Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Drinking, a to-do-away culture

It would have been an embarrassing for the Bhutanese team lead by the Health minister attending the 68th session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee meeting in Timor- Leste’s capital, Dili or the Bhutanese citizens should be.
It may have been the wise though of the reporter but the kuensel read “Tobacco use is culturally accepted in Timor Leste, just as alcohol is in Bhutan”. They are comparing our nation’s culture to what tobacco has done to theirs.
So is it not time for us to learn?
Bhutan, a small country, cannot afford to learn from repeated mistakes but be swift to discover from others’. Drinking may have been culture but the time has come for us to rethink our culture. During those days, drinking was culture, yet people rarely got sick form alcohol. The amount of drink was subsidized by the manual work they had to do. They had to work in the field, defend the crops against the animals, walk, carry and fetch. In short, everything was physical and manual.
Today, development has raced in front of us and made our life dependent. Everything has been made easier if not comfortable. So even if one drinks a glass of wine, there is no physical activity to balance the drink. This results in increasing number of alcohol related diseases and even deaths.
 Better late than never; let us not drink in the name of culture. There is a dzongkha proverb which says “learn good things even from an enemy and avoid bad things even from one’s own parents” (Hope I got it right). If drinking is one of the main culprits in death of many, we have to do away with our culture. It’s very disheartening to lose our countrymen for our culture.

Monday, September 7, 2015

sharing the pride and the shame

The recent (humiliation, as said by some on social media) defeat by the Qatar by 15-0 has left some of the football lovers in the country pointing the fingers to the team- the dragon boys.
But I don’t think the blame goes to the team or the coach or the BFF. The blame should be shared by the Government, the business organization, the public and the football lovers.
The Dragon Boys (From google)
Our government is failing to pump in resources for a better national squad. All our players are servicemen or students who have different jobs to earn their living. They play the game as a passion and not as a career. It is high time that our government pump in resources to have a full-time national team. The players ought to be paid at least to sustain themselves.
The business organizations in our country should be shameful for not fulfilling their social responsibility. The business people never think of sponsoring any major football leagues or team. I know it will be wrong to compare to country like UK but at least we can learn from them. EPL, the greatest football league in the world gets billions of dollars from sponsorship.
It’s only recently that the public is beginning to recognize football as a game but it’s very sad to see that not many are willing to spare few ngultrums for the game. People lavish on imported compound bow (by the way traditional archery is the national game) but the love for football is very tiny.
The football lovers, especially after both away and home win over Sri Lanka expected the national squad to perform another miracle and defeat, Hongkong and Qatar who owns some of the greatest football teams in England. Let us not expect a newly opened primary school kids to win from the high school boys.
Indeed, they have done enough. Qualifying for the second round was a history by itself and we should be proud of it. The dragon boys may have failed in skills and physique but the determination in their eyes was clear.
Let us all share the pride they have brought and the blame too.   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Terton Sherab mebar and the Golden Cymbal

Terton Sherab Mebar, after arriving in Bhutan, was never taken seriously by the people. They disrespected his wisdom as he was too young. So the people dared him to perform a miracle in front of all, so that they believe him. The people pressurized him so much that he had to agree.

He told them,
“Come to see me after few days near the lake (I still can’t remember the lake, I guess it must be the tsho Gunapata). I will be meditating in the cave near the lake but there will not even be a drop of water in the lake. Instead you will find the lake floor filled with religious instruments of pure gold supported by a golden pillar. Cut the golden pillar and offer the pillar to Paro Dzong while you keep the religious instruments beside me”

He further added,
“the splinters can be shared among the villagers but be warned not to cut the pillar so high. Let not your greed take over you to cut the pillar in such a way that it produces more splinters and a much smaller pillar for the dzong. Meanwhile I will be in the state of meditation, so I can’t talk”
(I did my best to remember the lines as I was told but I am pretty sure I did not get them right)

The people agreed and returned after a week.

As told by the Terton, people saw him mediating in a small cave while the lake was dry. The lake floor was filled with the things he mentioned. The people did as they were told but their greed overtook their mind seeing the amount of gold. They placed the religious instruments beside the Terton and cut the golden pillar but the people cut the pillar higher and higher.

The Terton signaled them with his head and warned them as he could not talk but the people paid no heed and took out more pieces of gold from the Pillar.

The Terton could not hold anymore, so he opened his mouth and said not to do that. From his mouth, the lake flowed down into its rightful place and drowned the people. The Terton was, till now, holding the lake inside his mouth.

The other people of the village chased the Terton with anger. They wanted to kill him for his black magic (That is what they thought). Fearing for his life, the Terton ran away with the golden religious instruments. As the people neared him, the Terton threw the religious instruments one by one which formed into lakes. These lakes gave Terton sometime to run away but the people never gave up. (The lakes are said to be in north of Haa and Paro which resembles the religious instruments that the Terton threw)

Somewhere near the border of Paro and Haa, there was a great Dubthop who was meditating. He caught sight of the Terton being chased. He called them and settled the dispute with an agreement on a stone pillar (which still stands). The people agreed never to bother the Terton while the Terton promised never to cross the border.

After reaching Pangbisa, the Terton sat down on a stone and meditated. The main statue of Guru Rinpoche in the lhakhang (Pangbisa Ugyen Guru Lhakhang) is built on the very same stone where the Terton meditated.

The Guru statue in the lhakhang has another interesting history. Legend has it that the sculptor finished making the body (Guru Statue) but failed to come with head despite countless attempt. They felt defeated when there was a knock on the gate. The chief sculptor sent his assistant to open the door who informed him about three women with a clay Guru’s head. The chief wanted to see if the head fitted their statue, so asked his assistant to bring the head.

