Friday, October 9, 2015

A teacher’s hope

Last summer, I met Dawa in my office. Then, he had just started his teaching career after he graduated from the Paro College of Education. I knew him for a couple of years; he is young and highly motivated and inspired teacher.
Dawa with his students
Out of curiosity, I asked his placement. He replied me humbly, “I am placed at a very remote school in Samarchen; actually, it is not even a school. It’s an extended classroom of Sinchula Primary School.”
In actuality, I heard the name for the first time. But he explained that his school falls under Darla Gewog in Chukha. Samarchen lacks motor road connection and the villagers are mostly poor. To reach his school, from the nearest motor road at Gedu, he has to travel a 7-km farm road and then walk on foot two hours.  
However, what surprised me the most was when he told me that he is the lone teacher who teaches 16 students of classes PP-2 students of the ECR. He applies the multi-grade method of teaching.
Instead of feeling disappointed and frustrated, he seemed very excited and motivated about his placement and profession. This encouraged me to tell him that it was an opportunity for him to transform the lives of the poor children by educating them. Being a teacher is not only about teaching, but you can also contribute to community development, I affirmed.  
Dawa while in Thimphu
At that moment, I just uttered, “If you have any plans for your ECR, let me know. I will help you.”
I don’t know precisely why I said that. It worried me later, what if I cannot fulfill the teacher’s hope. Moreover, I am not a rich man, neither am I popular. 
Dawa really trusted my words and kept hope. After that, he constantly contacted me and shared his plans with me. 
A few months later, he came to see me in Thimphu to discuss his plans. During the meeting, we have outlined some activities particularly to improve the living condition of the children and ECR’s facilities. They are: 1) Reading Programme; 2) Library Corner; 3) Distribution of Shoes; and 4) Hand washing practice.
It is, in fact, Dawa’s passion and altruistic motivation to help his students and the community that I started seriously looking for support from the people I know. 
One after another, I got assurance of help from my friends and colleagues. In the meantime, my small room was almost full with books, shoes, stationery items and soaps.
 Library Corner
Dawa himself arranged transportation. Finally, the Samarchen got its own library corner with a new bookshelf and books where the students can read different books and stories. With the help of soaps, the students regularly practice the ritual of hand washing and maintain personal sanitary.
Today, the children have their own pair of shoes, and they wear it with smiles on their face. For most of them, it is their first shoes. Still, Reading Programme is yet to be organized.

Showing off their new shoes

Recently, Dawa told me, “The children and their parents are very happy. They are repeatedly telling me that they want to meet you all. At least for once, they want to meet personally and express their gratitude.”

Students practise hand washing
It was all because of the teacher himself who had put extra effort, who assumed his roles beyond classroom teaching that this initiative happened. If all the teachers of Bhutan had his passion and motivation, our society would be a different place. 

He sent me this picture...
This touched me immensely!
And for this, the following kind and compassionate individuals should be graciously thanked: 

 1. Tashi Namgay, Founder/Executive Director, Bhutan Kidney Foundation, for donating shoes
 2. Karma Yangchen, Ministry of Education for contributing over 500 books
 3. Rima Reyka, Singapore, for contributing Nu 5,000 to make a bookshelf
 4. Deki Tshomo, Dy. Chief Programme Officer, MoE for contributing soaps and nursery CDs
 5. Others for contributing drawing and painting materials.

Indeed, a teacher who hopes can really care and inspire change! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Truly blessed!

I visited Paro, again, last weekend and I felt extremely glad that I did. For long, I wanted to get rid of the crowds and concrete buildings of Thimphu, seriously. That time, the wide valley of Paro seemed sumptuously beautiful, mesmerizing.
Fortunately, I was there during the most beautiful season of the year, autumn, and when the valley turns lavish yellow and the rice fields and flowers warmly welcome you into their bosom.

For that matter, during one of his visits to Bhutan, His Eminence Sogyal Rinpoche gloriously describes,

"Nothing could be more striking than the pristine, haunting beauty of the landscape of Bhutan, or the atmosphere of peace and sacredness, which pervades the land from end to end. Bhutan is a place blessed with an almost magical power to transform the mind, whenever I am there I feel as if transported into a pure realm. For the Kingdom of Bhutan is truly unique: it is the only independent MahaYANA Buddhist country in the world. It has a great Buddhist heritage, stretching back uninterrupted over 1,300 years, and a legacy of more than 2,000 temples, monasteries, dzongs and sacred sites. Many of the greatest Buddhist saints, like Guru Padmasambhava and the omniscient Gyalwa Longchenpa, have blessed this land..."

I have read His Eminence’s book called “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” long time back. It is such a powerful book that helped me understand the true meaning of life and how to accept death - and altogether transformed my life.

