Sunday, June 19, 2016

Full Moon Rising Over Jumolhari Lhakhang

The following are a series of shots of the full moon rising over the mountains in Jumolhari Lhakhang areas. Tourists are not allowed to trek in these areas - perhaps for the reason that it is too close to the Tibetan border. Notice that it took merely 3 minutes for the moon to emerge fully out of the horizon.







It took only three minutes for the full moon to rise fully from behind the mountains

The Jumolhari Lhakhangs (the old and the new) are located at the end of a narrow valley and it is terribly windy. Powerful gusts of wind howl all night long, threatening to blow off the roofs of the Lhakhangs.

Mt. Jumolhari, which looks completely different from the way it looks from Jangothang side, towers over us in the back.

The other face of Mt. Jumolhari - a completely different look


Mt. Jumolhari as seen from Jangothang

Note the date: December 21, 2010. It is thick of winter and everything is frozen. Over the cliff faces, there are oodles of icicles formed by frozen waterfalls.

Frozen waterfall cover most of the rock faces at this time of the year

Few trillion stars throb and sparkle in the clear night sky but photographing them was impossible because the wind is so strong that it is impossible to keep the camera tripod still.

There are two night scenes that I hope to shoot one of these days. One is the full moon setting over Mt. Kanchenjunga. This I would like to shoot from Nop Tsonapatta in Haa. However, my horseman simply would not hear of it - says it is just too cold and that the trail would be iced and slippery, posing danger to the pack ponies.

The other scene I want to shoot is the full moon reflected off the Animo Tso (lake of the nun) at the base of Jule-La in Dhur Tsachu area. I had actually programmed one of my treks in a way that I arrived at the lake on the full moon night. But my companion refused to get out of the tent to help me carry my camera gear – on my own I couldn't handle it. It was too cold and it was impossible for me to carry the tripod and camera and lens and everything. I would have had to walk to the end of the lake and it wasn't easy in the dark with gear to lug around. So I missed the opportunity.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Devastation of Bhutan's Most Famous Trek Route II

I was not aware that the issue was already reported in the Kuensel. One of my readers sent me a link to the Kuensel website where reporter Kinga Dema reports on the matter that was apparently discussed and deliberated upon. And yet, despite all that nothing was done to prevent the systematic destruction of the country’s most beautiful trekking route.

http://www.kuenselonline.com/jomolhari-trek-losing-its-charm/#comments


It is sad.

Why should it be any single agency’s responsibility to endeavor to do the right thing? Why should the onus be on the TCB or the ABTO or the JDNP, to take on the responsibility of ensuring less destructive and harmful ways of doing things? From which planet is BPC that they are exempt from their responsibility to ensure that they play their part in doing whatever they can to protect a national resource that will far outweigh every other consideration?

The Kuensel report says that the BPC went ahead and devastated the country’s most famous trek route because some agency did not come up with Nu.755,126.00 for realignment of the transmission lines. That is rather stupid. Because the question then is: why did they align it in a way that would entail expensive realignment, in the first place? Didn't they have sense enough to know or understand the consequences of their folly?

Gem Tshering the Managing Director of BPC told the Kuensel that BPC is under no liberty to change the right of way as frequently as they pleased. That is a stupid argument. The reason is, whether the right of way is by the trek route or through the wilderness, the transmission corridor will require all the trees falling within the corridor to be felled and cleared. So how has he saved or minimized damage to the vegetation? He also states that he is on a dateline to complete the work by 2017. So what he means is that he would cause millions of dollars of loss to the country - in his rush to complete a project within a set time frame?

Why did he not consider taking the transmission line from Guhisawa to Thombushong to Soe and then over the Bonte-La into Jangothang? There would be less destruction since there is hardly any vegetation on that route. Obviously this will be a longer route - but for the sake of the environment, some additional costs can be considered.

Some one rightly told me few days back: The reason why everything is going wrong in this country is because people who are in the decision making positions are people who lack institutional memory - people with crooked minds and no hearts.

