Sunday, November 26, 2023

A Goat In Place Of A Sheep

The proverbial storm in the tea cup is yet again brewing with the customary zeal – the spirited ado about nothing!

Bhutan’s fourth elections is days away and the nation is abuzz with a million inconsequential questions: Who do you think is going to win? Are you voting? Who are you going to vote for this time? Do you think Dr. Lotay is likely to come back? So forth and so on ……

The five political parties and their promises

Most offer the view that the PDP will most likely emerge as the winning horse. Their logic: people believe that the vote bank of their traditional rival – the DPT – would have been halved and quartered by the two new political parties entering the fray. However, they say that PDP had better pray hard that the DPT does not end up in the final round – the DPT emerging from their ten years of having been made to languish in the Bardo (purgatory) could very well curdle the milk for them.

Others think that the Southern voters will be the king makers given their astuteness and remarkable capability to think collectively - they think objectively while the rest of the Bhutanese tend to be sentimental about their choices.

As for me, I remain unimpressed – for me it would be nothing more than a goat in place of a sheep, or vise-versa. As long as the Captain of the Ship has the rudder firmly within His grip, things should trot along reasonably OK. My worry is something else.

In 2018 when rumor was rife that Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, the incumbent Managing Director of DGPC was joining politics, I gawked. I promptly went to see him. Sitting across the table and sipping black tea, I asked him:

“I understand that Dasho is joining politics. Is that true?”

He said; “Yes, you heard it right - I am told that such a rumor is doing the rounds in certain circles.”

“Are you? But why? I mean, look behind you. The Bura Marp and the Patang hanging behind you are the symbols of the highest honor any person can hope for. What more can you hope to achieve? What greater honor can there be – above and beyond that which you are already decorated with?

I agree that we need good and capable people in the political arena. But that is not to say that the bureaucracy should be drained of them. We need equally capable and dedicated people in the civil service – after all you are the ones who will implement the plans and programs conceived by the political leadership. We need people with strong character in the civil service – people who have the wherewithal to implement and carry forward the plans and programs; people who can ably keep the politicians in the straight and the narrow.

Why is it important that the smartest and the brightest must join politics? Isn't the bureaucracy important?

Afterall, when the dream merchants have dusted and gone – when the winning horse has galloped away with the booty, you will still be around - to try and mop up the bloodied floor and pick up the litter of carcasses - to give hope that there will be another day – a new day when renewed attempts can be made to mend and patch the broken promises – when new dreams can be dreamed, if only to be broken, yet again.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Is It A Forgery Or Is It A Forgery?

Hi Kris,

Thanks …..

Your classification of “FORGERIES” is rather intriguing for me – in the sense that, in the context of Bhutanese coins, what exactly is a forgery? From what I understood is that forgery is:

“The action of forging a copy or imitation of a document, signature, banknote or work of art”.

My understanding is that Bhutan’s coining journey began as a limited forgery – right from the first coinage. In some cases, they were exact copies of the Koch Narayani. From what is apparent is that Bhutan continued to forge some select Narayanis right to the early part of 1900’s.
Silver Half Rupee of Rajendra Narayan of Koch Kingdom: 1770-1772. This coin has a distinctive (X) on its reverse. The Raja was put on the Koch Kingdom throne by Bhutan. This is one of the coins forged by Bhutan. But it may not qualify as a forgery because Bhutan issued the coin mostly in copper, while all the Koch Kingdom’s coins were hammered in silver.

Also, please note the following interesting revelation:

The East India Company accuses Bhutan of producing spurious Narayanis

From the above, the East India Company that ruled most of India during the period under reference believed that Bhutan was forging Narayanis. They were wrong – I believe that Bhutan was actually hammering away real Narayanis using dies acquired forcibly from Koch Kingdom. Now, what is not clear is whether the Bhutanese were aware that they were committing forgeries – or they believed that they were producing money for use in trade with the people in the southern borders of Bhutan, as legal tender. Whatever the case may be, the act would still tantamount to forgery – whether done knowingly or unknowingly!

