Sunday, December 24, 2017

Piecing together the memories created in the Philippines

“Passengers and crew, prepare for landing!” the pilot announced over the microphone as we finally closed in to touch down at Manila International Airport on the night of 3rd December 2017. I was part of the 7-member team from Bhutan to attend the 5-day training on Cross-sectoral Project Management at the Industrial Advanced Academy of the Philippines (IAAP) in Manila. I was filled with excitement as the aircraft landed and taxied to the gate since it was my first time to be in the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient Seas. We got the first taste of Filipino hospitality when the airport staff treated us warmly as we made our way out of the airport. Unlike in many countries, the immigration formalities were so simple and efficient. We did not have to even process for Visa on Arrival since we were going to be in the country only for five days. Outside the airport, the staff from the Institute were waiting for us as expected. They warmly greeted us and escorted us to the Institute with a short stopover on the way for the late-night dinner. It was already about 1 o’clock in the morning when we reached our destination. It was a long day for us but we had a lot of fun.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Revisiting the past and looking ahead into the future as I complete myten years of service in the government

Photo of me with Hon'ble Education Minister after receiving the award. Image courtesy: Sherig Bhutan FB page.

Today, I was truly honored to receive the prestigious Bronze Medal and a certificate of recognition signed by His Majesty the King as a token of appreciation for my ten years of dedicated service to the Royal Government of Bhutan. As an ordinary civil servant, I really feel blest to be recognized for whatever little contribution I have been able to make through my organization over the past decade. As His Excellency the Minister of Education, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk who graced the award ceremony said, the medal and the certificate do not only represent the success of my career so far, but they also serve as a great source of inspiration and motivation for me to continue to work hard and contribute more to the country in the times to come.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

World AIDS Day 2017: Understanding HIV infection as an issue ofnational importance

Against all the odds, the world has made a significant progress in its fight against HIV and AIDS over the years. As we observe the World AIDS Day today, it’s appropriate that we reflect on how we could continue to work together to save the world from the disease and initiate care and support systems for those who are already living with the virus. But before that, it’s important that we have a clear understanding of what is HIV and AIDS so that we can effectively work together to create public awareness on the prevention and treatment of the disease.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Some of the most common causes of divorce: a small personal reflection

In life, everything happens for a reason and divorce is one of the events that does not happen by accident. In a marriage, problems can build up overtime if the spouses do not know how to respect each other’s boundaries. No matter what, having an open communication is key to sustaining a happy relationship. If the spouses choose not to share their feelings with each other, it can build a wall between them that can gradually push them apart. Interacting with those people who have divorced, I have come to understand that the lack of open communication between the spouses, lack of commitment and infidelity are some of the most common causes of divorce in Bhutan.



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Memories from the 3-day Krodikali Retreat in Paro

Panoramic view of tents pitched for meditation practice. Image courtesy: Dudjom Dharma House FB Page



The successful completion of 3-day Krodikali Retreat at Chubjakha in Paro on 12th November 2017 marked another milestone in my spiritual life. After receiving the highest Krodikali initiation (Throema Wangchen) from His Holiness Garab Rinpoche last year, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment to attend the retreat for the second time this year. Starting from the evening of 9th November 2017, we all embarked on a unique spiritual journey closely guided by His Holiness Garab Rinpoche who supervised our practice throughout the retreat period.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

On the middle path to self-contentment

Exactly one year after attending the 3-day spiritual retreat in Paro, I am once again taking a short break from the worldly affairs to explore myself and the world around me in the surreal wilderness of Chubjakha valley in Paro. In the hassles and bustles of busy city life, it gives me an immense sense of relief to break away from the madding crowd for a moment around this time every year to embark on a spiritual journey which is being supervised and guided directly by His Eminence Garab Rinpoche. This year, I am once again blest to get the opportunity to be part of thousands of devotees to attend the retreat from 9-12 November 2017.



Monday, October 30, 2017

From Violence to Peace: The Story Of A Former Gang Leader

One late evening in 2006, 19-year-old Kencho was walking home from Rigsum Institute in Thimphu where he was studying IT. All of a sudden, a group of unidentified boys encircled him and started hitting him indiscriminately. The incident left him utterly shocked and traumatized. He had no clues why he was attacked and who were the culprits. Since that day, he began to feel insecure to be alone. In the following days, he started contacting his close friends and brought them together to discuss how they should have their own defense mechanism so that others won’t be able to threaten them in the future. A series of meetings and discussions he had with his friends over the span of few months eventually led to the birth of MB Boys (Mass Brothers Boys) in 2007 under his leadership.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Some basic philosophies that should guide our way of life

Pursuing happiness in the materialistic world is like chasing our own shadow. The more we move forward, the further it goes. No matter how much wealth we accumulate at the end of the day, we will never be able to attain the level of happiness we desire. It will be an endless race. The real happiness actually comes from within, not from outside. If we learn how to be content with what we have, we will never have to look for happiness anywhere else. The world we live in can be defined by how we perceive it. If we look at it positively, we can see the real beauty of life around us. But if we view it negatively, that will shut all the doors to happiness.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Safety on the archery ground

There is no doubt that archery has been an integral part of our social and cultural life since the time immemorial. For centuries, it has significantly contributed to the development of social, communication and interpersonal skills that have united the people from all social strata regardless of who they are. Besides, it has also served as the most important weapon during conflicts and wars especially during the theocratic rule between 1616 and 1907. Probably because of such a special historical and cultural significance attached to it, the game was declared as our national sport in 1971, the year in which Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Since then, it has gained special attention even from the outside world. Today, the archery competitions and tournaments still form an important part of major celebrations such as religious festivals and public holidays. However due to the new innovative ideas that have emerged along with rapid globalization, the traditional bows and arrows that are made of bamboos and reeds are slowly getting replaced by imported modern equipment such as compound bows and arrows that are more sophisticated and powerful than the traditional ones. As a result, the safety at the archery ground is becoming a bigger concern over the recent years.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How can children be saved from Blue Whale if it really exists?

