Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Copper Coins of 1951 and 1954

In 1951 and again in 1954, two pretty copper coins were struck by Bhutan. Although the coins’ dies are not nearly as nifty as those done by the Englishman A P Spencer for our 1928 and 1929 silver Thalas, nonetheless, to me the coins look pretty neat and well struck.

Same same but different

While the designs remained the same, the die was re-cut for the 1954 coin. The rendition in detailing has certainly improved in the later version although to the untrained eyes, they look identical. But there are distinct differences.

The differences between the two coins are in the eyes of the Sernga (Gold Fish), Apex/Protoconch of the Doongkar (Conch Shell) and the Bumpa’s (Vase) cap handle. The following comparison chart will show the differences:

Clear and visible differences

It took me a while to get hold of both the versions of the coins.  For some inexplicable reason, the 1954 version is in abundance - it took some doing to find the 1951 version. Some shopkeepers in Thimphu whose shops I often frequented in the hunt for the coins, looked sullen every time I approached them and requested to take a relook at their collection of old coins.

Equipped with a magnifying glass, to the shopkeepers I must have looked like some spook from another planet 😂

I am now waiting for the shipment of a Maartrum that was struck by one of the Wangdue Dzongpens - it is laboriously trudging its way all the way from Victoria BC, Canada.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Gift of Oxygen

Yet again, for the Rotary Club of Thimphu, the season of giving is here. This time it is our belief that we have done one of our most meaningful humanitarian services to date - gift of oxygen.

Yesterday morning at about 10AM, a motley of Club Members gathered at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu - to donate and handover 17 units of Oxygen Concentrators to the officials of the JDWNRH. Personally, this project has been most gratifying - I mean supplying oxygen to the weak and the frail and the dying - what can be better?

Gift of life: 17 units of Oxygen Concentrators - all set to be donated to JDWNRH

According to reports, the JDWNRH had only 4 of these machines - with our supplement of 17 more, few lives should certainly be saved. That too in the comfort of their homes - because what we supplied are the portable variety - that which can be taken home so that patients do not need to spend uncomfortable days and weeks at the hospital.

What are Oxygen Concentrators
Oxygen concentrators are widely used for provision of oxygen in healthcare applications, especially where liquid or pressurized oxygen is too dangerous or inconvenient.

An oxygen concentrator takes in air and removes nitrogen from it, leaving an oxygen enriched gas for use by people requiring medical oxygen due to low oxygen levels in their blood. Oxygen concentrators utilize a molecular sieve to adsorb gases and operate on the principle of rapid pressure swing absorption of atmospheric nitrogen onto zeolite minerals and then venting the nitrogen. This type of adsorption system is therefore functionally a nitrogen scrubber leaving the other atmospheric gases to pass through. This leaves oxygen as the primary gas remaining.

Portable oxygen concentrator
What the Club supplied to the Jigme Dorji National Referral Hospital, Thimphu under this donor-funded project is the portable variety of oxygen concentrators that typically plug into an electrical outlet.

The principal purpose of this donation is to meet the growing demand from the home based users. The hospital will loan out these concentrators so that the congestion in the hospital treatment room can be freed, for better healthcare service.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

I Am Not The Whole Difference

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my yesterday’s mail. I am glad that both you and Nancy are keeping well.

I have a concern about the item below in your email: "I resign from the Rotary at the end of August 2020".

Please explain what this means with regard to our planning for the possibility of a Global Grant application and an agriculture development project that would certainly require implementation well into year 2021.

Are you stepping back from Rotary and the plan for involvement with a Global Grant application?

Hope to hear from you soon.


Yes, I will be resigning from the Rotary. Initially I had decided that I would only resign from the post of the Club’s Secretary. However, as I began to contemplate more, I realized that given my character, a total severing of the umbilical cord is the only way to go. If I still remain in the Rotary, I will be drawn into involvement, one way or the other. And given my level of commitment and passion, I will not be able to resist getting involved. Let me explain.

I should be actually resigning at the end of RI Year: June 30, 2020. However, since I am organizing a Rotary Conference in Thimphu during the last week of July, 2020 on behalf of the Club, I need to be around to tie up any loose ends. I am sure that the event will spill over into August.

I have been the Club Secretary since the last close to 5 years. I have put in 16-17 hours of work every single day - Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included. Such dedicated and passionate involvement became a norm with me - only for one single reason - the realization that the ROTARY world offers immense and bountiful possibilities to countries with limited resources, such as ours. So, I went head long into it - the Rotary Club of Thimphu was my world, my oxygen, my family my entire life’s focus, my very high note.

In other words, I ignored every thing else – my responsibilities and obligations elsewhere. Also I realized one thing: that I am not the SOLE INHERITOR of this wonderful country. I can make a difference – BUT I AM NOT THE WHOLE DIFFERENCE. There are over 500,000 capable adults that can share the burden. And it is important that I offer that opportunity to others who can be as adapt, if not more, than me.

I know your concern arises from the fact that your Club and ours are all primed to implement a GG project in the agriculture sector. Trust me, because of my imminent planned exit from the Club and the Rotary, I have been preparing for it.

You will be happy to know that on 3rd January, 2020 our Club had a meeting when we discussed your project and the need for appointment of a Chair for the same. On that day we appointed the Chair who will spearhead your project. The Rotarian’s name is Ms Kesang Tshomo and she is Project Director of Bhutan’s RDC, Yusipang. Currently she is working with the field agriculture offices to gather data that you need to discuss with your DRFC Chair.

Once she has the data and submits to you, please tell us to go ahead and I will walk the new Chair Tshomo through the GG application process. You will have no problem, I can assure you.

For your information, since its Charter on 24th April 2012, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has brought in over Nu.140.00 million worth of meaningful projects that benefitted the country and the people of Bhutan. No one in the Club is in any doubt as to how meaningful the Rotary is to the people of Bhutan. Thus I assure you that there are many in the Club who recognizes their responsibilities to the Club and, by default, to the country and the people of Bhutan.

I hope I have been able to reassure you that my departure will change nothing in the way the Rotary Club of Thimphu will function.

Bye and take care

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Hammered “Sa” Coins Of The Wangchuck Dynasty

Historical reports show that striking of coins in Bhutan existed as far back as  1790. Of the huge variety of coins that were struck, the “Sa” coins – hammered coins with the word “Sa” is credited with the Wangchuck Dynasty. For the record, when I refer to the Wangchuck Dynasty I am also including the period when Jigme Namgyal became Trongsa Penlop.

The earliest of these coins would have been struck by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal in the 1860’s when he captured some Cooch Beharis and brought them as slaves and put them to work to hammer coins. Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, also referred to as the Black Ruler, would have stuck his coins at his mint in Enduchhoeling, Trongsa.

The following are few of the many variations of “Sa” coins that would have been struck by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, and later on by his successor Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, followed by His Majesty the Second King Jigme Wangchuck.

The Coin Die on the left above belonged to Druk Desi Kiptsep Dorji Namgyal. This die is currently in the possession of the Desi's descendants. The hammered coins on the right depict a variety of design variations but all bearing the mark "Sa" credited with the Wangchuck Dynasty

It is difficult to say which of the many Penlops and Druk Desi’s hammered which coins. But one coin that can be identified with Daga Penlop is the following:

One of Daga Penlop's many hammered coins

Other earliest hammered coins are the following:

 This coin is supposedly from the year 1790 - 1840. Strangely it has a "Sa" marked on its obverse. If this is true then there is something wrong with the recorded history.

1835 - 1910

The following coins may be the last of the coins hammered by the Wangchuck Dynasty - before the milled coins were introduced in 1928 and there after. However, Nicholas Rhodes who is an authority of repute in matters related to Bhutanese coins wrote that even after the Wangchuck Dynasty came into being as of 1907, there were two other persons who retained the authority to officially strike their own coins - Paro Penlop Tshering Penjor and Gongzim Ugyen Dorji. Of the two, Paro Penlop Tshering Penjor was said to be a very artistic person. Thus, given the artistry of the coins' designs, Rhodes believed that the following coins could have been struck by him. But nothing is certain any more.

