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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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