Monday, September 26, 2016

Rotary Club of Thimphu’s Service Project – Conception to Execution

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is constantly looking out to do meaningful projects to help the Bhutanese people. As small and new as we are, the Rotary Club of Thimphu is among the most active Clubs that is the envy of many older and bigger Clubs around the world. In the last two months we have done 5 projects. Currently one more service project is under way – Treatment of Migraine by Acupuncture - at the Traditional Medicine Hospital, Thimphu. The following is how fast paced our projects are conceived, put together and implemented.

28th October, 2015
My guest Mr. Dilip Raval - a retired Nestle executive from USA and I was talking of this and that at the Hotel Yugarling, Bumthang. The guide walked in to say that she was going to retire since her head was hurting from an attack of migraine. She is among 5-6 people I know who suffer from this excruciatingly painful disease.

I told Mr. Dilip how painful the migraine attack can be and how I have seen people driven to tears from the unbearable pain. He turned around and said;

“I know because I suffered this disease for 40 years."

I was puzzled and asked him; “Now you do not suffer from it?"

“No, I have been fully cured of it for the past 35 years”.

“But I thought migraine was a lifelong and incurable disease?"

“No, it can be cured by acupuncture treatment”.

29th November, 2015
Dear Vijay,

I hope this finds you and Harsha in good health and spirit. Dilip your brother tells me that you know of an acupuncturist who can cure migraine and that you have undergone the treatment yourself. I write to you with the request to put me in touch with the good doctor.

2nd December, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

So nice hearing from you.

The acupuncturist who treated me many years ago is in an ashram - I have lost touch – may be not alive and even if alive may be in his late nineties.

However, Harsha/Harsha’s friend from Taiwan knows a famous acupuncturist who might be interested in exploring your offer.

We will get in touch and let you know shortly.



December 19, 2015

Dear Yeshey:

Our good friends Vijay and Harsha shared your recent emails with them regarding an interest in having an acupuncturist visit Bhutan to treat migraines. They asked us to assist in making the initial inquiries with our acupuncturist (who by the way have treated both of them).  I would appreciate more information regarding your specific needs. Are you asking for a permanent relocation to set up a practice or merely a temporary short time visit?


Daniel Mao

December 22, 2015

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your mail.

I really do not have an idea of how many persons suffer from migraines …. However I know that there are a large number. I have seen friends and family suffer and the suffering is just too great. I am fortunate not to suffer from this disease but see that the pain is so very excruciating. I have seen people go into isolation in dark rooms and suffer.

I do not know what the treatments are for the disease but when I met Mr. Dilip Raval, Vijay’s elder brother, he told me that he was cured of the disease by acupuncture treatment. I was very encouraged – because I was under the impression that migraines was incurable.

January 11, 2016

Dear Uncle Danny,

My dad says he has been asking doctors here in N.Y. from his association and some are saying they're afraid they won't be good use there because they themselves will suffer from the high altitude migraines or have other reactions.

My dad has decided to talk to his fellow board members at International Acupuncture Associations, appealing to their compassion and also help them to see it as an opportunity to spread Traditional Chinese Medicine to a new audience, sort of a diplomatic component.

January 13, 2016

Hi Claire & Danny,

Thank you for your mails.

First and foremost, let me assure you that Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan is located below 8,000 ft. altitude. It is said that people normally to not suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) at altitudes up to 8,000 ft. a.s.l. So I think you can dispense with the fear of altitude sickness.

…… If the acupuncturist can cure some of our patients in Bhutan, it certainly will re-enforce the validity of the curative powers of Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM). I certainly have been informed of the potency of acupuncture in treating migraine. Dilip & Vijay Raval swears by it and they are living example of how effective the treatment is.

January 14, 2016

Dear Yeshey,

The friends in China that my father spoke to do not think ….. It will become a whole long bureaucratic process and considering, unfortunately, that Bhutan does not have official diplomatic relations with China, it looks rather difficult.

HOWEVER, as if heaven-sent, we have found the perfect physician for your request. Dr. Huang Yu, cc'd here, is a licensed acupuncturist with her own clinic practicing in Boston. She comes highly recommended by my father, who has taught her in the past. Not only is she a competent acupuncturist, she is also a close family friend, world traveler and a truly generous spirit. She is willing to shut down her clinic and travel to Bhutan for a first time stay of 2-3 weeks to see if she can be of help, she is amenable to future visits as well!

She is willing to operate as a free clinic, not charging her patients, if lodging and airfare could be provided.

Please communicate further details with her.


January 14, 2016

Good morning everyone! Thank you all to make the connection, give me a possibility to serve the people in Bhuton.

Hello Yeshey, looking forward to talk to you, I will be busy in my clinic whole day but will have time at night if I get your email!

Take care!

Huang Yu

February 24, 2016

Dr. Yu Huang created a fund raising website to raise US$ 5,000.00 to make purchases of needles, heater, moxa etc. for her trip to Bhutan and for donation to the Traditional Medicine Hospital. In three days she raised US$ 5,471.00 from 33 generous donors.

May 4, 2016 

Visa clearance obtained for the visit of Dr. Yu

September 25, 2016

Dr. Yu arrives Bhutan and she treats her first migraine patient the same evening.

She will perform acupuncture until October 10, 2016.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest Service Projects of The Rotary Club of Thimphu

The months of August and September have been the most fulfilling months for the Rotary Club of Thimphu. During these two months, the Rotary Club of Thimphu (RCT) has implemented or is in the process of implementing 4-5 Community Service Projects. This has to be a record in the Rotary World - no single Rotary Club in the world may have done so many Community Service Projects within such a short period of time.

During early August, 2016 RCT completed and handed over the Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project to the Mendhagang Primary School in Punakha. RCT provided three water storage tanks of 3,000 liters each. We also installed Water Filtration and UV Treatment System to provide safe drinking water to the students and the villagers in the periphery of the school. In addition, we have provided funds to pave the school compound, to eliminate dust.

Funding for this project was made available by the Rotary Club of Koeln-Ville, Germany.

Mendhagang Primary School

 Water filtration and UV Treatment System

 The school's courtyard that needs paving - RC Thimphu will take this up during the second phase soon to be implemented

 RC Thimphu's Director of Community Services - Rtn. Dawa Penjor with some students of the school

During end of August, we completed the installation and inauguration of 4-KMs of Solar Fencing at Goleng village in Zhemgang. The rice fields of close to 100 acres was apparently started by Dasho Nishioka, a Japanese agriculturist who worked in the Kheng areas during 1976 - 1980. Interestingly, funding for this project was made available by a Japanese Rotary Club - The Rotary Club of Handa, Japan.

The three Members of the Rotary Club of Handa, Japan pose for pictures

Section of the solar fencing that runs over 4 KMs long and covers close to 100 acres of rice fields

Goleng villagers are treated to lunch by the Rotary Club of Thimphu. We had to get special permission from the ECB for the gathering


Upon hearing that some Japanese donors were in his Dzongkhag, Dasho Dzongdah invited the Japanese group for tea at the Dzongkhag Administration in Zhemgang. I was impressed with Dasho Dzongdah's gesture - particularly in consideration of the fact that we are now working with the Handa Club at securing a Global Grant amounting to US$79,000.00


 Members of the Rotary Club of Handa with the youth who all got together to form the agriculture production and marketing group known as Khengrig Namsum Cooperative. This pioneering cooperative is formed by16 educated youth - an increasingly encouraging trend that is now prevalent among the educated youth. The RC Thimphu is encouraged by this trend among the educated youth and thus, committed to secure funding so rural villages are restocked with young energetic youth

During the third week of September, 2016 the RCT handed over Water Storage and Safe Drinking Water Project at the Zilukha Middle Secondary School. This too was funded by another Japanese Club - The Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan.

The Water Storage facility being handed over to the school in the presence of the officials from the Ministry of Education

The two Presidents of the collaborating Clubs - Rotary Club of Kushiro, Japan and the Rotary Club of Thimphu inaugurate the Hand Wash Station

School children demonstrate hand washing after the inauguration of the facility

Time for some speech - the two Presidents of the Rotary Club of Kushiro and Thimphu speaking to the students

A girl students delivering her vote of thanks

In a day or two, the Rotary Club of Thimphu will be placing an order with the Karma Group - for supply and delivery of 6 (six) units of Dialysis Machines - to be donated to the Ministry of Health. This Nu.6.9 million project for the health sector is made possible through a TRF Global Grant in which Rotary Clubs from four countries are involved:

Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA.

The Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is happy to have been able to touch all three of our core areas of focus: Agriculture, Education and Health, during this short period spanning less than 2 months.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Like everything else in my life, blogging for me was not a planned or premeditated effort – I got into it without being aware that I was doing it. I did not even know that I was blogging. Some friends suggested that I create a website to post my photos online so that they could see my pictures. Over time, instead of photos, I began to post articles and, as I went along, I began to understand that I was into blogging instead of merely posting photos.

As my blog began to gain popularity and my readership increased, realization hit me that my blog was no longer my own where I could say whatever I felt like. Because it was being read by a large audience all over the world, I had to be careful what I wrote and how I wrote them. A friend once cautioned me; “You are bigger than you think so make sure you remain responsible. You can no longer afford to be imprudent or flippant”.

