Thursday, February 27, 2014

Waiting for Dasho

I was a small young man with a small life. Just 19. Inexperienced, and naïve. That was many many years back. My parents were farmers (still they are) – my father worked in the fields, and mothers cooked. My village, Chuzagang, a very remote village, was a full two-hour walk from Gelephu Town. I suppose I could begin from here, an incident that had happened to me 11 years ago.
So every morning, my parents would ready my journey. They prepared breakfast and pushed Nu 10 note in my hand. Whereas, I combed my hair, dressed in fresh gho, fed on breakfast and then set out early. To Gelephu. The Dasho Dungpa’s office. To get the Dasho’s signature on a form for the identity card of my sister.   

And I had to run across several ungainly terraces of rice fields, avoid abuse from village youth, and escape dogs’ chase. Worst of all, I had to walk the infamous river, Maokhola, all alone.
At 9 in the morning, I’d reach the Dasho Dungpa’s office in Gelephu, all exhausted, drenched in sweats. The form has been reviewed by the admin assistant already. And outside the Dasho’s chamber, I waited for him to arrive and get his signature on my form.

“Dasho is in a very important meeting. He cannot come today, come tomorrow,” announced the office assistant to us. There were four of us. I made my way back home.       
The next day, again, we waited for the Dasho outside his chamber. At times, we walked in the office and asked the office staff about the Dasho. The staff who dressed rich and spoke only in English never answered us properly. They got angry, instead, disconcerted at us.
Dasho didn’t come the next day, either, nor the day after that. And soon a week went by. By then, we were over 15, waiting for the Dasho’s signature. There was nothing for us to do until the sun goes down. So we would walk down the office lane, bask in the sun, listen to each others’ stories, buy lunch in canteen, and take nap and return to waiting.

One afternoon, Dasho came to his office, donning himself in a colourful kabney. Our hope got lifted up and we ran into his chamber, in line, our forms in our hands. But he just walked out. For the record, he didn’t even look at us. Then, he drove off in a big Toyota car. We heard from others that he was going to attend his daughter’s birthday.

After a week, my parents stopped giving me pocket money – perhaps they didn’t have it. All day, I would yawn, scratch my head, hunger intruded. And as the sun set, I would run back and reach home only when the dinner was cooking. This created so much of stress even for my family. Fights broke out between my parents. 
However, next morning I would walk to the office, in a furious hope that this time, perhaps this time, the Dasho may come.

Let me tell you something about ‘waiting’. It’s so sickening, truthfully speaking. The waiting makes you furious, anxious and agitated. After sometime, it becomes a pain. It pains even if you sit, walk, talk or eat. Later, you boil, burn out – all inside. The last stage - hopelessness and apathy engulfs you. Then, you become a mechanized monster.

So I too became a monster, then, a hater. You never know, after that incident, how much I used to detest the government officials, bureaucratic system and above all, Dashos. After 10 days of painful waiting, and of course the longest 10 days of my life, I got the form signed by the Dasho.

About a decade later, I’ve become a civil servant too. When I think back on this particular incident, I often feel myself with a surge of affection and pity. But today this truly helped me understand my duties and responsibilities as a public servant. Our duty is not limited to paper works, tours, meetings and workshops, and honing skills in public speaking and making PowerPoint presentation, but way beyond that - to serve people.

Different people enter our office seeking directions and support, and helps and favors. I know that it takes your few minutes to guide or help them, but it can save their weeklong time, traveling and money.

And way advance, I wish you all a very wonderful Losar! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bhutan rises in “The Land of the Rising Sun”

Which is one country that you wish to visit in your life? And why?

I still remember writing an essay on the topic above when I was in my High School. It was 2000. My answer and my wish that I wrote in my essay was Japan. And I had one particular reason to visit this splendid country, also known to us as “The Land of the Rising Sun”, to see and understand its economic miracle.  
So after 13 years, this boyhood wish of mine has been eventually fulfilled. I got an opportunity to visit Japan in 2013 and there I traveled and stayed in several cities and prefectures.

I found everything in Japan incredibly grand and advanced. With over 127 million of population, it is home to the world’s largest and technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronics, machine tools, ships and processed foods. 