Devastation of Bhutan's Most Famous Trek Route

I am perhaps among the very few Bhutanese who have trekked to almost all the highest regions of the country. I have trekked the Tsokar-Tsonag-Terdalhatso-Gosung areas in Singye Dzong. I have trekked the Nagchungla and Jumokungkhar regions in Merak in the eastern parts of the country.

In the central parts of the country, I have trekked to the very base of Gangkhar Puensum - Bhutan’s highest mountain and the world’s highest unclimbed peak, and to Dhur Tsachu Bhutan’s most pristine hotspring, on the route to the world famous Snowman Trek.

In the north-west, I have trekked to the base of Jumolhari, Jichu Drake, Jo Gem, Bonte-La, Lingzhi and Chebesa. I trekked to the base of Masagang, Gungchen-Taag, Tserimgung, Tarigang and  Lunana, including to the very base of Gungchen Singye. In Haa region, I have trekked to Gonzola, Nobtsonapatra, Chundugang, Chundulhatso, Sinchulumpa etc.

Thus, because I have been to most of the treks, I can say that of all the treks, the Jumolhari Base Camp trek is the very best. It is the easiest and the most popular among the tourists with trekking on their itinerary. It is also perhaps the shortest - it can now be done in two days - even by the chilips. A seven year old kid can do the trek with ease!

On the Jumolhari Base Camp trek, one can see the most beautiful views anywhere else. In two days one arrives at a location where one can view: Jumolhari, Bhutan’s second highest peak; Jichu Drake, twin Tsophu Lakes, Bonte-La, Jo Gem, Ngele-La etc. It is for this reason that Jumolhari Base Camp trek is the most popular trek among trekkers - it is short and it is absolutely stunning. One trek group comprising of high end photographers from USA I hosted last year spent entire 6 days in Jumolhari - they refused to move - they were supposed to trek to Lingzhi and then exit through Dodena. They said that they did not believe that there can be a more beautiful place than where they were - Jumolhari base.

Even our Hon'ble Prime Minister one day told me that Jumolhari Base Camp holds the highest potential for tourism and that Bhutan should look at how to development it to offer better experience to the trekkers.

But now it is being devastated. Look at the images below. The Bhutan Power Corporation chose to build their transmission lines right along side the trekking trails. In the process, the trail is strewn with felled trees. Notice that trekkers who pay thousands of dollars are made to negotiate their trek through a trail that is covered with trees and branches - risking injury and fatality.

Tourists who pay thousands of dollars are made to negotiate their trek through felled trees and logs that are strewn all over the trail - risking injury and fatality.

Felled trees cover the trail route while ugly transmission lines intrude on the trekkers - a far cry from the pristine wilderness that was promised the trekkers

How did the government allow this? The government surely knows the consequences of allowing BPC to destroy the country’s most famous trek route. The BPC should have been more responsible than to cause such destruction to the trail and, ultimately, wipe out Bhutan’s biggest attraction for trekkers.

How is the BPC going to compensate the country for their mindless act? Who was responsible to authorize such destruction? It is not enough to say that service delivery is their responsibility. Service delivery with responsibility should be their first duty.

One tour operator told me that one group has already cancelled their trekking trip to the Jumolhari Base Camp. We will see many more cancellations in the coming months as trekkers become aware of the devastation. Over time, this trek route will no longer draw trekkers - resulting in loss of millions of dollars in revenue. Even more worrisome, Bhutan's image as a champion of environmental conservation will take a beating.

As I said, the Bhutanese tourism industry is targeted for demolition. Look at the road-widening works - it is something that we do not need and yet it has been forced on us. Now the road is all dug up from Thimphu to Trashigang. Journey over these roads are painful, laborious, long and dangerous. The Hon’ble Minister of MoWHS had said last August that the roads will be done in three years time. I have stated that it will not be done in twenty years. She must already get the sneaky feeling that I may be right, because "pre-financing" of the road widening works have already begun.

I wish people would do things with a little bit more sensitivity - put ones heart into what one is doing. Mindlessness is becoming too rampant among the Bhutanese.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Educated are in rural Bhutan while the literate ones live in the capital city

During my recent visit to see my old man in Mangdechhu, we were sitting outside his home. As we sat there talking of this and that, three Maruti cars pulled up in front of his house and out came close to 15 young men and women, each bearing a machete in their hands. I was surprised and asked him who they were. He informed me that they were all villagers who were returning after working on their farms - that were being prepared for planting cardamom.

