Friday, April 3, 2020

Subtle Art

in this book, Mark Manson humorousely put forward that all Human beings have flaws and our capabilities are limited.

He advides us to know our limitations and accept them. Although it is painful and often bitter, he believes the real empowerment comes from embracing them. He also says that not everybody can be extraordinary. Being honest should first start with oneself and is always uncomfortable.

Of the many subtle art of life, he says that to be happy in life, one should handle our adversity better and stop being positive all the time. Our quality of life also depends on values system and principles we believe in.

Life is not long and one day we all will die. In this brief span of time we are all tormented by a thing called "legacy projects". Are they all worth our f*ck? Please read it for yourself.

Have a nice day.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Buzzed up by IWP

Saturday is supposed to be my off day. But somehow I landed up in my office. I was preparing to submit my self-evaluated IWP for 2017-2018 period. Earlier it was called PE. It is the shortened version for Performance Evaluation. Those were good old days. Irrespective of your output, it wasn’t difficult for any civil servants to achieve 3.9 out of 4.

Coming back to IWP, I was running through files and was trying to recall all the activities I have undertaken in my recent past. At one time I felt lost not because I was indolent, but because I had too much to document in the eleventh hour. Like it or not, today we have system before us, which demands us to spend more time on documentation than working. Few days ago, I informed all my colleagues to submit their IWPs along with evidences and justifications. But few of them looked at me as if I boxed on their face. Interestingly, I have some friends who still think that Max Online system is some kind of exotic snack.

In their past few years, our HRD people in their attempt to simplify things, they have doubly complicated the system. A good reform should come gradually. If it doesn’t benefit, it shouldn’t do any harm. These are basic attributes of a reform. Conversely, most of the reforms before us are rather imposed! Overall, it did more harm than good. So called the moderation exercises and forced ranking created rift between colleagues. In the first ever moderation exercise, there were news of brawling chiefs. It could be a joke but I heard how some chiefs got hold of each other’s neck. Should anybody fail to follow the reform notifications, they are threatened. Some dreadful notifications said ‘Your promotions would be withheld’ while others said, ‘Individual would be barred from availing training opportunities’.

Amidst countless reforms initiated by present group of HRD experts, I wonder whether there is anything left to be reformed by next set of people who would soon replace them. Some of their reforms are so confusing that you need a brain like whatever to understand them.  When they said ‘S’ level officials would get a promotion every 5 years (in place of normal 4 years), the sky fell on thousands of families across the country. Some families are still struggling to recover from the shock of having to lose their precious extra year for a promotion. Affected officials were swift to declare a war of words on the battlegrounds of social media. Sadly, as expected we didn’t see them win. they ought to remember this: 'Bosses always win and are always right'. In the name of developing specialized professionals, people in the education and finance are forever chained in their redundant professions. Some say this is another classic case of breach of Constitution. But for now let the matter rest with legal minds.

Later, a high profile HRD official visited our office to shed light on their well-intended reforms. As expected there weren’t much good news. In a hushed up meeting, poor teachers were briefed by DEOs to keep their mouth shut. But here is what I understood. Those affected officials would draw more benefits when they retire loo. While their good intention cannot be discounted, economically speaking, this is a tragic affair. In the long run we are all dead!  Why should we sacrifice our beautiful present for unforeseen bleak future?

If my memory serves us well, this is what happened few years ago. Much talked PCS came with a big bang, but remorsefully, it soon disappeared into the obscurity like a vague echo. We have now system called “Super Structure” (SS) supported by a grand pillar called IWP. Thanks to the grandeur of IWP, in two years we have more perplexed people in civil service than ever. In a desperate attempt to submit his IWP, one colleague of mine rushed in my office. He said, “Sir, my duty is to stand and guard the gate at the indo-Bhutan Border. How should I justify my output?”. After a long pause, when nothing came to my mind I told him to go back and take a good picture of himself standing at the gate and upload it.

I wonder whether IWP is a total invention or a borrowed idea. Whatever it may be, we have a reason to worry about the goodness it will do to our system. May god bless goodly intended SS system and may it bring immeasurable glory to sons and daughters of Pelden Drukpa who put in heart and soul to in service  to Tsa-wa-sum.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Just my Thoughts

Finally, after more than a decade, Project DANTAK cryingly completed the construction of much hyped Chukha-Damche bypass road. Like many other Bhutanese commuters, I am excited too about shortened distance and prospect of cost saving on ever expensive fuel.  In an opening ceremony, our Prime Minister said, the road would remain as a symbol of Indo-Bhutan friendship. But I have other feelings. That patch of road would remain as a symbol of Project DANTAK’s unceasing love for constructing (so called the best) roads for us. They have been building roads for us far too long and I think it’s about time they allow us to do it for ourselves. We thank them for all their love and support and they should now rest. Today we have our own national builders who are technically more equipped. We have work force who possess skills and experience in building our own roads and bridges, if not hydro powers. But it’s the irony of the century that we still depend so much on some of the substandard foreign builders. Long time ago, I once met an official from DANTAK. I asked him whether the bypass would actually see the lights of completion days. I made a reference to India-China competition and told him that elsewhere in China, they are building 78 km of roads per night. But here you are taking ages to build just 29 KM road. Unable to tolerate my mild criticism, the official got mad and left the place.

Yesterday evening, I was watching some news on CNN and NDTV channels. Most of the contents are as disappointing as it can get. Americans are scratching their heads while their President continue to wreak havoc in political spectrum. Historically, it’s astonishing to see American President honeymooning with Russian President in a closed door room and later admitting that he fumbled with a simple word ‘Would’.  

In India, mob lynching and raping it seems have become the order of the day. On the other hand, BJP is obsessively fearful about the dynastic Congress and Muslim vote bank. But let’s be honest, what is not so dynastic in Indian Politics? Besides Gandhis, Look at the Lalus and Sinhas of Bihar, the Yadavs  and Yogis of UP, The Abdullahs and Muktis of J&K, Solankis and Patels of Gujarat,  Jogis and Shuklas of Chhattisgarh. The list will go on. Now with Modi in the center, there is an emergence of strong man politics and the world is Namo there. In brief, there is nothing great to learn from oldest and biggest democracies of the world at the moment.

There is this jolly guy called Richard Quest who says, the racial harmony is a cord yet to be struck in America. And in the similar line, I thought religious harmony in a secular India is another cord yet to be struck.

In my office, world cup fever is yet to subside. Some won and many lost their bets.  In between, wave of momo party and pizza party are happening haphazardly from the winners. For the last two days, I was busy moving between the groups, eating momo, drinking tea and munching slices of pizza. The slim advantage of being a senior in the office is that you get multiple invitation and in the end you risk getting stomach disorder.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Plight of Being a Monkey Personality

Once a friend of mine asked me my date of birth. I said, I was born sometime in 1980. "Oh! You are a Monkey personality then". I said yes. "You know what?” He continued. As per the astrological facts, monkey personalities will not have an easy life. He also said that Monkey personalities may toil extra in life but their efforts may never yield fitting appreciations. 'Is it?' I replied. As a matter of fact, life wasn’t easy. For that matter, I think life isn’t easy for anyone. Starting from a minute ant to a giant elephant, I see life as a constant source of struggle. I see life as an ongoing enterprise to survive. 

