Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Shame on UNICEF & Aamir Khan II

In less than 3 days, my article titled “Shame on UNICEF & Aamir Khan” generated a staggering 30,507 pageviews. The visitors, broken down by countries, were as follows:

Bhutan                          23,229
India                               4,145
United State                   2,747
Australia                        1,696
Thailand                            692
Nepal                                 480
United Arab Emirates        346
Malaysia                            265
France                                179
United Kingdom                158

But what was even more extraordinary was the quality of comments generated by the post. The post generated 68 comments – sadly, most of these comments missed the point I was trying to make.

My post wasn't about what Aamir Khan was wearing – I wouldn't give two hoots what he was wearing - it had to do with when and where he was wearing what.

As members of the civilized human society, we are expected to behave and conduct ourselves within the bounds of civility. Those who choose to live outside the boundaries of social norms, and those who behave with lawlessness and disregard all that keep the human society civilized and orderly, they have no right to claim to belong to a civilized society.

Dresses certainly do not make the man – but knowing how to dress and what to dress, given the occasion, distinguishes him from the uneducated and the depraved.

Underpants is an acceptable clothing under certain circumstances; in some occasions and places, nothing but swimsuits are acceptable – Hawaiian shirts are standard apparel for beach side walks – being suitably clad for the occasion is what sets the humans apart from the animals.

Aamir Khan is nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan and his two days’ visit is inconsequential. He brings no value to Bhutan or the Bhutanese people.

What I am upset about is his insensitivity and his total disregard for the country’s rules. If he didn't know, he should have asked and if he didn't ask, his promoters should have told him.

He and his promoters – the UNICEF – have paid scant regard to the established rules and decency that every Bhutanese, including visiting dignitaries, are required to observe. They have trivialized the institution of the Prime Minister of Bhutan. As a Bhutanese I am not going to remain gawk-eyed about this affront to the highest executive of the country’s government.

They must be reminded of their uncouth behavior so that they know we Bhutanese will not remain muted, if slighted. We will defend our right to be treated with respect, in our own country. In future, UNICEF must learn to elect their Ambassadors who are better schooled in decorum and social grace.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shame on UNICEF & Aamir Khan

UNICEF has been in Bhutan since 1974 – and yet, after 42 years of being in the country – they remain oblivious to the country’s culture, tradition and etiquette.

Indian actor Amir Khan can be forgiven for his poor sense of dress - after all he is merely an actor not generally known for their sensitivity to cultural etiquette or social grace. But what is UNICEF’s excuse for allowing their Regional Goodwill Ambassador to present himself so inappropriately dressed in the presence of a Prime Minister of a country? UNICEF’s officials in the country should know that such informal dress (jeans) and head gear that resemble those worn by the underworld thugs of Mumbai, is not allowed inside the Gyalyong Tshokhang.

How can UNICEF be proud to present such a shabbily dressed, culturally insensitive person to be a torchbearer of their organization’s cause? They should have had the common sense to inform their Goodwill Ambassador that the organization would be better represented, if he exhibited a level of social etiquette, in particular, when presenting himself to the highest executive in the country.

Shamefully uneducated and insulting!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Et tu, BBIN MVA?

So the wailing has begun!!

Way later than I had expected - but it has begun and it will only get more and more cantankerous, with the passage of time. It had to happen. Because the disaster that was inherent in the road-widening project touches every section of the Bhutanese society - not just the motorists; not just the tourists - not to forget the environment!

According to Kuensel’s 20th October, 2016 news report, 750 of the usual 1,000 tourists could not make it to Bumthang during the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa, because of road block. That is a whooping cancelation rate of 75%! This is serious bad news. And it will get worse, if we do not see the writing on the wall, and act hastily and decisively.

According to the Kuensel news, the Bumtap hoteliers hope that things will improve - provided the road contractors and the Department of Roads are able to keep the roads open during the Jambay Lhakhang festival due to take place soon - a real crowd puller. That is rather wishful thinking. In nature nothing can be taken for granted and we have messed with nature big time.

