Monday, June 30, 2014

A Beautiful Letter

Recently I received a beautiful and touching mail from an Indian traveler whom I met in Thimphu during his travels to Bhutan sometime back.

Quite often, I get told by some of my friends that they could not write to me because they were so busy that they simply could not find the time to do so. How plausible is that? I mean how believable is it that one cannot take out 5 lousy minutes to write few lines to a friend? You have got to be a prized Dodo if you are unable to reschedule 5 minutes of a day that has 720 minutes, to write to a friend to say you care!

You may notice that the young writer who authored the following mail, writes from the heart. And, it is evident that he has a very sensitive heart. In the few lines that would have taken him no more than 10 minutes, he lays bare his soul and manages to tell the story of his journeys and his life’s goals, his passion.

I loved the sensitivity of his writings and sought his permission to post it as an article on this Blog. He consented.


Dear Yeshey,

Its been 4 years since you were kind enough to meet me on my travels. There are many intellectual debts one accrues while travelling and hence these are ones that must be acknowledged.

In my case those travels marked an important shift in the direction I choose to lead my life. I became an ecologist. I worked in the Southern Western Ghats for a year on a large mammal project, then went to study anthropology for a year while working with Hornbills in another landscape closer to home in Mumbai. I now make my way to study for a Master's in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Central European University in Budapest. They were kind enough to give me a scholarship. Despite my many attempts I have been unable to travel up north and as a consequence my yearning for returning to Bhutan grows with each passing day.

I also took up Photography as a hobby during that time and then laid my camera to rest because I felt that I had no right to capture something I wasn't going to protect. Eventually having convinced myself that I was working towards environmental protection in some form or the other I have picked up the camera again and also put up some of my work online. Your comments on my work would be wonderful. I have recently invested in a zoom lens most of my photos were shot on a 50mm so a 300mm will take a little while to get used to.

I've been thinking of drafting this mail for many months now but as a result of relatively busy schedule failed to find both the tranquility and composure that such mails deserve. I can hope you'll be able to forgive me for these transgressions.  

I hope things are good with you and I look forward to being able to meet you once again when an opportunity to return to mountains presents itself. If you find yourself travelling south to Mumbai do let me know, I'd be more than happy to show you around.

Warm regards


Saturday, June 21, 2014

In and Around Wimbledon

In 2009, I had a contract to cover the Wimbledon Championships. Here are some of the sights, mostly off-court:

The Face Of The Security:

Face Of The Ball Boy:

Face Of The Drummer:

Face of Azarenka:

Strains Of Competition:

At the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where the Championships are held, there is no Court Number 13:

The Umpire:

Wimbledon in not all about Roger Federer, Rafeal Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It is also about:

Disabled Players:

Veterans (Martina Navratilova):

... and Junior Ladies (Noppawan Lertcheewakar (Thailand) - Junior Ladies Singles Title Holder, 2009):

Day of Men's Single Final at the Wimbledon. Seats inside the Center Court are all taken up so people throng the Tim Henman Hill (now renamed Murray Mound), to watch the proceedings on the giant TV screen:

Some don't care much for the games - they come here to sunbath:

.... and some come for Strawberry, Champagne &  Romance:

The Hairless Spectator:

The Veteran:

The Novice:

The Old:

The Young:

The Photographer:

I love the English streets - they are lined with colorful flowers. Pots of flowers are placed in front of their homes. So very pretty!

An Example of the dour English Humour:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Agent of Change: Did He Change Anything?

Narendra Bhai came - and went. I don’t know what is the official view but in my personal view, he did not quite crackle and pop, as I had expected he would. India’s latest human tornado did not quite disappoint - but he did not sparkle either. I did have a sneaky feeling that we were burdening him with over expectation. It was evident, as can be expected, that his visit to Bhutan was too hasty, poorly prepared and hopelessly premature. After all, the man has been in office barely three weeks. If he intended to convey the message to his naysayers that good relations with neighbors is key to his foreign policy, it did not quite come through that way either. His visit turned out to be rather placid - there was no customary oomph in whatever he said. But he did say a number of things.