I was intrigued - our farmers now drive Maruti cars to work on their farms? That is rich!

Before I could decide what to make of it, my old man interrupted my thought process:

“Yeshey, what do you think of entire villages abandoning farming and planting cardamom in their farmlands - that which were traditionally used for growing food?"

“I suppose we are due for a shift in our dietary habits - from eating rice and kharang to munching cardamoms."

The old man wasn't amused. He went on:

“Get serious ---- if we do not grow food what are we going to eat? We cannot eat cardamom. Such large-scale production of cardamom all around the country is sure to create a glut in the market. Food production will drop thereby requiring us to import food from Jagga’s yuekha. I don't think this is a good thing that is happening. Not only that, you should remember - because you were in the thick and thin of it - that it was the rampant deforestation cause by cardamom plantation that resulted in the Drukgyal Zhipa nationalizing cardamom plantations in 1979."

“Yes I remember."

“Then?” Why wont the government intervene and halt this nonsense? No doubt the government can foretell the trouble this is bound to cause”.

I looked at my 85 years old dad with a sense of wonderment. One would have thought that he would be oblivious to what is happening around him - engrossed as he is, in silent prayers. Obviously the old man still has a mind that is fertile enough to grasp the consequences of abandoning farming, in preference to growing brown jacket cardamom.

Surely, this dismantles the fallacy that educated people live in the urban centers. Clearly, the educated people live in rural Bhutan, while the literate ones throng to the capital city.

Submitting Gracefully to the Inevitable

Last week I had to drive down to Gaylephu to see my aunt who was hospitalized for complex variety of ailments of which none of the children or siblings were sure about. That is the problem with old age - the most obvious reasons are ruled out and the most bizarre reasons are attributed to why they are unwell.

She was in a bad way. When I looked at her heaving away on the hospital bed, first thing I realized was that she was reduced to half her normal size. I took her fragile right palm into mine and asked her:

Nge nge (Aunty) … open your eyes"

She peered at me through her half open eyes. I asked her:

Nge nge, ngo branteh?" (Do you recognize me?)

She said: "Brantah" (Yes I recognize you)

I asked her; “Aai wen teh?" (Who am I?)

“Wangchuk wen tah" (You are Wangchuk)

Yea right!

All her life she loved me like her own son. She defended me against her own children and every other family member who dared speak ill of me. In her eyes I could do no wrong. For all that love and affection, I stood next to her, holding her hand - but totally helpless to do anything else. After over an hour of hovering around her, I decided there was nothing I could do for her. I decided to head for Mangdechhu where her younger brother, my old man, lives.

My dad asked me if I had come to see aunt. I said yes and he asked how she was. I told him she is half her normal size and she is in a bad way. He said:

“Her time has come - she is 88 years old. No need for drama. This is what life is all about -- every birth has to end in death. There is nothing to be sorry about. You should be happy in the knowledge that every breath she took, she uttered your name. What else do you want? Next in line is me - I am 85 years old and that means that I am just about getting there too."

Suddenly I realized this trip that my old man no longer howled his prayers - he read them silently in his mind. May be his body no longer has the energy - or may be after close to four decades of howling his prayers, realization may have finally dawned on him that prayers can be as effective, even if said in silence. Or, may be, he may have got some indication that Gods in heaven have all gone deaf.

I am so glad my old man is ready for the inevitable. It is so much easier when one is prepared for something that cannot be avoided. Such a nice feeling to know that one is able to yield so completely and gracefully to something that no power can prevent from coming to pass.

On my return journey to Thimphu next day, I again stopped by the hospital in Gaylephu to check on my aunt .... this time she recognized me and said that I was Yeshey Dooji (she always pronounced my name Yeshey Dooji - must be the khengpa way) and that she was happy for the visit - Weth Yeshey Dooji wentah --- weth gnath tahro razey neng gaa pa warey.

