I understand that there is this rule, or that policy of minimum age, and that the Ministry is right to enforce it. As an educator, I also don’t contest the body of research on the benefit of a minimum age to enroll a child into a formal learning environment. However, the fact is that the cat has been let loose. How does a parent explain this drama to the five-year olds who may be looking forward to going back to the schools when they reopen next month? Can one reason out with a toddler on a government policy or on a finding from a scientific research? if you have been a parent, you know, you can’t.
My point is, at the core of this issue should be the feelings and welfare of the children. Otherwise, what is the essence of a system or rules or policies?
From my experience, both my daughters (they are big now) simply LOVED the school that they even found weekends to be boring. Everyday they looked forward to their classmates, their teachers, the dogs, the singing and the play time. I can’t imagine what psychological impact would they have had, if they were suddenly stopped from doing what they loved at their age. It would have been devastating to their psyche, their self-esteem and their dreams.
Yes, the respective parents or the guardians may be defaulted, but let’s not forget that behind those rules and policies, and the possible infringements, are some 900+ innocent children (our children) who have nothing to do with what is happening – or what has happened. Should they suffer the consequences? I don’t think they should.
I am not affected directly by this saga. But looking solely through the lenses of those 5-years olds, I hope the government and the ministry will bring out a human face on this issue and not just pull out the rule book or policies. This is a small country, after all. We are all affected. Maybe a one-time condonation order can be passed by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to regularize who are already in. And also impose a huge penalty hereafter to whoever is willfully defaulting this rule – if we are serious with it. It is just a suggestion.
The condonation principle in governance is not unusual. It is done everywhere in the world by every government in cases that are of non-criminal nature.
I feel this one merits such an exception.
Fiumicino Airport, Rome – Exactly 32 years ago, I landed here on a cold Saturday morning with a group of other Bhutanese. Sleepy and tired after a bumpy and noisy Air India overnight flight. We were on an Italian government scholarship to undergo university studies. I was 19 and spoke no word of Italian. It took us a week to reach here. Thimphu to Phuntsholing to Siliguri to Calcutta by road and then to Delhi and to Rome by air. Druk Air had only few flights per week with that small unpressurised aircraft and it happened to be monsoon when all the flights were cancelled. It was also the era when you had to collect your tickets and ‘travel permits’ from Calcutta. I really didn’t know what to expect. Or where I was going. All I had was a destination – Italy, and a dream – to make it big in my life and build for my family and my country a better place in the world.
I was poor, I was hungry (both physically – and mentally for knowledge. I still I am, for knowledge) and this wonderful country embraced me, taught me their language, fed me, clothed me and treated me like one of theirs and sent me back with an advanced university degree in engineering after 8 long years.
So, it is always an emotional return to this paese mio, although it will just be for few days. I left Italy in 1995 but it seems Italy never left me. I continue to support them in World Cups, feel passionately about what’s going on here, eat pasta, drink espresso, retain the language, and, of course, continue swearing in Italian. Porca miseria!
Italy, nonetheless, continues to reciprocate. For, every time I come back here (this is my third visit after 1995), Italy welcomes me back like my old grandmother – with love, affection and fondest of memories – not to even mention the great food and unmatched beauty. The friends I have made here are friends for life.
I will always be immensely grateful to this country and its wonderful people for playing an important part in my life.
(NB – Visiting Rome to look for some old manuscripts from Zhabdrung era (1627 circa) at the Vatican Library. The famous letters from the Jesuits, Cabral e Casela)
This study examines the phenomenon of social drinking in the small and remote community of Lamga in Athang gewog in Bhutan and it is studied through the lens of communication scholarship. The key research objective of this study is to describe the symbolic sequence of the toasting and drinking ritual and interpret the cultural meanings that ultimately help identify the sacred object of the communication ritual.
Drawing from the cultural view of communication and using the cultural discourse analysis as the methodological framework, social drinking in Bhutan can be understood as a structured sequence of symbolic acts – in which, firstly, there is the acknowledgment of non-human denizens such as wandering spirits, local deities and hungry ghosts that are believed to co-habit the same space as humans. Second, participation and performance in social drinking is a reaffirmation of the sense of community, social order and of interdependence of the various phenomena that come together at a specific place and time.
Third, it reveals the possibility of sacred time, where ordinary people’s lives are dictated by the spiritual rigour and not the clock, event or nature as expoused in the Geography of Time.
