Thursday, 30 October 2014


(When is a loss gain? Find it out from Pavan’s book that begins in India, climaxes in Bhutan and sees a happy ending in India. It is spellbinding book. To find it more one must read it but, here is a synopsis of the book-poor though.)
Pavan Kumar Varma’s book ‘When Loss Is Gain’ is a beautiful fiction which will be loved by readers. There is no reason why this book should not become reader’s favourite because it contains beautiful plot that connects with the lives of many individuals.

The book has the main protagonist Anand, a lawyer by profession narrating the story in first person. It tells about the life of Anand who is happily married man working in his buddy Adi’s law firm. Unfortunately, the couple could not bear child of theirs and thus a rift develops in the marriage. Anand, devotes his time in is work and thus the last of the sparks in his marital life slowly wanes.

The protagonist also finds himself being ridiculed more often by his best friend as time went on and realizes his wife Tanu finding more time for Anand’s friend and employer Adi. On several occasion Anand finds Tanu unusually closer physically to Adi. This closeness raises suspicion but Anand brushes them aside believing what is going through in his mind cannot be true.

Then one day Anand gets hospitalized and later learns that he has pancreatic cancer. Under normal circumstances, the doctor takes second opinions from renowned colleagues but in Anand’s case, Tanu plays her part and insists on the doctor to not seek a second opinion and tell Anand the prognosis which shatters Anand. But the real pain was not from the realization of the looming death but that of his wife leaving him for his nemesis Adi right when he needed her the most.
source: google
However, after several months, the doctor who diagnosed Anand decides to take second opinion on his prognosis from two different specialists both of whom come out with the same result as not life threatening cancer but a treatable condition. Thus, Anand gets back a second chance to live which makes him appreciate every moment of his life and one day comes across a Bhutanese man who suggested he visit Bhutan for a change.

He flies to Bhutan and lives at Wangsisina between Paro and Thimphu during which he learns so many insights on life from his host. He becomes mesmerised about the country steeped in tradition and culture with deep respects accorded to environment. The stories of rocks having souls and the belief of even the inert materials having spirits not only intrigue Anand he falls in love with the place.

It is here that he comes across another Indian woman named Tara who was trying to get enrolled in a nunnery after her lover ditched her back in India. Anand and Tara meet regularly and fall in love with each other. In order to help the love grow fonder, the house owner arranges Anand and Tara’s visit to Punakha where they visit the dzong and even Chimi Lhakhang, founded by divine madman Drukpa Kunley. They return back after an eventful day.

After that eventful visit, Tara decides no to meet Anand in her preparation to become a nun. She did not want to fall in love again but she already does. Anand becomes frustrated and it is time he returns back to India. Anand’s lady landlord arranges one final meeting between the two by the riverside. On the fateful day, just when the couple were about to meet, the swollen river washes away Anand.

Tara manages to find the house owner who informs police and arranges the search party who had to return back not finding a trace of Anand and assumes him to be dead. Meanwhile Anand’s last visual were of the rocks bending down to save him. Twenty-four hours later Anand was found alive miraculously on a ledge that was way above the river line unconscious but very much alive.
He was then taken to hospital where he was found to be alright. It was there that Tara lets Anand know that she too loved him. The couple gets married in traditional Bhutanese style with the help of Anand’s host Chhimi and then one day returns back to India.

Back in Delhi, Anand learns of the plight of Adi who has become an alcoholic and how his law firm is in dire straits. Suddenly one day, Tanu arrives at Anand’s place and asked Tara about the nunnery where she intends to go and become a nun herself after what has gone through her life.

Anand meanwhile gets offer from a reputed law firm where he agrees to work four-days a week as consultant at double the salary Adi paid him earlier.

When Anand and Tara after the birth of their daughter Yashodhara returns back to Bhutan, they find Tanu no longer at the Wangsisina nunnery having moved further into the retreat.

When Loss is a Gain is indeed a gripping novel that also depicts the beauty and serendipity of Bhutan where people live simple lives in perfect harmony with nature even as 21st century roars on. It is a story of love, betrayal, desperation and the beauty of triumph in the end. It is a story of life making a full circle that has essence of Buddhist teaching and that of Ley Jumdrey, the truth of cause and effect.

I would certainly recommend this book to Bhutanese readers. I am sure readers will enjoy reading it like I did.

Meanwhile, keep reading and writing too. We will meet soon on the same page where we all likeminded people always do. Take care and God bless you all.

Gyembo Namgyal
October 30, 2014 9.0pm

NB: Pavan K Varma is the former Indian Ambassador to Bhutan. He is a distinguished diplomat, a well published author and a poet.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Last Friday afternoon, I had to make a visit to Pemagatshel town which is about 5 kilometres away from where I live. I had an important errand at the town. While at the town I dropped by to a friend’s place and one thing led to another and took quite sometime before I could finally head home. A contractor was in a desperate situation having been asked to provide rate analysis for a work where he bided unreasonably low. I was in a hurry but, he was virtually imploring me and my friend to help him out and the worst thing was it happened to be the deadline day for him.