This country takes huge pride in acclaiming itself as the world leader in fundamental scientific research. Moreover, it is the world's third largest donor of official development assistance, of which Bhutan too is the beneficiary.

Everything in the country is perfectly organized and clean - from the streets to the planning and policymaking. The motor vehicles don’t honk, and people don’t spit on the floors and walls. They respect your time, the elderly, and seniority.

But what surprised me the most was to know how hugely popular “King Jigme” and Bhutan in Japan. You just can’t believe me. In fact, it’s the Japanese love for my King and Bhutan that got me writing this post. And I’m very proud to write and post it on 34th birth anniversary of our King.
One afternoon, I visited the Asakusa Kannon Temple in Tokyo with other Bhutanese fellows. I was wearing my gho and a badge (the picture of my King and Queen) attached on the gho. After sometime, at the temple, I knew that all people were staring at me and my Bhutanese fellows.

I was surprised, felt awkward too. For it’s the first time in my life that I was gaining so much of attention, that’s also in a foreign soil.  Many just murmured amongst themselves, others kept staring at me. And some followed and approached me.  

“You Bhuutaan…aah…happiness?” they inquired me. I nodded, nervously. And their face, instantaneously, glowed in all bright smiles.

After that they spotted the badge on my gho. They pointed at it and exclaimed, “Aah, King Jigme!” They recognized my King in the badge. There was so much joy in their voice, in their reaction.
Then, they called out their friends to have a look at the badge and to talk to me. As they looked at my badge, they jumped in sheer excitement and ecstasy, some even clapping their hands. And they kept uttering repeatedly, “King Jigme”.

In another occasion, we visited the Kasai Water Reclaimation Centre. There, I came across Mr. Abiko who followed me the entire day and he talked in incredible details about Bhutan which simply astounded me. 
With Mr. Abiko
“I save money to go to Bhutan. Happiness country. And to meet King Jigme and Queen,” he told me in one moment, his eyes teary, and added, “It’s my last wish.”  It touched me so much that even I wanted to cry. 

Wherever you travel to Japan, any Bhutanese would receive different treatment. Even in the busyness of life, they come forward to talk to you. You are priority, you are respected. And you would walk your head held high.
In 2011, our King and Queen visited Japan. This is the time when our King and Queen touched their lives - the people of the world’s most developed country.  This is something unbelievable. Their love and respect for our King and Queen is so huge that I can’t bring myself to put it into words. Moreover, it’s far beyond my understanding. But to know this, to feel this in Japan, my heart swelled with pride and I was moved to tears.

So on this joyous occasion, on 34th birth anniversary of my King, I pay all my reverence and love for what His Majesty had done for us - your citizens and country. I wish His Majesty a long life and keep inspiring people all around the world to become a good human being.  

Picture courtesy: 3rd and 5th pictures downloaded from Pema (Queen of Bhutan) 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The strength of young men

I came to office, this afternoon, to complete my pending work. Once I started working in the office, I felt how cold Thimphu has been of late. No clothes and room heaters were keeping us warm. It’s bone chilling and exhausting.

The entire Thimphu valley has been engulfed in dark clouds, and the cold it fetched to us was very harsh and uncomfortable, the kind that you really don’t like. And this cold gets into your bones, straightaway, and makes your whole body ache severely.

And here, in my office, instead of working, I stood up praying the rain or snow to fall outright and wash away all this clouds and cold. This is the time when I started hearing, opposite my office, children screaming and shouting, “Punakha gi Nya-goe! Nya-goe! Nya-goe!”
I craned out my head from the window, and watched what was happening outside. Out in the ground, a group of 15 children was cheering up for their friend who was pulling a pair of motor tyres. Yes, this is exact replication of Nya-goe Dendhur, the competition for the strongest man that BBSC organizes.  
It took a little moment to think about going outside to watch this competition. There were nine young contenders for the competition. Each contender has been named as Punakha gi Nya-goe, Mongar gi Nya-goe… according to their dzongkhags.
The contenders 
The competition has four different rounds (first round, quarter, semi and the final). In each round, the contenders have to go through four different stages of weightlifting and pulling the tyres. I was surprised to see this competition so well organized.      
I was even more amazed to see that all the contenders were taking the competition very seriously. They fought with great passion, that for a moment, I wondered they can even beat me like the way they beat the cold weather.
So I announced them I’m going to provide prize for the winner, Nya-goe. After that, they took the competition way more seriously. It’s wonderful to see them fighting for the competition, created by themselves, and delighting in it. They cheered up for each other; meanwhile, they have gathered a huge crowd of spectators.
Nyagoe Jr. with the prize
Finally, we saw the winner of the competition, Druk Gi Nya-goe. He completed his final task in 33 seconds. As promised, I gave the winner a small prize. I urged them to keep practising the Nya-goe Dendhur. We never know, one day in the future, after 15 to 20 years, these kids would be representing their respective dzongkhags in the real Nya-goe Dendhur.   
As I returned office to continue my work, the sky slowly cleared the dark clouds. After almost a week, I saw a glimpse of the sun, oh god, I feel good. 

