Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year’s Eve!

I'm driving towards my home and it's a beautiful day in Thimphu. The sky is bright blue, and the sunlight glitters and shines off the buildings and Thimchu River. And the air is icy, forceful. People, in warm clothes, walk along the street. They talk and point, and laugh together. Oh, what a joy to remember that today’s New Year’s Eve! A day to feel overwhelming gratitude for this life, and to start it all afresh, isn’t it?

As I drive, I reflect on our year (2012) thus far, all grateful and proud. And oddly, wonderfully, 2012 has been plenty good to me. It’s not always good and easy one to live with, but far more thrilling and exhilarating. It fairly glimmered with struggles, pain and wonder. But in all this, too, I discovered glory and grace.

My life was not stuffed with posh cars, high profile friends, five-star dinners and ex-country trainings, but with simplicity, ideas and words - I dare say. Each and everyday always inspired me. To live a good life. To write. And, it has taught me what love is. What humility and decency is. What laughter is. What learning and life is. It just is what it is, pretty weird, but in many ways it’s perfectly beautiful.

Many people came into my life. They left, too. But all of them have purpose in my life - the things they showed me about myself and life and the enigma of happiness. I met with failures and lost some important aspects of my life, yet I learned to let things go and accept change.

At times, I was saddened by unnecessary comparisons. But then I’d wake up in the mornings and I’m relieved and pleased with the way things are. I’m exactly where I should be. I love where I’m. I love that it is good and comfortable. And today, I’ve so much to be grateful for.
And I’m driving here. It’s all cold. The future stretches out ahead of me - on the road, in the mountains, and valley that surround me. The past is there too, but now I prefer to press forward and see all the good and beautiful things that life has to offer. After all, what’s here in front of me is all I’ve got. I decide. In front of me, I’ve another 365-day long journey.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Boxing Day images

I offer you with a few photographs that I took on Boxing Day at Taj Tashi, Thimphu. I adore Christmas, the magical feel of the period of time, when we at times revert to feeling like children, in a fairyland. Another point, mythical Santa Claus, a portly, joyous and white-bearded man, amuses me. He brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saying on the wall

We all begin,
We’ll all end,
Live now.
                -Brenda Porter

I’ve this saying up on the wall of my office. I pasted those words up there as I wanted to live my life by it. Like it or not, but I wanted to live my life the way I’ve those words on the wall. And I can’t tell you how much this saying spoke to me.
I’d look on this tiny little paper and lose myself in these words. More than just words, a voice would speak softly, beautifully - which is to say - to my heart. Because it has all the meaning of life, which is accruing and right, I had been in hunt for. It alone would give me a pause for thought and leave me with an awakening feeling. That we all born, that we all going to die. Inevitably. So, let’s allow ourselves just to be, live now.  

But it’s just not fair and funny too, how we paste up words that we want to live by and then they become background to our room, invisible. Today, I hardly even notice them anymore though they are up there, always.  
The brutal truth is that I let myself lulled into the triviality of everyday existence. The demands of life keep me away from this saying, this truth of life. Different circumstances of life make me breathlessly bitter, irritated, and bored. And I sink into the feeling of being needy, anxious, despair. I limp around so bogged down, my mind restless, my body exhausted. I failed to live, miserably though. In fact, that’s not I wanted to be.
But right now, I sit here looking up at the words on my wall, in a little bit of innocence and wonder. These words pull me back to my core and once again offer a break from the harsh and demanding world around me. In these words, I find a deep sense of comfort and grace, so freeing and beautiful.
Looking at these words, I want to take one day, one moment, at a time. Love. Laugh always. Be happy. Just live. And I’m also going to believe that in the end everything is gong to be ok. Whether you’ve realized it or not, there’s the meaning and splendor in just living. 
And as I walk this winding, up and down, happy and frustrating, path of life, I’m going to keep believing that I can live by these words on my wall. Because I know that I need this, at least for now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

(Dis)hon’ble Dasho

Today is the day I’ve been waiting all my life. This is first time I’m joining my service; yes, a civil service job as an officer. And you can’t guess how excited and proud I am. My parents and relatives are also equally happy for me. After all, the 16 years of education, one more year sitting for the civil service exams and another year for the diploma management at RIM has finally come to reward me.

