Wednesday, February 24, 2021

All About Fishing: Part III of III

In my last and final 3-parts blog on fishing, I would like to present my rods, reels and lures that I have used over the years. Some of them have been with me from the start of my fishing journey – testimony that if you pay good money, your purchases will last you a lifetime. I am also happy to say that other than a number of lures, I have never lost a reel, or broken a rod.

RODS
I own 9 rod sets – all made of carbon fiber blanks and designed for the bait casting form of fishing. Of the nine, 3 are single piece: 2 for Mahseer and one for Trout. Single piece rods are stronger but cumbersome to carry. But these rods can reel in Mahseer of upto 70 KGs – and trout of up to 12 KGs - not that there are any fish in that weight class surviving in the wild.


A Classic 2-pieces rod set from Abu Garcia of Sweden



Custom crafted for me - one piece Mahseer Rod with blanks by Tamer of USA



Real brute of a rod - single piece rod by Shimano of Japan



Single piece trout rod custom crafted for me in 1994


I have 2 rods that are of 2-pieces construction. They both come with pistol-grip handles. One is a classic by Abu Garcia of Sweden. The other is a custom crafted rod specially built for me in Singapore. The blanks are by G-Loomis of USA.


Two pieces classic rod set by Abu Garcia of Sweden



Custom crafted for me in Singapore - two pieces rod set with reel seat made of wood

I have one rod set that comprises of 3 pieces – the blanks are by SAGE of USA and is also a part of a family of rods that is very special to me.


Three pieces rod set custom crafted for me by a rod builder in Singapore - blanks are by SAGE of USA

I have another 2-pieces rod set constructed by Shimano of Japan which I bought in 1986 and forms a part of the family of rods that I hold dear.



Original rod set made by Shimano of Japan - my first and most loved rod set

Two pieces rod set custom crafted for me - with blanks by G-Loomis of USA

The most valuable and precious rod set I have is a pretty unique one. It is crafted by Shimano of Japan and I am told it is the only rod model in the whole world for which a special issue of reels were built to pair with it. I know a rod builder in Singapore who has that particular reel for this rod. When he saw that I had the rod, he was ecstatic and wanted to buy it off me – because he said he had the reel built for the rod. I said, I have a better idea - let us do it the other way round – let me buy that reel off you. He said NO. And I wasn’t willing to sell mine to him – so we had no deal.

During a fishing trip some 20 years back, one friend slammed the car door on this rod’s tip and smashed it out of service. I was heart broken because I loved the rod – its medium action, its length, its aluminum reel seat with rubber pistol grip. I could not imagine giving up the rod. Thus I made a trip to Singapore – with an endeavor to do something with the damaged rod and make it even more meaningful. I hunted for a rod builder with special skills and tooling - to build me rods that would adapt to the aluminum rod handle. I located one – he knew exactly what I wanted. He machined aluminum parts on a special lathe machine – that enabled two different rod blanks to be slotted into the aluminum rod handle. Thus I turned a defunct rod into a family of 3 rods sharing the same rod handle. An example of how to turn a disaster into something even more meaningful. The following is the special rod set of three rods using one common rod handle.


My Most special collection - three rod sets that fit into one unique aluminum rod handle and reel seat

MY MULTIPLIER REELS
As I said earlier, I am into bait casting form of fishing. I have 8 multiplier reels: 4 for the mighty Mahseer and 4 for trout. The black one by Abu Garcia called Ambassadeur F-I-V-E is my first and thus the oldest reel I own.


My collection of multiplier reels

MY LURES
Initially I started off my fishing journey with metal spinner baits. Over time I graduated to plug baits. They attract bigger fish and are more effective and makes for better casting. Some of these plugs are made of plastic and some are made of Balsa wood which tend to be more expensive.


A small selection of my collection of Plugs

ROD HOLDERS/CASES
It is important to protect what you have. I have a number of rod cases that protect my rods during transportation and on fishing trips.


A variety of sturdy rod cases by Plano of USA that fit all

MY FISHING RECORDS
My biggest Mahseer catch weighed in at 27 KGs. My biggest brown trout was caught at Zomlingthang, Punakha. It weighed an impressive 7 KGs.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

All About Fishing: Part – II of III

A successful fisherman is by design and not by accident. As everything else in life, to succeed in fishing one needs to work hard – at fact gathering about suitable equipment, feeding habits of the fish, vegetation types, seasonal food available to the fish during a given season and, above all, their preferred hiding places. It is surprising that the same fish species will not feed on the same type of food in different locations. I have also discovered that they do not live and hide in the same type of cover and vegetation. Their habits seem to vary depending upon different vegetation and perhaps level of oxygen and altitude.