Especially, in Buddhist astrology there is widespread believe among the people that a person born in the year of monkey and who bear unique birthmark called Mewa Nye Nak  are doomed to prosper less in life. It’s a disappointing remark. But such are words monkey personality get to hear on a daily basis. These are worst prophecies to have been foretold ever. Based on these insights, I thought maybe I should do some personal reflection on my Monkey personality. 

Well, I was born and brought up in a very remote village. I did not  know about the conditions of other households in my village then, but in my case, eating rice meal (any rice) was a luxury! Provisions were as scarce as it can get. A humble fish curry for a New Year celebration was equivalent to having a Meal of a King! Electricity and roads did not exist. I don’t know if that has anything to do with being a monkey personality.

When I graduated and got into Government job, I thought those were the last days of my unhappy monkey personality. As I look back thirteen years hence, it appears that my monkey personality came with me, all along.  Very recently, some HR commission rejected my promotion proposal. As a Revenue and Customs official, I thought my merit would be based on the additional revenue contributions I have made. An extra contribution of more than Nu. 33 million to our impoverished government exchequer would fetch me an early promotion. In my airport days, under my In-charge ship, I and my team made a contribution of worth more than Nu. 24 million through gold and silver seizures. Let us not forget other contribution me and my team made through the seizures of undeclared foreign currencies. The amount ran into millions! For being a man behind the action, I thought my promotion would come easily. Sadly, it was not to be.  It seems the myth of Monkey personality did the rest of the magic. Today morning, much to the delight of all our friends, one of our colleague who got promoted was offering a tea and momo party. I told them all that I would have hosted a grand lunch, if only my promotion came through.

Last month, I had a mild argument with some accounts officer in the Ministry of Finance. For some reason known only to himself, he adamantly refused to sanction travel allowance to me and my boss for an official travel we made to a place called Rangpur in Bangladesh. More than a month passed and there was no sign of our allowance coming. So I made a call. I started the conversation with all humility. I respectfully pleaded him to release the payments. But he acted more stubborn. When he did not relent, I told him that I am going to withdraw my claim altogether! Much to my annoyance, he hanged the phone before I was done talking. Two weeks later, we received our payments. A marginal deduction of 25% was made from our actual claim. Monkey or not, I thanked god. I did not die in between but survived to receive my allowance! 

Coming back to the most coveted issue of foreign travels, I feel some civil servants in our country simply live to travel abroad! In my recent time, I have realized how much of horse trading it takes to avail one travel opportunity. In my fortunate years, I have travelled and made lot of memories too. But in most cases, I returned home more broke than ever. There were times I survived on pig ear soup and stolen breakfasts. This year was not bad. I travelled thrice already. One to Bangladesh (Bumarami/Rangpur) to have a meeting with our counterparts on facilitating our trade. And two to India (both to Fulbari) to request Indian authorities to facilitate our stone export to Bangladesh. In all three cases, I travelled the perilous highways of West Bengal. Someday, when my monkey personality myth cease to be my obstacle, I wish to travel beyond India and Bangladesh too. 

Last time there was a hush talk in the town. I do not know the factual status of the story. It goes like this. Some Dasho cum Malik had coaxed an innocent girl to spend a night in Hotel with him. As per other talks in the town, it was said that after a momentous night in the hotel, the extravagant Dasho cum Malik lavishly gifted a girl with a bank cheque. The next morning, the innocent girl approached the bank to withdraw the money. Her cheque got bounced. Somebody checked her kaytse and found out that she was a monkey personality too!!! 

Times do not change

Often we think 'times's changed'
And often we say, it really did. 
But it's not.
We have four seasons.
There is sun and there is moon.
There is rain and there is shine,
There are rainbows,
There are clouds,
It's summer when its summer,
Like a running stream,
Rest of the seasons follows!
Time's not changed!
It is rather us who have evolved over much. 
We have become pernicious,
We have become venomous, 
In thought and in action. 
We say something,
And mean something else. 
We think we are never wrong,
We think we are too saint to be critiqued. 
Self gain and self glories are 
But mantras we chant.
They are the in fact the only mantra we know.
We are emotional integligence deficit,
We are Irrational, insecure beings,
We preach,
We assume,
We expect,
And we demand. 
We are the Rebels!
Risen at the expense of others.
We have no guilt for the sins. 
We are vengeful bosses,
We took the rightful seats of others. 
We are indifferent to others hard work. 
We are warring leaders,
We survive on our evil motives.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Alive in Phuentsholing

Finally, I was able to give some time to my long forgotten blog. I have changed the title (from "Memoirs and Musings" to "Life in Phuentsholing" ) and I wish to continue my passion for writing once again. 

To begin with, I turned 38 this year. Thanks to the saline waters of Phuentsholing, today I have more gray hairs on my head than my elder brother do. Thanks again to the prosperous Phuentsholing, I now weigh mighty 84 compared to fitting 73 of my Paro days. Despite the relentless heat, dust and pollution of Phuentsholing, my kids seem to like the air in Phuentsholing. They are growing up nice and big. Recently, I discovered the reason behind my shapeless slippers. Pelden, my elder daughter has been using them, the whole time!. Now I am afraid, she might as well use my brand new sneakers. I paid a fortune of Rs. 2500 to buy them! Online! She is not even thirteen and I wonder what number of shoes she will wear in days to come. My other girl, Sonam turned 10 yesterday. I was bit nostalgic for the fact that her birth took me to the most dreaded place on earth. To the police station and subsequently to the Court of law. (it's a long story still available on my blog to read) While having our breakfast, I wished her a happy birthday. She ran towards me and gave me the longest hug of her life. I asked her what gift she wanted from me. She said "CAKE". My youngest girl, Nima has changed a great deal too. From a chubby boy-looking baby, she has now become a fashion minded girl with passion for singing. On the other side, my only son, Jamtsho has been switching between Toepisa and Phuentsholing. Thanks to her granny, he was brought up in a village, -away from the metro junks. He is not even four but has a body of six! How can I not consider this as blessings? At time his obsession for trucks and trailers makes me wonder whether he is an incarnate truck driver! 

Last June, on one ominous day, I got my promotion proposal rejected. There is a charm in facing rejection, some people say, but it was difficult for me to believe the out come. In an utterly unceremonious fashion, I was handed back my mountains of documentary evidences. For now all I can do is to look back and see why things did not fare well. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

From Gelephu

1st February 2016. New RRCO complex for Gelephu region was inaugurated by His Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Minister of Finance. Officials from the Ministry of Finance and the members of parliament representing from the region were present with him. Present at the inauguration ceremony were the retired civil servants and the officials from the Sarpang Dzongkhag. Headed by Dasho Thrompon, Officials from the Gelephu Municipal Corporation were also present along with the officials from RBA and RBP. 

I am not so sure about the figure, but I roughly heard that an amount to the tune of Nu. 176 million was spent on the entire project. The structure looks unique and I should say (as spoken by other speakers) that it’s a first of a kind to have ever been built in Bhutan. Looking at the giant pillars at the entrance, I am sure the strongest of the tremor would do little or no damage to the building. Another most visible feature of the building is the lavish use of glass on the outside walls. It looks fashionable, but nevertheless here is one thing that is bothering my imagination. All the glass sheets are stuck to the metal frame by simple adhesive glue. Some say it will act like a cushion in case of tremor. But I am doubtful. 

