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 11, 2010

When VIP visit a remote school

A very important person (VIP) from the Ministry of Health and Education was visiting Tingtibi Primary School in Zhemgang. Rumors had it that this VIP was visiting all the schools in the dzongkhag. But the purpose of his visit was never known. Neither had we bothered to ask as we would be so engrossed playing marbles during the breaks and picking up oak nuts after school. I was in Class II. And it was 1994.
                                                                  Photo courtesy: Karma Tshering Samdrup 
Tingtibi Primary School was a remote school in Zhemgang. It had no proper academic blocks-only a concrete room and a toilet for the faculty. All the classrooms were bagos (walls made of raw woods and roofs with flattened bamboo). Shortage of textbooks in the school resulted in sharing of one textbook among five to six students. There were only five teachers for the eight different classes in the school. Often supporting staff like librarian and games instructor had to replace the teacher shortage.  

Frequently students suffered from the seasonal epidemic diseases like typhoid, dysentery and scabies due to shortage of drinking water. There was no electricity and motor road was inaccessible. Students had to walk for more than three hours to reach the school. 
A couple of days before the VIP’s visit, the school headmaster aka HIV to the students made an announcement in the morning assembly to clean and beautify the school. [The students called him HIV not connoting the incurable disease’s abbreviation but hair on his head was vanishing day after day, thus the name ‘Hair Is Vanishing’ (HIV)].  

It was March and the weather was still cold as the stroke of winter hadn’t left and the hot summer too far. We gathered in the assembly ground to be assigned with works. Class II students were informed to bring a sickle each to cut down the huge mass of larger-than-life bushes above the school blocks. Stronger students, especially boys from Class IV were sent with a spade and a crowbar each to maintain the farm road linking the school from the nearest road. (This narrow farm road was usually muddy and slippery inhibited by leeches and snakes). 

Another class whitewashed classrooms’ walls. And girls were allocated to broom and tidy the assembly ground, classrooms and drains. They also maintained the school flower gardens. More importantly, we were also informed to wash our uniforms and fold it cleaned. 

HIV, the headmaster had stopped the supply of drinking water in the school a week ago as the school had to keep the water tanks full for the visiting VIP. For drinking and washing plates, we were to visit a spring water near the Mangdechu River which was about two kilometers away from the school.  

Students were also forbidden from using the school toilet to keep the toilet clean and free from unpleasant smell. (There was only one school toilet for both boys and girls). Instead we were told to visit the bushes and forest over a stiff cliff beyond the school fence for defecating and urinating. And we had to defecate clinging over a branch or root of the tree to support ourselves from falling and rolling down over the cliff.   

Some students put up the welcome gate and spread multi-colored poplin clothes over the footpath fence. Other students collected pine tree needles and blanketed the ground and the footpath. 

The otherwise poor school looked strangely abundant and beautiful. The dusty school footpath was blanketed with the glittering pine needles. The stinking toilet was blocked temporally, the flower garden beautifully maintained, the farm road to school was improved and upgraded and the water tank was full. Everything was picture-perfect! 

The VIP had come, eventually. He arrived riding a handsome horse. His forehead shone against the bright strong sun when he was welcomed grandiosely by all the faculty members and student representatives. He looked fresh and happy and walked on the pine needled footpath to the school’s assembly ground. He glimpsed at the whitewashed school blocks consecutively in an uninterrupted manner. He was all smiles as he glanced at the well maintained flower gardens and the young students in sparkling uniforms. Then he gave a grand speech, 

I am very much impressed…Your school is very beautiful. The students are very healthy and smart. I don’t see any problem here…Everything is perfect here.”  

These remarks brought an instant radiance of accomplishment on HIV’s stressed face. After the speech and a few cultural items, a feast was served to the students. Then the VIP thanked and felicitated all the teachers, especially the HIV for keeping the school so perfect. 

The VIP left. After a few weeks the whitewashed walls discolored, worn out and wore the same dreadful looks as before, the drainage system re-accumulated dirt and flies, and the flowers in the gardens withered again. The bush above the school grew into a jumbo, the water tank remained empty and the water tap went dry again and the school toilet started stinking. Still five teachers for eight different classes and five to six students shared a textbook.

But after the VIP’s visit, one thing changed! We heard HIV has been transferred. He got promotion. He has been promoted as the Dzongkhag Education Officer, somewhere. But, the students gave him another nickname: Doma Eating Officer (DEO) for his doma chewing habit.

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!