In some locations the fish hide under overhangs, around river-weeds - in others they live and prey around rocks and boulders. Some take the bait in the middle of the river – others at the far end of the riverbank. Unfortunately all these are something you cannot always be prepared for – you will have to learn as you fish the rivers. However, what you can be prepared for all the time is a selection of a set of tackles that will consistently deliver under all situations.

Fishing Line

There is no point in hooking a lot of fish if you cannot land them. Thus a strong and dependable fishing line is important. You have to be able to reel-in the fish you hook and not lose it to a snapped line. There are really only three choices available to us, when it comes to casting fishing lines:

1.  Monofilament

2.  Multi Braid

3.  Fluorocarbon

Mono lines have been there for a long time. The multi braid or braided lines came much later. I use the multi braid because they are stronger; have no memory and are stiff as hell – so hook setting is faster because of lack of elasticity. Because of their superior dia-to-strength ratio, one can load more lines into a reel providing you with longer distance run – if you have to run with the fish so that you do not end up running out of line. Mono on the other hand is thicker in diameter, retains memory and tends to kink easily.

I have not used the fluorocarbon lines.


Three of the primary line types

Lures & Baits

While the rod, reel, line and quality of trebles all matter to a great degree for a successful fishing trip, I have learnt that the bait or the lure is the one that attracts the fish to take the bite. Thus the selection of the bait is crucial. Obviously, your choice of baits will depend on the type of fish you are after. But in Bhutan there are only two fish types that we can look forward to hooking – the mighty Mahseer and the introduced Brown Trout. These two fish are at the opposite end of the scale – one is big game and the other is small game.

The following are the bait types that are available for our kind of fish.

Spinners

Spinners are handy for small fish – like the trout. My favorite spinners are the following. But I no longer use spinners since I find that the plugs yield better and bigger results – small time fish is not my game.


The wobbler called the Tasmanian Devil is an ugly looking bait from Australia - but a very successful bugger. Some Bhutanese anglers never use anything but this strange looking and behaving piece of plastic.

Plugs for small game

The following are my favorite for Brown Trout:


My choice of plugs for trout

Plugs for big game:

My favorite plugs for the monster Mahseer are the following. They have been very productive for me – I have landed a 27 KGs Mahseer with the Abu Garcia “Hi-Lo” – at a place called Sheytey Kharey in Kalikhola.


My favorite lures for the big fellows

I carry more than 2 dozen lures on a fishing trip – but most often I end up using only two of the baits – Rapala’s "Count down Minnow" and Abu Garcia’s "Hi Lo" for Mahseer. For Trout – the same – I end up using the “Fat Rap” and “Count Down” every time – both by Rapala of Finland.

IMPORTANT TIP

I have noticed that the original treble hooks that come with the plugs/spinners/wobblers are not so durable or strong enough. Particularly for our river types where the flow is swift and strong, we need stronger treble hooks that do not flatten out or are brittle and break with the force of the fish’s tug and pull. Thus, I order special treble hooks by Mustad – called the "Short-Shank" – and replace the original trebles with these much stronger and shorter hooks.



Friday, February 19, 2021

All About Fishing: Part - I of III

In the mid 1980’s I was absolutely fanatical about fishing – even more than photography. I was so keen on it that I never attended office after lunch – afternoon was reserved for fishing – every day, all year round. In order that I could go fishing, my day would start at 4AM in the morning. By lunchtime I would end my day’s work. Without fail I would then head for the riverbanks – for fishing.

Some of the friends from those days remember my romance with fishing --- so they have been asking me to show them my gear. Thus, instead of bothering them to come over to my home – I decided to show them here – so that other readers may get to see my collection of fishing gear – that is second to none.

Before I get to my gear list, I believe that it is important for readers to understand a little about what fishing is all about.

The Fundamental Differences

There are few dozen ways in which to do fishing – but in game fishing the three most popular are: spinning, bait casting and fly-fishing. Fly-fishing is a truly graceful form of fishing – some contend that it is for the nose-in-the-air types – but not very productive. For sheer productivity, it has been my experience that bait casting is the true jawbreaker – so bait-casting form of fishing is my choice.

