Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Fire That Burned Bhutan's Heart

Wangdiphodrang Dzong in its Glory

Fire that not only burned the Dzong
 but also the hearts of Bhutanese along
It was deafening to hear about the tragedy in Wangdue. The raging flames destroyed our defenseless Dzong and like any other comrades of mine, I stood helpless witnessing a terrible history unfold before our eyes. I felt my broken heart go numb and freeze. I also felt my eyes go blurred and swollen with tears. Irrespective of what has caused the tragedy, the loss is immense. In less then four hours we lost our  invaluable treasure to the wrathful nature.

Wangdue Dzong has served us for many centuries, but not being able to save it when needed the most was by far the most heart breakingthing. As the fire in full fury consumed our history, block by block and stone by stone, even the gods or so called the divine intervention proved too weak. Mother nature reigned supreme.

This loss of ours is irreplaceable and I am sure that no amount of consolation would sooth us soon. It would surely take ages for any Bhutanese to forget about this tragedy.

For now I am wordless. :(  :(  :(

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Remembering Chicken Curry in Gujarat

In the wake of financial crises back home, there were certain positive steps; -my own personal steps, that  I took in Gujarat to ease the crises. It may sound small and insignificant but I have stopped buying Amol cheese which invariably consumed lions share of my weekly budget for grocery shopping. Not only that, I chose to walk to my college and walk back again to my room. I reduced my milk and ice cream consumption by more than 80% and rode on auto only when urgently required. 

But there is one thing which I couldn't give up to ease my personal financial pressure. I don't know how right me and my friends were, but in the name of balance diet, we relished ourselves with chicken curry every week.

To be continued............................

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Peach In Paro

I don't know whether it is due to restriction imposed on import of vegetables from India or bumper harvest this year, but as it stands, peach business in Paro seem to be doing well despite scanty rain and rupee in our economy. I think farmers in Paro are selling more peach than vegetables! Three peaches for Nu 5/- by any standard is a good return. This has tempted farmers to even harvest those unripe ones.

Friday, June 15, 2012

No Rain and No Rupee, A Recipe for Woe?

After a bearing a torturous and dramatic train journey for more than 48 hours, I reached Bhutan in best of my health. In Phuntsholing, I first saw and felt the impact of ongoing rupee crises and inflation. An Indian taxi driver refused my fare in Nu and a Bhutanese taxi driver couldn't agree on  my bargain. 

As I travelled further up, I also came to know that there was another thing which has threateningly  became scarce in most part of Bhutan. -The rain-. To me, the scarcity of rain by far appears more threatening than the scarcity of rupee. 

Few days ago, farmers in Punakha, Paro, Wangdi and Tashigang were genuinely crying for rain. Because chilli plants are wilting young and paddy plantation getting delayed. People are predicting famine with inflation! Butter lamps in Lhakhangs have already consumed tonnes of dalda and gallons of oil. Loud and clear, prayers and mantras have been chanted. But the answer of rain looks grim and bleak with each passing day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Local Healers or Local Cheats? Part Three

image courtesy: Google Images
On 11th June 2012, I was watching TV  and suddenly there was this news about the local healer. Like me, the news from Bhutan Broadcasting Service(BBS) must have surprised many people. 

The culprit involved was a Lama; -a highly revered Buddhist monk, who was well known for his skills in treating people with Zerkham. I don't know whether Zerkham can be equated to stroke or not, but when my dad suffered from a mild stroke due to high blood pressure in Bumthang, I travelled all the way from Paro to Bumthang and got him to Thimphu. I wanted my dad to be blessed by a compassionate buddhist healer and I was hopeful that Lama could bring swift and lightening recovery to my dad's health. 

Appointment was duly made and lama consented to treat my dad. Therefore I took my dad to his place every morning for about a month.  But my dad was not alone, there were over hundred other patients, some as young as 3 year old kid to some as old as 90 years old grand parents.

