for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A King Crowned and a Nation Blessed

We have a king,
young and charismatic.
rules with kindest heart,
walks among us,
dreams for our dreams,
a king of such nobility,
he lives but to bless the realm.
a king crowned and a nation blessed!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pick-pocketing- the creative way

Goods and Services are becoming tougher for the pockets since prices are constantly on the hike and the farmers on the highways are taking advantage of the already problematic financial predicament that has struck the citizens of Bhutan. An innocent citizen’s limited living experiences shared.

The mighty Himalayas acted as tough barriers for this country while the rest of the world was enveloped in the world wars. The country has been developing and it is prospering under the Wangchuck dynasty. Each year, Bhutan gets a new and rare species of bird, animal or a butterfly, discovered in Bhutan; Tourists are flying in, in thousands; Nature is at her best, as always; Literacy rate and living standards are on the rise. The pace of development that Bhutan trod is of a high caliber; Hydro projects are booming and industries too; The government is at full swing into development; Farmers are rich with their harvest so is the business community; Civil servants are becoming more professional; Children are in schools to draw out the best within themselves equipped with GNH infused curriculum; and the sun and rain does bless the country.

But of late, papers and websites are overflowing with the news and expressions on the Rupee problem. The general public know but very less of the actuality of the hitch. Government, aided by the media, is sharing the information at their best possible speed.  The news states of the fundamentality of Indian National Rupee (INR) situation; the Indian government releasing dollars or reserves and lots more of its kind.  Along the way, most people are significantly affected by the situation but as anywhere in the world, a portion of the Bhutanese community is reaping the sweats of the crisis as an advantageous situation to mint fast profit.

The business community versus their customers:
  No doubt that the Ngultrum was leveled at par with the INR for some wise reasons but the good reasons befall as a curse for the Bhutanese customers, all due to some kind of un-understandable situation. The INR crisis is making business profitable like never before; Price of commodities are skyrocketing on a daily basis with the reason of rupee deficit. Average Bhutanese customers are always taken for a ride with lame excuse of rupee situation, day in and day out. The losing battle for customers is on the go. The position which claimed that customers were the king of the market and where customers determine the price of goods and services has buried itself underground. For now, a customer is a blunt knife; it has no effect on the price factor, at all. The time is in favor of the other side- the sellers. Price of commodities has slapped the highest, with price increases ranging from a minimum of cheltrums to a shocking range of hundreds. Business heightening is taking form at a rapid pace. Business, both of service and goods, are taking immense pro and raising prices on an unimaginable rate. House rents take away a huge chunk from the limited income; Taxi fares are always on the rise like their increase in number. As a concerned citizen, I am with huge question marks over my head. Is the INR situation really affecting? How far is it true, for Bhutan? Is there a government agency taking care of the situation, I mean the price factor? The business community’s reasons and explanation, Are they revealing the real situation? To be straightforward, the situation is but worsening day by day. In an era where money is the most widely used medium of exchange, the value of money is not valuable at all. The salary remains the same and the prices do not wait for a salary hike, like in the past. After doing a regular weekend shopping around the square, we feel as if we have been pick-pocketed, the pockets become thin within no time. Any person like me with a sole limited income- the monthly salary would feel exactly the same. All thanks to the ever rising prices of commodities and the rupee situation. A typical example portraying price rise rate, if stated for practical explanation:
Customer: Aue, How much does this cost? (Pointing towards a 50 kg rice bag)
Shopkeeper: (politely answers) It is Nu. 1260. My dear…
Customer: (shocked) Ya-la-ma! Is it not Nu. 960?
Shopkeeper: That was some days back. (Now with in a raised voice)The price has gone up; we do not get rupee; the banks have many formalities; we just get Rs. 800 for Nu. 1000; It is hard nowadays to get goods; Oil price has gone up; Shop rents are raised… and the list goes endless.
Customer: Okay… okay, I’ll take it. (He has to buy the good, whatever the price may be because his kitchen demands rice for his family… it is a necessity!)

