The past two weeks had been very tedious for me and my colleagues in the office as we were involved in three major programs that had to be implemented one after another. We had never carried out programs in such a quick succession before and the preparatory tasks and other arrangements completely drained us out. First we had the capacity building training for out-of-school youth from 15-19 March in collaboration with the Institute of Management Studies in four Youth Centers: Trashigang, Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Thimphu Youth Centers during which I was fully responsible for coordinating with the regional Youth Centers to arrange the training. Then we had to coordinate the conduct of a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop for another batch of out-of-school youth and Youth Center Managers in Thimphu from 24-28 March 2016. I think there is nothing more challenging than bringing youth from other Dzongkhags especially keeping in mind the current financial rules that allow us to pay the DSA of only Nu.150 per day to each youth. Nevertheless, the TOT workshop ended successfully as planned and then we had a 2-day youth interaction program in Thimphu with Parliamentarians which started yesterday and successfully ended today.
With the passage of time, I am glad to know that at least some people have now begun to realize the importance of inclusive education in Bhutan as a tool for integrating children with disabilities into the mainstream school environment to further their independence and enhance their capacity to live a meaningful life. I have studied in the mainstream school since grade 7 but with no teachers trained to deal with special need children, it was very challenging to be able to cope with sighted friends because we were literarily crippled by limited reading materials in accessible formats and lack of trained teachers. Nevertheless, I and my friends managed to find our way out and could successfully complete our studies. But if the inclusive education policy was already in place, we would have had a different story to share. Today, people have started talking about inclusive education and I am very grateful that they have started taking some interest in the subject. One of the lecturers of Paro College of Education, Mr. Rinchen Dorji is currently doing his PHD degree in Inclusive Education in Australia and a couple of months ago, I have had the opportunity to take part in his research study. Following is the transcript of that interview held in my office. I have named the interviewer as RD.
When youth and children look up to us as their role models, we have the most sacred responsibility to guide them onto the right path not only by telling them what to do, but also by demonstrating what is best in us so that they can observe and learn from us. We have the best opportunity at hand to help them define and re-define the meaning of their life through our own lifestyles so that they can rise up in the right direction with right values. But if the role models fail to demonstrate what is good for their fans or followers, the result can be catastrophic. Just as the simple but unique hairstyle of Ronaldo during the World Cup final in 2002 could change the hairstyle of millions of his young fans around the globe, the role models can definitely influence the thinking and behaviors of those who look up to them as their source of inspiration and motivation. Hence, I feel all those who are respected by youth as their role models must always walk the right path so that those who follow them do not fall down.
I was once listening to a recorded discourse by His Eminence Sogyal Rinpoche on his groundbreaking book ‘Tibetan Book for Living and Dying’. He was talking to a group of students in a college in California, USA. After sometime, a student raised a question which can never be answered with certainty. He asked “Is there life after death?” I wondered how would Rinpoche respond to the question because he was certainly not talking to an orthodox audience who would easily believe what is written in the religious scripts. But the answer he provided moved me completely. It was perhaps the best answer one can ever expect for such a question.
With rapid development of modern infrastructures and public facilities, Thimphu is now growing into a city that hardly sleeps as it gets crowded with people from all corners of the country. It is estimated that there are over 50,000 people currently living in Thimphu city who have come for various reasons: employment, education, business, etc. As a result, we get to see different people with varying lifestyles and strange behaviors in the city every day. But more than anybody else, the taxi drivers get the opportunity to watch the real drama of the city life as they ferry passengers from one place to another every day. I have personally talked to a couple of taxi drivers in Thimphu and they have shared the following stories:
Shamanism is part of an old cultural practice of treating sick people which was influenced by Bonism, a religion that originated in Tibet and spread to Bhutan before the 8th century. During the olden days when there were no medical facilities, Shamans were the only source of hope for the sick people. Today, although we live in a scientifically sophisticated world with advanced medical facilities, Shamanism is still a common practice in many communities in Bhutan. People first consult the shamans and only if they don’t get better, they go to the hospital. Shamans basically perform rituals to invoke the local deities and appease them to help the sick get better. I don’t find the logic to believe in such practices but a few circumstances have made me wonder if they really have some supernatural powers to fend off evil spirits. Believe it or not, I must confess that both I and my eldest son were once saved by a shaman although it could have been a mere coincidence or a placebo effect.