The massive project was incepted in 2012. In a period spanning over three years, lot has been said about the project. By then the regional office has seen three different Regional Directors come and go. I have particularly heard about the irresponsibleness of the contractor which made our Secretary, Director and Regional Directors go frantic. There were times when he disappeared without a trace, halting the progress of the project altogether. The massive pillars and the amount of space gone useless at the lobby has often been the subject of ridicule and discussion among the officials. 

But on the 1st February, 2016, on an astrologically chosen day to mark the completion cum inauguration of the complex, it was all a different talk. Finally all the people had so many good things to say. Some were comparing the structure to a Dzong. While others were praising the contractor for his hard work and dedication, I think it’s the combined effort of many concern people who brought this success story. 

To me, project like this shows the vision our leaders. It shows the farsightedness of the officials who are administering the Ministry of Finance. Being able to prepare for the unforeseen future events with certain degree of accuracy, I believe is the key ingredient of a leader. With an inauguration of a building that can house offices for over 200-300 officials, responsible officials, i think both past and present have done a justified forecasting, because in due course of time, Gelephu, with all the open plain is surely going to become a real commercial hub of Bhutan. Only thing is that the situation in the Indian state of Assam should improve. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reporting From "the Crime Hub" of Bhutan

Happy Happy belated new year folks! I hope 2016 bring us much happiness and prosperity.
Phuentsholing Gate Then
I am visiting my blog in a long long time and honestly, I am finding it very difficult to begin begin this post. Although I have many things to share I simply do not know which one I should do first. 

Well, to keep this post going, let me begin by writing about my experiences in Phuentsholing. 

For those of you who do not know Phuentsholing, let me remind you that is a small town in the Southwest of Bhutan. It shares a border with the Jaigon city of West Bengal. More than 80% of Bhutan's 53 billion trade takes place here. And for this reason, for over several decade, Phuentsholing is seen as the commercial hub of Bhutan. Phuentsholing has produced millionaires. So called the Development activities entered Bhutan via Phuentsholing. In brief, Phuentsholing is a major gateway to Bhutan. Therefore, when my department transferred me here, I came here with lot of anticipations.

But before even reaching here, the agony of finding shelter for my family taught me the first reality of Phuentsholing. It took me almost 6 months to find a house and finally settle down. I think I am lucky to have found one. While I am told about 7000 Bhutanese families who have taken shelter across the border for the lack of proper and affordable housing facilities, there are cases of rich Indians who are permanently (kind of) settled in Bhutan. I never thought that the scarcity of house has reached this menacing level.

Besides housing, other thing I had on my mind is about my job. When you work for Customs, not many people appreciates your efforts. Meanwhile, ACC officials were everywhere eyeing on us and so were officials from the Royal Audit. Little did I know that the ACC has initiated a full scale corruption investigation in our office. Little did I also know that in moths time, I would be made answerable to all the follies of my past predecessors. For now let 's keep this for a another post.

Before I really start writing, I think I need to reorganize my thoughts. have a nice day dear friends

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tribute to our Beloved Drukgyel Zhipa

Sometime in 2011, our popular blogger, Mr. Passu, in his blog "remembering-young-jigme-at-17." asked us these questions: 
At 17, what were you doing? At 17 what are our kids doing now? Remember at 17, His majesty ensured happiness for all of us till the end of time. The best way to celebrate the life of the Great IV is to leave behind our excuses and start giving our best!
And here is what I wrote:
At 17, I was in 8th grade. I was running away from my school for no apparent reason. Other times, I was also busy fishing around chamkhar chhu in Bumthang. At 17 I was a hungry boy. and I busy stealing food form school kitchen. At 17 was, I was busy in the night, moving from one apple garden to another. At 17, I was more worried about the assignment of the girl that I liked than my own. I was rather happy seeing her even if she said I was ugly. At 17, I didn't even know I was 17!!!!!!  At 17, I had my friends reprimanded by their parents for befriending me. At 17, I was simply too wild. But I am all the more happy and grateful that we had a king who led us to the path of happiness at 17. Thank you our beloved King. I am blessed to be your Subject.
Today as we celebrate his 60th birth anniversary, I look back at his greatness. -I look back at the unconditional love and affection he showered upon us. -I look back at the hardships and sacrifices he made for our progress. -I look back at the choices he made for ensuring better and brighter tomorrows for all of us. -I look back at the happiness gift, he gifted to us. I realize that his greatness can never be be put in words. 

The first time I saw His Majesty in person was in 1990s. I was a little boy then, probably 11. I still remember how we got ourselves prepared for his visit. All the elderly people from our locality gathered bamboo, so that a shade can be made for the gathering. Small gate was erected from the locally available green grass to hold a welcome banner. We were told to put on our best dress and I still remember a pair of black gumboot my father bought for me. Our seniors in the school practiced welcome dance from dawn to dusk. Quite a few of them even over ate pepper in their attempt to enhance their voice. I vividly remember how our school captain memorized his welcome speech, only to be awed by His Majesty's presence and stood frozen in the front. His Majesty told us to work hard and be a responsible citizens. But honestly, rather than his Majesty's speech, I was fully engrossed with the four queens; distributing us the sweets. After a grand lunch, His Majesty left our school. Elderly ladies from our village wept like a child to see him and entourage go.

And the second time I saw His majesty in person was in 1997. I was in 9th standard then. His Majesty and the entourage was in Bumthang to preside over the 7th Plan review meeting. By then I was a grown up man. Many boys of my age were chosen to serve the public that day. But something went amiss in the morning and we were nearly late for the occasion. Dasho Pema Dorji, erstwhile Bumthang Dzongdag nearly ate some of us alive. He chased us like a wild dog and we all ran like a frightened deer. We reached the Wangdicholing meeting ground. There, another Dasho ran terror. Dasho Zimpon, Dorji Gyelthen taught us the art of mixing whisky and water. He used 99% water and just 1% whiskey! Later I realized that he had his own wisdom and reason in doing so.

And the last time I saw His Majesty in person was in 2005. It was in Lungtenphu, Thimphu. I was 25 and I was undergoing my Post Graduation Course in RIM. People from Thimphu Dzonkhag along with the students from all over Thimphu gathered to hear His Majesty talk on the draft constitution of Bhutan. I believe some 7000 people attended the meeting. I tried my best to get a seat somewhere in the front row and happily managed one. As the meeting progressed, there were signs of young guys getting bored. The frequency of people getting up for loo was increasingly becoming a nuisance for the security guards at the back. I had my bladder full too, but I tried to hold it back. 

In the middle of the meeting, an elderly man rose to the occasion and said that our constitution should also have a clause that would restrict future Kings from marrying more than one Queen. The man was obviously reading and it took him a while to complete. By the time he was done, there was deafening silence all around. I was nervous and for once I even forgot about my full bladder. It prevailed until His Majesty himself spoke. His Majesty smiled and said, "we are discussing Environment and he wants to discuss wives". Like wise, His Majesty responded to many such queries from the public. Meeting ended on a very happy note and I went home feeling ever nostalgic.