He put the clay head on the statue and it perfectly fitted. So he again asked his assistant to bring the women in so that he can pay but the women were nowhere to be found. The three women were believed to the Khadroms.

But the chief sculptor found out that the head was bended while trying, so he tried to take the head out and fix it well. No matter how hard he tried, he failed. At that time, the Guru statue spoke and told him that he is comfortable in that position. The Guru Statue is very unique to any other statues in other Guru Statues. 

After the Terton’s death in Baylangdra, in Wangdi, the peple of Pangbisa kept his dead body (kudung) as their main relic in the Lhakhang.

Once, the Paro Penlop aka Penlop Haap visited the lhakhang and found out the kudung. Sensing its importance and danger of being stolen, ordered the people of Pangbisa to donate it to Paro Dzong. The people refused, so the penlop negotiated. The people of Pangbisa will be waved off any form of tax for three years and will be given preference to sit in the VIP cabin during the Paro Tshechu.

After few years the kudung was taken to the Dzong, the people of Pangbisa realized that their precious relic which they bartered with the tax waiver was not justifiable. They wanted to have the kudung back but could not go against the Penlop.

They planned a secret act to steal it. The people of Pangbisa had a very good relation with the people of Woochu who were and are still known for their iron works (presently opposite Paro airport). They ordered precise iron rods with hooks at the end.

Meanwhile the kudung was kept in a wooden box in the Marchey Lhakhang of the Dzong which was at the ground floor of the Dema Lhakhang.

There was a monk from Pangbisa who garnered much admiration of the Dzong administration that he was appointed the caretaker of the Dema Lhakhang.

Every year the entire monastic body of the Dzong visited Kitchu lhakhang for a religious ritual (which is still practiced, that’s what I heard but I am not very sure what it is and when it is done)

The people of Pangbisa informed the caretaker of Dema lhakhang to refrain from going to Kitchu Lhakhang that day. The people came with the iron rods and a corpse made from clay so that they can steal the kudung and replace it with the corpse.

Once in the Dema Lhakhang, they made hole, the size of the kudung, and pulled up the kudung with the iron rod but realized that only the head would come out and not the whole body.

They were running out of time, so they cut the head of the kudung and replaced it with the clay heard from the corpse. They then put down the kudung with the clay head and sealed the floor of the Dema Lhakhang.

Nobody knew about the act.

During the time, the kudung was offered new Namzha (clothes) every three years. When the Penlop opened the box to offer new Namzha, they were shocked to find the Kudung with a clay head. The penlop tried to take out the clay head but failed. So he kept as it is thinking that it was a lungten (prophecy)

The Dzong administration people became very furious with the people of Pangbisa as no other would have done the ridiculous act than the people of Pangbisa. A war was planned against the people of Pangbisa.

The wise Penlop ordered his people to refrain from war against people of Pangbisa as the Kudung originally belonged to them. He advised them to get a special thing from Pangbisa as a return for the head of the kudung.

The special thing was a golden Reim (Cymbal) that the Terton brought from Lake Gunapata. (it is believed that the Terton threw the other one to save himself when people chased him and the Reim Tsho or the cymbal lake can be seen still today. It is shaped like a cymbal with a slight miraculous bulge in the center)

The Penlop had so much faith in the kudung that he tried to jump into the fire to save the kudung when Paro Dzong was raised by a major fire. The Penlop was knocked unconscious. When he regained his consciousness, the first thing that he asked was whether the kudung could be saved.

It is also said the Penlop did not eat for days as the kudung was lost.

That is how the Golden cymbal came to the Paro Dzong and the kudung’s head remained at Pangbisa. The golden cymbal is used in a special mask dance on the first day of the Paro tshechu which is conducted inside the paro dzong. The head of the kudung can still be found in Pangbisa Ugyen Guru Lhakhang.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ad hoc scholarship

Today our government sponsors lot of students for their further studies, one of them the scholarship after class XII.
Apart from the scholarship provided by our government, Bhutan also receives lot of great opportunities from other nations, institutions and organizations offering our children a life-time opportunity. Every year, a handsome number of students get scholarship through RGoB, GoI, AusAid and many more to study outside Bhutan.
Students are given right to choose the course of their choice but those who fail to qualify (and those who are not willing) left home to pursue higher studies in our colleges.
If I am not mistaken, many scholarships are also received by DHAE every year after the selection for in-country colleges are done. And one of the highlighted criteria is “candidates who are selected for any in-country colleges are not eligible” (I think I didn’t get the exact words, pardon me)
My suggestion for DAHE. Do not accept ad hoc scholarship after all the selection for in-country is done. I shall present my opinion as follows:
1.       Not a option for lower-class children
Usually, when selections are done, the lower class children rush to get things done fast fearing the admission pressure in the colleges. Some (if not most) have no choice but to take what is offered. Their parents can’t offer to send on their own neither can they get job with class XII certificate.
But upper class parents keep their children home waiting for the right course and when ad hoc scholarships are announced, they are the only people who can avail it (Despite the fact that their parents can afford sending them) because all others who are qualified are selected for in-country colleges.

2.       Not the right candidate
If the scholarship is accepted after the in-country selection is done, there are chances that the right candidate for the course may not be sent.

3.       Gambling with their future
There are chances that some parents (lower class) would gamble to keep their children from admitting in the country hoping to get this kind of scholarship. And, in case the child does not get the scholarship, then we are gambling with his future as the parents can’t afford to send on their own.
I know it’s a great chance for our children to study outside for exposure but the ad hoc scholarship deprives many aspiring students.
What if DAHE does not accept any ad hoc scholarship?
Well it may not be possible but this is just my thought.