Monday, August 5, 2019

The March Of Money: Part XI

One English gentleman reader of my Blog was hugely tickled that I started my post with:

In a land filled with half-hearted people, ……..” 

But he agrees that I am 100% spot on! What I am going to tell you on this post will prove me, and him right beyond doubt!

Immediately after Mr. Wolfgang Bertsch of Germany, an expert on ancient Bhutanese coins read my Blog “The March of Money: Part VIII”, he mailed me as follows:

Dear Yeshey Dorji,

“……… It was very nice of John to introduce us to you and your highly interesting blog on Bhutanese currency.

I did not find the time to read everything carefully, but one detail drew my attention:

When discussing some modern coins of 1974 and 1979 you mention spelling mistakes, referring to the Western legends. What is more interesting is the fact that the Bhutanese spelling on the coin of 1974 is "phyed tam" (with reversed letter "ta"), while it has been changed to "phyed kram" on the 1979 coins. I transliterate using the Whylie System.  While the first spelling is also known from Tibetan coins, the latter spelling seems to be used only on Bhutanese coins. Both spellings try to render the retroflex letter "ta" (normally transliterated with a dot underneath the letter) which is unknown in native words of both Tibetan and Bhutanese……..”

Kindest regards
Wolfgang Bertsch

One look at my Blog post and Wolfgang immediately observed that as of 1979, we had spelt our coins wrongly as “Chekram”:

The coins of 1974 and earlier were correctly spelt as "Chetrum":

If you look at our second lot of paper currency printed and released in 1978 and thereafter, we see that the Dzongkha version of the word “Ngultrum” has also been spelt “Ngulkram”:

I cannot read Dzongkha - I can speak it haltingly. So I went to see a local expert by the name of Lopen Kunzang Thinley. I told him what Wolfgang had said – that the word “Tam” has been wrongly spelt as “Kram”. He took a look and said;

“Mr. Wolfgang is correct. The spelling is wrong”.

I was perplexed! I said to him;

“But the coins of pre-1978 coinage are correctly spelt as “Tam”. How did the word change to “Kram” after 1978?

Lopen Kunzang thought for a while and said;

“I think I know why - it must have been as a result of the mechanical Dzongkha typewriters that were introduced into the country. The earliest versions of the typewriters did not have the alphabet reversed “Tah”:

I remember because when I used the Dzongkha typewriter to compose my writings, I had to leave a space into which I would later manually insert the alphabet reversed “Tah”, in hand. The absence of the alphabet reversed “Tah” would have forced people to spell the word with the combination “Ka-ra-ta-Tra + Mah”:
not realizing that when spelt thus, the pronunciation would be “Kram” and not “Tam”, as pointed out by Wolfgang.”

The mistakes never got corrected - not even after the alphabet reversed “Tah” was included in the later versions of the mechanical typewrites. The electronic keyboard of the computers also has the alphabet reversed “Tah”. But the mistakes to this day has not been corrected - true half-hearted Bhutanese that we are! It has been more than four decades since the mistake was first committed.

I cannot believe that in more than forty years, authorities did not see the terrible mistakes with the naming of our currencies, and the wrong spellings. We claim to have few hundred Lams, an equal number of Geyshes and Khenpos, and few thousand Rinpoches and Trulkus, and Doctorates in Buddhist Theology ….. Not one of them saw the flaws? I can understand that for the half-hearted mind, “Ngultrum” and “Chetrum” could prove to be little too taxing to decipher. But none of these learned people observed the wrong spelling until a hawk-eyed German had to point it out to us, after more than 4 decades? I mean we handle the currency notes on a daily basis!

So, now that it has been pointed out to us, we have absolutely no reason NOT to make amends. Are we going to do it? Or, true to character, will the RMA do nothing to correct the mistakes – because it is no money into their pockets.

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