With this, I would like to join the Nation in celebrating our beloved King's birthday. May the longevity Buddha bless him with Long, healthy and happy Life. Thank you. Your Majesty for leading us to happiness. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Midnight Thoughts

Submerged in the samsara,
I look for solace;
Buddha, dharma and sangha,
Some say are the source.

All mundane, 
Tempers Flaring;
Emotions blazing;
Logic evaporating;
Rise of goons,
And fall of saints,
Blame all;
Shame the rest;
Pampered success;
Orphaned failures;
Bliss, ohh! missed
Life is enigma;
Fairness is myth;
Justice is elusive;
Meanings are subjective;
Nothing is objective.
Good or bad;
High or low;
Prodigal or peasant;
Shallow or deep;
All will be judged.
Morality, just a word;
Hypocrisy, just the way.
Right or wrong;
Virtue or venial;
All are words,
Fading in the air.

Until then,
Be rodent enough;
Dig your borrow;
Save oneself.
Someday, the truth shall prevail;
If someday doesn't come,
Still be positive.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bhutanese Diaspora in Australia and More

After spending nine long years in Paro I was finally able to move to down to Phuentsholing. Until my next transfer, it's going to be a home for my family for another 4-5 years. I am little surprised to discover that moving to Phuentsholing is turning out to be yet another chapter in my life. I look forward to having even more memorable days. At the moment my family is slowly getting settled. After a weeks of bad flu, we are all getting used to the kind of dusty and hazy environment. I am told about the excessive heat of the summer. But I am sure we can beat that. 

In my coming days, I would like to write loads about the kind of adventures I had to overcome in moving my family to Phuentsholing. I would like to write about the housing crunch in Phuentsholing. I would like to write about  my new experiences. I will also try to put up a story, -my daughters' thoughts on Phuentsholing. Although little uncomfortable, I will also bring up a unique personal experience in my new office. I Will let you all know as to why working is Phuenthsoling is challenge for any government official, especially if you are a Customs personnel.

But for now, let me write about the seminar I am attending in New Delhi.

I am attending a seminar in Chemical identification. We are three from Bhutan. Including the Australians, (host) there are delegations from eight South Asian nations. - From Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We are progressing into our third day, but I must tell you that each day has been that much enriching and rewarding. Its been a lively event from the start. Introductory session was joyful. I came to know that many of my friends have sleeping and eating as their hobbies. As a Customs officials, we are a group of people which the society has never seen through this prism of life. They only loath us in abundance. They never see us though such innocence. So with this, I urge you all to sometimes read us emotionally also. 

I never had the opportunity of going to Australia, (which is sometimes seen as equivalent for going to the eternal source of wealth and money for many Bhutanese) but it was a privilege and joy to have met few Australians here in Delhi. I take it as an honor to have met  them all. Some of them are very senior Government officials. We talked a lot on Bhutanese diaspora in Australia. Amazingly all of them have such a good regard for our friends there. I am sure they are not being diplomatic with me though. Nevertheless  I am happy to know about how our friends and relatives are working hard there to make a living. I told them how amazed I am about the fashion of Bhutanese going to Australia for for education and they told me how astonished they are with the kind of bank balances some of our friends have furnished! 

I met delegates from Maldives. They are three gentleman. I have seen them with full of energy, open for any discussion and often crazily into photography. I had chitchat with our Bangladeshi friends. their group consist of one young lady officer and two senior commissioners. They are all Muslims. and if people think Muslims are conservatives, these people will prove us wrong. 

There is a lone Napali man in our group and I think he is the only chemist among us. He does more smiling than talking. At the moment he seem to be enjoying his new Panasonic phone. We have three friends from Sri Lanka and two from India. All of them are equally jovial. This to me, says lot about their common ancestral root. Our friends from Myanmar are rather enigmatic. Two officials would only smile mildly while the other one, little younger one is always engrossed in photography.  

Finally we have, resource speakers from WCO, a male from Mexico and a female form USA. They look great. Both of them possess a presentation skills which is making me envious. Our colleagues from Australian Customs have their own charm in presenting the resources and so are our colleagues from the Indian Customs. Their friendliness and openness is all that is making the difference. In between we had, Dr. Menon, the Director General of NASEN, Faridabad who enlightened us about the weapons of mass destruction. 

Now, did I write about the seminar or just described my friends? Well, I would like to show their pictures later, if i am given due permission.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nine Years In Paro Airport

I have completed my nine years in airport and soon I will be leaving for another place. After nine long years of attachment I feel like I am leaving my home. I met my wife in Paro, married her here and even raised my kids here. So Paro will always hold a special place in my heart. 

One year ago, I wanted to move out. That time it was purely in the interest of my career advancement. It was also in the interest of other friends who wanted to come here for the same. Somehow it never came through. This year I am really moving out and I am feeling lot more nostalgic. I am going to take loads of memories along. 

To begin with, I never thought I would someday work for Customs department. Had it not been for my wife, (who was then undergoing her teacher training in Paro College of Education) I would have landed elsewhere. So thanks to my wife, I chose to work in Paro and was able to officially join RRCO, Paro in January 2006. It was a humble beginning then. We rented an apartment below Rimpong Dzong. The apartment had a large living room, 2 bed room, 1 kitchen, 1 store and worst of all 1 toilet. With few personal effects, virtually the whole apartment was empty. But we had to accept it. My wife had lot to complain when I got home late because there were either many strangers peeping through our partially curtained windows. The most scarring part is that our apartment echoed like an empty cave. So we had a small altar set up on a table we picked from a construction site. That was basically to seek religious solace and apparently to draw off those peeping ghosts.

Now in nine years, things have changed. People say I have progressed a lot. I say yes, provided if the progress was to be measured in terms of having kids! In nine years, to the envy of some infertile people, I have become father of three beautiful daughters and a handsome son! That’s a biological progress! Some say so and I accept it with much joy. 

In nine years, I had the opportunity of working with many superiors and colleagues. Through each individual, I was able to draw special lessons. Working with late Regional Director, Dasho Zamtsho Tshering was scary but nevertheless been that much enriching. Director Choizang had his charisma as a boss. I thought he never liked me but in the end it was proven wrong. During my last personal audience with him, I have come to know about the sense of brotherhood he had towards me and in fact to all the staffs of DRC. I owe them million thanks. Dasho Yonten Namgyel is another guru whom I have a greatest regard. And I have my special regards and thanks go to my current boss, Mr. Bimal Kumar Pradhan. Working with him has been anything but like a running water. 

In nine years time, Paro airport has become lot busier. From a mere four flights a day; it has now increased to thirteen flights a day on an average. We have witnessed the entry of Bhutan airlines that nearly sent the veteran Drukair into an operational limbo. It’s all competition between the two airlines now. Whether air travel has become cheaper or not is another question. But as a Customs official, working in airport has become that much taxing. 

In nine years, many of the facilities in airport have undergone facelift. Airport has a longer runway, bigger hanger, better safety equipments and more qualified people working. In days to come, Paro airport will even have a separate terminal building for the arrival section with duty free shops that would issue electronic receipts! But here is one thing that has bothered my imagination for a good number of years. I am told that huge chunk of budget was allocated to Paro airport in preparation for the 16th SAARC summit, Centenary celebrations and the Royal Wedding. But inside terminal building there are little or no traces of that big money.