But it is not easy to master bait casting – in fact it is difficult – that is why most shun it. Spin casting is lot easier by comparison. It is my belief that there are less than 10 people in whole of Bhutan who have mastered the art of bait casting form of fishing.

Different Types Of Fishing Reels



While the spinning reel is fixed to the under part of the rod handle, the bait casting reel is mounted on top of the rod handle. Thus, given the manner in which the rods are constructed to suite the choice of reel, the rod's "spine" or "backbone" is on the opposing sides of the rod blank.

Types of Rods & Reels


How the spinning/casting reels are mounted on the fishing rod handle

Bait casting and spin casting employ two completely opposing ways in which they deliver the bait. In the case of the spinning reel, it is the weight of the bait that pulls the fishing line out of the reel’s line spool, as it travels through the air. The reel’s line spool remains static – it does not spin. Thus the moment the bait stops traveling through the air or lands on the water, the line’s motion stops. Thus there is very little chance of a bird’s nest being formed on the reel.

The bait casting reel on the other hand works completely differently. In this case, it is the reel’s line spool that spins and throws out the line as the bait shoots through the air, upon casting. Thus, even if there is the slightest of mismatch between the speed at which the bait travels through the air, and the timing of your release of the line and angle of the rod that will control the line flow, you are in for a serious case of bird’s nest. Also, unlike in the case of the spinning reel, in the case of the bait casting reel, the spinning of the reel’s line spool does not stop even when the bait has stopped traveling – thereby causing a huge bird’s nest.

Tangled line – called a Bird’s Nest

Being able to master the precision and timing takes months – thus not many are tempted to take up bait casting form of fishing. But if you have the tenacity and patience to master the art, you will be rewarded with a number of advantages (too numerous to list here) over the spinning reel.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

My Jaunts Into The Alpine Regions of Bhutan

I am happy in the knowledge that I must be among the very few lucky Bhutanese to have had the opportunity to visit almost every alpine regions of the country. Ofcourse it is not entirely true that luck had everything to do with it – it had to do mostly with determination, a strong will to achieve, faith in my own capabilities, a good measure of dare-devilry and infinite inclination towards recklessness. And, ofcourse, good health with strong lungpower. If you notice, most of my photographs are acquired in the thick of winter – at altitudes close to or in excess of 5,000 Mtrs.

As I get time and the inclination, I will show you some really awesome sceneries from all across the country – but the prospect of having to sift through tens of thousand of photographs is sooooo defeating.

I have climbed half way up the mighty Gangkhar Puensoom in north central Bhutan, including three-fourth of Masagung past Laya village when my Bjop horseman stuck his head into a hole in the ground and requested to be excused because he could not stand the chill. I plodded atop Singye Dzong’s ridge named Gosoong above Terdalhatso, which rises up over 6,000 Mtrs. – and got lost in the thick downpour of snow, for over 14 hours. That was the time when I was taught an important life lesson – by a world class high altitude marathoner - that in the thick of the dark, do not light up – but train your eyes to get accustomed to the darkness around you.

I camped over a week atop a mountain in Laya – to try and photograph the mighty Gungchen Taag – I never got the image I wanted and finally had to give up after a sudden snow blizzard destroyed my support team’s camp. Not one to give up, I persisted and finally got my image of the Gungchen Taag – not from any high frigid peaks – but from balmy Wangduephodrang.

Recently I got way-laid by a reader of my blog who is a historian of Bhutan’s postage stamps. We got into a dispute over the veracity of some of the written accounts surrounding our postal runners that delivered mail to Bhutan House, Kalimpong over the Nathu-La Pass. My stand was that there would not have been any need for every one of our postal runners of the yore – to go into Yatung in Tibet and that there should have existed a route that would bypass Yatung – such as Chumbithang which is clearly mentioned in the account rendered by Nari Rustomji when he makes the return journey over Nathu-La Pass into Gangtok, Sikkim, accompanied by the late Haa Drunmgp Jigme Palden Dorji, in 1955 after attending the marriage of Dasho Rimp to Her Royal Highness Ashi Choeki Wangmo Wangchuck.