However, I never heard or read about him talking so admirably about Bhutan. This, in fact, is truly a blessing for Bhutan and the Bhutanese.  

Some more pictures of the valley.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Struggling to write, but still writing on

Before my marriage, I had a few questions over which I pondered very seriously. Will I still be able to continue writing after my marriage? Will my wife understand my passion and support me?
After reflection, these questions would always leave me anxious, uncertain. In several occasions, I shared this concern with a few friends. Because writing has always been very close to me and it is a longing that always remains in my heart.
The reality, however, is that I am married now - for almost eight months. And I must tell you that it is an intriguingly wonderful journey.
However, if you are a person like me who is passionate about something like writing, you struggle. The truth about writing is that the more you write, there is more to write. You struggle toggling between your conjugal duties and pursuing the passion.
So bluntly speaking, I struggled to write, a lot. As my life transitioned into new stage, somehow, someway things got different, challenging too. Moreover, the marriage has enough rituals to keep me busy all day, weeks and months.
In the past, I had enjoyed the luxury of time for myself, particularly for writing and reading. It is different now. But writing means the same thing – it always requires a long and arduous process where you have to be alone, think hard, write and rewrite.
So every time I retreated to my room where I settle to write, I saw my wife wondering why on earth I cared so much about my laptop and writing. Indeed, it takes me away from her for quite deal of time.
Meanwhile, there were my friends and readers who sensed that I was already struggling to write and blog. They gently reminded me though, “Don’t stop writing as you are married now.”      
Like many bloggers who quit writing, I too contemplated this statement, I will write once I am fully settled. Or at least I would formulate wussy excuses like “I don’t have much to blog about”, or “I don’t get time”.
Quit writing…? It just gives me a chill just to think about it; it would be the hardest reality for me. There was a week or two or even three when I didn’t write anything and it gave me a miserable and unsettled feeling.
As hard and tiring as writing may be, I am learning to remain strong and committed to stay in tune and continue writing despite transitions in my life. 
The truth is that anytime we transition from one season to another, one place to another and one stage to another.
Dolly Parton rightly said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. Today, I feel very happy that I am still writing, blogging; indeed I am learning to adjust my sails.
I am struggling, but still writing on…

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Random pictures I am uploading here for you. Some are very recent, some taken long time back. But I have very special connection with each picture, special memories attached to them. For you, maybe just pictures; but to me lots more.  So here, a beautiful saying by Rumi,
“Do not feel lonely,
the entire universe is within you.”

Thimphu City
Thimphu City

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sharing happiness, sharing birthday

This morning, as I set off to my office I phoned my mother who is back in my village. My mother, who is in late 50s, was preparing breakfast for my father. She was quite surprised to receive call from me again.

“You just called me yesterday and we talked at length. You have anything to say?” she sounded very concerned. 
From left: my mother, father and elder mother
I responded thinly, “Nothing special, but just checking out how you doing there.”

“Your father and I doing well…. just waiting for this unusual rain to stop,” she told me and indeed I could hear the rain’s sound.

Then, she went on to saying that it has been raining heavily in Chuzagang and the farmers were worried that it may not allow them to plant crops like lentils and millets this autumn.

“Thimphu is just getting cold and I am pretty much shivering now,” I told my mother, laughingly.

Actually I was shivering, seriously. These days we are experiencing a kind of quick-change-weather: sudden rain, warm during daytime, and cold at morning and evening.

And today’s morning was no different. It exactly was raining, gloomy and cold. But I just want to let my mother know that today is very important day of my life. It is the day I was born.

So I gently nudged her, “You know…today is my birthday.”

She sounded a little bit more cheerful. But she doesn’t remember my birth date; she remembers only the season and how and where I was born. The truth is that my mother is illiterate. Fortunately, my father remembers my birth date; else my CID would read something like 1-1-1983.

The tree where I was born
I was not born in the hospital, by the way; I don’t have health card. I was born beneath a tree nearby my house which still stands tall. When my mother had labour pain, she alone went straight to the tree and gave birth to me. 

The family members knew about it only she when came with the baby holding in her hands.

She still carries the memory. When she narrates, I can only imagine but she knows the harsh reality and risks of giving birth to me. However, she seemed like she was smiling on the phone. Maybe because her son was asking about it, or just maybe she was happy to let me know about it.

“Many children who were born didn’t survive. You were born very weak and you had a bleak chance of surviving but you beat all odds,” she explained to me after taking a moment to think.           

Those days, even minor diseases like diarrhoea and fever and light injuries would kill infants. Two of my brothers who were born before me didn’t survive; they are believed to have passed away because of “evil spirit”.