In nine years Customs office has managed to procure one x-ray machine. Four years into operation, it broke down completely despite intensive care and maintenance. Elsewhere, machines procured by BAFRA has also succumbed to the similar fate. I was mad with the kind of indifference shown by the supplier. Government doesn’t have a budget and they are reluctant to repair the machines. Distressing part of the affair is to see our performance get compromised on daily basis.

In nine years, I had good number of arguments with importers. The cause is very simple. I enforced laws for the safety of the nation and people simply found it too intrusive. I wanted to collect tax for a greater cause and they simply wanted to avoid or evade either through influence or manipulation. Today I stand amazed that there is a lesson to be learned even from those arguments. Paying is always painful irrespective of who you are. 

In nine years, I became over all in-charge of Customs for the record three times. I don’t know whether it was merited by my ability or by a vacuum created by someone’s departure. But in all the tenures, I think I gave my best. I am happy to be associated with all the shortcomings. But at the same time I am also proud to have led a team that was responsible for the seizure of gold, silver and currency worth millions of Nu. We were told about the rich reward recommended from the throne. We couldn’t be more proud than this. The royal appreciation was a reward rich enough for me and my team. With regard to the gold seizure, I never thought it would be that difficult for the court to convict a smuggler. While we remained silence, many people wanted the credit. Perhaps I could write pages after the high court passes the final judgment. 

In nine years, I had the opportunity of traveling to various countries. I met different people. I feel blessed to have met them all. Although many officials have the tendency of travelling only when the DSA accorded is more, I took the opportunity as and when given. Coming February I am again nominated to travel to New Delhi as a team leader. I am happy to know about the DSA of INR 850 per day. So far I have travelled to Japan, Korea, Malaysia and to India. Each travel has been an exciting and elevating. In near future I wish to travel once to China to see the Great Wall of China.

In nine years, I sat for few interviews. In one of the interview, I felt disheartened to know about the thing of preselected candidates. In another interview I did not even make through the first round. The last was when I attended for a GoI scholarship interview. I came out with flying colors! I topped the interview! I went to India and did Masters in Economics. I scored more than 82%. I came back to airport and forgot everything. Along with it I lost my 6 months seniority. However, I had equally memorable days. I was given a stipend of INR 7000 a month. With this I lived like a king in Gujarat. 

In nine years, I have become a blogger. Some people mistook me for an ardent social activist. I blogged about the controversial tobacco law and I got reprimanded. I came to realize that blogging can be an expensive passion to be pursued when it gets at political sentiments. 

In nine years, I have realized that working for Customs is being like a master tactician. Even if you are not you are forced to become one. In airport every day is a new day and new days brought in newer challenges. Newer challenges called for newer tactics. Despite having given the best in me I always felt that I was falling short somewhere. In discharge of my duty as Customs official; it was often my common senses that made the difference. Laws, rules and manuals I felt were there as a general framework. 

In nine years, I learnt that without so called “PR” (Personal Relation) you cannot get anything done. This is something unbecoming of Bhutan in the 21st century. Especially for a Customs official like me, maintaining “PR” meant attracting so many watchful eyes. I get the feeling that somehow people’s efficiency at this age is gauged through the “PR” yardstick. And in a place like airport “PR” is something you require in abundance. Otherwise you risk becoming low performer. 

In nine years, I was able to own one alto car. Believe it or not, as per ACC’s declarable asset definition that is the only qualified asset at my disposal. Our Government chose to name “bolero” as the “utility car” but to me and my family, our alto is our utility car. In nine years I could finally own an iphone. I still owe half the money though. 

I can go on and on. But to be brief, past nine years has been anything but a blessing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Chath Dorji of Shingkhar

If not thousand, I am certainly several hundred years old. I have lived all my life here in Shingkhar which is some 4000 meters above the sea level. To be more precise I live in an idyllic sanctuary of bliss. People also call it Dechenling. Bhutan has eight such sanctuaries. They were all named by the visiting Tibetan saint Longchenpa in 13th century. 
Apa Chath Dorji of Shingkhar
I am Chath Dorji of Shingkhar. I am the master clown of the village. I am not sure where I descended from, but to my convenience, I consider myself nothing less than a heavenly being from Tenchok lhayuel. My role in my native place is a seasonal one. I have a major role to play in the tenth month in Bhutanese calendar when the drum of five day Shingkhar Rabney starts beating. That time I come with a group of other clowns. People think they are my friends, but they are my sons. We join locals every year. Together we all make offerings to our local deities.

When I reach Shingkhar with my boys, there is a tradition of Lama asking us to describe our journey. This is nothing new. They ask us every year. As a matter of fact, we have been telling them the same thing over and over for centuries. Here is how it goes:

Yesterday night we all slept on the tip of mount phallus,

Only to be woken up in a vaginal cave this morning.

We have come here with all the blessings of canny phallus,

So that each one of us multiply,

Live long, healthy and prosperous

This wouldn’t quench the thirst of humor hungry folks. So we would continue with all sorts of paradoxical idioms. I tell people that the Colorful hair on my head symbolizes my multi talents. Folks, especially the infertile ones, believe in my blessings. Sometime when my blessings are able to impregnate a sterile woman, I boost myself of being the brother of Lama Drukpa Kinley. As such, ladies of Shingkhar naturally like me but I tell people about my other abilities. Like wooing girls! Some ladies would melt hearing my following words:

Look at my creamy aged face.

It’s full of wrinkles.

Look at my phallus,

It’s full of wrinkles too

But Do I Still not look active, fertile and vibrant?

Apa Chath Dorji and Sons arriving for Rabney

In order to bring more laughter, we would often go beyond describing our journey. We let even our body talk! My boys play pranks and would swing their phallus; I mean the wooden phallus right below the nose of our blushing lama. By then folks would have laughed their stomach out. While others would have shed tears of mirth, some even would have peed in their panties! In course of five days, we would have conversed with our locals on every subject between the earth and the sky. I tell those naughty sons and daughters of the locality about the importance of keeping one’s parents happy. Parents are precious. Once lost can never be found. To my words, some emotional parents would sob. To restore our happy hour, I would resume my talk. To bring back their smiles, I like talking about how dark faced Ashangla is encroaching to steal a night with my wife. I am not a master comedian but I am in my own simple way, the unifying force in my village. I am neither witty nor an intelligent man, but I am sometimes an agent of change in my locality. This has been my role over many generations.

Apa Chath Dorji and Ashangla

Besides, our pranks and jokes, people have their own way of engaging in funfairs. Besides traditional mask dances and the dances of our deities, there are distinctive funfairs which are exclusive to Shingkhar community. They are Changkor, bum fight and pop corn fight.