The Rotary Foundation Scholarship for Masters Degree in Water & Sanitation

The Rotary Foundation (TRF) offer of 10 scholarships for a Masters degree in Water & Sanitation is now closed. The Rotary Club of Thimphu will now be working on submitting the Forms to the TRF for funding under its Global Grants program.

This is not the end. The Rotary International offers 100 scholarships every year. For those of you who wish to advance your studies through full scholarships offered by the Rotary, please long on to:


Your Club - the Rotary Club of Thimphu - is eligible for Global Grant projects of the TRF. Thus please work early to seek and qualify for funding. PLEASE DO NOT ASK ME FOR DETAILS --- read up on the above site - every detail is available there.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Words of Hilarity and Awakening!

The following is how the Notice Board by the gate of Sangchoekhor Monastery in Paro, is worded:


The words may have gone a little wayward – but strangely, the spellings were spot on!

I was nonplussed – how can it happen that a person with such atrocious language skill be capable of spelling every word of the long winding notification without a single mistake? Puzzling!

But even more puzzling was the fact that such an inarticulate Notice Board continues to stand by the gate – without redemption.

I know that thousands would have passed under the archway of the Temple’s gate - to prostrate and to murmur prayers for success, long life, great wealth, good health and immediate rebirth into the world, after death. Millions of Ngultrums worth of Dalda would have been turned to smoke and soot - to demonstrate their religious fervor. Millions more would have been placed before the Lhakhang’s alter, by way of Gep. Copious amounts of Suja and Desi would have been served the many monks residing in the Lhakhang – as an act of religious complicity.

And yet, it is obvious that not a single chivalrous Buddhist has yet passed through the gate – one with the rudimentary qualities of a true Buddhist – to offer to remedy a Notice Board badly in need of rewording.

Rotary Foundation offers 10 (TEN) Scholarships for degree in water and sanitation

Dear Readers, 

I am happy to reproduce the following announcement by The Rotary Foundation, USA. The scholarship is offered for a Master's degree in Urban Water and Sanitation, Water Management, or Water Science and Engineering.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu would be happy to act as your sponsor club for this sponsorship. Please log on to the link indicated and read up to see if you qualify. If you do, please write to us at any of the following e-mail address:

        Rtn. Yeshey Dorji             :  yesheydorji@gmail.com
        Ms. Tshering Choden       :  teecho507@gmail.com

Please note the application dateline.

Readers who have Facebook or Tweeter account, please spread the word among your circle of friends.

BEST OF LUCK!


Yeshey Dorji
Co-Chair : 9th RI District 3292 Annual Conference 2016-2017
Chair       : Vocational/Youth Services
ROTARY CLUB OF THIMPHU
RI District 3292
__________________________


The Rotary Foundation and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education are working together to tackle the world’s water and sanitation crisis and are offering up to 10 scholarships for graduate study at UNESCO-IHE's Delft campus in the Netherlands. The partnership aims to increase the number of trained professionals who can devise, plan, and implement water and sanitation solutions in developing areas. The scholarships also are designed to promote long-term productive relationships between Rotarians and skilled water and sanitation professionals in their communities.

Scholars will receive a Master of Science degree in urban water and sanitation, water management, or water science and engineering. Graduates work with their Rotary club sponsors on a related project to benefit their local community. The application deadline is 15 June. For more information, review the application toolkit and scholarship terms and conditions.

If you have questions, please contact grants@rotary.org.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Do Not Lose Sight Of The Woods While Being Distracted By The Tree

More than a month back, I sought an appointment with a Member of the Cabinet, in the hope that I could speak to him about some concerns I had. He promised to get back to me – but never did. I did not call him again because firstly, I know that he is a very busy man and can do without me pestering him time and again and, secondly, it is improper that I keep calling a Member of the Cabinet, at will.

I had, or have, 3 plus 1 specific concerns that I wanted to discuss with him. Of the 3, I will today discuss one of them. But first, I want to start with the plus 1 concern – not really a concern but a point of view.

