Sunday, 5 October 2014


It was an early morning on October 1; I hit the road to Khaling. The crisp early morning breeze is an indication winter is not far. The road was tarred in the name sake, potholes are so common that you have a feeling they may have been there by design. The dzongkhag road is known to be notorious for poor condition but, the stretch of the national highway from Narphung to Khaling is no better.

It is a well known fact how diabolical truckers are on Pemagatshel road but what I experienced on the national highway was even worse. From Kharungla, I caught a convoy of light cars heading to Radhi for Krodikali retreat. They were following two trucks apparently carrying cement consignment. The trucks refused to give way for the smaller cars for a long distance. I think, it took five to six kilometres of incessant honking from the cars to make the truckers let them pass.

I think, Bhutanese are known for their infamous road habit and that experience only confirmed the fabled status of Bhutanese drivers. Road rage is common in Bhutan. Verbal altercations are sometimes known to have led to physical confrontations. Even in the milder form passing reviling comments and glaring down gawkily on each other is a common thing that happens every day. The poor road condition and the inconsiderate drivers on the road make driving not so pleasant experience.

One thing also struck my mind on why this stretch of about 40 kilometres on Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang highway is not seeing any widening activity. This stretch is where the widening is in dire need as some smaller stretches are the most difficult and precarious ones that continue to see frequent fatal accidents.

If prioritizing widening works is based on traffic volume, the least that can be done and must be done is fixing potholes. Widening works will take long time to complete even after it is begun so, fixing potholes shouldn’t be construed as waste of resource because it will have to be used for years.

While on this part of the road, one cannot miss the progress of Yongla Gonpa re-construction on the spur of a towering mountain overlooking the plains of India. The concrete frames have come up and people cannot wait for those concretes to metamorphose into a beautiful temple. It is the nation’s guardian and a symbol of national pride so the sooner it is restored, the better is will be. It needs to rise from the rubbles and corruption scandals to its old glory.

And then just on the foreground of this sacred temple, a stone quarry looks out of place and likens to human profanity. It simply looks like an ugly cancerous scar eating into human flesh, as it eats its way into the lush green forests. Just a few kilometres away, another quarry is ravaging into the foothills of a majestic peak defacing the pristine environment. Looking at these scourge, I just wondered whose interests these environmentally degrading ventures are serving.  Certainly, this kind of business does not serve the interest of common people or even that of the nation at large. They just benefit few individuals at the cost of larger national and local interest.

I was engrossed in the thought of the complexity of issues like these, for the rest of my return trip. I weighed pros and cons of mining and quarrying in a fragile mountainous terrain like ours and no matter how you look at it, I saw it as undesirable business for our country.  If not in future, at least for the present time, environmentally degrading business and industries must be restricted as we have abundant renewable and other less damaging alternatives that can suffice the needs of a population of about seven lakhs if they were equitably distributed.

As I pushed further lost in these thoughts, the sight of an interesting landmark on the precinct of a small roadside town brought me back to my senses. I stopped for a mouthful of Doma-Paan. I was holding the betel leaf and areca nut and as I was preparing to smear lime, out of curiosity I tuned on to a FM station. What I heard playing brought about profuse smiles on my face for the rest of the journey.

There cannot be a perfect coincidence of me preparing to chew Doma-Paan and the song on the FM radio playing an ode to Doma-Paan in Bhutanese culture at the same time. Part of the lyrics said something like this, “Doma, Paani, Tzuni Suum……Rang Dang Thuen Rey Thuen Tshey, Khamto Rey Rey Zhewar Joen……..”  Roughly translating as; “combination of areca nut, betel leaf and lime that makes Doma-Paan……….those dear and near ones, come have a mouthful of it….”

Sometimes, coincidences can happen when you least expect. And it can either bring back fond memories or at least bring about smiles on your faces. Those kinds of experience are just beautiful like the one I experienced that day.

Happy Reading and meet you again soon on this page. Have fun and take care everyone.

Gyembo Namgyal
October 6, 2014


  1. Gyambo sir...Nicely reflected on -a day on the road. what you have written is all the fact in Bhutan la...thanks

    1. Thank you Sancha sir for your ceaseless kind comments, appreciate it much la. Have a good day.

  2. I wanted to read this post long time back, but you know what.... the 3G sucks in my village. That said, I am so carried away by the story especially the road narration. For me, it's very nostalgic and it brought back those memories of my life spent in the eastern Bhutan that I have almost completely forgotten. Most importantly, there is, as always, the journalistic blood in you to bring out issues; in this case, the road and mining. Just loved it, Gyembo. And the song, ode to doma, is interesting too. Have a good day ahead and keep writing and inspiring me always.

    1. Thank you so much Riku, for your beautiful comment. I will try to keep entertaining readers as much as possible like you always do. Take care and have a good day too.

  3. Oh, I thought Bhutanese driver is one of the most courteous drivers in the world. During my trip there they always gave way to our bus in a friendly manner. Perhaps, not always? :)

    1. Thank you Rima. I must admit Bhutanese drivers are not so courteous especially truckers plying in this part of the road. They are mostly those regulars ferrying minerals like gypsum and coal and have to reach destinations in certain stipulated times and this makes them drive recklessly endangering other road users.