Immediately after that, I headed home. I would have taken some more time at the market if I did not make a hasty retreat because some of my closest friends were found talking in one of the restaurant.

Back at the last shop, another friend, an official of a corporation was outside the shop talking with the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper invited us profusely for a cup of tea. I reluctantly accepted the invitation on the insistence of the other friend.

Outside the shop, there were many young men. One was visibly drunk. And he is, a school dropout son of a businessman in Pemagatshel. Although he stays with his parents at Pemagatshel market, he said he was heading to a village claiming to have got married there. Someone dropped him till the shop. He wanted to go with me till the point where I will be taking diversion. I agreed but, he found this official and wanted to go with him as he will be travelling further. The official also agreed to take him and asked him to wait for some time.

After the tea, we stepped outside to resume our journey home. Just then one of the young men stepped forward to inform me that the drunken boy had my car’s windshield broken. He was about take a hasty retreat by hopping in that officer’s car. I stopped him and confronted him.

There was guilt in his face but he refused to accept his doing. I was momentarily furious because of his denial and even dialed police number. The shopkeeper intervened and said it would make better sense talking to the boy’s parents or guardian. The boy’s brother-in-law responded and agreed to come to the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, the boy kept denying it was his cowardly act even in the face of at least half a dozen eyewitnesses who were all his friends.

The eye witnesses confided that, although the culprit was their friend, they have no choice but testify what they saw. Someone even admitted that although they contemplated making exit, they know that they will be called to record what they saw because I know them all and there was no escape.

The brother-in-law came after few minutes and witnesses told him what they saw with their eyes. I told the boy’s brother-in-law in no uncertain term that if he believes in the boy’s denial, police will have to be called. The boy’s brother-in-law accepted responsibility and assured to redeem the damages without the need of going through police after witnesses proved beyond a fickle of doubt about what happened. The boy acted despicably, he could hardly stand on his feet but kept denying the charges and began acting hysterically refusing to go back home along with his brother-in-law. Finally, the shopkeeper had to drive the car while the brother in-law kept hold of the drunken boy.

It was disappointing. Disappointing not because the way-ward boy sabotaged my car, there was no way he could deny it to escape redeeming the damage as there was enough eye witnesses. It was his attitude that was unbelievably disappointing that, despite so many eye witnesses he was in a state of denial. He also lacked manners and this was an ample evidence to show just how badly spoilt he proved to be.

I felt sad and worried that, people like him are becoming a nuisance in the society.  He is not spoiling his life which he already did after the last school he studied chucked him out for multiple reasons. He has become a liability to his family, society and the nation. But, of all the people, it is the parents who have failed in their primary responsibilities of parenthood.

That evening, he could be at the receiving end of everything. I had to exercise utmost restraint and thought it only sensible to call his guardian, fix responsibilities of his action and hand over the intemperate delinquent to his kith.

Dear readers do you agree with my action that evening? What would have been the most appropriate action? I thought he deserved another chance after his guardian took responsibilities of his action. Please share your thoughts in comments.

Wish my readers a good day ahead. Until next time take good care and be alert at all times!!!

Gyembo Namgyal
October 28, 2014 8.40 am

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


It is time-honoured quality that is homogeneous in this land,
Of spiritual devotion that have withstood all human metamorphoses.
And arm in arm with modernity the spirituality blended like a perfect matrimonial match,
No less universal and no less profound and embedded in everyone’s heart.

Farmers leave behind their ploughs,
Businessmen forsakes their profits,
Office goers shuns their duties,
All flock to the place where the learned bestows blessings.

The grimes and filth are washed for the blessing’s sanctity,
The overly white cuffs on officers’ clothes are gone portraying simplicity.
The knee length ghos are lowered and even recalcitrant dons submissive looks,
And the white kaabneys are replaced by the red robes of sangha en mass.

People come walking, babies on their backs secured,
Children scamper, stumble and whimper-excitement on their faces.
Some ride in the rear of reckless rickety pickups,
All for a common goal of a liberating spiritual experience.

It’s the only time life springs back even in the silent hamlets in boondocks,
All abuzz boisterously with a sea of people from all walks,
And shapes and sizes as varied as one can imagine,
Donned In a sea of colours, that shimmers under the noon’s bright sunlight.

Like the waves of a sea the crowd sways,
As they converge to the epicenter of where the holy soul prays,
The sun may go down, and darkness takes place all over,
There are distances to cover and trails to traverse but not without being blessed.

Not a soul will leave without fulfilling their mission,
The mission of a glimpse of the precious teacher on the throne,
And receive his blessings that may just last a second but it is the essence,
Such is the devotion that is timelessly perpetual in this land of the fortunate.