Let me begin with Changkor. Rough translation of Changkor in English would mean "drink session". Such practices are common in many parts of Bhutan. But what is interesting about Changkor in Shingkhar is that people form group and move from one house to another drinking local brew and singing traditional songs. Mostly in the night! A round starts from one household, usually from a Naktsang and end at a house next to Naktsang. Mid way, some would fall flat, drunk and out. Some would still drag on, singing Phala Dro Dro, meaning ‘lets move on’. By the time people are done with the first round, the dawn would break. It was then, some decades before, when village had few households. Things have changed slightly now. Shingkhar have more than thirty households. Population has doubled. Therefore, completing a round in single night is now out of question. So people divide the household in such a way that none is left unvisited in five day Rabney. Today even the young ones, as young as ten form their own group and go singing and dancing. But they do not drink, they ask for the money!

Of the bum fight, folks, both young and old, male and female indulge themselves in a funfair which looks barbaric and total rustic. It is a fanciful discovery made by the people of Shingkhar. In that game, it’s usually males versus females. Except for the biological differences, no one knows why it has to be that way. They hit each with their buttocks without mercy! And throw their opponent flying into the air to the dusty ground. Each time the opponent is toppled, a roar of laughter would arise. As a sign of their surrender, some would choose to sit on the ground. But that is not a done deal. Opponents come and drag them to rise, butting would continue until the rival is completely exhausted and in some cases, half undressed! Some, they choose to climb on the tree tops to avoid the attack. The argument on the fight would ensue even after the Rabney is long over, each party accusing the other of not knowing the ethics of the game in somewhat angry but nevertheless in laughing mood.

Like bum fight, popcorn rubbing is Shingkhar’s own creation. In this game people rub each other’s forehead with popcorn. Although little is known about the correlation between the two; ‘bountiful year’ and ‘rubbing forehead’, people still scream ‘lo lek par sho’ meaning ‘may we have a bountiful year’ after each successful forehead rub. Some tough people often use coarse popcorns and try to leave a scratch mark all over forehead and face of their opponent. Although little painful, they seem to enjoy their own discovered game.

Seeing age old traditions such as these largely intact, Shingkhar displays its connection with its proud past. Despite harsh geographical conditions, Shingkhar has largely remained blessed and blissful. Back in 2013, in an attempt to reinvigorate the preservation of our rich heritage, dedicated sons and daughters of Shingkhar has even built an expensive Thongdrol of our spiritual lord Longchenpa. Today Shingkhar village has lights from hydro power. It is connected globally through telecommunication services. We have better roads, cleaner water, more sophisticated machines and more literate people. We have better cloths to wear and healthier foods to eat. These are blessings of modernization. But if not balanced carefully, these blessings could potentially engulf all our rich culture and heritage. I am fearful. But then modernization per se is not a threat. It largely depends on how we take it. Therefore, it is only through modesty and unity we can fight these ills. 

Of late, the unprecedented proliferation in the political activities has threatened the communal solidarity of Shingkhar. The politics of horse, crane and peach-bloom did no substantial good to the community but have largely created an acrimonious atmosphere of distrust and hatred among the closely knit cousins of Shingkhar. At the moment, this seems to be the biggest battle at hand. Should we lose this battle then our win elsewhere would be an irrelevant one. Rearing hairy yaks and wooly sheep are thing of past in Shingkhar. Climate change or modernization, we don’t know which one to blame yet. 

Lama Nidup Dorji of Shingkhar
But, all is not doomed here. Times are changing and so are things. If changing time has gloomier side, then here is the glee of that same changing time. Thanks to our lama, another monument has been created. Construction of a marvelous lhakhang on the Dori Rinchen hill has been completed. Today the architectural beauty of the lhakhang has awed many people. If lama can do so much, why do we then require all those professional engineers? Some people question? Lhakhang was one used by Longchenpa as a place to meditate, write and relax. Some people believe that certain portions of Longchen Zoed-den were written here. 

 Dori Rinchen Goenpa of Shingkhar

Now with changing time, I am afraid that some people might find my phallic talks lot vulgar and meaningless. I remain fully aware about my pranks becoming obsolete and not so entertaining, but it is my sincere prayer that I find newer jokes and sillier pranks every year and bring lot more laughter to the folks of Shingkhar. I tell my folks that minor differences should not rattle the virtue and the harmony of locality. I hope they take my words. It’s my sincere wish that Rabney and Shingkhar flourish till eternity. Let time change anything but not the happiness and the innocence of humor loving Shingkhar.

Shingkhar Dechenling

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Perhaps This is Life

October 2014 is gone. But I must say that no month in my life has kept me this busy. Running between home, office, hospital and the cremation ground, I never thought my simple life could suddenly become this busy. 

First there was a case in ICU of Thimphu hospital. It was one serene morning when a phone call from Thimphu brought a ominous silence in my family. I heard my mother-in-law fumbling over a phone. Little later I came to know that her uncle, whom I never met, was in a critical state. Almost dead so to say! Since then, it was raining sadness in her face and eyes. But I never thought she would be that afflicted, because during their healthier years they were not even in talking terms. With my wife I rushed to Thimphu, on the very same day only to find a lifeless body on bed supported by machine. Two more days and the uncle was pronounced dead. 

Then there was petty brawl at my sister’s house, which so erupted at the height of her husband’s rage. She said she needed my presence to sort out the things. But I insisted they solve it on their own when the rage is subsided. I told them it’s never a wise decision to seek other people’s involvement in petty family feuds. But she was more adamant than me. Fearing something was not really right, I called off a day from my office. No sooner did I get into my car and started my drive then I got a call from my Director. He told me that he is coming to my office for an official errand. And here is another thing. Hours before, I was told to get ready for my ad-hoc trip to Kolkata. The next day, I had to part to Kolkata, leaving behind so many things unattended. 

After a memorable trip to Kolkata, I got back home to hear other tragic news. Somewhere on facebook, I was told about the demise of our beloved Lama, whom the locality of Ura attached so much love and respect. We called him Meme (grandpa) but he was popularly known as Dasho Shingkhar Lam. Looking at the contributions he made to the nation, his demise, to me merited a national mourning day. It was on 16th October 2014, that Bhutan lost a soul irreplaceable. A nation lost a son who has sacrificed his life for its cause. It’s a tragic. While the handful people from Ura community along with family grieved at the lost of a legend, the rest of the nation moved on, still oblivious of the loss with utter indifference. Ten more days and the body of our precious and beloved grandpa was brought to Kichu for his last rites. It was a small funeral rite for a man who lived a life larger than his being. Much to the gloom of grieving people, the sky remained laden with could. Little past noon, when the venerable Khenpo Karpo finally alight a pyre on fire, the sky opened up and there was sun shine. There was even a rainbow too. In hours time, the flame consumed every bit of “Hero with Thousand eyes”. Only that remained was a handful of ash showing how impermanence is such a ubiquitous truth. That was it. Our Meme is no more and our hearts are heavy. Later one of my friend, with his eyes reddened by the tears of smoke and sadness said that we have finally burned down stacks of Bhutan’s History. 

Back home, one thing has always kept me on my toes for the last nine months -The coming of my son Dawa Gyeltshen, my fourth child. When I say fourth child, I am sure this is going to raise bros and drop chins of some baby phobic people. Some might even think that I am over doing this biological thing, but all I can say is that he was conceived under a mysterious circumstance. His coming was prophesied by his 5 years old sister and as such it was she who also named him. We banked on her prophetic words and therefore never rushed to find out the gender of the fetus. 