Oops: He suffered a momentary amnesia when he called Bhutan, Nepal - in the course of his speech to the Bhutanese Parliament.

Hindi: At one point during his speech, he made a suggestion that Bhutanese people should learn Hindi while, at the same time, candidly admitting that Hindi is already understood and spoken by a large number of Bhutanese. By contrast, Hindi is not spoken or understood in most of the Southern States of India. I am a little intrigued why Mr. Modi chose to give primacy to Hindi over other Indian languages. Some of my Indian friends would be terribly infuriated if I told them that Hindi was their national language. May be Mr. Modi is reminiscent of the times when Hindi was taught in Bhutanese schools, until English replaced it as the medium of instruction - during the late 50’s.

B2B: this old hackneyed acronym has been given a new twist by Prime Minister Modi, during his speech to the Joint Sitting of the Bhutanese Parliament. Generally understood to mean “Business-to-Business”, this evocative contraction now has a new Avatar, thanks to him - “Bhutan for Bharat” and/or “Bharat for Bhutan”. I cannot help but wonder if Narendra Bhai drew inspiration from his first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who coined the phrase “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai came visiting India in the late 1950s.

Tourism Circuit: He also suggested that Bhutan should form a part of India’s North-Eastern States tourism circuit whereby Bhutan is part of the grouping that would include Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh etc. I cannot understand how this will work - given that Bhutan’s tourism business model is completely different from that of these North-Eastern Indian States. May be he has an idea that we have not yet hit upon. It would be worth looking at the concept in greater detail. After all, during his tenure as the Chief Minister, the State of Gujarat has seen huge progress in the tourism sector.

Mr. Modi also spoke of hydro-power projects, a string of e-libraries around the country, doubling of scholarships etc. He also made the point that “Terrorism divides, tourism unites” in an obvious reference to Indian militants supposedly using Bhutanese territory in the south, to hide from Indian authorities.

He also mentioned that the relationship between Bhutan and India is as thick and inseparable as milk and water. That is nice ... now I hope he will do his part to ensure that the mix is not allowed to  curdle.

But if you ask me, the best thing about Mr. Modi and his visit is that he went back without leaving behind a Promissory Note. The last one left behind by his predecessor on the floor of our Parliament still remains to be fulfilled. Thumbs Up to you! - Say less, do more!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

WELCOME, Narendra Bhai

Narendra Bhai is scheduled to arrive today and Thimphu city is all spruced up to receive him. Personnel of the RBP, the RBA and the Desups have been pressed into service - to tear down decrepit walls, to paint road dividers and to erect flagpoles along the road through where PM Modi’s cavalcade will pass. Road surfaces have been swept clean, flowers planted along the Expressway and warnings have been issued to residents of Norzin Lam that they are welcome to park their vehicles anywhere else except where they are normally parked - on parking spaces alongside the Norzin Lam.

New welcome gates have been erected and old ones have received fresh coat of coloring. The derelict lime-smeared concrete posts that line the Chubachu-Zam have been repainted in gold - they now shimmer and sparkle in the sun - as they stand prim and proper, awaiting the arrival of the Guest of Honor.


Bhutan had less than ten days to prepare for the visit of our most important foreign dignitary. It has been a nightmare for the Thromde people and others involved in the preparation for the visit of PM Modi. I am told that the King himself ordered the involvement of the RBA, RBP and the Desups. Without their help, the preparations would have never been completed in time. But as I walk along the road to observe the preparations, I am convinced that PM Modi will be satisfied that the Bhutanese people worked very hard to make him feel loved and welcome in a country that believes that his visit marks the second stage in Indo-Bhutan relations - first being the visit by independent India’s first Prime Minister - Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1958. Lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and some of the water have been pretty murky, to the point that we are now uneasy bedfellows. There is no need to be. As I wrote in my earlier post, India should have faith in her own greatness.