This development is just a small part from the situation which is running fast with its swift legs in the country. Likewise, most goods have seen a rapid rise in their price. The most daring and of high absurdity is the price hike of home grown or homemade goods. Are we using INR instead of Ngultrum in Bhutan? Necessities, compared to other goods and services, become the most exploited items. After all we need them to survive; the need wins the battle against the price. My view here is not to state that that the rupee crisis is not affecting Bhutan but I am of the stance that it does not affect the country as it is assumed or worked out as of now. It is a accepted truth that shopkeepers earn their living from profits. But, the way of achieving profit is the question. 

A Daylight Raid on the Highways:
It is accurately said that agriculture is advancement for the rural community and yes, it is proving added truth and opportunity for villagers selling agricultural products on the (Thimphu-Wangdue) highways. This is yet another condition affecting the citizens. Mind you, this situation was born before the INR crisis. It was a concept which was totally misunderstood. The government’s policy and guidelines of agricultural advancement, self sufficient ideas, sustainability through agriculture etc has not been able to find the right ears of the rural community. If I am true, most farmers heard and comprehended the agricultural wisdom in their own selfish ways. These guiltless yet ambitious farmers thought that the government is encouraging them to produce agricultural products so as to enable them to charge highest amounts when selling the harvests come in. The weather beaten rural face is covered with a broad grin of satisfaction when a traveler stops by to buy a 5 inch cucumber for Nu 25 and a thin bunch of beans for Nu. 60. The price of agricultural products has hit the highest crossbar. Farmers are working hard in their fields, rain or shine, which is of pure Bhutanese dream, however, the price they charge for their products is unreasonable. I take it for a daylight raid on the highway. Imagine, a maize head burnt on normal fire, costing Nu. 40, or a packet of peaches with 5 peaches inside costing Nu. 60. Is it not open innocent exploitation?

I have many experiences on the highway vendors but two incidents always dominate my thoughts.
1. It was a hot midday drive from Thimphu to Wangdue when I stopped at a highway vendor’s stall and asked the price of chilies. A man not as old as he looked answered that it was Nu. 180 per Kg. The irony was that the price in Thimphu, at centenary market, was Nu 80, on that day and the vendors at Thimphu buy from these farmers to sell it at the centenary market earning a little bit of profit in the process. I pondered- how on earth this could happen? It breaks the rule of economics as the selling price is lower than the buying price, for the Thimphu vegetable vendors. I did not answer the innocent sinner and drove off.
2. This is yet another interesting incident about raised price and its frequency. A Sunday morning with a wonderful sky, I was driving to Thimphu and made a stop at a highway makeshift stall to buy some fruits along with vegetables. I bought a package of plums (10-20 pieces) for Nu. 50; I picked four cucumbers, each costing Nu. 25;  a thin bunch of broccoli for Nu. 60 and another Nu 60 for 6 peaches. Just analyze the prices, is it not too much? Much interesting happened the same evening while I was returning home. I stopped at the same stall as my family asked for some fruits and vegetables. To my amazement, the prices of the same goods have gone up by either Nu. 5 or Nu. 10 for same products. I said to myself… the products have been in the hot summer sun for hours making it crispier and its weight has been reduced due to fluid loss, thus making it more valuable and costly. With this, I couldn’t buy even a piece of the cheapest stuff there.

A green light- Lately, we can see the highway stalls being upgraded from makeshift sheds to beautiful and efficient stalls. It is a well-thought venture. With the new stalls, let the price formulation and speculation be born mutually.

