Wednesday, February 29, 2012


This is what I've been drinking since my childhood. Tongpa. Strong bangchang in it. I'm from Gelephu. In every festival or celebration, we offer our guests with tongpa. In a big celebration like wedding where there will be a huge number of guests, you'll be offered tongpa in bamboo containers.

Adding hot water in the tongpa containers:

Stock of bangchang for tongpa:

This is how bangchang is prepared during wedding:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Youth of Bhutan need their ministry

I’m a youth worker. I work with the only government organization (Department of Youth and Sports) that looks after youth concerns in Bhutan. Despite the department’s continued efforts addressing youth concerns (in collaboration with other youth-related agencies), we are, by each passing day faced with huge and more challenging youth problems. Now, I’d confess that youth problems in Bhutan have become beyond our control. And we lack both technical and manpower capacity to address the current youth concerns.   

However, let’s not forget all this. The police department and BNCA are doing all in their power to curb youth problems. The Gyalpoi Zimpoen’s Office has been initiating many youth programmes all over Bhutan to engage youth meaningfully and impart them with life skills. Other youth-related NGOs are also providing necessary facilities and services, and organizing youth programmes for our youth. 

And there are a few individuals who work altruistically for youth in Bhutan. One such person is Lam Shenphen. He gathers youth abusing drugs, provide them necessary counseling and refer them for detoxification.

Tashi Namgay, the founder of Bhutan Kidney Association, is another individual who walks extra mile for the young people of Bhutan. When I visited his place last year, I was surprised to see four young boys (drug abusers) in his house. Tashi keeps these young unemployed addicts with him, in his house, under strict supervision and counseling. There are also other dozen of recovering addicts under his care and supervision. Tashi has attached most of these young addicts as intern, volunteer and part time worker in different organizations and business firms. Some, under his guidance and supports, are gainfully employed.
But now, due to increasing social problems (disintegration of family values, divorce, rural-urban migration, westernization and materialism, negative impact of social media, availability of drugs and gang culture) in Bhutan, youth are left vulnerable, indulging in all sorts of social ills.

And only a few individuals, one youth department and a few youth-related agencies are never enough to solve the current problems of youth in Bhutan. Moreover, the ministry of education is designed more towards school education and curriculums. So looking at youth population (50 percent of Bhutan’s population) and increasing youth problems, there’s immediate requirement of Ministry of Youth (or, at least, ministry for social problems) to address youth problems. With their own ministry, youth’s problems will be addressed through multi-pronged strategies, with more trained professionals and technical resources.  
 Photos: Hiromi

Monday, February 27, 2012

The plain beauty

Gelephu has been in my heart, core of it. Always. I was born here. I was grown into adulthood here. Each time I visit Gelephu, um, I get a huge dose of memories.

But one thing that never fails to fascinate me here, in particular, is the enormously magnificent plain roads. Roads, here, are not bumpy, no “turning” where your head starts spinning, causing giddiness and after sometime puking.

If you’re on a joyride, you’d just love to crane out from the rear windows and chill out against the cool breeze. If you set out in the evening, you’d unfailingly notice the sunset (where the sun grows from a faint, into brighter, bigger and red, then into pink). And I swear you’d watch it, spellbound, until the end.  

Also, you’d see the loveliness of the Gelephu countryside. Ripening stalks of golden rice, on all sides, stretch clear for acres and acres. Herds of cattle returning to their sheds after grazing in the meadows. Areca nuts plants growing tall. Farmers, their heads padded with rumal (cloth piece) and curving sickles in their hands working in the fields.

You’d feel that there’s space and dignity for everyone here. Here, people live as all their folk do-with respect, decency and simplicity. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My return to my school

I’m returning to Norbuling MSS, ah, the school I’ve started my schooling. I studied at this school from Class 3-6. After completing my high school, a degree certificate in hand and now a dzung wokpa, I’m visiting this school after 14 years.

It’s a two-hour walk from Gelephu, and today this school (established in 1961) stands feverishly beautiful, silent. It’s on winter vacation, oh. And it still illuminates in its old glorious architecture, in its persistence grace. The saplings we had planted, then, during the national forestry days have grown into admirably handsome trees. And the areca-nut plants, around the academic building, have already started fruiting. Everything else is same-still wooden tools (with a hole in the middle) and blackboards are being used in the classrooms.

