Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sorry! The Magic Word

The unusual events in our lives arise from our own actions and instincts. The chain of events that does some collateral damage to our emotions is nevertheless a unique thing but a common phenomenon. A husband cheating on his wife, a melancholic wife at the verge of collapse, a lover trying to find his place in the heart of his beloved, an old grandpa wanting to marry another granny because of loneliness might be some exceptions taking into consideration the rise in polygamy these days.

Sorry! This is  a catch phrase we often use in our daily mundane chores of emotions…but never the less it has been a custom to make things work with a simple sorry for the great emotional damages done……Would you consider to pause for a moment and think for a while…why is it sorry to say sorry? 

We often come across brawls, quarrel, misunderstandings etc. It is almost synonymous to the medical miracle to save life in a dying person. Such is the power of ‘Sorry’. A child with some terrible behavior, when caught by a teacher, says sorry to the teacher, the teacher feels a heightened sense of pride for what the child just said…….such is the power of ‘Sorry’.

So my claim is spoken and I seek solace in the verses of Sir Elton John;

What have I got to do to be heard
What do I say when it's all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word
It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The George Orwell Theory

One of the high profile officials recently visited my place for some sort of meeting. I am not mentioning it now but I know who that person was and what is he here for? All things that the host district should do or done , now for that matter was done with geometric precision and I am pretty sure that he must have been elated with all the ‘Chadri’ thing of my place.
His visit here was like any other high level meetings held in my place so far, but something extra ordinary he uttered shook me and the Bhutanese online world by surprise. “Teachers have no work!” Well this debatable, controversial and blood gushing phrase will definitely shake the minds of the teachers in our country at least for some time to come.
The said official must have used uncountable resources till now costing the government exchequer dearly. The very fact that he is a high profile official speaks for itself. He is holding his official chair not because he was born a Dasho by birth. He must have undergone schooling till university and all that he is now is just because of his teachers. He may belong to a generation when parents would hide their children away from school. Now that he uttered the phrase already he should know that it cannot be taken back. I remembered this official as a high school kid, as a trainee and now as a civil servant.
If we in the service working group think a little out of the box, there is no need of an agency especially the teaching profession. This agency can foresee other sectors in the civil service. This governing agency is headed by an official who uttered the phrase. The agency he heads is autonomous and maybe he used this autonomist power to say such words. I would not be surprised if he utters such words in future. So I wish him all the luck from now on, because I can see there will be hordes of criticisms aiming at the remark. My belief is there are three sides to an argument: the right side, the wrong side and my side. I can only claim to be on my side. The bottom line theory is, “IN A TIME OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WOULD BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT”-GEROGE ORWELL

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chodpa-The festival of vulgar actions and obscene remarks

This piece is an excerpt from my book and it mentions about an unusual festival that I witnessed sometime during the fall of 2009. Happy reading!  

My way of interpreting who we are is deep embedded in our culture and it is this culture of ours that make us distinct and different from the rest of the world. Since we are different, that gives us a different identity. As men make families, families make households, households make a village, villages make communities, communities make societies and ultimately societies make up a country. So this chain of interdependence is very much crucial for our co-existence. As said “man cannot live by bread alone[1]”, our cultural heritage is important. Likewise we have our own way of doing things that makes us distinct and different.
So down to the villages, we have our own system of celebrations and set of belief that conjures up a split image of practices that ultimately makes the broad and diverse culture of our country. As ‘little drops of water and little grains of sand, makes the mighty ocean and the pleasant land[2], Degala village too is no exception when it comes to portraying its own share of culture through festivals and beliefs. My encounter with such a festival took place in the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is a festival which locals term it as “Chodpa[3]. This festival goes on for four nights and three days. During my stay in Degala, I got two wonderful opportunities to witness such a rare event. Had I not come to Degala, I wouldn’t have seen this unusual fest in any other places in Bhutan. Degala people practice both the mainstream Buddhism and Bon practices.
During the festival, besides school going children, all other village folks are in their best of the mood- drunk! Not for a day but for the entire duration of the fest. This festive celebration begins with recitation of the religious texts and the mask dances begin. It literally is a fest of colors.
During the day it’s like any other local festival in Bhutan but it’s in the evening that things turn out to be interesting and worth witnessing. People come to the community temple in their best outfits in the evening and already, there would be lots of young girls singing and dancing, entertaining the gathering. After a few number of songs and dances, these girls sing their way to the “Gadpu Apa’s[4] residence to receive him. As per Bonism, he is supposed to enact some Bon god believed to be related to Guru Rimpoche[5]. These girls affectionately sing and escort him to the community temple. After reaching the temple, the entire team circumambulates the village temple and gets into the temple. Most people would be already in the temple before his (Gadpu Apa) arrival and people impatiently wait for his arrival.
As he begins to dance, his gestures depict vulgar actions and all of his dances somehow or the other portrays the biological destiny of living beings-sex. When people get the message, men usually laugh and women hide their faces. While the elderly smile and little children yell. After this session, the Gadpu Apa, settles down with his assistants and starts drinking Bangchang, and soon others follow. The entire people gathered must be served Bangchang and Ara[6]. One of the assistants called me outside and he offered me some. I too gave a few shots down my throat.
After the Ara session, it’s now time for the women and young girls to go crazy. They start passing remarks (bawdily) and soon men follow.  The Bhutanese full stop which is very much prevalent is made public. It is more or less used as and when required and needed but if this remark is for me supposing, I shouldn’t get angry or annoyed regardless of my position or the status that I hold. Or in other words you shouldn’t feel ashamed not only during the festival but for the entire month (The 10th month). After the festive season, people carry on with the vulgar statements and remarks till the end of the month. That’s the norm. Strange!
The mask dances are like those performed in any other festivals elsewhere. Other than ‘Chodpa’, there are three more local festivals namely “Kharphu, Kaath & Shoo”.[7] During the day, the celebration is mostly mask dances and nights are primarily meant for secretive love affairs among young, unmarried people. During my first year, I witnessed a middle aged woman accusing her husband of adultery and later we were told that she was drunk. She had some grudge against the other woman and then she might have thought “this can be the opportunity to bring her down”. In this whole drama, Mr. Husband was the puppet. In a typical Kheng dialect I was told, “Migser bulo rey, o kai chi kamey gi”. (This woman is suspecting adultery).
I was asking a few elderly people why is that people shouldn’t be ashamed of foul remarks during this time? “If you are ashamed especially in front of your kith and kin-this shame drives away your sins and bad deeds” said one. The other opines, “Foul remarks are better, it doesn’t cause much harm, in the past people used to drag women into the bushes and there’s nothing the spectators could do”. I too thought, its way better now, only coarse remarks!
I had a different reason to be ashamed of because when I was witnessing this vulgar episode of the ritual and dances performed by the so called ‘Gadpu Apa’, there were many of my students whom I taught in the school. I am not sure whether they ever were ashamed or not but I certainly was. When I was thinking of hiding my face from the children, women started yelling at me with all the vulgar remarks and I was red-ashamed.
One thing that is in plenty during this fest is the abundance of locally brewed alcohol. Every household would have brewed alcohol months in advance so that drinking becomes fun. During this time, fights and quarrels are also rampant. They also have meat on the menu and they celebrate ‘Chodpa’ like any other festivals in other parts of our country. One thing that isn’t common is the fact that, if a couple is childless, the wife will be given an erect (wooden) phallus by the Gadpu Apa. She will have to wrap it like a baby and carry it on her back and circumambulate the village temple. This practice is believed to be true and the couple did have a child later. Strange! The phallus can be seen in other fest such as the Kharpoo. Men in groups go from door to door singing “A-hoi”, wishing the household luck and fortune. And in return, the singers and the group are served alcohol and also given money-which they tie it on the wooden phallus.
According to my oral findings, different people have different things to say about this festival. Unlike other festivals, here the present generation of the people doesn’t really know much about the fest significance. However, the role of a Gadpu Apa isn’t hereditary and its skills can be learnt by any aspirant. On the 30th day of the ninth month in the Bhutanese calendar, the Lhakhang[8] care taker will read a letter, claimed to be Guru Rimpochhe’s decree, to every house hold about how this festival began initially. He will also ask for contributions that must be made during the festival.
When I asked a few people, they say elderly might know but elderly ones say nothing concrete about its significance and origin. Due to limited information on this unusual fest, I couldn’t really put the facts as it should have been. It is what I have seen and experienced. And for alcohol drinkers, this festival is a safe haven.

[1] A saying from the book of Bible
[2] Opening lines from the poem ‘Little Things’ by Cobham Brewer
[3] The name of the festival that falls on the tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar corresponding to the 12th month of the Gregorian calendar
[4] A grandfather who is considered the main actor in the fest
[5] An 8th century Buddhist saint
[6] A distilled alcohol
[7] The names of other local festival of Degala which falls on the 3rd and 8th  month of the Bhutanese calendar 
[8] Community monastery

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Relaxing with a book

ummer and vacations are almost synonymous. Who doesn't love spending some summer time with friends? Or 'getaway' to a summer vacation destination? Well most of us do. It is a season filled with a warm rainy joy. For adults it means a break from the daily humdrum of the routine job and a time for rejuvenation. For most kids and teenagers, this is the time they have been looking forward to.
This is the time parents can think of what their children should do instead of letting them sit on couches for long hours into television and video games. One thing I suggest is to let kids read outdoors. Join a library club and engage them in sports. Nowadays, if I may say so, every Dzongkhag has a Youth Information Centre. Not only will keeping your kids involved during the summer break keep them healthy and their minds engaged, it might also make going back to school in the fall at least a little bit easier.
A lot of their teachers will tell them it's apparent they've been reading all summer; it's very obvious that they do that because they see the gap between the children who haven't been reading all summer. It takes them a few more weeks to get on track. There is perhaps no greater avenue to learning then through reading. All people, great and small, have learned more things by reading than practically any other way. When we continue to read, we have the ability to expand our minds tremendously. We review the pages of knowledge left by those who came before us. We then begin to add to the knowledge as humanity continues.
The vast mass of knowledge in the world can only be gained by reading, and if you want your kid to be smart, he has to acquire a love for reading. If there is one important thing that you can do to help your child become a success in school and in life - it is to encourage him to be a reader and love reading.  The most successful people in the world are voracious readers.  This is no surprise, as reading opens the door to virtually all knowledge.  Moreover, it is the path to lifelong learning.  Helping your child to love reading is one of the most important things you can do as a parent – and it will be worth your time and energy.
Your young child learns about colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, while your older child discovers an expanding chain of knowledge.  His interest in cars, for example, will expand to his interest in trucks, and other transportation like planes and rockets, and soon he will be reading about outer space, science and technology, and so forth. Your child learns early that reading is fun and not a chore. When your child grows up, you will not be stressed about getting him/her to read, as reading has become, a pleasurable habit.

So dear parents and adults you might want to think twice before letting your child do nothing this summer.