Friday, September 30, 2011

Apolitical teachers only produce apolitical students

Teachers in Bhutan are civil servants. As civil servants, teachers (to uphold the higher moral integrity and as law abiding citizens) are obliged to remain apolitical. But how this contributes to the learning of school children to be well-educated and democratic youth citizens? 
Today, many teachers shy off when their students ask questions pertaining to politics (Tobacco Control Act, CDG, political funding, Gyelposhing land and lottery scam). Students, our children want to know all this, develop critical thinking. Well, this is embarrassing when teachers would respond to their students, “Shhh! We, as civil servants, are not allowed to talk on this.”

Similarly, I am a civil servant, not a teacher though. If my kids or my young nieces and nephews ask me about the political issues, should I run away from them or shout at them to keep shut. But, it is undeniably very unhealthy trend being taking root in our young democracy.

I understand and respect that the BCSR 2007 has for the civil servants to be neutral on politics. But by tightening shut the teachers and civil servants’ mouths, aren’t we blocking our young people from learning and more importantly depriving them from becoming effective and democratic citizens? Or are we just blatantly neglecting the voices of youth (considering inexperience), their right to information? Or are we just demolishing the youth’s bridge to be productive and responsible citizens in democratic Bhutan?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A delicious disgusting word

I am never at ease each time I utter this word. A Dzongkha word, unfortunately. Don’t be surprised! Je khenpo is the word I am talking about. In short, supposedly, we called it Je. Don’t laugh! I can anticipate your predictable reaction. For I know you would be giggling there. 

Je Khenpo or Je is the Head Abbot in Bhutan. But an unavoidable shame clinches me, uncomfortably though, because the thing (dirty) of men is explicitly reminded to me each time I utter or hear this word. Say you Je. Once more, say it out loud. Ermmm! Didn’t it remind you about that thing? Now you trust me I’m not a bluff. 

Am I blaspheming here? However, as our belief would have it, now I’d be dragged into an unpardonable sin for ridiculing this spiritual word. If you’re a staunch Buddhist, you can throw a swift punch on my face…spoil the geography and bring me back to consciousness. Enough said, right?

But you’re wrong if you’re thinking that I am an atheist or anti-Buddhist. I believe in an ideology of “impermanence”, “life after death”, “compassionate and responsible living”. But this word, Je, is the sexiest Dzongkha term for me and today nothing is stopping me from sharing this post with you. 

Suffice it to say, these two words have different spellings in the Dzongkha Dictionary, but both sound no different and they carry the same intonation to me. Guess what? When I have to say or talk about Je khenpo, I am always stuck in a dilemmatic situation. But listen here; I have a trick to fool my listeners. I always utter Je very swiftly, so that Khenpo can overtake it immediately. Like this, J’ Khenpo. Ha-ha!   

I blame myself for not taking genuine interest in learning Dzongkha language, but I can reason out that the language also do the justice to attract us. Much as I hated to admit it that Dzongkha lacks vocabulary, and we’re worrying the slow demise of our national language. Perhaps more tellingly, another word would duly assist my argument here. Again I have to sacrifice my principles. As you’d be anticipating, Jedha is the word that would justify your apprehensions. And I will tell you how Dzongkha lacks vocabulary through this word.

This is the most commonly used word by the people of all walks of life in Bhutan. I don’t know exactly what it means literally as no teacher or syllabus taught us about this word in the schools, but undoubtedly it carries almost identical connotation of an English word “Fuck”. In Dzongkha, jedha is used to express negative emotions. It is the only word to show our anger, pain, disappointment and frustration. In good old days perhaps our ancestors were never frustrated, angry or disappointed. So there’s no need of discovering words to describe these feelings.
 Now, unfortunately, jedha has to supplement all frustration, anger, hatred and depression that modernity has produced. Thanks to Jedha! 

Interestingly, it can be abbreviated as dha.   

This word is also used to greet friends, “Jedha! Nam hongyi tshey.” Also, we use this word to express surprise. A good example is here: “Jedha! Bum jarim dhu mey,” my friend would exclaim if I were dating a pretty girl. 

It can be also used as a “pause” word. “Khatsha, dha, nga, dha, taxi mathoba lakha tangyi, dha,” a boy would say to his friend when he has to explain that yesterday he had tough time finding a taxi.  

