Sunday, April 29, 2012

How I Survived the Corporal Days

Picture courtesy: My Colleague Tashi Namgay's facebook page
Naughty, vibrant and full of mischief, I started my schooling some twenty five years ago. It was upon my father’s incessant persuasion that I finally agreed his idea of my education. Being illiterate man himself, it appeared to me that my father understood the value and importance of education lot more than any other person in our neighborhood. It was his humble wish, that I should someday become, well, not dasho but a teacher.

But unfortunately, I later discovered that schools weren't  the bed of roses for mischief and over-zealous lad of my likes. The over sized headmaster with big and bulging eyes, who spoke of flowery things from his doma-reddened mouth on my admission day soon turned out to be the tyrant of my life. As the days progressed, to my astonishing youthful realization, I discovered that in school, teachers meant business.

They taught me things from the syllabus. Along with it came the box that swung from left to right. They kicked on my bony buttock, slapped on my rosy check and lashed my weak calf and fragile fleshy palm. Sometimes they quoted their reasons but most often, they did it for apparently no rhyme and reason. They called it an art of disciplining and transforming rough village lad to refined human being.

But, the fact of the matter was, their way of disciplining made my life miserable. I felt like a piglet in  the boots. Therefore, as much as I hated them, that much I feared them too. Their overwhelming presence was felt far beyond school fence into my village alley where I once acted like king (among dogs, cats, cocks and lambs). It made me think twice before I beat up my neighbor. It made me more hesitant to lay ambush for the seniors who oppressed me. I underwent an impulsive transformation. From a person who threw lamb size stones and stilled a running sheep, I was soon reduced to a frightened boy because of my teachers.

So to say, I survived the most corporal schooling days in our history. Of many such incidents, there are few instances that I still remember as though it happened yesterday.  It lingers in my heart and head afresh  all the time.

It was once in 1987, that I fought with my peer over who should lead the line for dinner. Surely, that did little to please our headmaster. He pulled me out of line and then began his lashing. I vividly remember the a bamboo bow used. By the time 2 cooks came for my rescue, the bow was all broken into pieces and dinner was served. As I limped  into dormitory, empty stomach, I thought he broke my ribs and limbs. But to my good fortune, I survived.

Then it was once in 1988. Dinner time again. I was  never taught to say Buddhist version of grace before our food. All I did was learn it by heart after listening to our seniors. So in the process, I got most of the words and meanings wrong. As a young boy knowing meaning was unimportant. What was important was how loudly you say the grace.  Then there was one line that I said  it wrong with my voice at its max. Here it is: ཡེ་ཤེས་དཔག་ཡས་ཚེ་ཡི་མཆོག་སྩོལ་མ།། But in place of མཆོག་སྩོལ་མ། I said "Chok torma". It was gross translation of the holy text, but little did I realize then. "Chok Torma meant "shit like stick". Once again I was pulled back from the line. With an overwhelming sense of fear, I waited for the school captain to fetch teacher-on-duty a stick. Luckily, school captain did not bring a bow that time. He instead got a bundle of slender willow shoots with their leaves removed. Then the Teacher-on-duty took the liberty of whipping me left and right. He stopped when his hands ached and couldn't proceed further. When I refused to cry even after countless lashings, he labelled me as 'Paw'. -loosely meaning, 'tough boy'.

The next incident that I remember with exact precision is a 'Shouting case'. Yes, we were once shouting on top of our voice when we saw a herd of wild boar wrecking the potato field that belong to a local farmer. Many of us were involved so we were given a 'mass punishment'. In a bright sunny day, we were all made to hold our ears and then stand on our knees with sharp gravel underneath for an hour (for 2 periods). Unfortunately, I happened to be the only tiny boy in the group!

Then there is one incident, that still haunts me day and night like devil. This incident has a reference to the same Headmaster, who used bow on me. That time it was not bow, but a cable wire with rods removed!! He picked on me, when my marble-playing companion complained about me bullying him. I saw my Headmaster go mad beyond measure. he pulled me to a room. After he put my head between his thighs I became like a helpless goat tied for sacrifice. He whipped me  incessantly and I could sense the damage cable wire was doing on my soft buttock. Surely, when he released me, I could see blood clotting every where, starting from buttock to calf.

