Pursuing happiness in the materialistic world is like chasing our own shadow. The more we move forward, the further it goes. No matter how much wealth we accumulate at the end of the day, we will never be able to attain the level of happiness we desire. It will be an endless race. The real happiness actually comes from within, not from outside. If we learn how to be content with what we have, we will never have to look for happiness anywhere else. The world we live in can be defined by how we perceive it. If we look at it positively, we can see the real beauty of life around us. But if we view it negatively, that will shut all the doors to happiness.
There is no doubt that archery has been an integral part of our social and cultural life since the time immemorial. For centuries, it has significantly contributed to the development of social, communication and interpersonal skills that have united the people from all social strata regardless of who they are. Besides, it has also served as the most important weapon during conflicts and wars especially during the theocratic rule between 1616 and 1907. Probably because of such a special historical and cultural significance attached to it, the game was declared as our national sport in 1971, the year in which Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Since then, it has gained special attention even from the outside world. Today, the archery competitions and tournaments still form an important part of major celebrations such as religious festivals and public holidays. However due to the new innovative ideas that have emerged along with rapid globalization, the traditional bows and arrows that are made of bamboos and reeds are slowly getting replaced by imported modern equipment such as compound bows and arrows that are more sophisticated and powerful than the traditional ones. As a result, the safety at the archery ground is becoming a bigger concern over the recent years.
In the midst of catastrophic natural disasters and deadly human violence that are already taking their toll on human civilization across the globe, another sickening sign of impending apocalypse seems to have emerged on social media today. Whether it is real or a hoax, many media reports suggest that a spate of teenage suicides around the world over the recent years could have been instigated by an online pressure group through the deadly game called Blue Whale which allegedly pushes depressed and vulnerable children to kill themselves. Although the real existence of the game and its links to the recent teenage suicides have not yet been confirmed by police in any country, the governments, agencies and institutions in many countries have already started warning parents to be aware of their children’s online activities. According to Hindustan Times, a school in Punjab in India has even introduced a rule that requires all its students to wear short-sleeved shirts so that the Blue Whale tattoos, one of the signs of the child’s participation in the game, can be seen. This shows that just as in any other country where the game has created a wave of panic, India has also been hit by this social hysteria especially after some of the children who committed suicide across the country were suspected to have participated in the game.
Not everybody in this world is born with a silver spoon in the mouth. All of us have our own share of problems to deal with as we move on. Nobody has had a perfect life so far and nobody ever will. The path to success does not run straight. It zigzags through the moments of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and peace and tragedy. As a result, it’s not uncommon for us to fall down when we stumble upon some unforeseen obstacles on the way. Yet it is not the end of everything. Every time we fall down and get up, we get up with new experiences and wisdom that make us a stronger person. Our success really depends on how well we can pick ourselves up whenever we break down and clear the obstacles that have caused us to trip over so that we don’t stumble upon them again in the future if we have to walk the same path.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Gelephu with my colleagues to coordinate the celebration of International Youth Day 2017. One of the activities leading up to the main event was the panel discussion on parents-children relationship which was conducted on the evening of 11th August, one day before the actual celebration. The main objective of holding the panel discussion was to bring the parents and children closer to each other and bridge the gap between them so that both the parties can understand each other better. The participants were put on the stage: parents on one side and youth on the other. Both the groups had a basket each from where they could pick up statements to be read aloud and start the discussion with other members. The discussion went on smoothly until one of the girls from the youth group picked up the statement “We don’t want our parents to quarrel in front of us”. While trying to explain what it meant to her, she emotionally broke down and cried. Later, we learned from her friends that her parents had divorced just recently and we all know how painful it would have been for her to go through such a terrible experience. The statement she had got could have definitely triggered her memories of all those horrific moments she had gone through as her parents fought their ways out. Only she could know what it is like to be a victim of domestic violence and how painful it is to be deprived of the opportunity to grow up in a complete family.
Our mind can accommodate the entire universe. That is why, there are skies upon skies available for our flight. Don’t be content easily. Those who remain content easily remain insignificant. Their joys, ecstasies and silences become insignificant.
Last winter, I was in a local store in Thimphu to buy some PS2 games for my son. I was surprised to notice that the shopkeeper did not even have the courtesy to greet us as we entered his shop. He remained as dumb as a statue as we struggled with our son to locate the games of his choice. We finally picked up a few DVDs and requested him to test them for us but he refused to do it saying they don’t do it. I asked him if we could return the games if they do not work, but he said we cannot return them once we have bought them. He handed over the DVDs to us with the note “No Return” written on them. Once we reached home, we realized that one of the DVDs was not working and that it could not be played. The “No Return” policy of the shop did not allow us to return it. The DVDs were not original either. It made me wonder if it was even ethical for them to burn and create such DVDs on their own for sale.
Recently, a group of six visually impaired people in Thimphu had gone to the Bank of Bhutan to apply for ATM and M-BoB services. But the bank did not accept their request because they could not sign. This has ignited an interesting discussion within the visually impaired community in Bhutan. I think the banks believe that all those who cannot sign are illiterate and hence, they can be irresponsible and vulnerable to theft and robbery. But not all the visually impaired people are illiterate. Everybody who has studied at Muenselling Institute in Khaling knows how to read and write, at least electronically or in braille. The only problem with them is that many of them do not have signatures just because they cannot sign. As a result, they are denied access to the online banking facilities which otherwise would make their lives much easier.