Finally in the morning hours of 21st October, I took my wife to the Paro hospital for her last check up. She was instantly admitted. It was a long wait in the ECL room then. Facilities in the hospital were dismal. Toilet was dangerously messy and water was scarce. Pipes were broken and human excreta were overflowing. To sum up, people with all kind of sickness shared one water less toilet. In such a wretched place, the gentle Doctors, soft nurses and kind brothers were a silver lining. 

After a prolonged labor, Dawa Gyeltshen was finally out from the womb, finally making me the proudest father of a son. The time as per my watch was 12:45 am dated 22nd October 2014. He weighed  120gram short of mighty 4 kg and has a big head covered with crimson black hair. At the center of his face was a large nose. After his male genital part, the next thing I saw was this tiny red tongue licking his lips in search of something to suckle on. I then checked his ten little fingers and ten little toes, one by one. I found out that he inherited my ears. I checked everything. Despite nine months pregnancy sickness, my wife was relatively stable and was doing fine. Quick dress up and we were soon out of that stinking labor room. We were discharged the same day. Three of us reached home to an overwhelming welcome by our grandmother, father-in-law, mother–in-law and my anxious three little daughters. They have sanctified the house with incense smoke. Butter lamp in the largest ting was lit. It was Grandmother who received Dawa Gyeltshen with a white scarf. She took him to the alter side and said some prayers. Back in Woochu School, birth of my son has gone viral. It has even cascaded to Thimphu. In two days time, my father-in-law has arranged a grand Lhab sang ceremony. 

My son is now 12 days old and I am happy to note that he is doing well. He needs bathing, once in the morning and other in the evening. He has a super appetite for milk. He pees like a horse and shits like a bull, otherwise he is as calm and as peaceful like an unperturbed sea. At the moment, all is well. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sanctity of Jarung Khashor

Below is the portion of article I wrote for Bhutan airline's in flight magazine 'Kuzuzangpola'
Baudhanath Stupa and I

We all know Katmandu is home for some the most ancient Buddhist monuments. Therefore as a Buddhist, there is something so fulfilling about being able to go to Katmandu. Some Buddhist structures there are listed as UNESCO heritage monuments. Back then, as a village lad, I grew up hearing stories about the magical Baudhanath stupa. They are long and each story often differ from one another. It seems there are Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese mythologies each explaining the legend of the stupa. However there is portion in every story that is common and captivating: the wish fulfilling power of the stupa. Combining several stories together, I got the story as follows:

In Bhutan, the magnificent stupa is popularly known as Jarung-khashor. In course of our story, we will come to know why it was called so. For now, some sources suggest that the construction of a legendry stupa was initiated by an ordinary lady, called Jazima, the poultry woman. She bore four sons from four different husbands; horse trader, pig trader, dog trader and poultry trader.

Jazima, in her past life was a heavenly being. After suffering a downfall in her religious merit, she was reborn as an ordinary lady on earth. However she and her family maintained deeply religious attitude. She saved all her earnings from her hard work and when she knew she had saved enough, she approached the king and asked him for a piece of land. She told the king of her desire to construct a stupa on it.

Confused, dazed and after serious contemplation, the king granted her plea. But on one condition. Jazima could have the land; the size of which should be equivalent to a skin of a bull stretched on the ground. Crafty Jazima then sliced the skin of a bull to a size of a thread. She then extended the thread size string of bull hide on the ground to claim the land. Alarmed, many people complained to king about the size of land the king has granted to an ordinary lady. But king had no option other than to grant her plea. This is how stupa came to be known as Jarung-Khashor meaning ‘word of permission’ or ‘to be allowed’ or ‘given permission to do certain work’.

Few years on, after overcoming many major obstacles, the construction met a tragedy. Jazima died. But before her death, she told her four sons to complete the construction. She told her sons that completing it will not only fulfill her wishes and bring immense benefit to other sentient beings, but also fulfill their own. With this divine advice she died. Her death was marked with so many auspicious symbols. She regained her merit and attained buddhahood.

Her four sons kept their mother’s word and finally completed the construction. The relics of the Buddha of previous age were sealed in the stupa. When viewed from the sky, the shape of stupa is said to resemble Tibetan mandala. It is believed that the sanctification and empowerment ceremony of the stupa was attended by thousands of buddhas, deties and dakinis from the sky and of course by many mundanely people from. Therefore, today the stupa is viewed as great object of worship by devotees around the world.

The four sons of Jazima, then prayed. The son of Horseman wanted to become king and was reborn as King Trisong Dutsen of Tibet. The son of pig trader wanted to be reborn as compassionate Bhodisattva and was reborn as Zhiwa Tso. The son of dog trader wanted to be reborn as great master and was reborn as Guru Rimpoche. The son of poultry man wanted to be reborn as the religious Minister and was reborn as Songtsen Gompo. In brief, four brothers were reborn as the principle propagators of Buddhism. But they completely forgot to pray for the donkey that carried construction materials all through with four of them. So the donkey prayed for himself. He prayed devoutly to be reborn as the minister who could destroy the dharma so propagated by four brothers. But a crow on the tree top knew about the disparaging prayers of the donkey and so prayed to be reborn as preserver of the dharma from the destruction of the donkey’s incarnation. Accordingly, the donkey was reborn as demon Langdarma, who nearly wiped off Buddhism in the Himalayas. Later crow was reborn as Pelgi Dorji who then subdued Langdarma and subsequently revived Buddhism. Due to such legends, people today believe that pilgrimage to Baudhanath stupa of Katmandu, Samye Monastry of Tibet and Baudha stupa in Gaya have the power to even exempt a murderous sinner from miseries of samsara.

The legendry stupa has survived the onslaught of many turbulent times. But things seemed to have changed. Once pilgrimage and religious center has now become a commercial center. Globalization has not even spared religion. Sacred objects are produced in mass for sale. If not paid monks wouldn’t say prayers. Today, the monumental stupa is surrounded not by alters and temples but by shops and restaurants. Time has taken its due toll on the surroundings. Crowded, littered and dusty, the holy place is succumbing to the forces of modernization and over population. Everything appeared cramped. There were monkeys, lamp sellers and film makers. Nearby people were attending a funeral rite. Not far away wedding ceremony was in full swing.

Of Sayings and Doings

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a meeting organized by the Paro Dzongkhag. Amid unhappy local leaders and business community, the Hon'ble Finance Minister along with the officials from the Ministry of Finance talked on the rationale and objectives of the recent tax revision and new budget. In more than three hours,these are the things I understood:

Our nation is reeling under a dangerous budget deficit or more than Nu. 24 billions. For lay men, one billion is equivalent to 1000 millions and every million is equal to 10 lakhs. So calculate how many 10 Lakhs can go in 24 billions. Technically speaking, our national exchequer does not have a money that can be called as ours. We are poor by that much.

 To achieve the national goal of self reliance, first thing we need to do is to live within our own means. Yes. Live within our own means. Each time you have a meal, just see what are things in your plate that are produced in our country. In my case, I see only water that is Bhutanese.

