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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With just one more day left for us to bid farewell to 2016, it’s now time to look back and reflect on some of the major life events that defined our life this year. It’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate the successes and churn out the lessons learned from the failures. For me, I should say I have had a satisfying life this year both at the professional and personal level. As we stand at this juncture of time, I just would like to look back on the year and revisit the steps I have walked over the past twelve months before I walk into another new stretch of my life’s journey in 2017.
On 3rd December 2016, Bhutan joined the global community to observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on the theme “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. This theme recognizes the role of these recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals in building a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities around the world. Unlike the past years when all the relevant agencies used to come together to celebrate the day, this year’s celebration stretched out to reach larger audience in different places as different agencies came up with their own programs and activities to observe the event. For instance, the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan (DPAB) and the Special Education Division of the Ministry of Education went to celebrate the day at Tendruk Central School in Sibsoo under Samtse Dzongkhag while the other Disabled Persons’ Organizations like the Ability Bhutan Society and Draktsho Vocational Training Center had a grand celebration in Tashi Taj Hotel in Thimphu. Likewise, the relevant institutes such as the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro, Muenselling Institute of Khaling and other inclusive schools around the country celebrated the day in their own locality with various exciting activities.
I was truly delighted to be part of the Bhutanese delegation to participate in the Australia Awards South and West Asian Regional Alumni Workshop which was held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 17-18 November 2016. There were five of us from Bhutan who were selected to take part in the workshop themed “Education for All”. Although the Bhutanese team members were new to each other, we quickly developed acquaintance and made up an excellent team.
As Bhutan observed Thrue-bab or the Blessed Rainy Day yesterday, three of my visually impaired friends and their families joined me at my house for a simple meal. Keeping in mind the spiritual significance of the day, we all chose to have a simple vegetarian meal to join the nation in observing this year’s Thrue-bab. Although the Blessed Rainy Day is traditionally supposed to be a feasting day for the common people as it marks the end of the farming season and the beginning of the harvesting season, it is also believed to be an auspicious and holy occasion for Buddhists. On this day, it is believed that the rain will be blest with elixir and has the supernatural power to cleanse all our sins and bad karma if we take bath during the most auspicious hour specified by renowned astrologers. So since it is a holy occasion, even those friends of mine who were not vegetarians agreed to stay clean for at least this Thrue-bab yesterday.
“We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we just borrowed it for the future”. This was the key message conveyed to the youth of Bhutan during the International Youth Day celebration at Samdrup Jongkhar on 12th August 2016. Personally, it was a great privilege for me to be part of the team from the Youth Center Division, Department of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education to leave for Samdrup Jongkhar to coordinate the event. Against the warning of incessant Monsoon rain and the threats of terrorist attacks in the Indian State of Assam, we hit the road on 7th August 2016 from Thimphu to celebrate this year’s International Youth Day with the youth of Samdrup Jongkhar on 12th August 2016. The International Youth Day has been observed in Bhutan since 2010 to recognize the potentials of young people and to celebrate their key achievements in various fields. But for five consecutive years, we celebrated the day only in Thimphu and hence, those youth living in other Dzongkhags could not get the opportunity to be part of it. So this year, for the first time in six years, we decided to take the event out of Thimphu. In line with the UN theme for the day “Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty by Achieving Sustainable Development through Sustainable Production and Consumption”, we decided to collaborate with Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI (, a civil society organization that focuses on GNH-based developmental activities especially in rural communities to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. So this was the main reason why we chose to travel all the way to Samdrup Jongkhar to celebrate the event this year.
Having gone through several ordeals in life, Tashi Namgay has finally earned a smile on his face that can melt the hearts of many. He is a man who has found the extraordinary courage within himself to walk the path not so commonly walked by his contemporaries. Today, he is admired by many people for his noble initiatives and contributions to the society, firstly as a social worker and secondly as the Executive Director of Bhutan Kidney Foundation, the non-profit organization he founded in 2012. To me, he is a great source of inspiration especially for young people. He bears testimony to the fact that nothing is impossible if we are truly determined to achieve what we aspire to achieve. This is a story of how determination, hard work and love for humanity can carry a person far into the realm of happiness and contentment.