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Carryover effect – a closing remark 2010

We could keep some of our promises made to ourselves and to our people in the beginning of the year that’s ending today. Some promises slipped off our hands as the year advanced. All these are fine and okay as long as we have done something in the right spirit.

As the year ends tonight, it is also time to ask ourselves and introspect how much life has taught us in the past one year and what lessons we have leant so that we have something to proudly carry over to the next year.  It is time to reflect on the mistakes committed and plan accordingly on how to avoid them.

And it is been two exciting years for this blog – I have been unfaithful mostly this year to my blog. I contributed 37 posts less compared to 2009. I posted 93 articles in 2009 while I managed only 56 this year. But the year has been a fruitful for Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) and we are pleased that something is happening, even if it is in rudimentary form. Everyone should be proud of its progress and we will soon …

Let’s Go Green in a Practical Way

It was half past five in the morning. The melodious sound of jaling from a nearby lhakhang heralded the dawn of Dragon Kingdom’s 103rd National Day. It was on this very day, December 17, exactly a century and three years ago, our small landlocked nation wrote her future. And as Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck ascended the Golden Throne as the first hereditary King of Bhutan, our forefathers had decided literally to give birth to a unified country, spelling an end to the endless struggles. Thus, the significance of this day can never be overstated as it is etched in the hearts and minds of every Bhutanese citizen, young and old alike.
It is not just a day to celebrate, reflect and revisit extraordinary deeds of our kings and forefathers who gifted us this nation with all its glory, but also it is a moment for us every Bhutanese to be grateful for everything that we are and that we rightfully have. More appropriately, it is a time to offer our commitment to the king, the country and the people o…

Let’s utilize the devil’s workshops productively this winter

Schools across the country will remain closed starting December 14, 2010 with the completion of class 12 and 10 Board Examinations, which started on November 30. Others who were studying in the lower classes are already on a long and relaxing break. To students and teachers alike, it comes as a refreshing break at the end of a fruitful academic session. And to parents, based on where they are (urban or remotes areas), this break either spells extra responsibilities or adds a few more helping hands on the farm. 
And the Ministry of Education’s decision to shorten the winter holidays from three to two months came as a relief to many parents in the urban centers, who realize their children would be better off at schools than being idle at home. 
What does the break entail? Those days, when we were students, winter break was a time to get busy. Winter is a lean season people say, but that’s all in economics theories. Practically, there is no end to work in a farming community. Even now, for…

Bank of Bhutan launches MasterCard and VISA International acquiring

His Excellency Lyonpo Nandalal Rai, the Minister for Information and Communications presided over the launching ceremony of MasterCard and VISA International credit and debit card acquiring by Bank of Bhutan on December 11, 2010. The function was held in Tashi Taj, Thimphu.
With the official launch of the project, visitors will now have easy access to funds through withdrawal from BOB's wide ATM network and make payments for purchases directly through their credit or debit cards.
The bank is expected to issue MasterCard and Visa ATM/debit cards by the first quarter of 2011 and will be soon introducing Indian Rupees denominated Pre-paid cards in partnership with Axis Bank. Persons availing this card can enjoy the convenience of withdrawing cash from any ATM of any bank in India. Additionally, the bank will be launching Western Union Money transfer.

From Shamans to Climate Change to hot springs and knee-aches

There are many phenomena and concepts that I do not understand, even now I can only wonder. 
When I was in a primary school, I would go home on weekends and then almost always, I would find my mother suffering from one illness or other – from knee ache to headache to toothache. My mother would undergo a serious pain and this constant pain would make us even more painful. We only wished if we could share some of her pains. 
My grandmother would scoop out hot cinders from the hot hearth in a little tin container and then would start murmuring some mantras as the smoke from the burning maize flour rose in the air. “Sur sur” was all that I could hear her, her tightly closed lips. Inside we would see its immediate effect.
Sometimes the grandma would be out to look for the bonpo (the shaman). Sitting beside the sick, the bonpo would chant some more mantras his hands constantly at his rosary beads. All through this I would be watching everything, disbelieving the power of the shaman. 
“Away fro…