Outwardly, his treatment looked very simple. On our first morning, he blessed my dad with a sanctified water that came pouring from copper vase. He chanted some mantra till his very lips turned to blueish colour. He never spoke anything until the very last person in the row was  attended to. That was one part of his treatment.

The other part involved lama prescribing and selling certain pills  which were mostly home made. But besides those home made ones, lama also sold mineral water and lotion creams. Which local people called as Nga Chuu (holy water purifies with Sutra?) and Nga mar (holy lotion purified with sutra?). A bottle of mineral water was sold at a price as high as Nu. 100/-. 50 gram vaseline were slod at an exorbitant price of Nu 50 each. I was little astonished but I was even willing to pay more if it meant healing my dad's sickness.

Now that his home made pills were found toxic, I am seriously more concerned about my dad's health, because my dad was on those same pills for about a month last year. I am also worried because some of our buddhist monks are now willing to compromise human health for money! 

Lastly, be careful everyone, because there are many such local healers who are treating sick people with concentrated antibiotics solution.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Local Healers or Local Cheats? Part Two

Image Courtesy: Google Images
I was helplessly sick. With traditional and western medicines both yielding no result, I took things in my own hand. I stopped taking any medicines altogether!

However, I still continued heeding to Buddhist soothsayers and astrologers! Some of the eminent soothsayers included His eminence Late Thuksey Rimpoche of Bumthang, and Tse Lopen of Zhung Dratsang. I even went to see Tibetan Dungtso who was teaching Tibetan medicine to His Holiness the Dilgo Rimpoche at Satsam in Paro. They all told me not to panic. But it was difficult for me to even believe in their words  because I was sick for  so long and I sensed something was really not right with my health.

But before them, one of my elder sisters have arranged a Hindu healing ritual in Jaigon. So me and my wife travelled all the way to Phuntsholing. The ritual was to take place in the evening by a Nepali speaking drunk  Sadhu.

The arrangement for ritual were duly being made. Few candles were lit and dry beetle nut  burnt to produce a smoke that smelled like Indian agarbathi. With the ritual in full swing, the sadhu in orange saffron frequently sprinkled water mixed with milk over my head. He also rolled an egg over my body.

Sadhu asked me whether I understand Nepali or not. In response I  shook my head to say 'No' because I was in no mood to talk to a drunk stranger.

In the middle of a ritual one man walked in. I saw them discussing something but I cared little about their discussion. However, I vividly  overheard their conversation. The sadhu was coaxing that man to convince my sister about  his apparent healing skills and about the money he wants in return. I became curious but I let the ritual continue unhindered.

When the ritual ended,  Sadhu was even more drunk. We are all asked to come in the alter room to witness the egg breaking ceremony. We were suppose to spot a red dot on the yolk. But except rounded unperturbed yellow yolk, I failed to find any red spot!

A live rooster was to be either slaughtered or freed in the Jungle. I choose the latter but  have no idea what ultimately happened to the rooster. I also did't know how much money my sister paid to the drunken Sadhu, but I came back home feeling more sick and more desperate.

Finally towards the end of 2006 and for the second time, we decided to consult a local healer. We decided to consult another Terdha from Shaba. And interestingly, that Terdha in his trance said that I am being miser!. Shocked and surprised, I became deaf and could not hear his other predictions.

I thought I have spent my fortune already in all those rituals and check ups but still those people in trance state thought I was nothing but a miser! Honestly, I had nothing be miser of!

Few months later, when the same Terdha lady reiterated the same words, I went wordless! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I felt more sorry, when I heard about the Khenpo, (who accompanied the Terdha Lady during the rituals) being not happy with the the Geepcha me and my family offered during our last ritual.

But as for me, I always thought I did my best. I offered Khenpo a sum of Nu. 1800/- and for Terdha Lady a sum of Nu. 2400/- for a Three hour ritual. And yea, I also offered them the best possible food I had in my store!

to be continued............................................

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Local Healers or Local Cheats? Part One

Image courtesy:
Back in 2006, I was diagnosed with acute pharyngitis. I was so sick and it prolonged for many months. In my tenth month, I even predicted my own death.