Very recently, I counted how many times I utter this word a day. Not surprisingly, huh, I uttered it 60 times. Once in the morning when I got up late from the bed, three times in my washroom, six times when I wear my gho, ten times when crossing traffics, 20 times to the Bhutan Telecom Ltd (slow internet and mobile network congestion), ten times to my bosses and ten times to my friends.  

My final observation, though bizarrely weird, has been that if jedha was a chanting mantra then every Bhutanese would accumulate enough merits and ascend to heaven. 

Apology: Say jedha to me if this post had terribly disgusted you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A beautiful heart

How many of you ever thought of donating your organs for other? Or have you ever come across any such person?

Let me introduce you here a 19-year old woman who is willing to donate one of her kidneys. That’s also for free! Suffice it to say, she’s doing something quite out of the extraordinary to bring difference in other’s life.

Believe it!
                                  Pic: Yewong with Executive Director of BKA

Yewong Lhasel Wangmo is her good name. A divorcee and single mother of three-year old kid, she runs her own handicraft shop in the Paro Town. She is a Bumthap.

Just a week ago, she impressed me and all the committed members of the Bhutan Kidney Association (BKA). The BKA is a public benefit non-governmental organization (will be certified very soon) founded by Mr. Tashi Namgay (Executive Director), a civil servant and kidney transplant recipient since 2005. The young single mother smsed the Executive Director (ED):
I am Yewong Lhasel Wangmo from Paro and I am 19 years old. I got your phone number from Tandin Bidha's facebook page [film actor, also committed member of BKA] and I read about the Bhutan Kidney Association. I am very proud of you guys taking such a noble initiative-a big responsibility and helping others. I am also very much interested to help others so I just want to tell you guys that if there’s any kidney failure patient with B+ve blood group, let me know. I am always ready to donate one of my kidneys.
Amongst the members of the association, a sense of awe and homage was born that contained so much to admire Yewong’s unshakable devotion to donate her organ to help other.

After a few days, all the way from Paro, Yewong arrived at Changjiji in Thimphu to meet the Executive Director to assure the association that she’s genuine and that‘d virtually guaranteed her breakthrough decision to donate her organ. After their meeting, on the BKA facebook page, the ED wrote:
Today I met a wonderful human, Yewong Lhasel Wangmo. We had tête-à-tête for an hour about the current situation of the kidney-related issues in Bhutan. She is very confident to donate one of her kidneys. She is the first Bhutanese who volunteered and came to me for organ donation. And she left a message, "If anyone needs my kidney (B+ve) then please call me".
This message of hers is heavily weighted with an inexhaustible treasure-house of compassion and divinity. Perhaps more tellingly, there hasn’t the faintest ounce of hesitation in giving away her organ. She has inherited what has been pure and noble-the hugest of sacrifice, the greatest of inspiration.

Yewong is the pioneer who has demystified a hoodoo spell of Bhutanese being very reluctant to donate our organs. Her act of bodhisattva has now undoubtedly injected in our otherwise vaingloriously obsessed minds a fair dose of helping other altruistically, even with our own body parts. Because she already knew there are many who need our excess organs.

When asked what the intent behind donating her organ is, she replies, “Till now I haven’t done anything good, so now I want to do something which makes me feel proud  and  I want to save other’s lives . I would donate my kidney for free. Peace!” Also, she always encourages other to help those underprivileged and needy. She believes she is undone and won’t be happy until she could bring difference in other’s lives.

Long live Yewong!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A narrow escape!

I will never forget the harrowing experience of last evening. I narrowly escaped from the death’s jaw! Yes, I am talking about the 6.8 magnitude naka that hit Bhutan at 6:41 PM last evening.  

Let me report you my observation and my own experience from the place I stay. I live at Motithang in Thimphu, on the sixth floor of a yellow building. That moment, I was watching a BPL football match on TV in my bedroom. Tottenham’s Luka Modric scored a goal against Liverpool. I was celebrating the score with the team when my TV started shaking so hard. Novels from my shelf started falling down. My cosmetics started rolling here and there and things in the washroom hit the floor. It’s undeniably an earthquake, I reacted immediately.

