Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Poor Rich Man

It was early March, the season on which the temperature has risen in Thimphu, bringing the first true warm of the year. I waited for taxi near RIM, Semtokha gate after meeting one of my friends from the institute. The dusk had already fallen. Finding a taxi plying to Thimphu from Semtokha after the sunset was really hard, I presumed.

After waiting for 30 minutes an old Maruti-van taxi came. It stopped near me.

“Thimphu?” I inquired the cabbie. And he nodded. The cabbie was a pale, lean but tall man of late 30s. He wore a faded gho without lagey and few of his front teeth were missing. He has got a long chin which reminded me of malnourished-version of Phub Thinley (Bhutanese film comedian).

Mera dilbi kitna pagal hai…Bar shamuney jab tum atey ho, kuch bhi kehainey se darta hu… an old Hindi song from the rusted cassette player on the music box system tied with a plastic rope flared so loudly.

As I entered, I scanned the interiors of the van. It has only right-side rear mirror and no floor mats. Even the road was visible from the holes of the taxi. Battery and tape record’s wires were visibly naked and were clubbed together with brown cello tape. This reminded me of the 1980s-old Hindi song, lean-pale driver and condition-less van.

“You know lad, this is my favorite song,” the cabbie exclaimed as he sped his car. But as he accelerated, the van produced louder terrible sound, hopefully not the speed. Even the fully loaded trucks overtook us.

“When I was young like you this was a hit song. Its lyric is very pleasant and touching,” he added sounding very filmy.

“I don’t like modern songs. They are too noisy and nonsensical,” he justified in stark hatred as if his wife had been stolen by the modern songs.

After changing the second gear, his cell phone screeched in his pocket. It is a black and white phone as the green light blinked on the screen.

When we reached the junction to Semtokha Dzong, two young men got into the taxi. I knew later that they were ILCS trainees as they wore decent ghos and spoke in pure Dzongkha.

In a while, an old man in rag hailed the cab. As he entered, a gust of nauseating smell swept the taxi. A mix of dirt and sweats stomach-churned all other fellow passengers. The trainees covered their noses and mouths with lagey.

Betel-reddened mouth, this old man wore a ravaged brown jacket, a tainted Dhaka Sale trek pant and rubber shoes on his feet. To me, he appeared like an exploited mining labour or a dismayed vagabond in desperate search of a plate of rice.

He looked uneducated, close-minded and definitely without any ambition. All the poverty and adversity of the world were inscribed on his expression.

Apparently, my interest shifted from the comic-like cabbie to this newly arrived passenger and I watched this old man, strangely interested.

He stayed mute, not uttering a word until he called the cabbie to stop at Olakha. I was happy, most definitely, as I would be unleashed of this unbearable torture-the rotten smell.

“Meme, tiru nga
,” the cabbie demanded the taxi fare from the old man. The old man foraged his pockets, and told the cabbie he has no money.

The cabbie got angry and threatened the meme to call the police. My mind irked as these two men started fighting for Nu 5, a little amount even a two-month old baby carries these days.

I interrupted these men and told the driver, “Aw, I will pay meme’s fare.”

Then we moved away. But the cabbie stared at me rather hostilely and asked, “Why did you volunteer to pay that old man’s fare?” He grimaced at me and shook his head as if I had murdered that old man.

Uneasy and speechless, I shrunk to the van’s corner.

After a long eerie silence, the cabbie informed, “You know, that old man is not as what you see him. He has four buildings in Olakha and three passenger buses.”

I was stabbed at hearing this. Surprise, disbelief, thrill, all crushed in my mind. I just wondered in dismay that how a man in rag, discontent looks and wholly illiterate having this huge wealth.

“This is not the first time he refuse pay taxi fare. He always does this to cheat the taxi drivers,” the cabbie announced as we reached the town.

For the first time in my life I learned that a man with such a huge wealth can still be pitifully poor and discontent-poorer than poor. I just thought, amazed, that this old man was pathetic rich man, a man who thinks that his wealth remains with him forever.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Drayang: To ban or not to ban?

After the public of Paro made a hullabaloo to the National Assembly about drayangs causing social problems, a few MPs suggested an outright ban on drayangs. The discussion even rose to the length where Layog Lyonpo promised to guarantee jobs for all the girls working in drayangs if the industry closes down. Following are the selected opinions I pulled out from various online forums regarding the ban of drayangs in Bhutan:
  Photo: Business Bhutan

Ban drayangs:

1. Cause of all Evils

A socially concerned writer asserted that drayang is the “major source of all our social problems”. The author declared that drayangs are the place where “sexual harassment” and “exploiting…young girls” are rampant despite “strict rules and regulations for the operation of the business.” In drayangs “customers lack the moral conduct” and sexually abuse young girls. The author affirmed that “This place is cause of all evils,” a place where many “married people get divorced.”

