Monday, July 23, 2018

Lessons from the Republic of Korea

Group photo of participants with program coordinators. Image courtesy: Korea Youth Work Agency.

For me and my friend Yeshi Tshewang, landing at Incheon International Airport on the morning of 6th July 2018 was like entering into a paradise on Earth. The rising popularity of Korean music and drama over the years has made South Korea a dreamland for many Bhutanese people especially the youth. The beautiful landscapes interwoven with the tapestry of beautiful people and their beautiful culture left us with a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm to explore more about the social, cultural, political and economic life of Korean people. We have been part of the Bhutanese delegation to attend the training on program development for teenagers and youth which is organized by Korea Oversea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) from 6-27 July 2018. Apart from the training, we have also been exploring and learning many different aspects of Korean life and I have a lot of memories and lessons to take back home.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thai cave boys and Bhutanese river boys: the story that can never be forgotten

When the soccer fans across the globe were at the peak of their excitement watching the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup, we all know how a local football team in Thailand was going through the biggest ordeal of their life. It is very unfortunate that 12 young boys and their coach who were on a leisurely adventure into the Tham Luang cave complex had to meet such a fate. With all the internal passages blocked by flood water soon after they got inside, they were stuck underground for more than two weeks. Perching on a ledge more than 4 kilometers away from the cave-mouth, the only option the helpless boys had was to cling on to the hope that somebody might come to their rescue before they die of drowning due to the rising water-level around them or suffocation due to the exhaustion of oxygen inside the cave system.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Meaningful vacations for children can make a difference in their lives

With the completion of mid-term exams in schools, the time has once again come for our children to take a well-deserved break from routine academic works. While the school vacations are a festive season for many students, it is also the time when they are exposed to risks. It is at this time that they need greater love and support from their parents and guardians to compensate the care and guidance they get from their teachers. If we fail as parents and guardians to give them the time they deserve, there is every chance that they might get carried away by negative influences.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The importance of concentration: a call for a disciplined mind

Not so long ago, I was walking to my office with my son when a girl coming from the opposite direction nearly bumped into us. She was walking with her eyes glued to her mobile-phone screen. Similarly, my wife was once walking down the staircase of my office with 50 percent of her attention on the mobile phone in her hand when she missed a step and collapsed down. She nearly broke her leg. All such things happen when we work with divided attention. The 21st-century world has become so busy that we do not seem to have time to do one thing at a time. There are so many things that constantly distract us from our routine life and now we seem to have lost our ability to concentrate fully on what we are doing.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dining in the Dark: Venturing out into the world of the visually impaired

Group photo of guests at the Dining in the Dark event. Image courtesy: FB page of Dining in the Dark Bhutan

While rest of the people in Thimphu city were busy settling down for the night on 6th June 2018, a group of special guests had gathered at Chh'a Bistro and Bar at Changzamtog to experience what was going to become one of the greatest adventures of their life. They had come to have ordinary dinner in an extraordinary environment. As they walked in through the door, they were blindfolded and escorted to their tables by volunteers. With their door to the world of light shut, they were left on their own to figure out how to make better use of their remaining four senses to perceive what was going on around them. For those who had never been in such an environment before, it was one of the most challenging moments of their life. Soon, the soup and other foods came on the table and not being able to see what was in front of them, they struggled even more as they groped for their foods. Some of them even had to eat with their hands as they could not use their spoons and forks. At the end of the ordeal, all the guests felt relieved that they have somehow managed to dine in the dark although some of the food items that were served were left untouched.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Key messages from my talk at Norbuling Rigter College in Paro

Photo of me giving the talk

No matter how many times you fall down, there is always a way to get up. When you lose your way in life and find yourself on the other side of the society, you should remember that there is always a u-turn somewhere to get back to the right lane. It is important to understand that problems are there just because there are solutions. When you find yourself stuck in between a rock and a hard surface, just sitting back and crying won’t solve the problem. You should keep on trying to push yourself up no matter how deep you think you have been sucked in. You should not care about how many times you have fallen down. You should focus on how to get up every time you fall down because as long as you keep on trying, there is always a chance to succeed unlike those who give up easily. The road to success does not run straight, It can even run through some of the darkest spots in life, but as it is popularly said, there is always a light at the end of a tunnel. This was the gist of my talk at Norbuling Rigter College in Paro which was organized by my office on 23rd May 2018 as part of the 14th episode of YouTurn, the monthly motivational talk for young people.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Chorten Kora: The sacred symbol of Trashi Yangtse

Photo taken in front of Chorten Kora stupa

When you reach Trashi Yangtse, the first thing that greets your eyes is the spectacular view of Chorten Kora stupa which stands majestically on the bank of Kholongchhu River. Having withstood the test of time for more than two centuries, this great monument draws hundreds of pilgrims and tourists every year. It is believed to have been built in the 18th century by Lama Ngawang Lodrey as a replica of Boudhanath stupa of Nepal and even to this day, one can see in its architectural designs the glory of its rich past. Enlivened by the beautiful rows of sacred temples and prayer-flags interwoven into a tapestry of natural scenery in the surrounding, the stupa touches every soul that comes to circumambulate it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Is he blind?