What the hoteliers forget is that if incessant rains do not cause roadblocks, sunny conditions will cause dust to rise and cause misery to the tourists. Their troubles are just beginning!

When the government announced the road widening works early last year, I pleaded that we should not do it because we do not have a need for it - not as yet. I had proposed that even if we have to do the work for whatever reason, we should do it in manageable stretches of 20 – 30 KMs at a time, and not dig up the road all the way to Trashigang. I have written close to 20 articles on the subject. Please read my articles under the label “Tourism Industry” listed on the left. In those articles, I have predicted exactly what is now happening.

The government has said that the road widening will be completed in 3 years. I have said that it will take 20 years. Now, one and a half years into the works, I get the feeling that the roads will never be done.

For the past one and a half years since the road widening works started, I have been trying to see a reason, a purpose for such a huge road running from west to center to the east. There are no factories en-route and economic activities in this region is practically zilch! The volume of traffic is more towards the south rather than to the center and the east. Then where is the need for such a gargantuan road that we can ill afford to build or to maintain, thereafter? I was totally nonplussed - until the embarrassing Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement imbroglio during the 6th session of the second Parliament.

Some have said that it was the hand of providence - that caused the drama and theater surrounding the on-again, off-again ratification of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement during the 6th Session of the second Parliament. I am beginning to believe that there may be hell of a lot of truth in that. Since that peculiar affair, I began to wonder:

Can it be that the road widening works is linked to the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement initiative?

If it is, then we are in serious trouble. I have this sickening feeling that we have yet again been had!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Rotray Club of Thimphu's Project of Compassion & Healing

The Migraine Treatment Clinic of the Rotary Club of Thimphu was successfully concluded at the close of day on 10th October, 2016. It began on the evening of 25th September, 2016. This was a humanitarian service initiative conducted in collaboration with the National Traditional Medicine Hospital (NTMH), Kawajangtsa.

The team that worked on the Clinic - some Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu with NTMH officials posing with Dr. Yu
Dr. Yu Huang shut down her successful private practice in Boston, USA to heed the call of many Bhutanese suffering the dreaded illness called migraine. Every day, she worked from 7.30AM in the morning till 11PM in the night – almost always missing her dinner. During the two weeks period she administered acupuncture to close to fifteen hundred patients. The NTMH’s resident Dungtso’s (traditional doctors/healers) worked tirelessly to keep up with the marathon consultation and treatment that, at times, seemed near impossible to manage. Rotarian Sonam Wangmo was roped in to act the Sergeant-at-Arms, to bring some semblance of order in the management of the crowd thronging at the doors of the consultation and treatment rooms.

Dr. Yu treating a policeman and a Gomchen - ably assisted by the resident Dungtso Dorji Euden

 The Rotary Club of Thimphu would like to believe that the project was a success; that it has brought relief to many and liberated a few from the pain and the discomfort of suffering the dreadful disease. Even if 10 people are cured of the disease, we are satisfied that ours have been a worthwhile cause.

The Clinic has served the Royalty, the commoners, monks, nuns; a traffic policeman, including his officer. I am proud to have been associated with the project that has, according to daily reports, cured a number of people of migraine, back pain and a host of ailments that the Clinic was never intended to treat.

The acupuncture’s curative powers have now been firmly established in Bhutan. We wait for the day when this form of ancient Chinese treatment is accepted as a mainstream treatment by the Health authorities.

There are many people who suffer illnesses – for reasons that are not of their doing. It is a mystery – why one has the gift of life, and yet has to suffer pain and agony, to live it. But one thing I know: no one suffers because they deserve it.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu would like to be able to conduct a follow-up Clinic next year. Dr. Yu is willing and will try to get some more acupuncturists to join her during her second trip next year. Until then, here is wishing a good and painless life to all those who came to the Clinic with hope and optimism. 

Project completion dinner for Dr. Yu and her husband Sanjun Chen

A grateful patient's touching gesture:
Of the many cases Dr. Yu has treated, one was an 18 years old boy who suffered a chronic case of Cerebral Palsy. For most of his life, the boy was tied in a contorted knot and could not move or sleep properly. Speech was strenuous. Two acupuncture sessions later, the boy loosened up and could flex his fingers and arms. Movement was not easy but he could now move. And he could sleep.

