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Showing posts from 2014

The Year That Was

What a year we all had. I really feel like I am still in June 2014 and it is surprising how fast the year moved. But I am happy to admit that it has been a year of learning and exploration as I ventured into new fields that I never tried it before. And I am happy that I took them up.

But seriously, on blogging and writing front, it has been a disaster for me like that of Malaysian Air. I felt terribly sorry for having left my blog dry and empty almost more than 3/4 of the year. It has been the worst year here at Penstar. I send out my apologies to my sincere readers, who had checked my blog several times only to leave without discovering anything new. I would like to thank you all for staying and bearing with me all year around. I really appreciate that. Hope you will continue to do so in the coming year. Hopefully, I will be able to blog much more often. 
And 2015 - here it comes. I welcome the year with my open arms although I would take sometime refraining from writing 2014 everywh…

Hello; Rural Bhutan Calling

When cellular service was first introduced in Bhutan many people had hard time believing that one could communicate with someone over a small handset that resembled a child's toy. What amazed them was the fact that they can carry that handset wherever they went without having to be bothered by the wires. And back then only a handful of Bhutanese could afford cellular phones. We have come a long way today.

Almost everyone carries a mobile phone now that without one he/she is almost considered old fashioned. As on December 2013 as many as 544,337 people have subscribed to either BMobile or TashiCell. 
Of late WeChat is the talk of the town - at least in rural Bhutan. Everyone wants to know and find out who is on WeChat. Many farmers have it and that makes me uncomfortable as I was introduced to it only recently. Jokes aside, it is really simple and useful platform - once you create an account, you are ready to go and at the push of a button, you send messages and pictures to your l…

Flying home Lessons from Taj Mahal

It was a great trip. And a visit to Taj Mahal was the greatest treat of India. I have heard a great deal about this monument that I had to visit it. So, on August 24, 2014 as I was winding my India trip I managed to visit it. I can't describe how spectacular it was - it was simply amazing! One has to see with his/her own eyes and physically be there - only then can he/she realize what is meant by that!   It was truly memorable event of my life; second to the birth of my daughter, of course. And for now I will leave all information and historical facts about how this monument came into being to the historians and researchers! 
It was Sunday. And I think there were more than 10,000 visitors. It was crowded. It was hot. I found that running the monument was an organization in itself - I am sure it employs thousands of people. Taj Mahal is one of the greatest treasures of the mankind and showcases the magnificent piece of human creation. 
An Indian visitor pays INR 20 while the visit…

A Matter of Great Embarrassment

My becoming a vegetarian has nothing to do with the fear of sins and thereby being thrown in the darkest corner of the hell. Some people do not like the taste - they are vegetarians under duress. Some cannot consume meat because they are advised against it by their doctors. Mine is purely out of love and compassion for the animals. 
My assumption is that if I stop eating meat there will be one hungry-mouth less feasting on it. The whole idea is that if we have less mouths feeding on cruelty then there will be fewer merciless knives that take the lives of innocent animals. We worry that we might die soon and perform rimdros or visit doctors. But then people die for meat! Animal cruelty is cruelty like no other. 
But what had happened at a place in Monggar is even worse. The owner of Gashamo suspects that some men are raping their cow. And there were evidence thrown everywhere. That's not all - a few days ago, the inhuman act has left Gashamo with a fractured limb. Now that is a gr…

Sorry my child, I cannot change your name

I had no say in naming my daughter unlike most modern parents because I chose to offer that honor to some highly learned and incarnate Buddhist Lamas. And according to the karmic forces my daughter was named. Yangchen Tshogyal Dolkar དབྱངས་ཅན་མཚོ་རྒྱལ་སྒྲོལ་དཀར། is a decent name. But today there are so many names that are far more difficult to pronounce and by that token Yangchen Tshogyal Dolkar is not at all sophisticated. 
I had to write this post – hoping some day my daughter gets to read it herself and understand my limitation and that I had no say in her name – to let her daughter know that I had to let you down with your request.
How can you change your name? But she does not understand that. She thinks it can be done like the way we change our clothes in summer. Sorry! There are some modern men who change their wives more often and realize they can’t change their names as often as they wish. Of course now thanks to Facebook Rimpochhe – people can change their names – one a day i…

Ama, I am coming home

Yes, I want to go home. I see nothing to cling onto in town or that I can point my fingers at and count as mine. Except my wife and daughter. Of course there a few things that I could gather in the last few years of living here. They cannot however be counted. Here, everything is about money. And almost nothing else. Our GNH teaches us otherwise, but here everyone is in a mad rush to make more money - more the merrier. But again they are only being rational and wise. Sometimes I regret that we have spent so many productive years going to school and learning many things that no longer find use and purpose in our lives. Don't you feel that? Our parents sent us to school in a hope that we would have comfortable lives once we get jobs for it was every parent's dream then. And see how wild that dream has become now? Things have moved at lightening speed. But why am I rambling so much here? Anyways - yes I am going home. That is where my heart is. That is where my land is. That is wh…

Town-planning a threat to our food security?