These scenarios are not happening in the imaginative worlds, it is happening in the land of GNH. The G and N from GNH are not present at all. H is obviously there for the farmers and their affiliates. There is no question that the INR crisis is a complex situation for a normal Bhutanese to understand yet we are bearing the crisis along with our friendliest neighbors.  But along the way, the complex situation is affecting the daily lives of many Bhutanese either through actual repercussions or through exploitation. We are not concerned with the actual impacts, it is the law of economics but the latter one, exploitation, should be observed closely. An out-of-the-box thinking is required for the situation to improve. We humbly request the concerned agencies to look into this and enable every Bhutanese to possess the H (happiness) from the GNH, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BCSEA EVALUATION: An Unjust Guilty Event

As I inscribe every word of this essay, a shudder runs down my spine. I think of the frowns on the faces of many concerned people. The biggest guilt of a teacher writing on a teacher’s ineptitude surely pulls me down.  Nevertheless, I am sharing an experience of great importance and mind you, before you draw any conclusions, I confess that I am a very inexperienced teacher. So it can be my incompetence that led to the birth of this article.

Education is an important element of life. It surely does magic. Assessment is a tool and every child takes a course of evaluations and assessment during their entire education. Examination is the apex of judgment in Bhutanese schools. The word itself makes students jump off their normal stance. Exam results decide the promotion to the next higher grade. It has its own flaws, yet it has been a tool to measure a student’s achievement. Mid-term exams, Trial exams, Annual exams and of course- the Board Exams are the main exams that Bhutanese schools institute. My concern here is not with exam (if you want such an article, I recommend RK Narayan’s  beautiful essay). The question here is whether we are doing justice to students who sat for the board exams, Class X and XII. I experienced a bitter practice at the BCSEA evaluation camp at Punakha.  I had multitude of interpretations and conclusions.

The evaluation camp is a sought after activity by teachers all over, for various means. It is an active engagement for teachers during the long winter break, a noble service and money matter is also a factor, honestly. But as far as my littlest experience, I feel a lack of integrity. I do not generalize here. Frankly speaking, the assessment deed of English papers is a grave concern.  The chief marker leads the group with a huge pile of thousands of papers. Our red pens are mightier than the swords.

I have seen and experienced that AVERAGE marking is the best policy, contradicting the philosophy of honesty. Let me be straight- for instance, the questions weighs 20 marks and you mark it in the range of 9-14, then you are okay and there is no more talk of the particular question or paper. The problem is that the marks are awarded regardless the student’s actual answer. This practice surely benefits the weaker students. There are many reasons for the average thing. The case scenario is that if you read the answer diligently and award the deserved mark, there are more chances of the paper coming back to you for RECHECKING. And this is a deadly word where time is precious and the number of papers to be evaluated is great. I am very sure of this practice and the very reason made me promise to never attend the camp in future. I feel guilty.

Examination is a means to measure and award a child. If we are not serious with it, there is a visible sign of a negative stimulus. Fastness is also a factor in the camp. The faster you are when you blindly scratch and award an average mark or simply give a mark out of the air. When you are fast, you get time to talk with your new found colleagues and you can get some time to freshen up.  There is time for everything except the marking.

One interesting scene and factor is the longest break of the day- lunch break. The last minutes before the break are the blindest moment. It is the time where a student can get extra lucky or be very unlucky. The markers are in a dash to be out and enjoy the hour long recess. So, you can get 19 on 20 for a silly answer or be cursed with 10 on 20 for a very good response. This is the truth and we must accept it. I reflect on my school days and realized that our statement, Luck is an important factor for your result, is true. No wonder that we took pain to hoist luck fostering flags or visit Dechen phu.

The job of a teacher is noble. When you mark an answer script without considering the fairness or content and you flow with the event, waiting for the last bundle to complete and the last day to come; Is it noble? Apart from the main problems, we, unknowingly, commit a lot of sin during the entire camp. A global warming essay which has been misunderstood with warming up in relation to sports fetches 16 marks on 20 whereas a similar low quality essay fetches 5 marks. I am no position to talk of the chief marker’s responsibilities but I think they play a role in strict monitoring.   

Manpower and management go hand in hand for a successful output, I suppose.  According to my little knowledge, the number of markers is the cause of 90% of the flaws. There are thousands of papers and limited markers. Markers are given portions which are quite high which can make us make mistakes or play the tricks. The ants can be an example (not their load bearing capacity). Mind you, the evaluations go on for weeks. Strict management is also an extra point. The chief markers should be vigilant and consistent.