Dear readers, stay warm and happy weekend! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Let’s read, and change the way we live

As all things do, the cold winter here in Thimphu is almost instantly over. The snow fallen, the winter vacation all done. And it simply excites me to embrace, back again, the warm Thimphu, the one that’s generously pleasant and beautiful.    

This means that I can go out on walk frequently, attend social activities and shoot more pictures. And quite hopefully, I can write my blog more vigorously and get treat to read wonderful stories from you too.

So on this pleasant day, let me share this particular story of my life with you; for I believe that you can relate to me, my story. When my parents first sent me to the school, they had in their minds that his son would learn to read and write and become an important person in his life.

They wanted that his son was not going to grow up illiterate like them. So I attended schools and learned how to read and write. It opened my eyes; I’ve become a literate person. 

To them, my parents, to make me literate mean that other people won’t be able to cheat me. Because that I would be able to read, write, and do maths calculation. Read the notice and boards when I have to travel. Read and write application and letters. Above all, I would get to work in the government office.   

That’s all.

Last month, back in my village, I was reading a book outside at the courtyard of my house. A fellow-villager who passed by looked at me in surprise. It’s not because that I was there, but I was reading the book.

“At this age…when you’ve already finished studying…and doing job now, eh!” he talked to me, confused, and asked, “Why you read book?”      

I wanted to answer him right away, and tell him so many things. But I just smiled at him, and continued reading.

The truth is that in the Bhutanese way of life, generally, reading ends once you complete your studies. And writing is limited to writing letters, application and other necessary documents. Perhaps this mentality in us that the reading habit amongst is very low, and we keep passing it on to next generation.
So our generation really needs to break this cycle. That education is not limited to school and college, but it walks with you until your last breath. That from this pleasant spring season, let’s buy books and start reading so that our children follow us.

And a very Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Standing near, being close

This year’s January is a month of relatively happy times. For me, and my family members. More eloquently, it’s the month of family, of reunion, of joy and celebrations. By the way, we are over 40. My father married two wives, my mothers. Altogether, we are 11 siblings. Most already got married and have kids, and some still are single. All of us are spread in different places - working, married off and studying.

So when you’ve a giant family like mine, it’s always very difficult for all of you to get together. However, this winter, all of us met in our village, after many many years. It’s the family reunion, to put it precisely.   
I don’t know about you, but spending time with my family members and beloved ones close by is simply transformative and wonderful. It’s truly a blessing.

In our family get-together, in the month of last January, we spent our time together creating loads of stories and memories that I’m sure we will cherish and laugh for decades.

We made memories in small, loving bites - one memory at a time. That we went out for outdoor picnic, that we played together, that we helped each other in the fields, that we attended to family rituals, that we drank and danced hysterically, that we shared our laughter limitlessly.

And when something good happened, no matter how small, we celebrated it. This is how we built a legacy - a legacy of my family and village that we were born into and what we can preserve and pass it down. 
Also, we nudged on each other, argued at times and bothered sometimes. But it’s ok because it’s part of being close and caring for each other. In fact, we are part of each other’s lives and the protectors. We’re always there (in our prayers too) if some of us are about to slip.

We all know that this world is very fragile. So much unexpected things can happen in our life, anytime. No one can apprehend it. Ever. When my own beloved ones are close by, standing near, I feel safe and happy. More importantly, we are sacrificing our time for our parents and family members that are so very important in our life.