2. Drayangs: another form of Prostitution

Several writers online say that the drayangs are the hub for “commercial sex” affirming that “drayangs are perceived as the only business in Bhutan in which prostitution and brothel are legalized.” One of them warned, “Drayangs…is one step closer to becoming a brothel in future, therefore, it should be banned.”

3. Immoral conducts

Here is a man who visited a drayang and was stunned. He wrote, “I have visited a drayang once and was surprised see the girls dancing drunk and sitting on the thighs of [male] customers.” He also wrote, “I have seen many of my friends going there to see gals [only].”

4. Against Buddhism and GNH

There is a group of religious-minded people who felt that the establishment of drayangs in Bhutan is against our religion, Buddhism. One of them wrote, “….we all being Buddhist I feel that it’s not good to have such an entertaining place where alcohols, smoking, immoral conducts is propagated.”

5. Drayangs benefit small section of the society
Some wrote that drayang industry benefits only a small section of our society but earns humiliation for our country. “It is becoming a kind of livelihood for thickheaded people on selling somebody’s flesh….the proprietors are misusing their employees…a sinful act,” wrote one.

6. Why rules cannot stop drayang disharmony

Few believe that no operating regulations can uproot the misbehaviors of the drayangs. “No laws; however, stringent can be applied effectively on the ground that foremost motive of this organization is money,” wrote one. He added, “drayang owners who are to be directly accountable for the safety of their employees cannot guarantee 100 % safety to their employees.”

7. Prevention is better than cure

A larger chunk of the online users suggested that prevention is better than cure regarding the ban of the drayang. “Right now Bhutan doesn’t have much drayangs and it is right time to stop such thing in a country,” wrote one of them.


Don’t ban drayangs:

1. NA discussion lacked understanding of the issue

Most people are against the idea of outright closing down of drayangs as discussed in the last NA session. A writer wrote, “The discussion lacked depth, sensitivity and understanding of the issue and was driven more with… indignation rather than pragmatic logic.”

The writer further explained, “To expect Bhutan to open up to the outside world, to modernize, to increase the number of tourists, to meet the ever increasing costs of living, and still remain pure and untouched is both impractical and unrealistic.”

2. Sign of economical development

Many feel and see that drayang as a sign of economical development and have been benefiting our society. One of them wrote, “….the drayang as package of development” and “Give jobs to those jobless.” It also makes “….contribution to the economy as well helping to generate the revenue and income distribution,” wrote another.

A male writer sees drayangs as one of the platforms for young girls to “show their talents.”

3. Discouraging private sector
Some felt that the government is going against the policy of private sector development while uprooting drayang industry. “To close down drayang is that our government was discouraging private sector in the country.”

4. Closing down is more problem than solution

Majority felt that closing down of the drayangs is only a short-term solution, not the right remedy. “Closing down is more problem than solution,” one of them wrote adding, “Banning is not a solution because it will manifest on one or other form. It is an entertainment industry that comes with development so there is no way we can stop it from growing.”

Some practical measures to curb social disharmony caused by drayangs:

1. Provide jobs to unemployed out-of-school youth

A regular blogger recommended that “…the women working in drayangs already have jobs. So they don’t need his [the labour minister] bold assurances. Unemployed youth, on the other hand, would welcome his guarantees. After all, they are the ones who are desperate for work.” Then he proposed to “provide out-of-school youth gainful employment. Then they themselves would choose not to work in drayangs.”

2. Empower the employees of the drayangs

A writer suggested empowering drayang employees through “proper education, control health risks and legal protection.” All those working in drayangs should be educated and sensitized on existing rules and their rights, according to the writer. The writer also felt that closing down of drayangs will only drive the activities into the dark alleys and shady bars where drugs are a common place.

3. Ensure safe environment

An architect felt that ensuring safe environment for those working in drayangs is imperative. “These drayangs should not be in the bars, or drayangs should not sell alcohols and other stuffs. This industry should remain clean and should have bouncers and guards to avoid fights and other problems,” marked him.

4. Develop strong rules and regulation

However, many suggested the most pragmatic solution for us to safeguard our society from the defamations caused by drayangs is to ensure strict licensing and operating rules and regulations that should be strictly complied with.

One of them wrote, “If the drayangs are not functioning the way they are supposed to…and…if the girls performing. …are being mistreated by the customers and the owners, then to me this speaks of two things. One, are the current rules and regulations governing the…functioning of these drayangs are not adequate and enough. Two…the existing rules and regulations…not being enforced properly.”

Drayangs are the place of entertainment where young boys and girls work for their livelihoods. Poverty and destitution forced them into this profession. They are vulnerable to money, sex, drugs and other crimes. We have a moral obligation to protect this young group of people and empower them of their rights. Prohibition cannot put end to the social problems caused by this industry. We have to accept this drayang culture (an inevitable social development) and deal it with most learned manner.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pay Hike’s Post-Madness

Karma Dendup is a grade 8 civil servant in Thimphu. He pays monthly house rent of Nu 6,500 and another Nu 3,000 for groceries. Every month, a balance of Nu 2,000 remains in his pocket which is only enough to fill the gas in his car. Whenever the opportunity knocks he resorts to corruption because he has to live up to the lifestyle of the city.