That has been the worst part of my blogging experience - the need to be restrained, responsible, educated, objective, meaningful, fair and, above all, be persistent with my posts so that I am able to retain my readers’ attention. The downside of popularity is that it robs you of the one thing you started out to achieve - the liberty of free expression and thought.

A useful lesson I learnt as a Charter member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu is that being able to draw a crowd is only half the battle - the more challenging battle is to be able to keep it herded and retain its attention. I have understood that the best way to attract new readers is to keep the old ones happy and interested. Thus, in order to maintain my blog’s current level of popularity, I ensure that:

~   I blog on a variety of issues so that it appeals to a diverse audience base - and not to a specialist group;

~   I go to great lengths to ensure that I keep my posts short and petite - whenever possible

     - because only tall girls are appealing - anything else that are tall and long are tedious; and

~  That my posts are meaningful and progressive and that they are well researched and written

     in the simplest of language.

I write about issues that afflict the country. In particular, my concern for the environment and its destruction, hydro-power projects that are destined to shackle the country to eternal debt, poor governance, rural-urban migration and the tourism industry that is headed for doom.

I devote considerable amount of time and effort behind my blogging. I do not trivialize important issues - when I write I put my heart and soul into it. My passion about an issue will be evident in the manner I set out to write about it. If I chose to make a statement, I will present the facts as they really are - I will not pussyfoot around an issue - I will tell it like it is. This tendency has lead many of my Bhutanese readers to conclude that I am a courageous person. That is not true - I do not write because I want to prove that I am a courageous person - I have no need to do such a thing. I write on some issues because I believe that doing so might contribute to correcting some of the many problems that beset us.

I blog because I believe that there are some things that a private citizen can articulate better than the government. I blog because I believe that there are some things that need to be said and only a private citizen can say it openly and frankly, without fear of reprisal.

I have blogged on issues that have seldom been, if ever, discussed openly. The need for such dramatic departure from the usual Bhutanese timidity is necessary, I believe, because most Bhutanese have become so complacent that they are no longer capable of critical thinking. They have a mind but it behaves like an empty bucket - it will absorb all the information that are poured into it - without processing and without analysis. What is the point of having a mind if it is not applied to thinking? That is why, once in a while I blog on matters that are considered “inconvenient truths” - matters that people would rather push under the carpet, than discuss them openly. My blogs are intended to inform the people - to uncover the sycophancy, to unravel the misinformation, to lay bare the deceit and the sham. In doing so, I hope to be able to convert some of the Bhutanese people to think and thereby do things thoughtfully.

It is not daredevilry that prods me into writing critical blogs - it is my love for the country and my belief that we need to be more mindful than we are, that compels me to act, as many have told me, in a “courageous” fashion. Mine is not an act of courage - it is a cry and an appeal to consider matters with objectivity and reasoning. The less thinking we are, the more decadent we become.

The Internet technology that empowers blogging is a boon to modern society. Through blogging, ideas and opinions can be transmitted to millions of people around the glob, instantaneously. The blog’s potential is simply unfathomable. It offers citizens the opportunity at interactive governance. In other words, blogging is a powerful medium that strengthens democracy through empowerment.

The evolutionary process of the human society has not been entirely straight foreword. One case in point: that truth is no longer believable or useful. Most set store by PERCEPTION. What is perceived is more important than what is the truth. It is a commonly held belief that all truths have been doctored by the mighty and the powerful, to suite their own purposes. And yet, people tend to ingest truth without contest or scrutiny. Unfortunately, perception is not entirely immune to alteration either. A skillful blogger with popular following has the power to transform opinions and alter perceptions. This can be both good and bad - depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on. But one thing is certain - whether you like it or not, blogging is here to stay - all that we can do is pray that the blogger is a responsible person and has the best of intentions at heart - best of intentions for the collective whole - rather than the self.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Some readers have written to me to say that I have not been very active in posting blogs of late. True - I have been terribly busy doing this and that. So, until I am more free to write, I would like to reproduce the following article I wrote for The Druk Journal - recently released.

Here it will be reproduced in two parts - to keep the overall length short.

The “blog” as we know it now, was started as a personal homepage by a Chicago born student named Justin Hall in January of 1994. Credited to be the world’s first ever blog - ( - it is still in existence.

During its initial days, a blog was known as “Weblog” - to mean “logging the Web”. The term was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger of Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA. In 1999, programmer Peter Merholz introduced the present term “blog”.

According to a list compiled by the San Francisco based information architect Jesse James Garrett, there were only 23 blogs as of 1999. It was not until the year 2004 that blogging really took off – so much so that Merriam-Webster declared the term “blog” the Word of the Year. That number grew to 50 million blogs by the middle of 2006. By end of 2010, the number of active blogs grew to 152 million. By end of 2011, that number had swelled to 181 million blogs. The exponential growth of the blog has been nothing short of extraordinary.