Photo of Blue Whale. Image courtesy: BBC Website

In the midst of catastrophic natural disasters and deadly human violence that are already taking their toll on human civilization across the globe, another sickening sign of impending apocalypse seems to have emerged on social media today. Whether it is real or a hoax, many media reports suggest that a spate of teenage suicides around the world over the recent years could have been instigated by an online pressure group through the deadly game called Blue Whale which allegedly pushes depressed and vulnerable children to kill themselves. Although the real existence of the game and its links to the recent teenage suicides have not yet been confirmed by police in any country, the governments, agencies and institutions in many countries have already started warning parents to be aware of their children’s online activities. According to Hindustan Times, a school in Punjab in India has even introduced a rule that requires all its students to wear short-sleeved shirts so that the Blue Whale tattoos, one of the signs of the child’s participation in the game, can be seen. This shows that just as in any other country where the game has created a wave of panic, India has also been hit by this social hysteria especially after some of the children who committed suicide across the country were suspected to have participated in the game.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

We are the architects of our own future

Not everybody in this world is born with a silver spoon in the mouth. All of us have our own share of problems to deal with as we move on. Nobody has had a perfect life so far and nobody ever will. The path to success does not run straight. It zigzags through the moments of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and peace and tragedy. As a result, it’s not uncommon for us to fall down when we stumble upon some unforeseen obstacles on the way. Yet it is not the end of everything. Every time we fall down and get up, we get up with new experiences and wisdom that make us a stronger person. Our success really depends on how well we can pick ourselves up whenever we break down and clear the obstacles that have caused us to trip over so that we don’t stumble upon them again in the future if we have to walk the same path.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

The pain of being deprived of the opportunity to grow up in a completefamily

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Gelephu with my colleagues to coordinate the celebration of International Youth Day 2017. One of the activities leading up to the main event was the panel discussion on parents-children relationship which was conducted on the evening of 11th August, one day before the actual celebration. The main objective of holding the panel discussion was to bring the parents and children closer to each other and bridge the gap between them so that both the parties can understand each other better. The participants were put on the stage: parents on one side and youth on the other. Both the groups had a basket each from where they could pick up statements to be read aloud and start the discussion with other members. The discussion went on smoothly until one of the girls from the youth group picked up the statement “We don’t want our parents to quarrel in front of us”. While trying to explain what it meant to her, she emotionally broke down and cried. Later, we learned from her friends that her parents had divorced just recently and we all know how painful it would have been for her to go through such a terrible experience. The statement she had got could have definitely triggered her memories of all those horrific moments she had gone through as her parents fought their ways out. Only she could know what it is like to be a victim of domestic violence and how painful it is to be deprived of the opportunity to grow up in a complete family.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What is experience?

Our mind can accommodate the entire universe. That is why, there are skies upon skies available for our flight. Don't be content easily. Those who remain content easily remain insignificant. Their joys, ecstasies and silences become insignificant.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

That's an aggressive way of doing business

Last winter, I was in a local store in Thimphu to buy some PS2 games for my son. I was surprised to notice that the shopkeeper did not even have the courtesy to greet us as we entered his shop. He remained as dumb as a statue as we struggled with our son to locate the games of his choice. We finally picked up a few DVDs and requested him to test them for us but he refused to do it saying they don’t do it. I asked him if we could return the games if they do not work, but he said we cannot return them once we have bought them. He handed over the DVDs to us with the note “No Return” written on them. Once we reached home, we realized that one of the DVDs was not working and that it could not be played. The “No Return” policy of the shop did not allow us to return it. The DVDs were not original either. It made me wonder if it was even ethical for them to burn and create such DVDs on their own for sale.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A piece of advice for young drug users

Last Friday, I was on my way to Thimphu from Phuntsholing when suddenly the bus I was travelling in was flagged down by police at Tsimasham for a surprised highway checking. The two policemen swooped in and headed straight towards the rear section of the bus where a group of young boys were seated. One by one, they started to frisk them until two sticks of cigarettes emerged from one of the boys’ shoes. The real drama began to unfold as one of the policemen pulled out small packages of cannabis drugs from around his seat. The boy was immediately removed from the bus for further scanning and interrogation. We all watched in disbelief as he was finally taken away for detention at Tsimasham Police Station. We had to wait for more than an hour while the police completed the formalities.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The future is here - Reconnecting with former classmates

Group photo with my class 12 mates at Jigme Sherubling High School in Khaling. Photo taken in the year 2000

With the evolution of social media, the world we live in has become very small today. Just at the click of a mouse or the swiping of a finger, we can easily connect with friends and families. It’s really amazing how social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat have transformed our way of interacting with people around us. More importantly, social media has helped us reconnect with even the lost generation of friends and relatives who have been separated by time and space. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a WeChat group forum called “Jigsher 2000” which was created by some of my former classmates to reunite us at least on social media. For the first time in 17 years, I could hear the voices of my former classmates with whom I had studied together in the year 2000. It was very exciting for all of us to talk to each other and relive the memories we had created together 17 years ago in Khaling. Many of us had not met even once after we completed class 12 but thanks to social media, I feel we are together again.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The pain of having to say goodbye

Photo of Harmony Youth Volunteers with DYS officials in the auditorium during the farewell dinner

