5 million images by hand. Yes, they are photo scanning, editing, restoring service company with HQ in the US. Their client base is outside Bhutan for now where the value of old pictures and videos are already felt. When we Bhutanese come of age, they are already here. 

Isn't this amazing that two random events happened almost at the same time, one is only making sense becuse the other happened a little ahead of it? I called up Jagat and told my old picture story. I didn't even have to explain what I wanted him to do with it, because this was a part of his job. 

Restored by ScanCafe

This is what he has done with my picture. He said he could only do so much because my photo was tiny, only a little bigger than playing card. Yet he has restored the damages and enhanced the resolutions almost ten times. 

Colourized Picture 

He added live to the 1984 still picture by adding colour to it. I am going to print copies of it and gift to my grandmother, mother, Asha and Ama. But I am wondering if Asha KB really wore a faded gho on his marriage. I think that must have been a glitch. Anyway, that will be a good topic to talk on when I go to them with the printed picture. 

Thank you, Jagat!

23 August 2021

The First Pedestrian Crossover Bridge in Thimphu Olakha

The first pedestrian crossover bridge (overpass or flyover) in Olakha is going to be one of the best things to have happened in Thimphu in the last many years. Despite having a four-lane expressway, south Thimphu experiences traffic jams in the morning and evening rush hours. The jams are rather caused by our overzealous zebra crossing culture than by the number of cars, which is also an issue though. The only way to solve the issue is literally putting people over cars. That's why the construction of the crossover was such a welcome sight. 


But the time it's taking to complete is really teasing people's patience. Even for someone like me who doesn't frequent that road much, I found it tiring to watch the progress. The colouring alone took quite a long while. Despite the luxury of time, the workmanship is not quite up to the mark; you could see the slabs not aligning well yet the colouring is done to hide it unsuccessfully. Anyway, we could make do with that. 

Three things besides the aesthetics that may affect the performance of the crossover are;

1. The height of the railing seems short. It could feel really unsafe. Some people may not be able to crossover due to fear of falling. It's necessary for the railing to be above the waist, which has to do with the centre of gravity of our body, to feel safe. With limited railing, the chances of things falling over are high, which is risky for the cars passing underneath. 

2. Stairs from just one side on both ends could be an inconvenience that could have been resolved by two stairs. It's common sense with a little extra cost. I guess this could have added to the stability of the structure too. 

3. How about a roof over it? It could have added to the beauty of the structure as well as the functional part. of protecting people from the elements. It could also provide safety to the users, as well as the cars plying beneath. 

I know it's too late to say anything, but I thought they knew better. Anyway, we are looking forward to the opening of the bridge.

18 July 2021

Mushroom Hunting Around Thimphu

When I told my wife I was going mushroom hunting over the weekend, she was so terrified. I could see right in her eyes that she saw me being attacked by a bear and poisoned by a mushroom. Since I am writing this blog, you know I have survived both. 

When we talk about mushroom foraging, the first thing that dominates our mind is mushroom poisoning. I understand my wife's apprehension, but then I am guided by a pearl of ancient wisdom that says, if you don't know a mushroom, assume it's poisonous

Two Mushroom Hunters

My friend Tashi Namgay and I had this planned a long time ago. We waited till this weekend to make the trip. My adventurous mother was going to join us, but she left for Haa a few days ago. She guided us to go after the 10th day of the 6th month, which is traditionally believed to be a ripe time for mushrooming. We went two days ahead of the auspicious timing, but since Tashi knew a few hotspots, we gathered quite a load of mushroom. 
Discovering Chimpa (liver) Shamo at one of the 'nests.'

Talking about the mushroom hotspots, it's the jargon of the mushroom pickers, which are marked spots where they found a good number of a certain type of mushroom and come back to the same spot each year. They call it their mushroom 'nest'. They will keep it a secret, just like I do not mention our nest in this post. I am grateful to Tashi Namgay for trusting me enough to reveal his nest to me. 

This trip was enriching in two beautiful ways;

  1. Taking us out of the stressful Thimphu life and soaking us in the rain and dews drops from every plant we touched. Even if we didn't find any mushrooms, I would return home happier knowing I have done a good hike in the woods.
  2. The woods around Thimphu is so rich in mushrooms that it was a field trip in itself. We spent hours photographing and discussing mushrooms. Tashi Namgay got himself enlightened on two mushrooms I knew so well, coming from Haa. In return, coming from Bumthang, he educated me on two mushrooms that I never thought we edible. We learned so much from each other. 