In gratefulness, as physically and verbally constrained as he was, he communicated to his mother that he would be happy if she could invite Dr. Yu to his home for dinner. That was touching - Dr. Yu had her last dinner in Thimphu with the boy at his home - she departs Thimphu today morning. A touching send off from a grateful patient!

The boy got one last session of acupuncture at his home yesterday night - from a visibly moved Dr. Yu.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rotary Club of Thimphu’s Service Project – Conception to Execution

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is constantly looking out to do meaningful projects to help the Bhutanese people. As small and new as we are, the Rotary Club of Thimphu is among the most active Clubs that is the envy of many older and bigger Clubs around the world. In the last two months we have done 5 projects. Currently one more service project is under way – Treatment of Migraine by Acupuncture - at the Traditional Medicine Hospital, Thimphu. The following is how fast paced our projects are conceived, put together and implemented.

28th October, 2015
My guest Mr. Dilip Raval - a retired Nestle executive from USA and I was talking of this and that at the Hotel Yugarling, Bumthang. The guide walked in to say that she was going to retire since her head was hurting from an attack of migraine. She is among 5-6 people I know who suffer from this excruciatingly painful disease.

I told Mr. Dilip how painful the migraine attack can be and how I have seen people driven to tears from the unbearable pain. He turned around and said;

“I know because I suffered this disease for 40 years."

I was puzzled and asked him; “Now you do not suffer from it?"

“No, I have been fully cured of it for the past 35 years”.

“But I thought migraine was a lifelong and incurable disease?"

“No, it can be cured by acupuncture treatment”.

29th November, 2015
Dear Vijay,

I hope this finds you and Harsha in good health and spirit. Dilip your brother tells me that you know of an acupuncturist who can cure migraine and that you have undergone the treatment yourself. I write to you with the request to put me in touch with the good doctor.

2nd December, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

So nice hearing from you.

The acupuncturist who treated me many years ago is in an ashram - I have lost touch – may be not alive and even if alive may be in his late nineties.

However, Harsha/Harsha’s friend from Taiwan knows a famous acupuncturist who might be interested in exploring your offer.

We will get in touch and let you know shortly.



December 19, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

Our good friends Vijay and Harsha shared your recent emails with them regarding an interest in having an acupuncturist visit Bhutan to treat migraines. They asked us to assist in making the initial inquiries with our acupuncturist (who by the way have treated both of them).  I would appreciate more information regarding your specific needs. Are you asking for a permanent relocation to set up a practice or merely a temporary short time visit?


Daniel Mao

December 22, 2015

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your mail.

I really do not have an idea of how many persons suffer from migraines …. However I know that there are a large number. I have seen friends and family suffer and the suffering is just too great. I am fortunate not to suffer from this disease but see that the pain is so very excruciating. I have seen people go into isolation in dark rooms and suffer.

I do not know what the treatments are for the disease but when I met Mr. Dilip Raval, Vijay’s elder brother, he told me that he was cured of the disease by acupuncture treatment. I was very encouraged – because I was under the impression that migraines was incurable.

January 11, 2016

Dear Uncle Danny,

My dad says he has been asking doctors here in N.Y. from his association and some are saying they're afraid they won't be good use there because they themselves will suffer from the high altitude migraines or have other reactions.

My dad has decided to talk to his fellow board members at International Acupuncture Associations, appealing to their compassion and also help them to see it as an opportunity to spread Traditional Chinese Medicine to a new audience, sort of a diplomatic component.

January 13, 2016

Hi Claire & Danny,

Thank you for your mails.

First and foremost, let me assure you that Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan is located below 8,000 ft. altitude. It is said that people normally to not suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) at altitudes up to 8,000 ft. a.s.l. So I think you can dispense with the fear of altitude sickness.

