Gup-drep Samten – a tribute to an icon

There comes in your life people who simply humble you with their knowledge, wisdom and eloquence – no matter who you are or how old you get. Gup-drep Samten, was one such man. Every word that he spoke, every story he told and every piece of advice he gave, were loaded with well-situated wisdoms and age-old traditions transcending the time and space. It is trait that I have rarely seen in an ordinary man. He never uttered more than what was required. And when he did, it was like he had an autocorrect software and thesaurus in his brain that edited every word that came out of him.

I first met Gup-drep Samten when I was researching on the legends and folktales of Punakha Dzong. His name was recommended by just everyone that I had asked around. The year was 2003 and I was directing the BBS production of the grand consecration of newly-renovated Punakha Dzong. I spent few hours interviewing him on the oral history of the great monument.

As years rolled by, I came to know his whole family through various associations of work and spiritual pursuits – plus a Sharchokpa-style relation when one of my distant nieces married his youngest son. For some time now he considered me as a part of the family. This new arrangement laid out more chances to go over to his place where I would just sit and listen to his wonderful stories and legends – of two rivers falling in love, of mermaids lumbering timbers towards Punakha Dzong and the myth of the giant meteor stuck near Punakha bridge. He also shared events of his life that had happened half a century earlier – with the finest details of a 4K high-definition camera.

However, all those knowledge and wisdom were not what made him a go-to-guy in Punakha valley. For me, it was his human side. It was the life he dedicated to the public service, which made him popular. Although he had no western education, he served as gup (county head) for seven tenures when there was no monthly salary as such. In his heyday, he was one of the first Bhutanese to be featured in US-based PBS TV documentary, Man of the People. He was also a pious man – donating part of his annual rice harvest to the monk body of Punakha Dzong for over 60 years. His genuine and selfless altruism – to go an extra mile to help anyone, made him a very special person. There is not a single adult person in Punakha district who didn’t know him.

My favourite story of his empathetic deeds, though, comes from another region – from the Oleps of Athang Rukha, a place in the Black Mountains and people that I have been associated with as a social worker for over ten years. The locals there narrates how they got their land as kidu from His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

It was the Year of the Dog (circa 1982) and two years had passed since we were not allowed to hunt or do tseri (shifting cultivation). We have been hunters-gatherers living off the forest since the time we existed.

We spotted this vast land left fallow in Rukha. We were told by the people of the neighbouring village of Athang that if we appealed to the King, we might be granted to settle here. So, our parents – six of them, went to Thimphu to try for the land.

After they approached the Gyalpoi Zimpoen (Chamberlain to the King), they were told that a No-Objection letter was required from the Central Monastic Body, as part of the land was their tsamdro (grazing land). So, our parents proceeded to Punakha.

When they were wandering around the Punakha Dzong not knowing where to go, a man approached them and enquired. Our parents told him that they were going to see the heads of the Monk Body – and gave him the reason. The man was shocked to see their conditions. They were neither dressed properly nor had a written application to be submitted to the Zhung Dratshang (Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs) – or carried anything with them as gifts. So, he said, “You cannot approach the lopen-zhib (the four Council members) in this condition. First, you need a written application (zutsi), and then some offerings of gifts. And you need kabney (ceremonial scarf) to enter the Dzong. If you go just swinging your arms. You will be shooed away at the entrance gate itself.”

Our parents were dazed and didn’t know what to do. They had literally come out of jungle and had no idea of such worldly decorum. Finding them totally confused, the man went again, “Don’t worry. I will help you. By the way, I am Gup Samten.”

He then took our parents to his house, fed them and hosted them for few days. Meanwhile, he wrote the application, borrowed kabneys for them and prepared gifts and presents on their behalf for the members of the Council. Then he led them to see the Dorji Lopen (vice-Abbot of Bhutan) and the other lopens – one after another – and got them to issue the no-objection letter. Then he prepared another application to His Majesty the King who gracefully granted the land.

After I heard this story from the people of Athang Rukha, my respects for Gup-drep Samten increased even further. Here was a true public servant, who didn’t think twice before going out of his way to help someone. It enhanced my confidence to help others without expecting anything back. 