When we sit down at the first day of the evaluation, we bow to be honest and fair, like every teacher does. The days go on and answers are within our reach. We go on being unfair upon unjust upon unwarranted. Rarely do we reflect and check on ourselves. We flow with the wind. The tragedy is that, we become more accustomed to being markers than being responsible. There is very thought that we are playing with the child’s future.

From my incompetence, I have poured out a lot of feelings which I beg pardon. But I do not understand and I also understand. A child is at a crossroad when he is in class X or XII. A good student might feel disheartened to see his performance or a poor child (passing the grade) may face serious problems of comprehension in the next higher level. There are children from various backgrounds. Students who can afford are less affected but our deeds can make education THE END for some portion of students. Pass percentages and best performing schools will come up, but how fair will that be. Students have started to know the magic formula of the board exams and this is a difficult case to deal in everyday teaching-learning. The talk in the students’ air- we will pass if we are lucky; we always get good CA marks from our home schools; if we refer and solve some past papers, it surely helps us pass; Somewhat we will get through because… The strictness we maintain and award the CA goes into the drains and our heartfelt lessons and attempts to nurture are mere puppets in the hands of the SOLVED BOARD PAPERS and the PCA case. I feel that there is a need to review the whole thing. Winter evaluation camps have been conducted for a long period in the history and I don’t blame or generalize.

It may be that I was unlucky and these mind-boggling events took life when I attended the camp.

I beg forgiveness if this essay has hurt anyone’s sentiment. My stupidity is my curse. I am just being honest and hoping for the best alternative. Your comments and wisdom would surely light my darkness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


... a journey back to the days where innocence ruled and happiness prevailed.

This image resurrects my days at the farm... how I had to toil and 
live a farm boy's life. Yet, these experiences were always worth 
remembering. Here I am seen next to my elder brother,  
Tshewang Jurmey and it was shot after a mud play during a 
summer break.
The person who invented 'camera' is among the greatest inventors. Thanks to the camera, we can live and relive  the past. Displacement is an extra human ability and our memories are heightened even more by the images captured during the creation. It is always enticing  to flashback and resurrect the past.
Thus, here, I present some of my wonderful(est) moments from the past. Each image is captioned in order to immortalize the eternal moments.
Class IX D, 2001 with Madam Chettri. The class is just the opposite of contemporary class where girls dominate the population.

Artz Reloaded at Paro NIE ground on one of our usual tours. We lost to the NIE team but we enjoyed the day.

At Phajoding and these were my initial interest to explore the pristine nature. The  love took me to do more treks during my college days and till now.

This image reminds me of all my school day class picnics and school picnics. I had some kind of skill in the kitchen which made me always present at the kitchen while my colleagues lived the picnic. In this photo, I was in charge of preparing a chicken curry and it takes me back to 2002, class XD with Madam Chettri. 

The best football team, in terms of cooperation and team spirit. "Artz Reloaded" was the tag we lived with.  There is nothing special about the team but the team members were extra special. Members swam together and rocked their times. The team was formed in 2003 as a simple class team and the dream went forward for a long couple of years. Games played are always memorable and the players too, with their own skills, flaws and presence.
This image takes us back to 2004 at the Lungtenphu Army ground. 

Dawa Drakpa was a special friend. This particular photo was shot at Dochula, en route to Punakha for a class picnic.

I am seen here, again, on my grandpa's lap (agay gi che che) on the extreme right, in a blue/green gho. Next in line are my brother's Jurmey and Passang Dorji.

At Samtse gobbling up a plate of rice with...... god knows.
Celebrity shot... lol. 

This is Ap Rinzin and Aum Nim Dem's 9 children. I am the third youngest from a family of 5 brothers and 4 sisters. The arrangement is in hierarchy... 

The three of us, Jattu, Wangyel and self, along with Thujee were my greatest high school moments. The four Musketeers, as we called ourselves, rocked our days with enjoyment at every corner. 

I don't remember the exact year but it is certainly in Samtse where I lived my childhood.  The side view girl is my sister.............. (guess).