I wanted to begin by offering him my point of view that if he truly desires to make a difference during his tenure as a Minister – he needed to dream small but achieve big. I wanted to tell him that this country has seen no dearth of dreamer of lofty dreams – but few have achieved anything meaningful. I wanted to caution him against that one fundamental human failing – that of overlooking the small important things that bring big changes, in our pursuit of big dreams that have, slowly but surely, put us on the road to destruction and ruin. I wanted to tell him not to lose sight of the woods while being distracted by the tree. Perhaps he should be satisfied seeing his reflection on the crystal waters of the free-flowing rivers, rather than the blurry outline on the murky waters of the hydro-power dams.

I wanted to tell him that perhaps there is a need for a change in the way we think and do things. Perhaps we need to look backwards to take us forward rather than look forward to be pushed rearward.

Perhaps the time is here for us to amend our outdated laws and rules that are out of tune with the changing times, rather than frame new ones that are most often done with poor understanding and in a state of confusion as to their purpose and intent.

I wanted to remind the Minister of a strange case where the author of the book’s foreword wrote that the rules and regulations contained in the book needed to be read and understood by every Bhutanese, while the agency that promulgated the rules and regulations marked on its cover: “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.

And now, coming to 1 of the 3 concerns I wanted to discuss with the Minister, had I got that appointment I sought. I wanted to apprise him of the case pertaining to the rule concerning the transfer of vehicle ownership and the payment required to be paid for the purpose.

I wanted to clarify to him, if he did not already know, the difference between “TAX” and “FEE”. I wanted to point out to him that conceptually, “TAX” is collected as a measure of realizing revenue, while “FEE” becomes payable for a certain service rendered or performed. The act of amending the record of the ownership of an old vehicle from one to another – the act of printing a different ownership certificate is a service and thus should be subjected to a FEE and not a TAX. Therefore to levy 5% TAX on the transfer of ownership of vehicles is incorrect.

Frankly, I am concerned not so much with the legality of the issue – as much as I am with the huge loss of income the government is suffering. Because of the requirement of payment of 5% TAX, no one is willing to transfer the ownership of vehicles – even when the property has changed hands. But the truth is that our country needs to collect – even the smallest of TAX or FEE.

This is one quixotic case for the record books: a case of the government wanting to collect vast amounts of TAX but losing huge amounts of income through none-realization of FEE. There are thousands who have chosen not to transfer the ownership because it is unreasonable to pay TAX on something that should not be taxable.

I am one among them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shingkhar-Gorgan Road Will Shorten Distance to Takila

In September of 2015, Bhutan submitted our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, Germany. The document contained very serious commitments by Bhutan – to combat climate change – through environmental conservation and protection.

On the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris on December 10, 2015, Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji singed a joint declaration with the EU wherein Bhutan reiterated its COP 15 pledge to remain permanently carbon neutral. In appreciation of this extraordinary will and commitment to “keep the planet safe for life to continue”, EU tripled its assistance to Bhutan - from € 14 million (2007 - 2013) to € 42 million (2014 - 2020).

On 19th February, 2016, our Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay captivated the audience at the TED Talks in Vancouver, Canada where he declared:

“Of the 200-odd countries in the world today, it looks like we are the only one that's carbon neutral. Actually, that's not quite accurate. Bhutan is not carbon neutral. Bhutan is carbon negative”.

He went on to say:

We must keep our parks awesome. So every year, we set aside resources to prevent poaching, hunting, mining and pollution in our parks, and resources to help communities who live in those parks manage their forests, adapt to climate change, and lead better lives while continuing to live in harmony with Mother Nature”.

Generating over a million page views (1,311,270 as of 11:02:52AM; May 24, 2016) on the TED page, it has sparked keen interest among the world audience on Bhutan’s most recent environmental protection and conservation initiative – BHUTAN FOR LIFE.

One of the billionaire audiences who sat in the third row during the TED Talks in Vancouver was so impressed that he said he came to Bhutan to see for himself what the realities were on the ground. Whole lot of donors to Bhutan’s environmental NGOs and the BHUTAN FOR LIFE initiative have recently visited Bhutan and trekked the Shingkhar-Gorgan Road areas – to see what this controversial road was all about.