To trust or not to trust

“Please! Please! Madam, last chance…laaas chance, madam,” a 10-year old lad was pitifully pleading the librarian. He was caught stealing five different books in my office’s library of Department of Youth and Sports. Lean and pale, the lad looked very nervous, shivering so vibrantly. The librarian even threatened him to call his school principal regarding his theft.

Each time he pleads that I discovered something… matter of concern and genuineness in this lad. I told the librarian, instantly, that I will handle the lad. I took him to my office. But he stood behind the door, frightened, and begged me, “Please! Please! Last chance, sir”. He thought that I was calling him in my office to punish him.
                                                                        Pic: The boy

I inquired about his school and the class he reads. He replied, “And…and…and….” Then he was lost into nervousness, again. Perhaps he forgot what I asked him. I told him that I would neither call his principal nor punish him, but just reassured him in a friendly tone that I wanted to know about his school and class. “And…and…” he went on but this time he could gush out next few words, “…and…I study…study?” He was not sure again, I nodded my head in assurance and he continued, “… Zilukha School…and…and…class three.”

I was also curious to ask him why he was stealing the books. But I couldn’t be so blunt and daren’t. Instead I asked him about his parents. He told me that his father is the night guard at Changlimithang Stadium and his mother is an ill woman, always bedridden. He narrated that every morning he has to wake up early, cook breakfast for his two younger brothers and prepare packed lunch before going to school.

“Your father buys you books?” I asked him. He replied me sincerely, “And…yesterday I asked my father for a picture book and a packet of crayon…and… he just kicked me…and…and…told me to shut up.” The lad told me he is enthusiastically fond of painting, so when he didn’t get the painting materials from his parents he resorts to stealing. “And…he also never buys me notebooks. I have no notebooks to write my homework. That’s why I stood second this year in my class. Last year I came first,” he informed me.

I just wanted to help this lad. I gave him a packet each of crayon, colour pencils and sketch pens with half ream of A4 papers. But I gave him homework too: to do a painting on a sheet of paper and bring it to me after one week. Certainly, I didn’t expect that he would come back to me.

I took him to a grocery shop nearby my office and bought him three notebooks and a packet of pencils to do his homework and told him to come first in his next exam.

Then a challenging moment came when this boy asked me the same book that he tried to steal from the library. We went to the library. He took me to a shelf and showed me the book. It’s a picture illustration book. He wanted to take the book home and learn painting from the book. I asked the librarian about the marked price of the book. She told me it costs pound sterling 16. It is very expensive, more than 1,200 bucks in Bhutanese currency.

The librarian recognized the lad and cried at me, “You want to issue the book to this boy? He won’t return it. He always steals books. He is a liar.” She punctured my trust on this lad. I turned back to the lad and looked at his small face; to trust or not to trust was the question, then.

However, his simplistic innocent attitude reassured and earned my full trust on him. I told the librarian to issue the book to the lad in my name. “If he didn’t return the book I will refund it,” I took the risk. Still hesitant, she warned me, “I am reminding you, don’t trust this boy.”

The book was issued to him. I told him to return the book after one week with his homework. The boy went out looking back at me again and again, and then ran away.

Next day, then, I was very busy in my office. Suddenly, a gentle knock on the door shook me from the busyness. The lad was standing behind the door; smiley and delighted. A friend of his was also behind him.

He ran towards me and proudly exclaimed that he finished his painting. He showed me, a beautifully crafted art of a majestic ship harmoniously sailing over an unfathomable sea. His picture touched my otherwise stressed heart and I felt like crying out in sheer happiness and joy. In a while he rummaged his satchel and took out the library book he took from the library yesterday and handed it over to me and expressed his gratitude, “Thank you, sir.” I just went close to him and hugged him, overjoyed, and whispered in his ears, “You made me proud, lad.”                                 
                                                           Picture: Art by the boy

But he has another request. He and his friend want to try on water colour painting. I gave them a packet of water colours and brushes, a chart paper each and told them to bring their paintings after three days. Later, I framed his painting in a wooden photo frame and proudly hung it in my office.

Again the next day he came with six other friends. It became a challenging job for me to take care of all these seven people in my office besides my busy administrative works. These guests became out of control and intolerable. It’s very difficult for me to handle all these kids every day and providing them all the painting materials.

An idea was born, then, that I should start this group of students a regular class on painting after their school time. I talked to my colleague, a JOCV volunteer about the class. She was interested and agreed to start it as soon as possible. From next day, the class began.
                                                                Picture: The art class

Today there are over 15 students learning Japanese art and craft. Besides, the students also learned eraser and sand painting, painting with color papers and old magazines and paper box painting. Also, I requested other friends of mine to teach the students basic art and color mixing.
The good news is that this group of students are participating in their school art competition very soon.

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.