Last of the Wangchuck Dynasty's hammered coins: 1910 - 1927

As of 1927, Bhutan stopped hammering coins. Instead milled coins came into being - initiated by the Second King Jigme Wangchuck. Two of the earliest milled coins were the following:

Silver Thala of 1928

Bronze Zangtrum of 1928 - two sizes of these coins were issued

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Over The Moon

There has rarely been a day that I was as happy as I was few days back. Two things made my day - which occurred on the same day:

I received a gift of a very authoritative book on Bhutan’s coinage titled “The Coinage of BHUTAN up to the mid 20th Century” autographed by the Belgian author Kris Van Den Cruyce, a collector of Bhutanese coins and a numismatist:

If that were not enough, a selfless couple friend gifted me a set of two very rare Bhutanese coins: the silver Thala of 1928 and another of 1929, both of which are in mint condition:

This silver Thala is Bhutan’s first milled coin, minted in 1928 under the command of His Majesty the Drukgyal Ngipa. An Englishman by the name of Albert Pearson Spencer rendered the engravings of the coin’s dies. Historians acknowledge that the engraver’s work on our Thala’s dies was his best work ever. Unfortunately there was a mistake in the word "Druk". The Ba-Ra-Ta-Da was erroneously rendered.

To correct the error on the coin of 1928, another order was given to mint some 30,000 more of the silver Thala, the following year – 1929. This time the word “Druk” was correctly rendered as seen from above. Sadly, there was a mistake in the year of coinage. The year of minting was marked as “Tsa Druk Lo”. The Year should have been marked as “Tsa Druel Lo”

I spent two days (my PhotoShoping skills are very poor) recreating the 1929 Thala - as it should have been rendered.
The silver Thala of 1929 should have been marked as above

I am now looking to own the other 2 Zangtrums coined in 1928. Two sizes of these coins were released that year. The larger of the two measured 26.5mm in diameter while the smaller one measured 25.1mm. The larger coin weighed 7.0g and the smaller one weighed in at 4.9g.

This coin is perfectly minted! The word “Druk” is rendered correctly and the year of coinage is also spot on.

It baffles me - if the dies for this Zangtrum was correctly rendered, how did it happen that there was a mistake in the silver Thala? After all, they were minted in the same year, in the same mint and the dies were produced by the same engraver.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Misconception About Vehicle Quota

I just read today’s Kuensel article on vehicle quota. It is so sad ….. clearly some of our lawmakers seem absolutely clueless about the reason behind the award of vehicle quota. Some have even gone to the extent of saying that the quota is given to public employees for long years of dedicated service to the Tsawa Sum. I do not intend to contest this claim - after all we all know the truth.

My endeavor with this post is to inform the misinformed lawmakers.

The Honorable MP’s and NC’s should know that the vehicle quota is NOT given for long and dedicated service. It is given for attaining a certain position - irrespective of whether one has put in long years of service, or whether one has been dedicated or hard working, or merely shamming all one’s life. Integrity, service and dedication are not prerequisite, to be entitled to vehicle quota. I know of public employees who did not know how to execute a print command on the computer keyboard - and yet he got his vehicle quota.

Frankly, let us forget this line of argument - lets get down to brass tacks.

The elected MP’s and NC’s do not need to put in a day’s work in the service of the Tsa Wa Sum, and yet they are entitled to vehicle quota. So then, tell me, is vehicle quota really given to people with long and dedicated service to the Tsa Wa Sum?

The Coronavirus Has The World Shaken

Hi John,

Thank you for your mail a few hours back.

Indeed this Coronavirus is extremely worrying but like you say, July is a long way away. China is a disciplined and determined country with the resources to tackle this with grit and determination. The Chinese government has the courage and resoluteness to do what needs to be done ... so I am confident that they will contain it. My worry is other countries where the virus has found its way – these countries might lack the single-mindedness that is called for, in tackling this dangerous virus.

Bhutan is fortunate in that our government is headed by a medical doctor – he and his cabinet has initiated plans and programs on a war footing and we are certain that we are prepared and sufficiently shielded from the threat of this dangerous virus. Thus thank you for your concern but we are certain that we have been proactive enough to ward off any threat to our lives. As you have read on the TCB website, we are all braced to face this threat with caution and preparedness.

But the world must pray for China and the Chinese people – what they are currently going through deserves all our sympathy. They are the world’s biggest economy. Thus what affects them affects everybody at a global scale. The faster they resolve this virus problem, the faster our recovery will be.

As you know, Bhutan’s most important industry is tourism. I am under no illusion that we will not be hit – we will be, as a result of this outbreak. My only hope is that China will live up to its reputation for swift and determined action, and that damage to us and the rest of the humanity will be minimal, and short lived.

Bye and take care