We took a local guide who was an old friend of Tashi's. They have been together on their previous trip, and they helped each other remember their 'nests'. They shared how they kicked the poisonous-looking "Chimpa Shamo" during their last trip, which happens to be my favourite mushroom. It can be prepared as curry or salad. It can also be dried and consumed later. To prove how crazy I was about that mushroom that tastes so much like liver, I prepared a salad at our guide's place right after our trip. The two of them relished the new taste for the first time. Tashi Namgay couldn't stop himself from sharing a social media post on that story:

Tashi's Two Mushrooms

Following are the two mushrooms that Tashi educated me on:

Gongdo Shamo
Later at night, we prepared the only piece we got for his wife, a vegetarian. It can also be barbecued with a tiny bit of butter and a pinch of salt. 

Khempa Shamo
This khempa Shamo looked so poisonous to me, but both my teammates confirmed that it's deceiving tasty and goes so well with ema-datshi. 

My Two Mushrooms

These are the two I educated Tashi and his friend on;

My Beloved Chempa Shamo

Lumbob Shamo (in Haa)

The Chempa Shamo Salad

Dry Mushroom

Following are the two types of mushrooms all of us knew well. They are best served dried. We got plenty of them. Ga-shamo is especially was infested with worms, but then that's how it's known to be dried and consumed in the next season. However, we made sure that we picked the ones that are not yet attacked by the worms. As of now, they are drying at my place. 

Shaw-namcho Shamo


Poison Mushroom

And finally, I must admit that I don't know enough about the following mushrooms, neither do my two friends. Therefore, with the guidance of ancient wisdom, let's assume them as simply inedible or, worse poisonous. 















Bear Attack

I didn't talk much about the bear attacks in this post because I have little knowledge of bears. This is the bear season for sure. We have seen footprints and bear scats in various places. We saw the fruit-bearing plants being ransacked, which can only be done by bears. 

I can only confidently say that you must go in groups and make your presence felt by making sounds from time to time. Elders told us that any wild animal including bears, don't like encounters with humans. They will avoid if they knew we were around. The attacks happen when we run into each other suddenly. Their attacks are mostly in self-defence. Of course, they cannot prove that in a court of law. 

Anyway, the fear of bear attack is serious and so is mushroom poisoning. It's good to be adventurous but it's more important to be alive. 

Be careful out there. 

23 June 2021

Why are Bhutanese Toilets so dirty?

For a country as beautiful as Bhutan, the condition of our toilet is an ugly scar on the face. It begs the question, why are Bhutanese Toilets so dirty? The answer is, we let it be; we tolerate it. We grew up with dirty toilets everywhere, that we built natural tolerance for dirty toilets. So, when we see a dirty toilet, we find it NORMAL. We hardly complain. 


My name is Chablop PaSsu. I am the founder of Bhutan Toilet Organization, and let me tell you that it’s NOT Normal for toilets to be dirty. I beg you to complain when you see a dirty toilet. 


Remember, when we saw a picture of a guy climbing on a chorten, there was a massive outrage in our society (or at least on social media) because it was not normal to climb on a chorten. I wish if people could respond like that when they see a toilet that is left insanely dirty, because even that’s not normal. 


We shape our concept of the toilet based on the kind of toilet we accept as normal.


Concept of Toilet 


Let me redefine the concept of a toilet for you. It is the happiness room that we failed to acknowledge. People go in that room with many forms of discomfort and always come out happy; For example, you badly need to urinate or have an upset tummy. You run looking for a toilet in much pain and fear of humiliation in case you can’t hold it anymore. At that moment, the sight of a toilet brings you a sense of relief. Once you get inside, you experience the ultimate happiness. You are so grateful to the toilet that you are willing to do anything for the toilet. If we could trap on this very emotion and commitment, toilet problems in the country will be solved, but unfortunately, we have a very short memory. 


Every morning, you wake up feeling low; your mouth is stinking, your eyes are sticky, your nose is stuffy, and your hair is messy. You walk into the happiness room, brush your teeth, wash your face, clean your nose, and do your hair, and by the time you come out from there, you are a new person, ready to seize the day. Anyone who goes to the little room comes back a little happier, so isn’t that room magical? Isn’t it the happiness room? 

