Monday, January 17, 2022

Reclaiming My Passion

Now that I have some time for myself, I am able to pursue my life’s passion – photography. Recently I had to go to Zhemgang to participate in the handing-over of a dwelling for a destitute couple, funded by the Tarayana affiliated Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club. I took some time off to shoot some birds. I had only one and a half day though – but Zhemgang is so bird rich that I still managed to acquire 10 birds that are what I call “keepers”. Judge for yourselves.

Black-crested Bulbul

Emerald Dove

Maroon-backed Accentor

Oriental Magpie Robin (Female)

Red-vented Bulbul

Rufous-necked Laughingthrush

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

Slaty-backed Forktail

Streaked Spider Hunter

Yellow-bellied Fantail

In the coming months, I hope to be able to shoot more birds, while still being able to concentrate on my coin book, which is my immediate primary focus.

Life is looking good.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Life-long Journey of Charity and Community Service

I may have severed my ties with a charitable organization – but it appears that my journey of charity and community service has not ended. Yet again, I got drawn in into another charity work – that of the donation of a house to a destitute old couple in Tama-Gonphai village in Zhemgang. The donors – Tarayana Foundation affiliated Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club – agreed to fund the construction of the house provided I act as the coordinator to the project. Well, why not? It is a uniquely fascinating idea – have fun riding to remote places and at the end of the journey – do a meaningful charity work that bring happiness and cheer in the lives of some poor country men.

Ably managed by the Tama-Berti Chiwog Tshogpa Ms. Kinzang Deki, the project took a little over two months – although severely hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of the project began on 15th October, 2021. By mid-December the construction of the house, including a separate toilet, was completed. It was handed over to the grateful old couple on the 7th of January 2022.

As has become a norm with me, all my numerous project implementations end with a detailed Project Completion Report to the donors. The following are few pages from my Project Completion Report to the immediate past project donors - Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club:

Project Completion Report's Cover

The inside story of how it all began

The house and basic essentials being handed over to the beneficiaries on 7th January, 2022

Curtesy of donors around the globe, I have implemented close to 100 projects and have been party to 7 more Rotary Projects that are currently in the pipeline. But one lesson that the latest donors taught me is this: Do not just give an empty house - to make the charity even more meaningful and valuable, populate the house with some basic essentials, such as mattresses, water boilers, rice cooker, curry cooker, buckets etc. etc. This is a life-lesson I will remember in my future charity endeavors.

I am happy to say that this project is the second project that has been implemented with quality and speed, due solely to the hard work of the Tama-Berti Chiwog Tshogpa and hassle-free funding by the donors. The other community service project that was implemented at a speed that will be hard to match - is the Rotary Club of Thimphu's toilet project in Bongo village, Chhukha Dzongkhag. Due to the hard work and diligence of the coordinator there - Mr. Sangay Thinley, the incumbent EDO of Chhukha Dzongkhag Administration, the construction of 36 detached, pour-flush toilets with bath facility was completed in record 35 days!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Traditional Bhutanese Term for Paper Currency

My Blog post of Wednesday the 5th January 2022 titled “Rewriting History” touched upon the term “Shog Lor” and my confusion as to the meaning of the word “Lor”. I finally got around to find out the meaning of the word. The following is an extract from the Dzongkha-English Dictionary. The meaning of the word is explained without any ambiguity.

Definition of "Lor" according to the Dictionary

According to the Dictionary, the term “Lor” will accurately describe paper currency,  without the need to add the word “Shog” in front of “Lor”. Thus I am not correct when I say that “Shog Lor” means paper money. Lor by itself means: bill, note, paper money, currency note etc.

I am sure that most of you are unaware that the traditional Bhutanese term for currency notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 100 and 1,000 Ngueltrums are:

Chaang Lor, Nga Lor, Chu Lor, Khae Lor, Ja Lor and Tong Lor.

There is something insane about the way our monetary units have been called: “Ngueltrum” and “Chettrum”.

“Ngueltrum” is a combination of two words “Nguel” (silver) and “Trum” (coin). It specifically translates to: Silver Coin. Strangely we employ this term to describe our paper money.

“Chettrum” is also a combination of two words: “Chet” (half) and “Trum” (coin) – collectively meaning: half coin. I believe that the term was coined during the time of the issue of our first modern milled silver coin – the Silver Thala of 1929. The reverse of the coin is inscribed with the words “Sa Druk Lo Ja Trum Chet”. The words translate to: “In the Year of Earth Dragon Half Indian Coin”. It could be argued that “Ja Trum Chet” could mean “half of hundred”. But remember that those days we did not have monetary denominations of Nu. and CH – so it could not have meant that Thala was half a Ngueltrum.

Reverse of the extremely rare silver Thala of 1929

I have been calling for the correction of our monetary units – but who cares?

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Drin Jorpa Warey

This is the second time that has happened to me.

