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.