Knowing this incident and hearing the reality of how I was born gives me deep chill of an eerie and wrenching feeling. My eyes welled up with tears. But I admire my mother’s strength and bravery to no end, because not everyone had the same power of endurance.

After the call, in my office, I didn’t work much but took my time to truly reflect and remain thankful for everything and everybody who are very close to me. I called and messaged each one of them. And to my readers and fellow-bloggers, this is for you, thank you.

So far, I had enjoyed the birthdays to myself, but this year I am sharing my happiness and dedicating the most beautiful day of life to my mother who has sacrificed so much for me. Thank you, mother, it’s your day too.   

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Remembering the bloggers' first conference

Enough was written about the first bloggers conference held in Thimphu last Sunday. The Kuensel and BBS covered the event at length. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs, everywhere it appeared, commented and discussed. Oh goodness, the Bhutanese bloggers and Community of Bhutanese Bloggers (CBB) has become a new sensation; it created ripple effect never like before.
This post is no different from what was already written and discussed; still then, here on my blog, I want to write about the conference to remember it. The conference was special to me in three different ways. Firstly, PaSsu put my blog for CBB App launch (truly honoured); secondly, it was the first conference; and thirdly, I was the first speaker of the conference.

That’s what… being a speaker makes you proud, but being the first speaker made me nervous. Because the bloggers conference was completely new creation in Bhutan; I never saw and heard it before. In the past, during the Bloggers’ Meets, we used to gather for dinners and chat, drink and shout shit. That’s all.

When the bloggers community has stepped on a huge stride, its ripple effect is already spreading all over inspiring more people to write or do blogging. And to those who are already blogging has been come with a much bigger responsibility – to keep on blogging and showing the right path.    

Best dressed group (black), eh
When Nawang, one of the organizers, asked me about it, I readily accepted because rural roots or my village is very close to me. That’s why I frequently visit Chuzagang and also started a small initiative called “My Village, My Responsibility” to give back to my community.

I kept my presentation very simple (after seeking help from Nawang) as I was supposed to talk on importance of rural roots. It was nervy one, but I felt glad when my fellow-bloggers told me they liked it. Quite surprisingly, they remember my talk for my father’s radio and the tree where I was born. I didn’t know, seriously, these two things would stir such laughter among my bloggers audience.  

Above all, I loved Dasho Sangay Khandu’s talk on Parliament of Bhutan; it was very insightful and helpful for me. Blogger Ugyen Lhendup is a statistician and his talk on Dynamics of Poverty and Inequality was equally helpful to understand about Bhutan’s progress in elevating poverty.
Ugyen Lhendup
Blogger Tshering Dolkar was very inspiring to listen to. She talked on Writing: A journey, and I specifically liked when she read out her poems in different styles (very talented lecturer though).

But I will remember the first bloggers conference for two important reasons: 1) Arrival of Chief Guest (projector); 2) Grumbling stomachs and Nawang’s joke on “building shaking”.      
After the event, I forgot to thank the organizers due to my dispirited stomach; however, I say thank you CBB Committee members for organizing the event. You all put up a great show. A small correction for Kuensel, I am not only person from Chuzagang with university graduate.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

The paradise of eastern Bhutan


Yes, it was the first word I uttered seeing the Rangjung Woesel Choeling Monastery. Then momentarily, I just went blank and stood there at a loss for words. In fact, I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing; it looked truly surreal and heavenly.
The monastery is perched like the Heaven’s kiss on a soft cheek of Rangjung hillock. It overlooks the Rangjung Town. I felt I was somewhere in Tibet as the monastery was built in Tibetan architectural style.

As soon as I stepped inside, I was exquisitely captivated by the colourful stupas, hostels, footsteps and monastery and soothing sound of praying. In addition, strong aroma of incense sticks, butter lamps and flowers exuded making the place sparkling and sacred.
I was greeted by the smiles of monks and nuns circumambulating the lhakhang. Instantaneously, it gave me a feeling of living paradise; that’s why I called it the paradise of eastern Bhutan. Indeed, it truly is - for I never saw, anywhere in the east, such a lovely place, monastery.
According to the website of the monastery, this beautiful monastery was founded by His Eminence Dungsey Garab Rinpoche in 1989 to provide a conducive haven for the study of Buddha dharma as expounded in the Dudjom New Treasure Lineage and carryout dharma activities for the benefits of the Buddhist community in and abroad.
It was said that the people of Rangjung and nearby villages were poor but were very religious. They wished to send their children for monastic education in India and Nepal. However, being very poor they couldn’t afford. They have incessantly requested the Rinpoche so was the monastery established, and the village children are enrolled here to study Buddhist philosophy. 

In fact, the people of eastern Bhutan are very fortunate to have the monastery in their own region. They are truly blessed!