Recently, the news on the pay hike by 20 percent made him happy. He thought he could at least earn Nu 2,000 more.

But he was shocked when his house rent has been increased to Nu 7,000 soon after the pay rise was announced. His monthly grocery expenditures also increased to Nu 4,000 as the price of the goods skyrocketed. He felt helpless. Even after his salary being raised by 20 percent, he was as helpless as before.

Paradoxically, in the last parliament session the finance minister appealed to the house owners and shopkeepers not to increase the house rent and the price of goods explaining that the pay rise was not huge. However, the house rent and price of the goods soared up frantically. Did any of the house owners and shopkeepers listen to the finance minister’s earnest appeal?

What’s wrong with the existing system?

Every time the government raises the pay scale, the house owners and shopkeepers go mad. It seems that the government raises the profit for the house owners and shopkeepers, but not pay increment for the public servants. It is for these two groups of people to pay back their loans fast and to make lump sum profit.

So, what our policymakers should realize is that they should build up some practical strategic mechanisms or regulatory bodies to curb post-madness of the pay rise.

Firstly, they should review the existing “dormant” Tenancy Act and implement it vibrantly by educating the tenants and house owners on its usefulness and clauses.

Secondly and most importantly, the MoWHS should form an agent or organization to look after the housing affairs in the country. Empowered to look into the housing matters in the country autonomously, the agent should possess efficient number of professionals and technicalities in architectures.

Every building leasing its apartments on rent should be made compulsory to register with this body. It should look and study each of the apartments of the registered building and fix the rent according to the size and amenities of the apartments, location, etc of the building. The fixed rent should be strictly followed by both the parties and is to be raised 10 percent after two years only.

Those house owners whose apartments are empty or whose buildings are under construction should also register with the agent about the date of vacating time and date of completion. So, those apartment hunters can consult the agent directly instead of knocking each door regarding the vacant apartments.

This agent can also help those who wanted to exchange an apartment at Babesa to Motithang or for those wanting to exchange an apartment at Jungshina to Changzamtog.

Many other unnecessary problems of the tenants and house owners can be solved. For example, a bachelor who is occupying a huge apartment can register with the agent in want of a small bachelor quarter or those with huge family occupying a small apartment can exchange with the bachelor. Or those wanting to share the apartment can also register with the agent, so any interested person who is interested to share the apartment can apply here. Moreover, it can help generating gainful job opportunities.

Thirdly, landowners can also lease out their houses as Paying Guest (PG) so that the new office goers need not take the burden of renting a huge apartment and paying bulky amount for the rent.

Lastly, the trade and industry office should issue as many business licenses (except bar license) to the interested business entrepreneurs to avoid monopolistic market. This can, definitely, bring greater and healthy competition in the market helping retain the price of the goods. The trade authority should also strictly regulate the MRP of each necessity goods.

Note: This is a collective work of Rekkha Monger, RIM and myself.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rs displaced Nu

Conversation 1: “What is the price of this? Rs 450?” a girl buying sandals asked the shopkeeper. “No! It is Rs 550, but you can take it @ Rs 500,” replied the shopkeeper. This is a conversation between a shopkeeper and his customer at Thimphu Market.

Conversation 2: “Aw, song request la. Please! Only Rs 100 for one song la,” a drayang girl was enticing her customer.

Conversation 3: “I want to fax Rs 8,000 to Trashigang. What is the charge?” inquired a man to an official behind the Post Office’s counter to fax his money. “Rs 420,” responded the official.

Conversation 4: “Bro, what’s the balance in your cell phone? I have an urgent call to make,” asked a lad to his buddy. “Rs 15,” retorted his friend and lent the phone.

Conversation 5: A daughter demanded her father, “Dad, give me Rs 700. I want to buy a short.”

Conversation 6: “You visit Om Bar. It’s a cool place. A bottle of Wedding Bells costs only Rs 150,” a RJ was talking to his female fan on air.

What wrong have you noticed from the above six different conversations?
There is discomfiture and foreignness in every conversation. This is what Bhutanese speak everyday, everyday committing mistakes. Rs, Rs…and Rs. We forget our own Ngultrum. We always use Rs for Ngultrum every time we have to deal with money or talk relating to money.

Last week, I attended a very important Workshop concerning the nation’s plans and policies. A handful of chilips was also attending it. A few officials of Executive Level made presentations, and it was quite embarrassing that they frequently uttered “Rs 7 lakhs”, “Rs 200 millions”.

There are also some Bhutanese manufacturing industries that don’t use our currency name on the packaged cover of the goods. For example, a local produced bread has the price marked on its cover, “Rs 15”.

