Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Setting the right precedent?

The picture below I took during the DPT's first convention meeting at YDF, Thimphu on April 28, 2013. More than a hundred of cars (mostly the big ones) of DPT members and supporters were parked and lined up from the Swimming pool until Changangkha.

The other day, this man, Tshering Tobgay, the former Opposition Leader, handed over his official vehicle. He justified that the country’s economic was in a bad shape and buying a new set of cars for the next elected Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Speaker, the Chairman of the National Council, and the Opposition Leader would cost our government huge.  

And now, we see a huge outcry from the DPT supporters and the general public about it. Is it about setting the right precedent for our future policymakers? Does this mean “misuse of political authority” on DPT government’s part? Or is it a political game as our country nears the next elections?

Only time will tell.

Note: Second photo: BBS.

Friday, April 26, 2013

On walking

I’ve been waiting since a very long hour. Also, I was praying - earnestly though - this rain to stop. So that I’d take a walk in my neighborhood. It’s only in the early evening that the downpour was done. The grey clouds were pulled back on the mountaintops. And Thimphu valley appeared starkly beautiful, clear, fresh - after the rain.

I slipped on my fuzzy slippers, and instantaneously ventured out on a walk. As I walked, I was greeted by the brilliant green leaves of the trees, raindrops sprinkling on them. The flowers, on both sides of the footpath I walked, were blooming to their fullest. Summer was abundant, everywhere. Oh, how much I admired it! 
A little over a handful minutes of walking, I reached a tiny hamlet, perched on a gorgeous hill. A few huts, scattered over the hill, honorably owned the hill. Each hut was all surrounded by small gardens of potato and maize. It’s a peaceful place, even dogs here didn’t bark at you. The peasants were gracefully weeding and digging their gardens for the new cultivation.
I came across a middle-aged woman. Seated on a wooden tool, at her courtyard, she was reading a non-formal education textbook. I smiled at her. She looked me full in the face and smiled back, shy. And she continued reading, keenly. Deep inside her shy smile, I saw her insatiable determination to learn, read and write. Yes, even at this old age.    

I was genuinely humbled by this village, by its simplicity and beauty. Immediately, I removed my slippers. And I walked barefoot on the footpath, on soil that was slightly muddied by the rain. Ah, I loved this feeling of my feet on soil. It felt so good, so natural. It’s been so long that I didn’t walk barefoot. Like this.  
Continuing the walk, I came across a bunch of young nuns stuffing themselves on ice creams. As soon as they saw me, they hid their ice creams. “Taking ice creams la?” I asked them just out of courtesy. They giggled and gave out a small laugh, shy - their eyes all glittering. Then, I met a group of boys playing soccer on an open ground. I joined them and played this beautiful game - sweating, laughing. So much joy and fun.
I returned home, feeling elated and deep at peace. This simple solitude walk and noticing minute things taught me the power of opening my eyes and it fed my soul. Simple thing has the capacity to work magic. Only if you let it happen. 

Note: I took these pictures on my phone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

No women elected in the NC Elections 2013

                                          Pic: Two women contestants of Zhemgang lost to Pema Dakpa

It’s quite surprising. Not a single woman was elected on the National Council Election 2013 poll day yesterday. It means that the National Council Parliament will not have any elected women representatives.

It worries me, and I hope same to you. Will this undermine the voices of women? I feel that women’s representation in the parliamentary is utmost important because over 50 percent of the total population in Bhutan is women. Moreover, our women need many of their issues and expectations be addressed and met. Empowering them is another desired need.

Out of 67 Candidates who contested in the National Council Elections 2013, five were women. Now it calls for greater participation of women in the elections and policy making. Women need to come out of their “comfort zone”, be courageous, take risk and participate in the elections. Only through political participation,  you can achieve what you want to call “women empowerment” and “gender equality”.    

However, there’s one last hope for women - that our His Majesty the King has power to elect five more members of parliament in the NC. I hope HM’s decision would solve this problem. 

For the NC Elections result, link here: http://www.kuenselonline.com/ncresults/index.php

Friday, April 19, 2013

Casting vote based on my mother’s recommendation

This morning, I received a phone call from my mother. All my parents live in a beautiful village called Chuzargang in Sarpang. It’s two-hour walk from Gelephu town.

But this is quite unusual of my mother. She asked me which National Council candidate was on my mind to cast on my vote for. I replied her, reflecting hard, “I haven’t yet decided on it. I am still thinking over it.” Three days to the 2013 NC Election, and here I couldn’t decide my vote.