Gup-drep Samten passed away peacefully – in his home town of Punakha near the Great Palace of Eternal Bliss (Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang) where he once served as Nyerchen-tsab (head of stores and finance). He was 88. Hundreds of people poured in – recounting stories such as the one above.

Days after the news of his death reached Athang Rukha, a group comprising of the sons and grandsons of those six men, travelled to Punakha to pay respects to him. This time they made sure to dress well and bring gifts too – of rice, vegetable, fruits, sugar cane, and whatever their land – which he helped get, produced. And the land on which they now have a home for some 22 households.

I have no doubt that this time Gup-drep Samten would have been pleased to see them – and not shocked.


Gup-drep means ‘former gup’ (county head), a title which stuck with him because of his association with that position 





Cultural identity

I am sharing a page from the book, Portrait of a Leader by Meiko Nishimizu, that has a compilation and some commentaries on the royal edits of the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

This page pertains to a Kasho (royal decree) issued in 1985.

While more than 30 years have passed, the topic of cultural identity will linger forever because culture itself changes bringing new opportunities as well as new issues and challenges. In other words, culture is not defined or cast in stone. This makes defining the cultural identity a moving target. Cultural identity is an unfinished business. In fact it will never be.

So this edict is timeless and I hope it will help to remind ourselves, reflect on it from time to time and discuss it.


Education quality may not have decayed but…..

Quality of education in Bhutan may or may not have decayed. Without a credible research from an independent organization, anything that we say will remain as just opinions. Assuming that the quality hasn’t gone down, it is still a problem. Because the world has moved forward, while the education system hasn’t. Thus, the net result is that there is a gap. The education system is not capable of addressing the current needs. For example, some of the knowledge and skills needed now are things like social entrepreneurship, risk-taking, versatility, creativity and innovation. None of these are taught in schools – and not even as extracurricular activities. This is of course not to discredit the existing system from which we have derived benefits from. The point is, the next generation won’t benefit like we did.

I am fishing an old article from my previous blog that I wrote almost 10 years. In these ten years not much has happened and there lies the problem: our love for the status-quo, which is the source of all our woes.

Time for a paradigm shift in education?

Quality of education has been debated ad nauseam for years now but the recent article by the education minister and the debate in the parliament have made me interested on the issue again. Simply because it is a subject that concerns us all. I must admit that I am not an educationist but I feel obliged to join and contribute to the discussion. Quality of education stirs such a lively debate that even my uneducated father has strong views on the issue.

But what does ‘quality of education’ really mean? I think the debate starts from trying to give a definition. Is it the ability to read, write and speak English correctly? Or can it be equated to quality of teachers, school infrastructure or pass-percentages of board exams? Or is it simply the employability factor? Unless we know what we are debating, unless we define the problem, I am afraid we may never find the solution.

The first task, therefore, is to define what quality of education is. We should also be mindful that quality of education does not just depend on teachers, schools, students or the ministry. It is the result of active partnership between all those plus parents, the community and the whole government. We should also be careful to distinguish quality of ‘teachers’ and quality of ‘teaching’. One does not necessarily imply the other. Awaiting the definition of quality of education, one could say that through good education, the citizenry will be able to lead a healthy and productive life and contribute to nation-building. And hence the second question – how can our education system enable students to lead an active, dignified and contented life in this fast-changing and ever more competitive world?

While the general perception is that the quality of education has declined in Bhutan, my own view is that it is the level of competition that has gone up drastically. The net effect is of course the same. Our youngsters today are unprepared to face new realities. And where we might have certainly failed is perhaps in recognising years ago that there was the need to balance the traditional system of learning, the new requirements of the labour market and the much wider range of pupils entering the system. This would have meant restructuring and redirecting our secondary and tertiary education, introducing flexible and varied curricula, enhancing teacher’s knowledge and skills, updating learning materials and introducing modern information and communication technology. But we continued, and continue, to be generic while at the same time talking about mismatch between demand and supply.