In an effort to see if I could get some clues, I dug up my photos that I took during my trek up to Chudu Gung/Gonzola/Sinchuloompa/Nob Tshonapatta areas that share border with Chumbithang, which is located within the disputed areas known as Doklam Plateau, to the north of Haa. The following are some of the photographs I took during my trip there in December of 2011:


Approaching Chundu Gung and Gonzo-La Pass. During this trip, I had 8 pack ponies, 2 camp assistants 2 RBA personnel and 2 horsemen

Chundu Gung the abode of Haa's Protecting Deity Aap Chunduin the evening sun

Gonzo-La Pass with Chundu Gung in the background - as seen from my campsite at Gonzo-La

My campsite at Gonzola: Note the starkness of the vegetation. The tent to the left houses my kitchen and 2-persons support team. My Cabela's Extreme Weather Tent is in the centre. The tent on the right houses the 2 RBA johnnies who kept watch over me for the entire duration of the trek - lest I stray into Chinese territory


Blue Sheep grazing on the ridges and mountain sides of Gonzo-La

Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) captured at Sinchuloompa

Robin Accentor (Prunella rubeculoides) captured at Sinchuloompa

View from Gonzo-La - road/mule track leading from Bhutan to Yatung in Tibet over the ridge into Chumbithang

Location of Mt. Kanchunjanga in relation to Nathu-La Pass

Mule tracks into Chumbithang over the ridge from Bhutan border

Nathu-La Pass as seen from Nobtshonapatta

Full moon setting over Mt. Kanchanjunga as seen from my campsite at Nobtshonapatta

White Poppy (Meconopsis superb) Bhutan's rarest flower endemic to Nobtshonapatta of Haa. The flower was supposedly discovered by a Japanese botanist, a fact that is in dispute. I saw the photograph of this flower for the first time in the dinning hall of Rigsum Resort, Haa - that resulted in my trip to Nobtshonapatta in June of the same year - not the same trip that I made to Chundu Gung - which happened the same year - but in December of 2011

My camp site at Nobtshonapatta during day - warm and sparkling

The temperature in the night drops so low that my tent crumples up and slackens, caused by the extreme temperature. The clump of grass in front of my tent is laden with ice and frost

I want to go back to Nobtshonapatta so that I could take the picture of the moon as it sets over the summit of Mt. Kanchunjanga. Sadly, my Haap horseman refuses to oblige me - he says that the lives of his mules would be in danger - because during the times I want to go the mule tracks would be caked with ice and the mules would slip over them and fall into the ravines.

By the way I have also trekked to Chundu Lhatsho - and photographed the sacred lake that is credited as the heart of Aap Chundu. But I am not posting the image - in difference to the reverence in which the lake is held by the Haaps. To date I have never released the photographs.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bhutan: A success story?

For the past many years, on every National Day Celebration address since his taking the reigns of the country, His Majesty the King has been encouraging and goading the Bhutanese people, his subjects, to work harder, perform better and bring change in the way we do things. Seeing no change, His Majesty finally decided that enough had been spoken – he decided to deliver his wishes in writing – in the form of two Kashos, during the last National Day. It was painful - to me that was an indication that Bhutanese as a society was irredeemable.

Only a few days back, I was telling two friends at the MyMart – that Bhutan has no dearth of people with smart brains. Unfortunately, we have precious few people with any minds. We have people with brilliant brains working on our many committees – but they produce work that can only be the products of people with swathed minds. And yet, the following article authored by a friend that was published in the influential "The Atlantic", could be an indication that not everything may be lost for us:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/02/coronavirus-pandemic-bhutan/617976/

Obviously there is still chance for the Bhutanese race – that is if we survive. A Bhutanese friend worries as follows:

I have run a statistical model based on the current fertility rate. Population will decline at 1.5% per year. This is not even considering out migration and cross marriage. In 20 years the rate will fall below 1.5 and it is no longer reversible. So it becomes a road roller without brakes. And unlike other existential problems we faced before, nothing can save us. Singapore is in that road roller situation – fighting a loosing war. But Singapore has suggested that they could import Chinese from China, if need be. Bhutan has no such possibility.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Hand Washing Stations for Thimphu City

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is yet again at it - endeavoring to provide protection and safeguards to the Bhutanese people - against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. On two occasions, the RGoB had declined to accept our offer to do fund raising for purchase of vaccines. Undeterred, the Rotary Club of Thimphu ventured into other areas where we know help is needed.

