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.

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Read for the Blind: a great innovation that can help the visually impaired 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Digital contents and media accessibility in Bhutan

With the advent of television and internet in Bhutan in 1999, the digital contents and audio-visual media have been providing an efficient way for the general public to access news, information and entertainment in the country. The publishing sector delivers most of its contents through their websites while the audio-visual contents are delivered mostly through the national television. Although the emergence of new technologies and innovative practices have revolutionized Bhutanese media over the years, the issue of media accessibility for persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired people still remains. Prior to the era of television and internet in Bhutan, the BBS Radio was the most popular source of information and since it delivered audio contents, accessibility was never an issue for us. However, with the advent of television and internet services, people began to give more importance to graphic contents and as a result, we the visually impaired people began to fall aside. Today, with some information delivered only in graphics and without audio description, we feel we are deprived of our right to access information and entertainment on mainstream media. However, the lack of media accessibility is no longer a technical issue today. We have all the appropriate technologies in place that have the potential to make our mainstream media fully accessible and inclusive. Now the issue lies only with those people who have those technologies in hand. If they have the will, they have all the resources to make their contents fully accessible for persons with disabilities without compromising the quality.

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She is a homemaker, not a housewife

Photo of my wife Amrita Rai with River Swan at the background. Image shot in Perth, Western Australia in 2013

When people ask me about my wife’s profession, I just tell them that she is a homemaker because she is the one who actually transforms my house into a beautiful home. As one of my lecturers had once said when I was in college, there is a huge difference between a house and a home. A house is only a physical structure whereas a home is where we get absolute comfort, warmth and happiness. Considering the amount of sacrifices she makes every day at home, I think the term ‘housewife’ does not fully define her role. Whenever we hear someone say that his wife or mother is a housewife, the general impression we get is that she is jobless and stays at home idly. But if our wife or mother who stays at home were to prepare her Individual Work Plans to show us what she does every day, I think she would have more responsibilities than most of us who go to office.

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