Some years ago, I was walking with my wife in the town when a passerby approached us and asked my wife "Is he blind?" My wife just smiled and said "Yes!". Then he began to ask her the entire history of how I lost my sight and what I am currently doing, and I was standing there listening to the conversation as though I was in the distance. He never talked to me directly. I felt quite awkward because he was talking about me just in front of me and I was there standing like a lifeless statue.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Responsible use of social media: a reminder for anonymous users

There is no doubt that the evolution of social media has really transformed our lives. It had never been easier for us to connect with our long-lost friends or meet our loved ones all from the comfort of our own home. Today, we live in a world where Facebook alone has over 1.65 billion active users monthly. This means that almost our entire generations are growing up online interacting with friends and families on social media. It has become an important medium of interaction and communication for both casual users and businesses across the world. With easy-to-use tools, simple designs, reliable connectivity and free access to great features, it is true that social media has now taken the world by storm. As a result, it has now become very important for us to learn how to use it responsibly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Voters with disabilities require more accessible polling places in the country

Photo of persons with disabilities who had cast their postal ballots in Thimphu on 14th April 2018. Image courtesy: the official FB page of Disabled Persons' Association of Bhutan

Elections are a great opportunity for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard in the nation’s political process. It is more important for persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote and add their voices to the national debate since they represent one of the largest minority groups in the country. As a developing country, Bhutan is estimated to have at least 10 percent of its total population with some kind of disability as per the World Disability Report published by World Health Organization in 2011. This means that we have at least 70,000 Bhutanese living with some kind of disability in the country and if we also include old-age people who require special arrangements to lead an independent life every day, this figure could be even higher. So the political spectrum of the country will not be complete without the participation of persons with disabilities in the elections.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sexual abuse: the painful reality of our contemporary society

Just as in any other country, sex crimes are not uncommon in Bhutan. But the recent stories of sexual abuse involving a health staff and a schoolteacher in Thimphu have shattered the entire nation. On the night of 5th April 2018, a health technician at JDW National Referral Hospital had allegedly raped a patient’s attendant after injecting her with an anesthetic drug in the pretext of testing her blood for transfusion. Then within the same week, another painful story of how nine young schoolgirls in a private school in Thimphu were sexually molested by their own vice-principal surfaced in the media and further shocked us even before we could recover from the trauma and shame caused by the earlier incident. It is very unfortunate that the very souls who are ethically bound to provide protection and care to their clients have themselves become a threat to the society. Although the crime committed by one health staff and one teacher should not be used as a yardstick to measure the professional conduct of thousands of teachers and health workers in the country, these stories certainly send out a clear message that our society is not always safe especially for women.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Educating for a different future

Photo of panel-members during the 2nd Education Dialogue held at DYS Auditorium Hall on 4th April 2018. Image source: Dorji Wangchuk's Facebook profile.

The quality of education is determined by the quality of school curriculum and the professional competencies of teachers who deliver it to students. Over the past couple of decades, several flaws have been found in the education system since the knowledge and skills imparted to our children throughout their academic life do not seem to help them get employment or prepare them to face the challenges of the 21st century world. Now there is a strong need to review the existing school curriculum and make it more wholistic so that our children get both soft and hard skills that can enhance their capacity to lead a more meaningful and productive life after graduation. These were some of the key highlights of the 2nd Education Dialogue organized jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Journalist Association of Bhutan on the evening of 4th April 2018.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Even technology can betray you if you are not careful

On 31st March 2018, a man in Paro was deceived by the same technology that was put in place to reduce human errors in the delivery of banking services to the clients. He had withdrawn Nu.20,000 from an ATM machine but since there was a long queue of people behind him waiting to withdraw their cash, he had no time to count his money on the spot. So he left the ATM booth trusting that the machine would have dispensed the exact amount he had withdrawn. But when he counted it later, he was shocked to know that he was dispensed only Nu.18,000. He immediately called the Customer Service Unit of the Bank of Bhutan to report the case. But he was told that since he had not counted his cash under the CCTV camera inside the ATM booth, there was no possibility for the bank to verify his claims. Upon his repeated requests, the bank finally agreed to crosscheck the ATM machine he had used and found out that it had dispensed Nu.1000 extra to another client after him. The bank agreed to reimburse only that amount and another Nu.1000 had just disappeared into thin air. In a world of advanced technology, it’s unbelievable how such a thing could have happened. He had shared his experiences on Facebook for the benefit of others who are equally vulnerable to such technological lapses. The comments on his Facebook post showed that he was certainly not the only victim. Many readers had shared how they too had gone through similar experiences due to the strange behaviors of ATM machines. It is said that some people have even been dispensed torn bank notes which they had to exchange at the Royal Monetary Authority since they did not contain serial numbers.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Internet should be affordable and accessible for everyone if persons with disabilities have to become more independent in the society