Just this once

For once can we be nice to ourselves? For once can we please ourselves? For once can we do things for ourselves? Just this once not thinking of others! This doing-for-others-and-pleasing-them mentality begins at home. Before a guest is expected, we clean our rooms; wipe cobwebs, shine our window panes and maybe if we have it spray room-sprays.
Then at schools, we whitewash dirty walls, clean smelly toilets, clear up clogged drains and so on. And when important guests visit schools, students are served better meals, library rooms are well arranged, computer labs are replaced with PCs that function, flower gardens are wonderfully weeded, and children’s uniforms are neater and shinier.
Then when an important bureaucrat blesses a village with a visit, a mule track is widened, bridges are revamped, farmers wear cleaner clothes and horses look stronger to carry the important guest.
And there are so many occasions where we do things for others. Let’s not forget the lavish birthday parties, e…

Beyond Alphabets

It is nothing new. I am trying to teach English alphabets to my almost three-month-old daughter. She did well. On the first day, she could utter only a few vowels, but the progress has been good.  A, E, and O are her favorite alphabets. There are a few alphabets she purposefully refuses to say aloud with me. There are many, but I want to talk of only one today and give my interpretations. The letter C. From the look of her eyes, she is clearly disgusted. And I am sure you will mock at my assumptions, but as a father, I have a right to interpret my daughter’s wisdom.

It has been there ever since the beginning; as old as the mankind. Naturally, it is human tendency to think of someone who does a little good things to us or speaks kindly of us, we think he/she is a nice person. And everyone has weakness to nice persons. All family members and friends are nice people to everyone. Obviously nice people are to be treated well. And when you are a person in a high position, you have people l…

Books or Bars: what thrives on Bhutanese soil?

Another National Book Fair was held in Thimphu this week. It was launched by the Minister of Education Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel. But the organizers grumbled that not many people are interested in buying books. That’s not a new thing by the way. In his address, Bhutanese media quotes Lyonpo Thakur as saying that he wishes for equal number of bookstalls as there are bars in the town.  We know that it will take another two hundred or so years for that honorable dream to turn into reality, only if something dramatic happens.

Exactly a year ago, a bookshop in Phuentsholing was shut down, providing space for the coming of a shoe store. What is the point of running a business that does not do well? Why run a shop that only a handful of customers step in to browse? Maybe the shop owner thought that that was not how best she could feed her family.
Statistics tells us that seventy percent (or more) of Bhutanese population lives in the villages and this means that seventy percent of our yout…

Let's Spell Wholesome Education

Another week is up and gone. It is time for another episode of Supper Spellers – spell it right on BBS TV. Watching the show against the backdrop of lazy and less eventful Sunday is a testimony to many things about our schools, students, teachers and the quality of education in Bhutanese schools, if being able to spell some English words correctly is any indication. It is a clear direction as to where our education system is headed and observers are left with the revelation that gap actually exists between schools in remote and urban areas. Of course for now the show is only for students of Thimphu, but we can already imagine what would be the state of things if their cousins in remote schools are made to compete with them.
Let’s spell three things correctly here – education, experience and exposure all that describe our education system. It has been years now since the deteriorating quality of education has become the big talk of this small nation. And rightly so! As a parent I want m…

Our greedy bank accounts

Wow, another month is down; look at my blog, it is literally starving. Good that it is silent though. I have nothing serious to blog about even today.  
Buddhism denounces enormous wealth. It is not happiness, but it invites suffering and misery. First there is the pain and struggle of accumulating it and then there is burden of having to look after it accompanied by the pain of parting with it. And this leaves us with no or less time to practice the teachings of the Buddha and nearly no time to reflect on the preciousness of human life.  
In mythologies, the King of Klu (Naga; serpent) is said to have nine heads and each one carries a lump of gold. And while gold symbolizes dignity, pride, wealth, power, the serpent king is said to be susceptible to lurking threats.
By token of being born in a Buddhist country, we are taught to value spiritual happiness over material wealth. And then here we are taught that happiness is more important than any amount of wealth. Our policy of GNH prescr…

My daughter wants me to call her

I have just talked to my daughter.
When PaSsu one day wrote how he missed his daughter being away from her on a workshop at Chukha, I might have rolled my eyes a couple of times. But now here I am. I have been away from my beloved daughter for more than two weeks now. And of course PaSsu was so right – I miss my daughter so much. I dream about her every night and her mother allows me to talk to her on the phone. Sometimes when I call her mother, my daughter happens to be doing her round of crying. But when I start to talk and console her on the phone, she stops crying. This happened many times now. This makes me think that she can recognize her father’s melodic voice.
Jokes aside, I become so happy when she listens to my voice on the receiver and giggles, pretending and trying to say so many things to me.  Sometimes I wonder if she tries to tell me how she misses me and why I was being away from her for a long time. And this makes me miss her even more, the mere thought of it.
And bef…