The first time was when my mom was about to pass away – it was as if she knew for sure that her moment had arrived. It was in Gelephu sometime in the late 1970s. My mom was bed-ridden – she was suffering from cancer. One afternoon she called me to her bedside and took my hand into hers. She removed her gold ring from her finger and inserted in into mine, saying:

"Okai ngai shuijab wen warey – Ngatna khachem jang labtemen mooth – pholab theg labtey weth na. Wii werai aama na drinlab khaba khriba jorba warey. Weth nyai bo buzey ngat sonam sakna."

"This is my parting gift to you – I have no last words for you. But I want to tell you something. Please know that you have fulfilled a son’s duty and obligation to his mother in full. I have been blessed to have you as my son."

Hours later she breathed her last.

The second time was on the 7th of this month. I had gone to Tama Gonphai village to participate in the handing over ceremony of a house built for an old destitute couple by the Tarayana Foundation affiliated Bhutan Dragons. After the ceremony was over, I walked over to the old lady to ask if there was anything else they needed. She said she needed nothing more, adding:

"Wii mebran – wheth chiingku buzi nyigmo ngui weth nyai kaidoh sama bakpa. Dusoom wii osokai maigey roram buzey ---- we ngatna drinlab khaba khriba jorpa warey."

"You do not know – but when you were a child I carried you on my back many, many times. Please know that today with your participation in this house donation, you have paid your debt to me in full."

I was clueless about this - but that is not important.

No less touching was a letter of farewell written to me by Rotary Club of Thimphu’s Executive Secretary – Ms Tshering Choden. The letter was waiting for me on my table when I returned from Zhemgang on the 8th – it read as follows:

This letter is testimony that I have done good – not only in the fulfillment of my duties and responsibilities to my community in my capacity as the Club’s Secretary – but even to my colleague with whom I worked and interacted on a daily basis. I am glad that I have been able to instill in her a sense of responsibility and dedication – the need for hard work and, above all, to do things with an eye for perfection.

The Club President and the Club Secretary wanted to give me a farewell dinner – I declined saying that the Club was poor and could not afford it. I did not need a dinner that would cost between Nu.20-30,000.00. The letter written by ES Tshering is far more touching and meaningful than any dinner. It acknowledges my relevance – that I have given back to the society from which I took so much.

This letter is my JUST REWARD for my 7 years of service.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Reverse Migration: Restocking The Goongtongs

This is the classic Bhutanese way – showing images of our many problems, bringing up issues that need solving, describing in graphic detail the problems related to our failing infrastructure – BUT NEVER EVER WORKING at solving them.
The problem of youth leaving the country had to happen - it was just a matter of time.

Australia attracts droves of Bhutanese youth

Beginning January of 2015, I wrote a series of eight articles in the KUENSEL – one per week, every Friday - on the problems related to Goongtongs – how villages were being emptied of youth. Six years down the line – nothing has changed – not the problem, not the law and, shamefully, not even the misnomer: “Human-Wildlife Conflict”.

I reproduce below the closing paragraphs of Part II of my article dated January 24, 2015. The problems have aggravated even more, but the rules remain the same. 

The government and the concerned agencies need to revisit its laws and Acts that have so far given complete and total protection to the animals – thereby upsetting the rules of co-habitation between humans and animals. Certain rules and laws may have been necessary during the time they were promulgated. However, we are now dealing with a situation that is no longer the same. All rules must undergo change – to suite a given situation. They must be appropriate.

If annual migrations of rural population out of their homes and villages are to be halted, one of the things we must do is to review and amend the laws that give animals primacy over humans. Let us give the poor villagers a fighting chance. If we don’t, the consequences can be too costly for the country.

The costly consequences that I spoke of in my article above are now a stark reality. The rural youth are leaving their rural homes – in search of jobs and livelihood in the urban centers – leaving fertile lands fallow and, even worst, subjecting their old parents to unimaginable hardships.

The urban youth are leaving the urban centers – in search of jobs outside the country – bringing in its wake a demographic imbalance that is not good for the country’s aspirations for growth and development. His Majesty is rightly worried and concerned about the exodus of Bhutanese youth.

It is now a double whammy. And yet, the lawmakers are still debating the issue – meaning talking about it – but not doing anything about it.

In a number of articles on my Blog, I suggested that we could work on what I called the “reverse-migration” process. This idea promoted the shutting down of government schools in the urban centers – by selling them to private promoters. With the money thus raised, the government could open up to six large Central Schools in the rural areas – with minimum of 6,000 students, teachers and support staff in each of them. Imagine what economic opportunities such an initiative would generate. Imagine how many bakers will be needed to serve breakfast to 36,000 mouth every morning – how many poultry and dairy farms, vegetable growers, butchers, flour grinding mills – I mean the possibilities are endless. Once you have the numbers, everything will fall into place.

Best of all – imagine how many jobs will be created – all sorts of jobs to fit all sorts of skills and none-skills - in the process halting the economic migrants from leaving the country.