…… If the acupuncturist can cure some of our patients in Bhutan, it certainly will re-enforce the validity of the curative powers of Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM). I certainly have been informed of the potency of acupuncture in treating migraine. Dilip & Vijay Raval swears by it and they are living example of how effective the treatment is.

January 14, 2016

Dear Yeshey,

The friends in China that my father spoke to do not think ….. It will become a whole long bureaucratic process and considering, unfortunately, that Bhutan does not have official diplomatic relations with China, it looks rather difficult.

HOWEVER, as if heaven-sent, we have found the perfect physician for your request. Dr. Huang Yu, cc'd here, is a licensed acupuncturist with her own clinic practicing in Boston. She comes highly recommended by my father, who has taught her in the past. Not only is she a competent acupuncturist, she is also a close family friend, world traveler and a truly generous spirit. She is willing to shut down her clinic and travel to Bhutan for a first time stay of 2-3 weeks to see if she can be of help, she is amenable to future visits as well!

She is willing to operate as a free clinic, not charging her patients, if lodging and airfare could be provided.

Please communicate further details with her.


January 14, 2016

Good morning everyone! Thank you all to make the connection, give me a possibility to serve the people in Bhuton.

Hello Yeshey, looking forward to talk to you, I will be busy in my clinic whole day but will have time at night if I get your email!

Take care!

Huang Yu

February 24, 2016

Dr. Yu Huang created a fund raising website to raise US$ 5,000.00 to make purchases of needles, heater, moxa etc. for her trip to Bhutan and for donation to the Traditional Medicine Hospital. In three days she raised US$ 5,471.00 from 33 generous donors.

May 4, 2016 

Visa clearance obtained for the visit of Dr. Yu

September 25, 2016

Dr. Yu arrives Bhutan and she treats her first migraine patient the same evening.

She will perform acupuncture until October 10, 2016.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest Service Projects of The Rotary Club of Thimphu

The months of August and September have been the most fulfilling months for the Rotary Club of Thimphu. During these two months, the Rotary Club of Thimphu (RCT) has implemented or is in the process of implementing 4-5 Community Service Projects. This has to be a record in the Rotary World - no single Rotary Club in the world may have done so many Community Service Projects within such a short period of time.

During early August, 2016 RCT completed and handed over the Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project to the Mendhagang Primary School in Punakha. RCT provided three water storage tanks of 3,000 liters each. We also installed Water Filtration and UV Treatment System to provide safe drinking water to the students and the villagers in the periphery of the school. In addition, we have provided funds to pave the school compound, to eliminate dust.

Funding for this project was made available by the Rotary Club of Koeln-Ville, Germany.

Mendhagang Primary School

 Water filtration and UV Treatment System

 The school's courtyard that needs paving - RC Thimphu will take this up during the second phase soon to be implemented

 RC Thimphu's Director of Community Services - Rtn. Dawa Penjor with some students of the school

During end of August, we completed the installation and inauguration of 4-KMs of Solar Fencing at Goleng village in Zhemgang. The rice fields of close to 100 acres was apparently started by Dasho Nishioka, a Japanese agriculturist who worked in the Kheng areas during 1976 - 1980. Interestingly, funding for this project was made available by a Japanese Rotary Club - The Rotary Club of Handa, Japan.

The three Members of the Rotary Club of Handa, Japan pose for pictures

Section of the solar fencing that runs over 4 KMs long and covers close to 100 acres of rice fields

Goleng villagers are treated to lunch by the Rotary Club of Thimphu. We had to get special permission from the ECB for the gathering


Upon hearing that some Japanese donors were in his Dzongkhag, Dasho Dzongdah invited the Japanese group for tea at the Dzongkhag Administration in Zhemgang. I was impressed with Dasho Dzongdah's gesture - particularly in consideration of the fact that we are now working with the Handa Club at securing a Global Grant amounting to US$79,000.00


 Members of the Rotary Club of Handa with the youth who all got together to form the agriculture production and marketing group known as Khengrig Namsum Cooperative. This pioneering cooperative is formed by16 educated youth - an increasingly encouraging trend that is now prevalent among the educated youth. The RC Thimphu is encouraged by this trend among the educated youth and thus, committed to secure funding so rural villages are restocked with young energetic youth

During the third week of September, 2016 the RCT handed over Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project at the Zilukha Middle Secondary School. This too was funded by another Japanese Club - The Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan.