Saying No to violence and meaning it

Today (October 2, 2010) coinciding with the Birth Anniversary of Gandhiji, the day is observed as the International Day of Non-violence starting 2007 according to the UN General Assembly Resolution. The resolution declares it as the moment to “disseminate the message of non-violence”.  It is of course a time for us to reflect on the lives of a great soul – Mahatma Gandhi who moved the world with his Ahimsa moment.
Back home, it is good time for us Bhutanese to reflect on beauty of living with Buddhist principles. It is time for us to treat others in a way we want them to treat us and extend our compassion on those suffering. Non-violence is not only about trying to stop fighting or killing. It is about being compassionate and kind to others, treating others as our own kith and kin. Of course all these are fancy concepts.
But let’s admit being poor farmers in a remote village is never a crime. But it is if we insult them for being poor. I was told some of our people have commented that…

Not to the sound of clashing cymbals

What a show!
Finally, it came to an end with the crowning of second Miss Bhutan. I would like to congratulate all the winners and other contestants for having had the wonderful moments of their lives.
But what captivated me the most was the moment when the Miss Bhutan 2010 Pageant Finale started at Nazhoen Pelri yesterday. This made me wonder if I was dreaming because I thought Thimphu Tshechu has already ended by then. But the dance by some odd musical troupe at the show featured a group of men wearing masks dance alongside a group of beautiful dancers to the tune of a song played aloud on the loud speakers instead of dancing with their feet in complete sync with the clashing sounds of cymbals at the tshechu ground.
It was truly out of place. People watching the show, especially if they have watched it closely would have felt embarrassment warming their cheeks. I clearly felt embarrassment biting into me.  So much for the preservation of our culture and tradition!
I heard mask dances…

Tourists and star rated hotels: Welcome to Bhutan

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has announced the hotel ratings (Business Bhutan) where 8 hotels were rated five stars, 6 were rated four and 20 fall in three stars category. And we are given to understand as per the government’s rule only those hotels that have three star ratings and above can host tourists. Going by this calculation, only 34 hotels in the country can rightfully host tourists. Isn’t it something? Of course TCB says 65 two stars rated and 20 one star rated hotels can upgrade themselves to higher ratings within one year and 2 years respectively.
Our government is trying to bring in 100,000 odd tourists by 2012 and its 2010 annual target is 35,000 tourists. We can already see these stars-rated hotels getting busier by the day. And thousands of small hotels will hardly benefit from the increased number of tourists. All these again point to rich folks making bigger bucks. I don’t have the credentials and expertise to criticize the policy. But the impact is for everyone to…

BOB welcomes its new CEO

The other day, (31st August, 2010) Bank of Bhutan formally welcomed Mr. Passang Tshering as its new Chief Executive Officer with the offering of Tashi khadar by employees in Phuentsholing. His appointment comes after the former CEO, Mr. Kinga Tshering was appointed as the Project Director for Education City.
Mr. Passang started his career in the bank in 1977 and has served in various portfolios. Before his appointment as the new CEO, he was serving as the DMD of Corporate Service Department (the largest department in the bank). He is a man of large banking experience, aptly qualified for the new job; a proud product of BOB.
Of course many challenges remain ahead of him and the bank in general. But all the employees are fully confident that he will definitely leave his footprints in the history of the bank. We would like to congratulate him for his new job and wish all the best in his new venture as the new CEO of the bank.
To this effect, BOB requested BBS bureau office in Phuentsholi…

Hitting the bulls then and now

On traditional bamboo bows and arrows, hitting the gorthig (bull’s eye) is a big thing, but now with the coming of Yangphel archery tournaments, the concept of hitting the bull has changed slightly in a sense that now the probability of the bull escaping is far less. On traditional targets the bulls are depicted small; in fact they are hardly visible if one moves away a few yards from them. Yangphel’s bull on the other hand is 25 cm wide diametrically while the target is 31 cm wide. 
Statistically, the top 20 players (from three league rounds of the ongoing Yangphel archery tournament) hit 607 kareys of which 136 were hit on the gorthig and only 31 sakareys. This means the probability of hitting the coveted bull is 22.37% while that of sakarey’s is 5.01%.  Technically speaking, it is more difficult to hit sakarey than it is to hit the bull. And the highest number of bulls hit is 11 while the lowest stands at 2 in the league rounds.    
Of course the rules have changed. Three teams com…