Yesterday we handed over 83 imported Hand Washing Stations to Thimphu Thromde. The Thromde will install these hands-free stations at locations of mass congregation, community centers, schools, hospitals, parks etc.

The Club President hands over the Hand Washing Stations to Thimphu City's alpha Chaangphagla

We are aware that one of the best safeguards against infection by the virus is hand-washing at regular intervals. Thus, we are working on supply and delivery of additional close to 100 more units. With about 200 units spread across the city, it is our hope that the country's largest city will be adequately protected from the virus.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Shut Down Punatsangchhu-I

The massive flooding and destruction of two hydropower projects in India’s Uttarakhand state caused by breaking of the glacier upstream yesterday, should serve as a reminder to the governments of Bhutan and India to act without further delay – and order the shutting down of the perilous Punatsangchhu-I Project. To remain adamant despite more than a decade of proven failure – the two governments are being irresponsible and negligent to the citizens of Bhutan and India. When disaster strikes, it will be too late and no amount of saying sorry will mend and repair the lives and properties that will be devastated.

Uttarakhand Glacier Burst yesterday that destroyed 2 hydropower project dams.
Image Credit: www.livemint.com

The project’s cost overrun is in excess of three fold its initial projection. The project completion date has been shifted many times and yet the project is not even half done - it is unlikely to be ever done.

If the danger of GLOF were not real enough, the project sits bang in the middle of a seismically active zone.

Seismic Hazard Map of Bhutan

One report on the Punatsangchhu-I project states as follows:

An incomplete understanding of the nature and extent of the real problem, during planning, design, excavation and construction phases has led to costly delays and the potential future amplification of an existing natural hazard.

The spatial coverage of the measurements also highlights that the instability is not only affecting the area immediately around a large failure which occurred in 2013, but it covers a much larger area of about 8 km2 in total.

To date, I have written 65 blogs on why our hydropower projects are done all wrong. Every year since 19th of February 2015 I have been calling for the shutting down of the PHEP-I. It is impossible to best nature - humanity has always come off worst – when we ignored nature’s warnings.

https://yesheydorji.blogspot.com/2015/02/my-new-year-wish.html

I have offered every conceivable reason why we must be extremely cautious when contemplating doing hydropower projects:

https://yesheydorji.blogspot.com/2019/05/bhutans-bad-bet-how-hydropower-became.html

I have already stated years back that India is already more than self-sufficient in electricity – that it is a myth that they need our electricity to supplement their requirement. As I had pointed out quite accurately 2 years back, India has now declared that they are going the solar route – leaving us clutching our failed hydropower projects:

https://yesheydorji.blogspot.com/2019/03/chasing-hydropower-nightmare.html

Once again the Sankosh Project is rearing its head. I hope that this time the Bhutanese are better educated on the issue. I am glad that Khollongchhu Project is stalled – for the sake of the country’s future I hope that project is also scrapped for good.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Bhutan’s own modern day Frank Ludlow

On 16th February, 2012 the Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi) was adopted as our National Butterfly. This beautiful butterfly was first discovered in 1933 by the famous British botanist Frank Ludlow. Then for over seven decades it was believed to have gone extinct.

Frank Ludlow with George Sherriff and others

Seventy-seven years later, this extremely rare and endemic butterfly was rediscovered on 28th August, 2009, by a Bhutanese forester who was than working with the Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. After two attempts, a kinsman Khengpa from Zurphey village in Kheng Zhemgang by the name of Karma Wangdi sighted and took a specimen of the butterfly from Tobrang areas in Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan.

Modern day Frank Ludlow - Karma Wangdi who rediscovered the butterfly in Tobrang, Trashiyangtse in 2009

The following image of the butterfly was shot by me at Tobrang, Trashiyangtsi at 9.30AM on 12th August, 2011 at an altitude of 2,281 Mtrs. The butterfly is seen feeding on a white flowering plant called Viburnum cylindricum.


The beautiful Ludlow's Bhutan Swallowtail

I tried to dissuade the government from naming the butterfly as our National Butterfly because I argued that the butterfly is so rare and that its habitat and range was so restricted, that if there were to be a natural disaster in its only known habitat – Tobrang, we would be left with an extinct National Butterfly. But Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho said that there is nothing that can be done – since the announcement had already been made.