The process of reverse-migration will begin. The Goongtongs will be restocked with young able hands – old parents will be cared for – the greening of Bhutan will begin. One other prospect I see is that administrative services in the rural areas will improve – because parents of the students will want to move back to the areas close to the schools – right now people do not want to be posted in rural settings. Rich parents can enroll their children in the urban schools run by the private operators, in schools bought by them from the government.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Repossession Of My Life - The Journey Begins

Hi ......,

Thank you for your mail ---- and I am sorry for the slight delay in reply. The truth is, now that I am fully relieved of my responsibilities at the Rotary Club as of January 1, 2022, I have been finally able to go and visit my ancestral home. I have been meaning to make the visit for a long time but never got the time.

The next lap of my life's journey has now begun.

Life's exotic moments - alone but not lonely: vast expanse of wilderness but teeming with ceaseless activity of hope and charity

Yes, as you can read in the Dedication Page of my book, the creation of the DeSuung organization about ten years back was nothing short of divinatory – as if His Majesty saw the future and the coming of the COVID-19. What is even more amazing is that by the time the COVID-19 hit us, the required mass was in place – the number of serving DeSuups were enough to take on the mitigation work at all fronts. Just creating the organization isn't enough – numbers matter – and it was there in full force, which made all the difference. Without the numbers, it would not have mattered.

The face of Bhutan would be totally different today – if the DeSuung were not in place, with the required numbers.

The PowerPoint presentation of my coin book is just a demo – not the whole truth. I just wanted you to see how the book will look and feel. 

My narrative on what would have happened to most of the 50,000 silver Thalas (total 2,908 KGs) of 1929 and 1930 that went missing is very interesting I can tell you – but my theorizations are based on documentary proof that point to what may have happened.

A number of Western writers, collectors and historians on Bhutanese coinages had always put the date of Bhutan’s first coinage at 1790. I have discovered documentary proof that the year should actually be 1711.

Thank you for your complement – but it took me years to master the technique of photographing the coins with the clarity, evenness of sharpness and lighting quality that you now see. One collector in Belgium tells me that the coins literally pop out of the pages :)-

Now that I have time in hand, I hope to finalize the book in the coming months. This COVID-19 does not make things easy – but life would be so dull without challenges.

You are right – the Cowrie was used as money in many countries many centuries before salt, and finally metal and paper money – including the Kingdom where the sun never set – England. As you may have read in my demo presentation, in Bhutan we apparently begged Kuber the God of Wealth for it on a daily basis.

7th February is closing in on you very fast! Good luck with your house moving – I just did 3 months back. I can assure you - your biggest headache would be locating things - they seem to disappear.

Bye and take care … and please keep safe and remain vigilant – without loosing out on life's many funs :)-

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Rewriting History

I am traveling out – thus I have no time to do blogging. Perhaps you might find my following comment on one of my own posts, in response to a reader’s comment, interesting. I have written on the subject of “Retrograde Sa” earlier – but the following will elaborate further – on aspects that was not touched upon earlier:

Maartang with a mirrored "Sa" on the Reverse


Dear Anon,

Thank you for passing by and leaving a comment. I know that the term “Retrograde” has been employed for a long time to describe Bhutanese Maartangs with a mirrored “Sa” on the reverse of a coin. But it would not be correct to allow things to remain uncorrected – history is forever subject to rewriting when new discoveries are made.

According to the Dictionary, the term “Retrograde” is employed to describe a planetary movement in a particular direction. Thus it is my belief that a static alphabet “Sa” cannot be termed “Retrograde” since it is not in motion.

My book will carry a chapter on the subject of “Retrograde Sa”. In it I will certainly ensure that what I am now going to call “Mirrored Sa” was originally categorized as “Retrograde Sa” – to give continuity to the inference of the word among numismatic circles.

There are many other problems with the written history of Bhutanese coins. For instance, I am also not going to use the term “Deb Rupee”. Firstly, it is not correct that all the silver coins were hammered by the Debs or, as the British and foreign writers have called them, Deb Rajas. The term that was employed during those days to describe the country’s secular rulers, beginning from 1651, was: Druk Desi. The early silver coins were even more abundantly struck by the Poenlops, Dzongpoens and even perhaps by the temporal rulers – the Je Khenpos.

Secondly, “Rupee” is a monetary unit of India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and the Seychelles – not Bhutan’s. Thus it should not be applied to describe a Bhutanese coin. In reference to Bhutanese coins, the terms employed should be Ngueltang, Maartang, Zangtang, Sertang Thala and Tikchang.

Unfortunately even the term “Ngultrum” to describe our paper currency is wrong. It actually translates to: “Silver Coin”. There is a term few know of its existence – “Shog Lor” – meaning paper money. But I am still trying to find out what Lor stands for. "Shog" is paper.

Monday, January 3, 2022

On The Wings Of The Dragon: Part VI

The national flag carrier Drukair was conferred the Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of the Thunder Dragon) Medal on the 114th National Day on 17th December, 2021. How they became eligible for the much coveted award has been explained thus:

“The Druk Thuksey has been conferred to Drukair in recognition of its exceptional service to the Nation for over 40 years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic by operating numerous repatriation flights and transporting essential medical supplies and vaccines.”

I am glad that they have been recognized for their service during the CONVID-19 pandemic. That is the thing about tragedies - not all tragedies are bad - for some it is an opportunity to shine and excel.