That is the concept of the toilet that we Bhutanese are unaware of. That’s why it’s not trendy to show off your toilet. We rather invest in a huge sofa, showcase, and TV in the sitting room, while the toilet remains tiny, dingy and stinky with many broken things inside it. Someone once told me that we Bhutanese wear expensive Gho and Keera over torn and faded underwear. We have misplaced our priorities. 


We think a toilet is a dirty little room for us to pee and poop. Even so, of all the rooms in your house, the toilet is the only room that every family member uses at least five times a day. Yet, we invest the least in the toilet. It’s a sad example of a tragedy of the commons.


It's not our fault. It was passed down to us through our genes by our ancestors, who knew little about the toilet. But it will be our fault if we pass down the same stinky legacy to our children despite all the knowledge and exposure. We have come a long way, and much has changed, but we are still stuck with dirty toilets.


Everyone loves a clean toilet, yet collectively, we don't work towards getting it. It’s strange how the whole is less than the sum of its parts.


Attitude & Mindset 


Our attitude toward the toilet is a personal affair as long as we keep it to ourselves, but when we project that in a group or society, it has consequences. It’s worse if you are an important person because it has a significant bearing on your decisions.


Let me share a story of setting up and managing toilets during major national events. You know how important it is to have toilet facilities during big public events. But you don’t know that we get last-minute notice to come and set up toilets, and there is no budget set aside to build toilets. It hurts when the toilet gets the last priority. On the contrary, a five-minute dance program gets two months of preparation, herding and feeding a few dozen heads. Whereas, the toilet that is used by everyone from morning to evening gets the least importance in the whole scheme of things. 


That's just the beginning. The next problem is getting the location for the toilet. Toilets are often given the oddest locations, literally unreachable, perfectly hidden from the view. They would say it’s gross to have a toilet anywhere near. You could see the filthy sight and smell of the toilet right on their face as they explain why we can’t have the toilets in the vicinity. 


I get angry, but I don't blame them. I blame the toilets they have suffered in their schools. They carry such bad memory of toilets that they are worried the toilet we will build will be like the ones in their heads.


If they had a clean toilet in their head, their decision would be different. They would want us to build the toilet next to the gate and the guest tents to be most convenient for everyone.  


I found out that having a profound toilet attitude is critical in leadership. For example, if your school toilet is dirty, it reflects your principal’s ignorance and attitude. If your office toilet is horrible, it has everything to do with your boss’s mentality. He may want his attached toilet to be clean, but you could judge his leadership by the standard of the common office toilet. You do a simple survey and see how it correlates. You will smell it. 


The irony goes much deeper in our society; We are a giving society, yet people will hardly share their toilet. Even a small restaurant toilet will put a “Costumers Only” notice. A rich landlord secretly dumps raw sewer from his property into the stream used for washing and drinking by poorer people downstream. A wealthy household talks proudly about having four toilets inside with no regard for the neighbourhood that has no toilet. 

We forget that the flies from a poor neighbour’s open faeces will not discriminate against the people in the rich household. 


Changing the Concept 


But there is hope. We have seen in short periods we spent around event toilets how people's perceptions change. They visit us at least ten times on the event day (Imagine where would they run to if we didn’t arrange the toilets). The first time they come, they are suspicious. They cover their nose and mouth. When they come out, they look amazed. The next time they come, we see big smiles. And we become friends. The sudden change in their attitude is so satisfying. This is what we work for. This is the sign that we have finally managed to clean the toilet in their head. Next time, we know they will make a decision based on the clean toilet in his head.


The same attitude has influenced the locations of public toilets across the country. How many public toilets are there in Thimphu? There are seven in the core town, but you won't know because most of them are strategically hidden from the public view. It's ironic that the public toilets are hidden from public view, but that's what happens when the engineer or the planner has a horrific toilet in their head. They are only doing a favour to the country by hiding them. AND you know when the toilets are located in the shady corners, all sorts of shady things happen there—fights, drugs, theft, and vandalism. 


You go to any public toilet and see if everything is in order. I bet you will see that most of them are vandalized, and you will be lucky if at least one flush tank works or you find a proper set of Bucket and Jug to use.


For a harmonious and peaceful country, why do our toilets look like we are in a state of war? The answer lies in the same place, the toilet in our heads. If the planners had clean toilets in their heads, we would have public toilets in good locations, and because of the location, we could avoid all sorts of shady activities, from pooping in the washbasin to stealing buckets jugs and TP rolls.