Life is really a trail that runs zigzag across the wilderness of time. It often crosses into the lives of people who become special in our hearts. But no matter how much we try to hold on to the special moments we create and cherish together, we have to drop them off at one point of time as we continue our journey. This is a painful reality we often have to go through in our life. It’s true that time does not wait for us. It constantly keeps us on the move. As a result, it’s part of our life to meet and depart with people whom we love and appreciate. There is no time for us to stay forever with people who are special to us. People say that life is like a bicycle. We have to keep it moving in order to balance it. So there is no way we can stop it when we have met someone we love.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Signature vs. Thumb-impression: the only apparent yardstick used bybanks to measure literacy

Recently, a group of six visually impaired people in Thimphu had gone to the Bank of Bhutan to apply for ATM and M-BoB services. But the bank did not accept their request because they could not sign. This has ignited an interesting discussion within the visually impaired community in Bhutan. I think the banks believe that all those who cannot sign are illiterate and hence, they can be irresponsible and vulnerable to theft and robbery. But not all the visually impaired people are illiterate. Everybody who has studied at Muenselling Institute in Khaling knows how to read and write, at least electronically or in braille. The only problem with them is that many of them do not have signatures just because they cannot sign. As a result, they are denied access to the online banking facilities which otherwise would make their lives much easier.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Revitalization of Bhutanese values

During my school days, the kind of respect we had for our teachers never changed even when they lashed us mercilessly. We did not have value-education classes but we knew our boundaries well. We have been culturally groomed to believe that teachers are like our parents and that we must respect them as much as we respect our parents. We have been convinced that we would earn respect if we know how to show respect to our elders and treat them with love and dignity. But sadly, this trend seems to be taking a different turn today. Probably due to the excessive exposure to western cultures through social and mainstream media outlets that have emerged with the technological revolution of the modern era, the youth of Bhutan appear to be gradually drifting away from the unique social and cultural values of our country that define us as Bhutanese. This rapid decline of values among the Bhutanese youth has triggered important discussions in the government agencies in the recent times. Upon the Royal Command of His Majesty the King, the Ministry of Education has already started working with the Royal Education Council (REC) to explore effective ways of inculcating our own national values into the young generation. The first draft of the curriculum framework for teaching values developed by REC was presented during the special meeting convened on 19th June 2017.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

What should I do if I ever get a chance to see the world for a week?

The people with eyesight seem to see so little that they often fail to recognize what is around them. Whenever I hear about people falling off the cliff or bumping into objects on the way, I just wonder why they have not been able to make full use of their eyes. My wife occasionally goes out to attend public functions and celebrations, but always comes back to say that she did not see anything. I have many friends who have been in the woods but have not seen anything special there.


Monday, June 12, 2017

The key points to remember on the day of exam: a simple advice forstudents

Photo of Bhutanese students studying English subject. Image courtesy: Bhutan Culture Tour


Exams are particularly stressful events. During the final hours leading up to the day of exam, you panic a lot and often get confused with the lessons you have studied. The notes you have written with your own hand in the class appear like a totally new book and you spend hours scratching your head just trying to figure out what you have written. The textbooks do not make much sense and whatever lesson that has been taught does not flash back to memory. You feel completely lost. You keep studying through the late night but nothing seems to get into your head. You feel sleepy but you can’t fall asleep. It’s such a painful situation. The next morning you wake up with swollen eyes due to the lack of sleep and after trying to memorize a few things from the book, you drowsily head to the exam hall. In the hall, you are not in a position to think actively and creatively. You feel tired and when the question-paper lands before you, everything goes blank. You know that you are now doomed.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The five creepiest experiences of my life that still lack logical explanations

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the fact is that it’s tough not to get freaked out when you experience something that cannot be explained. The shadowy figures and strange voices that go bump at night are still a great mystery to those who encounter them. But although ghosts cannot be proved to exist, the stories of ghosts and spirits have persisted throughout the human history. Even in Bhutan the history books talk so much about our great Buddhist masters like Guru Padma Sambhava and great Lamas sighting and subduing wrathful demons and evil spirits. So we are culturally brought up to believe that ghosts do not only exist in books and movies. Having personally been exposed to mysterious experiences a couple of times in my life, I am compelled to believe that there are at least some strange forces acting on us, if not ghosts. Consistent with the extensive research done by paranormal scientists around the world, it seems there are many people who believe in ghosts. For instance, the 2012 poll in the United States showed that 45 percent of Americans believed in paranormal phenomenon. This certainly shows that there are still many unsolved mysteries in the world. The following are some of the creepiest experiences I ever had in my life which baffle me even to this day. Honestly, I still don’t have any psychological or logical explanation for those mysterious encounters. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, these stories might force you to wonder with me what else they could have been if they were not paranormal activities.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

How school textbooks can transform your life

Before I went to school, I think I was a spoiled child. Perhaps because I was the only surviving child from my late mother, my father loved me too much during my childhood. As a result, he hardly cared what I did. He used to smoke biri at the time and often there used to be biri-butts in the pockets of his trousers. Out of curiosity, I tried to smoke one of them one day. But the moment I started inhaling the dark smoke, it drove me crazy. I began to puke uncontrollably. That was the first and the last time I ever tried to smoke. I could never appreciate it.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Wearing glasses cannot be the only determinant of visual disability: asmall reflection from PHCB 2017

The Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) is an important national exercise undertaken every after 10 years to determine the socio-economic status of the entire population. The last time we had this kind of survey was in 2005. The findings from this survey are expected to guide the future plans and policies of the government to boost socio-economic development of the country. Hence, it is not surprising to see the questionnaire covering different aspects of social, economic and public life of each individual when an enumerator walks into your house. The main intention behind having such a comprehensive set of questions is to get the exact socio-economic profile of a person. It is therefore very important for each of us to participate in the survey and get counted. After having patiently waited for one and half days, I finally got counted this evening.