Flying high on the wings of Druk Thuksey Medal

I congratulated the CEO of the airline as follows:

My plea to the Drukair to get out of DHI

Recognitions and awards impose a different level of responsibilities and obligations. I hope the Drukair management realizes that for them it is no time for resting on their laurels – it is time for introspection.

Drukair has a responsibility to the nation. They are among the single largest spoke in the wheel of tourism. I have said this before – and I am saying it again – as the country’s national flag carrier, they have a different set of responsibilities. It transcends profit making. It is for this reason that I have time and again encouraged the Druk Air management to delink themselves from the DHI.

The Drukair was not created as a profit making enterprise – they were created to fulfill two principle objectives – as a symbol of Bhutan’s independent nationhood and as a catalyst with a social mandate to complement and supplement other sectors that will come to depend on it for efficiency and progress.

I have given many reasons why Drukair has to be delinked from the DHI – a conglomerate with profit at the core of its existence. When a social enterprise’s focus shifts to profit making rather than fulfilling a national objective, we are all in trouble. Please read my following thoughts grouped under “On The Wings of The Dragon” behind my push to delink the Drukair from the DHI:

As you can see, if the Drukair is making profit – it is doing so at the cost of the nation and the tourism industry. The Drukair can be even more efficient and meaningful, if they are allowed to unshackle themselves from the yoke of DHI. Tourism will see a quantum jump – and that is something we need when tourism reopens – whenever that is likely to happen.

Until now Drukair has been a major stumbling block on the path of Bhutan's tourism industry. It need not be so - it has the potential to contribute to the country's most vital industry's growth and buoyancy. Now more than ever, the tourism industry needs Drukair.

Instead of getting together every once in a while to try and dismantle the time tested MDPR, the tourism stakeholders should get together and request the government to rationalize the Drukair's fares.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Remaining Few Days in the Rotary

I have just two more days with the Rotary. Thus my final journey with the Rotary will be spent writing notes of Thank You to the network of donors spread across the globe - for their generous contributions to the cause of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.

The insignia of Hope and Deliverance


Dear ………………….,

Greetings from Bhutan. It is my hope that this would find you and your family safe and in good health.

I am not sure if I have already informed you – if not this is my official intimation of my departure from the Rotary institution – not just the Rotary Club of Thimphu. Actually I had intended that I would depart at the end of June, 2021 but something came up and it was not appropriate for me to leave, thus I had to stay on for some more time.

As of 1st January, 2022, I will be focusing on my own life and affairs that have been on hold for the past 6 years – because I had to devote my time fully to the affairs of the Club, in my capacity as the Club’s Secretary, beginning from RI Year 2015-2016, until now. But now I am absolved of my out-of-turn responsibility and, thus, nothing will hold me back in the Rotary beyond December 31, 2021.

I will be suspending all communications with everybody - whether Club Members or international donor partners – on matters related to Rotary. But I will be available to all – any time and anywhere – on matters unrelated to Rotary.

I have already relinquished my post as the Club’s Secretary – preparatory to my departure, as of July 1, 2021. A new Club Secretary has taken charge as of this new RI Year and he and the Club President and the Sector Chairs will henceforth handle all matters related to Club work.

Attached to this mail are the contact details of R C Thimphu’s Club officials who are current as of this writing. I urge you to henceforth address all communications to them – depending on who you think is appropriate.

Thank you for making my journey with the Rotary a meaningful one. With your support I have been able to serve my community for the past six years as the Club Secretary – and ten years as a Rotarian. Please know that it is my belief that if there were anything called a House of God – the Rotary would be counted as that House.

If I have time and again taken advantage of your generosity – please forgive me – but know that in so doing, you gave meaning and hope to many in Bhutan. If I have knocked at your door more often then I should, please know that I did so because I happen to believe that a rich man is one who has the heart to give – I never, ever knock on a wealthy poor man’s door.

In parting, please accept my Thanks for your role in my success and in the success of my Club. You may be happy to know that by end of RI Year 2021-2022, with support from generous donors like yourself, in a short span of nine years since our Charter in 2012, the country’s lone Rotary Club will have delivered over Nu.150.00 million worth of community service projects across the length and breadth of the country.

I take this opportunity to wish you and your family a SUCCESSFUL & A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR. May you live long and happy so that you may continue to do good in this world.

Bye and take care …. I remain, most gratefully,

Yours in Rotary

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Just Squeezing The Same Old Pebbles Endlessly Is Not Going To Expel Oil

I have 3-4 days left before I say goodbye to my Club and the institution called the Rotary. Thus I will not have time to do blogging for a day or two – because the last lag of my Rotary journey will have to be devoted to, as we say in HAM parlance, SIGNING OFF! - writing to offer THANKS to my global network of donors who have donated millions to do good in Bhutan.

But today, once again in HAM parlance, before I say 73!, I would like to leave you with a comment from a reader that took my breath away. What comment he/she left on one of my recent blogs is so meaningful that I believe that its rightful place is on the front page of my Blog and not behind it. Thus I honor him/her by placing it below for all to read and ponder. No doubt, the profundity of it will not escape you.

