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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2016: My Year Review

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.

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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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The two key messages from His Majesty the King’s National Day address to the nation

Photo of Trongsa Dzong. Image courtesy: Her Majesty the Gyaltsun's Facebook page.

As Bhutan celebrated the 109th National Day in Trongsa today, it was once again time for all of us to collectively reflect on what the country has done for us and what we can do for the country. The entire nation felt blest as we witnessed the three generations of monarchs: the past, present and the future kings gracing the historic occasion today with their presence. I unfortunately missed His Majesty the King’s live address to the nation on television, but I remained conscious enough not to miss the re-telecast of the address in the evening. As an ordinary Bhutanese citizen, I got deeply touched by His Majesty the King’s concerns for the country and its people. I even became emotional when His Majesty shared his noble dreams for Bhutan. Among so many important issues His Majesty highlighted in his address, here are two key messages that touched me the most.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016 celebrated with prayers

Photo of 108 butter-lamps burning. Picture taken by my wife after the prayers

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.

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Pieces of good memories from Nepal

Group photo of delegates from 7 South and West Asian countries During the regional alumni workshop 2016 in Nepal. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Australia Awards in Nepal.

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.

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The real weight of a guilty mind: a response to the defamatory stories on social media

Having to live with the guilt of hurting someone unintentionally is really a traumatic experience. As soon as I instinctively shared on Facebook what eventually turned out to be a rumor about the missing Bhutanese student in Australia about two weeks ago, I felt as though I slipped off the edge of this entire world. Although I removed the post as soon as I doubted its authenticity, somebody was quick enough to take the screenshot of the story and started sharing it across Facebook and WeChat. It was indeed this copy of the post that ignited the issue and went viral on social media. So I feel it was this copy of the post that did more harm than mine. I believe everybody who deliberately shared the post to defame me should also be equally guilty of spreading the rumor and hurting the sentiments of more people. Many people soon contacted me privately and accused me of posting the story. I had to spend hours trying to explain and apologize to them individually. At last, I was able to make peace with most of them except a few whom I personally know. A former school-counsellor who is currently studying in Perth even went to the extent of defaming me openly on my Facebook wall. He openly questioned my professional ethics as a counselor and I fully agree that I have overlooked it when I blindly shared what I heard in a WeChat forum. But if we turn the table around, he is also a professional counselor, and yet the way he is using the social media to launch personal attacks on me does not demonstrate his ethical practice either. He seems to be a better counselor than me with good understanding of counseling ethics and values, but I can’t understand why he is so keen to spread the hatred towards me through social media. As a counselor, he should be able to see me just as one of his clients or an ordinary human being at this point of time. . He must know that a counselor is also a human being and he/she can never be perfect all the time. I have made the mistake and I have accepted it. So what is the point in digging the dried shit again and again?

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The secrets behind the smiles of Bhutanese people

Gross National Happiness. Photo courtesy: postsfromthepath.com

Last Friday, I was walking with two of my friends on the Doebum Lam highway in Thimphu when a news reporter from India stopped us and asked us why Bhutanese people are happy. The reporter told us that his team was in Bhutan to understand our secrets to happiness. He excitedly talked to us how Bhutan has been known to the outside world as the Land of Happiness and that he was interested to find out why. So in response to his question, this is the gist of what I told him:

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A fate worse than death: a painful reality that can pierce your heart

Parental Love. Image courtesy: dwitnews.com

I am really shocked to hear that what could be possible only in the movies and fictions has become a reality in Sibsoo today. A couple of hours ago, an old man from my wife’s village sadly passed away in Sibsoo hospital, but what was more painful than the death itself for him was the betrayal from his own son. According to my wife who is currently in her village, his story goes like this:

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Lessons that can be taken from Passu’s life

Photo of two speakers for YouTurn: Passang Tshering and Dasho Sangay Khandu with Sherig Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk in DYS auditorium. Photo taken on 30th September 2016

During the launch of YouTurn, the monthly inspirational talk for youth initiated by my office on 30th September 2016, Mr. Passang Tshering who blogs at Passu Diary shared some of the most important and interesting episodes of his ordinary life that had the potential to motivate and inspire young people to look at life positively. With his good oratorical skills and a good sense of humor, he could easily connect himself with the lives and experiences of young people and hence, everybody in the audience enjoyed his talk. His stories really carried lots of values and lessons the youth could take home. There were over 160 youth in attendance and all of them appeared to have enjoyed his stories. Following are some of the most significant lessons I could pick up from his life stories for the benefit of young people:

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A piece of memory from the Blessed Rainy Day 2016

Happy Blessed Rainy Day. Poster courtesy: askideas.com

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.

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