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! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Always leave office on time

After Abdul Kalam, 11th President of India, passed away on July 27, 2015, people all across the world started circulating his words of wisdom more than ever on various social networks. I have heard and read about Kalam and his significant contributions in the fields of development of missile and vehicle technology since my school days.
Later, I came to know that the recipient of India’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, had authored several books and also had his many biographies written.

His wisdoms are being circulated in the world – in the form of cards, quotations, messages and letters. I have received many, but one message has touched me deep. So this post is all about this particular card, Abdul Kalam’s wisdom, Always leave office on time.

In the past, I read this but it didn’t have the same impact like it has on me today. Perhaps more tellingly it has to do with relevance because today I am working and this wisdom is very relevant to me.

In the card, “The Missile Man of India” writes down seven important points why we should always leave office on time. The first two points are: 

1)  Work is a never-ending process. It can never be completed;
2)  Interest of a client is important; so is your family.

A new trend is picking up in Bhutan, especially in urban areas, many of us are becoming workaholic. We stay late long hours in our office, workplace. We even work on weekends and holidays; not once in a while but quite often.

We lead a work-based way of life; we are being known by our works or workplaces or the types of works we do. Balancing between work and family life always becomes a challenge, and most of us lose ourselves to work. If not working, we are playing archery, parala, and involved in other insignificant activities.

Quite surprisingly, there are people - your own bosses, managers and proprietors - who want you to stay late in office and work. Even if they don’t insist on you, but they still feel happy to see you doing that.

For that matter, Kalam goes on to say, “A person who stays late at the office is not a hardworking person. Instead he/she is a fool who doesn't know how to manage work within the stipulated time. He/She is inefficient and incompetent in his work.”

Although this point is debatable, yet I fully agree with it. Because too much of too much is not good, you know it well, because being workaholic is the recipe for bad life.

The best part of this message is when he states, “Life is not only about work, office and client. There is more to life.”

In fact, we need equally good time to socialize, entertain, relax and celebrate our life with our beloved family members and friends. I think it would make our life less complicated, less stressful and we become happier person.

This is what touched me too deeply, “If you fall in your life, neither your boss nor your client will offer you a helping hand; your family and friends will.”

Our life is fragile and tender; it is very precious too. Let’s not waste it shunning ourselves in our office all time and building wall against our beloved ones. We never know when we will fall in life.

Indeed, besides office and work, there is more to life.

Pictures courtesy: google

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What’s in a spelling?

The Prime Minsiter Tshering Tobgay inaugurated the office for Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited at Paro Airport on August 10, 2015. And….bam it has become a delicious headline and mockery almost everywhere - on social media, social gatherings and chats. It was not to do with the launch of helicopter service, but for an amusingly intriguing reason - misspelling of helicopter.
Pic: BBS
 At first, I felt it was a deliberate political scam, or sort of photosophed image. So I checked with images in newspapers and websites. Err it wasn’t; the inaugural board that Lyonchhen has inaugurated really spells “helicotper.”  

I just wondered, “How come?” But I instantaneously settled to it’s just a spelling error.

This morning when I logged into Facebook I was thoroughly captivated by hilarious discussions going on about this particular misspelling. People were throwing comments so frequently, sharing it rampantly, loud.  

I assume by now the person who had printed the board must have realized his mistake, and Lyonchhen must be blushing too.    

I have picked up some of the interesting comments and reactions from the Facebook users and here they are:

Wangdi Wangdi: “Spelling mistake instead of Helicopter how come Helicotper ya.”

Pasang Norbooz: “HELI-COT-PER (kotper or copter) RIP english.”

Younten Jamtsho “Hhaaaa. Leyonchen proudly inaugurating the HeliCotper. .. what an achievement.”

TB GheaShung: “LOL... is Helicotper model no/series no of helicopter?”

I believe that nowhere else a simple spelling mistake had aroused such exciting discussions entailing defamation. This is truly interesting and something that we must not forget - that a simple misspelling not only wrecks your life but can bring blushes to even personality like Prime Minister and his government.

There are others who have justified the misspelling, but in a funny way, as written below:

Sonam Jamtsho: “Spelling mistake is due to new service in bhutan.”

Thrinley Jamtsho: “There is no one in Bhutan who can make helicopter so we write helicotper. but in future there will be someone who can make so at that time bhutan will write right spelling.”

Chundhu Nidup Tshering: “Very soon bhutan will also launch.... Arrowplane not Aeroplane.”

Meanwhile, the discussion has brought to an issue of an inherent problem of Bhutanese attitude; that we very negligible and complacent. Karma wrote, “This is a silly mistake. We are talking of our Prime Minister here. This is called due diligence in our assigned work. Where is it in this one? Shameful. I don't find it funny. I find it shameful.”