Monday, May 29, 2017

The house that has outlived generations of occupants

Photo of myself in front of an ancient house in Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag. Picture taken on 21st May 2017


On the evening of 19th May 2017, I was invited to join a team of staff from the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan (DPAB) to go to Wangdue Phodrang for a disability awareness program which was to be held over the weekends. The cool Friday evening breeze rejuvenated us as we eased our way through the mountains and valleys towards Wangdue Phodrang. It was about 8 o’clock in the evening when we reached the ancestral home of Sonam Deki, our team leader. We were to stay in this house until Sunday.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Highlights from the Tobacco Control (Amended) Act of Bhutan 2014

Recently, a taxi driver in Thimphu was taken aback when he was flagged down by police for having a Marlboro sticker pasted on the back of his car. He didn’t know that decorating his car with such stickers was an offence under the Tobacco Control (Amended) Act of Bhutan 2014. Likewise, there are many shopkeepers who still sell candy cigarettes to children not knowing that it is also an offence. The Tobacco Control (Amended) Act of Bhutan 2014 states that the sale or use of any product intended to promote the use of tobacco products is an offence. The candy cigarettes and the stickers of various brands of tobacco are believed to encourage people to smoke. This was one of the key messages conveyed during the Tobacco Awareness Program conducted in Kabisa in Thimphu by Khasadrapchu Youth Center on 12th May 2017 as part of its outreach sensitization program.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cyber warning: beware of ransomware attacks

Decades ago, I remember people talking about the possible cyber war in the future. At that time, it did not make any sense to me. But today, it seems what people had feared for years is becoming a reality. The advanced computer technology of the modern age has given birth to many sophisticated hackers who are responsible for some of the deadliest cyber-attacks the world has ever seen in the recent history. The first was the widely publicized hacking of Sony Pictures in November 2014 in which a group named The Guardians of Peace hacked the database of the film studio and released several new films online. Then came the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 US Election which led to the leak of thousands of confidential and private emails of the Democratic Party officials on WikiLeaks. Today, we are seeing another kind of cyber-attack, through a ransomware called WannaCry which has already affected more than 150 countries since last Friday. WannaCry is a malicious software that freezes your computer and demands $300 to be paid online if you want to regain access to your files. What causes more panic for the victims is that the ransomware threatens to permanently delete all the files within a week if the ransom money is not paid. Although there is no guarantee that the access will be granted after paying the money, the analysis of the Bitcoin Wallets has shown that a significant amount has already been paid by the victims in a desperate bid to get back their files and documents.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Some important legal provisions that might help you stay out of the wayof drug law enforcement

Photo of the Director General of BNCA interacting with the participants. Image courtesy: Yangka, Khasadrapchu Youth Center Manager.


As part of the outreach service program in Kabisa community conducted by Khasadrapchu Youth Center in Thimphu yesterday, the officials from Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) interacted with over 50 youth and sensitized them on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and the associated drug laws in Bhutan. The rising trend of drug abuse and smuggling cases in the country over the years seriously call for aggressive public awareness campaigns so that young people can stay safe from drugs. It has been found that many youth are committing drug-related crimes simply because they don’t have adequate knowledge of the legal provisions in the Narcotic Drug, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2015. So most of the time, they are found unaware of what they are doing. It has been reported that a young graduate has been recently caught in Eastern Bhutan with 90 pieces of N10 in a parcel he was carrying for his friend from another person. If he had known that carrying N10 which is a Schedule III drug more than two times the permissible quantity of ten pieces would send him to jail for 5-9 years (3rd degree felony), perhaps he would have double-checked the parcel he had received for his friend. So for the benefit of all the youth of Bhutan, I would like to share some of the most important highlights from the sensitization program held in Kabisa.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

The dark energy behind anonymity

One winter night in 1993, my wife’s elder sister, Sita Rai in Sibsoo got the biggest shock of her life. While everybody was busy with works late into the night, a group of men suddenly circled them and started attacking them with sticks and machetes indiscriminately. All their faces were covered in black soot. They threatened the family that they would kill them if they do not surrender their money and jewelry. Her father-in-law was subsequently dragged away into the fields, to the spot where he had hidden the money underground and was left with severe cuts and bruises after robbing him of his life-long savings. Later, the family learned that the robbers were from the same village but since they had distorted their faces with soot, they could not be identified. Likewise, many robbers disguise themselves when they rob people. Even if they do not hide their identity, they at least wait for the night to fall before they decide to act so that their identity can be hidden by nature. This is the negative energy you would get when you hide yourself behind the masks.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Monsoon warning

With the ongoing road-widening activities in full swing and the early arrival of Monsoon this year, it is becoming increasingly risky for people to travel along the national highways today. Over the past couple of months, we have seen a number of tragic accidents along the West-East National Highway that have killed both foreign tourists and Bhutanese nationals. As a mountainous country, the topography of Bhutan itself is not friendly for road travelers but during the Monsoon season, the highways become even worse. The road blockages due to landslides and shooting boulders along the national highways are once again becoming a common phenomenon. As a result, it is very important to take extra caution while driving nowadays. We have already lost many precious lives due to reckless driving. Only the affected families would be able to feel the real pain of having to lose somebody like this. The heaps of sands and lose soil alongside the roads, and the overhanging boulders due to the road-widening activities are some of the most dangerous risk factors for road mishaps. As a driver, one should drive slowly and cautiously so that everybody would be safe. Travelling along the national highways today is like travelling between life and death. One has to be always alert and vigilant because anything can happen any time.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Happy Teachers' Day 2017