Without some fun, I feel life would be a serious drama with characters just performing what they are instructed to do. It would certainly be a lonely and monotonous journey. But thanks to Nature for blessing us with the ability to laugh and make others laugh. We often run into some funny episodes that spice up our life. I know we all have some funny experiences in life which, when we look back from now, would easily make us giggle or laugh. Following are the five funniest incidents of my life that might make you laugh as well.
The conferral of Red Scarf and Patag (sword) by His Majesty the King is a unique Bhutanese tradition of honoring and recognizing individuals for their most dedicated service to the nation. Only those who prove to be the best among the best (Dasho) in terms of their contributions to the country are privileged to receive the red scarf from His Majesty the King. The color of the scarf itself is associated with Buddhism as it resembles the robe worn by Lord Buddha and hence, it carries both spiritual and cultural values. As His Majesty the King has said while conferring red scarf to Dasho Karma Tshiteem, the Chairperson of RCSC during the National Day celebration last year, red scarf symbolizes the compassion of Buddha with which its wearer serves the society and the Patag represents strength with which its wearer protects the nation forever. It is a sacred symbol of honor and recognition. But although both red scarf and Patag are part of the regalia that symbolize recognition, they are slightly different when it comes to their actual significance. This would explain why some retired officials are still seen wearing their red scarf while their Patags have disappeared.
In Bhutan, our Citizenship Identity (CID) card contains a 11-digit number but have you ever realized what each digit represents? Certainly those 11-digit numbers are not picked up at random by the computer. Each digit has a meaning and contributes to your identity. Just by looking at your CID number, we can exactly know which part of Bhutan you are from and what’s the status of your census. Today I am going to share what each digit of your CID number tells about you.
On 18th July 1999, Tshering Dorji and his elder brother Pema Thinley both of whom were studying at the Muenselling Institute of Khaling were on their way back to the Institute from their summer vacation. Tshering Dorji was studying in class IV, whereas his elder brother Pema Thinley was studying in class II. Both of them were enrolled in Muenselling Institute as low vision students. On that morning, they had walked down from their village in Gomdar and waited at Narfung the whole day trying to flag down any Khaling-bound vehicle to hitch a ride to school. But they could not get catch hold of any car that day as the number of vehicles plying that highway during those days used to be very less. The sky started closing in as the evening twilight began to creep in. They had almost given up their hope to reach the Institute that day when a teacher of Khaling Lower Secondary School, Lopen Pem Tashi came on his scooter. He had come from Samdrup Jongkhar and he informed them that their Institute’s car was coming. After hearing this news, they stopped looking for other vehicles and decided to wait for the Institute’s car. To their delight, the car arrived at around 5 pm and they were happy to know that there were two empty seats as though they had booked them in advance. But as they got in, they didn’t realize that they were heading to one of the greatest ordeal of their life. About 12 kilometers into the journey, the car veered off the road near Melong Brag below Tshelengkhor and crashed into a steep cliff killing three out of five people including the driver. This is an inside story of two survivors of the crash, Tshering Dorji and Sir Shriman Gurung.