Tashi Jyatsho added, “It was such a BIG event, after all the Prime Minister of Bhutan is going to come and inaugurate the office, and no doubt, it will be widely publicized. So why did they not care to correct the typo? Because they thought ah! never mind!! (Khed Mid). In fact this is the attitude of our people.....the Khed Mid attitude......that is dragging our country in all fields of development!!”

Some people felt that it is a “Bad Omen”. Because “We believe in signs and significance when beginning something important,” a comment justified.

Others went on to say that the person “Who was responsible for the board” and error “should be fired”, “sue”, “Cut away the both hands, of the writer and designer”.

Above all, it stirred the political drama and questioned the ruling government’s election campaign promises. Kailash Shongbhen Rai reacted, “OMFG......this is the flagship agenda of present government n finally it came with spelling blunder.”

Similarly Jumbo Page commented, “Great job PM. Enjoy the service and watch jobless people from up there.”

However, there are people who feel the mistake is pardonable and should not be publicized too widely, cruelly. Wang Chu justified, “Anyway everyone makes mistakes,we r human.” Another Facebook user supported, “This cn b corrected,instead of criticising,help d agency to correct it,useless fellows only criticise.”

TB Ghisingh Tamang: “understanding is more important than the spelling.”

Tshere Lham: “Hats off to the govt for providing wat is promised.”

Passang Tshering: “But looking beyond the ridiculous typo I must congratulate the government on the big development. It will change the face of rescue services and perhaps also transportation service (if only affordable to the Commons).”

So I would like to ask you, what’s in a spelling?

In fact, I have been always fascinated by Juliet’s dialogue in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”,

"What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Here Juliet is referring to Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention and the names of things or person do not affect what they really are. This dialogue encapsulates the central struggle and tragedy of the play, so here the spelling of helicopter and it has created a whole drama of mockery, fun and political attacks.

What’s in a spelling? I am not an expert to solve this puzzle, but I am very much sure that from now onwards Bhutanese people will never make mistake in writing the spelling of helicopter. Yes, even on social media.

So I end this post on a happy note by quoting what Passang Tshering wrote, “Ha ha ha this also means that the signboard designer had a good sense of humor and a perfect publicity plan. Would this picture be shared if not for this typo? Lol”

Note: I didn’t seek due permission from those whose comments appeared here because it has already appeared in public (social media). Thank you.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sherubtse, after eight years

For quite some time, I wondered dimly whether I have really stepped inside Sherubtse, “The Peak of Learning”, as we were so fond of calling it. Dark clouds stumbled in and were moving steadily, in an eerie manner, around the college campus. There were no streetlights, not a single soul. All seemed dark, misty and forlorn.
That’s how my college welcomed me after eight years. But maybe my college was too excited to see me after so many years and she was only expressing her emotions in the form of dark clouds. Just maybe she was feeling dark and lonesome without me.

In the meantime, it began to rain. Nice and hard. I quickly ran towards the academic block where I had studied and took shelter there. I sat there gazing at the falling rain; ah, it felt like Kanglung was crying, showering its tears in happiness.   
After about half an hour, the rain stopped and gradually the dark clouds were drawn away as if summoned by the heaven’s magic wand. Then suddenly the day fetched the sunlight, brightening the valley, college.   

So everything appeared bright. Even the heavy emotions lurking persistently in my heart were washed away too. I felt freeing, blissful, and then I walked around the campus gently, with care.
Tall and beautiful, Sherubtse still wears its persistence grace. Except for a few new buildings, everything remains same - the jumbo gate, hostels, academic blocks and library. All this constitute their oldness and glory.

The first person I met was a college staff and Lopoen Tenzin (Chorzang) who used to teach us Drig-Lam-Nam-Zhag followed by a handful of gardeners who were humbly toiling in the flower gardens. Then I spotted a group of students walking leisurely to their classroom. And then many other students appeared.
With a supporting staff
They are young, innocent and tender. Girls of this land generally are tall, slim and beautiful. They wear high heels, and have maintained their hair long, straightened and well-perfumed.

Boys are, mostly, decent and smart. Their gho are well-ironed and their shoes polished, always shining. They speak in accented English - perhaps idolizing the Rock Stars. And no wonder, in ramp-walk style, they walk.  

On my walking, I overheard their conversations. And it has caught my attention instantaneously, with some familiarities. Oh, they still practise those terminologies we used to speak.