Personal Etiquettes 


A civilized person will always look for a toilet when they get the call of nature, whereas some of us are still ok with going behind the bush. This habit of going behind the bush is not relevant when you are in a town. That's when you realize how backward you are. But somehow, you manage to find a spot behind a building and shamelessly shit there, knowing that no one will know and no one will even remember. 


For that matter, such a person with no regard for toilet etiquettes will do the same even if he finds a toilet. He will use it without appreciating how good it was when he came in and leave with no regard for people who will go after him. The thought process is the same as the person who did it behind the building. No one has seen it; no one will know, and no one will even remember. 


But let me tell you, what comes out of you is a PART of you. Even though no one saw you leaving without flushing, when people, who come after you see it, they will not like it. They will spit on it in disgust; you are going to feel the hate. No one will look at your shit and appreciate the shape and the colour of it; they will be disgusted. And the energy is powerful. When they spit on the part of you with such sincere disgust, you will feel it no matter where you are. That’s negative energy invoked by you. You bring out the worst in people as long as the part of you remain there.


On the other hand, if you have planted a tree somewhere, every time a person sits in its shade to take rest, the person will feel thankful to the tree, and that powerful and sincere energy of gratefulness will follow you wherever you are like a blessing. Same with a flower you planted that pleases people or a water tap you built that's helping people cool themselves and quench their thirst. What goes around definitely comes around. Let it be the good that goes around.  


Next time you are about to leave the toilet unflushed, remember that ugly little part of you will bother many people and that so many curses will follow you. The idea is simple: even a cat knows. A cat digs a hole, poops in it and covers it up. It's nothing attractive to show to the world, so why don't you cover it up with soil if you are in the wild and make an effort to flush it down if you are in a toilet. Don't make your decision based on whether someone is watching or not. “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” 


The job of Toilet Cleaning


Cleaning toilet is not one of the most attractive jobs in the world. On top of that, in many cultures, it is a job done by a class of people who are considered very low, untouchables. Lucky for us, we never had a deep-rooted toilet culture, and therefore the idea of the job belonging to any class of people is unfounded. Any notion of stigma attached to cleaning toilet is a borrowed mentality. Let’s shed that off. 


Who cleans the toilet at home? Is there a category of people who must do that job? No, it's the job that any family member can do; one who loves cleanliness the most or the one who is good at the art of cleaning, or the one with an open mind to do the job. So, it's not about a class but rather an attitude—a progressive choice. 


It’s in primitive and backward societies that such classes are created and discriminated against. In progressive societies like the US and Australia, toilet cleaning is like any other job. Ask hundreds of respected Bhutanese who have taken the job in Australia by choice.


Of course, the toilets down there cannot be compared to what we have here, and the difference in the kind of money they get down there and what we pay our cleaners here are almost impossible to fathom. This gives us a deep insight into why the western perspective on the job is different from ours. This will help us understand the reality of things and put our money in the right place. If we say toilet cleaners are important members of staff, we must back it up with good money to make it believable. 


Until then, the show must go on. We must work toward uplifting the job to the next level through excellence in performing it and perceiving it. There is no humility greater than the act of cleaning a toilet. 


The Liberator 


And in doing so, when you clean an unflushed toilet, which was causing distress to many people, you act to liberate that unfortunate person who has done that. That person may be having a bad day somewhere. Not knowing what the hell he did wrong to deserve it, but you have shown mercy on him by removing the burden and setting him free. You liberate that person. You become a liberator. 


Not just that, the clean and welcoming toilet that you have created will make every visitor happy, like the tree, flower, water tap I shared about, and the intense, positive energy they emit is the merit you accumulate. It will follow you wherever you are. You will receive their blessings. 


Therefore, sometimes I feel the job of cleaning a toilet is a spiritual offering of humility and compassion, the humility of the self and compassion for others. 


The Royal Vision of a First World Country


During the 113th National Day address, His Majesty the King shared his vision of propelling Bhutan to a first world country during our lifetime. In the last few years, His Majesty kept mentioning Big Data, AI, Block-Chain, Machine Learning, cryptocurrency, and Space science. 


Even if there is nothing we could offer in these big subjects, let us make our individual contribution towards one of the most basic foundations of a first world country- a clean toilet. 


Let’s clean the toilets in our heads and around us. 

Let’s stop going behind the bushes. 

Let’s stop tolerating dirty toilet. 

Let’s complain. 

Let’s prepare to become a first-world citizen.