Happy Teachers' Day poster. Image courtesy: desicomments.com


Today is yet another special occasion to remember and honor those beautiful souls who have taught us how to read and write, and to distinguish between what is wrong and right. We all are the direct products of sacrifices made by our teachers who have committed their entire life to show us the path that has led us where we are now. Had it not been for their selfless contributions and hard work, we would have never got the inner vision of our life. They are the ones who have ignited our imaginations and dreams, and instilled in us the love of learning. Every teacher often goes beyond his or her prescribed role to support and guide the students onto the right path. It is absolutely true that if a teacher fails, the entire society fails. Looking at our own successes today, it is clear that none of our teachers has ever failed.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Memories from Gelephu Bhutan

After seven long years, I am back in Gelephu. The last time I was here was in January 2010 when I was invited to attend the basic ICT workshop for the visually impaired civil servants organized by the Special Education Division of the Ministry of Education. This time, I am here with two other colleagues to organize a 3-day consultative workshop for the Youth Center Managers. We started our journey from Thimphu on Sunday, 23rd April. I had a comfortable journey with enough space in the car to relax and sleep since I was the only passenger at the rear seat. We reached here at around 7:30 pm in the evening since we had started our journey from Thimphu late. As soon as we got here, we were greeted with cool showers that made the climate quite bearable for us. The Manager of Gelephu Youth Center had arranged tea and dinner for us at the cafeteria attached to the Youth Center. After the dinner, we went to Degu Yangkhil Guest House where we had our rooms booked. We had a sound sleep after a long day.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

A baby shower without father

A young girl saw her future too close when she met a guy who looked cheerful and innocent. They instinctively fell in love with each other and started hanging out together. Although both of them were far from securing a stable future, the gravity of love and trust which bound them together gave them the assurance that they were made for each other. But after several months of intimate relationship, they began to discover their differences. Misunderstandings crept in and started to tear them apart. Finally, they decided to end their relationship. The girl painfully let her boy-friend walk away from her life. But soon afterwards, she realized she was pregnant. She kept this secret to herself for five months until her family noticed it. Despite several negotiation attempts, the boy refused to own the paternal responsibility saying he was not convinced that he was the biological father of the baby. However, he at least agreed to give a copy of his Citizenship Identity Card to enable the girl to carry out her medical check-ups and to process her medical documents in the hospital. The girl had her first medical check-up after five months of pregnancy and got her health documents processed. Then in March 2017, she gave birth to a healthy baby son despite those traumatic experiences she had to endure during her pregnancy. This is the story of a young single mother in whose house I and my colleagues went for a baby shower yesterday evening.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

How to deal with problems positively

Problems are part of our life. They teach us lessons and make us a strong person every time we stumble upon them. If we did not have any problem in life, I don’t think the human civilization could have evolved into such a glory today. When you find yourself entangled in problems, it is not the end of everything. A problem is just a bend in the life’s journey and you can easily maneuver around it if you know how and when to turn. When we don’t find a way out of the situation we are in, we feel we are the most miserable people in this entire world. But if we all are to take out our troubles and keep them on the table to be exchanged with that of others, I am sure that after a brief silence, everybody would choose to take back his or her own troubles. We would be able to appreciate what we have only when we compare ourselves with those who are more miserable than us. In fact, we all have adequate resources within us that can help us maneuver out of any difficult situation, but the problem is that we don’t easily recognize those assets in us. Life is beautiful only if you know how to decorate it with the colors you have in your heart. If you can see both sides of a coin, you can definitely find your way out when you get stuck. But if you focus only on one side of the coin, you cannot have a bird’s eye-view of the situation around you.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Witness to a road accident

I must have been 7 or 8 years old when I first saw a road accident happen. It was in Gai Khurey, above Rinchending. My father used to work in charcoal production at the time and our camp was based not so far from the Phuntsholing-Thimphu highway. The sky was clear with plenty of sunshine and the view of the popular Seven Turnings (Sath Ghumti) and Sorcheng was spectacular from where I was standing. I was able to see at the time and I would often spend time watching different vehicles plying the highway especially during the night because the lights and their varying colors would make them look like angels on the road.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Who is rich?

A poor woman works at a construction site. Under the shade of a small umbrella nearby, her little baby keeps crying. She excuses herself from work from time to time to breastfeed him but it’s not enough to quench his hunger and thirst. During the lunch break, she walks into the nearby hotel and requests the owner if she could have a glass of milk for her baby but the owner tells her that she has to pay if she wants the milk. She does not have any money. So with a blush on her face, she comes back to work. The baby is still crying hard but there’s nothing she can do to help him.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Reaching out to the society through my personal story

When I was first invited by Bhutan Foundation for a consultative meeting on the production of a documentary to raise public awareness on the needs and rights of persons with disabilities in Bhutan, I had not thought that I would be the central character in the film. When I was later approached with a request to lead the story in the documentary, I was humbled with the offer but also anxious at the same time because I was not sure how well I would be able to present myself in the lead role. However, I finally accepted the offer with a strong conviction that I might be able to inspire and motivate other persons with disabilities and raise public awareness on disability-related issues through the story of my personal life.