Later it turned out into wounds and took ages to heal. With whipped-wounds everywhere on my body, I refused even to be bathed by my loving mom on weekends. When my Mom finally saw what was on my body, she cried bitterly. Soon my three sisters joined her. I was treated with grand Egg maru that day.

To conclude this post, I wish all my teachers, -past and present, living and dead a very happy teachers day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

One Year in Gujarat.

I decided to pursue my tertiary education in an age, where every average Pema and Dema eyes those exotic universities in Australia and Europe as the ultimate education destinations. Every Prospective Bhutanese student dreams about it, because there is a general believe among many Bhutanese that one can mint a lot of money and in course of two years. I don't know how but many believe they can build their empire. As it stands, this notion have taken deep root. For now it seems most people are more after "money making" than real education.

I don't know which one I chose, 'education' or the 'money making' but under the auspices of GoI scholarship, I happened to be one among six Bhutanese who landed in Gujarat in the fall of 2011 to pursue my tertiary education. Forgoing all those fortune making opportunities, I chose; -well, in words of few people, a slum somewhere in India as my education destination. 

Prior to my departure, I remember attending a briefing session. We were not even twenty, so it was a small insignificant number not deserving of a grand briefing session with meals and banquet. But nevertheless, we were briefed by one Dasho, who  almost took half the session briefing us about GNH. At the end, we were given a book about Bhutan. I liked it so much. The pictures in the books says volumes about Bhutan.  We were also given a small national flag which in the words of Dasho ‘would remind us about our home-sweet-home'

I reached Gujarat in good health, but felt lost and nervous.

However I am now nearing to complete my first year here and I have lot to reflect and recount on. From a fan less room to a water less bathroom, from a bed less bedroom to a table less study room. It was all but an adventurous going. In those adventurous mood, I thought to my self that even without those basic  necessities in my room,  it would be so wrong to consider my place as a slum. So the very first realization I had was that, I did not land in a Slum to pursue my Masters course.

But on the other note, it turned out to be the most painful days of my life, not because living condition was horrible, but because I missed my home more. Even tough I was given the apartment fit for 'Readers', it took me many agonizing months to settle. But with each passing day, I came to agree with the terms of living a life away from my loved ones. More, when I started making friends with Gujarati fellas, I started appreciating life away from home.

Diversity in Gujarat took me to higher level of understanding humanity. Starting from a Autowalla, who charged fares not by judging the meter but by looking at the faces of commuters to a retailer and a vendor who charged prices not on the basis of weight but on the basis of bargaining power. From to who delivered books at my door step. From 'Times of India' to 'Ahmedabad Mirror', the papers I subscribed but did not read. From 'pani puri' to KFC, that drained my wallet, From 'Lal darwaza' to 'Jamalpur darwaza' where I squeezed-in in the street to get the best possible secondhand books. From Vestrapur to Gandhinagar, from Kankaria lake to Sambarmati river. From Gandhi Arshram to Gir Foundation. From CG road to MG road. From ISCON mall to Alphaone mall. From Hyper city to Shoppers stop. On goes the list and on goes the insight I have gained.

My association with friends, both Bhutanese and Indian have further enhanced my understanding of human behavior. I feel truly privileged to have come to a place far way from home to learn about the complexities of human values and Morales. I am astounded to learn that human beings are truly a surprise package. I saw that in the gullibility of  a  man, promises of a gentleman, frailty of a women, Beauty of a being faithful and on goes the list. In the midst of all, I have also learned that that how a hollow man really sounds like an empty vessel while the honest browny man remains undeterred and unmoved like a everlasting mountain.

I wouldn't say that in one year time, I have transformed myself from a Caterpillar to a butterfly. But I wouldn't deny the intellectual richness I gained by coming to Gujarat. I feel blessed to have associated with some of the most learned people in Gujarat. All my professors have showered unending love and support from the day one to which I humbly remain indebted. It is here that I further expanded my horizon of knowledge.

Gujarat, indeed has become my home-away-from Home. For now I am truly enjoying the enchanting biodiversity and ecosystem that surrounds me.  Even though the tropical heat is little uncooperative for a man from cold Himalayas, I think, for now I am reasonably well adapted.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Graze Like Hungry Yak.