The significance of this study is that it looks at the social phenomenon from the lens of a communication scholarship. It, thus, fills a gap in, and contributes to, the sociological studies in and on Bhutan
The presentation can be downloaded from here:
The death of a student in India and the fatal bus accident that killed seven and injured dozens may be relatively small compared to bigger tragedies happening around the world. It maybe just one girl or one bus, but it is simply one too many for a small country like ours. However, as much as they are painful and they tear your hearts apart, the bitter truth is – they will keep happening more and more. Wider roads, faster vehicles and poor monitoring plus increased distractions from 3G/4G and smartphones.
They will also keep happening because we don’t learn from them. We just shrug them off with simplistic conclusions and we don’t do enough reflections and investigations on them. I am not saying that they will stop happening if we do. But I can bet there will be less of such incidents if we are bit more careful. For, investigations are not just to find who is at fault – or to start a blame game. They also provide useful recommendations as to what we can do in future to minimise such tragedies. They make us learn from our mistakes. And mistakes we would have made because nothing happens out of nothing.
Otherwise, what have we learnt from all the suicides so far? Nothing. What have we learnt from all the bus accidents so far? Nothing. What have we learnt from Wangdue Dzong fire? Nothing. This is because we close the cases too soon. We just want to bury our heads in the sand. I have no idea why we do that all the time.
It might sound like I am nagging over a spilt milk – but I hope from now on we can go beyond the prayers and butter lamps, or Facebook condolences. If we really want to honour those who are gone for no reason, we should not let their deaths be in vain – at least. There should be thorough investigations. And findings should be kept as state secrets but released through the media – so that we are informed and people become wiser. I would assume that not all the fires are from short-circuits or from butter lamps; not all bus accidents are from mechanical failures or drunk driving and not all suicides are committed by the mentally ill.
Even after the initial shocks are over and tears have dried down, and a slice of our heart is gone forever with the embers of the cremation, a question will linger in our minds: Why did that happen? Was it a suicide? Was it the boulder that pushed the bus off-road? I hope we start getting some answers.
Otherwise to quote a cliche, history will repeat to those who don’t learn from it. My apologies if I am sounding bit heartless or ominous.
Yonphola – Paro
Did my first domestic flight. It was Sunday and so even memay Dangling must have been sleeping. He didn’t throw clouds around, or mists or wind, which are typical of Yonphula.
In keeping with the local tradition, I put on my only non-gray and new gho to ensure a good tendray (auspiciousness). This is Sharchopa culture
From high above I realized two things. First, how small our country is. From high above, you can see both ends of the country from one window. And second, we still have lots of forests and unexplored land.
Ticket cost Nu. 4,800 one way. Cheaper than taking the car and doing a 2-day and 540km of roller-coaster ride. Good ground and onboard service. For someone who once took 13 days to get from Tashigang to Phuntsholing, it is rather surreal to make it to Thimphu in 30 minutes.
Suggestion to Druk Air
Have local pilots or air hostesses who can explain the places we are flying above. I could identity all the places but not many Bhutanese are familiar with our own country. On that route you can see famous places such as Dremetse, and all places along Kurichu valley, Chamkharchu valley, and Mangdechu valley, plus Phobjikha, Khotokha, Punatshangchu valley, Thimphu and all the mountains from Gangkhar Puensum till Kanchenjunga.
#bhutan #airtravel #airservice #atr72 #yonphula #airport #airfield #planes #airctafts #planespotting
I did a guest lecture for final year media students at Sherubtse College. I introduced to them one of my pioneering work in academia – the middle path journalism – a theoretical framework for the Bhutanese media. The book chapter by the same title is already used in some foreign universities as a required reading. I am glad it will also be included here from next semester.
Besides the academics, the students asked me for some advices as they complete their college life in two months time. Here is what I shared with them.
1. Learn to communicate.
As a media student you will be expected to communicate well. If you don’t, you will be doubly handicapped – as a graduate and as a media graduate. Even otherwise, in any career or in life communicating well is a prerequisite to a successful life, career and relationships. Not communicating and not knowing are the same. Make sure you are able communicate so that you can share your knowledge and take our country and humanity forward.
