Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happiness and Joy To The Royal Couple

The announcement of the royal wedding scheduled for October this year is welcome news. And none too soon either! Our Constitution requires that a ruling monarch must abdicate when he reaches the age of 65 by which time, the royal successor should have attained the age of 21, to be able to ascend the Golden Throne. This is good timing.

Few kings around the world have had the good fortune to marry for love. There have been instances in history where a king had to relinquish his throne in order that he may prefer his love over his kingly obligations. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and rarely has a king ever worn his heart on his sleeve. But the declaration His Majesty made on the 20th of May, 2011, during the opening session of the Parliament was touching - almost the stuff of fairy tales.

By necessity, all conventional ties and relationships of the heir to the Golden Throne must end the day the Raven Crown is placed on his head. From that day on, he is neither a father, nor a son - or a husband. He is KING. And, in order that he can shoulder the weighty burdens of kingship, he must not be shackled by a need for allegiance to ordinary ties and attachments. He must rise above the ordinary and stand alone.

His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has inherited from his peerless father a kingdom that is peaceful, prosperous and with its bountiful natural as well as its cultural resources largely intact. He has a nation full of subjects who are grateful and beholden to the Throne for all their successes and happiness. And now, by his own admission, His Majesty has found a Queen who is both warm and kind in heart and character and who will, with age and experience, make a great servant to the nation. With such fine qualities and with the full approval of His Majesty the IVth Druk Gyalpo and their Majesties the Queen Mothers, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that Ashi Jetsun Pema the future Queen of Bhutan will find resonance among his and her subjects.

I join the nation in wishing the royal couple MANY, MANY YEARS OF HAPPINESS AND JOY. May their union bring PEACE AND PROSPERITY to the people of Bhutan.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Royal Wedding Announced

As I write this, His Majesty the Druk Gyelpo is announcing His proposed marriage to Ashi Jetsun Pema. The announcement is being made as His Majesty addresses the 7th opening session of Bhutan's First Parliament which is currently in progress.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Death Of Osama bin Laden: A Monumental Hoax?

The Americans have finally announced the death of Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden. It took a while but it is finally here - the news that Mr. Osama bin Laden has been killed.

There is a school of thought that believes that Osama bin Laden was long killed in the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan but it wasn’t in the American interest to announce his death. I don’t know if that is the truth and, like the good professor James Bettinger of Stanford University once told me, a truth that cannot be proven is not a truth. However, I am intrigued - not so much by what is the real truth - as much as I am by the manner in which the truth is being orchestrated and presented to the world.

The “truths” that we are now being told do not ring true. There are so many things that do not fit together. In fact they sound downright stupid and implausible. Let us examine the following:

Osama bin Laden being labeled the world’s most wanted criminal
How far is this correct? The CNN, the BBC and even the NDTV calls Osama bin Laden the “world’s most wanted terrorist”. Is this fair? How does he qualify as the “world’s” most wanted? The term “world” would encompass all the countries on this earth. However, I know that in some countries, he is a hero and not a terrorist. Therefore, it is not fair to club those unwilling countries in the grouping of those countries who have declared him as a terrorist. Thus, I think we must downgrade him from the “world’s most wanted” to “America’s most wanted terrorist”.

Claim that the American Navy Seal entered the Pakistani state without the prior knowledge of the Pakistani government
I think this is bogus. I think the US had tacit approval of the Pakistani government and entered the Pakistani soil with prior knowledge of the Pakistani government and their security agencies. I cannot believe that the Americans would be so audacious as to commit an act of war on Pakistani soil, knowing full well that such an act is tantamount to infringement of Pakistani sovereignty. Pakistan is an ally and not a vassal state of the US.

However, it is convenient and, even expedient, to make such a claim. On the one hand, the Americans want to take full credit for the murder of their state enemy #1. It is good for politics. In fact, post killing, the American President grandly proclaimed that “Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan”. On the other hand, Pakistan as a Muslim state certainly would not want to be seen to be directly associated with the killing of a person who is seen as a martyr in most of the Muslim world. Thus, for the Pakistani government, it is good politics to claim ignorance and express consternation at the supposed unilateral American act. It is within the scheme of things for Pakistan to make feeble noises, once in a while, claiming infringement of their sovereignty etc. But at the end of it all, it serves their purpose to be seen as being totally ignorant of the American act.