During a number of meetings I assured them that the road wasn't going to happen. I informed them that Shingkhar-Gorgan road would pass through the TNP – something that is forbidden by law. If constructed, the road would dissect the worlds only proven high altitude tiger migration corridor. If we go ahead and do this road, our promises to the world community would be just that – empty promises made without intending to keep them.

Some have put out the misinformation that the road would help avoid Thrumshing-La Pass that at times hinder flow of traffic, particularly during the winter months. The truth is that Singama-La Pass – over which the Shingkhar-Gorgan road has to pass, is even higher than Thrumshing-La. Thus someone has to be seriously stupid to say that the road would serve as a better alternative to Thrumshing-La. Namling is now stable and no longer a cause for worry for travelers.

Those who are quick to point out that Shingkhar-Gorgan road will help cut down travel time between east and west, a better point would have been made – if one were to point out that, by contrast, the country’s poorest Dzongkhag – Zhemgang don't have roads – let alone roads that need shortening. If the government has money available, let us look at the possibility of improving road connectivity in the remote Zhemgang villages.
The beautiful Singma-La Pass. One can see that the pass is way above the tree lines - meaning it is over 4,000 Mtrs.

 Thrumshing-La Pass at under 3,800 Mtrs. As opposed to the barren top of Singma-La, you can see trees atop the Thrumshing-La Pass. This means that this pass is much lower than Singama-La.

View of the beautiful Shingkhar Village from atop the Singma-La.

There is something insane going on about this road. I am told that some one has written in the Facebook that the Shingkhar-Gorgan road will open up the opportunity for people to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila.

You would break a law, imperil a rare tiger habitat, cause irreparable damage to a pristine ecosystem and bring ruin to the environment – just so you can get to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila?

At this scale of insanity, next thing would be that the same people would want the Tawang-Doksum-Guwahati road – on grounds that they can get to go to visit the Kamakhya in the shortest of time!

Friday, May 20, 2016

R.I.P Ada Rachu

From out of the ashes rose the Ada Rachu rule and to ashes it has rightfully been assigned. Even before one could finish saying “this too shall pass”, the Ada Rachu rule has been given its just burial, in the process, leaving a bunch of sycophants scurrying off to bury their heads in the sand.

It is a sign of disrespect for someone to suggest that the distinction of the Bhutanese Royalty is hinged on a piece of striped cloth. Their station, regal bearing, their uncommon intelligence - are distinctive enough. And, most of us recognize our Royalty anyway - without the need for Ada Rachu to distinguish them.

I hope this will encourage  people to contemplate deeper - the implications of what they are putting out.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

In Celebration of Teachers’ Day - Remembering My Teacher

I was kept too busy to post an article on Teachers’ Day. I wanted to post my following mail – written on 21st March, 2016 to my old teacher - after having been totally disconnected with him for over 46 years. I started to look out for him ten years back – finally I traced him through a Church in England.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your mail and please accept my apology for the delayed reply.

I did not really think that the person on that Church’s web site would turn out to be you - but I asked any way, since I was in search of you for the past 10 years or more. In truth, there is no specific reason why I was looking for you - except that over the years, as I grew older and wiser, I have come to develop a huge respect and regard for you - as an immensely dedicated teacher who, I came to realize, had given so much to that small school in Gawpey, and its students. I was fortunate to be your student and somehow I believe that without you coming into my life at a time and space that you did, even if for a very brief while, I would not be the person that I have grown to be.

In particular, without your punishing ways and unrelenting attention, I would have never made it through my studies - considering that I had discontinued studies for three years – to sell tea and peanuts to Nepali workers crushing stones by the roadside - before joining Gawpey! Consider that after having missed schooling for three years, I had to relearn grammar, including adding sums all over! You single handedly resuscitated me and put me on the road to education and learning. With your uncompromising and strict disciplinarian ways, I went on to excel in my class, year after year! You pushed me so hard and remained so steadfast to my need for special attention that I not only passed my exams in my first year in Gawpey (Class III), but I passed it with flying colors – with a class position of 4th in my final exams.