"Just squeezing the same old pebbles endlessly is not going to expel oil"
I * LOVE * IT!


December 27, 2021 at 3:57 PM

You have rightly touched upon many important subjects in the last few posts. Let me share my thoughts here. When His Majesty sadly commanded that the Bhutanese have lost our mettle in the implementation of developmental activities in the last 15 years of His Majesty's reign, I took that to be directed at all of us, especially those that were given awards, perks, authority and responsibilities in the last 1.5 decades, and had the direct responsibility to realize His Majesty's aspirations for the country. Many were appointed heads of important organizations and they took upon themselves to tinker with the system with lousy half-assed experiments that got us here - which is neither here nor there. Senior posts were filled with people that would only listen to a small group of men, and not necessarily from among the brightest and the best. Even people up for retirement are endlessly retained for redundant posts if you are in with this coterie, and if you can kiss enough ass, eschewing your morals and integrity. This is what destroys the morale of the civil service, when your bosses suddenly appear from nowhere, and the young, truly capable do not see any prospects if you do not kowtow to the coterie. Someone who was mediocre all their life is suddenly and mysteriously your boss. If you do not believe me, look around, and see who make the decisions, who call the shots. It is a small group of people who have tremendous power. Fantastically, they seem to have the answer to all of the country's problems. There is no debate or dissenting voices; there is no diversity of ideas. I fear, this will destroy our beloved country, if we do not course correct. We have sadly come to this - everyone is out to undermine everyone else, saying 'the civil servants are useless,' 'the politicians are useless,' 'the private sector is useless,' 'civil society is useless.' Well, then who is left to be useful?

Heads must roll, and it should start with those who pretend that His Majesty's pearl of wisdom was not directed at them. They cannot, yet again, point at the rest of Bhutan with their index finger and say, 'that was meant for you all.' Three fingers are pointing at themselves.

Patriotism, and love of king and country are every Bhutanese's prerogative. No one has the right to claim that she is more patriotic than the next citizen. This is what makes us Bhutanese - our undying love for our king and country. But when the bright civil servant has no prospect to rise up the ranks because she cannot find herself kissing ass more than anything else, they find themselves on the next flight to Australia or the Middle East.

The future of our country must rest on a transparent system of healthy discourse, respecting diverse viewpoints. It should not be run by a small coterie that get excited by the next 'in thing' - scratch the surface of what is in vogue and then ramble off the next thoughtless experiment, yet again. You cannot run a country with great TED talks and YouTube videos alone. As His Majesty always reminds us, we are but a small country - we should be manageable. There are enough smart young Bhutanese that can ably take the country forward, but they should be given a chance. Just squeezing the same old pebbles endlessly is not going to expel oil. The real potential of the country is yet to be realized. But, we need to get our fundamentals right, and then only will everything fall in place.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Carpetbaggers Are Coming!

A large section of the Bhutanese people already know how important the tourism sector is for Bhutan. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this reality has been reinforced even more starkly. People have now come to realize that a maimed tourism industry can put gaping holes into most Bhutanese people’s pockets.

Full moon setting over Mt. Kanchenjunga - as seen from Nob Tsonapata, Haa

Tourism is the only industry that employs 100% local talent, use local resources and provide the largest number of employment to Bhutanese of all ages. By comparison, hydro projects consume 70% of the fossil fuel imported into the country; employ barely a few hundred Bhutanese and cause destruction to our natural environment, including introducing social ills that we can do without. Crushing debts and atrocious interest rates not withstanding, rampant corruption and inefficient management of the projects cause cost escalations that finally translate to energy rates that is so high that the Bhutanese people are unable to afford.

It is for this reason that I call tourism industry Bhutan’s only net-gain industry. Here we get to keep every Chetrum we earn. There is no punishing 10% interest to be paid on borrowed capital because 100% funds flow in, many months in advance. Through a unique and conceptual business philosophy called the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR), every actor in the industry remains protected and shielded - from the pitfalls of unethical business practices. The MDPR creates an enabling condition for business to grow at an even pace – while ensuring that minimal destruction is caused to our environment.

The tourism industry has been in a state of suspended animation for the past two years – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many thousands of jobs have been lost and thousands of businesses have ground to a halt. But there is a bright side to the problem – it has given the industry much needed respite – it has ushered in an opportunity for the Tourism Council and the industry players to devote time and imagination towards developing newer and more imaginative tourism products, re-skill the guides, enhance the capability of the ancillary service providers, and generally upscale the infrastructure. This forced lull has given us an opportunity to work towards planning and working towards a more buoyant reopening of tourism – whenever that is likely to happen.

And yet, this is not what some of us want to do. Despite His Majesty’s impassioned call for rededication to the Tsa Wa Soom, to work for the national interest and the good of the country, some industry players are determined to dismantle that which has worked marvelously for the country and the industry, for close to half a century.