There is no doubt that our education system worked perfectly for my generation and for the ones before because we were fast-forwarded to quickly fill-up the Civil Service. However, the curriculum that was relevant then may not be relevant today. Our examination system continue to decimate students and create more “dropouts” than successful ones (refer to an earlier article I wrote on this). Hence, to say that we were better than today’s students is totally misplaced because no one actually checked our overall competence when we were drafted into our jobs. There was such a shortage of qualified Bhutanese that heads of departments would be present in the RCSC office to grab us like how we grab gas cylinders during monsoon months. But as the civil service got saturated and the private and corporate sectors demanded specialised skills, high motivational level, good working attitude, communication skills and hard work, our education system was then caught off-guard.

Education goes way beyond simple “reading, writing and speaking”. These constitute what we call “qualification” and not “education” as such. Education comes from the Latin “educare” which means “to lead out or to bring out” the inner potential of pupils. An educated person is not simply a person with class XII or a university degree. It is a person with knowledge, and with the ability to apply that knowledge thoughtfully and wisely. Does our present education system prepare our youth with these skills? I don’t think so. Because let’s face it. Our education system is largely drawn from the British Raj which was designed to produce clerks and administrators for the British Empire. But while even the Indian education system has evolved, ours has remained virtually static. Our children continue to learn everything by ‘rote’ without understanding its application in the real World; questions remain the prerogative of teachers, and curiosity, critical thinking and inquisitiveness are slammed as being a nuisance. Of course then our children will not have the zeal to learn nor do our youngsters the zeal to succeed. “I don’t want anyone working for me for more than ten years.” I keep telling my young colleagues, “You will have to run your own company by then.” I am afraid they don’t understand what I am talking about.

The education minister has rightly stated that the quality of education cannot be any better or worse than quality of teachers. But in my opinion it can be both better and worse, depending on the structure in which the teacher works. Where exactly is the problem then? In two areas. First, in the bureaucratization of the education system. Education is a specialised field and our current bureaucratic structure no longer works today because, many a times, critical decisions are being made somewhere and by someone totally extraneous to ground realities. Not to talk about good educationists leaving for other attractive positions in the Civil Service. A paradigm shift with the education system that is independent and less hierarchical, organised into multi-disciplinary groups may perhaps launch Bhutan into a better future. The role of the government should then be to set the standards, monitor the quality and provide continuous dialogue between the society and the education system so that there is no more that infamous “mismatch”.

Second, the motivation level of the teachers is at an all-time low. In my extensive travels around our beautiful country, I have met many who are committed but are demoralised, overworked and forgotten. My documentary “School Among Glaciers” was in fact dedicated to them. What happens then is that we may have “good” teachers but “poor” quality of teaching. Teachers are no longer even respected by the society – a stark contradiction for a Mahayana Buddhist country which has thrived on the lama-loma (master-disciple) tradition. The paradigm shift could address this problem because issues like incentives, professional enhancements and support materials can be tackled within the system and not by an external body or individual that is oblivious to the needs and problems facing the teaching cadre. A teacher will then be a teacher who can say with pride “I am a teacher” and not an ordinary grade 8 or 9 officer in the Civil Service.

Generally in Bhutan, I realise that it is not that we don’t know what to do. It is more often that we don’t do what needs to be done. I am sure many solutions would have been thrown and paradigms shifts proposed in plenty. To raise the quality of our education system requires action, not complacency. I may be forgiven for saying this – but if our education system fails; we will fail as a nation. The good news is that we have recognised as a problem. The bad news is – we have along way to go. But this a country where everything is possible, if we want to.

(also published in Bhutan Times, 27 Jan issue, under the Opinion page)

Hello hydropower, it’s me again

I have written extensively about this topic in the past. But since this is an ongoing public discourse of great national importance, let me throw myself in the ring again.

I am aware that this is also a sensitive topic – in some sense. But I assure everyone that what I express here is out of genuine concern as a citizen – and I do with no vested interest or political affiliation or biases. Besides, I am not doing to maliciously hurt those who are at forefront of this ‘accelerated’ development – or to downplay the works of hundreds of engineers and workers who, at times, are risking their lives working inside the tunnels or on top of dangerous ridges. I am only providing another perspective to the discussion.

