Sunday, December 29, 2013

A born painter

More than 410 youth have been attending Winter Youth Program in Thimphu. And this kid, presumably 3 years old, is the youngest member of the program. Deliciously cute, he attends the Painting Class everyday.

Yesterday I walked in the Painting Class to observe it, and surprisingly I spotted this kid in the painting room.

I inquired the painting teacher. “He is a member, and attends the class regularly,” the teacher replied me, adding, “Everyday he sneaks into the Painting Class with his elder siblings.”

Little annoyed, I asked the teacher to send him back home. Because we take in the program only those youth and children between ages of 10 to 24 and this kid is too young.

As soon as this kid heard me, he furiously ran towards a corner of the room. And he started scribbling on a shit of paper with his pencil, doing his paintings. I went close to him; he ignored me and kept himself absolutely occupied in his paintings.
With his mates
I continued watching at him. And this time, at his paintings, more curiously. The way he moves his little brush, the way he concentrates, the way he curls his mouth, and the way he dresses the white paper with paints ran me all speechless.

It’s quite inspiring to know that, even without proper schooling and master, he has been gripped by the painting passion. And the way he ignored me and occupied himself with the images of objects in front of him is truly his calling to be a great painter.

As I looked at his paintings, more closer, he was not only painting what he has in front of him, but was also expressing what he sees inside himself, his thoughts, his calling. He is a born painter!  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Singing “Norwegian Wood” in Tokyo

I visited Japan last summer, for the first time, and I considered myself lucky. We’ve all heard much about this country - the land of the rising sun - famous and hallowed and grand.
Long before, this incredible nation stole my heart. That time I read a gorgeous novel. “Memoirs of a Geisha”. By Arthur Golden. This book largely talks the magical art of a geisha and her struggling, but I chose to adore the sensual description of beautiful landscapes of Kyoto and Tyoko and their social values and integrity.

More importantly, I’ve learnt so many other things about Japan (especially Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe) from Haruki Murakami, the creator of about a dozen of masterpiece books like that of my favorites, “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle”. I fell in love with Haruki and his beautiful country, Japan. And ever since I wanted visit this country, embrace it, experience wonderful moments.

So in Japan, last summer, I travelled around and stayed in Chiba, Yokohama, Tokyo and Asakusa. I was absolutely fascinated by the edgy, stylish and high-street conformity of these cities, which is to tell you, the ultimate shopping mecca. The people very gorgeous, the streets perfectly organized and clean, and the technology unbelievably advanced.    
I walked many roads, ran across a sea, passed through parks, met many people and dined in several ethnic restaurants. Noticing everywhere, and feeling everything.

All this reminded me something, deep inside, remotely familiar. And I nervously felt that I’ve walked those roads, felt the touch of the wind, the smell of summer, heard the sound of the sea, and tasted those foods. Already.  

I had realized, then, that how much a book can impact readers. Because all this that I read in the books, wonderful books by Haruki and Arthur. Reading a good book is amazing, and travelling to that place is truly the second visit. Believe me. 

One fine morning, I sat in a park near the Sky Tree in Tokyo drinking pepsi that I bought from the vending machine. The Sky Tree, the park, the summer air, and the people walking by instantaneously reminded some lines from Haruki’s masterpiece, “Norwegian Wood”.

“I sat here for a long time, watching…people passing… This was an early summer day. The people we passed carried their jumpers or jackets over their shoulders or in the arms. Everyone looked happy in the warm Sunday afternoon sun.”
It buoyed me so much to do and experience exactly what this wonderful writer wrote in his book. And immediately, I asked a passerby about Haruki and his address. I couldn’t meet him, but I knew where he stays in Tokyo. 
It rained on my last night out there, not so heavy though. I ordered a cocktail in my hotel room. As I sipped on it, I watched the endless rain beyond the window pouring down over the city lights. It looked mesmerizing. The cocktail and the summer rain intoxicated me, and urged me to sing a song, the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”,

                                   I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
                                   She showed me her room, isn't it good, norwegian wood?
                                   She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
                                   So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Norzin Lam Street

This is a very recent, and of course, strange development taking place in Thimphu. You simply have to walk down the Norzin Lam Street, opposite Etho Metho Plaza. 9 pm onwards. There, you can see an unusual crowd of about a hundred people. Men and women. Young and old. All. And you would just scratch your head, get yourself into a wondering. 
“What’s going on here at this hour? It’s already midnight,” that’s my reaction when I first saw it.   

So you go closer. Now you can see them drinking, munching, gobbling. Laughing too. At the lane’s side, about 30 people line up. Around them, they have thermo flasks, containers and pots. Yes, they sell hot drinks and snacks. Tea. Porridge. Puri. Momo…lots other.  

Let me explain to you that it’s mostly the partygoers who herd here, at the Norzin Lam Street. It’s quite strange that even after guzzling oodles of whisky and cocktails in the nightclubs, they still have to graze here for cup of hot tea and porridge. 

The office goers too flock here, after working late in their offices. Now this place has become so hugely popular amongst the partygoers and late night office goers. 

To add one more thing, this place is perfectly peaceful, very well-organized. You can even see the night patrolling and traffic policemen sipping tea and porridge here in perfect harmony - perhaps as sheyra for them. And quite wondrously, you don’t hear residents nearby complaining about it.