PS: A mounted specimen of the butterfly is said to have been presented to the Emperor of Japan, by His Majesty the King.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mini Bhutan In The U S of A

The following article was written in 2017 - then promptly forgotten all about it. This morning as I was going through my computer for photos of Doklam areas that I had taken few years back, I came upon it. Thus if the writing sounds a little disconnected, please remember it was written four years back.

=========================================

It is a connection so powerful and so improbable, it could only be karmic.

In April 1914, Kathleen Worrell, an avid traveler and wife of the dean of the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, picked up a copy of the new issue of National Geographic magazine. Its cover story: an 88-page photo essay entitled “Castles in the Air: Experiences and Journeys into the Unknown Bhutan”.

Author John Claude White—a British India political officer stationed in Sikkim and good friend of Bhutan’s first King, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck (White had attended the King’s 1907 coronation)—wrote rapturously about the remote Himalayan country that was 16,000 kilometers, 12 time zones, and countless worlds of imagination away from west Texas. 'It is impossible to find words to express adequately the wonderful beauty and variety of scenery I met with during my journeys, the grandeur of the magnificent snow peaks and the picturesque charm of the many wonderful forts and other buildings I came across', he observed. Illustrating the article were the first-ever published photos of Bhutan.

Reading these words and poring over the photos, from her home in the hot Chihuahua desert just across the border from Mexico and facing the foothills of the jagged Franklin Mountains, Mrs. Worrell was riveted. Two years later, when fire destroyed the buildings that comprised the original campus, she persuaded her husband, Dean Steve Worrell, to rebuild the school from the ground up in the style of the magnificent Dzong architecture pictured in White’s story. So began a singular and transformative connection between the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), as the school is now known, and the Kingdom of Bhutan—a connection that is stronger today than ever.

Bhutan’s sloping, thick-walled, light-colored stone architecture proved surprisingly well-suited to the unforgiving Texas climate. In 1917, the campus’ first Bhutan-inspired building, now known as Old Main, went up.

Old Main Building - first of many Bhutanese style buildings at UTEP

Today, almost 90 percent of the structures on the campus replicate the architectural aesthetic of the Land of the Thunder Dragon—earning the campus the moniker “Bhutan on the Border”. There are prayer flags, a Mani Dhungkhor (prayer wheel) replete with dhar shiings (prayer flag poles), a Lhakhang, a pedestrian overpass designed like the traditional Bazam, Bhutanese artifacts, and numerous mandalas evoking sacred deities and enlightened states of mind.

Bhutanese Lhakhang


Buildings constructed in the style of Bhutanese Dzongs

Bhutanese style cantilever bridge - Bazam

But the tie between UTEP and Bhutan is far more than symbolic. In the late 1960s, UTEP’s news and information director, Dale Walker, wrote to Bhutan officials seeking comments about the university’s Bhutan-inspired buildings. The correspondence led to the admission of the first Bhutanese citizen to UTEP: Jigme “Jimmy” Dorji, later renamed Jigme Dorji Karchung or, more popularly, “JJ”. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1978, the last I know he owned and managed a successful construction business.

In the summer of 2008, speaking before more than 8,000 people assembled inside UTEP’s Don Haskins Center, during UTEP’s Bhutan Festival, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Wangchuck told the audience:

“Your connections with Bhutan are not just the oldest in the United States, they are among the oldest in the world”.

These connections continue to flourish. Currently, thirty-three students are pursuing studies in such diverse fields as finance, engineering, accounting, education, and geophysics.

Perhaps just as impressive, Bhutanese students at UTEP pay local tuition fees—a rare privilege accorded only to our sons and daughters. This translates into savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bhutanese parents seeking admission for their children to this acclaimed center of higher learning. In 2015, Washington Monthly magazine ranked UTEP among the top 10 universities in the U.S.—placing it in the company of Harvard, Stanford, and other prestigious institutions. And for the fourth year in a row, the magazine ranked UTEP #1 in the category of social mobility, because the university opened its doors to those who would most benefit from college—a generosity that has also opened possibilities for our own fortunate UTEP students.

Just as it was a woman whose unique vision led to the creation of “Bhutan on the Border” a century ago, so it has been the far-sighted academic stewardship of another woman that has strengthened the bonds between UTEP and Bhutan. Dr. Diana Natalicio, who has served as UTEP’s president since 1988, has brought a deep commitment to expanding the UTEP-Bhutan relationship. In 2014, Dr. Natalicio told Asia Matters for America, “For nearly 100 years, the University of Texas at El Paso has enjoyed a unique relationship and an increasingly dynamic cultural exchange with the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan”.