Training had taught me to crawl under the table when you are hit by the earthquake, but I have only one living room centre table, that’s also glass one. I ran out of the apartment with my sister, barefoot and the door unlocked. Forget about the things in my apartment (which I bought with my last one year’s savings), forget about my parents and beloved ones, from the sixth floor of the building I ran for my life-downstairs, toward the ground. The building shook so thunderously that I felt that the building was running over the course of a rough road, in high speed. A riotous sound of unlikely colliding building was produced. Other tenants were crying, shouting for their kids and rushing downstairs. Some were crawling downstairs as the building shook heavily.

All of us were dumbstruck, nervous and lost.

Honestly speaking, I had only one thing in my mind, which is guaranteed undoubtedly. That before I reach the ground floor I would be smashed into the building’s crashes and become a dead log in a few seconds. I didn’t apprehend exactly how I reached the ground floor when the naka stopped after 12 seconds (approximately). It means within a dozen of seconds or even less I could run from the sixth to the ground floor. If I had this pace and stamina in the Olympic then I would have broken the record of the world’s fastest track runner, Usain Bolt.

Residents were considerably relieved after they could make on the ground. Every one in Motithang stayed outside, still hesitant to move in fearing aftershocks.

A rumour had it that again there’ll be “a more dangerous naka at 8:30 PM”. All the residents of Motithang waited outside till 9 PM expecting another shock. But rumour was always rumour, a false one. Another rumour had it that there’ll be a shock at 11 PM. Though raining intermittently, we stayed outside till midnight, some under the umbrella, car owners in their cars and other under the tree shades. Most of us never returned homes, we slept outside in our cars because yet another rumour said “there will be shake again”.
But what had disappointed me so bitterly last night was not that the naka shook us. As I watched the BBS TV for information, the lousy BBS proved it lousiest character yet again. Damn, instead of covering live news on the earthquake, it was telecasting LIVE Drungtsho programme. It carried no information on its footage other than the earthquake’s magnitude and its epicenter. And the host consoled the viewers, “Don’t panic!” But what we wanted that hour is not the moral consolation from a TV host but reliable sources speaking to us whether the rumours we had are true or not. We wanted our voices and concerns (like rumour) to be heard instantly through mass media. We wanted the RJs and TV journalists to visit the panicking public and reach our concerns to the concerned authorities right away, but until last night I knew how unconcerned and unprofessional they are.

Also, the home ministry and the department of disaster management showed their sheer ineffectiveness, unprofessionalism and unpreparedness in dealing with the natural disaster. In such incident they should have monitored arm forces in the crowded areas like Motithang, the town, Changjiji and Olakha to stop people from panicking and avoiding them from moving in until aftershocks are over. They should have used the radio stations, the TV and the mobile networks in disseminating the relevant information to the panicking general public immediately.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


The essay below won me the second prize in the non-fictional essay writing competition organized by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, UNDP, and UNDEF for the celebration of the fourth International Democracy Day today: 

“Citizenship is an articulation of an inclusive political association and common culture that unites all inhabitants of diverse ethnicity, religion or race…The state is an association of citizens, all free and all have the same rights and carry respective duties.”
                          -Feliks Gross (1999), the American Sociological Humanist

The Bhutanese public was, to a large extent, primarily conservative, traditional and apolitical. Bhutan’s transition was initiated, planned and controlled solely by the Kings. There was neither external pressure from the outside world on Bhutan to democratize, nor have there been any internal demands for greater participation for the people. However, since 1998 the fourth Druk Gyalpo King Jigme Singye Wangchuk guided the country to rapid transition to democracy. Every major activity was geared towards people empowerment, decentralization and people’s participation. And in 2008, the country became a constitutional democratic monarchy.

With democracy gifted from the royals, the Bhutanese publics are bestowed with greater, newer and important rights and responsibilities to determine our own political, economical, social and cultural system. From apolitical, passive and dependant populace we are driven to active, well formed and responsible citizens.

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan was adopted and it has granted certain legal and fundamental rights to all its citizens like freedom of speech and assembly, rights to press, property rights and to one’s own religion and culture.  Also, certain social and political responsibilities have been granted such as rights to participate in the exercise of political power-whether as a voter, a candidate or public officials.

However, citizenship is more than this in a new democratic Bhutan. It is encompassed by normative principles, values and expectations that all derive from social, economical, historical and cultural context of the times. It is a higher responsibility to live united and achieve everything as one harmonious family.