2. Prepare from now.
Make the most of your time left out here to start preparing for whatever you will be pursuing as a career. If you heading for the civil service, revise your maths skills because that’s where media students suffer in the BCSE test. In other sections of the exam, you should be okay. If you are going for career in media, start collecting your portfolios of photograph you took, video you made and articles you have written. This will come handy when you apply for jobs. Be ahead of your competitors in life. Don’t lazy around.
3. Take life as it comes.
Most importantly, as you move into the next phase of your life, always remember that many good thing will happen – but so will bad things. The key thing to remind yourself is not to be too sensitive or be to reactive to either and to let go both eventually. Don’t take life too seriously. Enjoy your life, have fun, cherish each moment and people you meet and above all, be open-minded on everything. Do not discriminate between jobs, or people or experiences. Take everything with an open mind. People say that things happen, and people come in your life, for a reason. I would say you find reasons and make the best of everything.
Have a long-term vision, but do what is immediately placed in front of you. Grab anything that comes your way, do as many things as possible, go see places, meet as many people.
Lastly, whatever happens, especially if you are going through hell, keep going.
I grew up looking after cows. The job entailed herding the cattle into the jungles and leaving them there to graze – while I dipped my head in books or catch crabs in the stream. As the day passed and the Sun dropped towards the horizon, it was time to regroup the cattle and head them back home. Some cows, however, would have strayed off the herd and my job was to find them in the thick forest, where quite often I would lose my way.
“If you are lost, you should go back and find your own footprints,” my grandfather would advise me. I followed him and never got lost – even once.
For over 40 years, I followed the same advice when it came to my life too. Quite often I got lost in the medley of wrong choices and decisions – and found myself in the thickets of confusions and lack of confidence to move on. So I often turned back and found my footprints – from the place and the path I followed.
Hence, it is nice to be back to where it all started for me. This is the spot, where 51 years ago, among these splendid mountains of memay Ralang, Tshong Tshongma and Serkemla, with the Vajra Dakinis (Dorji Khandum) presenting at my birth, I saw the light of the world. The auspicious nativity was however countered with the sad economic conditions at home. My family was poor, and had nothing. We lived in a one-room hut that had to be repaired with each passing storm. For much of my childhood, the piece of cloth I wore was the only one I had. I had no slippers or shoes. We scrambled for food and there was not much to be found. So my sisters and I would wait for our grandfather, who was a lay lama and was served with some meat and rice for conducting rituals and religious ceremonies in the nearby villages of Radhi and Chaling. He rarely ate his lunch and instead packed them for us at home. All along my father was away, drafted into the army, following the brief war between our neighboring countries in 1962.
Nonetheless, the extreme poverty didn’t deter us from being happy. My mother had an endless supply of jokes and songs and stories. Some, she made them up. She was extremely talented. She taught us never to blame our misfortune on someone and instead smile against any adversity – and never to lose our sense of humor. My grandfather assured us that everything was temporary and that we would one day be back to our former glory. He used to tell me how our great grandfather used to launch long pilgrimage expeditions to Tsari Rongkor in Tibet – with 30-40 horses and several servants and porters. My mother and my grandfather also kept reminding us that we are descendants of “givers from top and not receivers of alms from bottom (a Bhutanese aphorism to mean noble families who are not only wealthy but generous too) – and never to forget this fact even later in life. I was also told that one of our ancestors came from Aja and was a great yogi while our great-grandma who was still alive and living with us was an ashi from Tawang.
Today I stood here in silence for few minutes and paid tribute to my two greatest persons whose lives, characters, and optimism shaped me and my life – and the lives and the characters of all my siblings. From this ground, where three prayer flags stand today, like the wind, I fluttered away – launching my own expeditions into my own dreams and journeys. As years rolled by, I rose to positions of power and prominence. I did things that I wanted to do and achieve what I wanted to achieve. I travelled the world – and continue to do so. I have not only managed to come out of those miserable conditions but have personally helped hundreds of families to do so in distant places like Athang gewog. And of course I have tasted glory and fortune too. Yes, I have come very far. My grandpa was right. The condition we were in when we lived here was temporary.
So, in life if you are doing well, push harder. But if you are getting nowhere, just turn around. Retrace your footprints. Trace your roots. And launch yourself again. You will appreciate from where, and how far, you have come; what kind of hurdles you have crossed and how many things you have achieved in your journey called life. It will give you the confidence to move on.
For, you and only you can find your path and walk your dreams.