Pakistan did not have a hand in the killing of Osama bin Laden
How could they have been involved, if it is really true that Osama was already killed in the Tora Bora caves years back? Also, if the claim that Osama was killed in the recent “targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan” is untrue and a charade, then surely the US cannot ask Pakistan to take part responsibility of the killing of Osama.

Further, Pakistan is a Muslim state and it will not go down well with their Muslim brethrens around the world - if it is known that they were directly responsible for the death of Osama. Thus, even if it is true that the Pakistanis collaborated with the Navy Seals to kill Osama, it will be in their interest to claim total disassociation with the act. The Americans recognize that compulsion on the part of the Pakistanis and, thus, they understand the need for the Pakistanis to distance themselves from the final act of killing Osama.

The death of Osama bin Laden is in no way the end of America’s fight against the Al Qaeda. In fact, it may be possible that this is actually the beginning of another phase in their war against terrorism. Thus, the value of Pakistani involvement as an ally in America’s fight against terrorism has not diminished in any way.

Sadly, however, the claim of Pakistani’s none-involvement is rather inconsistent and contradictory to what the American President had to say. I quote the following excerpts from the same speech quoted above:

 “Over the years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we've done. But it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding”.

Burial of Osama bin Laden’s body in the sea
Why was it necessary to hastily bury the supposed dead body of Osama bin Laden at the bottom of the sea? The stated official version put out by the Americans for such a dubious way is to “prevent the final resting place of Osama bin Laden from becoming a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers”. How far is this plausible? Is the truth something else? Could it be possible that the real objective is to make it impossible for any one to retrieve the body, if verifications were required? Was such a preposterous act necessitated for the reason that the dead body actually was not that of Osama bin Laden?

What exactly is the truth?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Am Back!

Well, here I am - back to Thimphu. I was out in the East of the country, all the way to Morong which is beyond Narphu. This time, I was chasing birds - the feathered variety.

Sixteen days of toiling in the sun, the mud, the rain and the fog and driving for up to 13 hours a day is hard work. Even worst, when the weather turns foul and you end up sitting around the camp doing absolutely NOTHING, it can be nerve wrecking. It is soooooooooo difficult to do NOTHING! I have not heard of hard work killing anyone but I suspect that boredom surely must cause a few deaths. God, please spare me the days when I have nothing to do.

For me personally, bird photography has been a revelation of sorts. Both the joy of accomplishment, as well as the disappointment of failure, has provided me with vital clues to the fundamentals of how to increase one's success rate in life.

Countless hours and days and months of pursuing birds has taught me that nothing can be rushed - everything eventually falls on the lap of the man who is willing to be PATIENT. As they say, Rome was not built in a day.

After having exposed few thousand frames of bird images, it is my view that there is no such thing as a PERFECT shot. He who says that he has the perfect shot has no idea about what constitutes perfection. Your last perfect shot can always be bettered. The pursuit of excellence is a never ending process. Therefore, never give up on IMPROVEMENT. Shoot the same bird a thousand times - every frame you expose will be different - the posture, mood, lighting, perch, surrounding foliage, background, foreground etc.

Remain FOCUSED. If you are pursuing one particular bird that is in sight, forget the rest. Do not let other birds that flit around you to distract you. Straying attention can cause you to lose focus and, in the process, you end up getting nothing. Nail the one that you have set your eyes on - then move on to the next. You have surely heard of that fellow who is a jack of all but couldn’t master a single trade.

One very important lesson I learned this trip is that one should NEVER TAKE THINGS FOR GRANTED - when it comes to the weather. If, where you are standing is foggy and rainy, do not make the mistake of assuming that it would be the same in all other places. I acquired the beautiful images of the Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler and the Satyr Tragopan (posted bellow) at a time when I had decided that I would move off from the place where I was camped. The weather was foul and did not look like the day was going to be very productive. But a leisurely drive just 12 Kms. away from the camp site, out of curiosity,  brought me to a spot where the sky was clear and there was no ground fog. This place produced my life bird - the Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler.

Apply the above rules in real life and see how you begin to improve your success rate.