It was June 1999 and I was volunteering at Muenselling Institute in Khaling as a temporary teacher. We had done our class X exams (ICSC) in March and I had volunteered to stay back at the Institute to serve as a temporary teacher while awaiting the academic results. The results were finally declared in May 1999 but sadly we the visually impaired students were left out in the list. Although I was confident that I would qualify for class XI, I had wanted to come to Thimphu to find out why our results were withheld. The new academic sessions for class XI were due to commence from July and with every passing day, I began to get more worried about my future. But to my delight, I heard that the Vice-principal of the Institute, Sir Shriman Gurung was planning to go to Thimphu in the Institute’s vehicle to settle the annual accounts of the Institute and I immediately decided to jump at the opportunity. I discussed this option with my friend Leki Chedup who had completed class XII and who was also working as a temporary teacher with me in the Institute. Since he was one of my best friends in school, I always sought his opinions whenever I had to make important decisions and he helped me a lot. When I told him about my plan, he flatly rejected my idea and advised me to inform the Principal of Khaling Higher Secondary School and wait for the results to come through, instead of travelling all the way to and from Thimphu unnecessarily wasting money. Yes, after all, he was right. I didn’t have money to meet my travel expenses and I decided to stay back. I went to see the Principal of Khaling Higher Secondary School and requested him to reserve my admission convincing him that I would definitely qualify for class XI. I was happy that he agreed to admit me as long as I fulfilled the admission criteria. Leki soon left for Thimphu to explore some training/employment opportunities since he had completed class XII.
In Hindu culture, the wedding ceremony is held in two phases: one at the bride’s house and another at the groom’s house. The first phase of the wedding takes place in the bride’s house during which the groom and his family-members come to formally receive their bride. The family-members and well-wishers of the bride also come together to attend the wedding party. But this phase of the marriage party is slightly different from the one which is to be held at the groom’s house later. Only vegetarian foods will be served and many people still wonder why meat is banned during this phase of the wedding. After careful analysis, I have found the logic behind this tradition.
One winter night about 8 years ago, a childhood friend of my wife who was living in Jimina in Thimphu found herself barely conscious when she woke up by chance. She tried to stretch out her body to bring herself to full consciousness but her body would not respond to her will. Finally she somehow managed to stretch over to her husband and her baby who were sleeping next to her but when she tried to pull them one after another, they were dead like logs. She tried to call them but they would not respond to her. So she dragged herself to the door and knocked it open. As soon as she got out of the door, she began to regain her consciousness and began to feel stronger. She eventually managed to get some neighbors to help her take her unconscious husband and her baby to the hospital. Sadly as they rushed to the hospital, the baby died on the way and could not be saved. However, the doctor could save her husband. For her, this was the most traumatic experience of her life. For her family and everyone in her neighborhood, the death of her baby and the cause for their unconsciousness became a big mystery. Nobody could figure out what could have caused it.
The moment we hear about social media, the first thing that crosses our mind is Facebook. We know that it is one of the most popular social networking sites today with over millions of registered users worldwide. It has become an ideal platform for people to interact with their friends and family-members as it provides easy access to hundreds and thousands of audience at any given point of time. With its user-friendly design and several amazing features, it has helped us create a completely different world online for each of us. We may not have so many friends to talk to in the real world, but we always have at least somebody to talk to on Facebook, be it a friend or a stranger any moment we log in. In fact, most of us would have more friends on Facebook than in reality. It has become a social medium for people to reach out to those whom they love or interact with the public either casually or officially. It is being used as a means to reach out to people both by individuals and organizations today as it provides so many interactive features that enable us to do whatever we like. So we have started posting all kinds of stuff, both serious and funny, for the public to see. As a result, we often end up doing strange things online. Here are five weird things we do on Facebook today.
In a public function in Paro, a friend of mine appeared on the stage with a microphone in his hand as the MC announced his name and the title of the song he was going to sing. As usual, he tested his mike by lightly tapping on it with his finger and whispering “hello” a few times to ensure it was working. Then his karaoke track began to play from the CD and he began to sing. As he sang the song, the sweet melody of his voice perfectly melted into the musical effects of his track and like a charmer, he kept his entire audience spellbound. When he finished, all of us rose up to the top of our lungs to cheer him up and a big round of applause went off as a gesture of appreciation for his outstanding performance. Later when I met him personally, I congratulated him on his excellent performance and insisted that he should continue to sing. He thanked me and we departed.