The Water Storage facility being handed over to the school in the presence of the officials from the Ministry of Education

The two Presidents of the collaborating Clubs - Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan and the Rotary Club of Thimphu inaugurate the Hand Wash Station

School children demonstrate hand washing after the inauguration of the facility

Time for some speech - the two Presidents of the Rotary Club of Kushiro and Thimphu speaking to the students

A girl students delivering her vote of thanks

In a day or two, the Rotary Club of Thimphu will be placing an order with the Karma Group - for supply and delivery of 6 (six) units of Dialysis Machines - to be donated to the Ministry of Health. This Nu.6.9 million project for the health sector is made possible through a TRF Global Grant in which Rotary Clubs from four countries are involved:

Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA.

The Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is happy to have been able to touch all three of our core areas of focus: Agriculture, Education and Health, during this short period spanning less than 2 months.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Like everything else in my life, blogging for me was not a planned or premeditated effort – I got into it without being aware that I was doing it. I did not even know that I was blogging. Some friends suggested that I create a website to post my photos online so that they could see my pictures. Over time, instead of photos, I began to post articles and, as I went along, I began to understand that I was into blogging instead of merely posting photos.

As my blog began to gain popularity and my readership increased, realization hit me that my blog was no longer my own where I could say whatever I felt like. Because it was being read by a large audience all over the world, I had to be careful what I wrote and how I wrote them. A friend once cautioned me; “You are bigger than you think so make sure you remain responsible. You can no longer afford to be imprudent or flippant”.

That has been the worst part of my blogging experience - the need to be restrained, responsible, educated, objective, meaningful, fair and, above all, be persistent with my posts so that I am able to retain my readers’ attention. The downside of popularity is that it robs you of the one thing you started out to achieve - the liberty of free expression and thought.

A useful lesson I learnt as a Charter member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is that being able to draw a crowd is only half the battle - the more challenging battle is to be able to keep it herded and retain its attention. I have understood that the best way to attract new readers is to keep the old ones happy and interested. Thus, in order to maintain my blog’s current level of popularity, I ensure that:

~   I blog on a variety of issues so that it appeals to a diverse audience base - and not to a specialist group;

~   I go to great lengths to ensure that I keep my posts short and petite - whenever possible

     - because only tall girls are appealing - anything else that are tall and long are tedious; and

~  That my posts are meaningful and progressive and that they are well researched and written

     in the simplest of language.

I write about issues that afflict the country. In particular, my concern for the environment and its destruction, hydro-power projects that are destined to shackle the country to eternal debt, poor governance, rural-urban migration and the tourism industry that is headed for doom.

I devote considerable amount of time and effort behind my blogging. I do not trivialize important issues - when I write I put my heart and soul into it. My passion about an issue will be evident in the manner I set out to write about it. If I chose to make a statement, I will present the facts as they really are - I will not pussyfoot around an issue - I will tell it like it is. This tendency has lead many of my Bhutanese readers to conclude that I am a courageous person. That is not true - I do not write because I want to prove that I am a courageous person - I have no need to do such a thing. I write on some issues because I believe that doing so might contribute to correcting some of the many problems that beset us.

I blog because I believe that there are some things that a private citizen can articulate better than the government. I blog because I believe that there are some things that need to be said and only a private citizen can say it openly and frankly, without fear of reprisal.

I have blogged on issues that have seldom been, if ever, discussed openly. The need for such dramatic departure from the usual Bhutanese timidity is necessary, I believe, because most Bhutanese have become so complacent that they are no longer capable of critical thinking. They have a mind but it behaves like an empty bucket - it will absorb all the information that are poured into it - without processing and without analysis. What is the point of having a mind if it is not applied to thinking? That is why, once in a while I blog on matters that are considered “inconvenient truths” - matters that people would rather push under the carpet, than discuss them openly. My blogs are intended to inform the people - to uncover the sycophancy, to unravel the misinformation, to lay bare the deceit and the sham. In doing so, I hope to be able to convert some of the Bhutanese people to think and thereby do things thoughtfully.