At the lane, in the crowd, you can also come across a small boy selling thukpa and tea. And he timidly shouts at you, “Lopoen, thukpa, thukpa! Hot suja also!” 
He is a class three student of Zilukha LSS in Thimphu, that’s what he told me. At 9 pm, every weekend and Wednesday, he comes here to do his business. 

“My parents prepare for me this porridge and tea,” he answered me as he poured porridge in a plastic cup for me. 

He charged me Nu 20 for it. He told me that he usually stays until 3 am in the morning and his earning ranges from Nu 300 to Nu 500 a night. It’s, definitely, unsafe for a young boy to work in such an environment, at odd hours. 

As you walk back home, you would hope that the Department of Trade, Thimphu Thromde and all other relevant agencies come up with a strategic plan for this group of hawkers and minor. You would wish that they be not booted out, like what had happened in the past, but consulted properly and provided adequate support to make them resourceful entrepreneurs.   

Monday, December 2, 2013

On my King’s birthday

This is one blog post that I’ve been writing, and also artfully avoiding. I’ve shoved it aside for too long, for so many years. The truth is, my dear reader, this is hard to freely write because I can never quite shake the guilt that’s coming when I write it. Every time, I hesitated. However, for the better or worse, today I dare to write this story, for you only. I hope that you would find pleasure reading it. So, I go here.
The year was 2001. In Bumthang. I was, then, a class nine student of Jakar HSS. And this incident happened in this particular year, in that very place. More aptly, it’s November 11, the day when our beloved fourth King was born. It was the hugest occasion in Bhutan, where the entire nation would splendidly celebrate the His Majesty’s birthday.

In Bumthang too, on that day, we were marking the 46th birth anniversary of our beloved King. All the students and teachers of Jakar HSS gathered in a football ground of Chamkhar. Also, thousands of the civil servants, farmers and business community of Bumthang joined us in celebrating the day.
It was a brilliant and beautiful morning, I still remember. In every one of us, there was a huge excitement and festive feeling. In the ground, we spread in four different houses, in neat sethra uniforms. Each house had two lines (one each for boys and girls). The captains, holding banners upright, stood in front of their own house. As usual, I stood at the back, end of the line.

We were waiting for our Chief Guest, a high official from Thimphu, to grace the occasion. Our hands and ears turned as cold as ice as the winter in Jakar was extremely cold, bone chilling. After almost one hour, the Chief Guest arrived. Everyone was alerted.

The event began, one hour late, with the marching ceremony. At the backside, we were concocting plan to guzzle the chang, fermented wheat, after the event.        

Then, our Chief Guest, an old man, began his speech. No apology for late his arrival, though. Another hour had just passed, and for the record, there was no sign of his speech’s end. A few girls fainted cold, and were taken back to the hostel.
We all cursed that old man for his never-ending insignificant speech; more curse on his late arrival. In a while, our stomach started to grumble due to insufficient breakfast. We went on cursing, this time, on our school principal. For, he didn’t treat us with milk tea and boiled eggs in the breakfast. For, he didn’t arrange any meat curries for the lunch that day.

I got very frustrated, aggravated and snappy. I yelled, “What the hell with all this today? This damn Chief Guest. Fucking principal. Stale black tea. Kewa curry. Does it mean that our King is not going to live long?”

Actually I had no idea what I was really even saying, and I couldn’t believe my own ears. I didn’t mean to say it exactly. In fact, my choice of words is to blame. But this is one thing that I should never be saying, by any means, anyhow.

Before I could take back my words, a tall boy abruptly broke his line and started to charge on me. He was known to us by his nickname, Fucking Asshole. Even the teachers called him by this name. For he always used it everywhere, for everything.    

Mad and furious, he attacked me, “You fucking asshole, how dare you say that? ‘Our King is not going to live long’? I will break your arse, fucking asshole!”   

A loud sound began to erupt as we engaged in a heated argument. The Chief Guest was still blabbering, and in the ground there and back, we entered into a dreadful fist fight. Everyone turned their eyes towards two of us, the old man’s speech completely ignored.

We kept on fighting, exchanging incessant blows and kicks. But I don’t remember now for how long. When we stopped, the speech had ended, and the program already over. After that, we returned to our hostels; we had our lunch, the same kharang and kewa curry. 

Late night that day, when I was about to sleep in the hostel, Fucking Asshole busted in my room. He was drunk. Perhaps he should be. There was menace in his eyes; fury radiating from his body. He slumped towards me, pulled off my blankets, and confronted me again.  
I was thoroughly headhunted. And in the dead of night, we involved in another fracas, this time more brutal, loud. My room stirred up with terror; the roommates nervous. 

As we fought, he stammered and choked on his words, “You…fucking ass…hole, nooow I’m surely going to kill you.”

Eventually, I realized my mistake and admitted it. I gave up fighting back with him, and let the shower of punches and kicks fall on me. I got mercilessly beaten up and pain inflicted. As Fucking Asshole left the room, I stood in my room like a hunted animal, bursting into terrified tears.

Today, after a decade, I still carry this incident with me, and the guilt clinging. But as I am about to complete writing this story, right now, tears flooded my eyes yet again. This time what brought me to tears is Fucking Asshole’s exceedingly patriotic soul, his bravery, protection and love for our King. As I cry here, as I drop this tear, as I finally completed writing this story for you, I’ve realized one thing: my heart lighter, my guilt cleansed. 

Photo courtesy: googlesearch