Also, we frequently come across Rs in official letters like Note Sheet, Proposals, sanction order, Memo, etc.

But who is to blame for this?

Last week when I was solving Class IV mathematics problems for my nephew (student of Rinchen Kuenphen PS), I came across that the whole text book was Indian Education Curriculum based. “Mahesh has Rs 150. He gave away Rs 50 to his friend. Now, how much he has in his hand?” one of the problems from the text book reads.

Isn’t it high time for MoE to revise the school text books? The borrowed text books from India implant foreign diction in our youth which impairs our identity.

To avoid this error, all the school text books should be revised and the syllabus should be aligned with Bhutanese context.

There is also need to implement stringent laws on using Ngultrum on every official document or letter. Officials of all agencies or media organizations should be strictly directed to use Ngultrum, and anyone violating the directives should be dealt according to the rules.

Friday, November 26, 2010

He is not a man if he beats a woman

Yesterday, 25th November, was International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. It is, indeed, a great honour for me to help eliminate domestic violence from our society. I write this article to work along with women to fight against the prejudicial harassment and unending abuse on them.
         Photo: Beng J.

Domestic violence, as Wikipedia defines is a “domestic abuse, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence”. This means a husband beating his wife is domestic violence; boyfriend hitting his girlfriend is domestic violence and father kicking his daughter is domestic violence, or vice-versa. And in our society of alcoholism and high rate of promiscuity, the incidence of domestic violence is very rampant. But who are the victims? Mostly weak, disadvantaged women and children!

Most women in relationships where domestic violence takes place have no escapism from the abuse. Factors like children, money, alienation or absence of family or friends who can provide support weigh heavily in a women’s decision to attach to it

Why men beat women?

"Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.” Quran 4:34

Don’t Bhutanese men have stereotype mentality that they are “superior” to their wives because they work outside, earn and feed their wives? Women can’t work outside and earn like a man. That they can only stay at home, cook and nurse the kids, dependent on men for wealth. My neighbor was an orthodox who always demeans his wife. “Shut up! Don’t talk and act smart being a woman and kid,” he states whenever his wife shares her views on issues concerning the family. He drains the self-esteem of his wife, a woman, comparing her to a kid.

Like Quran states, Bhutanese men have this perception that women are supposed to be inferior and “obedient” to men and if they misbehave or show a slight act of denial or revolt “beat them” ruthlessly. It is in men’s blood to beat their wives because our ancestors have been doing the same! Many men treat their wives as their sandbag. He has an affairs with another woman, he returns home. He finds a mistake that the rice his wife offered him is too hot or too cold. He bashes up her untill she faints. This is only way to chase her out of his house. But she can't leave as she has no where to go. Such ingrained practices should be removed.

Empowering women with providing education, jobs and making severe law for the wife beaters may eliminate domestic violence, but we see even some office-going women are beaten so frequently. Now let's propagate a culture that a man who beats his wife is a coward. Such men are to be proclaimed as sub-man or sub-human because they can’t find a real man to beat on.

Men’s excuse!

Men claimed that the reason they beat their wives is that women are “nagging” and talk “rubbish”. It is just a lame excuse of yours. Men, you should have the endurance to withstand the nagging. If you can’t, you should not have married her. Once you hit a woman, you have no justification left. Because they don’t have the strength to provoke violence from you, so there is no way you can claim self defense. If she raises a weapon against you, then, she is insane. And take appropriate steps.

Next time even she hits you or throws things at you, just endure. They are weaker sex, delicate. Even her ten blows is just a fall of peach on your shoulder from its tree.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Close of Autumn

That the beauty of Autumn begone!

Look into your garden, you will see flowers withering!

Look around your house or office, you will see tree leaves turned yellow, dry and falling on ground!

Monday, November 15, 2010

As lonely, as weird, as extraordinary as my name

I was a lonely and a shy lad when young, certainly companionless and lacking self-esteem. I had no pair for my name, Riku. When I was first admitted in a primary school I found scores of Tsherings, Sonams, Kumars and Lal Bahadurs. Moreover, they were plenty back in my village and often heard in movies and radio. They are very common and admirable, though. But I have never heard and met a person of my name. This singleness of my name dislocated my stand and detached me from our society. 

Furthermore, my own name had isolated me from my family. My father and all my four big brothers are Bahadurs. I felt, at times, I was an alien or adopted.
In the schools I earned all sorts of humiliations and harassments due to my ludicrous name. My teachers and classmates pronounced my name differently from the way my parent say it. My teachers always pronounced it Rudu and they laughed. I was bitterly angry to hear my name being pronounced so mindlessly, incorrectly. Again my classmates jeered at me during the breaks, “Kuri Kuri!” which in Nepali is, “Shame on you! Shame on you!” Every break I was trying to avoid such nasty remarks and embarrassments.