I was going through today's edition of Kuensel (August 1, 2014). And an article by Tempa Wangdi particularly caught my attention. What a good news to begin the month, I thought. 
Some farmers in Trongsa are saying 'No' to town planning. They fear that they will have nothing at the end to hand over to their children. And that will be the end of their ancestral properties. But that's not all - I think - it poses a serious threat to our food security. How on earth can we achieve food self-sufficiency when we keep building houses and big structures in places that were once preserved for agricultural purposes?
I don't understand this thing. On one hand we insist on our policy of food security and other we build houses and turn fertile lands into towns. This is quite intriguing. In some countries, fertile lands are used for agricultural purposes and it is only here in Bhutan that we submit them to developmental activities. Thimphu Expressway is the best example of how w…

Putting Women in Leadership Roles

Aum Karma Choden is 45 years old and lives at Ura Village in Bumthang. She studied until fourth grade, but had to leave her studies to help her mother and sister at home while her three brothers continued their education. One of her brothers is a monk. Karma is married and has three children. Being a housewife, Karma was a shy and reserved person and she hardly participated in community meetings. 
In 2013, Karma attended one of the advocacy programs conducted by Ura READ Center. “I was really intrigued by the subject matter [women representation] and its importance,” says Karma. The program was a part of READ Bhutan’s project - Women Represent: Boosting Women’s Participation in the Public Sphere.
And since then she took part in all the activities and workshops conducted by Ura READ Center. “Due to the hectic schedule, it is difficult for women to attend such programs,” Karma admits. “But the Library [Ura READ Center] conducted most of the programs in the evening. That was good for …

Drumnyen (སྒྲ་སྙན) Drill

Drumnyen is a seven-stringed traditional Bhutanese musical instrument. And although it is used less frequently today Drumnyens were very popular when we were young. We would watch with rapt attention filled with envy as our older friends strummed the instrument and sang along. Those days still linger in my memory. 
Recently, I was gifted a small Drumnyen by an acquaintance and I started learning to play the instrument. But as I was trying to fine tune the strings, one of the strings gave way to my strong stupidity. And without the shortest string on my Drumnyen, it was unable to produce some critical notes. The search for string took more time than getting the Drumnyen to my house. 
I literally scanned the whole Thimphu City to look out for a string replacement. From one shop to another, I hopped with my wife following me patiently without complaining. I am thankful for her admiral patience. After sometime I was running out of my supposedly calculated patience. But I kept on getting …

Do I need a native English Accent?

I had the privilege of leading a group of foreigners to the office of a tourist company. I am not a tourist guide and neither do I run a company. And the people I escorted were not tourists either. My guests wanted to learn about ecotourism and how it works. 
We were supposed to meet the ‘high level’ contact; instead a ‘former’ tourist guide, who now runs the office, greeted us. He was extremely polite – before we could sit down, had ordered tea, juice or water for us.
I introduced my guests to the man and briefed him the purpose of the visit. After apologizing on his boss’ behalf, the man started talking. I was surprised by the things he was saying and the passion with which he was trying to convince us. That is good. But the moment he opened his mouth, I felt like being shown in front of a large crowd, naked. Certainly, he didn’t feel that. 
He sounded like an American or was he trying to sound like one? And at some point of the conversation his accent became artificial.In his thic…

An alternative solution to Babesa Sewage

Recently, I shifted my family a little closer to Thimphu city from where I used to stay. The new place is an excellent location and in a good neighborhood. It now plays host to the corporate office of a bank, many automobile showrooms and some schools. But Babesa has an issue - it is an old issue at that. As I write this a gust of wind is blowing through my windows carrying with with the famous Babesa scent!  
When I passed by that area, years ago, I must admit that the odor was beyond toleration point. Today it has become friendlier - we only get some occasional doses when the wind blows or hot sun shines. We were informed that the Thromde officials are treating with some chemicals. But one should understand - nothing can stop the smell. Years ago, when these tanks were dug out, we were also told, that the officials assured the residents that these tanks would be fully covered and promised no foul odor. And years later residents are still complaining and whining.  
Back then, the ar…

Teaching man how to fish

An old Chinese proverb goes:   Give man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  With the coming of modernization our everyday and simple lives have suddenly become confusing and often complex. From operating mobile phones to taking pictures to driving cars to listening to music, our lives are no more same. Ever. And that is when we need to run to the experts. More so with the brewing complexities. And time is precious they say. We have to do everything in less time. That calls faster learning. Or else we will be left out of the mad race. Isn't it?  
Recently, I realized this while visiting one of the mobile service providers because I was asked to come there with my gadgets. The man at the counter looked at me and asked what was wrong with my phone. Faithfully, I explained the problem like I would do to a physician. He took the phone from me and did something, which I had no idea of. And in no time the guy handed the phone back t…

Igniting Confidence in Young Girls

Tshering Yangzom is a 16-year-old tenth grade student at Ura Middle Secondary School. Second eldest of seven siblings, Tshering was born in Shingkhar Village, which is located about seven kilometers from Ura. Tshering’s father works as one of the cooks at Ura Middle Secondary School and her mother is a housewife.
Initially, Tshering was an introvert and shy student. “I did not interact with my friends much before because I was so shy,” says Tshering. “But I kept on visiting library (Ura READ Center) every time I had free time and read books, and learnt to use computers.”
Tshering Yangzom also took part in the trainings and workshops at the Ura READ Center. She participated in leadership training, art therapy and good governance. “I learnt a lot from these trainings,” says Tshering. “I feel more confident now and understand a lot about the importance of decision-making, leadership and confidence building.”
Tshering now wants to help other girls in the community by forming a girls group a…