Hawa lecture.”
“That girl is mercy hot.”
Heavy asom juice.”
In fact, these are the commonest words spoken in the land and only its inhabitants could speak and understand. Everything about these young students reminded me of my young age. I used to be like them, exactly, and I used to do the same stuff.

Kanglung is a place where the music strongly rules - be it blues, country songs, hard metal, and rock and roll. The students still sing Don William’s “Desperately”, Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply”.     

There aren’t any DJs, there aren’t any studios, yet everybody sings quite well in this place and it has bred the best of Bhutanese singers like Ugyen Panday and Marinsa.
Being in Kanglung is timelessness, at least for me. If you don’t believe me, look at the college’s clock tower. It gives you the same time the year round. 

To add on timelessness, a boy would patiently wait for months (or even years) for his dream girl to accept his proposal. And he would wait for hours outside her hostel - out in the cold, monsoon rain and scorching sun - just to take her out for a date or dinner.
My classmates in Yongphula, picture taken in 2005
Every building, corner, playground, footpath and park evoked fond memories, mostly good ones. Some bounced vividly on my mind, others remained vague. It seemed like I was reading a book that I had read long time back.   

I recalled many more, and I was quite surprised that I can still remember them with strange clarity. Of blind date and romance, of football tournaments, of midnight “blux” porn show, of asom juice, of cruel ragging and picnic in Yonphula.
At that particular moment, it seemed like everything came to a stop. Ant this feeling was just beautiful, I loved it.

Who says we cannot stop the hands of time and relive in our past? Who says same thing cannot happen twice?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Namling - The road that takes you close to death

If you are traveling to the Eastern Bhutan, one thing that automatically strikes your mind is the Cliff called Namling Brak. Located shortly after Sengor on the way to Mongar from Bumthang, it is the deadliest and wildest cliff of Bhutan. In fact, without passing it you cannot reach the Sharchop region (unless you travel through India).  
At an altitude of 3,000 metres, Namling is usually foggy and is very steep stretch of rocky cliff. Quite wondrously, the East-West National Highway runs through it, perhaps making it one of the world’s wildest roads.

Moreover, the road is very narrow without much roadside protection walls. The moment I look at the cliff below every hair on me stands up shrieking with fear. And that particular moment, I always feel the chill of death. You miss a step and you are spot dead. Oh, that close to death!  
Every time I travel here in the bus, I see a strange behavior among the travelers. The moment we arrive at the cliff, a complete silence ensues in the bus. The travelers take out their rosary and pray reverently. Even the drunk people come into consciousness. Seriously. They start hailing God and conjuring local deities to protect them.

For Bhutanese, Namling is known as “Death Drop” after the national tragic accident where a passenger bus fell 300 metres down the cliff in June 1998 and 58 passengers killed. After that, it has been considered as haunted and ghost-infected place. People have stories to narrate, of ghost and eerie and frightening incidents; they were scared and stopped travelling from Namling after 4 pm.  

For me, it is the longest and most frightening 10 minutes drive of my life.
However, after the horrifying drive, we come to a marvelous waterfall which falls down the cliff. As soon as the travelers spot the waterfall, they sigh in a huge relief. The waterfall falls at a stunning height of about 50 metres.

Your fear and agitation forgotten, you would just run-round in a fury of extreme excitement. It simply is an awe-inspiring spectacle to sit and watch. For ever, and ever.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Eastern Bhutan-Roadside pictures

I am so much intrigued by the beautiful valleys, rainfalls, rivers, villages and innocent people of the Eastern Bhutan. So to tell you, I have taken a lot of pictures all along my journey by the roadside, by the East-West highway. Most of the pictures were taken on moving bus and I share with you some of them here, 
An innocent young lad just starts his day to school, just begins his life

Trying to gain attraction from the passing by travelers: Lingmithang kids

Asking for lift

In-built umbrella on his head, handmade one: Rangjung

This board says it all, that you are in the east
All empty beer bottles. Sharchop can really drink
And this says it all, after you get drunk
Liquor agent...? What kind of liquor?
DTH: And this is what you get....phallus on your screen?
Coincident, but same pose: Mongar

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eastern Bhutan-Landscape pictures

After eight years, I took a travel to the Eastern Bhutan. For this matter, I have a lot to write about the trip and journey itself. This journey is a whole lot roller coaster of reverberating memories of my past, of those times I had spent in Bumthang and Kanglung.

Visiting here, after many years, was like a beautiful nightmare to me. But most importantly, I love peace, serenity and magnificent landscapes of the Eastern Bhutan. And I am pretty sure that my pictures write it all about the journey. So here it is. 
Lingmithang, Mongar
Yathra shop, Chumey
Dangme Chu