Ever since the day my family sold off our yaks, I felt a great sense of loss. We let our dad's most prized possession, which took so many decades to accumulate, go in a wink. I was helpless like my dad. All I could do was blame the forces of change. After so many years of close association, it pains my heart to even think of those beautiful animals gone forever from our lives. To me, this feelings indeed indicate how much indebted I feel towards those animals.

But today I am not going to write about yaks. Today, I will not even let the topic of yaks overwhelm me for a second with emotions. It’s about the most coveted saying that I am going to write.

“Graze like a hungry yak".  It actually means work hard.

Although I never fully understood the sublime meaning of the coveted saying, I did my best to interpret it in my own ways.  For a worker, it literally means working like a shaving blade, not  leaving any hair standing. For a student, it meant running through pages of the text and trying to get everything, either through understanding or through mugging. There were days in my distant past, where my friends would even memorize the registration number of a truck in the picture in our text books! Such was the way we grazed then.

Grazing like yak was not at all fun. Sometimes it was killing and boring. But like it or not, there was no other options. Everyone in life has to pass through this and I was no exception. I too did my grazing-like-yak part. So to say, I grazed like a yak even when I was really not in the mood.  But now, I  think I got this far in life for having grazed like a hungry yak.

Not only that, As I plan to move further in my life, I see grazing like a yak has lot more meaning than I saw in my earlier days. As I graze in the endless pasture, I make sure that I graze to the best. But when I look back, it awes me only to find the grass behind has grown lot taller and that it needs further re-grazing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I am No More Brokpa

Like many of my contemporaries from Shingkhar, I grew up being called as Brokpa. Roughly translating it to English, it means nomad, yak herder or highlander. True to that name tag, we lived in highland and depended on yaks for our livelihood. We loved those animals and we cherished our moments with them. But there was something, that I still couldn't agree with when people referred to me as Brokpa. I simply hated it.

I used to hate it even when people called me 'Brokpa' with lots of love and affection. I disagreed and defended my stand. It may sound one and the same thing but to anyone who called me "Brokpa' I told them that 'all brokpas are highlanders but not all the highlanders are 'Brokpas'. But people still insisted that all yak herders are 'Brokpas'

I hated it more, when the caller was none other than my uncle. My uncle used to be a teacher, but in the field of nicknaming his students, he must have surely outdone many Rimpoches’. In fact it was my very own uncle who tagged me and my peers with that name. Since he was my (our) teacher, protesting against him was not a prospect, but internally, I always questioned him and told him that he (was) is more 'Brokpa' than all of us combined.

Now that my dad has sold off all the yaks, I can finally say that I am not brokpa anymore. But sadly with this, I now feel an aching sense of loss. It is a loss beyond my description. It is my exotic brokpa entity that I am now losing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Once Upon a Time when I was that Boy in the Picture

When I was that little boy in the picture, I was care free, wild and naughty beyond words and description. I recall, even the most strict and corporal headmaster (of our time) had difficulty administering me.

But on the affirmative side, I feel happy to have been the most affectionate, diligent and obedient son. With my parents around, I felt responsible. I felt the need to work harder, do better in my studies and repay them later.

As I grew up, there were often days, in which I asked my dad as to what I should become in my life and to which, he always responded; -‘son, you should become teacher’. That was it! My dad had a dream and that dream was to see me become teacher someday.

Dad considered teachers as the noblest person and teaching, the noblest profession. Unlike other profession,  dad considered it as the most safest and secured profession.On the basis of knowledge they impart, they are considered as the source of light. Dad taught me how a teacher should be respected and that refuting against him (was) is a sin. I remember dad sharing Buddhist wisdom which says that ‘a person who dishonor ones teacher would be reborn as dog for five hundred generations!’Dad considered the roles teacher played, a sublime and beyond any beings. So, dad had all the reason in the world to make me become teacher. 

Here I am; a fully grown up man. I don’t know whether it (was) is my fortune or misfortune, but certainly I couldn’t become teacher as dreamed by my dad. Not being able to live up to his expectation still ache my heart. 