I’ve my good haircut; dress in my best gho. And I schedule in time in the office. Six other mates are also placed under the same ministry. First, we meet the Chief HRO. He takes us to meet the Secretary of the ministry as it was a part of the introductory program.

We line up inside the Secretary’s chamber, holding our kabney and rachu and taking a deep bow as the Chief introduces us to the Secretary. The Secretary is seated on his jigs leather chair. Behind him, a kuthang hangs. On the table, right in front, his nameplate is placed, “Dasho……..”

He is a stocky dark man in his mid fifties, possibly late fifties. Old. Clearly an unattractive man once.

He doesn’t greet us. “You all are RIM graduates? Errm…you are placed here?” he inquires us.

“Yes la,” we respond nervously.

He looks full on our face and unleashes a loud hectoring voice, “You are nothing!” Oh my gosh, the rage instantaneously spirals him. We’re shell-shocked. We didn’t expect this, by the way. I feel that we’ve entered a realm of absurd – perhaps the Doomsday has come finally, the world’s going to end.

Our arrival maddens him? I don’t know. But a naughty thought runs over my mind, Maybe his wife would never let him sleep with her and he has to masturbate all his life.

Sorry, guys.

He uncaps his pen and shows to us, “Look at this pen!” Pointing at the pen’s nip, he barks at us, “You see this nip?” we nod, confused.

“Mind you, you’re only this nip. You still have a long way to reach the other end of this pen,” he continues, tellingly, more agitated and furious. Now I understand that he is only trying to wreak terror and demean us. And I concluded that all his life in civil service he has learned only to extract pleasure from terrorizing people.

We just feel overall disrespected, insulted, intimidated and the feelings of inferiority. Our excitement and hopes are brutally demolished. We’ve become dispirited and broken. It hurts worse. Tears begin misting in my eyes, my throat painfully choking. And I know I’ll cry, definitely.

He pushes inside his goddamned mouth a doma khamtoe. And his chin and neck abnormally swell, growing bigger than his bald head.

“Don’t ever think you are officer here. Demolish your ego. You’ve to learn from even the peons, office assistants or drivers,” his abuse continues.

We are still standing. He never asks us to sit on the divans. He stares at us, menace in his eyes, as if we fucked his wife. I say, “Jedha Jandey, shut the fuck up,” through my clenched teeth.

His voice takes on a new rhythm, “Do you know what Driglam Namzha is?” Aw, now he starts tutoring us. We nod, irritated. He keeps on saying that it’s very important to know, upgrade and never to forget the ‘precious’ Driglam Namzha.

He questions us, “You know what integrity is?”

We murmur, indifferent, “Yes la.”

“Tell me, one of you. Fast!” he demands angrily. “As a civil servant, you must inculcate this value. Else, you’re no good here,” his voice rumbles low like lightning.

I feel that I may lose my sanity living in a constant abuse and chaos. It’s sickening, you know. I dare now and look straight at his face. And I feel like throwing a much needed punch in his fucking nose to bring him back to normal.

“Corruption has no place here. Don’t ever think of doing it. If you dare, it’s genesis of nemesis of your career,” he whines. We agree with him lamely, restless too.

Huh, ‘genesis of nemesis’? What’s this? Fuck! Neither of us understands this. Wait! He explains, “It’s ‘beginning’ of the ‘end’…of your career as a civil servant.” Ha-ha! I know it sounds ludicrous but I’m not making it up, there really is such Dasho and he says all this.

He is going on, hour after hour. Just like this three hours gone, oh god. It’s very interesting, you know, when you listens to scolding for such long hours, you don’t take it anymore as scolding. You become immune to it. The terror and sadness is gone. His scolding comes to my ears like a bad rap which needs ignoring, right away. And this miserable old man, still pattering, appears to me like a headless chicken, unnecessarily raving and ranting.

After this draconian meeting, we’re to meet the Minister. But to my pleasant surprise, the Minister appears the perfect foil for the Secretary. As we walk in his chamber, we’re greeted by a beautiful smile and kind words. The Minister leans forward and shakes hands with each one of us. Some tea and snacks and he delights us with his frank talk. As we leave, he wishes us the best in our career.

Ha-ha, this is the sheer difference between a bureaucrat and elected parliamentarian (politician).

Note: One of my friends who recently joined the civil service shared this incident to me. His identity is kept incognito for some reasons.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Changa and Chuddu

Changa and Chuddu are brothers. I don’t know precisely about their whereabouts, family and relatives. Some people say that they don’t any. Always, they are seen together at Chamkhar Town in Bumthang. They always wear the world’s most beautiful smile, and are very meek, friendly.

They are very popular and adored by the people of Bumthang. People offer them with garments and foods, all day. Or, at least, a packet of chocolate and cup of tea. No one ever detested Changa and Chuddu in this community. They are, in fact, raised by the Chamkhar community. Even the school students, at the end of each academic year, give away their garments and school uniforms to these brothers. See, the gho they are wearing are the school uniforms of Jakar HSS.

I don’t know how old they are. But I can presumably tell you…50s. Maybe not. And they are partially dumb, I mean it literally. But they are not the lesser human, certainly. When I was studying at Jakar HSS from 2001 to 2004, then, I first saw these brothers. Like a pair of doves, they would walk around the Town. Never separated, disarrayed – the manifestation of what a brotherhood should be.
 I don’t know what exactly their company for each other meant. But what I could sense is that two of them are their own humanity, very small though. They murmur, exchange smiles to each other and walk so buoyantly. Like us, perhaps, they might have their own language and wisdoms (understanding the essence of life and happiness).

And the space they inhibit and loiter around is their own world. I know that they have not seen the world beyond Chamkhar. They don’t need it to, by the way. And I’m very much sure that both of them won’t get married and have their own offspring.

However, Changa and Chuddu - their names and memories - are engraved in the hearts and minds of the people of Bumthang and those who worked and studied there. After their demise, I’m very much sure that their names would be chanted and relished by people, for eternity.

Photo courtesy: Tashi Namgay 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The joy of giving

It's easier to take than to give. It's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.
                                                                                                    ― Joan Marques

I first met Ugyen Penjor last month when I visited Guru lhakhang with my two friends. He is the caretaker of this beautiful monastery (two-hour walk away from Dochula). Decked in knee-length orange and red robes, he is very humble. And tellingly, without modern education.
This monastery sits spectacularly at a high mountain, enclosed by woods and colourful prayer flags. Reached there, then we’ve become quiet, our mind at peace. The sky was just stainless, gorgeous. On my face, the fresh mountain air and steam of clouds brushed full.

We circumambulated the monastery and went inside to prostrate and say our prayers. Though small, it has magnificent interior and serenity. It is, in-a-word, heavenly.  

A few yards down the monastery, Ugyen Penjor has a small cottage home. He invited us for tea. “Come please, come,” he insisted on us, his smile beautiful. Actually, we didn’t expect this.
His little room was warmed with bukhari and he asked us to sit around the fireplace. On mats - that spread around it. He offered us tea. Meanwhile, he talked to us - softly with a bemused smile and sparkling eyes.

In a while, he brought snacks, then fruits, and again tea. I’ll tell you that the tea, snacks and fruits - all are so delicious. And once I started eating, I couldn’t stop. He-he.  Seriously! Then, he served us lunch. It’s red rice with ema datshi, ezey and fish and beef curry. It’s a luxuriously long lunch though.