For a start, I am not a hard-core environmentalist who is against any kind of exploitation of natural resources. I feel Mother Earth can, and should, sustain our reasonable needs but not our greed – to paraphrase Gandhi. I often joke with my environmentalist friends that for them Bhutan is a forest with some people living in it. I also speak as someone with some knowledge of this field. My first degree is in electrical engineering and I interned for a month in Chukha Project during its final construction phase. The current MoE Secretary, Dasho Yeshey Wangdi and his assistant, Sigay Dorji, were my line supervisors. So I have also worn a safety helmet and have seen people die or get injured down there. In later decades, I documented the entire construction phase of Tala Project for BBS TV as a documentary producer-anchor for BBS TV.

In this article, I will situate my arguments with all these direct experiences and contextualise within the larger areas of public policy, technology and human resource development.

  1. Let technology catch up. As an electrical engineer, my biggest concern is what kind of technology is being implemented in our on-going mega projects. For instance, simple things like, what are the efficiencies of the machines that are being installed? As I write this, newer technological advancements are occurring in the field of power engineering that are more efficient, lighter, smaller, cheaper and more durable. In other words, for the same investment we get more power. How about that we wait a little longer for these technologies to be rolled out into the market? Or should we risk being stuck for generations with less-efficient turbines and transformers – bolted inside our hills and mountains?
  2. Let our people catch up. Most of our mega projects are done on turn-key basis except the ones built by Druk Green (Actually the way to go is how we are doing with Druk Green. Smaller ones and within our means). Turn-key projects were necessary in the past. Chukha and Tala were done with that model. I bow to that. But now, with growing number of young Bhutanese engineers and technicians going unemployed, how about that we build our financial capacity first and then do these projects on our own? Again – slowly. That way, we not only build things on our own, we can also give jobs to our youth and we can become world-class in hydro-engineering and help other countries to build theirs? Too wild a dream? Well, actually, we are already doing that in other fields. In my frequent travels in and out with Druk Air, I meet lots of Bhutanese professionals working for UN and other international organisations who are building other developing countries such as those in Africa and in the Middle East. My own former technical colleagues from BBS built radio and TV stations in South Sudan and East Timor. If we give ourselves some time and opportunities, we can be donors and builders too.
  3. Let’s hear what Chukha Plant has to say. Hydropower plants do not last for eternity. Yup, they have an expiry date. The dams, especially, will last between 60 to 100 years. Not more. So, to think that money will keep flowing for perpetuity is totally a false promise. Once the expiry date is over, we need to blast off those dams and tunnels and build new ones. Chukha’s expiry date will be anywhere between 2046 to 2086. That’s just 22 years from now. In political terms, just four elections away. Time flies. Mind you. We have already had 3 elections. And 2008 seems yesterday. So, won’t it a good idea to wait what does Chukha whispers in our ears and then proceed? If it is worth it to build so many projects. Can we learn a little more from Chukha? I would. In the US and in UK, dams built in the 1960s have been removed to everyone’s delight. They don’t intend to rebuild them again. There is more to water than just producing electricity and one report claims that the governments there have been “blindsided by the prospect of cheap electricity without taking into account the full environmental and social costs of these installations.” Why are we rushing into a territory from where others are running away?
  4. Let’s focus on human power and not just hydropower. Having taught Bhutanese students (at Sherubtse and in RTC) and, now, also students from many other countries, I can affirm one thing with great pride – Bhutanese students are no less than any other nationalities. We can do anything that others can do and be what we want to be. We don’t have to only invoke our water God to save us or to take our country forward into the future. We don’t have to envy anyone doing great things. We don’t have to put all our money and minds in hydropower. There is an immense human power that lay untapped in Bhutanese youth and people. I already mentioned that some of the technicians and engineers I worked with in BBS were in high demand by the UN. Some of our best minds are (unfortunately) building things in other countries because back home we fail to realise their potentials. Even our babysitters in New York are in greater demand than the Filipinos who dominated the industry until now. So then, can we also start recognising human power and not just hydropower as our natural resources?

I have more points and arguments on this topic. I didn’t even bring up the topic of us sitting on the seismic zone 5 (the highest), or the contentious issue of financing modality and rising national debt, or the diminishing power market – and above all, the environmental impact. But I will stop here and let the above ideas and concerns sink in.