I spent a wonderful morning in Jakar High School today, where I was invited to give a talk to the students and teachers there.
In little over 45 minutes I was given to speak to 600+ audience, I shared my own story of how early on in my life I found my purpose (to be of service to others) and passion (media and movies) – and how everyone should find one’s life purpose to give a meaning to one’s life.
Purpose sets our direction; passion drives us
Purpose gives us a sense of direction, our principle and an ideology. Passion drives us, motivates us and gets us out of our bed. Without the two you will be wandering aimlessly. Without a greater purpose, we end up seeking happiness in the external and the material – and wait for salary raise with every new government – or get devastated, or fearful, by few audit memos.
Live in the present
One should be fully in the present moment to savour what life has to offer. That’s called mindfulness. And avoid the typical Bhutanese style of delayed enlightenment (where you enjoy moments retrospectively) or of hedonism (as if there is no tomorrow) or of nihilism (where you feel you are no one). As milay Rimpoche, we all have a purpose – otherwise Good must be stupid to throw us on Earth without one. Find your purpose and live your life meaningfully – and in the service to others – your family, friends, community and King.
The present generation, if I may characterize, seems less resilient when actually it has to be stronger than the previous generation. This is not good. If there are two things that one needs to cultivate to develop internal strength, they are empathy and attitude.
Empathy and perspective
Empathy is the ability for one to share and understand the feelings of others. This, unfortunately, seems to be lacking nowadays – especially among our public servants. Who has not walked or travelled for days to get some public service, only to be turned away at the counter by an unempathetic official.
Perspective, on the other hand, determines our relations with the social world. It guides you to make sense of whatever happens to you as you dwell in this samsara. Perspective is the space between what fate offers and how you react. As the great German psychologist, Victor Frankl, said, “between a stimulus and a response, there is a space. In that space we have the power to choose.” Unless you cultivate the right perspectives you will always make wrong choices.
So, what do you choose to be.
Life goes on
I ended my talk with my favorite line: in pursuing your passion and dreams, you will garner success. Don’t be overwhelmed by it. You will also face lots of disappointments. Fear not; for, disappointments will reveal who your true friends and family are. Cry if you must, but collect the broken pieces, smile, and learn to move on.
And whether you taste success or failures just say to yourself – life goes on. And life will most probably smile back at you.
Last week I visited the Norbuling Rigter College in Paro – accompanying a group of American businessmen who were touring Bhutan as a part of the Abroad Inc – a US-based executive education company.
While they interacted with the students, I also shared few observations plaguing our business sector. Here is an excerpt from the interactions.
1. Reinvent the Wheel – Many people ask me to suggest new business ideas while others seek my opinions on theirs. My take on this is that there is no need to absolutely invent a new product or service. In fact it is not even a good idea to start something new in Bhutan. We are not a nation of early adopters. So you can pick an old one and work on it and make it better. That’s called innovation. You can reinvent the wheel. For example, how can you improve the taxi service in Bhutan? Can you take over the water supply system in Thimphu from City Corporation? Can you do better ezays and pizzas? And so on and so forth. Look at existing businesses and see if you can do better. Actually you can, because currently our services and business outlets are really bad. Momo has not evolved since 1970s. You, as younger mind and better educated, can do better.
2. Commitment – I do lots of carpentry as hobby and for the last twenty years I have been visiting saw mills to buy sawn timbers. They would tell me to return after few hours. I drop the list of my requirements but I have no memory of any saw mill delivering anything on time. Likewise, recently it took me five reminder visits to a tailor to get two ghos stiched. Be it in the government offices or a business house, keeping commitment is a major difficulty in Bhutan. Can you keep your commitments? Can you be trusted? Can you keep your words? Can you deliver on your promises at all cost or whatever happens? If you can’t commit, nothing will work for you in your life – lesser still in business.
3. Value-added services. One dream of every Bhutanese is to earn without working. So being a middleman, receiving commissions or fronting businesses without lifting a finger are very popular. The other month I was driving up from Gedu and I came across many trucks with semi-finished wood products or potatoes going to India. I know there across the border, they work on the value-adding the products and sell them back to us at triple the price. We idiotically buy our own products that we could have done ourselves in the first place. Can you be less lazy and do the value addition here? Can you create jobs?
Having great idea is not enough but you should honour your commitments, innovate continously and stay ahead in your game. Then may be you can achieve some success in your businesses.