Saturday, June 26, 2021

Dismantling Evil

Achieving success is dependent on a great number of factors all coming together: financial muscle, human resource, dedication, hard work, perseverance, commitment, experience, knowledge and wisdom. And yet, even if you do have all that at your command, there is every chance of failure.

On the other hand, dismantling a great evil requires nothing much – only courage and willingness to perform ones duty and obligation. If we are able to dismantle evil, good will definitely prevail – there is no chance of failure.

This is what I said in one of my earlier articles on this Blog – that since achieving greatness seems a remote possibility given what we are, let us shift gear and work at dismantling evil that is hindering progress and growth. We have gotten into the bad habit of missing the forest for the trees.

The above is what I wrote on this Blog on June 4, 2021.

Given our limitations, it is not easy to achieve great things – but certainly dismantling evil is doable – it does not take money – it takes guts and a sense of commitment. And that is what the DNT has done – dismantled an evil the consequence of which not many seems to have understood. The lifting of ban on the sale of tobacco products is a move that is most welcome, and very sensible.

There are no dearth of weirdos who will ague that smoking is against our religion – ask them how and why – they have no answers – at most they will give you equally weird justifications. Some will argue that it costs the nation – in terms of health care. But they fail to understand that even boozers get free health care in Bhutan.

The ban on tobacco should have never happened. It happened and it has caused all sorts of problems. Sadly it was the government that I supported who imposed it. Historically bans and prohibitions have caused bigger problems than it has solved. American history is rife with tragedies related to the prohibition in the early 1900’s. I hope future governments will remember this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

India On The Road To Success!

Finally things seem to be falling into place for India – in its efforts at vaccinating its citizens against the COVID-19. India’s success is good news for Bhutan – on many fronts.

I have been truly encouraged by the falling numbers in new cases in India. Their figures for the past one week have been as follows:

22nd June, 2021 54,393

21st June, 2021 39,096

20th June, 2021 53,009

19th June, 2021 58,588

18th June, 2021 60,800

17th June, 2021 62,409

16th June, 2021 67,294

One can see that the number of new cases has consistently fallen every day for the past one week. If this keeps up, Bhutan should see some respite soon enough. There is no reason why India should not succeed. They have all the resources at their disposal. And now the political will seems to be in place too.

Here is wishing India and the Indian people the VERY BEST OF SUCCESS.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Amazing Institution Called Rotary

The Rotary Year 2020-2021 is about to end. And our Club is thanked for our contribution to humanity. Every year a number of Club Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu make personal contribution to the Rotary International’s World Fund. This year too we did our part – most of our Members donated personal money for the cause of the Rotary.  Ofcourse what we contributed is not even one thousandth of what the Rotary community contributed to Bhutan. But it is about leaving our footprint – which we have never failed to do, year after year.

Although the above Thank You Note is addressed to me personally, in reality the Club is being thanked. My name appears since in my capacity as its Secretary, I am the primary contact for The Rotary Foundation (TRF)

This Rotary year, the global community of Rotarians has helped do humanitarian projects worth US$139.00 million across the glob. You can imagine – if the Rotary Foundation can do so much in a pandemic year, how much would have been done during normal times.

It is an amazing institution made up of amazing people with equally amazing spirit of giving.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Rotary Club of Thimphu is Honored

Few months back, an independent international consultant contacted me with a request to contribute a write up, on what we at the Rotary Club of Thimphu, considered our most meaningful community service project. The article was sought for inclusion in the Rotary International magazine. Two things were to be understood clearly:

1.  The project I choose should not be one funded with funding from the Rotary Foundation

2.  It is not necessary that the project and the write-up I submit will feature in the Rotary magazine since the project and the write-up would be assessed at the global level – among over 35,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide, made up of over 1.2 million Rotary members.

I chose our 3-years signature project – “BHUTAN2020” that was launched in 2018 and which will be concluded this September.

Under this project valued at AS$ 1.00 million, the Rotary Club of Thimphu with support from Disaster Aid Australia (DAA), would deliver 120 patented SkyHydrant water filters to 120 of Bhutan’s largest schools.