The reason that this whole accelerated hydropower thing has become so unpalatable in recent years is that, it is coming at the expense of all other sectors – in terms of direct investments. I may sound bit apocalyptic but this doesn’t look good at all. We are drowning ourselves in our own self-made oversized dreams – mentally, politically, culturally and financially. And I am not saying it now with the wisdom of the hindsight after what’s happened with PHPA I. I have been ranting since 2013 when I was teaching in Sherubtse and PHPA II had, back then, not even taken off. 

And I really hope that I am wrong in all my assessments.



Time to heal?

The long electoral campaign of 2018 is behind us. The winners have been declared and everyone involved have gracefully accepted the results. Or so it seems, living far away from the scene. However, I might point out that the scars of the bitter campaign will remain no matter what. And political parties, whether they intended it or not, are responsible for the communal divisions, which were inexistent before 2008.

Still, the issue here is not to say who was right or who was wrong. We can never fully establish that. It would boil down to another chicken-and-egg story. The dominant public discourse now should rather be to mend broken friendships, and heal divided communities before the next election comes to town.

In Italy, and in several countries that I know of, including India, the ruling party often concedes the post of the deputy speaker, and even the speaker, to the Opposition Party. It has been done as a part of reconciliation efforts by political parties. Every democracy faces the brunt of ugly campaigns and no one wants to see a divided country. It is impossible to govern one in that state – to begin with.

Perhaps this is something that we might want to look at. 

DNT’s convincing win has meant, many things to many people. What I haven’t seen or read is yet another perspective. And there can be many. We are all entitled to them. Among other reasons as to why the Bhutanese people voted them in, is perhaps that we are bit tired of this divisive politics planted by the two old parties – for ten years now. The bickering never seemed to end. Across the country, there is actually the subconscious yearning for the “good” old days and a sense of nostalgia that perhaps someone outside the Parliament could restore some communal harmony and the national unity.

I may be wrong. But still, it won’t hurt if the DNT offers to establish a tradition of healing – after an election – at this embryonic stage of our democracy. There is no need to follow the winner-takes-it-all dictum.

And in any case, may our nation heal. 


Two years down, few more to go

It’s been little more than two years since I started off my PhD program here in Macau. One book chapter, two years, three awards, four papers and five international conferences later, I am more than happy, satisfied and honoured to be here. Really.

Will always be grateful to the University of Macau (UMac) for hosting me as I establish myself firmly in my third career as an academic – despite not being a spring chicken. The best thing about UMac is the beautiful campus, generous research facilities and a fantastic library (behind me).

Life is pretty simple out here – juggling between classrooms, dorm and library where I read loads of, and write some, academic papers plus theories and research methods, on topics ranging from social media, sociolinguistics, mass media and buddhist communication – all on Bhutan. And travel to academic conferences around the world where my papers are rigorously reviewed and accepted.

Why Bhutan? And why should the world care? Bhutan presents an interesting research site for for being the last country to enter into romance with social media and technology. Understanding what’s happening there will help the social scientific community to explain and theorise the influences on a society. Hopefully that would be our big contribution to the field.


Traveling tips

Over the years I have perfected the art of air travels. Here are some tips from my long experience spanning 30 years, 35 airlines and 34 countries. 😎😎😎

BAGS – Travel light, which, of course, is impossible for many – especially Bhutanese. Avoid checked-in luggage. Seriously. They get lost or damaged. Sometimes you lose your connecting flights too. Traveling with a carry-on is possible. I once travelled for a month in Europe with a carry on, a suit bag and a backpack.

As for your laptops, opt for a backpack instead of the shoulder bag. It is more comfortable and better for your back – especially if you add papers, battery packs, tablets, books, notebooks, stationery etc. like i do.

DRESS WELL – Meaning no shorts, tee shirts or flip-flops – especially if you are travelling for official trips and conferences. You don’t want to give a bad impression to your hosts. Don’t overdress lest you feel uncomfortable. For me, a shirt works just fine. Jeans are best for traveling. They never look dirty. Slip-in shoes are a must – with many airports requiring you to take them out during security checks. Besides, as soon as you get on board, you can throw them away and be more comfortable and put them back on easily.