Monday, April 3, 2017

The possible logic behind some of the superstitious beliefs

We are culturally brought up with the belief that whatever the elders say is true and that we should respect it. As a result, many beliefs we have inherited from our ancestors still remain mysterious. When I was a child, I still remember my parents often scaring the shit out of me by telling unbelievable stories whenever I disobeyed them. When I refused to take bath regularly and got infested with lice, they would warn me that crows would attack me on the head and that I would be flown away. Then when I whistled at night, they would warn me that whistling at night would invite ghosts to the house. Likewise, there were several superstitious beliefs that my parents and the elderly people shared with me and other children in the village. We would be scared like hell. But when I look back now and reflect on those lines, I am beginning to understand that those strange beliefs could have been the tactics used by our ancestors to actually discipline us. A careful analysis shows that there is a possible logic behind each superstitious belief our ancestors have left us with.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

The key messages to the youth of Bhutan from the fifth YouTurn Talk

Photo of Youth Center staff with Lama Shenphen after the inspirational talk

During the fifth YouTurn event held at DYS Auditorium in Thimphu on the evening of Friday, 31st March 2017, Lama Shenphen Zangpo made his message to the youth of Bhutan loud and clear. Speaking from the Buddhist’s perspective, he said that a peaceful mind is the most important factor that can promise a happy and content life. If your mind is not in peace, you will never be happy even if you are the richest person in this world. So whether you are happy or not mainly depends on your inner peace and self-contentment. As Buddhists, we don’t have to try to become good human beings because we are born with natural goodness or the Buddha Nature. The only thing we should do is to cleanse ourselves from the negative qualities such as desires, ignorance, jealousy, greed, and ego and anger which chain us to endless suffering and pain every day. We should never let those factors obscure our mind and block our path to enlightenment. Another major source of unhappiness is that we focus too much on what we don’t have and often forget to focus on what we have. It is important to be content with what we have because too much expectations would always bring disappointments and frustrations. If we learn to appreciate what we already have, we can have a happier life than the rest of the people. In a nutshell, the following were some of the key messages he conveyed to the youth of Bhutan.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fools' Day

Today is the day set aside to have fun with friends and neighbors with practical jokes and harmless pranks. April 1 is celebrated as April Fools’ Day around the world and although it is not a public holiday in any country, it is celebrated by playing pranks or spreading hoaxes. The free ticket to the Tower of London on April 1, 1698 to watch the lions getting washed was one of such hoaxes. On this day, the practical joke or the prank is usually revealed by shouting “April Fool!” and the victim becomes the April Fool. It is believed that the April Fools’ Day is celebrated only until mid-day and those who play pranks after that become the April Fools themselves. Although the origin of this tradition is not clear, it is believed to have emerged from the Middle Ages during which some European countries used to celebrate their New Year on this day. Those who celebrated New Year on January 1 found them foolish and called them April Fools.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

How women help men define their way of life: a short family drama

Many people say that the nature of a man is often defined by the attitude and behavior of his wife at home. Although this theory is often debatable, some women might agree that the happiness and wellbeing of the family depends significantly on how they behave with their husbands. Women are the main source of comfort and warmth in the family. Their attitude and behavior can certainly influence the way their husbands behave at home. The following two scenarios will demonstrate how men can define their way of life according to how their wives behave with them.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Can astrologers really see the future?

The tradition of consulting astrologers has always been an integral part of our social and cultural life for centuries. Even today, many people still continue to believe in the astrological findings and consult astrologers whenever they feel inadequate in their efforts to pursue their dreams. Besides, we also consult astrologers when a child is born or when a person has died to see what the future holds for him/her. This practice and the belief it generates gives us a psychological comfort and satisfaction. The astrologers believe that the movements and positions of the stars and planets significantly influence the way we think and act. The predictions are therefore derived from the careful observation of the movement and position of those celestial bodies in our solar system. In the modern era of advanced science and technology that promote logical thinking and reasoning, it sounds like a fairy-tale to believe that our life can be predicted when we do not even know what will happen to us the next moment.


Monday, March 20, 2017

A gruesome reminder for young social media users

The advent of social media has significantly revolutionized the way we relate to others. It has become easier than ever to find people with common interests and connect with those whom we love and care. The entire world is growing up online. Due to the absolute convenience and easy access the social networking sites offer, social media is becoming one of the most widely used tools for marketing or information-sharing. Today, many people are using social media like Facebook and Twitter even to organize informal gatherings and to share the event with the public. However with so many young people growing up online using social media, their personal safety is becoming a concern for parents and teachers. The recent rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Gomtu is a gruesome reminder that social media can be dangerous if you don’t know how to use it responsibly.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

The first income from blogging

When I started my blog three years ago, I had never expected that so many people would be interested in my writing. Although I am still far from becoming a professional blogger, it is amazing to see some of my articles often appearing in the private newspapers in Bhutan. When I write articles, I never dream of earning money from blogging. I take it as a platform to either document my personal experiences for my own future references, or to shed some light on certain socio-economic and cultural issues. But when some journalists send me private messages requesting for my permission to publish some of my stories in their paper, it makes me feel great. As long as they feel my articles are worth publishing in their paper, I have expressed no objection to their requests until now.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Read for the Blind: a great innovation that can help the visuallyimpaired see the world through books

Due to the lack of commitment on the part of the concerned agencies to produce reading materials in accessible formats, the visually impaired people in Bhutan still do not have access to public libraries and other resources. As of now, we are able to access only the free materials published online such as news articles and stories. The major publications such as books, magazines and research articles are beyond our reach. Forget about having the library books and other publications in accessible formats, we don’t even have enough textbooks that are accessible for the students especially those studying in higher secondary schools and university colleges. The publishers are too concerned about the copyrights that they are not willing to share the electronic version of their publications with the visually impaired readers. A library is the most popular source of information and knowledge but without accessible materials available, there is no way a visually impaired person can access it.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Honoring men with wombs