But, as if to compensate that loss, I got married to a teacher. Since she is my better half, she surely must have brought the much needed respite to dad's heart that longed too long for a teacher in me. Trust me, My wife has all the teacher materials in her. She has a remarkable patience in dealing with kids and she loves her job like she loves me!

But after the "UNICEF-expatriate-beating-up-teacher" incident, I have told my better half to be careful. But she took me by a surprise. She told me that, given a chance, she would want to resign completely from teaching. This was the last thing expected from a die hard teacher!

"what will you do after resigning?" I asked her softly. 

She answers; "I will be your parasite tey"  

"But not until I become Dasho darling"  "and ya....don't say your are my parasite, because you are my better half" I comforted her. 

I told her that after I become dasho, 'She would be considered as good woman behind a successful man' 

he he .lol...that was the biggest chicken count ever, before even knowing where the eggs are going to come from.

"But we have 3 daughters, do you honestly think you can feed and clothe us all" comes her other query

"Why not, that makes just four of you" I defended 

"How?" comes her another question

"you know, there are dashos who handle more than 4 aums, so handling my 3 kids and my wife should not be a big deal". I defended further  

"You know what". I continued

"What?". comes her response.

"Once I become Dasho, I can avail all the ex-country training between the earth and the sky".

"I can even avail training that are meant for my peons". I continued.

With that little conversation, I told her to be cautious. I told her not to keep everything for law because law is blind.  Lastly, I told her that if she requires a weapon for self defense, I might get her a rambo knife from Jaigon.

(Very Important Note: I am not propagating violence here, I am talking about self defense)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

As reported By Kuensel

A village, once synonymous with this domestic animal, now bids farewell to the last of them (and hails a new breed)
Sonamla with a milking yak

Shingkhar, Ura, Bumthang: The practice of herding yaks may soon come to an end in the Shingkhar valley of Ura, Bumthang, with the last herd of yak in the village waiting for their new owner to lift them.

The last herd, surviving in Shingkhar that belongs to Sonamla, 75, will be grazing in highland of Sephu in Wangduephodrang.

He sold them to a herder there.

Shingkhar was a village known for its strong culture of yak herding, and their livelihood mainly depended on dairy products from the yaks.

But ever since the road reached the valley in the mid 1990s, Shingkhar started potato farming and dependence on yaks for a source of livelihood reduced.

Shingkhar’s vast and lush pastureland is a visitor’s delight, and an ideal place to rear livestock.

Over a hundred acres of green pastureland surround Shingkhar village, showcasing its serenity and livestock culture.

This factor was the main reason for the community’s vehement protest against the proposal to use parts of the pastureland for a golf course.

Although the last herd of Shingkhar’s yaks is to leave, of late, the pastureland has been housing a new herd.

Over 100 tsedar yaks (yaks saved from being slaughtered), were released to graze on the land in Shingkhar. Sonamla, 75, who has lived with yaks since his youth, believes it was some kind of a sign.

All these years he did not give in to his children’s persistent persuasion to sell yaks and give up yak hearding for a more comfortable life.

“We can’t convince him, because his yaks are a part of him and herding them part of his life,” one of his sons Kuenzang said.

Sonamla, however, had to give in to his old age.

“My beloved yaks helped me raise my children, who have all grown up and are educated,” he said.

His legs began failing him from trudging uphill to higher altitudes in summers and bringing them back in winters.

Besides, he experienced a trauma attack following a fire that burned their yak herd makeshift last year in January that killed 14 of his yak calves.

Eve since, for about a year, his 35-year old daughter, Tshering Dema, has been taking care of the yaks, alongside her chores at home, and tending to her three children and her ailing father.

“While yaks in summer should be taken to a higher altitude that requires days of walking, I only managed a few hours further from the village last summer,” she said. “I have no one at home to look after my parents and children.”

Tshering Dema said the family did not want to sell the yaks. But it was growing difficult to tend to them.

Besides the tsedar yaks only aggravated the problem, because they had to herd the additional yaks, since there was no one to look after them.

Tshering Dema said the tsedar yaks posed problems to the existing herd during the breeding season, and rearing them for a lone woman was a major problem.

“These yaks are on tsedar and there is no proper caretaker,” she said. “I had to suggest my father that we sell our herd and he said that I call the shots.”

The number of households owning yaks in Ura has been declining every year since a decade ago.