In the last three decades, no Indian leader has had such massive public support, as did Mr. Modi, during India’s 2014 elections. BJP’s stunning victory can be attributed to one single person - Narendra Damodardas Modi. In fact, recognizing Mr. Modi's potential and public appeal, the BJP’s entire election campaigns focused on one single person - Narendra Modi. This has never happened before in India - that a political party banked on a single person to deliver victory -
and he delivered!

Will Mr. Modi live up to his much-hyped reputation as a farsighted leader? Will he begin the process of amending the wrongs that have been committed over the years that lead to the slow but steady slide in India’s reputation as a dependable and trustworthy neighbor?

Mr. Modi’s decision to make Bhutan his first destination as India’s Prime Minister has been perceived as a clear indication of the direction his foreign policy will take. Thus, what he does during this trip will either re-validate or dismantle that perception.

Central to India’s failure to achieve leadership position in the region is because of their long-term policy with short-term vision. Mr. Modi has the required mandate to alter all that and put India on the road to success. I hope he will seize the opportunity. A strong and likeable India is to Bhutan’s benefit.

As far as Bhutan is concerned, we are rolling out the welcome wagon to PM Modi with unprecedented lavishness, to show that we have great expectations from him and his visit. I hope he will not disappoint.

Joenpa Lekso, Lyonchen Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Agent of Change Is Coming

Narendra Bhai is coming. And it is an honor without parallel! Bhutan certainly deserves this rare honor, after all, when every one else in the neighborhood chose to stick their noses up in the air, we have remained resolutely by their sides.

It is symbolic that Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi chose Bhutan as the first country to visit, after becoming Prime Minister of India. Even if it is nothing more than an astute diplomatic maneuvering, we in Bhutan are still extremely encouraged by this gesture and hope that his visit will usher in a reversal of Bhutanese people’s altered perception about India and her real intentions. But it is in India’s hands. In recent times, our relationship has digressed from being trustworthy buddies to that of being an estranged couple - slowly drifting apart with the danger of finally ending in divorce. This would be so unfortunate.

To allow a mere handshake to define her foreign policy towards the only friendly country in the neighborhood is to undermine her own greatness. India should learn to shed her unfounded paranoia about Bhutan’s intentions and place her faith in our vulnerability that is implicit.

It would be naïve to believe that India’s foreign policy would be overhauled overnight. But if Narendra Bhai is the agent of change that whole of India thinks he is, then I dare believe that he comes with a fresh perspective on things. If nothing, he can start the process of redefining India-Bhutan relations based on trust and good intention, which has been sorely lacking so far.

I hope that somewhere tucked away in a small corner of his luggage, Mr. Modi brings with him a brand new and re-tinkered foreign policy initiative towards Bhutan that is progressive and based on trust and good intention.

During the tenure of Mr. Modi as the Chief Minister, I was one among few privileged bird photographers of the world to be invited by the State Government of Gujarat - all expense paid - to participate in the 2010 Global Bird Watchers' Conference. Something urgent came up at the last minute and thus I had to cancel the trip. Now that he is the Prime Minister, may be I will get an invite to cover all of India's birding destinations :)-

Monday, June 2, 2014

Yet Another High Note

As a Ham radio operator, I hit my high note when ICom America featured me as a comic character in their magazine. I wrote about it on June 16, 2010: 

I hit yet another high note yesterday - as a Blogger - when I saw the following signboard:

Some of you may recall that I had blogged about the emerging sophistication of the Bhutanese palate. The article can be found at the following:

It is a matter of great honor for me that I have, among a multitude of other readers, a canine meat seller who obviously follows my Blog. That became apparent when I realized that after my post, the owner of the business had re-written his signboard that had earlier been written as follows:

However, I am still intrigued: I wonder what explanations he/she offered to the Department of Trade for the change in name? Did he/she say that there was a spelling mistake? But Canine IS indeed the correct spelling! I would give a leg and an arm to know how the term "Canaine" was explained to the Department of Trade, as an acceptable business name.