As one of the recognized authorities on Bhutanese coinage you would have noticed that it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish the Bhutanese coins from that of Narayanis. To me only very few coins can truly be said to be Bhutanese - authenticated by the all-Bhutanese motifs on the coins.

Under the circumstance, I am not sure that any one coin verity can be said to be a forgery – because we do not know if those were coined by unauthorized persons, or were hammered by a ruling Je/Desi/Poenlop/Dzongpoen. Even more confusing, can we pass off a complete forgery as a legit coin - just because it was coined by a legitimate authority?

What do you think?

Bye and take care


Monday, November 20, 2023

The Edifice of Disgrace

As a Khengpa (a person belonging to the Kheng region of Central Bhutan) I cannot help but feel a sense of affinity towards anything even remotely related to Kheng. Thus, when it was announced that the Bhutan Bird Festival would be held once again - after having been suspended for the past three years due to COVID-19 pandemic, I decided that I want to attend the festival - if for nothing, at least to add to the number. Even better, my two American guests also agreed to attend the festival - all three days - from 13th to 15th November, 2023.

First thing upon arrival at Tingtibi on the evening of 12th November, 2023, I headed straight for the festival grounds - to check things out. I did not get past the Welcome Gate - one look at the Gate and I was dumbstruck - my heart sank and I remained rooted to the ground where I stood - incredulous at what I saw plastered all over the Gate.

There were a total of 10 images of different birds and animals depicted on the vertical and horizontal posts and beam of the Gate. To my absolute horror, 5 of the images – or 50% of the total images portrayed - were images of birds and animals that are TOTALLY NON-EXISTANT in the country - let alone Zhemgang District!!!

How is it that any sane person can be capable of such incredibly shoddy work - particularly among people who pride themselves as sane and with eyes wide open? I mean such atrocious blunders can be attributed to mindless zombies - not to educated people with weighty responsibilities. I cannot believe that the whole of Zhemgang Dzongkhag does not have people who can differentiate an African Elephant from that of an Asian one; a Pallas’s Fish Eagle from that of the Bald Eagle; A Black-necked Crane from that of a Red-headed Crane? Where were the Forestry officials in the Dzongkhag? It is fantastic that they do not know the commonest of the most common of the country’s birds and animals.

Waste of precious time notwithstanding, it was so shameful - even worst, it was soooooo telling on the Bhutanese character - clueless and yet adamantly moronic; unwilling to put one’s best foot forward, and yet vehement that rest of the world is steeped in mediocrity!

One has to wonder: Will the Bhutanese people ever improve?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Bhutan’s Unique Democracy

I have been Googling and Googling and Googling … but uncle Google has not been very forthcoming to my queries.

I have been Googling to find out if there was ever a moment in the many thousands of years of democratic culture - where a regulator required political entities to have their party manifestoes appraised and approved by a bunch of shadowy, clandestine persons of unknown origin and competence – before the parties are allowed to speak of them to their electorate. I cannot find such a record – not a single one since the birth of the concept of democracy in ancient Athens around circa 508 BCE.

Political Parties' Manifestoes: Approved, endorsed and sanctified by a bunch of shadowy, clandestine persons of unknown origin and competence

I am of the view that the ECB is utterly confused about their role and responsibilities. But come to think of it – if the ECB can be so unashamed about what they are doing, can it be that we may be the ones who are in confusion, and not them? Hmmmmm looks like this calls for some serious homework – I think I need to read up the Constitution to see what the real deal is.

But for now, it is pretty strange that the ECB announces a democratic election while, at the same time, forbidding the political parties from saying anything that is not approved and authorized by the ECB to be told the electorate. That is democracy?????

Thou shalt not spake beyond what is authorized 

So what are our political parties – puppets and mouth pieces of the ECB?

Damn!! I think I may have been wrong all this while – I think Bhutan and the Bhutanese people may be, after all, UNIQUE as we unabashedly and repeatedly claim we are!