In the face of rapid globalization, internet has certainly become an integral part of everyday life today. It has reduced the world into one small global village where people can interact with each other just at the click of a mouse. With appropriate internet tools in place, even persons with disabilities have been able to come out of their closets to meaningfully participate in the public life. The internet technologies have enabled persons with disabilities to become more independent by breaking barriers that hindered their participation in the mainstream society. Today, persons with hearing impairment across the globe can comfortably send and receive real-time text messages on social media and communicate with their friends/families through video conferencing and video-chats. Likewise, persons with visual impairment are able to effectively communicate online using different types of access technology such as the screen-readers and other assistive technologies. It is true that internet has now really become indispensable for everyone in the world including the persons with disabilities. This is the main reason why the disability movements around the world are fighting for affordable and accessible high-speed internet services for all so that persons with disabilities can easily interact with their peers and loved ones, and lead an independent life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How unhealthy relationships can ruin your life at such a tender age

Choden was an innocent girl who had the entire world at her feet. She was strikingly beautiful with eyes and hips that could easily melt the heart of boys who came her way. It was just a couple of weeks since she had arrived at the college when she first bumped into Tashi, a senior male student of the college whose looks and smiles instinctively weakened her knees. She found Tashi very gentle and kind when he spoke but since she was already running late to her class, she could not talk to him nicely. However during the fresher’s night, their paths crossed once again. This time, they got to introduce themselves to each other and talk about various subjects of interest. Thereafter, they continued to catch up whenever they got free time and they became close friends as days passed by. Soon they realized they were in love with each other and started dating. Their relationship grew stronger every day as they continued to discover special meaning in each other’s love.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Food adulteration: Another deadly symptom of human madness!

With the total population of 7.6 billion people on the planet today, the world seems to be running out of food supplies if what we have been seeing on social media is true. It seems the increasing demand for food has led to the birth of notorious network of business people who mastered the production of cheap, adulterated foodstuffs without any concern about the health of their consumers. Over the years, the adulteration of foodstuffs has progressed from being a simple means of fraud to a highly sophisticated and lucrative business across the globe. This issue has been further compounded by the greed of food dealers to make easy money and the lack of clearly defined international laws to strictly regulate the global market. As a result, we have started seeing different foodstuffs in the market that are made of plastic and other materials.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The close parent-child relationship is one of the most important factors that contributes to positive youth development

Considering the fact that more than 31 percent of Bhutan’s total population is below the age of 24, the Royal Government of Bhutan invests heavily on youth development to ensure that the youth of Bhutan get the opportunity to spend their childhood meaningfully so that they grow up to become responsible and productive citizens of the country. Since the year 1996 when His Majesty the Fourth King first issued a Royal Decree to institutionalize youth guidance and counselling programs in the country, several major initiatives have been undertaken by both government and non-government agencies to address emerging youth problems. Nevertheless, the youth of today continue to face numerous challenges that come hand-in-hand with the modern socio-economic development of the country. The rising cases of juvenile crimes in urban centers coupled with unemployment, substance abuse and other issues further highlight the need to meaningfully engage and empower young people through educational and recreational activities so that they would get enough avenues for positive growth. Recognizing young people as potential agents of change in the society and the future custodians of our nation, the Royal Government of Bhutan attaches the highest importance to youth development.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beware of internet scams

In 2008, I received an email from Nokia Company based in the United Kingdom saying that I had won 450 million pounds as the best Nokia customer of the year and that I was required to provide my personal details to claim the prize. Later, I received another email from a bank in Nigeria saying that they had sent me a debit card containing 10 million US dollars since a millionaire who had recently died had mentioned my name in his will. Then there were emails from strangers requesting me to be a money mule for them. But no matter how much they tried to convince me, I could not be impressed by their unbelievable promises. I knew that all such emails and messages are part of the strategies adopted by scammers to lure and deceive people across the globe.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