They want to vandalize the unique MDPR – that very business model that has helped them arrive where they are today. The treachery that is contemplated is truly disgusting. These lot of people are so vile that they want to surrender the interest of the country and the people of Bhutan - at the alter of their individual greed.

Some industry players are attempting to cause injury to the very hand that rocked the cradle in which they incubated. They forget that they are where they are because of the MDPR – on their own some of them do not have the wherewithal to be where they are now – not by a long shot. Most of these people who drive Toyota Prados and own luxury homes – they owe their good fortune to the ingenuity called MDPR. Without the inventiveness of the MDPR, some of these people who now live in the lap of luxury would most likely be pushing cart trolleys by the roadside.

Certainly some tweaking of the system is called for – because conditions have changed and new situations have arisen. But to call for the total dismantling of the MDPR concept is a call that reeks of greed and personal interest, over national interest.

During a recent meeting with some industry players, some argued that we must leave things to the market forces. I agreed that that was a fair suggestion. However, I countered that what market forces they are talking of are clandestinely engineered by people in the domain of the extraterritorial. When the carpetbaggers walk in – the Bhutanese tour operators will be forced to walk out. We will be no match to the global tourism behemoths.

It is rumored that already some big players from outside have made inroads into the industry – through fronting operations. This is a sad situation. But it is my hope that majority of the Bhutanese people will want to decide our own destiny – whether to be owners of the very lucrative tourism business or commission agents to the manipulators from outside.

Remember - BHUTAN FIRST!

Monday, December 27, 2021

His Majesty’s 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation IV

On this fourth series, I will dwell on His Majesty’s 70th and 81st - 83rd sentences.

Sentence 70th: We need to strengthen our foundation by improving the educational standards, craft policies to diversify economic opportunities for our youth, and support private sector growth.

Today the generally accepted view is that the quality of education has dropped. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that the quality of educators has dropped. When institutions of learning are headed by persons who are incapable of producing a one-page certificate of fitness, what can be expected? How would they be capable of molding young minds into growing up to be responsible, disciplined, dedicated and hardworking citizens?

Sentence 81st: Foreign experts and professionals have commented that our rules, regulations, laws and institutional procedures are among the best in the world.

Sentence 82nd: Yet we are not able to reap the benefits.

Sentence 83rd: Where have we gone wrong?

Lack of enforcement, regulation and monitoring

The Bhutanese truly excel at producing paper work. We churn out hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and regulations that are among the best in the world – both in words and in content. But that is where it all ends – rules and regulations are framed and notified – then they are promptly forgotten. They are shelved and gather dust thereafter in some dingy corner of the office. Over time, we even forget that a certain rule exists.

Where have we gone wrong? Quite simply - there is no follow through, there is no monitoring, there is no regulation, and there is no enforcement. Rules are made only to look good – there is no proof that they have been formulated to achieve ends.

It is for this reason that I have been moaning for the past many years that regulators should stick to regulating and enforcement. Do not get into areas where there is bound to be conflict of interests.

One other aspect of Bhutanese governance must find mention – that of putting in place a BAN. The public employees have a simple way to ensure that they are not required to put in hard work – simply put a BAN in place. When a ban is in place, they do not need to work at monitoring or regulation or enforcement.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Mirrored Sa Maartang

Today I want to take a sojourn from the topic that is currently in vogue and talk of my favorite subject – Bhutan’s ancient coins.

My deep and unremitting research into our coinages has taken me on journeys that I never imagined I would undertake – read volumes and volumes of material until my eyes became bleary. But I have managed to untangle some of the web of confusion surrounding our ancient coins. And I have interacted with a number of coin collectors and historians around the world who helped me become more knowledgeable and who sharpened my senses - to look beyond the stated and the written.

It is my hope that among the last confusions or uncertainties on the subject is the matter concerning the coin variety that the Western writers, historians and collectors have categorized as “Retrograde Sa” coin. This is a coin variety where the alphabet "Sa" is depicted on the reverse of the coin – with a mirrored "Sa" sitting to the right of the Cooch Bihari word “Ndra”.

Two days back, as I began the final process of sorting out the coin varieties and sub-varieties. I began to segregate the “Retrograde Sa” coins. I paused and looked at the coins and pondered:

What the dang hell is Retrograde?

I looked up the dictionary and find that the term “Retrograde” describes a planetary movement – a state in which a planet is in motion in a particular direction. The dictionary explains the term as follows:

“Moving in the opposite direction to that of most other stars, planets etc.”

I realized that the term “Retrograde” thus couldn’t accurately describe the coin variety. I embarked on some experiments. I selected two Sa coins – one with “Sa” rendered normally and another with “Sa” in a “Retrograde” position. I then opened the images in PhotoShop and flipped them horizontally – with the following results:

The normal "Sa" depicted on the LEFT Maartang in my collection was flipped horizontally in PhotoShop to get the "Mirrored Sa" image depicted on the coin to the RIGHT.

The Mirrored "Sa" coin in my collection depicted on the LEFT Maartang was flipped horizontally in PhotoShop to get the "Sa" in a normal position as depicted on the image on the RIGHT.