New taxation policies and budget appropriations are nothing but are fiscal measures to induce some sense of frugality among reckless spending Bhutanese. Poor people have no means to be reckless so this is for all the filthy rich people to bear in mind.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Exporting Cordeceps, The Dilemma of Bhutanese Millionars

Picture Coutesy: Lhendup Tharchen
In Bhutan, collection and trade in cordecep was legalized in 2004. The Royal vision behind this initiative was to bring economic blessings to the Bhutanese nomads. To keep this business exclusively for highlanders, the collection of the same is strictly monitored. After fixing the minimum royalty, the seasonal collection permits are issued by the Government to each households. This, I believe this is more to do with sustainability of the good. Thanks to the insatiable demand from the outside world, the good has become the most sought after items for export. Since then, the bizarre fungal plant that has the potential of earning millions for highlanders annually has become a trading commodity.

In ten years time, The business in cordecep boomed. With boom came structural changes. It became an investment avenue for many Bhutanese millionaires!  No doubt about that. But this boom also attracted many third parties. In most cases those third parties are nomads themselves. I call them the "easy pickers". What easy pickers do is an interesting thing to behold. They transport necessity items like salt, rice, oil, liquors and vegetables and then barter them with cordeceps painfully collected by their nomad relatives. There are often instances where an actual collector had to surrender his entire collection in lieu of the price for the amount of necessities he availed.

I am thinking that a ration delivery helicopter could prove a real blessing here. Perhaps PDP government could think more on it. But for now, it is doubtful as to whether the trade worth millions of Nu. is really benefiting the needy nomads? 

All cordecep collected in a given period are then sold off  to the exporters in an auction. Since those exporters deal in millions, I call them Bhutanese millionaires. This is again an affair closely monitored by the Government. Hence the real process of transferring the goods to the international market begins. In Bhutan, some official documents like Certificate of origin, commercial invoice, sanitary certificate and Customs export declaration are mandatory. 

As for Bhutan, the major market for cordecep are China, Taiwan, Hong Hong, and Malaysia. Since the cordecep is not a duty free goods in those countires, the real dilemma of  exporting begins here. Contrary to the normal international trade regime, here is what Bhutanese exporter and International importer do. They make a deal which is as bizarre as the fungal plant itself. 

To evade the the applicable duties in the countries of Exportation, the exporter and importer both travel till Thailand. (one to reach the goods and other to pick up the same) There is another hurdle here. They have to evade Thai Customs duty as well. In the process, Bhutanese millionaires and international importers are making legal business illegal.  In the past, some may have gone lucky. I think they  must have made fortune through  such deception.  

But in recent past, Thai authorities have come stronger with their enforcement capability. There are instances where authorities have intercepted Bhutanese exporters for non declaration of the goods. There are also instances where cordeceps worth millions of Nu. are directed back to Bhutan, causing a lot of inconveniences both for Customs officials and for exporters themselves. Therefore as a concern Bhutanese, I would like to make the following pleas to our millionares who are in cordecep business.

Firstly, such act may distort international trade figures. Please avoid such practices 

Secondly, it tarnishes our National image. Such acts may lead to other Customs administration labeling us as people of High risk

Thirdly, Non declaration in most case is a crime

Fourthly, Cordycep is not contraband or prohibited item in most of the countries. Especially in Thailand, The concern importer should have proper import permits/license from Thai Authorities i.e. Food & Health Control Organization (FHCO) under Ministry of Public Health

Fifthly, It is levied 30% Custom Duty, roughly equivalent to Thai Bath 200,000/ per KG (depending upon quality assessed

Sixthly, Be mindful that if illegally imported, any goods will be confiscated

Seventhly, If the confiscation is challenged in any manner, the case will be forwarded to Thai Airport Police, which may result in detention of both goods and person

Eightly, While goods may be confiscated, the person may be charged for attempted criminal act

Ninthly, If found guilty, person shall be punished with imprisonment plus the fines and penalties that exceeds 130% of the goods seized

For more details visit Thai Custom webpage

Before, I close this post, I am anxious with the following points

I am anxious about the amount these exporters are paying to our Government exchequer as Business Income Tax.

I am anxious about the level of information sharing with relevant agencies on the issue and the overall transparency of the business

I am anxious as to whether the nomadic people are really benefiting from the trade...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Things To Consider Before Buying A Smartphone

Sage  Harman

One lady from USA, Mrs. Sage Harman, who describes herself as "frugal living enthusiast, wife and mother" wrote an email to me. She wrote to me about her wish write a 'guest post' on my blog. "Things to consider before buying a smart phone", i think is relevant topic, especially if you have means and plans to acquire one. She also runs a a web ( dedicated to providing free information to consumers trying to find viable no-contract phone and internet plans. Please read her article below:

Nothing quite beats the feeling of unboxing a brand new mobile phone. Smartphones have become an essential part of our everyday life that most handsets today offer quite the same functionality as computers, capable of not just making calls but also managing emails and schedules, playing music and games, getting directions, surfing the Web, sharing information with friends, taking videos and photos and more. With different carriers and phone makers offering great deals and new features and apps popping up left and right, picking the right device for you can be rather confusing. Remember, smartphones and coverage plans aren't cheap, so taking the time to do your research and reviewing your options are well worth it.


Google's Android, Apple iPhone's iOS, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile so far are your most popular options. Some people find that the Android system is more customizable and versatile. Others prefer iOS because of Apple's extensive collections of apps. Some say Windows Phone are more user-friendly. Apart from the programs and features and availability of apps on these platforms, you probably won't notice a lot of differences in how they each operate, so make your choice of operating system based on what you value most - flexibility, security, user-friendliness and customization.

Physical Appearance

Some people like it thin and sleek, some like it big and heavy. Phones with larger screens are great for lots of things - web surfing, playing videos and games and watching movies, but they can be a tad uncomfortable to carry. In my opinion, for portability, functionality and ease of use, a screen size of 4-5 inches hits the mark.


Most smartphones come equipped with cameras capable of taking 8MP pictures. Don't think though that more megapixels means better pictures. If you're after a good camera phone, also consider the lens, sensor, resolution, zoom, shutter speed and other capturing features.

Battery Life
Smartphones, with all the amazing things you can do with it, also require greater power supply. You might want to get one that comes with at least 2000 milliamp-hour battery, or better yet, one that has a user-replaceable battery.


These are free or paid programs that you install on your smartphone to perform different functions. Almost all smartphones have the ability to support applications. Popular apps include mobile hotspot, health monitor, scanner, GPS device, TV and video apps, games and more. It's important to consider your phone's compatibility to apps because not all apps run on all devices.

Other Considerations

Storage Capacities

8 to 16GB may sound plenty, but if you're planning on playing full HD movies for example, get one that has higher memory. If you think you would need more storage space, buy one that supports microSD cards.


Will your portable device support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Mobile hotspot?


<a href="">No-contract plans</a> may seem more expensive as you will need to purchase the phone upfront. But these pay as-you-go prepaid plans are simple and straightforward. It means no credit checks and no lock-in period. Plus you can save money in the long run because there are no hidden charges or termination fee should you break the contract early.

With new releases of smartphones screaming, "Pick me! Pick me!", having too many options, though it means more chances of ending up with the right one for you, also makes it almost impossible to make a decision. You sure don't want to spend a lot of money but you don't want to miss out on important features for a small price difference either. If you're in the market for a new mobile phone, head on over to to compare plans and get free information on various popular smartphone plans.

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