70 days of labor contribution that shaped our economy


Photo of Phuntsholing gate. Image courtesy: Google.When Bhutan finally woke up to the era of modernization in 1960s after centuries of self-imposed isolation, we had to walk an extra mile to catch up with the rest of the world particularly in the field of modern infrastructural development. The construction of Bhutan’s first road, the Phuntsholing-Thimphu National Highway which began in 1960 brought a lot of new hopes and dreams for Bhutan’s economy as people knew that it would pave the way for smooth flow of trade with India. However due to the shortage of national labor force, people had to be conscripted from all corners of the country to contribute to the project. As a result, all the adult Bhutanese got the opportunity to be part of the national workforce that shaped our economy at the beginning of our modern history. Both men and women left their families behind and came forward to contribute to the project as laborers for 70 days after which they were replaced by their siblings or relatives.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Galem and Singye: the story of immortal lovers


Photo of the ancestral house of Galem in Punakha BhutanJust as the legend of Romeo and Juliat or that of Layla and Majnu which has been revered by millions of people across the globe, the story of Galem and Singye has evolved into a symbol of true love and sacrifice in the Bhutanese folklore. It is true that love is a delirious passion and nowhere has it been better expressed than in the tragic tale of Changyul Bum Galem and Gasa Lamai Singye whose yearning for each other costed them sanity and life. Today, it is still one of the greatest love stories in the history of Bhutan and has inspired many film-makers, artists and singers in the country over the years. This ancient romantic story was first immortalized in the 1988 feature film: Gasa Lamai Singye, produced by Ugetsu Communication. Since then, Bhutan has seen a number of commercial movies retelling this extraordinary tale of two ordinary lovers who had put their love for each other above everything.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

From womb to tomb: a real drama of human existence

A man, fed up with his routine life, decides to go on a long religious retreat. His spiritual Master teaches him that human desires and attachments are the main causes of suffering in the world and that he should learn to detach himself from the luxury and comfort of the materialistic world in order to discover more about himself and achieve inner happiness. He is taught that life itself is one big illusion and everything he sees around him is nothing more than a dream. But despite all the efforts of his mentor to convince him that nothing is permanent in this world, he badly misses his wife and parents at home and requests if he could be relieved to go to see them at least once. His Guru finally consents to his request but offers to accompany him.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pilgrimage to Beyul Langdra, one of the most sacred religious sites inBhutan


Photo of Beyul Langdra temple from the distanceFor Buddhists, Beyul Langdra in Wangdue Phodrang represents a real paradise where hundreds of devotees come every year to receive blessings from the sacred monuments believed to have been left behind by the great Buddhist Master, Guru Padma Sambhava during the eighth century. The oral tradition has it that when Guru Rinpoche was meditating here, a ferocious local deity appeared in the form of a bull to distract and attack him. But Guru Rinpoche, in the manifestation of Guru Ugyen Dorji Gur, subdued the deity with his supernatural powers and made him the guardian deity and protector of Dharma. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche hid more than 60 sacred treasures in and around the cliff to be discovered by prophesied treasure revealers over the years. As a result, the name of this place came to be known as Beyul Langdra which means ‘The Hidden Treasure of the Bull Cliff’.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Democracy is the best form of government only if you know that nogovernment is perfect in the world

As Bhutan is gearing up for the third parliamentary election which is to be held this year, we have already started seeing a lot of public debates and discussions on social media about which party should be elected next and why. With about five political parties already registered to join the race this year, it is certain that the road to the parliament will not be as smooth as it is supposed to be. The general excitement and anxiety are already running high among the political parties and their supporters as we start preparing for the Big Day to cast our votes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The unique beauty of rural life: a glimpse of my short vacation in thevillage


Photo of an orange tree in my wife's villageShrouded in the surreal beauty of Nature, our rural villages have their own unique way of life that never fails to fascinate new visitors. No matter how sophisticated are the facilities and services in the cities, the villages always leave us with unique experiences that can never be acquired in the towns and cities. So every winter, I make it a point to send my kids to their mother’s village to enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding environment and understand the cultural and social values that define people’s way of life in the village. I take it as part of wholesome education since children get the opportunities to learn about both rural and urban lifestyles.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Looking at parental suicide through the eyes of children who are leftbehind

It is very sad to know that out of 361 suicide cases recorded by the Royal Bhutan Police and health facilities across the country from 2009-2013, 66 percent of the victims constituted married people. This means that it’s not only youth who are dying by suicide in Bhutan. Many parents are also killing themselves every year leaving behind their innocent children at the mercy of the surviving parent or their relatives.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year. Photo courtesy: stockphoto.com

As the year 2017 draws to a close, it is once again time for us to revisit the path we have walked over the past one year and cherish the good memories we have created together with our friends and family-members as we transition into the New Year 2018. Let us forgive all those who have not been good to us and leave all the bad memories behind as we embark on another new phase of our life. The sorrows and miseries we have encountered over the past one year should vanish with time because carrying them with us into the future wouldn’t let us move forward as we wish. The failures and losses we have already suffered should be a thing of the past and we should not let them interfere with the new hopes and dreams the New Year is bringing for us.