Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A date with my wife

When we were in my village last month, I told my wife that I’d take her out for a date. She appeared intrigued, flattered too. In fact, it behooved us to walk on another date as the previous one was long time back.

“Here in the village? Huh, where?” she asked me, and her face turned in smile.
Actually she was seriously wondering where the date would be. You know it well, like in any other villages even my village, Chuzagang, got no decent restaurants, malls, cinema theatres and parks. Where would the date be?

So, one late afternoon, when the sun was already starting to descend, I took her out for the promised date. My wife still wondering where it would be, she appeared excited too. Born and brought up in urban places, she had a rare experience of rural life.

The afternoon heat has just dropped down. So instantly, everything felt pleasant as the gentle evening was gathering around. We walked into a lush rice field, and that’s where I was taking my wife for date - to spend some quiet time together.

She screamed, “Wow! I can’t believe this; it is so beautiful.”
I was glad that she liked. In fact, I grew up as a kid playing in this place. Observing every stream, irrigational canal, tree and footpath, I narrated to my wife some of my naughty and embarrassing incidences connected to each of them. And she liked it even more.

Once we were into the field, everywhere it was the vast land of ripening colors of paddy fields. The setting sun light glowed like embers. There was something so bewitchingly evocative about the way it danced playfully on the thin plates of rice leaves.

Truly, it seemed like the nature has swollen to its fullest beauty - particularly for a couple like us.

We walked around, noticing it, feeling elusively delightful and loving. As the sun was completely buried behind the horizon, we affectionately observed the final activities of the day:

The birds were flying back home to their nests.
The rustic peasants, a handful, spades on their shoulders,
were marching home from work.
A village yonder, a ceaseless hum of cattle returning to their sheds
 heard momentarily.
And ah, we smelled the dinner cooking.
Come what may, this date was wonderful - way better than any of those we had in the past. There’s something arresting and special the village life does to people.

In a village like this, I realized we are humble, genuine, and there was sincere about us. And it feels so good to be REAL to fully understand one another as individuals, as a married couple.
I wanted to say this to her, but she had understood my feelings already.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

For all times, Fourth King of Bhutan

Art by Kinzang Tshering
I was debating with myself whether to write this post; I felt overall intrigued and nervous. For a long time, I hesitated as I thought my pen was not mighty enough to write about our Fourth Druk Gyalpo. But if not today, then when?

To begin this, I run momentarily at a loss of words. In fact, so much have been recorded in words and said about our godly King, extensively, venerably. In this ocean of profound writing, my writing comes as just a drop of water.  

I consider that I’m one of the luckiest persons to have lived in the era of Drukgyal Zhipa. Truly speaking, I’ve never seen Him with my naked eyes. His Majesty the King didn’t visit the schools and college during the time I was studying. I was out of luck, though. But I think I saw Him in a couple of occasions; I’m not sure, though. Maybe I’m wrong.

On first occasion, it was at Kurje Lhakhang, Bumthang somewhere between 2001 and 2002. That evening, it was raining lightly, foggy too. Along with my friends, I was returning to our school (Jakar HSS) after visiting the lhakhang. At that moment, a Toyota landcruiser just ran by.

My friends whispered, “Look, King! King!”

I turned my gaze and stole a quick glance of the person behind the closed window glass of the car. Yes, the person sitting on the front seat looked like our Drukgyal Zhipa. But was he really the One? No matter what, that evening I returned my hostel feeling deeply blessed; for I believed I saw the King.

On another occasion, I think I saw Drukgyal Zhipa at Jungshina, Thimphu in 2010. Then, late evening, I was out for my regular evening walk. Two men in black gho came cycling - one ahead and another following. My instinct made a quick judgement, He could be the Fourth King.

But I couldn’t say it with guarantee. It was dark and I couldn’t really recognize people. Still then, it had made my day.  

Several other occasions, I saw the King at Changlimithang but from far afar. I wish to see the divine King and experience that feeling of melting myself in reverence in front of Him.