I passed Class IV and was admitted to Class V. My new class teacher was a Dzongkha lopon, a strict disciplinarian. We again went through the same ritual of introducing ourselves. After the first row had finished, the second row started and ultimately it was my turn. I was nervous; my name is so weird and hard to understand.

Hesitantly, I introduced myself, “My name is Riku enla.” The lopon went mad instantly. He jumped at me like a ferocious tiger shouting, “You are kidding me? What’s your name lo? Tupu lo?” Oh God! He misheard my name. Tupu, he heard, meaning very dirty part of women’s body. As he ran towards me to bash, I dashed out of the classroom. Later my classmates explained him about my name. Tears springing to my eyes, I went to my parents that evening and asked why they gave me this wicked name. I told them that I hate this name and wanted a new name, a good one. But they told me that my name was given by my grandpa who died right after giving me the name and they can’t change it. But they consoled me saying that I am always Kaley (my pet name) for them.

Riku started sounding ridiculous to my ears. Like this name, like its oddness, I too felt very absurd and ostracized. I started hating writing my name at the bottom of my applications or essays or painting I made. I felt awkward to say “Hi, I am Riku”. I hate my name because it has nothing to do with who I am, that is neither Lhotsham nor Drukpa.

My name has been always a chronic pain for me. Every time I register my name while traveling or booking a lodge or visiting offices I undergo the same frustrating agitation. Whenever the officials behind the counter ask me for my name, experience had taught me to take out my CID card and show it to them right away. Because every time they ask my name, I always have to make them understand the name first, then to pronounce it correctly and spell it correctly. It requires quite energy to complete the task.

Attending job interview was also discomfiture for me. I was attending RCSC viva voce, several years back. There were four panel members led by a head. I prepared hard for the interview, was very confident. But as soon as I introduced myself to them I lost all my confidence. The panel head tried uttering my name, “Ri…tu”. He stressed on “tu”. Other panel members started giggling; however, the head of the panel suggested addressing me as Mr. Subba for the interview. Nervous, I forgot everything.

In another incident, I met a minister in Thimphu. He inquired my name. I replied him courteously, "Riku la." Angry, he responded, "I am not in a mood to joke. I didn't ask for your nickname." He gave me a sarcastic wink and left.

The bizarre of my name never stopped demeaning until 2008, the year of Coronation and Centenary celebration. I took part in Tarathon, a 30-day marathon race from Trashigang to Thimphu initiated by an English couple, lecturers at Sherubtse College, to mark the glorious celebration. At the end of the event, the Tarathoners were received by HRH Queen Mother Azhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck at the Druk Hotel in Thimphu. After a banquet, the Queen Mother awarded the merit certificates to us. When my name was called, Queen Mother glanced at my certificate and said to me, “Your name is very extraordinary. I think you are as extraordinary as your name.”

These two majestic inspirational lines from the Queen Mother invoked by my name (which has been debasing me) brought immense gush of delight and revelry in me. For the first time in my life this infamous name made me so extraordinary and ecstatically proud.

That moment I looked up in the heaven and shouted at my grandpa, “Thank you, Grandpa!” and I exclaimed in excitement, “Is this what you mean from the extraordinary name you gave me in your deathbed?”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Every dog has its own day


Today you were in southern Bhutan or any Hindu land and you call someone "Kukur" or you just kick a dog or chase it away, you will be brutally bashed instantly.
Because today is the kukur (dog) tihar-Tihar and Dogs (2nd Tihar Day). In sountern Bhutan and to all Hindu countries, Kukur (Dogs) are adorned with flower garland around their necks, red tika on their forehead, and are offered great meals. They are the king of the day!

On this day, people pray to the Kukur to guard their homes. Usually there are lots of Kukur running around in the streets in search of a loving home. You can find them on streets and in your backyards, but on this day, even the most unsightly Kukkur will be treated like a king, everyone has a day.

Tihar is also about breaking the boundaries only men created, "The Good", "The Bad", "The Ugly", and all but same to the mother nature! In Hinduism it is believed that Kukur guard's the underworld empire just like it guards our everyday homes!. Tihar is about loving Kukurs too!

Women playing khuru brought bad omen to our country?


Written on kuenselonline, the author of this story blames the recent national natural disasters are caused due to women playing khuru. Check it out how logical is it? Or is the author too superstitious? This is certainly very funny. A misogynistic view, I must say. But may be coincidental? Anyhow I love this!

Hello,

This is not against any individual or organisation, it's just my simple opinion. Bhutan is a country where most of the people are superstitious. The women who are playing Khuru spoke to BBS and other media say that they are playing Khuru to show that there is equal rights for both men and women. It's true that you (women) have every rights to do whatever you like but remember that because of your bad deeds, you have brought bad lucks to our country.