I love women not because they are simply beautiful outside. I love them because they are equally beautiful inside. I should say that they are the most wonderful creation of God, for they have the heart that can accommodate this entire world. If you don’t believe it, just look through the eyes of your mother, sisters and your wife. You would definitely see your world in them. Yet, we often fail to recognize the role they play in shaping our world and subject them to unnecessary pain and suffering. I don’t understand why some men treat women just like sex objects when the same gender has given them birth, raised them with love and care, and left them with a promising future to lean on for the rest of their life. It is true that for centuries, these beautiful women have lived together in harmony with men, peacefully submitting to the demands and orders of men and fulfilling their duties prescribed by the society without any complaint. But even today, we often fail to acknowledge the love and sacrifices they make every day just to make this world little safer and beautiful for us to live in.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Cracking the code-language that still baffles people

When I was studying in Khaling, we had developed a unique code-language that enabled us to communicate privately amongst us. Being visually impaired, it was of great advantage for us because we could safely talk about anything without the fear of being intercepted by teachers and other staff of the school. We always felt safe to converse in our code-language because nobody outside our circle of friends could comprehend it.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bhutanese New Year celebrated with picnic

In order to celebrate the auspicious Dawa Dangpai Losar, I and some of my visually impaired friends got together and went to Paro with our families for a dry picnic today. It was a great occasion for all of us to have quality time together because in the hassle and bustle of busy urban life, social gatherings are becoming rare nowadays. It was also a wonderful opportunity for our kids to have outdoor fun together despite enjoying delicious foods brought by different people. We had planned this event since a couple of months ago and we had been looking forward to this big day for months. But the bad weather over the past couple of days caused some worries in us that we may not be able to execute our plans. However when the sun came up this morning, I knew we were finally on our way to Paro. My children were equally excited about it.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Everything has to wait for the right time to strike

In Bhutan, we generally believe that there is the right time for everything. If that hour of destiny does not strike, nothing will happen even if the situation pushes you to the furthest edge of your life. But if the right time has come, nothing can stop you from facing the reality no matter how bitter it might be. I think because of this belief, we can cope even with the loss of our loved ones quite easily. If we are not destined to die at that particular hour, even death seems to forget its purpose. I have faced a couple of situations where I could have been either injured or even killed. People may call it a luck but I believe that the right time for me to die had not come then. Following are a few episodes of my life during which luck was in my favour.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Scaling Choedrag, one of the four holy cliffs of Bumthang

Photo of people climbing Choedrag, the holy cliff. Image source: www.khandrorinpoche.org


As a child, I was very active and agile. Climbing rocks and cliffs used to be my favorite adventure although the elder people in the family wouldn’t let me do it fearing I might fall down. I know I was not good at climbing trees but when it came to cliffs and rocks, I could climb them without much difficulty. Even the smallest crack lines on the rock’s surface would be enough for my hands to get a grip and I could balance my body quite easily as I pulled myself up. I often used to compete with myself on climbing some of the small cliffs and rocks in the village whenever elders were not at home. Probably because of being blind, I was not afraid of heights.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Basic tips on how to encourage children to eat healthy foods

Children are generally fussy eaters. They always have to be coaxed into eating with us during the usual mealtimes but again, they don’t easily eat what they are served. All the parents would have experienced how difficult it is to make children eat healthy foods. My children still refuse to take many vegetables especially the ones we don’t take every day. I don’t know why but potato has become their only all-time favorite vegetable. We have been trying every possibility to make them take other vegetables as well but we have not been able to change their food habits as we have wanted.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Inclusive curriculum is key to the success of inclusive education

Photo of blind children reading braille books. Image courtesy: Muenselling Institute's website


We have been lately talking about inclusive education in Bhutan and some of the schools have already been modified to accommodate children with varying abilities in the same learning environment. But no matter how accessible the general infrastructures of the school might be, or how well trained are the teachers dealing with students with special needs, I think the goal of inclusive education cannot be achieved if the school curriculum is not inclusive. When we talk about inclusive education, people mostly think about only accessible physical infrastructures within the school campus and disabled-friendly facilities and services. But we have never thought of the curriculum which is the backbone of formal education system in the country. I feel that our school curriculum is very rigid at the moment. We are expected to learn what is prescribed in the textbooks and not what we are good at or what we love doing. When the curriculum is developed, the needs of persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired children are never considered. As a result, the curriculum is largely visual-based and hence, the visually impaired children are deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in the classroom.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Leading children through the turning point of their life

In the BCSE and BHSEC results for the academic year 2016 declared recently, the Bhutanese students who had appeared for the exams have seen the harvest of their year-long hard work and struggle. But as usual, not everybody is lucky. While those who have qualified for higher studies are busy celebrating their achievements with their families and friends, others are going through a terrible time. Many anxious parents are seen rushing for admission in the private schools or exploring other viable options for their children. It is a crucial turning point for the students and everybody is deeply concerned. But I don’t believe that the failure of the present should ruin your aspirations for the future. You may not be good in academic studies, but you may be excellent at something else. Just turn around, focus on what you believe you are good at and start working on it. Someday, you will have the future as promising as that of anybody else. Academic excellence is not the only secret of success. Many successful people in the world do not have even a degree. So just keep your head high and always stay positive. Sitting down and crying over the spilled milk won’t get you anywhere. It would only destroy your dreams.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

The painful realities of life in Thimphu

Panoramic view of Thimphu City. Image source: www.visitcity.com


As the Capital City of Bhutan, Thimphu has been undergoing a major transformation over the years with numerous developmental activities coming up in all corners. With various modern facilities and infrastructures in place, the city has been considered a safe haven for thousands of Bhutanese people who come here for education, employment and business. However, with the rising cases of senseless murder, burglary and robbery over the recent years, I think Thimphu is now losing the glory of its past. There are many people who no longer feel safe here today.