No matter what, the image of our Dharma King has deeply seeped into my heart and His words are engraved deep into my mind. Since young, I’ve lived by His accruing words and wisdom always feeling inspired and patriotic.
Drukgyal Zhipa, who mostly wears sethra gho, is the most handsome person I ever saw. Those people who saw Him told me the King looks way more charming in person. He literally glows, they say proudly.

He is a King who hardly smiles. But when He smiles, it naturally brings smiles on me and on everyone else too. I grew up believing that a King would be someone very handsome with many beautiful queens, and the King is supposed to smile very less.     

Known as “Fearless Lion”, His actions and words were full of the fearless and sacrifices. I felt new admiration when He himself led army troop to fight the military insurgents in the southern Bhutan in 2003 and when He instituted democracy sacrificing His own throne.   

In disposition of pure and noble heart, He lives a simple life serving the people and ensuring peace, sovereignty, socio-economic development and happiness. So much had changed under His leadership, for better. His contributions are so huge; I cannot say it all, even a tiny portion.   

When I was delving into finding my own selfish endeavors, Drukgyal Zhipa, the Kidu Gi Pham, was working hard towards nation building, entirely for us, forgoing His leisure time and comfort. He has played a central role in each and every one of our lives. The nation as is today, the Bhutanese as are today, all thanks to our “Father of the Nation”.  

Today, as the nation celebrates His Majesty’s 60th Birth Anniversary, my heart swelled with pride and utmost gratefulness. I was simply astounded looking at the way we, the Bhutanese people, carry love and respect for our King. In small ways of our own, we took different initiatives to show our love and gratitude for Him.

I am not sad that I couldn’t meet my King in person. But today I proudly declare that I’m one of the reflections (small though) of Drukgyal Zhipa’s vision; I believe that I’m what He aspires to see in His people. For a King like Him doesn’t belong to our time, a particular time; Drukgyal Zhipa is for all times.

On your 60th Birth Anniversary, Your Majesty, I pledge myself to serve my King and nation with my best ability in my own little ways. Happy Birthday, Druk Gyalpo and May you live long!   

Sunday, November 8, 2015

An occasion never like before, pictures

This evening, I walked around Thimphu City with my wife to see how the City has readied itself for the big occasion - celebration of 60th Birth Anniversary of our Fourth Druk Gyalpo. We were simply astounded by the transformation.

Almost all the offices, business or enterprises, corporations, associations and individuals have beautifully decorated their working places, streets and monasteries. The roundabouts have been erected beautifully with new structures and creativity.

In festive moods, people are putting effort for the occasion never like before. I am amazed at the way they are working towards making this occasion ever glorious and significant event in our history. Some pictures uploaded here.

Entrance gate
Clock Tower
Main traffic
Decoration going on the roof of NPPF building

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A kind of love

I am uploading some more pictures from my recent visit to my village in Chuzagang. You must be wondering why I frequent my village and stress on writing more and uploading pictures of my village. There isn’t any hidden agenda; it’s simply a love - a kind of love that is shared between a village and its inhabitant.

It is adequately described by an Italian writer, Cesare Pavese,

“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. Your own village means that you're not alone, that you know there's something of you in the people and the plants and the soil, that even when you are not there it waits to welcome you.”

Figs, grow abundant in Chuzagang
This chilli resembles dalley; my dad got its seeds from Sikkim and planted in his garden
Young monk in Gelephu
The flower that resembles the colours of our national flag
Shot at early-morning sunlight

Friday, October 30, 2015

An evening stroll with my nephews

The day we have arrived in the village, my two nephews incessantly insisted on me and my wife to visit their paddy field. We were simply astounded by their offer, and humbly accepted it.   
So the next evening, a little before the sunset, we set out. A few minutes’ walk from their house has brought us to the vast piece of rice land. And once we walked in, it felt heavenly. It was filled with ripening colors of golden paddy like a lavish gift from the God. 

In the middle of the field, the lads pressed in front of us, taking a fast stride. And suddenly, they stopped. They raised their hands and started pointing out to their field.

Their voice filled with excitement and pride, they shouted, “That’s our paddy!”

It was close to harvest, and looked very rich.
From our family, these two lads are the only young children who are being brought up in the village at the moment. Both go to the school: the elder one a Class I student; and younger one is in Class PP.