A survey conducted in 2005 showed that in the US alone, 32 million people read blogs – roughly 11% of the population.

The first recorded “casualty” of blogging has to be a lady named Heather Armstrong, a Los Angeles web designer. She got fired for writing about her job on her blog – ( Since then, anyone getting into trouble for writing something on his/her blog came to be described as being “dooced” for it.

Each blogger has his/her own reasons for blogging. Some use it to record their thoughts and to keep an account of what they did and what they saw and what they felt, at a particular moment in time. Some use it to sell products and others use it to champion a cause. Some use it for education and yet there are others who use blogs as a tool of propaganda. Whatever it is used for – the blog is certainly a powerful tool. A popular blog can shape opinions and alter the very course of events.

Good thing about blogging is that there is no law prohibiting it – bad thing is that not all blogs are meaningful or consequential. And yet, the only person who can set a standard on the blog is the blogger himself/herself – no one else may define the blog’s ethical or moral standards.

Social media, of which blogging is an important part, is a powerful social instrument of communication that can influence and shape human behavior and attitudes. The modern society’s everyday life is largely entwined with the Internet - so much so that even love lives are constructed over the social media and its many channels.

The interactive nature of the social media makes it lot more effective than the traditional media - the print and visual media. Unlike the television or newspaper that are one-way communication channels, the social media permits instant two-way communications. Because its reach is truly international, the social media can convey messages and ideas instantly and over continents.

Social media is used all over the world to champion environmental, political, and social causes. It has caused governments to fall and instigated social unrest and disruption to peace and social harmony. But it has also helped maintain transparency among bureaucrats and politicians. It has helped good governance.

In Bhutan, activism through the social media has helped stop the destruction of White-bellied Heron habitat in Phochhu, Punakha, few years back. But we have not been entirely responsible in the use of social media. Some in Bhutan have used it to malign people and cause discomfort to many. Thus, social media can be both a boon as well as a bane - depending on how it is used.
..................... to be continued

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Mail to a Bhutan Lover

Someone from outside wanted me to update him on the state of affairs in our tourism industry. The following is what I wrote back to him:
Hi .............,

Thank you for your long, long mail. I am happy that there are many around the world who genuinely care for Bhutan.

I would be happy to discuss trekking in Bhutan but as you have seen from my posts and others in the papers, there is nothing heartwarming to tell you about the state of tourism and trekking in Bhutan. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to destroy the industry.

The road widening works that was started last year has caused huge dip in tourist arrivals. Even local Bhutanese dread driving between Thimphu and Trashigang since the road has been dug up and travel over them is a painful experience. The government has promised that the road will be done in 3 years - one year is already passed and even that stretch of road that was started more than 15 years back - Simtokha - Metsina - is still not done. So I cannot imagine how the government is going to complete over 400 KMs of road in 3 years. Strangely, we do not need to widen our roads - but to pave it well and maintain it well. I suspect that we have been made a victim of a greater scheme in which Bhutan wants no part.

Before the widening works was started I had suggested that even if we must undertake the work, we should do the work in short stretches - to minimize wholesale destruction to the roads. That suggestion was ignored and now the entire stretch from Thimphu to Trashigang is in shambles.

Thousands of tons of earth and boulder are dumped below the road - in the process causing destruction to trees that have taken hundreds of years to grow and mature. The bushes and forests through which the roads run are home to hundred of bird and animal species - their homes have been invaded and entire ecosystem has been altered irreversibly. The mountain sides that now resemble patches of warzones are a sight that breaks your heart. If a champion of environmental conservation - such as Bhutan - can act so irresponsibly, what chance does this earth have - in the hands of those who are said to be less responsible towards the environment and its conservation?

One stretch of road in the East - Sengore to Yongkala - is famed for the birding opportunity it provides to the world birding community. Over the coming years that too will be destroyed by the road widening works thereby effectively ending Bhutan’s claim to being the birding capital of the world.

Our most famous trekking route is now ruined. Most other routes will be destroyed too - because we are incapable of doing things with responsibility and feeling. So there does not seem to be anything useful to talk about our tourism.

And yet, tourism is Bhutan’s biggest industry that employs the largest number of people - across the broad spectrum of Bhutanese society. It beats hydro-power hands down - both in terms of providing jobs as well as real (not perceived) income to the people and the government. And yet, there is a mindless rush to do hydro-power projects that has already enslaved many future generations of Bhutanese.

All that I know is that we need to protect our tourism industry. Despite all that is not going well, Bhutan still holds allure to many around the world. At an individual level, even in very small ways, I am committed to doing what I can to promote and energize tourism in Bhutan.