As one of UTEP’s distinguished alumni—Dawa Penjor, erstwhile Executive Director at the Bhutan Media Foundation and currently a member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu—remarked:

“There is no other university or institution of learning any where else in the world where Bhutanese students receive preferential treatment.

“The growth of Bhutan-UTEP relation can solely be attributed to the will and commitment of UTEP’s President, Dr. Diana Natalicio. The personal care and informal guardianship provided by the President Dr. Natalicio to Bhutanese students is a source of encouragement.

“It is in Bhutan and Bhutanese interest to see that the relationship grows. UTEP’s relationship with Bhutan is not only a ready-made stepping-stone for formal relations between Bhutan and United States of America in terms of education, research and human resource development, but also a major potential to further the informal diplomacy with the United States”.

Photo Credit: UTEP's official website

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Loving Old Man Who Meant Well For Bhutan

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister visited Bhutan during September of 1958. It was a reciprocal visit – on the invitation of Bhutan’s 3rd King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck – during his visit to India in 1954.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru departed Delhi for Bhutan on 16th September, 1958 and entered Bhutan on 19th September, through Yatung in Tibet over the Nathu-La Pass in Sikkim. He departed Paro on the 27th of September, 1958 to arrive New Delhi on 2nd October, 1958. During a press conference that followed, one of the very interesting question/answer session was the following exchange:

Question:

Does the willingness of Bhutan to have a road go from India to their border, to be linked with their main towns, indicate any recognition on their part of their desirability of closer political and economic contact with India?

Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru:

'Our relations with Bhutan are exceedingly friendly. It is not any reluctance or any apprehension on their part, but it is a general desire not to get overwhelmed by an outside population coming in, a thing which I completely understand. In fact, if I may say so, I advised them to prevent outsiders coming. My definite advice to the ruler was: certainly get your experts and others, but do not encourage too many people to come, even from India. I tell you why. We do not encourage traders to go into the North-East Frontier Agency, which is India. We just do not like our traders going there, and if I may use the word, exploiting the people and spoiling all their tastes, selling cheap articles there which are normally neither tasteful nor good, and uprooting the tribal people from their habits without giving anything good enough in exchange. Therefore, I advised the Bhutanese Government, not that my advice was very necessary, not to encourage too much of this kind of thing but to take persons they wanted, and they do want experts, whether engineers or surveyors or maybe educationists, to take such persons for short periods. Or, better still, they can send their students to India to be trained, which they do not.

There are quite a number of students in India and they can go back and work in their own country.'

Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was truly a loving old man who meant well for Bhutan. But his daughter was a naughty girl 😂

Thursday, January 28, 2021

If I Go Down, You Go Down Too

Even as I write out this blog post, the global COVID-19 cases stand at 101,441,979, of which Bhutan’s number stand at 856. For once I am glad of the fact that we rank so low among world nations – posting low numbers and being counted among the achievers is good!

Sadly, in the thick of the pandemic, the human race still remains a confused lot.

First, they do not trust their own determination and resolve to do the right thing – they surrender their lives to the hastily rushed and unproven vaccines that are still considered “experimental drugs approved for emergency use”.

Second, a majority of the people – even literate ones - seem to be under the impression that the vaccines are a cure for the virus. God only knows where they got that idea.

Third, there is so much hysteria and dread of death by the virus that people are driven to ignore everything else – there are even more critical issues that should matter more than surviving the virus. The incidence of death by COVID-19 is negligible – it does not call for this level of paranoia. There is no cure yet for the virus – but we do have safe and tested defense against its infection – the prescribed public health measures put in place by the government and health authorities. As long as we rigidly follow the safety protocols, we should be more than OK.

Fourth, people seem to think that wearing a face-mask is fortifying themselves from being infected by others. This mindset needs an overhaul – we have to realize that even more important than protecting ourselves, the bigger responsibility we fulfill in diligently wearing the face-masks is – protecting others from ourselves. Once you realize this, then your sense of responsibility and duty is heightened – you know you are serving the community – and not just yourself.