On the National Day, His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk declared to the nation: “Today we have great aspirations-the peace, stability, security and sovereignty of the nation; strengthening of our new democracy; equitable socio-economic growth to achieve GNH and; nurturing our youth to one day lead a nation greatly strengthened by our hard work and commitment. To achieve all this we need trust and faith in our relationships-between the government and people; between institutions of government and; between people ourselves.” It is very clear from the National Day’s address that the concept of citizenship in a democratic Bhutan is to promote cooperative living. Individuals or groups or agencies with different interests and opinions are obliged to sit down with one another, have dialogue, negotiate and support each other.

In 2008, we elected the government which serves the people. But the citizenship role is much broader than just taking part in the democratic processes and choosing leaders to foster vibrant democracy. 

As Marina Liborakina, a Russian activist stated, “As citizens, we are responsible for how we are governed. The main issue is…to broaden citizens’ participation…especially in decision making on crucial issues of security, peace, and military.” Citizenship, thus, means a right to participate actively in public management which is of great significance for our country which is in the process of creating a modern, political and economic system. Well informed, adequately and timely consulted citizens taking part in the direct decision-making can fully contribute to sharing of responsibilities with the representatives, planning and working together.

Debating public issues, attending community meetings and petitioning the government are some other rights and responsibilities of the citizens. Public debate provides an opportunity for every individual to discuss all local issues and to critically re-examine them for the purpose of finding adequate solutions. Moreover, non-governmental organizations can assist the government offering citizens especially members of sensitive groups such as youth, women and disabled person a platform to voice their concerns and include them into the governmental process.  

Besides, social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are further facilitating the citizens’ freedom of speech. It provides accessible channels for the citizens to take active part in the governance of their country where people voice their opinions on development and raise pertinent questions for the exchange of knowledge and experience on development issues.

To define and limit the government’s power and hold them accountable, the Constitution and other constitutional bodies like the Election Commission of Bhutan and the Anti-Corruption of Bhutan are established.

In general, citizenship demands us to be concerned and to care about the world around us and then act on the problems. From nurturing our environment, protecting it from exploitations, we are to raise issues relating to negligence of underprivileged and fighting against indiscriminate and injustice in our society. We have duties and the responsibilities to care and respect for other fellow citizens, their cultures and ideas. As we love our country and abide by law, in return the state upholds its right to defend our rights.

However, citizenship is not limited to one’s country. We are also the citizens of the international community as we have been bestowed with human rights and a voice in international matters that affect us. We have responsibility to care about other citizens of the world and to have an understanding of their cultures, histories and ideas. In a global world, we live in an interconnected world with crucial transnational dimensions and it is citizens’ responsibilities to be informed on how geopolitical realities shape life today. 

In conclusion citizenship is a common culture that unites all the citizens of diverse ethnicity, gender, religion and interests where they have the same rights and respective duties to carry irrespective of who we are. Citizenship builds a strong civil society (even global) marked by harmony, understanding, cooperative living and trust to achieve our aspirations and find peace, economic prosperity and GNH.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fatal Attraction

Believe me or not, I have this untreated attraction to flowers, understandably fatal. Perhaps flowers are beautiful but its delicacy and untainted sweet scent exuded conjure my nerves so fatally. More funnier is that I had this uncivil tendency in the past...that whenever I saw beautiful flowers I couldn't help myself pushing forward to pluck it. So rude, na?

But not anymore! Seriously! And ya, to immortalize and epitomize the beautiful flowers in my grasp, I shoot the photographs of it very often. The photographed flowers remain forever fresh in my PC, unwithered, undried and unrotten. Very smart of me! Sissy!

Mind you, the below one is not an artificial rose. I had snapshot of this uniquely beautiful rose when I went out for cultural visit above Simtokha. To pluck it or not to pluck it was the sheer temptation. Lucky that I had my camera and here's the rose, Ha-ha!

  Purple is amazing colour. And if you love purple, here's this beautiful flower for you!

The season of fall, autumn has already begun; yet you can see flowers budding in Thimphu. Lo! I have this gorgeous budding flower for you: remember your childhood days when you were playing with a flower. Wild but a wonderful one. Here's this attractive flower for you! I hope it will rekindle your good old days:

A bee feeding on sunflower nectar. A perfect harmonious existence, though:

And for all of you, my wonderful readers and undoubtedly for those who are in love, here's a beautiful rose for you. A good day!