Next, I printed the alphabet “Sa” on a sheet of paper and took it to be projected against a mirror in the bathroom, with the following result:

Normal "Sa" as seen on paper as opposed to how it is seen when reflected on a mirror

With all the above experiments, I am now clear in my mind what the coin should be called. It cannot be called a “Retrograde Sa” coin because "Retrograde" describes an object that is in a state of motion and not an object that is static. Thus I am going to coin a new phrase for the coin - “Mirrored SaMaartang.

Just to be sure that I am not making a mistake, I referred to five different scripts of the Himalayan region - to see if there is a "Retrograde Sa" in any of them. There are none.

No "Retrograde Sa" in any of the above five scripts

The final question that now perplexed me is:

Did the die engraver make a mistake in engraving the “Mirrored Sa” die? Or was the erroneous depiction a deliberate act – to introduce a new variety.

This question will have to remain buried in history because we will never know.

Friday, December 24, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation III

His Majesty’s segregation of “transient” and “enduring” prosperity is truly enlightening. The taxonomies are self-revealing in their implications. Two of His Majesty’s sentences read as follows:

Sentence 63rd: When we talk of prosperity and wealth, it is important to distinguish between transient and enduring prosperity, so that we are clear about our national aspirations.

Sentence 64th: For example, it is possible to become wealthy through gambling, rent-seeking, and other unethical means.

The 63rd Sentence dwells on the matter relating to our choice – whether we choose that which is temporary, or that which is everlasting or permanent.

But the 64th Sentence is the more substantive – it speaks of how you acquired the prosperity – irrespective of whether “transient” or “enduring”. Here His Majesty speaks of the route you have taken to amass your prosperity - whether “transient” or “enduring”. Here His Majesty is talking of corruption or, quoting Him verbatim – "UNETHICAL MEANS”.

There are a few million words that I can write about the corrupt and unethical practices that have been in vogue for the past many decades. But one particular shameless corrupt and unethical practice that I want to highlight is the QUOTA SYSTEM – not that I have not done so before.

A clandestine deal under way

Very, very few lawmakers and public employees can claim to be unsullied by the stain of corruption and unethical practice, through the peddling of this undeserved and automatic reward, in the black market. I am told that some lawmakers and bureaucrats have received these undeserved quotas three times in their lives.

Bhutan’s leading industrialists and business houses generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue that go to pay the salaries and TA/DA of the public employees, including funding of some of the country’s developmental activities. And yet, they are undeserving and outside the quota system. In fact they are forced into indulging in unethical practices – such as illegally driving a car that is registered in some one else’s name because the law does not permit illegally owned cars to be registered in his/her name. Some upmarket bars and restaurants serve imported alcohol – peddled by lawmakers and public employees who have been issued letters of entitlement for purchase of duty free goods.

Any country or society is bound to be in serious trouble when blatant corruption and unethical practices are condoned with openness that verge on the collaborative. The trouble is that even the agencies that are charged with the responsibility to curtail such crimes – are themselves deep into it.

As I had said in the past, the country the size of our population needs just ten hard working and ethical persons to take this country to the top of affluence. Unfortunately, of the ten needed, only one is working really, really hard.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

His Majesty’s 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation II

His Majesty’s 38th, 40th and 41st sentences touched on the matter pertaining to the need for acquiring skills and inculcating a culture of life-long learning. Specifically, the following is how His Majesty put it:

Sentence 38th: We must inculcate in us a culture of life-long learning.

Sentence 40th: We need to be prepared for the future so that every one of us is equipped with the skills, competencies and experience to succeed and compete in the world.

Sentence 41st: We must give utmost priority to skill, up-skill, and re-skill our people to make them world-ready.

When attempting to embark on this subject, I was stumped! – I suffered a Writer’s Block for nearly 5 hours. This is such a weird subject – I did not know how to begin.

Up-skill and re-skill? How much do I get by way of TA/DA?

I mean the Bhutanese must be among the only people in the whole world who seek remuneration for getting skilled, or up-skilled, and re-skilled. Elsewhere in the world, one has to work very hard and pay good money to acquire skills and knowledge. The Bhutanese - whether you believe it or not - have to be paid good money to get educated, to receive life skills and to reskill them, to help them step up in life. If you don’t pay them TA/DA, they will not come and get educated or skilled.

I know that it will not come as a surprise to most when I say that when government departments conduct trainings – they make sure that the training happens outside their bases – because they want to earn TA/DA. Apparently there is a rule that says that they will not be entitled to TA/DA if the place of training or meeting is within the proximity of certain KMs from the locations of their offices.

Ofcourse if the training or meeting is outside the country – they will all jump at the opportunity. And why not? - they will get paid even more.

At what point in time in the history of our evolution did we acquire this culture of getting paid for becoming wise, competent, able, efficient and skilled? When and how did we get this way?

His Majesty is categorical that this brand of culture is not something that was passed down – He is certain beyond doubt that it is something that this generation has spawned it in the past 15 years. His Majesty’s exact words in his 95th and 96th sentences were:

Sentence 95th: I have witnessed the boldness, rigour, resolve and sternness that had defined the reign of His Majesty the Fourth King.