There are five aspiring NC candidates contesting from my dzongkhag. That’s all what I know. I had never expected that I would be so poor in making the choice of my NC candidate this year. I don’t know much about them - their aspirations and manifestoes. I haven’t met them in person, too.

I read about them on newspapers, about their CVs and manifestoes. But I can’t really make up my mind to vote based on these materials. The brutal truth is that I missed the debate of the NC candidates contesting from Sarpang dzongkhag.

I blame myself for this because I was in a meeting that evening. But I too blame the ECB and BBS TV for the poor show management. Due to lots of distractions in between the debates, the shows have become way longer and inconveniencing for viewers.

I know that to understand the strengths of each contesting candidate, to make informed decisions and vote for the right candidate is imperative. But it’s also the duty of the ECB and other relevant agencies to facilitate and advocate better participation of general public in the politics.

My mother continued, “Vote for…That person is really good.” So here, I’m casting my vote based on my mother’s recommendation.

Photo courtesy: BBS

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear Seday

I’m covering a book here – a gorgeous book by dear Bhutanese friend, Ugyen Gyeltshen. Dear Seday. The title of this book says it all - it’s a novella written in the epistolary style. To my surprise, the entire book is one letter. This letter, yes, this book astoundingly chronicles the author’s remotest memoirs, his delicious childhood days.   

Should you wish to read this book, I drop a few more lines here. Its narration though. Nadola, 32, is the protagonist in the story. He works as a road supervisor at Thrumshingla Pass. It’s “pouring rain” one day and the road gets blocked.

On that day, at that moment, he sees Seday, his high school sweetheart, inside a car stranded on the roadblock. By the way, he hasn’t met her for the past 15 years. It makes him jump in the rain. And instantaneously, he starts writing a letter to her.

He tells his readers that this letter “should have been written fifteen years ago.” It hits you with a fresh curiosity. Why he didn’t write it before? What has happened in their love? How they separated? Does he still yearn for her love? Many questions roll on your head, and this would urge you to turn pages of this book one by one until you know what happens to the last word on the last page.   

And his letter to Seday is this gorgeous book, Dear Seday!

As Nadola writes the letter, the book moves slowly, sumptuously, across the terrain of different places and time – his life’s journey that he has travelled in the last 15 years. And everything in the past unfurls. It takes you back to 15 years of time in a lovely place of the Khaling countryside in eastern Bhutan where Nadola is born and raised. Through his story, the book depicts the typical Bhutanese life in the rural farms and the difficulties of rural parents to send their children to school.

You would be brilliantly amazed at the way Ugyen Gyeltshen could remember and write down all his childhood and school memories. This is, indeed, a strange talent. He brings flashbacking everything; moreover, he has woven all that together beautifully, humorously. His first encounter with television. Nicknaming teachers. Night hunting. Digging in girls’ garbage. Befriending school cook for foods. His crush on Seday.   

Let me tell you one more thing. His words are full of bluntness, straight and punctuated with honesty in this raw and beautiful book. You’d feel like you’re listening to one of your best buddies. So much of his book reminds me of what was my childhood. It seemed to me that I was reliving my childhood life once again. And the story he narrates becomes a part of mine too.

This book is more than a love letter to Seday. It’s also about the change of time - from adolescent to man, from remote to urban, from being naïve to facing the reality, from being young and shy to growing old and truth-telling.

Final words. I almost can’t tell you more about this book than ‘read it’. I will tell you why. Because Nadola, the main character of the book, is so humble and dear to us that you would simply accompany him to the end.

About author: Ugyen Gyeltshen is an engineer by profession. Today, he is happily married. His second book is almost complete, and will be launched very soon. He is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TukuliKnow more about Dear Seday: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dear-Seday

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alcohol problem in Bhutan

Yesterday when I was going through my pictures that I took in the last one year I was quite surprised.  I have taken pictures of these people. All of them were drunk, lying in the Thimphu Street. And here Sonam Jatso has rightly pointed out:

"We need to deal with alcohol problem in our country soon. It is destroying our people—our families, our youth, our children, and our society. I hope and pray that the next government—elected leaders and parliamentarians—takes this up on a top priority."  


Note: The last two pictures were taken by Sonam Jatso and Tashi Namgay respectively.                                                                                                                 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Liebster Award

I say a very deep and heartfelt thank you to Kathleen Kenna for recognizing and nominating my blog on the Liebster Award (http://stateofgrateful.wordpress.com/category/liebster-award/). And here, I’m overwhelmingly excited to answer thoughtful 11 questions that you posed for me. However, today, I’m going to answer only one of them. My answer is:

1. Why were you inspired to begin blogging?

My parents were illiterate. So to speak. My siblings were not widely read, not book smart. In short, I was brought up in a family (locality too) where the importance of literature was not known. It’s never encouraged though. But this passion of writing has been there in me, from then, since very young.