It is not daredevilry that prods me into writing critical blogs - it is my love for the country and my belief that we need to be more mindful than we are, that compels me to act, as many have told me, in a “courageous” fashion. Mine is not an act of courage - it is a cry and an appeal to consider matters with objectivity and reasoning. The less thinking we are, the more decadent we become.

The Internet technology that empowers blogging is a boon to modern society. Through blogging, ideas and opinions can be transmitted to millions of people around the glob, instantaneously. The blog’s potential is simply unfathomable. It offers citizens the opportunity at interactive governance. In other words, blogging is a powerful medium that strengthens democracy through empowerment.

The evolutionary process of the human society has not been entirely straight foreword. One case in point: that truth is no longer believable or useful. Most set store by PERCEPTION. What is perceived is more important than what is the truth. It is a commonly held belief that all truths have been doctored by the mighty and the powerful, to suite their own purposes. And yet, people tend to ingest truth without contest or scrutiny. Unfortunately, perception is not entirely immune to alteration either. A skillful blogger with popular following has the power to transform opinions and alter perceptions. This can be both good and bad - depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on. But one thing is certain - whether you like it or not, blogging is here to stay - all that we can do is pray that the blogger is a responsible person and has the best of intentions at heart - best of intentions for the collective whole - rather than the self.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Some readers have written to me to say that I have not been very active in posting blogs of late. True - I have been terribly busy doing this and that. So, until I am more free to write, I would like to reproduce the following article I wrote for The Druk Journal - recently released.

Here it will be reproduced in two parts - to keep the overall length short.

The “blog” as we know it now, was started as a personal homepage by a Chicago born student named Justin Hall in January of 1994. Credited to be the world’s first ever blog - ( - it is still in existence.

During its initial days, a blog was known as “Weblog” - to mean “logging the Web”. The term was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger of Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA. In 1999, programmer Peter Merholz introduced the present term “blog”.

According to a list compiled by the San Francisco based information architect Jesse James Garrett, there were only 23 blogs as of 1999. It was not until the year 2004 that blogging really took off – so much so that Merriam-Webster declared the term “blog” the Word of the Year. That number grew to 50 million blogs by the middle of 2006. By end of 2010, the number of active blogs grew to 152 million. By end of 2011, that number had swelled to 181 million blogs. The exponential growth of the blog has been nothing short of extraordinary.

A survey conducted in 2005 showed that in the US alone, 32 million people read blogs – roughly 11% of the population.

The first recorded “casualty” of blogging has to be a lady named Heather Armstrong, a Los Angeles web designer. She got fired for writing about her job on her blog – ( Since then, anyone getting into trouble for writing something on his/her blog came to be described as being “dooced” for it.

Each blogger has his/her own reasons for blogging. Some use it to record their thoughts and to keep an account of what they did and what they saw and what they felt, at a particular moment in time. Some use it to sell products and others use it to champion a cause. Some use it for education and yet there are others who use blogs as a tool of propaganda. Whatever it is used for – the blog is certainly a powerful tool. A popular blog can shape opinions and alter the very course of events.

Good thing about blogging is that there is no law prohibiting it – bad thing is that not all blogs are meaningful or consequential. And yet, the only person who can set a standard on the blog is the blogger himself/herself – no one else may define the blog’s ethical or moral standards.

Social media, of which blogging is an important part, is a powerful social instrument of communication that can influence and shape human behavior and attitudes. The modern society’s everyday life is largely entwined with the Internet - so much so that even love lives are constructed over the social media and its many channels.

The interactive nature of the social media makes it lot more effective than the traditional media - the print and visual media. Unlike the television or newspaper that are one-way communication channels, the social media permits instant two-way communications. Because its reach is truly international, the social media can convey messages and ideas instantly and over continents.