But before I made that drastic prediction, I have left no stones of medication unturned. I have been to all the health care centers in Bhutan. Starting from Paro Hospital to Thimphu Referral hospital, from Khangku Dantak hospital to Haa Military hospital. I have even travelled to India to meet different doctors! Starting from paracetmol and pain killers, followed by amoxycillin and amphocillin, I must have possibly consumed  a mountain of tablets. Few of the physician I met even recommended me not to eat fruits and and some of the  vegetables! 

But sadly when those western medicines failed to heal my ailment, I took solace in our traditional medicines. I consumed traditional medicines like a horse. In few months time even my urine also started smelling like one. Day and night, I chanted mantra of medicine buddha with utmost devotion. But the out come was same. My health deteriorated further and I lost tremendous amount of weight.  

By then I sensed desperation in face of all my loved ones. My wife was restless and my mom and dad, inconsolable. All my siblings, both near and afar called me and cried in the phone. I cried with them too. All of them feared my untimely demise! I had no words and no hope either! 

But suddenly, there came a silver lining in my darkest hour! My wife and mother-in-law came across a local healer. In our locality, she was referred to as Terdha. -A semi blind lady and a women in her late fourties, she was fat and sluggish. She was mild and soft spoken person. Seeing me bedridden, she also conveyed her regret. She consented to perform a ritual that would ward off evils and devils who were causing sickness to me.

Not realizing the expensiveness of the affair, we finally decided to conduct the ritual. I took my months salary in advance and performed the ritual. The Terdha lady in her trance, sensed some poison in my body. She sucked and sucked and left few marks on my neck that later looked like a love bite!. She danced with her long sword and made many other predictions. To the relief of me and everyone present, she predicted my recovery in few months time, provided I do some other rituals! 

I was few months old in my service and hence I  had very limited means at my disposal to perform all those rituals! But with the support from all my loved ones, especially from my mom and dad, who sent loads of butter and cheese, I was able to fulfil the wishes of Terdha lady

But I was still as sick as ever.

to be continued..........................

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Maiden Train Journey

TR No. 15634: Ahmedabad-Gohati Express
Kalapur is a local train station in Ahmedabad. Crowded, littered,  hot, dusty and noisy, the station looked cent percent Indian from top to toe. It was from there, I embarked my maiden train journey. From Ahmedabad to New Jalpai Guri (NJP), covering a distance of over two thousand kilometers, it was't the kind of journey I fancied. Not having a confirmed seat even worried me more.  

At the station, I took help form coolies to lift my heavy bags. Those coolies in maroon shirt came in handy. They looked weak and fragile but I was honestly surprised with the kind of strength they had in their bony arms and bald head! Lifting 4 bags loaded with books was not big ask for them. 

When the train arrived, I rushed through the crowd to find my seat and compartment. In my frenzied attempt, I even forgot about helping our lady colleagues. I had enough to carry myself and  I felt sorry for not being gentleman! 

When I finally found my seat and and compartment, I was totally soaked in my sweat. Exhausted and drenched, I told the people around that "this is my maiden train journey". But sadly there was no sign of sympathy. All the people in the compartment gave me and my friend a blank look.  

Once inside, I soon realized my worst dreaded fear. We were three friends who paid and booked train tickets 4 months ago but still failed to get a confirmed seat. Literally, We paid for 3 seats but were only given  2 and half seats!

We some how managed to get through in our first night. But on our second night, I started to to feel the real taste of train journey. One of my friend, who proclaimed to be the most experienced  train traveller  even had lot to complain about the journey. 

To sum up my maiden train journey, it was hellishly adventurous. It was an experience I would never want to recall. The compartment was cramped, the seat was miniature, toilet was stinking, people  were noisy, tea was too less and food served by adamant waiters. I slept and ate like an inmate all through my journey. To worsen the situation, I had bad mouth ulcer!

Finally When I reached NJP, I pulled my self out from the train and wowed never to travel in train. 

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