Firstly when the Khuru tournament was started, there was continuous rainfall for several days which damaged thousands of tons of harvested rice in Paro. Secondly there was a dreadful disaster of fire in Bumthang which killed to people and left hundreds homeless in such a cold weather. The rainy season is over and in the past we never had rain in such a dry season. This year we are experiencing abnormal rain because our local deities are unhappy and angry with us for showing very blasphemous or odd behavior. (Other misfortunes may be storm at Nanong gewog in Pemagatshel, car accidents). And some women argue that they are playing Khuru to preserve our culture and tradition.

Let me remind you that, women playing Khuru is neither our culture nor our tradition. Our rich culture and tradition was there since hundreds of year but never heard or read that women played Khuru. This is totally against our culture and tradition.

Our Bhutanese sports are very sacred. That's why they should be kept the way they are and played the way they are. I am not against any women. It's just that i can't see our people suffering by the bad deeds of a group of the foolish feminist and don't want to see such worse misfortunes in future. And this is my plea to concerned authority, to look into the matter seriously and do something to preserve our rich culture and tradition.

Lastly i beg your forgiveness if i have hurt anybody thought it is not my intention.


Mourning the fall of Chamkhar Town

We moved stealthily into a small town built of woods, roofed with black slates and planks. This town was encircled by a small collection of farms and scattered houses occupying a lush valley. Lakhangs and dratshangs were perched on the mountain cliffs which beautify spiritual valley and the serene town. Only a few buildings were concrete. Evening, I called it, as the Sun sat atop mountain in the west. It was March 9, 2001.
Unbearable cold outside and snow clad grounds and house roofs held me inside the car. Frozen to numbness, I was lost in a sheer oblivion and amazement until my uncle shouted at me, “Hello! We reached Chamkhar town, Bumthang! Come out for tea and momo before I drop you at your hostel.” Tomorrow, then, March 10, was I to admit at Jakar HSS.
First time, in my life, I traveled all the way from hot Gelephu to cold Bumthang as a school placement. Thus, first time in my life was I seeing the wonderful snow fall and had experienced the minus temperature.

I moved out of the car lazily and went to a restaurant to have tea and momo with my uncle. A hard wood hit on my forehead from the top of the entrance door as I was entering the restaurant. A blessing! I looked up in a bursting anger. I found it that hit my forehead, a wooden crafted phallus hanging atop the restaurant’s entrance door.

Embarrassment slugged me. However, to avoid my inevitable blush, I turned back and looked around the town but shocked to death, again, to have found that thing everywhere-every shop and building at the town has wooden phallus dangling from its entrance door top-some painted red, some brown varying in sizes.

Even more shocking was that extremely big dicks were furtively painted on the walls of each house. I only read about the significance of the phallus and Lam Drukpa Kuenley, the ‘Divine Madman’ in the Bhutan history text books but seriously I have never seen these things in my life. Mind you, not a single house was then in Gelephu had such things.

The restaurant cozy and bhukari heated, was ran by a Tibetan family. My uncle handed me Nu 5 note and asked me to buy doma from the shop. I went to a shop and asked for the doma of Nu 5. The shopkeeper told me, “We don’t sell doma for Nu 5. You can take this packet of Nu 10 doma.” But my uncle gave me only Nu 5 and I thought I would try another shop. I asked the next shop only to receive the same reply. After trying the fifth shop I realized that no shop at Chamkhar town sells doma for below Nu 10.

My uncle dropped me at the school hostel, then.
October 26, 2011 at 1:45 am, two days ago: The Chamkhar town was razed down to ashes by a dreadful fire. More than 66 houses and shops were burned down. The disaster killed two people and left 266 inhabitants homeless.

During four years of my school education at Jakar HSS, the Chamkhar town became very familiar to me; I knew each and every shop and the shopkeeper.

Every weekend or sometimes right after the class, I used to flee to the town with my bunch of troublesome yet can’t-do-without friends despite repeated beatings from the hostel warden and have written several statement letters to the principal. As usual, it was to drink alcohols or play snookers.

Another funny reason we used to frequent the town was that one of my friends, the best looking among us, had a girlfriend at the market. She has a shop at Chamkhar town. Real intention of this love story-was for materialistic gain only. It was not him who wrote the chit to this shopkeeper girl, but we “proxy” his name and sent the epistle without his knowledge. Immediately, she accepted it. Since then she became our “sponsor”, who had fed us with pocket money, foods and sometimes garments too.

But a bad luck has been awaiting for us, sooner. A dratshang monk has also been trying on her for the past several years. When we were drinking at a hotel bar of Sonam Hotel, we encountered this monk who was drunk too. He was with his five other monk friends. We had a dreadful fight. We were beaten mercilessly and thrown out bruised and hurt. At Chamkhar town, you know, monks are very much feared gang fighters and they are also snooker “champs”.

Later on I made friends with many boys and girls from this town. Some, still, I have good contacts. After the disastrous night of October 26, I phoned them and found them down and in grief. Some of them are planning to discontinue their studies from abroad after hearing the bad news.