For these devotees, devotion is unquestionable in their heart,
They see the teacher on the throne as the emanation of the enlightened Buddha,
The ground zero anywhere is as sacrosanct as the holy land of liberating Bodhgaya,
And all the people their spiritual family on the path to enlightenment guided by the peerless teacher.

Gyembo Namgyal
October 23, 2014 7.30 am

Dear readers, here is a poor description of the unquestionable faith Bhutanese have towards spiritual pursuit. This kind of universal faith among Bhutanese people have withstood test of time and this is something astounding. Influences like materialism haven’t been able to shake our devotion to spiritualism and the zest and zeal remains ever perpetual. We must be proud of this value which remains one of the guiding principles of our lives.

Thank you, dear readers for taking time to read this and other posts. Take care and have a good day. Meet you soon again on this page!!!


Gho; Traditional Bhutanese knee length  dress worn by men.
Kaabney: A long white scarf worn by men over gho in formal ocassions.

Friday, 17 October 2014


It was a week to remember. A week like no other that can occur in the life of an ordinary being like me. It was an honour, privilege and little embarrassing all together, but it was a week that will have to be marked as something extraordinary to have met personally three distinguished individuals of our country.

First, it was a perchance that, I met former health minister of the first democratically elected government of Bhutan, Dasho Zangley Drukpa on October 13 at Pemagatshel market. He is also the serving member of parliament from Khar-Yurung constituency. It was a brief meeting but no less inspiring.

Dasho is known as one of the most vocal parliamentarian who has the reputation for quick wit and humour and expertly blending them in his arguments in parliamentary deliberations. He is an amiable personality with infectious smile and easy nature, but he is a proven task master. Wits apart, the former minister said he is in the dzongkhag to assess and understand issues in his constituency and the dzongkhag especially in the health care system.

Business apart, it was kind of Dasho to ask me about my reading and writing and encouraged me to follow my passion earnestly. He asked my blog’s url after knowing that I have started blogging after my seven plus years as Bhutan Observer Correspondent ended two months back.

On October 15, I had the honour of meeting the chairperson of the National Council, Thrizin Dasho Dr Sonam Kinga. It was both an awkward as well as an honour meeting him. Awkward, because the meeting was an extemporaneous one and I might have failed in providing the minimum basic chadri that is deemed proper for someone holding as high a post as that of the chair of the parliament’s upper house. An honour it was because, to host such a high ranking personality in my humble shack gave me an overwhelming feel.

I also felt little irked and little thankful to the man responsible for this meeting, a media colleague of mine. I felt a momentary sense of indignation for his decision to host the chairperson’s interview in my farm without forewarning me or intimating me. A little information beforehand would have given me time to make some basic arrangements deserving of a customary Bhutanese protocol. I just had enough time to wear a gho and place a symbolic Thokey on the chogdrom.

Deficiencies and shortcomings apart, I felt honoured, because the visit enabled my humble shack to be graced by one of the most important position holder in the country and the brief visit was hunky dory in the end. This visit by NC Chairperson was reminiscent of a similar visit in 2008 of the former Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley to my same humble dwelling devoid of even the minimum basic requirements necessary for high profile visitors.

Before the Hon’ble Chairperson even sat down for a glass of juice, he was standing right next to my humble book corner holding just about a hundred books and found his eyes scanning over the titles. He encouraged me to keep reading and writing. One remark touched me the most. “One day, I want to live like you in a village,” he said and complimented my small collections.

On the next morning, I had an appointment to call on the Hon’ble Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay. I tried to go as early as possible but, someone was already there before me.  His down to earth personality and easy going way of conversing in Dungsampa ways is what makes him respected and endeared son of Dungsam. Every time, he visits his home, he is flooded by visitors from morning till late evening comprising especially of elderly village people who do not hesitate addressing the Chief Justice as Khotsa Lyonpo.

It was always an inspiration meeting Lyonpo and listening to his words of wisdom. He is truly, one of the most accomplished national figures who is respected and admired by all. He is one of those individuals that we can truly call as ‘destined ones’.

Lyonpo is on a private visit to the dzongkhag as the patron, hosting His Eminence Gangtey Tuelku in the dzongkhag to bless people with wangs and rare displays of Gantey Nangtens like Guru Uzha (Guru Rimpoche’s hat) a Guru Suung Joenma Statue among others. Tuelku also blessed most of the gewogs with brief visits. In one such hectic visit, both lyonpo and Tuelku had to be transshipped in rickety Bolero pickups to by-pass a road block.

So, it was a busy and a momentous week for me. It is an honour for a simpleton to be meeting three important personalities in a week. A renewed feeling of inspiration is what I am feeling right now. Be inspired dear readers and enjoy reading. I promise to be back soon on our usual meeting ground-on this page.

Take care and have good time.

Gyembo Namgyal
October 17,10.20 pm.

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