And finally, this COVID-19 pandemic exposes the most fundamental of human failings – forever focusing on the SELF. People still do not seem to realize the inter-connected nature of modern society. It is no longer possible to survive in isolation – you are not safe until those around you are also safe. Thus the recent attempts by some rich nations (the bickering between the UK and the EU) to hoard the vaccines are a sign that they have not understood that doing so is self-defeating. They forget that the populations in the poor nations form the larger percentage of the human melee. If this section of society suffers, the rich nations too will perish. The people of the rich nations need to understand that in safeguarding the health and life of the poor nations, they are safeguarding themselves.

During my many years of trekking the frigid alpine regions of Bhutan, one lifelong lesson I learnt is this: that it was even more important to protect my support team from the harsh and unforgiving elements than myself – because if they fail – I did not have a rat’s ass of a chance at survival – they go down, I will definitely go down!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Dangbo Dingbo: Bhutan’s Postage Stamps: The Early Days IV

One of the sentences in an article appearing in the Kuensel about 4 years back on Bhutan’s postal history goes as follows:

'One envelope with the date stamp of Lingzhi Dzong shows that it was carried by a mail runner from Hotel Jumolhari in Thimphu to Lingzhi.'

The mention that the date stamp on the envelope is that of Lingzhi Dzong should be correct – since the postal runner between Thimphu and Lingzhi was recruited in 1976 - proving that there was mail service established by then, between Thimphu and Lingzhi. The mail runner was one Ugyen Tenzin, a local lad from Lingzhi. He took up the postal runner’s job on January of 1976. It is recorded that his journeys to and from Lingzhi Dzong was through the Dodena-Barshong-Shodu-Lingzhi route.

The mention of Hotel Jumolhari - no contest there either - since the hotel came into being in 1984.  What  CANNOT BE CORRECT is the statement that:

'…… it was carried by a mail runner from Hotel Jumolhari in Thimphu …….'

Hotel Jumolhari did not run a postal runner service – it was in the hospitality business. What would be correct would be that the mail would have originated from one of the guests staying at the Hotel Jumolhari – but it would have been the General Post Office, Thimphu that sent the mail to Lingzhi, through their postal runner Bjop Ugyen Tenzin.

Sometimes an unintended but inappropriate use of wordings can convey a completely different meaning.

But what intrigues me even more is: Hotel Jumolhari is an upscale star-rated tourist class hotel - meaning only chilips would stay there. Now, what and why would a chilip send mail to a desolate and total wilderness location like Lingzhi?

Another 'made for collectors item'?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

One Of Many Community Service Projects By The Rotary Club of Thimphu

 Dear Club President,

Greetings from Bhutan and the Rotary Club of Thimphu. I hope you and your other Club Members are keeping well and safe during these difficult times.

In my capacity as the Club President, I write to offer you our heartfelt thanks, on behalf of the people of Bhutan. In recent months, Bhutan has seen a surge in COVID-19 infections. As a result, Thimphu and Paro have been under lockdown for the past over one month. We have been advised to remain indoors, other than a trip to the grocery shop – for two hours a day, to buy food and other essentials.

While the times are difficult and bring sadness and difficulty to many, Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) in Zhemgang sends us very heartwarming images of how they have been able to help, in these difficult times when entry into and out of the country is not allowed, including ban on vehicular movements. Their group has been enlisted by the government authorities and issued with special movement permits - to transport and deliver fruits and vegetables from Zhemgang to Thimphu and other places in Bhutan. It should give you great satisfaction to know that they are using the farm tractor that was donated by your Club and District, with partial funding from the TRF – at a total cost of Nu.1.426 million. When other vehicles are not allowed to move, your tractor has special permission to move about – to collect and deliver fruits and vegetables to places where they are in short supply.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu offers our thanks for your timely help. The tractor we donated is now used for a very noble cause – to reach food to people who are in lockdown because of COVID-19. I am happy to submit herewith the following photos:





Photos 1&2: farm tractor being loaded with fruits and vegetables under the strict watch of the DeSuup. Photo 3: Farm Tractor that was donated to KNC. Photo 4: Donor Club Members and R C Thimphu Club Secretary make a day trip by helicopter to Zhemgang, to hand over the project to the beneficiaries that included solar fencing.

Please share the photos and our Thank You Letter with Members of your Club and District, while at the same time, offering them our Greetings and Felicitations.

Club President

Rotary Club of Thimphu