Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Matter Of Perception

Yesterday evening, I was at the Karma’s Coffee with a friend who narrated to me a conversation that he had overheard at another restaurant where he was with another friend. He tells me that two senior civil servants on the adjoining table were engaged in a conversation which he found rather amusing. One of them proudly declared that in all his close to four decades of service to the Tsa Wa Sum, he had only one minor Audit memo issued against him. Not to be outdone, the other proclaimed that he had not even one memo to his name.

During my trip to the upper Kheng areas early last year, I was appalled by the impoverished condition of the people and the sub-human circumstances in which they survived. The government’s neglect of this region is apparent everywhere – from the lack of proper roads to basic medical facilities to shortage of safe drinking water. Although far from being remote, the people are so backward that at a village called Digala, we were mistaken for Khegpas (headhunters).

In an effort to understand what went wrong, I started to question the village elders in all the villages I visited. Since I believe that the Dzongkhag Administrator (Dzongda) is responsible for the development and progress in his Dzongkhag, my question to the people was: Which of the many Dzongdas who were posted in Zhemgang Dzong do you consider as your best Dzongda?

Time after time, unfailingly, one name cropped up - that of Dasho Ngawang Sangey, an ex-army officer from Wangduephodrang. All of those people I spoke to were in agreement that the only Dzongda who did any meaningful work and service to the people of Kheng was: Dasho Ngawang Sangey. I was told that most of what few mule tracks, suspension bridges and remote schools there were in the Khenga areas were established during his time. According to them, he is the only Dzongda they can remember and credit with, what they call, “Shue nakpai la” – work of any substance. At the end of my journey, I asked my father in Tingtingbi the same question. He too agreed that Dasho Ngawang Sangey would qualify as the best Dzongda that Khengri Namsum ever had.

Ironically, Dasho Ngawang Sangey has the singular distinction of being the only Dzongda of Zhemgang who was charged by the RAA for embezzlement of government funds, and thrown into jail for his troubles.

So, ladies and gentlemen, take your pick – a life of obscurity spent in sham and deception, fighting tooth and nail for your car quota or, a life in prison for the sake of the meek and the downtrodden, in whose heart you will forever live, a shinning star – as does Dasho Ngawang Sangey, Ex-Dzongda of Zhemgang, in the hearts of the poor Khengpa people.

Dasho Ngawang Sangey, wherever you are, please know that as far as the people of Khengrig Namsum are concerned, you are absolved of all Audit memos.


  1. I am from the village you mentioned.....well about dzongda, i got no idea, but as for khegpa thing, its quite a big talk and rumor passed around...and being in a remote place, in a jungle like village which is secluded from any town, it is apparently reasonable for people who have grown up hearing stories of people going missing and rumored to have been put in a new construction sites...

  2. I have spent most of my childhood in Tingtibi. Very often I travelled across Singkhar, Digala, Goling and Buli. People were in a wretched condition, no mule tracks, no infrastructure at all. I think our govt. should prioritize this section of people and deal other matters some other time.Our country won't represent as GNH nation until we address this problem.

  3. I share your sentiments Aue Yeshey. I appreciate the way you write about Khengpas' wretched condition with candid emotions and fellow-feeling, which only another Khengpa soul can fathom. Thank you for speaking for us and standing for the cause on behalf of the neglected Khengpas. It is time that we raise our voice now - even at the cost of audit memos!

  4. I would choose the latter - an honest day's work. For me, the end does not justify the means, but that the intention in your work should always be good. If you have a clear conscience, and yet if you have to go to the gallows, so be it. Just like Socrates who believed in his conscience and drank poison rather than run away from whatever he was being accused of. Anon.

  5. Well, regarding the memo, I strongly agree with the views that the one who work taking the risk have to finally face the Memo too. And the one who neither take up the risk nor work will be percieved clean by Auditors and people. Ironically, the one who do not work or take risk even shine in their life because they can do other Nonsense.

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