Absent Jattu, the four Musketeers. The most funny thing was that all our fathers were bald.

I rarely participated in cultural shows during my school days. This very moment takes me to YHSS where Jattu and Me  enacted for Men in Black whereas Pema Choezom played Jossie and the pussycats.

Artz Reloaded  posing for a (self) photo shoot.

Jigme Losel Days... Find me with the green pen in hand. 

fresh and ready for school...

The captain I remember the days where I hide my batch whenever I was up to some mischief. 

check that 'lousy' hairstyle...

Enjoying and celebrating a losar. I am the one sitting on the lap of my grandpa, with a bow in hand.

Practicing my oratory skills. 
adventuring in the earthly heaven of phajoding.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Green Peaceful World

 …a musical show with multitude purposes.

“If music be the food of love, play on” Shakespeare’s immortal lines thus stand true. Music is a universal phenomenon- liked, heeded and embraced by all.  So it was… the UNESCO club members of Samtengang MSS decided to pass a go-getting message of Green Peaceful World through the beat of Music. Students started to prepare for a great show: they aimed to create awareness and convey the message of waste management and world harmony by staging a simple, yet optimistic extravaganza.  The hunt for the perfect music left only few stones unturned and finally Michael Jackson’s charm spelled us with the heartwarming Heal the World. The tone, mood and most important- the lyrics, made it the ultimate aid for our purpose.
 We started by collecting waste papers around the school and stacked it up, helping heal the school from the most popular waste in a school. Then, with the art of Paper Mache, we started molding various size and shapes of masks. This was a tedious month long endeavor (making the mask without proper procedures and the drying up was a waiting which was a long wait.) After which the painting of the masks followed.  Then the music blended in. Choreographing was quite a problem as most members (including the coordinator) were debut performers. But Mr. Nima Tshering, a fluent dancer and a teacher, spared his talent and time to help us attain our goals. With Mr. Nima to help us and our high hopes at every side, we practiced and perfected ourselves, which went for a little over a week. Alongside the mask display, we also came up with an inspiration of developing banners which show universal messages. For this too, we collected old carton boxes and cloth pieces and used them as medium of our expression. Even more, quotations on nature, love, happiness, values etc were inscribed on old T-shirts.  Students understood their purpose and knew that this was more than a mere dance… it was a musical performance aimed towards World peace and Green Environment.
The day to present our effort and achieve our goals arrived. We were ready to give a treat to the eyes, ears and hearts of our audience. An ordinary day, something extraordinary prevailed. On 6th October, the courtyard of our school was coloured and decorated by the sweet enchanting MJ’s voice and 36 students dancing with a purpose.  The spectators enjoyed it to the fullest and rewarded us with warm round of applause.  Happy and content!
But we had more in our arsenal of ideas. The message should be loud and clear, we dreamed.  This would be possible with a media involvement in our deed. So, we scratched our brains to get our show to BBS. Our prayers were well heard as Mrs. Namgay Zam of BBS supported us with all her heart. She took the extra step to talk and convince the Children’s unit of BBS to take in our show. But for now, the talk is in the pipeline and we hope for the best to happen.
Heal the World has been an inspiring song for the world and we are using this advantage to convey our ambitious dream of a better earth and GNH. The club believes in working out in our own locality, with the best of effort and intentions. This year, we devoted towards making our society a cleaner place to live. We believe in possibility of everything. And this musical show is one of the many efforts to sensitize and motivate every human being to keep the earth green, happy and peaceful- a better place for you, me, and our future populace.  The club wishes to see a healthy earth with lovely harmonious responsible beings for now and till eternity.  
We would also like to thank Principal, Mr. Tashi Tshering, Mr. Jigme  Samdrup, Mrs. Dema and everyone who were generous and kind hearted for helping us get closer to our infinite end point.

Walk on with hope in your heart, 
and you'll never walk alone.
~ Unknown

…Written on behalf of UNESCO club, SMSS, by Mr. Sonam Norby, UNESCO club coordinator.