There was a divorcee woman from Samtse who ran a small pan shop in the middle of the Chamkhar town. When I was preparing for the Civil Service exam last year, I used to visit her shop to buy newspapers and packet of doma for my sister. She used to tell me that she came all the way from Samtse, the poorest dzongkhag, to earn little here and give her three children good education.

Now I look at the wretched pictures of Chamkar town, rubble, the only remaining of the town disheartens me. Though the town was razed down to ashes, I still have the rich memories of the otherwise lively town. I still recall the moment vividly when I was hit with a hard phallus at the restaurant’s entrance door, the shop of our “sponsor” girl, and the divorcee selling doma and newspapers. The same Sonam Hotel where we fought with the drunken monks was the hotel where a man traveling from Thimphu to Trashigang was burnt to death. Alas! They all went into ashes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Of Graduate Orientation and Unlimited fun.

In the morning sessions of graduate orientation, all the highly respected and intellectual Lyonpos and Dashos come and give their enlightening speeches to the hundreds of graduates. They propel three-five hours long “very very important” speeches soon they enter the hall. But the graduates called their speeches sleep-inducing-tablets. These dignitaries deliver their speeches in such a way that the listeners, graduates were not given breathe or an occasion to reflect on and analyze the issues discussed. All three hours pour on no-stopping monotonous one-sided speech. They bulldoze their opinions in our heads, lol. A MoWHS dignitary doesn’t mind trespassing the boundary and talking on quality of education.
The otherwise lively environment of the hall was poisoned by the monotonous and boring sleep inducing tablets (speeches). However, those graduates by bad luck, had numbered their seats in the front rows of the hall, had to pretentiously listen to the speeches.

Back-benchers start snoring as soon as the dignitaries make grand entrance. There was a girl who sits next to me. I didn’t see any one slugged into so peaceful slumber like her. Some sleep, but, for one or two sessions a day. But this girl sleeps as soon as the dignitaries arrive. Tall, lean and of course beautiful, she puts her right hand on her right edge of her neck and snores all day. She only wakes up for the refreshments and lunch but again goes back to peaceful sleep after returning the tea and lunch breaks. Perhaps she had worked so hard all those years of 15 years of her education burning midnight candle and waking up early morning to study. So, now, she would be taking all rest, sleeping. And that’s why we called her “Hibernating lady”. She spent entire orientation program sleeping.

Next to my House was another girl, tall and slim but not so beautiful like Hibernating Lady. During Q & A session, this girl has to raise at least one question to the concerned dignitary. As she sits next row from where I sit I could see her very close. We named her Shivering Lady because as soon as she wakes up from her chair to ask question to the dignitaries she starts shivering. Of all, her limbs shake so vibrantly. Her notepad clutched on her hands shivers too, but she cannot stop herself from asking the question. Yes, she is shivering lady.

Cell phone was distraction yet a good time pass during graduate orientation program. Like majority of the graduates, I also spent entire graduate orientation program playing games in my cell phone. And the record I set in my cell phone game on those days I couldn’t break even today.

It is like an epidemic disease when one activates his Bluetooth in his cell phone, followed by another and thousand other in a minute. Some exchanged their girlfriends’ photos, but most common activity was transferring or exchanging of porn stars images and sex video clips.

Finally, we were congratulated by the Labour Ministry secretary, the head programmer of the graduate orientation program, for cooperating with his team and making the program a success. He was a doctor by profession. He reminded graduates that unemployment rate in Bhutan was 3.7 percent and the major factor causing unemployment is mismatch of skills. Example, a doctor aspiring to become secretary despite acute shortage of doctors in Bhutan?

Note: Some ideas fed by Rekha Monger and Chencho Thinley

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beauty of Autumn

September has come and gone leaving me with little to say about it. October is nearing its end. The Season of Fall, Autumn is here. While the change from warm weather to cooler temperature is a difficult transition, but there are exciting things taking place outside.
Walking to your office, you may have noticed that the leaves have begun to turn to brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. More apparently this is the season when leaves turn yellow, fall from the trees, and the world around is painted in the jewels of nature; hues rich and luxurious in warmth of gold, amber.

You will find road workers graciously raking the falling leaves. You will also notice in the autumn morning kids going to schools while their cheeks turn a rosy pink.

It's my favorite season!
If you have taken trip to countryside you would have seen the crops are harvested, cereals gathered and taken to the warehouses. Acres and acres of golden cornfields and sections of forest turned gold and deep red glowing in the afternoon sunlight.

The season of fall doesn’t leave anyone not inspired. It would always fascinate you with its aroma of sweetest beauty like the way it does unto me. The colour of yellows and cool breezes rejuvenates your otherwise muddled heart, right? And this is time when you wanted to conquer the world.

I sit nearby the window of my heated room on this cool crispy morning, and my neighbours’ children run-rounding around the courtyard, I am the one daydreaming, as the leaves flutter by the window to cover the ground. They are falling slowly, gently twirling on the ground and it is pride for me to rake the fallen leaves every morning.

