Thursday, April 30, 2015

A holy trip to Paro to observe Zhabdrung Kuchhoe

Group photo in front of Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro

As Bhutan observed Zhabdrung Kuchhoe or the death anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal yesterday, I went to Paro with my senior friend Sanga Dorji and his family to offer prayers at Kyichhu monastery and Jangsabu Lhakhang. Zhabdrung Kuchhoe is observed as an auspicious day to visit temples and offer prayers because it was on this day the great Lama, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was believed to have died. Zhabdrung was a great spiritual leader who united Bhutan in the 17th century and blest it with everlasting peace and harmony. His arrival in Bhutan from Tibet in 1616 was a boon to the people of Bhutan in many ways. It was he who united the country and streamlined both political and religious systems that could guarantee absolute peace, harmony and security for the Bhutanese people. So, he is worshipped as a great spiritual leader who brought this country to a new limelight. On such an auspicious occasion, people in Bhutan go to different sacred sites, temples and monasteries to offer prayers and light butter-lamps in his honor and for the wellbeing of all sentient beings.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taming the monkey-like mind

Photo of a monkey secured with a rope

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a spiritual talk on Radio Nepal. The Pundit who was giving the talk was saying how our mind is exactly like a monkey: always restless and impatient. Yes, it is absolutely true. It’s often very difficult to control our mind. The pundit was talking about how people usually tame monkeys although they are the most mischievous and restless creatures on Earth. Likewise, we can also train our mind in a similar fashion and gradually bring it under control.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vehicular madness on Bhutanese roads

Traffic jam in Phuntsholing town. Image source: Kuensel.

At the Swimming Pool junction in Thimphu, a car turns right at the roundabout without switching on the right-indicator light and almost at the same time, another car closes in from the other direction and slams into it breaking its number-plate. As the two drivers struggle to find a suitable space to park their cars and discuss the matter, other cars let out deafening horn-sirens. Within no time, the situation becomes chaotic with many impatient drivers trying to cut their way through and pedestrians anxiously waiting along the edge of the road to cross over to the other side. Scenes like this are common on Bhutanese roads especially during rush hours in the morning and evening. Due to such carelessness on the part of drivers and their seemingly uncivilized behavior, the vehicular madness and road rage are becoming part of our daily city life today. It’s obvious that bad drivers are everywhere in Bhutan. One driver says, “You don’t even have to make mistakes to crash into another car. There’s every possibility that you will be hit although you are on the right track.”

Saturday, April 18, 2015

When you go to work, you should not have to leave your heart at home

A few days back, I was browsing for inspirational quotes for posters and I came across this beautiful quote by Betty Bender, “When people go to work, they should not have to leave their hearts at home”. Although I did not choose it for my posters, it instantly caught my attention and I got it by heart. It just made me reflect on the powerful message it carries and how it resonates with many people in our society. At home, all of us are good human beings: caring and loving to our spouse and kids, warm and welcoming to guests and relatives. But there are people who often leave those qualities at home when they go to office.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On the 1st birth anniversary of my blog

It has been exactly one year since I started my blog. It was on this very day last year when I published my first post on my blog and since then, I have been able to share many stories and articles with my readers. I had actually made attempts to start a blog as early as 2010 but somehow I couldn’t get enough motivation and inspiration to do it. I had been following my friend Riku Dhan Subba’s blog though. I still remember him telling me how thrilling it is to be an active blogger enjoying the love and support of readers and followers.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Which one is more harmful, tobacco or alcohol?

In 2010, the DPT government introduced the most controversial Tobacco Control Act which banned the sale and consumption of tobacco products in the country. The intention was good because it was initiated to promote public health but the greatest mistake was that no enough public education was provided about the act before it was brought to force. As a result, so many innocent individuals were arrested and put behind bars without bail for possessing just a few packets of tobacco products for personal consumption. This raised a question amongst people if consuming tobacco was really a crime punishable by law and that too without bail. Everybody viewed it to be too harsh but it was too late and there wasn’t anything that could be done to convince the government to undo its decision.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A twist of fate

The year 1999 had come to an end and as usual, I was at my uncle’s house in Samtse enjoying my winter vacation with my father and cousin siblings. A few weeks into the vacation, a young girl from our original village in Chengmari came to stay with us for sometime. She had come for a medical checkup at Samtse hospital and she was advised to take rest for a few days before further treatment. So, she decided to stay with us rather than going back to her village. Her father who had escorted her to Samtse went back leaving her with us and we spent almost one-and-half months together in Samtse.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why do some men pay for sex and why do some women sell it?

It’s illegal for girls to become a prostitute in Bhutan but it seems it’s socially acceptable to be their customers. So many girls have been arrested by the police for their involvement in such businesses in the past but we have not heard of any man being charged for availing the service. If this trade is to be ever considered illegal, I feel both the prostitute and her customers must be charged equally for indulging in such an offence. No matter what the authorities are doing to curb this practice in the country, we still seem to have secret commercial sex workers operating especially in urban centers. It seems they use a network of customers/friends and social media to reach out to their new customers. I have been told that there are some young girls who offer sex at rates ranging from Nu.2000 per encounter to Nu.5000 per night. So why are people taking risks to venture into this business despite knowing that it’s illegal in the country?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Flying in and out of Paro: one of the scariest airports in the world

Photo of Druk Air KB204 shortly after landing.

I have flown in and out of Paro International Airport four times within the span of past five years but I had not realized how dangerously the aircraft maneuvers around the valley to avoid the surrounding terrains. I had heard from my friends that the flight path to and from Paro seems to cut through two rugged mountains and it seems if the pilot misses a blink, the plane could crash into the terrains on either side. It’s no surprise that Paro International Airport is ranked as one of the top ten scariest airports of the world.

A few days back, I was watching a short video documentary produced by BBC World News in October 2014 as part of its program ‘The Travel Show’ and I warn you, it’s very scary how our pilots manage to get the aircraft in and out of our only international airport in Paro. The video presents the first-hand account of how our pilots maneuver the aircraft across rugged mountains totally based on their local geographical knowledge and visual reference. I was surprised to know that the instruments installed on the plane to avoid terrains are of no use in Bhutan because the airport lies just behind the mountain. The pilot says there’s no instrument that can guide an aircraft to Paro and hence, the pilots have to rely on their local knowledge and experience. The autopilot which can basically fly a plane without a pilot is also of no use in Bhutan. So, the pilots have to switch it off as they enter the Bhutanese airspace and fly towards Paro completely with the help of their naked eyes. It’s even more scary when the pilot says that they have to watch out for the wings of the aircraft and the roof of the houses below while navigating in and out of Paro. The airport being surrounded by mountains, the aircraft has to instantly navigate either to the right or left after take-off while making a steep climb to avoid the mountain just ahead of the aircraft. The runway itself is less than two kilometers long and hence, it’s safe for only smaller aircrafts like Airbus A319 to land and take-off. Although the geographical location of the airport seems to pose threats to aviation safety, our pilots are absolutely trustworthy, qualified and experienced. I was discussing this with my friend
Riku Dhan Subba yesterday during lunch time and he told me that it’s good to have such a dangerous airport because that would keep the pilots always alert and the accidents will not happen. I think in a way, he’s also right. I am sure because of the risky and dangerous flight route, our pilots will always be vigilant, attentive and careful, and hence, we will always be safe.

Below is the documentary if you want to watch: