Friday, June 30, 2023

A Case Of Check Without Balance

It is sad - to the pathos to which the governance of the world’s Happiest Kingdom has been reduced to.

How, and when, did we get here? Could the truth be that Mr. Sangay of Haa Wangcha is succumbing to his sense of patriotism and ignoring the ugly truth that we Bhutanese may actually be even “less than mediocre”? Listen to this:

Listening to our Prime Minister respond to MP of Haa Sombaykha questioning the government on why there is a continuing ban on loans in the country, is enough to give you a lump in the throat.

What desperation drives a Prime Minister of a country - the head of the government - to admit on the floor of the Parliament that he and his government was unable to get one public institution to lift the misguided moratorium on loans to the citizens? Is this an isolated case? Or is this a routine happenstance?

What constitutional provisions or other legal provisions empower a public institution from defying a sitting government and its Chief Executive? How is a government to function when some two-bit institution has the audacity to stand in their way and throttle their attempts at development and progress?

It is good that there are checks and balances in place - but this is a case of CHECK WITHOUT BALANCE.

Today a large number of Bhutanese are quick to point fingers at the DNT government’s less than sterling performance - here is then an occasion for us all to introspect and know the ugly truth and the reason behind many of the country’s failures.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Being Naturally Bhutanese

One of the advises I give to my friends and colleagues is this: Be yourself - NOT someone else. It is the easiest thing to do - it comes to you naturally, without the need for pretenses - to be yourself. It is the hardest thing to do - to be someone who you are not. The day you have a need to be someone else who you are not - it is clear that you have lost your self-respect.

I am hugely encouraged to see that we Bhutanese have no such problems - we are naturally ourselves - for proof, look at the following:

With the above, the nation’s premier law-making body has endorsed “pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet” as an activity worthy of state-sponsorship. Clearly they believe that annual cleansing of the civil service’s morality is a state responsibility.

Elsewhere in their earlier deliberations, they have chosen to categorize the civil service as “public servants” - leaving us to wonder what the rest of the country’s population would be termed as - uncivil servants doomed for eternal ill-treatment deserving of step-motherly treatment?

The Bhutanese mentality has to change - until we do, we will continue to languish in poverty and inefficiency. But my personal opinion is that this generation is beyond redemption. It is for this reason that more than a year back, I pleaded with His Majesty to consider taking a different approach at governance. Please read the following:

Time may be running out for us - the Ngar of the present generation is at the lowest ebb, perhaps even none-existent. We do not seem to be able to grasp the true calamitous nature of the outflow of human capital from out of the country - as all calamities go, our troubles will come from the most unexpected quarters … and we will find that we have not the wherewithal to cope with it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

If You Propagate Crisis, You Will Get One

Yesterday evening I found myself an accidental tourist at ThePema by Realm  - attending a presentation by the Himalayan Future Forum, titled “A Conversation with Himalayan Citizens”. Moderated by our own Technology Thought Leader Dr. Cigay Tshering Dorji, the speaker was the very able and respected Sujeev Shakya, author and Chair of Nepal Economic Forum.

The talk was lively and full of interesting anecdotal accounts of the speaker’s journey of self-discovery - the extreme grit and determination with which he applied himself in the conviction that nothing could prevent him from being the very best he wanted to be - to be counted as equal among the very best in the world. He told us that the mountain people were among the most resilient - like the slithering mountain rivulet that will seek out every nook and cranny, every crack and cleft there is to find - in its relentless quest to complete its escape towards the wide open ocean.

He told us of the life lessons he learnt from his many intercourses with multiple governments around the world - the power of self-assertion. His message to us was clear - smallness does not matter - we still have our place among the stars: louder we assert - greater the respect!

During the Q&A session, one among the participants was Mr. Karma, the incumbent CEO of RICBL - a person of outstanding intelligence and gut – one who never stepped with any doubt in his mind. I believe that he is the one person who single handedly shaped the course of the successful journey of Bhutan National Bank. Without him at the helm of things during its formative years, the BNB would not be where it is today. His courage to depart from the conventional and the cautious - that is what managed to rankle the behemoth - even as it gnawed away, chunk by small chunk, at the prude’s business empire.

In Karma’s rejoinder to Sujeev’s viewpoints, he said two words that triggered a chain of thoughts in my mind – one was “CRISIS” and the other being “PEAKING POINT”.

Long after the event, I was sitting with 3-4 friends at my favorite bar - Paday Bistro - sipping honey-lemon tea. I began to speak my thoughts:

Most Bhutanese believe that we are about to enter a crisis phase. Really? Who among the supposedly 800,000 odd Bhutanese has really faced crisis in their lives? Has any one among us seen the true face of crisis? What does it look like? How does it feel to be in the middle of a crushing crisis?

From what I know - the Bhutanese society has been so pampered by kidu from our successive monarchs and governments that there has never been a single occasion where we have had to face a crisis. Even during the thick of COVID-19 pandemic, food, medicine, essential services - even alcohol and tobacco, were delivered to stranded and isolated citizens with clockwork precision.

Crisis is when you have to start to chew your shoelaces in place of food - it is when you have no energy left in your body to rise up from the puddle of your own excreta.

Therefore, it is unwise to propagate CRISIS - if we do, we will surely get one.

There is only one person in the whole of this country who lives and breaths crisis on a daily basis - let us hope and pray that He does not give up hope, caused by our incorrigible ways and mindlessness and, above all, our self-centeredness.

Today, in my view, the biggest calamity facing Bhutan is the whole-scale exodus of human capital from out of the country. And yet, during the entire ongoing National Assembly session, not a single word has been spoken about the malaise. Regardless, the rule of law is that everything will eventually arrive at the point of peaking. So will ours - the exodus will peak at some point. Sadly, unlike in other situations when the peaking is said to bring stability and order and an end to a malaise, in our case the reverse will be true.

When we do arrive at our Peking Point – our apocalypse would be TOTAL!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Nation’s Stepchildren

The eagerly awaited salary increase for the civil service has at long last been announced. It didn’t disappoint - the overriding view among the civil service is that the amount of increase is well within their expectations. That is all hunky dory – the questions that now beg answers to, are:

a.  Is the country likely to see increased efficiency in the civil service, as a consequence?
b.  Can we hope that it will help arrest the exodus of human capital out of the country?

Although the answers to the above two questions are a foregone conclusion, let us give it the benefit of doubt - and keep it mute for the moment. For all we know, it could very well happen. Then again, it could remain a pipe dream - only time will tell.

But what is said to be as certain as day and night - is the customary inflation that the salary raise is guaranteed to usher in, in its wake.

And this is where the larger citizenry find themselves being dealt an unfair deal - the fact that every time the bureaucracy finds itself in the mood - they have the luxury to dip their fingers into public funds; at will, and without so much as by your leave. And, as if they were the children of lesser Gods, the private sector employees are left wondering what their sin had been.

It is time that the government reassess its current viewshed of the private sector. It should realize that the private sector is not the stepson of the country - on the contrary, it is the able bodied Atlas who helps prop up the nation’s pillar of growth and progress.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

A Jog Down The Memory Lane

Few days back, someone from out of the blue - rather a contact from about ten years back, sent me an eMail and asked:

“Do you happen to know where the attached QTH is located in Thimphu?”

Zoro's QTH inside the compound of the Royal Thimphu College, Nabephu, Thimphu. He set it up there so that he may have free access to it whenever he visited Bhutan.
I visited him and his family at his home in Japan in 2001, as his guest. He was a person of unparalleled passion and resilience - what he was willing to do for his hobby is simply mind-boggling!

The sender of the mail was Mr. Jim McCook, a ham radio operator from the USA – with a CallSign W6YA.

A Ham Radio CallSign is a uniquely composed alpha-numeric tag given to a legally registered ham radio operator - no one in the world may use it - it is like the finger print of the operator. My CallSign is A51AA - I could have chosen to take A51YD - but I like "AA" - it means I am "Numero Uno" 😜

Ofourse I was clueless as to where that ham radio shack, or “QTH” in ham parlance, was located - but if I am worth any salt at all, I damn well ought to know where the location was most likely to be: I WhatsApp’ed the President of RTC and asked him:

“Is that structure located within your college compound? Was it activated by a person called “Zoro” – or a Japanese named Mr. Miyazawa?"

“Yes” he confirmed! Including the fact that after the demise of the famous “Zoro”, the disused facility had since been turned into the “Indo-Bhutan Satellite Receiver”.

That established, I logged on to my Blog and went through the posts on “Ham Radio”. It was only then that I realized just how much historical material there was on my blog - on a profuse of subjects.

With particular reference to “Zoro”, please read the following:

I made a resolve to visit my blog more often, from henceforth.

Friday, June 9, 2023

The Scale-winged Nocturnal

I have always been fascinated by the beauty of the moths - my own view is that they are much more attractive and prettier than the butterflies. Their wing patterns are so complex and exquisite - I love it!

Exquisite patterns and beautiful colors

I believe that the above moth is called Brahmaea wallichii, also known as the Owl Moth. It is a moth from the family Brahmaeidae, the Brahmin months - one of the largest species. They are found in both tropical as well as in temperate forests of Bhutan, China, India, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal and Taiwan.

This particular species is named after the botanist Nathaniel Wallich.

In February this year, the BBS reported that after almost a decade of study, a team of researchers from Bhutan’s Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Forest and Research Training, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands discovered almost 2,000 moth species in the country, 26 of which are said to be new to science.

A few months back a book titled "Moths of Bhutan" was released - authored by Cornelis (Cees) Gielis, Maurice Franseen, Frans Groenen and Karma Wangdi, a Khengpa working with the UWIFRT, Bumthang. Some of you may remember that Karma Wangdi rediscovered the Ludlow's Bhutan Swallowtail, our National Butterfly.

It is said that the global population of butterflies and months number a staggering 165,000 species, of which only 18,000 are said to be butterflies.

The above photograph of the moth was acquired by me on June 8, 2023 from Dangrena, Dechenchholing, Thimphu at 5:20PM.

Equipment used to photograph the moth:

     Camera Body                    :  Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
     Lens                                    :  Carl Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZE Makro-Planer
     Shutter Cable Release           :  Canon RS-80N3
     Camera Tripod                    :  GITZO Carbon Fiber GT5541LS
     Tripod Head                    :  Really Right Stuff Ball head Model BH-55

Photographing butterflies is not easy - they are forever on the move and if they are not moving they are shivering. Moths, on the other hand, are simpler to photograph. Being nocturnal, they rest calmly during day - allowing them to be photographed with ease.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Siddhartha Gautama Would Have Made A Lousy Bird Photographer

There is no greater confusion among people that what they mean when they say ….. Birder, Birdwatcher, Bird Guide, Bird Photographer, Ornithologist etc. etc. … I have been trying to help people distinguish one from the other - but with little success. So I gave up - instead I now focus on photographing birds as best as I could - as often as I could - because I am a bird photographer first and foremost, and not an educator!

But everyone knows that photographing birds is not easy - but “not easy” is not the same as “not difficult”. And, it takes fanatical doggedness to succeed at it. You have to be so dogged at it that over time you should begin to develop an uncanny ability to sense the bird - even before you see it or hear it. That is when you know you have arrived - as a bird photographer.

But being able to acquire a bird image is … well, a child’s play. You need the image to be beyond good - it has to be uncluttered, separated from the background and the foreground, the sharpness has to be even throughout, the bird should be positioned in such a way that most of its body should be clearly visible - the head, the beak, eye, belly, wings, and a good bit of the birds back. The lighting should be subdued so that you are able to capture and record its colors - faithfully. Not to forget the twinkle in the eye!

Getting all the above right is still not good enough - the final qualification is the SHARPNESS - the image has to be so sharp that you have to be able to see every single strand of the bird’s whiskers, the subtle color variations, and capture the complex, intricate patterns on the bird’s feathers.

As they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Similarly, the only way to test if you have got your images right is by zooming in for a close-up.

It is for this reason that people like me put in close to two months - every day - day in day out - to attempt to get an image of the quality of the following dainty, pint sized, Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis), measuring all of 9.5 cms/3.74 inches:

I can guarantee you - you do not get a good bird image by brooding under a Mahabodhi Tree like uncle Siddhartha Gautama - trust me, he would have made a lousy bird photographer 😂

Monday, June 5, 2023

Honoring A Donor During A Moment Of The Celebration Of Success & Achievement

Dear Tomo-san,

Greetings from Bhutan. I hope you have received my yesterday’s mail.

Once again may I offer you my CONGRATULATIONS on your numerous roles in the Council and the Associations of your City. Although I am aware that these multiple roles would mean added burden, and responsibility, it is demonstrative that you have earned the trust and faith of your people and authorities around you. I am in no doubt that you would live up to their expectations.

Today I write to convey to you a news that should surely warm your heart and give you a sense of fulfillment, and even, perhaps, joy and pride in your achievements - not only at home but in places thousands of miles away from your own shores.

You may recall that you had organized the donation of funds that went on to secure 85 acres of farmland with solar fencing, in a remote village called Goleng in Zhemgang, Central Bhutan. That was in 2016. In 2017, you followed up with another funding that helped fence the whole village of Nimshong spanning a distance of 7 KMs - another village - yet again in Zhemgang.

These activities were in support of a young and a fledgling agriculture farming cooperative - started by 16 youth from various villages in Zhemgang District - called Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC), which was started in 2014.

In 2018, you donated a large farm tractor to KNC, valued at Nu.1.460 million. This donation was invaluable in every sense - it survived a fire in the processing facility of the KNC in which they lost everything - but the tractor. During the ensuing difficult times the cooperative faced, the tractor helped them earn much needed cash that helped overcome their difficulties.

If that were not enough, during the CODVID-19 pandemic when human and vehicular movements were restricted, the government authorities used your tractor to cart and deliver essential foods to the most remote parts of the District - to people who were under strict lockdown.

As you can see, your generosity has transcended all boundaries - the benefit has been immeasurable, to say the least.

But this day the reason why I write to you goes beyond singing your laurels - I want to let you know where the fledgling cooperative - the KNC - stands today - 8 years since you lent them your helping hand. The KNC as an organization has grown into something that can only be described as - HONORABLE. The Agriculture Department of the government admits that they are a shinning example of what agriculture marketing cooperatives should aspire to be. It is a measure of their success and competence that, for the first time in the history of Bhutan, they hosted the first ever Watermelon Festival in the Kingdom of Bhutan - yesterday: 04/06/2023. I was invited to the event and, therefore, I am able to share some of the following photos of the event.

The event marked the celebration of the 33rd Birth Anniversary of Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen, Queen of Bhutan

First ever Water Melon Festival held in Thimphu on June 4, 2023

Watermelons distributed during the event - eat to your heart's content - all FREE.

You may be happy to know that KNC is behind Bhutan’s largest export consignment to date - that of ten thousand kgs. of turmeric powder. Even better, they tell me that export of a like quantity of ginger is in the pipeline - yet again destined for the export market.

It is my hope that these success stories would warm your heart - and help you see meaning in what you are called upon to do - selflessly.

The KNC has a long way to go - but as you can see, they are on the path of success already - thanks to your hand holding them during their formative years.

Thank you once again on behalf of KNC and the Rotary Club of Thimphu who acted as the conduit for your funding.

Goleng : 2016

Nimshong : 2017

A day trip to Zhemgang by helicopter - to hand over the US$79,000.00 agriculture production project : 2018

 Charity on wheels - a large farm tractor donated to KNC : 2018

Bye and take care.


Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Dawn Of Light

I love the Indian saying:

Bhagwan Ke Ghar Mey Dher Hai, Aandher Nahin: In The House Of God, There Is Delay, Not Darkness”.

I mean it may have taken us a few generations to come to the realization that we had been doing something utterly stupid - but it is clear that the home truth is finally upon us. I am referring to the recent removal of the restrictions on tourists from gaining entry into, what we call - Monument Sites. What the dang hell is “Monument Sites” any way?

I mean imagine - tourists spend upto, and upwards of US$400.00 per day per person to come to Bhutan to experience our culture, tradition, religion etc. ….. and we restrict them from entering those very sites where they are practiced in their most primitive form? PREPOSTEROUS!!!!

On a similar vein, the Royal Government of Bhutan had recently introduced, what they call, “High-End Fishing”. Quite remarkably, they did so with great fanfare - replete with sounds of red-robbed monks beating drums and clanging cymbals and rattling the Drilbu - to mark the launch of the event. And there too we did not fail to insert our signature idiocy - read the following:

Now that the National Monument Fund and Supervision Committee (NMFSC) has taken the lead, can we please renationalize our rules relating to High-End Fishing as well? It is quite idiotic to have the “High-End” fishermen pay close to a thousand dollar a day, and then have them cool their heels off - waiting for an incomprehensible day to pass.

How can you ask them to pay so much and then forbid them from fishing? Or, is the government going to refund the payment for those days when the poor fellows are asked to twiddle their thumbs? Remember, they did not pay to be laid off - but to fish!

If you want the tourist $$ - make it worthwhile for them. That is the rule of the game - either play it by the rules - or GET OUT OF IT!