Social media is used all over the world to champion environmental, political, and social causes. It has caused governments to fall and instigated social unrest and disruption to peace and social harmony. But it has also helped maintain transparency among bureaucrats and politicians. It has helped good governance.

In Bhutan, activism through the social media has helped stop the destruction of White-bellied Heron habitat in Phochhu, Punakha, few years back. But we have not been entirely responsible in the use of social media. Some in Bhutan have used it to malign people and cause discomfort to many. Thus, social media can be both a boon as well as a bane - depending on how it is used.
..................... to be continued

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Mail to a Bhutan Lover

Someone from outside wanted me to update him on the state of affairs in our tourism industry. The following is what I wrote back to him:
Hi .............,

Thank you for your long, long mail. I am happy that there are many around the world who genuinely care for Bhutan.

I would be happy to discuss trekking in Bhutan but as you have seen from my posts and others in the papers, there is nothing heartwarming to tell you about the state of tourism and trekking in Bhutan. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to destroy the industry.

The road widening works that was started last year has caused huge dip in tourist arrivals. Even local Bhutanese dread driving between Thimphu and Trashigang since the road has been dug up and travel over them is a painful experience. The government has promised that the road will be done in 3 years - one year is already passed and even that stretch of road that was started more than 15 years back - Simtokha - Metsina - is still not done. So I cannot imagine how the government is going to complete over 400 KMs of road in 3 years. Strangely, we do not need to widen our roads - but to pave it well and maintain it well. I suspect that we have been made a victim of a greater scheme in which Bhutan wants no part.

Before the widening works was started I had suggested that even if we must undertake the work, we should do the work in short stretches - to minimize wholesale destruction to the roads. That suggestion was ignored and now the entire stretch from Thimphu to Trashigang is in shambles.

Thousands of tons of earth and boulder are dumped below the road - in the process causing destruction to trees that have taken hundreds of years to grow and mature. The bushes and forests through which the roads run are home to hundred of bird and animal species - their homes have been invaded and entire ecosystem has been altered irreversibly. The mountain sides that now resemble patches of warzones are a sight that breaks your heart. If a champion of environmental conservation - such as Bhutan - can act so irresponsibly, what chance does this earth have - in the hands of those who are said to be less responsible towards the environment and its conservation?

One stretch of road in the East - Sengore to Yongkala - is famed for the birding opportunity it provides to the world birding community. Over the coming years that too will be destroyed by the road widening works thereby effectively ending Bhutan’s claim to being the birding capital of the world.

Our most famous trekking route is now ruined. Most other routes will be destroyed too - because we are incapable of doing things with responsibility and feeling. So there does not seem to be anything useful to talk about our tourism.

And yet, tourism is Bhutan’s biggest industry that employs the largest number of people - across the broad spectrum of Bhutanese society. It beats hydro-power hands down - both in terms of providing jobs as well as real (not perceived) income to the people and the government. And yet, there is a mindless rush to do hydro-power projects that has already enslaved many future generations of Bhutanese.

All that I know is that we need to protect our tourism industry. Despite all that is not going well, Bhutan still holds allure to many around the world. At an individual level, even in very small ways, I am committed to doing what I can to promote and energize tourism in Bhutan.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Father William Joseph Mackey

Before his arrival in Bhutan Father Mackey worked in India for 17 years. Then he fell foul of some local authorities and was ordered to leave the country in 1963.

When His Majesty Drukgyal Sumpa heard of Father Mackey’s expulsion, he promptly invited him to come over to Bhutan and help develop modern education system in the Kingdom. Obviously he was elated to be able to come to Bhutan and readily accepted the King’s offer.

But before he proceeded on his journey to Bhutan - Father William Joseph Mackey performed one very important task: he pulled out all his natural teeth and ordered a full set of dentures. There were two reasons for this:

1.  Dentistry was unheard of in Bhutan; and
2.  He would not have been able to go back to India for dental treatment.

He was awarded the Druk Thuksey medal in 1973 and became a Bhutanese citizen in 1985.