Sentence 96th: Unfortunately, these qualities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years of my reign.

Clearly His Majesty means that the process of our devolution began in recent times.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation I bbb

Of the many wise and meaningful reminders that His Majesty had pointed out during His 114th National Day speech, the subject of hydropower will be one that I am inclined to devote two articles. The reason: for the first time, there is official admission that hydropower is soon destined for the burial grounds. The following is the caution delivered by His Majesty in his 30th Sentence:

Sentence 30th: With rapid advancements in harnessing nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind energy, hydropower may soon lose its competitive edge.

Water - source of future conflicts

There finally appears to be a sense that hydropower is now old hat. But the reality is that it can still generate revenue – long after our hydropower dreams have ground to a screeching halt. How? The following are my thoughts:

On 9th February, 2016, I had listed my 8 New Year Wishes. The 5th read as follows:


The most shameful thing about a country that projects itself as a net exporter of hydroelectricity is the fact that we have to import power during the winter months at a price higher than that at which we export during the summer months. This is a most shameful and pathetic situation!

Therefore, my Vth wish is to build dams over the Wangchhu and the Punatsangchhu, so that we can harness the excess water available during the monsoons, caused by snow melt and rain water which otherwise go on to flood the plains of India. Such storage reservoirs will augment the drastic fall in water availability during winter months, thereby making it possible for our generators in the power plants to work at full capacity to generate electricity, even during the winter months. This will eliminate the need for import of expensive electricity during the lean season.

On the 27th of last month, I repeated my wish, as follows:

The planners and lawmakers should now stop talking of new hydropower projects. In fact they should stop talking about hydropower projects entirely.

Instead, let them talk about constructing a water storage reservoir on the Wangchhu – to augment water supply to the two existing projects downstream - during the winter months. Bring to focus the import bill of electricity during the winter months.

I have, to date, written 69 hydropower related articles. For those of you who are interested, the articles are grouped under the following:

There are facts and figures in those articles that may surprise you.


I forgot to mention why a staunch environmentalist like myself is now urging the construction of reservoir dams across the Wangchhu and Punatsangchhu basins. The reason is that these two basins' environmental integrity has already been compromised - due to the hydropower projects that have already happened on the river basins - it cannot get any worst.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation I aaa

As I said in my last post of 18th December, 2021, I am going to offer to interpret His Majesty’s most riveting 114th National Day Speech, beginning with this first installment.

To me His Majesty’s body language on that day was clear – it was not one of surrender – it was one of absolute resolve. It was clear for all to see - that the days of words are behind Him – He will now act. His closing words were as follows:

“There is nothing new in what I am sharing today. These are part of daily conversation among our people while expressing their concerns, hopes and aspirations. Rather than leave these concerns and sentiments within the confines of their homes, I re-articulate them today as the King’s Command on this National Day”.

Before I begin my series, I would like to remind you of another of my interpretations – that of His Majesty’s 111th National Day Celebration in Samtse, during 2018. You can read it at the following:

I broke down His Majesty’s 114th National Day speech into numbers. The statistics, as they show up on my computer screen, are as follows:

1,906   Words

     30   Paragraphs

  216    Lines

  107    Sentences

Number of lines may vary, depending on your choice of font, page margins and font size choice – other numbers will not change.

Scanning through the 107 sentences that made up the total speech, significantly, the first in order of the many concerns His Majesty expressed dealt with - hydropower. He spoke as follows:

Sentence 29th: For example, hydropower today is an important source of our wealth.

Sentence 30th: With rapid advancements in harnessing nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind energy, hydropower may soon lose its competitive edge.

Sentence 31st: We may soon become a net energy importer.

Sentence 32nd: Therefore, it is imperative to seize the opportunity and enhance the capabilities of our people, and strengthen the economic and governance framework to harness the potential ushered in by these rapid and dynamic technological changes.

What His Majesty is endeavoring to point out, in fact He is saying it clearly in His 31st sentence – that Hydropower will cease to be the technology of choice in the coming years. He is clear that emerging and advancing alternate sources of energy harnessed from nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind – will render hydropower  - REDUNDANT.

Bhutan's Hydro Power Master Plan

In one of my 67 blog articles on the subject of hydropower, the following is what I had said, on 23rd of January, 2018:

“Let us be responsible to our future generations and make a pledge today to keep some of our rivers free flowing. In any event, solar power is fast emerging as a serious competition to hydro-power. In 1977 solar cells used to cost US$ 76.67 per watt. By July of 2016, per watt cost of solar cells had dropped to US$ 0.26. It will not be long before hydro-power is nudged out of the competition. Thus even from the point of view of investment, it looks like we are putting our debts behind a loser.

Let us stop further hydro-power projects. It is pretty clear that in the next 5-6 years, energy generated by hydro-power projects will no longer be competitive. Even worse, water may no longer qualify as a renewable resource, caused by global warming”.