Monday, March 12, 2012

Once upon a time in Kanglung

Kanglung, intuitively, has become engraved in my heart and mind. And to those who studied at Sherubtse College. I know it makes you giddy with pride and delight, just to utter that you studied here. Because you’ve tons of photos, memories, experiences, friends-all beautiful. All this make you feel nostalgic, no?

I studied in Kanglung from 2005 to 2007. Each time I leaf through my photo album or meet my mates of Sherubtse, I reminisce about Kanglung, of those golden days. In those days, Kanglung was a strange world. Even mysterious, affluent. Away from the urbanity, the college stood forlorn, secluded from the real world and it had continued to be metaphor for fairy land. Obviously a rich and happy land.

A jumbo gate, in front of the college, stood majestically and would gracefully greet newcomers and guests. The monstrous dorms in the campus constituted its ancient glory. The huge, gothic windows were an obvious testimonial for its oldness and persistence grace.

Its inhabitants were young, innocent and tender, yet passionate and determined. The challenges and sufferings of the real world were unheard and unknown here. They lived in a mere perception that life is beautiful. Just beautiful! And they lived to make merry. Nothing more. Above all, to be happy was their maxim. No menacing covetousness and greed ever pervaded and distracted them from this beautiful existence. 

Girls of this land were all strong and beautiful. And virtuous. Tall, slim, well-spoken. They maintained their hair long, straightened, silky, well-perfumed. Boys were, mostly, decent and clean. Their gho well-ironed and they wore it short, above their knee. Their shoes polished, always shining. They kept their hair long-perhaps idolizing the rock stars. They’d speak in accented English. And no wonder, in ramp-walk style, they walked.

Everything in Kanglung was timeless. Its inhabitants never ran after time and the deadlines. Even the assignment submission deadlines and presentation dates could be unarguably postponed. A college boy would patiently wait for months (or even years) for his dream girl to “accept” his proposal. And he’d wait for hours outside her degree hostel-out in the cold, under monsoon rain and sun-just to take her out for date or dinner. For, his girlfriend had to apply her mascara and compact and hairdo. And timelessness here was best demonstrated by the college’s clock tower that remained dead, all time. 

The Sherubtseans were all country-song lovers. John Denver’s,
Country Roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

And Don Williams’,
My heart is out of control
This ole love struck soul
Just lives for the moment you’re around
When I hold on to you
It is all I can do just to keep my feet on the ground
Desperately, Loving you desperately

These songs, you’d hear them singing all time. From morning to midnight. From their washrooms, laundry to classrooms, while in date and at the dining hall and auditorium stage.

Kanglung, in its aloofness, had its own culture and traditions. Rich and ever-flourishing. Each department would welcome their fresher with luxurious party-songs, dances and, yeah, drinks. And the farewell party would be arranged for the outgoing students. The second and first year students would arrange foods, drinks and gifts for the graduating students and wish them good luck in their future.

It had blind date in the beginning of each academic year. Notorious though. Each fresher girl would be fixed with the senior boy and the fresher boy with senior girl. A serious, draconic notification on the college notice board read,
No fresher would be spared. Attendance will be taken and the absentees will be seriously dealt, ragged.
Even the ugliest would be forced into blind date. And this is even more interesting. The seniors always prayed the blind date day would rain. They’d ready an umbrella each in advance. And of course condoms too. When rain, their date would be more close, intimate and affectionate. Two people under one umbrella. Hand-in-hand. Down towards the Kissing-Point or uphill Khangma, they walked whispering eternal love notes. Golden rice fields stretched luminously for acres and acres on all sides. Oh, how romantic!

If both desire for each other, they’d fix another date. And when they pair up, they’d throw a lavish party, called patch-up party. This is one custom, typical one, of Kanglung’s matrimonial institution. And this blind date was no obscene, but a ritual of courting or arranged marriage in Kanglung’s culture, terms. 