In 2006, farmers of Ura’s four villages out of six reared yaks.

By 2007, yaks in Ura Madrong, the biggest village, disappeared.

Somthang villagers sold all their yaks in 2009.

Until mid-2011 Shingkhar had two households, including Sonamla’s, that still kept yaks.

When Sonamla’s yaks leave Ura valley this year, a lone villager in Pangkhar will be the last to rear yaks.

Records with livestock extension officer in Ura, Phub Thinley, show that of 250 yaks in 2007 in the valley it dropped to 223 in 2008 and 207 in 2009.

In 2010, it fell to 180 and to 100 last year; most of them sold to herders of Sephu in Wangduephodrang.

He said, Sonamla had about 45 yaks, which once gone some time this year will leave the valley with only about 55 yaks.

Of the 40 households in Shingkhar, about 10 reared yaks.

Almost all households owned about four to five yaks, which they kept with households that owned more yaks.

“Like many age-old customs of livelihood, this one too has become obsolete,” a farmer Sonam said. “With education and the pace with which the country is developing, our children will not want to do this.”

Meanwhile, Sonamla and his daughter awaits the buyer from Sephu to take away their 45 yaks, of which 15 are milking ones that graze on the green pastures of Shingkhar.

By Samten Yeshi

Sunday, April 8, 2012

This song is very soothing






This song is very soothing and I was told that it was composed by our His Holiness Jekhenpo. I am not sure who composed the tune, but i feel it is a work of  true genius. 

Originally sung by Mrs. Pema Lhamo and Mr. Pema Samdrup of  RAPA (Royal Academy of Performing Arts) it is by far the most touching song. The sense of humility in its presentation is far far uplifting and sensual. the song goes so well with our traditional musuc -Dramnyen

I am bad in English typing and worse in dzongkha typing. So please forgive me for all the typo errors and spelling mistakes I have made.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Gave the Best and Left the Rest...

                                                       G u j a r a t   U n i v e r s i t y                      

Exam.:Sem. 1 of  4                       Master of Arts    held in December-2011

Seat No. :   1709                       Name: THINLEY KUENZANG                    

----------------------------------------  -----------------  ----------------- 

                                           External           Internal     
College: (020) USS         Centre: 01  Combination:           - 1-1600000      
Subjects                                    Max Min  Obt       Max Min  Obt   
Economics-402 Macro Economics-I             70  25   50        30  11   23     
Economics-401 Micro Economics-I             70  25   53        30  11   27     
Economics-403 Public Economics-I            70  25   44        30  11   25     
Economics-404 International Economics-I     70  25   56        30  11   22     
Economics-405 Growth and Development-I      70  25   51        30  11   25      
Economics-406 Environmental Economics-I     70  25   59        30  11   25     

---------------------------------------  -----------------  ----------------- 
                                           420  --  313       180  --  147     

Enrol.No.: 201101900349                   Total: 460 /  600  Result:PASS       

Result Date: 02-APR-2012             
Although I will be sitting for my second sem internal exams very shortly, with little over 76.66 aggregate marks in my first semester exams, it appears to me that I am officially through to my second semester.

Having worked so hard, I expected good harvest in terms of marks. But more than the marks, what surprised me was that I topped my class. Not only that, I happened to be among the top 50 candidates in the overall University ranking  for Masters of Arts category. (I stood 19th) 

Apart from my hard work, I feel this is my reward for all the sacrifices I have made. I had a horrible life staying away from my family. It was utterly difficult leaving behind my daughters. I missed them terribly. Of course, I missed my dearest wife along with them. 

It was even more harder thing, leaving behind my sick and ever ailing dad. Since, he never wanted me away from him, it was my dad whom I miserably missed.

Today, I dedicate my little success to everyone I missed (back home). This is for you all from me, with lots of love and affection. 

With this, I would like to thank my professors who took extra care in getting things across to me and my friends for all their valuable support and encouragements. I would like to Thank my senior  friend Sonam for all the supports he  rendered wholeheartedly to me.With his support and presence around, my late admission to the course wasn't a hindrance. I was fairly able to catch up with my friends. 

Lastly, I thank my protective Yeedham, Meme Ragula for all his blessings. Meme Ragula Khenoo

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