This is the school I’ve memories from when I was kid. To me, this visit is like turning the clock back. I’ll tell you, I got admission in this school not because of my age, not by my height, not by my background or connection, not by my smartness. But we had to pass the only admission rule (let’s say admission criteria). That was, ahem, my right hand over the head must touch my left ear. I could do that. WOW. And I got admitted in the school.

A hodgepodge of images as a childhood and as an adolescent has flooded into my mind. Let me tell you, the huge pouch of my school uniform, especially backside, would be always tattered. Teachers and my parents used to blame it for my carelessness, unruliness. But, um, I had blamed it for my plate (aluminum) and camel geometry box. And this is even funnier-you’d never find pencils, erasers or scales in my geometry box. Guess what, you’d only find marbles in it. Ha-ha. No matter what, this was the time (when I was in Class PP) I had a deadly crush on a beautiful girl from Class 6. It does happen, even at so young age, ha-ha. 

As I march around the school, all the old instincts come rushing again. I romp around and jump in excitement like a school kid. Then, I stop abruptly. I stand in front of the assembly ground, the spot, where I had delivered my morning speeches, my limbs shivering. Forest. Punctuality. Water. Driglam Namzhag. Aro garo. More excitingly, I reminisce about the day when I had received my life’s first prize in the inter-school art competition from the, then, Sarpang Dzongda.

I walk in a classroom, Class 3 and is greeted by a vivid memory. My class teacher was an old Dzongkha lopoen. Before he’d start his session, he used to push Nu 2 note in my hand and asked me to buy him doma from the nearby shop. And I used to dart off, scooting, brrrrrr, my hands positioning as if on clause and escalator and my legs on break. The lopoen would start his session only after I scooted back with a packet of doma.
All this memories come back, new and fresh. Not just as thoughts, but as rich and meaningful good olden times. And I sit under a barren tree, right in front of the school, taking photographs. The sun is setting, turning into red, then into pink. Under the tree, under the beautiful sunset, I bask in a delicious nostalgia. And how I wish this time would stay still. It doesn’t. But, oh, the images of memories do stay still, at least. In our imagination. In our thoughts. In our mind.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The warmth of sun

Friends, it’s time for me to return to blogging after a week-long vacation in Gelephu with my parents. And I tell you, what a time-together it was.  I hope you, too, had spent time with your beloved ones this solstice. It’s revitalizing in many ways, isn’t it?

But, today, I’m here to offer you some beautiful photographs I took while I was in Gelephu. My pictures are of suns and prayer flags against the glorious sky.

I stopped, walked toward the sun, and took this shot. It is, oh thank god, awesome.

How can you expect me to miss the beauty spread out above me in the sky?

As I took this shot, my mind was spiraling out, Milky Way style.

We feel, at times, we start missing things even before they have gone. And truly, this is the one moment!

Oh good, I realized, when you see beautiful things you think of the person you love most.

All I could do was, keep watching and shooting. 

Then, a little while on, I looked and saw the sun turned pink.  I was delighted beyond words.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spring is here, finally

There comes a time, no matter how cold, how dark, how cruel winter can get, spring would embrace us. And that time is now, that spring is here. 

Yesterday evening (all bright, barely cloudy, still all cold out in the open) while returning my home from office, I spotted a tree budding, fresh leaves sprouting. Oh! Spring is here, finally.

I was-in a word-ecstatic, ah.

I stopped abruptly, excited. Stopped right there. Branches of the tree kept dancing with the wind. And I took out my camera, took shots, one after another. Every snapshot of it, I’ve stolen in my digital lens, has appealed me, intrigued me.

Flurries of birds were wheeling around in noisy flocks as if they were welcoming spring, celebrating the warmth, the resurgence. And I, too, joined these cheerful birds in welcoming spring. I dropped to my knees, saluting its timely coming and again blessing us with warmness, beauty and love.

I offer you some photographs. Simply beautiful!!!