At times dressing well earns you a seat upgrade to business class if the flight is oversold. Yes, they judge the book by the cover (read as good looks in my case 😜😜😜).


WEAR A SCARF. On long flights, it gets freezing cold up there at 39,000 feet. And add to that the germs-filled cabins you breathe in for tens of hours. You need to protect your throat and neck. Catching cough and cold would be a disaster if you have to speak at your destination. Mind you, it is easy to fall sick from a plane journey. And it is not a nice experience.

You can use the scarf to cover your nose in case the cabin stinks. Not all airlines are Singapore or Cathy Pacific. Some really stink like a public toilet.

GET A NECK POUCH. You can slip in your phone, wallet and passport. When rushing to the airports or pulling them out over and over again at the security, customs and taxis, they can be easily misplaced. For an absent-minded guy like me who keeps forgetting things everywhere, this is a lifesaver.

YOUR EARPHONES. The headphones (and the blankets) that the airlines provide are rarely washed or disinfected, it seems. Be safe. Don’t forget your personal earphones and don’t forget to use them instead of the ones supplied on board. Likewise, your tray table has more germs than a toilet seat. Carry an antibacterial hand-wipe to clean the tray table and the armrest before you start using it.

AISLE SEAT PLEASE. If you have chronic backache like me, flights longer than 3 hours is a torture. Choose an aisle seat so that you can get up and stretch whenever you want – without disturbing others.

LAST AND MOST IMPORTANT. Enjoy the journey, cherish the moment, talk to others, make new friends – even on board, be helpful to strangers. And make a good use of every opportunity by doing your best and letting one journey lead you to the next. Trust me. It works.

Don’t be in a haste to get to your destination. Savour the journey. Cherish the process.

Few of my publications

This is or students and educators in media, communication and sociology.
Here are some links to books and journal papers that I have published plus some recent news articles on middle path journalism, all of which might be of interest to you since there aren’t many in this field.
Sourcing and referencing are the biggest hurdles in doing any kind of studies in and on Bhutan – especially in social science. At the very least, hope these help you to expand your bibliography and save you from over-referencing of one or two sources. 🙋‍♂️🙋‍♂️🙋‍♂️

Dreams and power of imagination

I gave a talk titled, My Childhood Dreams and Role Models, to a group of youths brought together by the Bhutan Sharing & Loving Youth (BSLY) and Generation Y. The message that I wanted to drive hone was the importance of having dreams and role models, and working towards one’s dreams. As parents, I am sure it is extremely frustrating when your children have no dreams, no ambitions and no directions in life. 

I also touched upon the the power of imagination and empathy. Here are some extracts from the talk.

“Growing up, I was a restless kid with multiple dreams and corresponding role models. I wanted to fight like Bruce Lee, sing like Kishore Kumar and Engelbert Humperdinck, play football like Pele, become a pilot and fly to Moon like Neil Armstrong and look cool like Clint Eastwood. I was serious with my dreams too. I did Karate and Kungfu in college – before a shoulder injury forced me out of it. My dream to become a pilot went down when Druk Air didn’t even accept my enquiry – let alone an application. As for football, I barely made it to the college team. In short, I have failed to achieve most of my childhood dreams – except may be become a filmmaker just as Clint did.

Was it all worth then? Can we still dream even when we know that we won’t be achieving them? Yes, of course. Let me  also add that as humans, I believe, that the day you stop dreaming is the day you die. To merely exist without a dream is to wander around like a zombie.

If life is journey, dreams are your maps – and role models, your companion.

The greatest beauty about having dreams and failing is that in trying to achieve those dreams, you gather rich skills and experiences that will be useful in other life’s endeavours. Kungfu and soccer gave me a physique that would sustain my professional life as an engineer – trekking to high mountains to build radio and TV stations. Later as a filmmaker I managed to travel to every corner of our country to document places and people. I endured physically demanding walks and works. My flying-to-the-Moon dream, on the other hand, made me fearless of any feats or challenges that normally would be considered impossible. I ventured into the untrodden path – never even doubting my abilities or achieving the targets. Thus, came things like FM radio networks and Bhutan’s first TV channel, which I spearheaded into our once Forbidden Kingdom. Plus I won international awards for documentaries – the first Bhutanese to do and show the way.

