Friday, August 31, 2012

The Dzongkha-English of our time (Language Dilution)

The language of our time is taking another turn when UNESCO stated some of our local languages are at the verge of extinction. Language extinction! The paper ‘Journalist’ reported this year sometime in January that Olepkha, Chalikha, Gongdupkha and Doyapkha are among the most endangered languages of Bhutan. 

While some of the languages are vulnerable to extinction, one typical language is taking its shape and getting assimilated into our linguistic culture. That is the typical ‘Dzong-lish’, assimilation of part English and part Dzongkha. Consider this, “Zai dhari nga bazaar na parking mo thob sa” or that “Choe gaira naba text book da note books bag wong go mey”. And as a ‘Bona fide’ Bhutanese I too fall into this category of Dzong-lish speakers. 

We are allowing this to happen in our culture. Why culture? Some of us may proudly opine! Language is the medium through which we pass other components of culture to the next generation and if it’s not preserved now, it will be gone from the face of the earth. After all, preserving and promotion of culture is one of the pillars of our lofty vision of Gross National Happiness.  

How to preserve culture is not my expertise and it’s not my field of study either. I can only claim that we must make a coordinated effort as teachers, parents, guardians, civil servants, corporate employees, entrepreneurs, officers (you name it) to preserve it. Here’s what my children at school tell their friends, “wai choe pack lunch bag woong yi ga” and teachers too are no exception, “alu dhi tsu, choe gaira paper-pick bay wa soong”, or in a typical morning assembly, “alu ditsu, line straight zo”. Here’s another one, “choe sick in pa chin, BHU soong mey”. 

Moreover, as a teacher myself, our children would be excited if Dzongkha is removed from our national curriculum, and I can claim that I have read more books than my colleagues but in English. I didn’t get hold of a Dzongkha book for pleasure reading until now.
It takes so much time to learn Dzongkha and Bhutan is yet to create a group of field-linguists who can actually study and preserve the national language. Youth today consider it ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ to speak in English than in Dzongkha. Why not, except for Dzongkha, all other subjects are taught in English.  

Apart from Dzongkha, all other languages do not even have written scripts and is not documented. Today we use text messages written in English to mean something in Dzongkha through our cell phones. If this is not linguistic-cultural dilution then what is it? I am not against the English language as it constitutes the universal language. How many of our office- goers like to officially correspond and write in Dzongkha? Perhaps only a negligible lot I guess. 

Dear readers, my suggestion is, learn to speak as many languages as possible for it might come in handy in future. I am writing this to bring this to the notice of our authorities, particularly the MoHCA, Department of culture to do something about it before the vulnerable languages become ‘extinct’ and Dzongkha becomes ‘archaic’. 

Thought for the day: There are three sides to any argument; the right side, the wrong side and my side. I can only claim to be on my side.
Happy reading folks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can Monks Drink?

Last night a meeting by chance with an old friend of mine who had come from a remote school paid me a visit. He put up with me as he had no one in this vicinity. Playing a sound host to my friend, we went to a familiar restaurant for dinner with some beers to call our day off. Things to be eaten for dinner had to be prescribed an hour or so. For the waiting game, I took out a bottle and whispered ‘cheers’ to myself as my other friend stopped drinking a long time  ago. 

Then my other urban colleagues joined after a while and we began to talk of the days’ events. In the cabin of the familiar restaurant, several red robed people were conversing and by the time I and my friend got there, they were done with eating and drinking.

Wait a minute! Did I just mention drinking? Yes, you read it right. They were drinking and some of the monks were already giving us a conjunctivitis look. To add fuel to the fire, the one who was completely drunk, was holding two middle aged women. God! By the way they converse in the local dialect, I could sense out the intention of the monk. If you know what I mean! Now their eyes matched their robes. This is what compelled me to pen down my thoughts on what I just saw recently. 

Are monks and the ‘clergy’ allowed to drink? If defended from a human perspective yes they can because they have desires and urges too. They breathe like any of us and feel like we do. But the bottom line is, they embraced the monastic life to kill their desires and urges, they embraced the monk-hood to strive for spiritual fulfillment, they made this choice to lead all beings towards enlightenment, and they became monks to lead a simple compassionate life. That’s the very reason why we have so much consideration and respect for the people in ‘red’. At least, I revere them with much awe. And so to speak, almost everyone in our country has high regard for them. 

We are all equally responsible for our own country and tourists flock to our land not to see the magnificence of our villas, hotels, spas and roads. They come here to witness our Vajrayana customs and belief. They come to see our folk festivals, the Tsechus and other religious undertakings. We are all responsible for creating a lasting impression in the minds of outsiders. On the other, monks are more responsible than us! 

As a patient listener of folk tales, it has been reported that the art of oral story telling is dying but it is documented somehow and the future generation can at least read it. What about the agents who form the cream of our Vajrayana belief? These agents are nowadays seen more in bars and public places with bottles before them. What can be worrisome than the sight of monks drinking?
Thought for the day: Can monks drink?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The road diary

I woke up at 3 am in the morning at my parents and then by 3.30 I kissed my mother good bye and then I put the key in to hear the roar of my small red car. This was in the onset of this year. I made this journey back to my school after the vacations. I drove and the music blazing was “Amazing” – ‘Aerosmith’.  I crossed the check point smiling at the guards of Chukha hydro power plant. Then in instant, I was cruising towards Thimphu with another number by the ‘Beatles’- ‘Hey Jude’. I was not alone; I had hordes of truckers already on the way. 

I was almost near the newly built Chukha Dzong and the morning sky was yet to get some light. I stopped, took a couple of pictures of the magnificent Dzong and then headed northwards. As I drove I could see the fuel signal-half. I then took out a thousand note, handed over to the ‘Kancha’ who was almost awake to refuel the car. Cruising again on one of the busiest highway, I lighted a ‘Dhuwa Mithai’-cigarette for company. Listening to a few numbers by Don Williams, the morning dawn appeared as I reached ‘Tanalum’ check point. A man in blue came to me and asked “Where?” to which I greeted “Zhemgang”. He was making this enquiry in half sleep mode and I too thought why come out to register the license and other details in a chilly morning?
After the check point, another piece of my smoky mithai and I no more had to put on the headlights. It was the morning brightness with crystal clear view. I listened to so many songs up the Chapcha ridge and down till Damchu. This is the part of the stretch that I don’t like to drive. I don’t know I simply don’t like the travel between Tanalum and Damchu since I was a child. 

As I accelerated, I could feel the thrill of driving on a fast lane listening to ‘Highway Star’-Deep Purple. Stopping a Chuzomsa, I took out my license and other vehicular documents to be registered. After the registration, I saw a middle-aged man with Doma stains all over his teeth giving me a “Can you give me a ride?” look. I enquired, “Gati joem moh?” “Thimphu lobey” and I instantly gave him an ‘ok’ nod. 

Now I had company, a living breathing company. Usually it’s my style to chat on whatever topic came to my mind but this time my company was another lively human being. He spoke about his purpose of going to Thimphu, asked my name, job, relationship status, age so on and so forth. In no time we reached the stretches of Barbesa and we were speeding to Thimphu. He asked me to drop him at the hospital as he had his wife up there attending an ill cousin. Oh, I nearly forgot! My company was from Haa. After dropping him I took the road towards the Youth Village to drive to town for some breakfast. I got nothing for breakfast as Thimphu wasn’t up. I imagined my feast at Hontsho. 

I drove to Simtokha to resume my journey to Zhemgang. As I reached the flyover, I saw several cars lined up. The reason was-there was heavy snowfall at Dochula the road is temporarily closed. Works are underway to clear the block.
Then I too lined my car and left to the nearest restaurant. I ate some steamy dumplings and soup with some tea. The next moment I saw vehicles moving towards Dochula and I wasn’t in a hurry. I looked for company but to my dismay I found none. I again went to the restaurant and packed six cans of Fosters. Drink driving huh. Well I do, often. 

My journey began towards Wangdi. I drove faster as were the others. Lots of traffic and again listening to more songs I reached Dochula. I got out of my car and took some pictures another time. This time it was the Druk Wangyel chortens with a thick mist over the top. I got in, let the other cars and busses pass, took out a can and gulped it down my throat. After a can I drove downwards this time. The thrill of the beer took me all the way to the tiny vegetable settlement of Mesina. There I bought some ‘May-khu’ for my Zhemgang friends. 

I took another can and merrily drove towards Wangdi listening to Smokie’s a few dollars more. Another checkpoint and after all the registration hassle, I again scanned for some company. This check point gave no company either. I speeded towards Trongsa because this part of the drive is the longest and nagging. I took another can and this time too, I merrily sang along with songs esp. ‘Lap Matsu” which brought me to the base of Pelela where travelers stop for lunch at a place called ‘Dung Dung Nyesa’. This restaurant is famous for Bathub and Yak meat delicacies. I took both. 

I rested there with another smoky sweet until the time the sweet was pulled to its bud. I again reached out to another can and the kick of it took me to Chendebji. I again took some pictures. Then I shut the music off and headed to Trongsa as if in a hurry. I arrived at Trongsa at around 4 pm that day. I got out of the car, stretched my arms and refueled again worth a thousand.
My journey now was all downhill, this stretch of road is familiar with meandering twines and turns. I forgot I had 3 more cans in stock. The dusk fell at Langthel and the thought of crossing Reotala at night sent chill down my spine. I reached out for another can and drove. The drive at night is what I enjoy. This too I don’t know why? I crossed Reotala with all my senses and reached Zhemgang safely. I got home and drank another can and called it the day off. 

In my driving experiences so far, the longest journey that I undertook has been between Chukha and Zhemgang via Thimphu-Trongsa highway.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kiss-A taboo in our society

The kiss is a form of expressing affection but long before it became this, it was the custom in many parts of the world to use kiss as an expression of homage. In many African tribes, people kiss the ground over which a chief has walked. Kissing the hand and foot has been has been a mark of respect and homage from the earliest times. The early Romans kissed the mouth or eyes to express dignified greeting. 

Perhaps, the kiss as a form of affection goes back to primitive times when a mother would fondle her child, just as a mother does today. It not only remained for society to accept this as a custom for expressing affection between adults. There is evidence that this was already there by the time of sixth century, but we can assume that it was practiced long before that. 

The first country to accept the kiss in courtship and love was France. When dancing became popular, almost every time it ended with a kiss. From France the kiss spread rapidly all over Europe. In Russia, it was adopted through all the upper classes. A kiss from the Tsar became one of the highest forms of recognition from the crown. 

In time, the kiss became a part of courtship. As marriage customs developed, the kiss became a part of the wedding ceremony. Today, we regard this kiss as an expression of love and tenderness. But there are still many places in the world where the kiss is a part of formal ceremonies and is intended to convey respect and homage. 

But here in our country, the custom of kiss is a ‘taboo’. We see people hugging and exchanging kiss but this custom of kiss has been assimilated into our society, our way of life. What one culture accepts a tradition as their way of life can be a taboo for other cultures.

PS# the above piece has been inspired by the program ‘taboo’ from the National Geographic Channel. Although, the same program did not highlight on the custom of kiss, it is my personal curiosity that led to some insights from the internet. Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Unique Realm of Life

I am an individual and I am unique to this world. Like every living being on this planet, I celebrate my uniqueness. I am in this world and this world is in me. I metamorphosed from a single celled organism into a complex human being. That’s unique. I learnt to make meanings from the sounds that I heard and made those words communicable. Later I learnt words, speeches and then exploded into the languages I speak. This too is unique.  

I haven’t known any other place in my life and I was now in the north eastern state of West Bengal-Unique. Here I attended school, I saw many like me-Unique. Some black, some pink, and my bunch of the brown were addressed as meat-eaters by our Indian ‘uniques’. The hostel master, beat many like me for stealing (edibles) from the pink ‘uniques’. This too is unique.

I attended high school, now with most ‘browns’. I haven’t forgotten the brutality of life in a hostel. I was served potatoes three straight meals a day-unique. Here I began to fall in love with ‘Phika Jha’-unique. My crony sisters brought me pickles during meals and I loved it for I handed them packets of smoke candy-unique. 

Then came the university-all the way unique. I enjoyed this formative time. I learned the real emotions of the world. Love, hatred, anger, jealousy, greed, you name it. I fell in love-Unique again. She left for a drunkard making me another drunkard-bloody unique. I topped my department despite the grief reliever-drinks. Isn’t this unique? 

Now I work and I had been doing so for the last six years-Unique. Uniqueness is what separates individuals from each other. If everyone shared the same qualities what’s the different thing about being an individual? There’s no difference. So celebrate uniqueness whether you are friend, husband, wife, brother, sister, aunt, mom, cousin, uncle or a human being at least because some might forget that there is too little time in this ‘brief’ called life, the unique realm of life.

It is too early to draw conclusions about my life in particular because I still have a lion share of my years to live. If I delve into the years lived till now, it was nothing short of fulfilling and edifying. My 27 years of life up until now has taught me valuable lessons, unforgettable experiences and hordes of other factors that make me up-unique.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Memoir: What is it and how to write one!

A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography.  The memoir, especially as it is used in publishing today, often tries to capture certain highlights or meaningful moments in one’s past, often including a contemplation of the meaning of that event at the time of the writing of the memoir. The memoir may be more emotional and concerned with capturing particular scenes, or a series of events, rather than documenting every facet of a person’s life
To write a memoir, begin by brainstorming on paper all the events you can remember from your life that were either very important to you in a positive way or very important to you in a negative way. Talk to other members of your family to get ideas, help you remember events from when you are small, and to help fill in the details that might have been forgotten. Select the event, or series of related events, that seems most interesting to you right now. Brainstorm again but in more detail, trying to recall names, places, descriptions, voices, conversations, things, and all the other details that will make this turn into an interesting memoir. Work at the note taking stage for a few days, until you feel you’ve got it all down on paper.
Then begin to write. You will be surprised to see that even more details begin to appear once you start to write. For your first draft, write quickly to get all your ideas down from beginning to end. Don’t worry about editing. Before you revise, share your first draft with someone in the family. Consider their response, but go with what feels right. Rewrite and then start editing as needed. Good memoirs are about every day things, but they are interesting, sometimes just as interesting to read as a good novel. But remember, a memoir is supposed to be true, so be careful not to exaggerate or embellish the truth.
Good luck, if you are thinking of writing one, welcome to the world of writing. 

This piece was written after children of grade six were taught ‘How to write a memoir’ and the ideas are from the teacher guide.
Reference: English curriculum guide for teachers, CAPSD, Ministry of Education, Paro Bhutan, 2006.                           (ISBN: 99936-0-260-6)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of Climate Change!

Nature is the most immediate reality we know. Nature is earth, the sea and the sky. It is the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the food that we eat, and the clothes that we wear. The flora and fauna, the soil and rocks, mines and minerals, the sights and the sounds and smells that surround us are nature. Nature is all these and more. Nature is the source of all plant and animal life. It is the source of gold and diamond, gems and jewels, life giving oxygen and energy. Nature is the biggest dispensary in which all kinds of medicines are available. It is the source of life.
Nature is one of the most favorite themes of literature. Poets and musicians have found, unending inspiration in nature. The gurgle of the brook rushing over the pebbles, the scent of summer flowers, the budding foliage of spring, the colors of the rainbow, the glory of the sunrise, the crimson glow of sunset, the song of the nightingale, the call of the ocean, the whistle of the night wind through the paddy field, the dance of the clouds, the majesty of a waterfall. All these and more are marvels of nature that poets and writers feed on.
Wordsworth calls nature ‘friend, philosopher and guide’. And Keats seeks solace in the songs of the ‘Nightingale’.
Climate change is real, the actions of mankind are the origin of climate change, and there is no known way to reverse climate change - we can only hope to slow the rate of change for the next several thousand years. These basic truths must be accepted by nations and form the basis for national policy.
Secondly, national policies must accept that climate change is global in its scope, global in its causes, and global in its mitigation. No one country can resolve the problem, nor can any country avoid it. If the human civilization is to survive as we know it, all nations must fully and freely cooperate. The alternative to rapidly developing means of open international cooperation and assistance is for the nations to turn themselves into armed fortress to protect their resources and prevent immigration of displaced climatic refugees. Inevitably, this approach would lead to global warfare and destruction, and a radically altered environment.
And, thirdly national policies must accept that there is no one solution that will fit all nations, rather entirely different approaches will be required in different regions and nations. For example, the developed nations must eliminate their dependence upon fossil fuels while maintaining their quality of life, while developing nations must forgo the use of fossil fuels while attempting to meet the natural aspirations of their citizens for an improved quality of life. It would appear obvious that an international sharing of resources, technologies and expertise will be required.
Can all nations set aside regional, political, historical, cultural and religious differences and cooperate in the resolution and survival of Global Climate Change? If not, human civilization is surely a toast.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Monsoon- Money Rains

The media, of late, has been reporting on the chaos caused by the road blocks in several parts of our country. These blocks have caused problems to our travelers and statistics show how dearly it has cost the government funds and exchequer. Road blocks are reported every monsoon and I am sure there will be a time when our government will have to beg for funds to mend and repair the monsoon damages. One of the papers recently reported on the damages caused by the monsoon and the figure came out to be in millions. Do we have enough money to repair the monsoon damages on a yearly basis? Let’s ponder!
The road blocks have one thing in common. There are many places where blocks occur yearly. What if the government intervenes and does something permanent to those loose land sites to avoid future slides or blocks? This is a onetime solution and we can save millions of Ngultrums which would otherwise be used up on a yearly basis. Although, Bhutan lies in the Himalayas, blocks are obvious but saving money on greater damages can lead to a school being set up in a rural village or a farm road towards happiness. Let us be rational and practical, we cannot afford to spend millions yearly.
One fine example of an intervention still stands as a testimony today. When I was a high school kid we feared the word ‘Sorchen’ in Thimphu-P/ling highway. Now, this place does not cause any trouble to travelers. As an adult now, I am beginning to fear the words like Reotala, Box cutting, Pangzur (Trongsa-Zhemgang), frequent blocks on Tsirang-Gelephu, Trongsa-Thimphu, Monggar-Trashigang Bumthang-Monggar and the list is endless. No wonder, damages sum up to millions of Ngultrums. Businesses are suspended, schools are closed, and deaths occur, food shortages are rampant, water supplies are cut and many more happen due to the monsoon season. We need to look for a serious, tangible solution to the Monsoon damages.
India is such a vast diverse country and everyone knows how messy it becomes during the monsoon especially in states like Assam, West Bengal and the entire north east. So many people lose their homes, livestock and even family members to the monsoon. We can avoid this if something is done soon. Europe can be a fine example of better road network. It has spent so much money on road networks once and now they enjoy the benefit of it. We too can follow this, spend once, make it last and then have less trouble in future. I know there are technicalities involved and good planning needs to be done but let us do that once and not on a yearly basis.
Food for thought: In a Vajrayana country, blessed by spiritual figures, one needs to be concerned about people working in the rain just to let you through from a road block.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Punctual Authoritarian

People have different points of view and people stand to defend their points of view. As obvious as it may seem but someone rightly pointed, “If you want to know me, give me power”. Sorry for the corny title but if some power is given to already an authoritarian; it is multiplied in its enforcement and execution. An authoritarian is what I am mentioning about. I happened to cross over that very authoritarian who is kind of wacky by almost all features of a decent human being. Our personality metamorphoses from a timid bud into a confident bloom as and when ‘office politics’ goes from bad to worse and when one is given ‘power’.
At least in its conventional sense, the thought of being equal and treated fairly makes the day. But as troubles pour in, this egalitarian thinking takes the form of a violent beast almost at the verge of locking horns. Why are people in power harsh? Is it some kind of magic potion they drink when they take office? Are they told to be rigid and harsh on the vulnerable ones? Or did someone ask them to be soft and polite on the juniors that share the same ethnic background? The questions are manifold and endless.
Many in a typical office are ‘regularly irregular’ and this authoritarian talk about the philosophy of punctuality, whenever opportunity creeps in. Well sticking to punctuality is gentle and nice but what if a regularly punctual employee is not on a day? Does this mean that this one gray thing of a day will define the person he/she is? Whereas for the ones who are favored and savored for that matter need not even have to complete the formalities of such official excuses. If this is not ‘office politics’ then please drop in some suggestive phrases. I would be glad to pen down my thoughts in this blog.
Average workers built mostly of words to impress are negligible but those who choose to think and act differently are the mice under constant surveillance. This is what happens in typical ‘holy office’. I too became a red light in the managers’ radar. They are built for the kill. It is tyranny at work. On one such occasion I was there at the right place in the wrong time, not that others were not doing so but that particular day meant D-Day for me. When all things are going wrong but fine with people, why is that this wrong is caught with you? It is this moment when humans become devils. An inferno of all the bad boils in one to be devoured to another.
Punctuality, when humanity conceived this lofty philosophy, they forgot to define the punctual being. That’s why humans with all their flaws cannot be punctual even at the personal level. Always a punctual is controversial, as human beings have strings and chores attached while maintaining a very thin line between person and profession, at least in the service working scenario.
Don’t people have kids? Don’t humans fall ill? Don’t they have personal matters at home making them a little late at office? Don’t human beings have problems of whatever degree? To attend to all these with some degree of flexibility, is what I think will maintain harmony in a miniature office society. Otherwise, tyranny will work its way from top-down. When this happens, imagine an authoritarian regime of a ruthless military dictator-Hitlership!
Generally, the term punctual refers to, ‘arriving, doing something or happening at the expected, correct time, not late’. It doesn’t say anything about generalizing people with one act of not being punctual or not doing something at the expected time once. Then who is a punctual person in an office set up? Yes, you guessed it; it’s the Punctual Authoritarian, because nobody questions his/her punctuality. 
The debate between an egalitarian worker and a tyrant authoritarian over punctuality is………… (You are advised to draw your own conclusion)