During my school days, the kind of respect we had for our teachers never changed even when they lashed us mercilessly. We did not have value-education classes but we knew our boundaries well. We have been culturally groomed to believe that teachers are like our parents and that we must respect them as much as we respect our parents. We have been convinced that we would earn respect if we know how to show respect to our elders and treat them with love and dignity. But sadly, this trend seems to be taking a different turn today. Probably due to the excessive exposure to western cultures through social and mainstream media outlets that have emerged with the technological revolution of the modern era, the youth of Bhutan appear to be gradually drifting away from the unique social and cultural values of our country that define us as Bhutanese. This rapid decline of values among the Bhutanese youth has triggered important discussions in the government agencies in the recent times. Upon the Royal Command of His Majesty the King, the Ministry of Education has already started working with the Royal Education Council (REC) to explore effective ways of inculcating our own national values into the young generation. The first draft of the curriculum framework for teaching values developed by REC was presented during the special meeting convened on 19th June 2017.
The people with eyesight seem to see so little that they often fail to recognize what is around them. Whenever I hear about people falling off the cliff or bumping into objects on the way, I just wonder why they have not been able to make full use of their eyes. My wife occasionally goes out to attend public functions and celebrations, but always comes back to say that she did not see anything. I have many friends who have been in the woods but have not seen anything special there.
Before I went to school, I think I was a spoiled child. Perhaps because I was the only surviving child from my late mother, my father loved me too much during my childhood. As a result, he hardly cared what I did. He used to smoke biri at the time and often there used to be biri-butts in the pockets of his trousers. Out of curiosity, I tried to smoke one of them one day. But the moment I started inhaling the dark smoke, it drove me crazy. I began to puke uncontrollably. That was the first and the last time I ever tried to smoke. I could never appreciate it.
The Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) is an important national exercise undertaken every after 10 years to determine the socio-economic status of the entire population. The last time we had this kind of survey was in 2005. The findings from this survey are expected to guide the future plans and policies of the government to boost socio-economic development of the country. Hence, it is not surprising to see the questionnaire covering different aspects of social, economic and public life of each individual when an enumerator walks into your house. The main intention behind having such a comprehensive set of questions is to get the exact socio-economic profile of a person. It is therefore very important for each of us to participate in the survey and get counted. After having patiently waited for one and half days, I finally got counted this evening.
Decades ago, I remember people talking about the possible cyber war in the future. At that time, it did not make any sense to me. But today, it seems what people had feared for years is becoming a reality. The advanced computer technology of the modern age has given birth to many sophisticated hackers who are responsible for some of the deadliest cyber-attacks the world has ever seen in the recent history. The first was the widely publicized hacking of Sony Pictures in November 2014 in which a group named The Guardians of Peace hacked the database of the film studio and released several new films online. Then came the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 US Election which led to the leak of thousands of confidential and private emails of the Democratic Party officials on WikiLeaks. Today, we are seeing another kind of cyber-attack, through a ransomware called WannaCry which has already affected more than 150 countries since last Friday. WannaCry is a malicious software that freezes your computer and demands $300 to be paid online if you want to regain access to your files. What causes more panic for the victims is that the ransomware threatens to permanently delete all the files within a week if the ransom money is not paid. Although there is no guarantee that the access will be granted after paying the money, the analysis of the Bitcoin Wallets has shown that a significant amount has already been paid by the victims in a desperate bid to get back their files and documents.
One winter night in 1993, my wife’s elder sister, Sita Rai in Sibsoo got the biggest shock of her life. While everybody was busy with works late into the night, a group of men suddenly circled them and started attacking them with sticks and machetes indiscriminately. All their faces were covered in black soot. They threatened the family that they would kill them if they do not surrender their money and jewelry. Her father-in-law was subsequently dragged away into the fields, to the spot where he had hidden the money underground and was left with severe cuts and bruises after robbing him of his life-long savings. Later, the family learned that the robbers were from the same village but since they had distorted their faces with soot, they could not be identified. Likewise, many robbers disguise themselves when they rob people. Even if they do not hide their identity, they at least wait for the night to fall before they decide to act so that their identity can be hidden by nature. This is the negative energy you would get when you hide yourself behind the masks.
With the ongoing road-widening activities in full swing and the early arrival of Monsoon this year, it is becoming increasingly risky for people to travel along the national highways today. Over the past couple of months, we have seen a number of tragic accidents along the West-East National Highway that have killed both foreign tourists and Bhutanese nationals. As a mountainous country, the topography of Bhutan itself is not friendly for road travelers but during the Monsoon season, the highways become even worse. The road blockages due to landslides and shooting boulders along the national highways are once again becoming a common phenomenon. As a result, it is very important to take extra caution while driving nowadays. We have already lost many precious lives due to reckless driving. Only the affected families would be able to feel the real pain of having to lose somebody like this. The heaps of sands and lose soil alongside the roads, and the overhanging boulders due to the road-widening activities are some of the most dangerous risk factors for road mishaps. As a driver, one should drive slowly and cautiously so that everybody would be safe. Travelling along the national highways today is like travelling between life and death. One has to be always alert and vigilant because anything can happen any time.