Monday, January 30, 2017

How television can be bad for children

Television has become an integral part of our life at home today. It has become so ubiquitous across the globe that it is hard to imagine life without it. Nowadays, most of us have at least two to three television sets at home. The advent of television era has definitely changed the world and how we view it. While television has opened our door to the outside world, it comes with both necessary and unnecessary channels. Just with the point and the click of a button, the viewing options are endless. There are literarily hundreds of channels to choose from. Cartoons, cooking shows, news and other entertainment shows fill up the airwaves. With so many channels available to turn to, choosing the appropriate channels especially for children is increasingly becoming a concern. Some studies have indicated that television is bad for children since it often promotes violence and aggression, be it through cartoons or movies.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

A woman with a golden heart

About two weeks ago, I was utterly shocked to receive the water bill for December 2016 amounting to Nu.1,014. There was no way it could be justified because I have a small family and the level of water consumption is comparatively low. Suspecting false reading of the water-meter, I and my wife went to Thimphu City Corporation to complain. We waited at a counter until a grumpy woman pushed aside the shutter and demanded what we were there for. When we told her our problem, she directed us to the nearby counter. She had no warmth in her voice. She sounded very rude and straightforward. But we chose to keep quiet. However, we found the real angel at the adjacent counter. A beautiful lady with a charming voice named Pema greeted us warmly and politely asked us what was the problem. When I told her the entire story, she immediately agreed to crosscheck the reading and kept my contact number to call me back. Later that day, I received the call saying the reading was correct but the water-meter was found to be running abnormally fast. I was advised to consult the plumber from the National Housing Development Corporation which I immediately did. The plumber confirmed that the meter was malfunctioning and agreed to replace it. The next day, the plumber replaced the malfunctioning meter and also fixed a leaking connection. The water problem was solved, but I was worried the City Corporation might make an issue out of it because I had not sought their consent to replace the meter. I was concerned about how the reading can be continued.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Returning from death-bed with disability

On a hot July day in 2003, Dhan Bahadur Subba and his friends were felling trees in the jungle of Gedu under Chukha Dzongkhag. They had got the contract work to supply timber. The 18-year-old Dhan Bahadur was cutting the trunk of a huge tree with a chainsaw while his friends were working on other trees nearby. However, what he did not realize at the time was that the vibration from his chainsaw was causing a half-dried branch straight above him to slowly break away. Then at the flash of a second, he heard a crashing sound as the branch snapped off and came down straight on him. The branch hit his head and knocked him unconscious.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

The power of a positive mind


When obstacles appear on our way, we feel we are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Our mind shuts down and our dreams and aspirations go blank. It is at this point of time that we should reflect on our inner strengths and make sure that what we cannot do does not interfere with what we can do. Whenever we find ourselves caught in the midst of problems, we should never forget the fact that we are given this life just because we are strong enough to live it. The real beauty of life lies in how positively we take it. Life is never a bed of roses. We all have our own share of problems to deal with. But in the middle of difficulties lie opportunities. We must never get discouraged by a few failures in life. The real success lies in being able to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. People say that today’s failure helps us develop strengths needed for a better tomorrow. So if we know how to live with a positive mind, we have no reason why we should be discouraged by our failures from pushing our way forward. It is said that indeed the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. We in fact have all the resources within us that can help us cut our way through all kinds of problems and difficult situations. But we often fail to recognize those strengths within us and miss the opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

A few driving tips that might save lives

Photo of me on the driver's seat of my car. Image taken just for fun on 10th November 2016 on the way back from Dechenphug Lhakhang.


Being a driver comes with great responsibility. The one who is behind the wheel is responsible for the safety of so many people including the passengers in the car and pedestrians on the road. It is for this reason that driving is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a job that requires the perfect coordination of thought and action. The drivers must always be mindful of what they are doing while driving so that they won’t get distracted easily. People say driving is like meditating because it requires full concentration and devotion. Even the slightest distraction can lead to catastrophic disaster. It is popularly said that a driver should have four eyes: two at the back and two at the front. This means that he or she should be always vigilant and alert. One must never drive with divided attention. Knowing how to drive a car alone does not make you a real driver. There are many things one must keep in mind while driving to ensure that everybody is safe. The following are some key points that might save lives on the road.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Farming should be taken up with pride, not with humility

Photo of a female farmer working in a wheat field in Paro. Image courtesy: Asia Stock Photos


Bhutan is largely an agrarian society with the majority of people depending on agricultural farming for livelihood. Keeping this in view, we can safely say how our farmers play an important part in deciding the future of our economy. They are the key segment of our population. Without them, the country’s economy cannot prosper. We constantly talk about food security and economic independence, but we often fail to recognize how much our farmers in the villages toil in their fields every day to help us realize these national goals. I feel they would be the only consolation for the nation in times of global crises or famine. If they do not do their job well, I think more than half the population of this country would go hungry. Those of us who live in the towns and cities may earn money from employment or business, but in times of economic crises, we cannot eat the money raw. Only during such times we would realize how our farmers can become our real saviors. The point I am trying to drive home is that what they do in their fields throughout the year is directly proportional to the economic prosperity of the country. Hence, every farmer in the village who toils in the sun and the rain round the clock deserves to be treated with equal dignity and respect like anybody else, if not more.