I was incredibly grateful to him. Surprised, too. He gave us as if he had never exhausting foods and wealth inside his small cottage. Each time he brought us foods, it seemed to me that he had more to give. And instantly, I remembered this gorgeous saying: As you give more and more, you have more to give. And I felt it all true. It is one of life's wonderful paradoxes.
This is very strange. As he offered us foods, all I could see in his eyes was the natural outpouring of happiness. And the more he gave the happier and joyful he seemed and new richness filled his life. In fact, he was sharing with us more than his foods. His joy, love, compassion, gratitude for life, too. Yes, all that can be reaped from giving.
And there, I couldn’t help thinking of Thimphu. We’ve buildings, acres of land and savings of millions ngultrum and we drive Prado and Mercedes. Our houses fenced with cemented walls. In front, monstrous iron gates and import dogs and security guards vigilant at you.

Don’t ever expect that you’d be invited for even a cup of tea. We forgot even the merest acts of kindness. We failed to smile and utter a kind word to others. We’ve no time to give a piece of advice reassurance and a helping hand to needy people.

We’ve accumulated so much of wealth, yet we’re unhappy and desire more. Why? I don’t know the precise reason. But the basic truth about life is that when we withhold and try to get more things to fulfill our needs, we only end up feeling more empty, needy and unfulfilled.

But as I left this monastery, I looked at Ugyen Penjor and felt this keenly, this sense of reverence and awe for him. He gives freely. He loves. He dances, joyful, complete, spreading his compassion and happiness. Oh, he lives a beautiful life! Like a drop of water, it created ripples in the pond of my heart. And I walked down home ever joyful, blissful. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Changlimithang Stadium refurbished!

Here’s good news for all Bhutanese football enthusiasts! The construction of the first artificial turf, being built at the Changlimithang stadium in Thimphu, is almost complete. All works like the laying of artificial grass, stadium lights, and construction of drainage system and posts are complete. The total cost of the artificial turf, borne solely by FIFA, is US$ 900,000. Yesterday, I went there and took these pictures:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Letter from a Pemagatshelpa

This is a letter from a friend of mine who lives in Pemagatshel. Read it below how he perceives Thimphu and people here:

Hey dude,

How is the cold out there?
You know what?
I asked God to help you guys by not having to use AC in winter
And make air from His fridge flow
So that you guys can wear wollen jacket once in a year, he-he.
I hope you must be loving that.

No wonder, Thimphu is a heaven,
Geographically on high mountains,
Spiritually blessed with dzongs and other religious sites,
Financially, the Bhutan’s Wall Street.
Demographically, the populous centre,
The corridors of power.

And for the people like you
That is heaven,
If not, it truly is hell.

Regrettably, the worst kind of people live out there,
Robotic ones,
Riddled with ego as high as Sangaygang,
Pride as long as Thimchu,
Heart as cold as the weather at present.

Thimphu is truly the place for dreamers
Because dreams are broken there, if not made.
But you still have scores of gangs around
To give you solace with drugs and violence.

If you dream of power
You get to watch people in power,
With shining patangs and colourful kabneys

If you crave for wealth,
You get to watch people drive fancy cars
And constructing towering buildings.

If you wish to fly like a bird,
You still can climb the hills of Sangaygang,
Watch Thimphu City with bird's eye view
And consider oneself as a bird
But from the panting of your breath from the uphill climb

Beautiful! Beautiful!

All decorated high profile people live there deciding policies for us.
Alas! They’re those corrupts, who steal the poor’s property,
Break or manipulate the law for their benefits,
And pleasure themselves in honour of kanchi.

Despite the stereotype, not everything in Thimphu is sinful.
Relationships are taken for granted.
One day, you steal your friend’s wife or girlfriend,
Another day, he steals yours.

Folks must go to Kuenselphodrang
And fuck or get fucked
In the presence of the giant Dordenma Buddha

Because the giant Buddha's eyes can reach anywhere people think.
Why not fuck openly, right in front of Him;
After all, there’s no hiding place from Buddha's eyes

True…for amorous pursuits!

That’s life out there. Enjoy!