If it were not for the pandemic, we would have successfully concluded the project last month itself – two months ahead of schedule. The fact that the Rotary International featured our project on their magazine, in preference to million other endeavors, means that we did well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Lockdown Can Wait

Thimphu’s THIRD LOCKDOWN when it was announced 3 days back was abrupt and instantaneous, and without warning. Considered from the point of prudence, it was spot on.

Even as the lockdown was being announced of which I was clueless, I was driving down to town to make some purchases. When I reached a certain outlet, the place was jam-packed with shoppers. I refused to enter. I moved back to Motithang to do my purchases at the regular store where I generally do my shopping. That store was also jam-packed. It dawned on me that something was not quite right.

I was told a LOCKDOWN had just been announced – effective 6.00PM. It was few minutes past 6.00PM.

Through the door, I told the store owner that I am not entering his shop. I requested him to deliver what I wanted - at home. I rattled off the items I wanted ---- he agreed.

Hours later I got a call from the storeowner informing me that he would soon deliver my order. I said no thank you – it is not necessary. I do not want them.

The reason: I did not want him to bring the virus into my home. I feared that if there were any undetected active cases in the community, he would surely have picked it up – given the massive throng in his store.

The lockdown was good and necessary …. I would call for it again and again. But the way it is to be implemented needs serious pondering.

I am told that people were stranded on the road for hours. A number of vehicle accidents were reported.

The reason: Upon hearing of the lockdown, people did not heed the call for lockdown – instead they rushed out to stock up. They choked up the traffic, they jammed up the shops – so bad that some shop owners voluntarily downed shutters, because they could not handle the crowd.

The result of all these was that the rule of physical distancing was ignored. People compromised their safety – if there are undetected active cases in the community, you can guess the outcome of this mindlessness:

Our FOURTH LOCKDOWN …. very, very soon.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Greening The Dustbowl

 Someone had said it quite accurately:

“If nature and the environs contained within it are to have a chance, the human race has to go extinct.”

The good news is that nature and the environment is destined to survive because at the rate we are going and the direction towards which the human race is headed, its extinction is assured.

Even as we speak of lofty ideals and achievements such as GNH and position our country as a nation with negative CO2 emission, our forest cover is shrinking and our mountainsides bear ugly scars of digging and wanton destruction.

Recently I was made aware of an initiative by a voluntary group called the "Bhutan Forest Restoration" headed by Sonam Gyeltshen, at the Kuenselphodrang – to restock the mountainside with trees, through planting tree saplings. It is an encouraging effort that will perhaps contribute to the greening of the capital city that has now been turned into a dustbowl. How bad the situation is can be determined every morning when you notice that your car’s body is swathed in a thin layer of fine dust. It is clear what we are all breathing, all day long.

Thousands of tree saplings are being planned to be planted on the mountainside of Kuenselphodrang. I am not sure how successfully they will follow through the plan. Nonetheless I am encouraged that we are, for once, putting our money where our mouth is. Thus, I decided to contribute one Stihl earth auger to help speed up the digging of holes for the saplings.

On an average it was recorded that the STIHL auger dug more than 3 sapling holes per minute during its maiden test run this morning. More than a thousand saplings have been planted by the day's afternoon today at Kuenselphodrang.

I am not a rich man that I can afford to donate equipment worth close to Nu.70,000.00. The truth is that a seriously generous person offered me Nu.50,000.00 as Semso - upon the demise of my late dad. Of that money, I donated Nu.15,000.00 to pay for the tuition fee of a young girl of Class 10 in Punakha. So now the balance Nu.35,000.00 is being surrendered for the sake of our natural environment – by partially covering the cost of the Auger, that will help restore back to nature, trees that we robbed from it. I will find the balance money, somehow.

I believe that this is more meaningful and practical - than offering the Semso to some sleazy lama or a temple somewhere. It is my belief that God has no need for houses or roads, or that he would be found going hungry.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Reason And The Tradition Behind The Observance Of Holiday On The First Day of Snow

Currently I am chasing the truth on when exactly coining began in Bhutan. Some say 1790 - others say something else. I am now even confused about the term “Matang”. I was dead set on calling it “Maartang” with the belief that the word is an amalgamation of two separate words: “Maar” = Red …. “Tang” = coin. But now I find that would be completely wrong – because the term “Matang” was used even before the time of Zhabdrung. There was no red colored coins then.

To add to my confusion, another very rarely used term popped up: Nyingtang Ghatika. This is said to be a silver coin hammered in a mint in a place called Ghatika.

So I began to hunt for anything related to Nyingtang Ghatika. My search has so far yielded noting, except that Nyingtang is a Bhutanese term meaning “old coin”. But all has not been in vain. While not related to Nyingtang Ghatika, I stumbled on to something that perhaps very few Bhutanese would know about:

The reason and the tradition behind the observance of holiday on the first day of snow.

The oral account of the source attributes the tradition to His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck, the Drukgyal Nyipa. It started in Domkhar Palace in Bumthang. Domkhar Palace was supposedly constructed as a honeymoon Palace for His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck and his queen Her Majesty Phuntsho Choeden.

His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck used to spend his summer months in Domkhar and Wangdichhoeling Palaces. Winter months were spent in Trongsa Dzong, Thruepang Palace, but mostly in Kuenga Rabten Palace.

After the first day of the arrival of snow in Domkhar, His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck would serve a grand feast to all the Boegarps and Zingarbs and the Chaangarps serving at the Dzong. He would then announce that from next day they could go home for a break.

With the arrival of snow in Domkhar, His Majesty would then move to his summer residences – Trongsa Dzong, Thruepang Palace and Kuengarabten Palace. Thruepang Palace was built to accommodate Her Majesty Queen Phuntsho Choeden who was not allowed dwellings inside the Trongsa Dzong. When His Majesty desired the company of his queens, he would either visit Thruepang Palace or Samchoeling Palace where his second queen, Her Majesty Ashi Pema Dechen resided.

The above historical account was narrated to Lam Kezang Chhoephel of APIC, by his late grand uncle Sonam Wangdi of Koortoe Jarey who served in the courts of both the 1st and the 2nd Kings. He was a member of the inner circle of the 2nd King – known as Nungsheb. He began as a Tohze at the age of 13, to fill-in for his deceased father who also served as a Chaangarp at the court of the first king.

His Majesty the third king was born in Thruepang Palace.

In keeping with tradition, on the seventh day of his birth, the child prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had to be taken outside in the open air. The most trustworthy, virtuous and providential person was chosen to carry the child prince.

Sonam Wangdi was chosen for the honor. In appreciation for that act, Her Majesty Phuntsho Choden would gift Sonam Wangdi two woven Thermai Gho and Nu.3,000.00 every year, until his death in 1980.

Sonam Wangdi was also a member of the retinue of over 300 who accompanied Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck during his visit to India in 1906. Of the number of places the entourage visited in India, Sonam Wangdi recalled visiting the Ghatika mint. In his words, Sonam Wangdi described the sound of minting, thus:

Graap …. Tsing …. Graap …. Tsing …. Graap …. Tsing…. Graap …. Tsing…. !!

It is amazing that Ghatika Mint was still operational in 1906. I will need to cross check this. The sound “Graap …. Tsing” appears to describe the minting of coin on a mechanized coin press, and not the sound of hammering. The sound “Graap” would denote the sound of pressing the planchet and “Tsing” would be the sound of the finished coin hitting the ground or on to a pile of coins inside a holding ampule.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Making Up For Nature's Occasional Quirks

Achieving success is dependent on a great number of factors all coming together: financial muscle, human resource, dedication, hard work, perseverance, commitment, experience, knowledge and wisdom. And yet, even if you do have all that at your command, there is every chance of failure.

On the other hand, dismantling a great evil requires nothing much – only courage and willingness to perform ones duty and obligation. If we are able to dismantle evil, good will definitely prevail – there is no chance of failure.

This is what I said in one of my earlier articles on this Blog – that since achieving greatness seems a remote possibility given what we are, let us shift gear and work at dismantling evil that is hindering progress and growth. We have gotten into the bad habit of missing the forest for the trees.

All these thoughts came flooding back into my mind when I stopped by the following display board erected at Dochu-La, yeserday afternoon on my way back from visiting a project site in Wangduephodrang:

The huge display board at Dochu-La. A collaborative work between the TCB and the Rotary Club of Thimphu. The display board depicts all the peaks of the Eastern Himalayan mountain range that can be viewed from Dochu-La on a clear day.