Education for all: Remedy for Child-labor

The article in Kuensel “No child to be left behind” dated August 16, 2010 gives us some hope for our children as well as us the concerned citizens. Dagana education officials in close coordination with the local leaders promise to have 100% school enrollment by 2013. The move is to confirm if the children whose census are in Dagana Dzongkhag are already enrolled in school elsewhere and to call them back home if they are not in school. The Dzongkhag aims to enroll them in schools with some kind of kidu support. What a wonderful initiative by the Dzongkhag education officials! This should go a long way in setting example for others and hopefully achieve us the status of child labor free country. 
Child labor is “the employment of children at regular and sustained labor” and is “considered exploitative by many international organizations … illegal in many countries ... was utilized to varying extents through most of history, but entered public dispute with the advent of universal schooli…

Blogging and freedom of expression

Back in 2006, I thought the whole concept behind having a blog was about posting some beautiful pictures or some stories or poems. I did just that – posted classmates’ pictures from various occasion and my highs school fictions. A few months later, laziness took me by neck and put my blog to rest. Then a year ago, I had to start from the scratch and erected another blog – this is how my current blog found its place in the cyberspace.
And now four years later, I find blogging a useful tool to vent out our pent up thoughts on varying issues that affect us socially, individually, politically, environmentally and culturally. And our blogs are like our kitchen gardens where we sow our thoughts or harvest bunches of satisfaction. The more we sow the more fruits it bears and more satisfaction thereof. 
Some of my friends caution me sometimes. They say most of my writings are about current and often controversial issues. That’s good, I say, because that’s what I want. They feel that if I do n…

Miss Bhutan Beauty Pageant: Crowning Happiness

I was watching Miss Bhutan show last weekend. I tell you it is a good pastime. But our illiterate folks back at home would have enjoyed it more if they could understand what participants said on the screen. So much for the preservation of national language! But other than that the show was organized well. Kudos to the organizers!
Well, personally I don’t believe in quantifying beauty (if there is such a term) because one man’s food is another’s poison. Beauty as you well know is subjective- that’s why someone has rightly said beauty actually lies in the eyes of beholders. Something that appears beautiful to me may not necessarily appear thus to you. It is quite elusive. But I think beauty is what beauty does. I salute whoever said that and I can’t help agreeing.
Of almost 700,000 people in Bhutan, roughly 50% comprise of women. And it is sad to know that not many women turned up for the audition. Of course it is not the organizers' faults. Our women should willingly come forward and…

Changing time and values

This afternoon, I happened to meet a friend of mine who teaches at a school in town. Since it has been sometime, we were trying to catch up what’s happening, and chatting on various subjects ranging from politics to jobs to inflation to relationships.
I was asking how he likes teaching because I didn’t hear him mention teaching as something he always wanted to do back then. But he said he enjoys it. He likes the idea that he is educating children some children. At the end of the day it is satisfaction he gets, which matters. This is good. But I was unprepared with what was coming next. He said students’ attitudes have changed over the years.
“Some students openly go against and argue with teachers. Principal does not care about teachers. Students barely notice their teachers,” my friend continued. “Some students openly refuse to do project and home works.”
I thought he wanted to restore corporal punishment to its former glory. We were terrified of teachers because of that. And because …

Seen in Bhutan

This is a pictorial glimpse of what is happening in our towns and cities. All these pictures are taken accidentally and I have randomly sieved them for this post.  

“Keep Away Drugs – Lead Healthy Live”

Well, Sherubtse College is doing it again. I remember  uprooting those green weeds in the college campus. It was an exhausting day of hard work and discovery. Some of us didn't know the existence of those weeds. Most of my friends have heard about marijuana plants, but they didn't know exactly to point their fingers. And thanks to that weed pulling campaign, they were introduced to those freely growing plants. 
I think it is good to educate students and create awareness amongst the youth. But letting them pull out weeds is something I never agree. It is at the most a weed awareness campaign , which instead of keeping youth away from drugs, takes them to appropriate places  and introduces them to these freely available weeds. 
One man's obervation. No malicous intention made to anyone.

Prayers in the modern age

The weather at this time of the year is unforgiving, but every evening, as I walk home, I see her walking home with a bag or two on her back, among a group of school children. But don't mistake her for an old woman going to school. It is but a burden of old age. Old age is the best time for prayers some say, but Abi Wangdi does not enjoy that kind of luxury for she has to drop her two grandchildren to school and pick them up in the evening.