He died in Bhutan in 1995. He had wished that he be buried in Bhutan – a country he loved dearly. Sadly, the Jesuits insisted that he be buried in their on cemetery in Darjeeling, India.

I was his student in Trashigang for just one year and yet, when I met him 25 years later in Thimphu where he worked as Inspector of Schools, he recognized me and remembered my name!

Either he had a darn good memory - or I was so naughty that he simply couldn't forget me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Yesterday I heard the most heart-warming news in a long, long time. I was told that the DANTAK - earlier appointed as the contractors to do the infamous Shingkhar-Gorgan Road, have declined to accept to do the road, ostensibly - because they now believe that they are better off washing their hands off such a controversial and environmentally disastrous project.

They are smart - they would not want all their good work being judged based on one terribly unlawful work that does not bring any meaningful benefit to the people or the country.

One of the numerous catchy road signs DANTAK put up across the length and breadth of the country - to make driving over the roads they built, hilarious and eventful

DANTAK was established in Bhutan in May of 1961, at Samdrup Jongkhar. Fifty five years later, they are still going strong in Bhutan. They have built thousands of kilometers of road, hundreds of bridges and establishments that have served to put the country on the road to progress and development. Their performance hasn't been all that sterling - not by a long shot! But in the absence of someone better or even remotely competent to do what they did - at a time when they did - they certainly were relevant and they did the best they could.

And now, the fact that they have declined to take on that ruinous Shingkhar-Gorgan road, I say to them - THUMBS UP!

PS: The first Chief Engineer of DANTAK was Col. T V Jaganathan – he was appointed to the post on 29th May, 1961. He is credited with the start of the present day Royal Thimphu Golf Course, with permission from the Third King.

My father served as an interpreter to the Chief Engineer - during his stay in Gaylephu/Zhemgang areas. The old man didn't know English and the only Hindi words he knew were: “Hung” and “Na” - Yes and No. I cannot imagine what he would have been translating. My father used to be paid Rs.10.00 per month as remuneration, out of which Rs.1.00 would be deducted every month - for eating in the common langar - common kitchen/mess/canteen.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Destruction to Continue Beyond Jumolhari Base Camp

A reader of my blog has posted the following new updates on: "My Advise to a Tour Operator on the Destruction of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek".

I was investigating issue further and situation is actually being even worse. The transmission line is being built further upto Lingzhi (up to villages of Goyoul and Chebisa). That effectively means, that the trail of Laya-Gasa is affected even more severaly as the people will be trekking along the transmission line till the half of the 14 days trek...

See the BPC bidding documentation of the project. Very sad reading.

From the above, it is now clear that the government does not intend to stop their destruction of the environment at Jangothang - they are going to carry it through until Gongyuel, beyond Lingzhi Dzong. Lingzhi and Gongyuel villages are on the route to the world’s toughest trek called the Snowman Trek. I have done this trek both from Punakha side, as well as from Bumthang side.

Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong

For those of you who may not know, Gongyuel is the village where perhaps Bhutan’s oldest Dzong is located. The Dzong is called Lingzhi Jagö Dzong. Written historical records show that this Dzong is more than 400 years older than Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong which was built in 1668 by Druk Desi Chögyal Minjur Tenpa (1667 to 1680).

 Lingzhi Jagö Dzong

It is so shameful what we do - a world proclaimed carbon negative country!

I want to know - are there hearts and minds attached to those mouths that speak of 72% forest coverage as of now and makes a Constitutional commitment to maintain 60% forest coverage for all times to come?

How do we go about maintaining 60% forest cover when what we do is cause destruction to ecologically fragile alpine forests such as those in the Thangthangka and Jangothang areas; dig up nearly a thousand kilometers of road from Thimphu to Samdrupjongkhar that help bury forests that are thousands of years old; threaten to do the most illegal and meaningless Shingkhar-Gorgan road?

The original intention of the ADA aid money was to bring electrification to a remote location through less environmentally destructive method – building mini/micro hydro projects. Now look what we – the world leaders in environmental conservation - have done!