Kanglung had their own terminologies, which only the Sherubtseans could speak and understand. If they saw a beautiful girl or good looking boy, they shouted, “Scope!” It meant she or he has room for partner (unlike economical scope). ‘Hawa’ means worthless, ugly. For instance, they’d say, “This year’s fresher girls are all hawa.” But “hawa” was also meant to express disgust, hatred and insignificance. “Hawa date.” “Hawa lecture”. “Hawa lunch.” “Hawa condom.”

Other frequently used words are ‘jigs’, ‘heavy’, ‘solid’ and ‘mercy’. Most of these words are to do with looks and physiques of people. For a hot and gorgeous girl, they said, “Jigs bumo.” Or even “Heavy bumo”, “Mercy girl”. Though a well-built man was called “Heavy”, again “Heavy” and “Mercy” were used to express admiration and satisfaction. They’d say, “Heavy painting”, “Heavy asom juice,” or “He speaks heavy” or “She is mercy hot” or “I kissed her mercy”.

The juniors held high respect for their seniors. They addressed their seniors, “Acho” and “Asim”. And the seniors would equally treat them with love, kindness and support. The relationship between the students and lecturers was very sacred. The students revered them, looked up to them as their own parents. The college’s mutual relationship with its community was beyond everything. The Sherubtseans helped building houses for the poor farmers and keeping their water streams clean. Also, they taught English language to the monks of Kanglung Jangdopelri and the Jangdopelri helped performing annual rimdro at the college.

Without interference from the dzongkhag administration or from the capital, Sherubtse was entirely independent and blissful. There was no crime or fraud in this land, so there was never need of police force to discipline its inhabitants. And way before Bhutan transformed into democracy, Sherubtse had been functioning as a democratic land. The president, secretary, department secretaries, degree-hostel councilors and the class representatives for the FINA (Forum for International and National Awareness), a Union body, had been elected through the franchise system (voting) for good governance in the college administration and management.

And today, after five years from my college, I still sing those country songs and dance in reminiscences. I still say, “Hawa” when my bosses anger me or traffic irritates me, “Heavy” when I have good things. So, it’s about to lunchtime, have your lunch mercy!
                                                              Pic: My classmates (girls)

Photo courtesy: Ngawang Phuntsho; Sonam Pelden


  1. Once upon a time in Kanglung (nice caption)

    while reading ur post i was thinking abt the other issues concerning the college of lately. But u haven't tried to touch that topic. m refering especially to the media report. Hoping u'll do justice to this article in ur next post. m waiting for ur other series Once upon a time in Kanglung: the other side of the story.

    Btn nice reading. its alys refreshing to remember all those days.

  2. I have always wondered whether "the patch-up relationship" was true or just a rumor that people make. But reading your article, I think that the rumor was true and indeed, the freshers were treated 'mercy'

    What's with you? Did you date any new and fresh students coming to Sherubtse? OR where you sent to date an unknown girl by the seniors? Hmmm, you got to share this.

    Sherubtse is a lovely place, Rikku sir!

    1. yes those were definalty the goldens lucky was me n my batch that i dint have senoir like u hahahhahah and we were save form ragging ....:P but we felt we missed one of most intresting part if it defianlty na.......Yeesi yes he was called by his senoir girl for date or walk n he run away to tashignag rite sir.....hahha :) missing u shercol....:)

  3. Now everything is banned. Only we can do n folow ur footstep is 2 shout 'scope' 'scope' la.

  4. Omg... I loved this article. So subtle and beautifully portrayed. I lived at Kanglung for 8 yrs and my mom was professor in Goegraphy department at sherubtse (Dr Anita Shukla). So I have innumerable fond memories of the place n yr article made me go from Aww, wow, oops, yayyy, omg... And lots more. I can only Thank you for writing this so preciously. And btw, yes 13 yrs back when I left Kanglung, my best friend sang this song , country roads for me n it's the closest song till date for me. :) Thank you once again

    1. Thank you so much for the comment. Hope those memories of Kanglung would remain with you forever.