Of the several childhood dreams and fascinations, though, I must say that the filmmaker’s dream has been the one that, as I start growing old, is increasingly becoming the most valuable. Not only did I quit a successful engineering career and became a documentary filmmaker but becoming a movie addict as a child opened my world to the power of imagination and creativity. This power, which is either not present or suppressed in our education system, is an important skill. For me it has led to the power of empathy. We need empathy, and more empathy, in this world that is getting cruel by the day.

Basically the power of empathy or imagination is the power to put yourself in the shoes of someone whose life may not be as fortunate as yours.

It is the power that makes you a good human being. The power that drives you to keep striving for a better world. This power served me well when I started volunteering for Tarayana in Athang Rukha in 2007. I continue to be involved in the Olep people even now and we are building the second community temple in Lamga – after we have successfully made them sufficient in food and necessities. For all the imaginative power and empathy that I have developed and have made good use of it, I can only thank one of my childhood role models, Clint Eastwood, for it.

Just as the power of imagination is vital in life, an unimaginative mind can be dangerous and destructive. That’s why people in the government make draconian rules and later rescind them when something unexpected, unimagined and unwanted developments pop up. With some sense of faint  imagination these mishaps can be prevented.

Lastly, disappointments and rejections. (I touched on this topic in the wake of the growing suicide among youth.)  

I know disappointments are hard to handle – especially for a populace that is always on ego swings. There is a general misconception that the country, we have today, has become worse. While my generation often romanticize OUR time and good ole let me tell you that we have had our fair share of hardships and struggles – and failures, disappointments and rejections. I often say that I have failed more than I succeeded in my life. However, now that I have crossed the half-century mark (I am 51) I look back and I realise that more than achievements, disappointments have been my greatest teachers. They are not as bad as it appeared back then. So, if you are going through one just now, wait. Don’t kill yourself. When you are old enough like me, you will look back and see how silly those despairs were.

Let me also share my own experience dealing with both. In triumphs and achievements, I have attracted envies and enemies. It is true. But in disappointments and despair, I have found my true friends and family members. Especially as a Sharchop, I have cherished the extended family culture.”

“Therefore, do not look at disappointments and obstacles with a heavy heart or with a resigned soul. If you can persist, success will surely come your way. 

Whenit does, however,

don’t let the success change you. And don’t let disappointments kill you.

Cry if you must. But don’t keep crying or sulking forever. Shake them off you and tell yourself, “Well! Enough now! Life goes on”.

Don’t be scared to dream. Don’t be shy to say you have a role model or that you admire someone. Sometimes to be able to dream is our only privilege.

I hope you will have many dreams and role models too – and unlike mine, you will be able to fulfil them. If you don’t, well, life goes on.

With co-speakers, Tshering Pelden and Amrith Subba (to my right) and another Amrith Subba (of BSLY)

Tashi Delek Sherubtse

On the 50th Anniversary of the Foundation of Sherubtse, I wish the Royal University of Bhutan, teachers who taught, and are still teaching, there – and students and alumni a warm Tashi Delek on this impressive milestone.

It was on this day, 26th May 1968, that the Father of Modern Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, planted the seed of a place that will be forever etched in many hearts, including mine – besides making a difference in even more lives.

Opening the school (then) His Majesty said,

“While religion alone had been adequate in the past to ensure happiness and well-being of the people, education has become essential in the modern world if independence was to be safeguarded and if it was to achieve prosperity”

Hopefully our people will never forget these words that sum up the essence of Sherubtse, and hopes of our King, which are forgotten or conveniently neglected that it pains me to the core as a citizen. I am not an alumni but I spent a wonderful year and half teaching there. It is a special place. Really.

Anyway, enjoy reading the full account of what happened on 26th May 1968 on this Kuensel report of 30th May 1968.

The Kuensel report also pertains to the opening of the Bank of Bhutan on 28th May in Phuntsholing where His Majesty stated that we should develop the habit of saving. Sadly we don’t do that even now.

The newspaper concludes with the Teacher Training Institute (now College of Education) inauguration in Samtse on 29th May 1968.

Sherubtse Opening

Kuensel 2

Kuensel 3

Kuensel 4