With this beautiful season come delicious foods like apples, red chilli and hot foods like bathup with hot tea or coffee. Quiet dinners by the fire or sipping hot coffee with corn bread may be the favorite past time. Also enjoyable are watching movies while snuggled in soft blankets.
Fashion has its part in this season of fall. I love to try on sweaters and sweat pants. I also love a good scarf and a pair of boots to keep myself warm. I love the rain in autumn too, the slightly wild nature it has.

Enjoy the season to its fullest. Watch the leaves turn yellow, red. Let cool air soothe you. And don't forget to make some time for a cup of tea or coffee and a good book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bhutanese film inspires me to steal others’ wives

Sometime ago, I went to watch a Bhutanese movie at a local theater. Along with my bunch of troublesome crazy friends, I booked tickets. I was excited, though. I was quite excited because I was watching the local production after long time back. Perhaps, the second reason could be I was fed up of watching Hollywood, Bollywood and Korean movies. The last reason could be Karma Wangzin, the film I was watching then was starred by my favorite local actor Chencho Dorji.
The story of the film is based on the protagonist, Karma Wangzin (Chencho Dorji) who falls in love head over heel with a married woman. And due to his true, platonic love to the keti (heroine) who is another man’s wife, Wangzin reaches heaven after his death. That’s the story.

Wow! A stealer of another man’s wife goes to heaven! A fantastic story line….

After watching this film I was very much tempted to steal others’ wives because there is no harm or sin in doing that until you show your true-mad love. Secondly my best local actor (hero) who is also my role model steals another man’s wife in the reel life. So why not me? Thirdly I can go to heaven after my death if I steal others’ wives. Now, definitely I will also start stealing others’ wives and go to heaven after my death. Ha! This is the impact of the film for me.

This film teaches a wrong morale to the already wife-stealing society of ours. Due to wife stealing or husband-stealing we have been seeing numerous cases of family disasters like domestic violence, child abuse, resorting to alcohol, mental trauma, divorces and family degeneration in Bhutan.

I appreciate the way the film portrays the love of the keta Karma Wangzin, so passionate, so true, and abstract. But I feel that the director of the film had misjudged his protagonist’s act and given wrong verdict by sending him to heaven after his death.

How can a wife stealer deserves heaven?

Karma Wangzin, the protagonist of the film is a dreadful sinner. He commits sin at first instance by falling in love with a woman who already belongs to another man. Secondly he commits even graver sin by intruding others’ private conjugal life and bringing interferences to them. Wangzin’s intrusion in her married life brings never-ending misunderstandings, frequent fighting and family disharmony.

Even Buddhism strongly defies stealing others’ espouses calling it a grave sin. So isn’t the protagonist deserves hell, despite his Bollywood kind of love and romance.

We may accept that the keti and her husband are not compatible and they are having some differences on which they fight every day. But the way the director uses the strategy of creating another crazy lover, Wangzin and making him to snatch the keti from her husband is morally wrong solution to solve this chronic relationship. May be the director of the film likes the idea of Karan Jahor, one of the Indian leading film directors, in his film Kabhi Alvida Na Kehena. But Karan Jahor received huge criticisms for encouraging adultery among the married people in this film, KANK.

The director of the film, Karma Wangzin should have taken another angle in the story to benefit the society and the problematic relationship he is portraying in this film. He should have tried to work out problems of the married life of the keti and her husband by sorting out the ingrained differences of the couple in a logical way or more practical manner. Compromises, sacrifices and giving time for each other are essential to a healthy relationship and they lack these qualities in their married life. These kinds of lessons should be portrayed to the audience through a masterly crafted action of the film characters.

Respecting the problems and concerns of one another is very essential in a healthy conjugal life. Or shouldering the responsibility of conjugal life seriously like giving each other full commitment and love and care should be the logical mantra to solve the problems of the chronic married life of the film heroine instead of dragging Wangzin to intrude into their married life and stealing her away from her husband. This story only encourages the viewers to steal others’ wives.

And for the keta, Wangzin, who deliberately tries to intrude into others' married life and steal a wife of another man despite knowing she is already married, should be punished by sending him to hell. This is how a film teaches the audience responsibly to respect others’ married lives, their relationships, their happiness and their privacy.

Now we would like to call BICMA’s attention to strictly filter the content of every film before their releases. It should thoroughly study the impact of the content of the film to its viewers and general public.

Since the Bhutanese film industry is more like a profit-making business to many local film makers. They go for more of entertaining the audience by screening beautiful ketas and ketis and portraying their undying love. Other ingredients include romance and beautiful songs.

To attract audience to make profit, undeniably to sustain their stand, most local filmmakers go against their ethics and disregard social responsibility of teaching audience a good morale through films. Every film makers should understand that their film content has huge impact to their viewers.