Who or what inspired me writing? How? I don’t know. More aptly, I don’t remember. Perhaps - my friends or my teachers or those books I read, or my resilient imagination. Maybe the locality – its simplicity, beauty and vigour - where I grew up. Or, it could be all.

To add one more thing - I’d scribble on everything. Always. Either on a piece of torn paper. On tree leaves. On walls. On floors. On tables. In my note books. Everything. Everywhere. I’d write down anything that comes out of my mind. The truth is that I was a shy young boy, an introvert. And this is how I talked, expressed myself and interacted with the world around me. Scribbling. Writing down.

Unlike other kids, I always used to pay a huge respect to all kinds of literary materials. I kept letters, school magazines, newspapers, books, autograph books, cards, diaries – all in my tiny wooden box. And I could do anything to protect them. I had never let them be used for wrapping doma. Even not let them plastered on the walls. It’s quite strange for my parents and siblings.

In school days, besides writing love letters for my friends, I’d contribute articles for the school magazines. And how thrilled was I to see my own articles published there. My parents couldn’t read, yet I’d run with the magazine to them, all happy, and unfold it to show my articles.

My mother would give a glance at it and smile back at me, proud. But my father would take the magazine from me and try reading it. Curious. He’d mumble a few first sentences, give up reading it and return the magazine to me. One day, he told me (I still remember his words), “Congratulations son! Keep writing…you can become lyonpo in future.” 

Back in my village, those days, our parents couldn’t wish more than their children becoming a civil servant, a minister too. Typical of my village though. My father’s wish was no exception. But deep inside me, I wanted to become a different person in life. I always wanted to live a humble life - reading lots of books and honing the skills of writing. Nothing more.

However, the year 2008 was the biggest crossroad of my life. My passion for writing even impeded in the job that I wanted to take up. In one hand, I wanted to join a good and secure job (civil service). On the other hand, I’ve this passion to protect and hone. I was – in a word – confused.

It’s absolutely for this passion that I joined a newspaper as a journalist. It did serve my passion, I was happy. Coz I was writing. And more importantly, writing for my living. But after a little over a year later, I quit the newspaper and decided to join the civil service. I don’t know why I did that. Sometimes, everything is just not fair. Isn’t it?

I regretted and grieved a lot over this decision. At that moment, at least. Because I thought it’d be the end of the thing I loved most – my passion for writing. And then, for better or worse (of course, it is for the better) I joined the civil service. This new job only asked me to do official write-ups, correspondence and implementing programs and projects. No creative writing. I was sad.

Two months into the civil service, July 2010, this blog was born. There are scores of people to thank for this. My friends. My colleagues. And a handful of Bhutanese bloggers. For their support, inspiration. Of course this blog lifted back my spirits immensely.

It’s been almost three years that I’ve been blogging; also working as a civil servant. Now I learned that anywhere I can practise this healthy act of writing – be it in the journalism, civil service, my village, school, college. Even as a kid, as a lover, as an adult, as a loner, as a humble person, as a novice thinker.

Today, at 29, I’m just a naïve writer still learning how to write. I’m still learning how to put everything into words. And I take out my camera out there, anywhere, and take pictures. Because at times my digital lens tell the stories better than my words. I feel what I’m doing is right for me. This is what I wanted in my life – a humble life and pursuing my passion of writing.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tulip in Bhutan

It’s a beautiful day, today, in Thimphu. A bright day. A few patches of clouds that scatter above the valley hide the sun. I ran towards my office, this morning, like always. But oh, I spotted tulips blooming in a garden above the road at Changangkha that I walk on.

You can never guess how much I love this flower. They are open, striking red, and have delighted me with its exotic colours of glory. They really are the flowers of spring. The truth is that I didn’t expect Bhutanese people grow tulips here. Also, I didn’t know tulips would grow in Bhutan, that’s also in a garden, out in the open. I only heard about the tulip known as ‘Queen of Bhutan’ which was a gift by the Bhutan+partners to Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan on the occasion of the Royal wedding in October 2011.

I took out my camera, marched above the road, and try taking its pictures. The garden is well fenced. I tried jumping over the fence, but a dog barked at me. I was scared. After hearing the dog’s bark, a beautiful woman sprinted out of the house. I looked back at her, gesturing that I loved her flowers and taking the pictures. She smiled back at me. Leaning over the fence, I took a few shots of the tulips.