We continued our stroll, gently touching the rice and feeling its strong odor. However, my wife and I have been left quite surprised. The young boys delighted us with their farm knowledge. Once in the field, they no more acted like a kid.

Looking at the rice and its color, they can assess the rice’s quality and know when they are going to harvest their rice. So young, yet they understand the importance of water and soil to their crops. Moreover, they know so well about their village and households and the people who live there.
The reality is that the children of my village, by way of life, are continuously engaged in life and works of their parents. As they grow up, they acquire the farming skills and knowledge as in the process. 

After half an hour, the sun sunk and we returned towards home. On the way back, my wife asked the lads what they want to become in the future. The older one aspires to become a teacher, and the younger one, a driver.

None wants to be a farmer. 
Hearing it pained me. Even the children who know so well about farming do not wish to become a farmer. I know the education will definitely take them away from here.

Will they return and again show similar interest in their farm?

For the first time in my life, I began to worry what future holds for this beautiful farmland. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My village, through the digital lens

Yet again, I visited my village, Chuzagang, Gelephu; this time particularly to celebrate the Dashain festival with my parents and family members. But like always, my village never stops astonishing me with its beauty and simplicity. This time of the year is rice, and all about rice growing abundantly everywhere, which is being further glossed by the magnificent sunset. The reasons are endless, and can be better explained through my digital lens.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Scarecrow festivals in Bhutan?

During my last visit to Paro, I scurried quite a long distance of the valley; and one thing that amazed me was the vast land of rice fields. Then I strongly felt the reasons why the locals objected the government’s decision to convert it into a throm. It would be a disgrace to transform this beautiful farmland into a concrete jungle.

But this post is not about the farmland and throm. It is about one more thing that amazed me in Paro, scarecrows. To tell you, I see them everywhere in and around the rice fields, thousands in number, guarding the crops. Most of them resemble human shape.

The Bhutanese farmers are simply clever in designing and erecting the bird-scarers to scare away crows and wild animals. Some are very frightening, others cute and funny, and few threatening with bows and arrows. They are dressed in some of the old shirts and trousers, torn plastics and caps. Some have highly reflective films and CDs and bottles tied to their hands to create shimmers from the sun.

I know the locals make scarecrows to protect their crops, but at the same it is a creative centre piece for one’s crops. Amazing creative works!

On my own, I studied about the scarecrow online. I have come across very interesting findings though; indeed, I am quite surprised. The straw-man has a huge impact in some countries.

In Japan, there are many fascinating tales and legends surrounding the use and character of scarecrow, known as kakashis, in the rice fields. In Kojiki, the oldest surviving historical chronicle of Japan, a scarecrow known as Kuebiko appears as a deity of agriculture and wisdom. Till this present day, it is worshipped, and the Kuebiko Shrine in Sakurai is dedicated to the deity. 

In the United Kingdom, the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial and it has huge cultural impact. Many villages in England have annual scarecrow festivals where there are many events like display of hand-crafted scarecrows, scarecrow sculpting, scarecrow trails and scarecrow contests.

In the USA, different villages host annual scarecrow festivals which attract thousands of people and they also raise money for charity. Besides scarecrows, the festivals have live entertainment, art and craft show, carnival, foods, eating competition and children activities. The festivals are truly a family festive fun.

Bluntly speaking, I am not aware of the origin and any tales of scarecrows in Bhutan. But I assume there should be, looking at the rich history of our culture and the prevalence of scarecrows in Bhutan. I feel it would be nice that we study and record about scarecrows of Bhutan.

Like in other countries, we can also initiate scarecrow festivals in Bhutan, especially in a place like Paro. This can encourage the farmers to be a creative and smart person who understands the historical significance of our agricultural practice. It would provide an opportunity for the locals to earn revenue by exhibiting their products and skills and to create awareness on importance of farming.

Through participation in this event, they would not only learn to protect their crops from birds and animals, but also learn to protect and preserve their farmlands from the aggressive and encroaching town planning.  

Some pictures of Paro scarecrows here: