Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pillai Days: Chukha HSS

This is yet another episode of my update which I put last year, http://lobzangn.blogspot.com/2014/08/home-hearth-and-heart.html but this time it’s Chukha Higher Secondary School. I was to go to Chukha Dzongkhag for invigilation duty to some schools..when I checked the listings, I was elated to see Chukha HSS in print and this update of mine is about Chukha HSS. Later, in the interest of my 7 month old and my wife, I chose to go to Wangchu MSS not because I wanted my duty to be lighter but because I will be nearer to my parents and I will have my baby well looked after. 

Well then, it was in the afternoon of November 27th. I hurriedly got hold of my office order and went home to pack my things for a fourteen day visit to my former school. I started feeling nostalgic about my time in Chukha HSS as I spent my formative years in this school as a boarder student. I was the tiniest among my class mates and I still remember my huge grown up room mates calling me Chunku and helping me put on the Gho early in the morning. I just needed to put my two hands on my head and they would twist here and there and at last put me to shape, ready for morning study. I would unwillingly rub my eyes and go for the study. 

Mr. KR Pillai, was my economics teacher back then and he was a personality in himself. He was feared among all my mates and still believe he was one of the teachers that I got inspiration from. During lunches, he used to take me to his place to eat. One thing that still remains in my mind is he a man who loves the Bhutanese red rice. I never saw him favoring the white rice if the red was available. He used to teach in such a way that every doubtful soul in a classroom will have no difficulty in understanding his teaching. Thank you sir for I am now a teacher like you. That’s why I have titled my update as the Pillai days. 

The upper gate from where we carried rations to the school store is now barred and school has undergone a complete metamorphosis. The shops that greet all visitors in Tsimalakha town still remains the same, except for the speed breakers-bumpers. I couldn’t spot it and bumped my car so hard. I revisited this place after 16 years and you can imagine how I longed to go back  and be a student again. 

The weather remains the same-cold and chilling. All the teachers that taught me are all elsewhere. The Sherpa Hotel from where I used to eat on credit still caters to fast food and students make a majority of its customers. 

If I were to relive a moment, I would definitely go back to the Chukha days and particularly the Pillai days. Thank you sir. I know you are in your native Kerala and you keep us updated on facebook. At this point of time I have come to realize that life does have potentials of wonderful memories even if we are mountains and oceans apart.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A suitcase or I am not going to school! A Chadom might do the work as well…

My baby girl wasn’t sleeping and it was late into the night. My cousin Yeshey accidentally bumped into ZEE Classic and you can imagine the classic movies they air on this particular channel. On an unattended glace I saw the ‘Keta’ in a ‘Dhoti’ with a metal box singing and walking along the walkway with vintage cars in the background. I could identify a Ford T-model. The song was in Black and White, if you know what I mean. This was last night.

The Literal
Now the thing that caught my imagination was the metal box. We called it the ‘Chadom’ while I attended high school in the late 90’s. And owning a suitcase back then was a luxury. Only the wealthy and those belonging to the wealthy owned one. I could make out by the bedding and the baggage people possessed- who’s wealthy or not? I owned one ‘Chadom’. This Chadom came to me when my mommy paid 250/- Rupees to a merchant in our very familiar ‘Jaigaon’. I considered it hip to own one. I remember the bargain she underwent to pay 250/- Rupees for that Chadom, vividly.

But owning a Chadom, came at a price and I owned one where one could latch on three locks-supposedly to safe keep one’s belonging from the hostel looters. We had lots of unidentified robbers among us. We had pickle looters, ‘Lagay’ looters, sock looters, plate looters, soap looters and believe it or not, on Sundays we had underwear looters.  I rushed for the ‘Kharang’ served during breakfast because the next two meals would definitely be potatoes. I also had an added advantage of eating the coveted breakfast for being one of the defense players in the school’s basketball team. The players were served chick peas with a boiled egg for breakfast. I attended a school where life in the hostel was troublesome.  And I wouldn’t dare to mention the name of the school because the current principal of that school is a friend of mine.
The inferred 

This is yet another generational up-beat story of mine because I am used to seeing my lesser known cousins and relatives, all young, nagging their parents for some happening and in-fashion suit cases and bags. Would today’s pupils hitch a ride with a supposed Chadom and bedding on their back just to get to school?

Coming to my civil service days, I was introduced to yet another Chadom. This time the Chadom was an automobile. The Maruti Van! My dad owned one and I have a lot to write about it….the supposed Maruti Van days. One of the Dzongkha Lopens owned a van and it became known as Chadom. We would ask him if he would give us a ride in his Chadom. – “Apha kay nang wai, choe ghi chadom na”. (Take me till there in your Maruti Van). This was in my previous school. Now, I have a senior teacher friend who owns a Chadom. He is funny but a great human being.

At this juncture, and particularly when I see people with metal boxes even today, I consider myself lucky that I was once a part of the beginning that made what Bhutan has evolved into. Children and kids today….don’t know what an inferred Chadom is apart from the literal Chadom. This is another anecdote from the nostalgia down memory lane…

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How could I keep my calm?

I hope this update of mine greets you in the best of your health and I am very sure that you all must be keeping fine. 

All the updates that I have given until now is because of something that ignited in me and led to these writings. My update today is sheer out of frustration. Like many a Thimphu-ite I reside in one of the buildings that populate Thimphu. It is always a hassle to find an apartment, pay the advances and then move the furniture. After moving in, you find out there’s no TV cable, there’s no water heating facility, sun doesn’t shine into your apartment etc… etc… After months when you realize that you are now settled, the water runs dry. How could I keep my calm?

Water was the very reason why I chose to move into a new apartment. It was ok that the water flowed from the taps until now. It has been twice and almost a week that there is no water in the taps. I am having the most horrible time of the year. How could I keep my calm?

Mr. Landlord rings my door bell without fail every month for the rent. Even if he is out of station he makes sure there is some crony of his to collect the rents. Now the tenants where I reside are frustrated. There’s no water flowing into his building and he is nowhere in sight. People just care about money and nothing else. How could I keep my calm?

Imagine the plight of families who has no running taps for weeks at length. I hear many buildings have two inlets. One from the municipality and a private one. If water from the city (municipality) runs out, there is another inlet to keep the water flowing. My owner has a private inlet only for the vegetable garden he has maintained. It is not connected to the building. And during the ripe-time for the veggies he has grown, it is stolen. He is clam though!

I have seen my previous owner who tirelessly works to keep the water running and I am seeing the current one who is bother less. This is the second incident in this month. I fetched buckets after buckets to keep my people going and that reservoir too is out now. How could I keep my calm?

Another one! I don’t know whether Diwali has gone or is yet to come but nights in my vicinity is disturbing. The RBP put a ban on sale of fire crackers but there are hooligans, who I don’t know must  not be having a home to sleep. They shout, drunk mostly and throw light firecrackers wherever they please. I have seen a Community police centre here and I am not sure if men in blue have turned literally deaf. How could I keep my calm?

Given the perennial problems like the stinks, clogged drains, and power outages with rising bills every month... 

How could I keep my calm folks?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Religiously biased!

I dropped my wife and our baby to a monastery for our monthly offering. All people including my wife were made to stand in a queue for hours in the sun. She was wearing a fatigued look for waiting in the hot sun holding our baby. Waiting for them in the car, my patience ran out. Why was I in the car? I wasn’t attired properly (acceptably) to make the visit. Next stop I lost all my patience, took my baby and wife back to where we came from after we handed over the offering with some cash to an elderly gentleman.

Later I was told that a VIP has arrived and is making some offerings. When a VIP visits some shrine, does that mean people will have to wait outside? The shrines are made for all Bhutanese alike and not just for a select few. Where is the religiousness when people are made to suffer and sweat in a long line holding babies?

Religious centres and places are for everybody alike and must be available. The Lakhang that I mentioned is frequented by visitors on a daily basis. Just because some acquaintance of some blah blah blah…comes, it doesn’t mean every other Bhutanese men and women must make way for the supposed high profile visitor. Come on people this is a place of worship and not some social gathering where a chair has to be called to be the chief guest.

inquired, women are forbidden to enter the Goenkhang. I have a baby daughter and I am still told girls and women are forbidden to enter. This made me mock at our tradition also. Miscarriage of religious justice I believe, because I was told some of the VIPs were women and they were in.

We have a tradition of not allowing women into the inner sanctum of some religious places in our country and I was taken aback to hear the visitor already in. I inquired an elderly monk nearby about it and he told me, women can enter if one doesn’t care about the misfortune and ill luck that may befall later. His answer made me give a ‘how can that be’ look.

People, enlighten me on women entering the inner sanctum-Goenkhang, or I will give in to the thought that…in Bhutan we have the right to think and remain silent.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Blood and beyond blood

Over the evening, on a mundane chore at home, I answered to someone on the phone. The news shocked me. It stirred a sense of insecurity in me and from today I am trying to be a better human being. I have done everything that is required of me as a being to my near and far ones.  Death and marriage brings people together although each one doesn’t stand in other’s eyes.

It is sad and depressing to have finally come to know that your own blood people have nothing but hatred for you and your success and happiness burns them inside-out. I have patiently listened to many a people for some relief in these times and the most that came out of their opinion was just live your life and do some savings. I am trying to come to terms with these advices. Just live on the present, don’t think about the past, and ruin your present.

I am not a crises guru or an expert relationship advisor but what I have found out to be is, relationship is directly and inversely proportional to the money you possess. No one asks about ‘what do you do for a living?’ anymore. All people are curious is about how much you make at the end of the day. The bottom line of a successful relationship is money. There is an exception though. If your relationship is blood, whatever I have opined may not be true. Wait a minute! This is grudgingly true for in my situation I belong to those heck of beings who has found a means to measure relationship with figures you have in your bank account.

I have undergone a similar ordeal just recently and the pain is perfectly excruciating. Let there be no relationships whatsoever, no attachments, no expectations and bonding etc… When one has known the consideration of oneself in other’s eyes, then you realize how important is that person in your life even if its blood or beyond blood. 

I have lived for many around me and I will continue to do so. I lead a simple and a happy life. I meet and cater to whatever expectations that my people have in me. And yet sometimes when I feel everything is going the way it should be, something out of the blue creeps in making me question the very foundation and fabric of relationships, biological of course.

I have made mistakes, undergone turmoil and have had head aching moments, wept and lamented over for not being able to make it. I also attended a funeral of a dear one and realized, in this brief called life, there is no time to indulge and think over all the past and react to it. That’s why I have made this conclusion (correct me if I am wrong), a mother’s  love also can be biased to her children. This is my ordeal of the mundane-cy in living for blood and beyond blood. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

If I were a monk

I don’t know how you readers and my fellow bloggers would react to this but this is a close guarded secret of mine. I want to declare this, as I could not keep it to myself after thinking it over for the last couple of days. This morning while in the morning assembly, a student talked about living the life of a hermit. To lead a Buddhist life, it is necessary that one must keep the intent clean.

Over the first session, when children were busy scribbling and working on some Dictionary activity, I thought of penning it down. I must say to you, this is no laughing matter and everything is factual and true. Not even my closest friend knows about this.

I was born in the tiny town of Chukha in 1984. As I grew up and when I was about 4 and half years, I was taken to my hometown of Dramitse, now in Monggar. I don’t know what made my mom take me to Dramitse but when I realized I was admitted in the Dramitse Monastery as a monk. Can you believe that- head shaven and robed-red!

I still have some faint memories of me living in the big Lakhang and always fearful of the Lopens. From then on I don’t remember anything of coming back to Chukha. It was much later that I came to know about what happened to me. I don’t know what my mother thought when I was made to join the monkhood but it was me from the very beginning that didn’t show interest in the life of the monk. I am told I would always complain about the robes and the life in the monastery. It was after much nagging that I was finally allowed to attend a formal school.

I was a monk for a month or two and then when I was brought back, the academic session had already begun. I was made to appear the first term (there were three terms in a year during those days) all by myself. I can only remember a teacher asking me the color of the sun and my answer to that was ‘red’. When the results came out I was the undisputed topper in my class. I topping my class was with me until middle school and in college; I went a little awry with academics.

Now at this point in my life, I am educated, salaried, and content with my life. Sometimes I get a little curious thinking where and how would I be if I had chosen to become a monk. And thinking of monkhood still sends a cold chill down my spine. I am now a father of a beautiful girl, husband to an understanding wife and I am happy with it. My life revolves and is directly dependent on these two humans.

Where would my happiness lie if I were a monk? This anxiety kills me even now…

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sin against God, not bureaucracy!

Disclaimer: This update of mine is not to demean the hardworking people across all offices but for a few whose office job has become a perennial source of irritation for everyone.

Just this morning I went to a familiar office, not that I am new to the office but I have been to this office ever since I ended up in Thimphu. I make my appearances in this office for professional and official reasons. Every visit that I make to this office or other government offices in particular; it has been a palm-itching experience.

Firstly, I have to arrange my classes or substitute the class not to let my children stay idle in my absence. Then, after the permission granted look from my superior, I head off to see the official. Reaching the office, to my utter dismay, either the official is out or the desk people give you excuses with some stupid grin on their already over-painted and tainted face. Excuses is more than fine but for one of their excuses to come out, its takes some minutes of browsing through some bogus sites on the internet. These desk people are paid to arrange time and appointments for their boss who’s inside the chamber. Instead, they chat over some issues with their cronies alike or fiddle with the mouse wearing a look as if to say I have had diarrhea for the last couple of days.

A stranger waits at the door and there is no harm in saying, “How may I help you” or “Gadhim chi bay Joen (woong) yi.” It only makes visitors like me feel that they do not how to talk let alone being polite and courteous to others.

The hullabaloos of this desk people ate up 40 minutes of my time just to get a signature of her boss on some official document. And finally when you meet the official, he speaks in a sorry tone. The desk people who are to assist the official act as if they bought the chair for the official they serve. This is efficiency in the civil service.

Google images
Similarly, Last year in one of the insurance houses, I was there to claim some benefits. If I had some line of people waiting before me, I would have perfectly understood the hour long wait but making me stand, the desk people were talking about soccer. I still stood waiting for them to finish.
My tryst with meeting people in their offices for official reasons has been gruesome. I wonder if others like me undergo the same ordeal. This is the public service delivery in the bureaucracy.
Also going by the number of people living in Thimphu, the desk job should have been faster and efficient but sadly Dzongkhags have the edge in doing things faster. I am afraid if I reside in the capital city.

As a teacher myself, if you point that I am not teaching my kids, I will surely be guilty on receiving my salary but if you as desk people are getting paid for making visitors wait for no reason and just for internet surfing, are you not painfully guilty? To those who spend their time away sitting on chairs only to make people wait for no reasons across all offices: Sin against God not against bureaucracy, God forgives bureaucracy won’t.

"Bureaucrats sometimes do not have the correct information, while citizens and users of resources do."- Elinor Ostrom

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Look-Alike

Tenzin Jamtsho
Sometime in April this year, I got a friend request on facebook with a message, “Sir, I am Tenzin Jamtsho, your student”. Looking at his profile picture, I instantly knew him and accepted the request. No sooner did I accept the request came the second message, “How are you sir?”…..and the chat ensued.

This update of mine is about a student who chose to become a monk in Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, Mysore, Karnataka-India. I taught him until the sixth grade back in Zhemgang. This was in the year 2013. By 2014 January I got transferred to Thimphu and joined the current school. Some of my former students call me at times asking about me. This makes me feel good and I take pride that I have some good students remembering me.
H E Khyentse Yangse

I knew by his profile picture and his messages that he had become a monk. Back then, Tenzin used to be a shy-sly boy. He would always be after some mischief and in the school if any problem came up, his name would definitely come up. He had problems in English grammar and I was told his Dzongkha ability is commendable. His father was a Dzongkha Lopen and he has a younger sister. I am not sure what made him join the monkhood but I am proud that he chose a life of the Sangha.

Here is the thing that amazed me. Looks can be so deceiving and look at his picture. This picture of Tenzin shocked me. He is receiving a Khadar from his teacher. Now please have a look at the picture of His Eminence Khyentse Yangsey Rimpoche. I showed the two picturess to some of my friends at school and initially everyone told me they are the same pictures of Rimpoche. Looking closely at the pictures, only then people opined it to be different. As a student back in Zhemgang, I never thought of him bearing a look that resembles Rimpoche. By my observation too, Tenzin closely resembles Rimpoche. Just see for yourself.

I want him to understand this line from Dzongsar Khyenste Rimpoche “The frustrating thing about our life is that there is no control over our emotions. That’s why there’s no fun. The whole purpose of Buddhism is to have fun, isn’t it? And in order to have fun you have to have control. If someone else has control over you, that’s it: there’s no fun.”

PS: I have sought permission from Tenzin Jamtsho for this update and the pictures here are from his facebook page. Thank you Tenzin! I am proud of you!   

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Children’s Trash Park!

I made my day out last weekend to the famous Ap Gengyen shrine at Dechenphug.  Well, mentioned by Ap Bokto in one of his add, “take only fruits or cash” as offerings and avoid offerings wrapped in plastics. This magic worked in me and I am proud to share this that henceforth I will continue to offer either cash or fruits. I frequent this shrine on a monthly basis. I also avoid auspicious days due to the crowd. Now the practice of offerings made is changing. 

I felt a heightened sense of being responsible. A good deed done perhaps! I also saw many students- all school going (maybe) doing what Ap Bokto advised us and I smiled faintly at the gesture our young people make on such visits. Television has at least made them do some good; otherwise you know how our kids are these days. But adults still hold unto their ritualistic attitude. Many had come with the all traditional-plastic offerings. The young learned and for the adults, how I wished if they could follow the young.

On my way to the shrine I also saw cars being parked on the sides and I worried for not being able to get a parking but to my amazement the parking lot was half empty and those cars beside the roads were for some family outings. I am sure some waste out there was being generated.
For the afternoon, I took my baby and wife to the famous centenary children’s park upon the invitation of my brother and my nephews. The sights and scenes at this park made me write this update. The famous park has now become a weekend destination for children and adults alike. We know our attitude, ‘if everyone is responsible, it’s nobody’s responsibility’. As Bhutanese, we know our infamous Doma habit. The place was littered with Doma wrappers-plastic and papers. If you don’t believe me take a look especially where hedges are grown.

This park is a public place meant for recreation and it was also used by some for family gatherings with lots of chairs and lavishly spread out dishes. But the worrying consequence was the trash they left behind. The gathering by its scale was meant for not less than fifty people. I was wondering if this public space can be used for private purposes.

The all-knowing people visiting the park cannot understand ‘Use Me’. I presume! That’s what I thought because the poor ‘Use Me’ bin was unbelievably clean on the inside. There was a canteen which catered to fast foods and ice creams. The wrappers were thrown all over and plates, cups and glasses were unattended. Empty mineral water bottles and tissue papers predominantly topped the list when it came to waste in the children’s park.

Please do share this post for the betterment of our places of recreation and city at large because ‘willful waste brings woeful wants’ and please don’t forget to spread the message that, ‘it is error alone that needs intervention, truth can stand all by itself’. The truth here is trash folks.

Let us clean our brains first and the drains later-Ap Bokto

Good day folks!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Some deserve to be Guillotined

Disclaimer: I am sorry for the rude and insolent words that I have used in my update and very sorry for the wacky title as well.

On my way to the famous Sabji Bazaar, just while negotiating a turn, my spouse cries, “Aiee” in a pity tone. I too looked and I was amazed at what I saw.

A middle-aged woman with an infant in her lap, just by glance, the baby in her lap wouldn’t be more than six months old. I have a baby who is of the same size and perhaps might be of the same age.  The woman had her face swollen and she was injured in her head as well. She was there holding her baby and her half swollen face asking for people’s help. When I went back to see her, there were already people around her offering cash. I still cannot digest this unusual sight of a mother with her baby begging for alms. This is an unusual observation that I made while on a visit to the Farmers Market to buy some provisions.

The baby’s dad was nowhere in sight. Where is he on earth? What made him abandon his blood? How would he feel if he sees this sight? I am a father now and I perfectly understand the ordeal and hardship in raising a child without a dad. How would that supposed dad feel if he was to be in his mom’s lap and begging for alms? Be it legitimate or else otherwise, doesn’t he feel the pinch of his blood and wife sitting in the middle of a busy walkway, seeking people’s help, whom she doesn’t know at all. I despise the man who left them with nothing but to beg.

I am not a maestro in marital affairs and its legalities but thinking of the baby one should re-unite. Either of the spouses may be wrong but thinking of the baby in between, the spouses should keep their differences aside and settle down with a consensus. Isn’t this a life worth living for? I do believe in second chances but there is always a choice to make. This world revolves and runs around the word, ‘Mother’. It’s very disheartening to have seen such a sight and for the supposed daddy, it is even more excruciating to believe that such people do have a place among us.
This sight of a mother and her kid brought tears to my eyes instantly and I couldn’t get a good sleep last night.  What good are you when you can’t provide for your own blood? Perhaps, this man might not have heard, “Blood is thicker than water”. This sight touched me so much that I have fallen short of words to express my emotions.

Folks, I am sorry for the blur picture as I took it from a moving car. This update of mine makes the 100th update on my blog and to term it, it’s a century update. Instead of jubilation and elation over the century update, my heart wept in pain thinking of the mother and her sleeping infant. Just on a pensive note, I would have guillotined the person responsible for leaving a mother and her kid to their fate…