Once in a while I think of the times when I was studying in Gawpey - as your student. I reminiscence of the times when you singled me out for special punishment - duster on the head or cane on my butt - the habitual mischief-maker that I was. One time you kept whole of my class standing in the sun – all day long - because someone had hidden the school bag and all the books of Gado Tshering – now Gup Gado. If you recall, you were a bit surprised that not one student dropped to the ground - in exhaustion or as a result of heat stroke.

I still find it hard to believe that you had the time and the tenacity to set all the question papers for the whole school - from Class II upwards --- and mark them all too. The dreaded weekly inspection of our exercise books would cause me to contemplate absconding from school … since I was subjected to vigorous amounts of whacking on the butt – because I could never keep my books clean.

Thank you for asking about me and about my life’s journeys. The following is not the whole story – but the most significant of it.

I have not been the typical success story that every one would want to write back home about. But by my own reckoning, I have done pretty well in life - better than most - not perhaps the run-of-the-mill variety of financial or entrepreneurial success, but the kind that fills one with intellectual and psychological satisfaction.

I started life in the Bank of Bhutan – at a salary of Nu.123.00 per month (US$1.83 at today’s conversion rate) – net Nu.121.00, after deduction of health contribution of Nu.2.00.

Because of my late mother’s failing health, I sought an obtained employment in the Export Division of the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Forests. I was posted in Calcutta, India since my mother required treatment in a particular hospital there. During my tenure there, I headed the export section of the Division and played pivotal role in the Trade & Transit Agreement with Bangladesh. I was part of the team that determined land and riverine routes through which to conduct export/import trade from and to that country. The variety of products we exported those days – to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, US, Singapore, Dubai, Sweden, and Pakistan etc. is unmatched even today.

I was cheeky enough to try and export gum rosin to South Africa at a time when the whole world was baying for the blood of the apartheid regime in that country. The entire world had set a complete and total embargo on the country.

Talking of apartheid, one new human conduct came to be described by an American journalist – as a result of some incident in Bhutan surrounding the selection of our archery team to the Olympics (the journalist was in Thimphu at that time). The totally infuriated journalist coined the term “apartheid in reverse”.

I trained in diverse disciplines such as insurance, standardization, pre-shipment export cargo inspection, export-import documentation, shipping and forwarding, stevedoring, and chartering etc.

I must be among the very few in Bhutan who has traveled around the glob on one single ticket and continuously for 48 days.

After resigning from the government, I pioneered the computer trade, desktop publishing, office automation business, ham radio etc. I am the first in the private sector to host a web page when Internet was introduced in Bhutan, in 1999.

Currently I am the only photographer in Bhutan who earns a living making photos. There are a number of books to my credit. Two more are due for publication.

After a long and joyous journey, there is one thing that never changed – you tried but you couldn’t either. You may recall that you used to send me to the Pachhu way down in the valley - with a large metal bucket, to carry it back fully laden with boulders from the river bank – in an attempt to make me improve my spelling. Everything else in life has taken a 360-degree turn – but my spelling skills still remain the same – atrocious!

Please convey my best wishes to madam Joyce – I remember that she was working at the Gidakom Hospital – when you were dating her.

Please accept my lifelong respects and hope that one day you will come back to Bhutan and I am able to see you once again.

I still vividly remember that last walk you made me walk with you – in the garden just before you moved to Ugyen Academy. If that walk was not necessitated, may be my life would have been completely different. But whether it would have been as fulfilling or as rewarding as it has been so far – I will never know.

Yeshey

Thursday, May 5, 2016

HeForShe

I was the 1,001st Bhutanese man to sign in to support HeForShe UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. You can sign too at the following:


Our primeval census law that denies citizenship to children born to Bhutanese women who cannot name the father of the child, or fathered by none-Bhutanese, is an affront to the Bhutanese women. This law drives our women to such desperation as naming their own fathers as the progenitor of their fatherless children. Thousands of children born to legitimate Bhutanese women are denied their birth right to citizenship and education, because their mothers are unable to name their fathers or that they have been fathered by a none-Bhutanese.

There is nothing dignified or honorable about this law. Every lawmaker - men or women - should hang their heads in shame that such a disgraceful and gender prejudiced law should be allowed to continue to humiliate our women.