A close-up of the Display Board containing full information depicted on it. More than two years since its installation, I am glad to note that the board has not faded, mainly because of the media used in its printing.

There is no denying that Dochu-La is the most visited tourist site in Bhutan – more than 95% of all tourists visiting Bhutan drive up to Dochu-La pass. By contrast, the much-touted Taktsang provably does not get even 20% of the tourists, given its location.

Visitors drive up to Dochu-La with only one purpose in mind – to view the great expanse of the snow-capped Eastern Himalayan mountain range. Unfortunately, most of the time clouds that blanket the mountain range block the view. It is painful to see the look of disappointment on the faces of the tourists. Although every body must accept that nothing is certain in nature, it is incumbent upon us, the hosts, to try and make up, if we can, for nature’s occasional quirks. Thus I requested the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to install a large display board depicting the full mountain range that can be viewed from Dochu-La, on a clear day. I offered to provide the necessary photograph - free of cost, including the supervision of the printing of the image, and construction and installation of the board. They agreed and thus the huge display board came up - as it stands now - so that on days when the mountain range is not visible, the visitors can walk over to the display board and see the view that they missed.

Now, hopefully, the visitors will moan: Awwwww ---- we missed it!! Instead of cursing: Awwwww ---- what a waste of time!!

Let us learn humility in doing small things, which we can - so that big things, which we are unable to, could fall into place.

One small but meaningful dismantling has been the removal of the Immigration gate at Hongtsu. I have been going hoarse asking for its removal because it was stupid to harass the tourists going up to Dochu-La to stop and make entry at the gate. After all, Dochu-La is within the same Thimphu Dzongkhag. Incredible as it may sound, it has taken many decades for the decision makers to see the folly of their decision - but I see that the gate has finally been removed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Life’s Journeys And Its Rewards

People ask me: 5 years, 60 months and 1,825 days of having worked for the Rotary, what do you have to show for it. I dare say, many, many things – of which two are my crowning glories. One is that I have tirelessly worked to give back to society from which I have taken. I believe that I can live with myself in peace in the knowledge that I have had the opportunity, and took it, to pay my dues to society, in full. The other is the heartwarming acknowledgement, such as one of the following:


28 May 2021, 07:30 (4 days ago)

Hi Yeshey

The truth is when you move on from Rotary, you are leaving Bhutan and the world a better place.

The WASH Forum, your words, the words of Kaloy Manlupig from the Philippines, confirmed to me I have done the same.

My journey with Rotary is also coming to an end, I turned 74 this year (at 67, Yeshey you are still young), originally, like you I was going to resign at the end of this Rotary year. Since attending the Wash Forum I have decided to give Rotary one more year, the work you and your Club have done in Bhutan, what Kaloy has done in the Philippines, they are great stories and they need to be told and shared, they are the stories that will attract new members to Rotary, so for the next Rotary year, that will be my farewell gift to Rotary.

I may ask you from time to time when you are available to share your story by Zoom.

It is my intention once Covid19 is put to rest, to do a farewell tour to thank all the great people I have had the privilege to know and work with on my journey, you and Bhutan are on that list.

Please stay in contact and when your books are published, please accept this email as my order for an autographed copy of each.

Thank you Yeshey.

Looking forward to that day when we meet again.

Best regards



I exit the Rotary at the end of this month. The institution of Rotary is like no other. This is an organization where the more you give even more you receive. But certainly I can say with confidence that if you have nothing to give, this organization is not for you.

Nine years back while I was photographing birds in the wilderness of Sengore and Yongkala, someone had nominated me as a member of a new Rotary Club that was being established in Bhutan by the erstwhile DPT government. To this day I am clueless as to who that person was. Whoever he or she was, I thank the person for giving me the opportunity to serve. I also thank the DPT and its leadership for their service and surrender and self-sacrifice. The Rotary Club of Thimphu is their gift to the nation and the people of Bhutan. And the Club did not disappoint - it has delivered community service projects in excess of Ngultrums one hundred and thirty million - in the last 9 years since its establishment. Additionally, Nu.25.00 million worth of projects (7 of them) are in the pipeline.