There are close to two dozen anomalies in the High-End Fishing Rules as it stands now - I have already submitted my views to the government, in writing - in an attempt to bring some semblance of sanity in what they are doing. I am assured that they would attempt to remedy those during the upcoming NA deliberations. I hope so.

It is sinful that we should want to impose our will on our guests - while not willing to give an inch by way of reciprocity and courteous behavior, for their money! Imagine the shame of it - we even want to charge SDF to donors and supporters! Do you call this a human behavior? What kind of morons think up such immoral thoughts?

It is time that the Bhutanese people learn a simple, accepted fact of life:

If we are happy to take, we should be equally happy to give.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

We Cannot Rescue The Whole Of Humanity - But We Can - One Human at a Time

As a Member of Bhutan Stroke Foundation, I was made aware of the distressing condition of a STROKE survivor. Her details are as follows:

Dependents : 3 daughters aged 11, 14, and 16 years of age
Village         : Lhaushing
Gewog         : Tongzhang
Dzongkhag : Trashi Yangtse, Eastern Bhutan

Aged 48 years, she is a single mother. She is without parents or siblings. Housed in a ramshackle hut close to Changbangdu public vehicle parking area in Thimphu, she supported herself and her three young daughters - weaving Kiras and Ghos.

Make your heart the starting point of your journey - you will do well.

During the middle of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the year 2020, she suffered a stroke - resulting in her total physical incapacitation. Consequently she was deprived of the one skill that provided her and her children a livelihood - weaving. She had no choice but to relocate herself back to her ancestral home in Trashiyangtse - a desperate, last ditch move that was the only option that was open to her.

That was a wise move - the community in her village rallied around her and rendered her support. Some helped her grow vegetables in her kitchen garden, some tiled her fallow land on her behalf, and yet others provided all essentials to keep her home hearth burning. Life for her has been hard - but she has been living a life, nonetheless - proof that community vitality is still alive in rural Bhutan.

During April of this year I stepped in and, through a kind friend in the USA, he managed to get an American Foundation to come to her aid. Henceforth this Foundation will fund the cost of educating the three daughters - they will be provided with everything they need - school uniform, casual clothing, shoes, socks, lunch boxes, umbrellas, panties, and sanitary pads, pencils, books, crayons, facial creams etc. etc., including pocket money of Nu.500.00 per month.

But what about the mother? The American Foundation helps with educating underprivileged children - they do not support struggling mothers. This is where organizations such as the Bhutan Cancer Society and Bhutan Stroke Foundation, lent a helping hand. Through their help, a bakery is being set up in the proximity of her village. The income from this venture will, it is hoped, help the mother be less dependent on the village community. Market for the modest production from this bakery stands assured.

While the bakery equipment is already in place, I now need to train workers on the use of the machine and in the skills of baking. I need to provide funds for the initial raw materials needed during the training, and funds for training in skills of baking and the seed money to kick-start the enterprise and to keep it going during its seminal period. And it is at this stage that I approach the three of you - my siblings - and appeal to your sense of charity. Please help me overcome the final hurdle - to make available the funding to kick-start the enterprise of charity and compassion. I need you to help me put together the funding as follows:

1. Cost of training for four people, for 2-3 days
      including cost of travel to the training venue        Nu. 14,000.00
2. Trainers Fees                                                                 4,000.00
3. Accommodation for the trainees                                 2,500.00
4. Training material during the training period                 5,500.00
5. Seed money to keep the enterprise going               20,000.00
     Total Fund Requirement:                                Nu. 46,000.00

For this small fund requirement, I am limiting my appeal to only three of you: Yangchen, Leki and Lhakpa. I will chip in as well. Please contribute, as you are able. Your contribution may be transferred to my Bank Account, as follows:

Bank of Bhutan
Bhutan National Bank

During mid this month I visited Trashiyangtse with the express purpose of meeting the mother and the three daughters. I met with the schoolteachers of the two schools in which the three girls study. I am assured that the girls are very well behaved and disciplined and courteous - traits that go to make useful citizens of the future.

Currently, the youngest girl aged 11 years of age is the mother’s sole in-house support system - she changes her pads for her and helps her manage her nature’s call. She baths her and cooks and feeds her on a daily basis. Two elder daughters are away in the school hostels to be of any help. The following are the three girls:

We cannot hope to rescue the whole of humanity - but certainly it is within us all to try and rescue one of them - one at a time.

Please help!

( Acho Yeshey Dorji )