Kuensel writes that eighteen Parliamentarians, including the Speaker of the House, signed up in support of the Movement. Now let us watch and see if they will go beyond merely being a statistics, or do something to restore dignity and equality to the long-suffering Bhutanese women.

Free Seeds To Grow Fodder For Wildlife

According to what The Journalist newspaper reported in their 1st May issue, the gewog official of Tashicholing is supposed to have said that the government do not offer any monetary compensation to the farmers for damage caused by wild life but that they do distribute free seeds.

In effect, what the gewog official is saying is – that the government distributes free seeds to grow fodder for the wildlife. Small wonder then that the government is clueless about the nomenclature “human-wildlife conflict”. This is truly appalling!



Rural-urban migration is causing villages to be emptied of young people - old and the infirm now mostly populate the village homes



Villagers are forced to use stuffed tigers from China to keep vigil over their crop during day, while they try and catch some sleep and respite from night-long vigil in an attempt to ward off wildlife


Fertile farmlands are left fallow and whole villages are overgrown with bushes

It is time we forget huge hydroelectric projects and massive road widening works. They are destined to cause us problems that we are in no position to handle. Instead, let us focus on manageable issues that are fundamental to our survival as a nation state.

Lets get serious about the long term effects of Goontongs!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finally Delivered

Dear Evelyn,

I am happy to let you know that we have finally been able to deliver and distribute the 68 blankets and T-shirts you contributed to the disabled children at the Draktso School for the Disabled in Kanglung, Trashigang. I am sorry that it took so long but your gift was so bulky that it was not possible to send them through friends traveling to the east. On the other hand, we did not want to risk sending them by public transport for fear that they may be damaged in transit. Finally our Community Services Director sent his pick-up truck to transport the gifts.

The gifts were finally distributed to the children last weekend. As you can see from the photos - the children were elated by the gifts.




Draktsho Children bearing gifts of T-Shirts and Blankets

It is our hope that the smiles you see on their faces will more than compensate for your act of charity. The Rotary Club of Thimphu thanks you for your generosity.

By the way the balance 30 odd T-shirts are still with me and will be given out, as and when we come to know of children who may stand in need of them.

You may be happy to know that the Rotary Club of Thimphu will soon embark on a fund-raising initiative to create an “Education & Life Skills Fund”. This fund will be used to support children with academic excellence to pursue further studies and for grown up people to acquire life skills. In due course, we will call upon you to draw on your skills at fund-raising and to seek help to spread the word among your vast network of friends. I hope you will be forthcoming.

Bye and take care

Yeshey

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ada Rachu - any one?

Every one dozen year or so, Bhutan seems to unfailingly go through a phase when we see the assemblage of like minded men who come together to attempt and pass some strange and regressive rule.

Some two and a half decades back, one District Court Judge in Gaylephu actually summoned me to his court and required that I change the color of the ink used in the printing of our official letterhead. That time I was working in the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Forests. There was no rule that prohibited the use of certain color - in the printing of official stationary. The Thrimpon decided to enforce the requirement on his personal whim and fancy. It didn't work.

Then few years later, a rule was passed which prohibited the use of yellow colored vehicles. All those who owned or had ordered yellow colored vehicles had to repaint their cars to something else. That too did not work.

Then came the rule that required every Bhutanese to be in national dress, every waking and walking hour of the day. I was personally fined a few times - for being caught in pants. Some zealous police officials actually went as far as to gather up youth who were caught in pants - drive them and offload them across Dochu-La Pass, strip them of their shoes and socks, and made to walk back bare-foot, as punishment in an attempt to enforce the law. It never worked.

Some one dozen years later, the Thimphu City Corporation passed a ruling that required every business signboard in Thimphu to be uniform: paint, ink, lettering, format, and physical size. That didn't work either.

Then another one dozen year or so later, the same City Corporation required that all building roofs in Thimphu City be painted uniformly in one single color - blue. That didn't work either.

Now comes this Ada Rachu rule. Lets see how long this stricture will last.

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
We are more than the sum of our knowledge, we are the products of our imagination."

Ancient Proverb