Tuesday, 19 May 2015


It was a full moon night. Houses in the village nearby can be seen silhouetted against the moon lit background. The village looks to have slept long time back, soon after the night has fallen. There were no electricity and people hardly stayed awake for few hours after the darkness.

But, out in the barren field someway away from the village, a group of young men and women, and few boys and girls are in the middle of a work amidst laughter, whispers and occasional bouts of singing. Bizarre it may sound but, sometimes, some households in my village hired helping hands of young men and women during the full moon nights to break clumps of dry soil in preparation for the oncoming wheat sowing.

I didn’t understand then on why people hired helping hands during nights. Now I understand how people must have had their hands full during the day, so that something less serious like breaking down clumps of soil can be done in the low visibility of the moon-lit nights. However, young men and women and even small boys and girls always looked forward excitedly to be working in barren fields during night time. In fact, all the young people (single) in the village will turn up for the task, each holding a long handled wooden mallet. The reason for excitement is all too obvious.

Winter is cold in place like Bumthang even during the day. Night is even colder with temperatures plummeting below freezing point and the gutsy wind that blows in the valley adds to the misery but, when you are young, you always have the gut to ignore the inclement weather. And the prospect of being able to flirt with the beautiful girls of the village under the cover of hazy moonlight with the opportunity provided by the night errand always makes it exciting for young men and women. It can be possible, that some of the matches must have taken shape while attending such errands.

Younger boys and girls who are too naïve to understand true romance are consigned to one side while more matured engineered their plans to be closer to each other where they can share their feelings and hatch naughty plans under whispers and flirt with each other.

Often, the talks in the night are between a pair in hushed tone and the sounds of bursting clumps under the force of mallets are all that can be heard loud and clear. But sometimes someone in the group starts talking loud so that rests of the members hears him. Even though, someone demands attention from the rest, there would be nothing serious to talk about but, share some raunchy jokes, that triggers bouts of laughter in the group. Sometimes, the young people sing in unison and sometimes, young men and women contest in the rendition of ballad (Tzangmo).

Tzangmo is sung in such a way that, after the first group or individual rendered four lines, the other group responses with another four lines that is basically a reply to what the first group implied through their rendition. On occasion like this, young men on one side will face off with women on the other. These kinds of rendition contest are known to go on till the wee hours of mornings. If the first one sings something sweet, the respondent tries to make it even sweeter and likewise, if one group sings something with unsavory connotation, the other will try to make it even nastier but, this normally ends with reconciliatory note. I admired at the reputation of some people who are known to be a great repository of Tzangmos.

It was funny too that, although blisters may begin forming in their palms, there is no lacking in will to go on hammering the last sizeable clumps.  Perhaps, the excitement of working side by side with the girls and boys of one’s liking may have enabled their hearts to pump lot of adrenalin into their muscles that, holding high, long handled wooden mallet and bringing them strongly on clumps of soil with thuds just comes spontaneously and effortlessly. As nights wear on,excitement among the young ones fade. Their eyes become bleary and they wish to run back home and snuggle under blankets but, the older ones remain oblivious to their plight blinded by their adrenalin rush.

This often goes on into the wee hours of the morning depending on the sizes of fields. In the end, all walk back to the house which hired those hands. The relative darkness offers privacy from prying eyes and most would be walking either hand in hand or side by side nudging each other’s shoulders flirtatiously. But, that is it. After a mug of steaming buttered tea and some snacks, boys will leave for their homes and girls will sleep in the host’s home until the next morning. 

That was how it used to be then. Now, wheat and potato fields are giving way to mushrooming of hotels, resorts and other commercial ventures. I am sure people no longer need to hire helping hands and young men and women also no longer need to go to break clumps for a chance to flirt any more.

Gyembo Namgyal

 May 19, 2015 11:55 PM

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


source: google
In the last few days, there was lot of discussion in social media about the government’s decision to open slaughter houses in the country. Notwithstanding the small benefits of having slaughter houses in the country, I thought, this is a grave decision lacking wisdom and coming with utter disregard given to the concerns and sentiments of the larger population.

Arguments are being put forward justifying slaughter houses in financial and economic context. Well, how much are we really spending on import of meat that justifies setting up of slaughter houses in the country that is deeply religious? Can slaughter houses contribute to reversing the economic situation?  I have a serious doubt.

Well some argue that, since we eat lot of meat, setting up large scale meat farms and slaughter houses must be allowed amid choetens, lhakhangs and prayer flags. Certainly, there is something wrong with this kind of thinking. I think we are losing our sense of direction.

On the one hand we have the government targeting to restore thousands of hollowed-out choetens and restore their sanctity for peace, harmony and well being of all sentient beings and on the other hand the same government wants to start mega meat farms and slaughter houses for what? Other than ensuring blood smeared wealth for few promoters, the nation is bound to lose its own priceless age-old Bhutanese Buddhist values like the rest of senseless consumer driven countries of the world.

Let’s not forget that, it is Bhutan which gave the world the alternative development paradigm of Gross National Happiness (GNH) propounded by His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. GNH is a development philosophy based on Buddhist principles of moderation and compassion. Where will slaughter houses fit in? Let’s please not follow the path of illusion offered by endless consumerism and let us realize that the rest of the world is looking at us for directions as they become increasingly disillusioned by their unsustainable way of living based on insatiable consumerism.   Do we need to follow them by going the same way? Are we also seeing greener grasses on other side of the fence?

What does the mother of all our laws, the Constitution say? It says that, “Buddhism is the spiritual heritage of our country which promotes principles and values of peace, non-violence, compassion and tolerance.” Where does the slaughter house fit in?

People also argue that because we Bhutanese consume lot of meat, slaughtering takes place across the border for Bhutanese consumers. Well, we can also argue that, because meat is made available without restrictions, people tend to keep consuming. And let’s be honest here that urban dwellers with more affluence consume more meat than rural folks. While meat may be a staple for rich, it is still luxury for poor people in the villages.

Rather than allowing in slaughter houses and letting Bhutanese who can afford meat in all their meals become wholly carnivorous, an idea of meat rationing can reduce over consumption of meat. I think we can do this. Excess consumption of red meat is linked to cancer while animal fat are considered really unhealthy. We are not meant to be meat eaters. Look at our teeth, they are meant to chew and grind grains not puncture fatal wounds, tear flesh and break bones like natural carnivorous. Why isn't there institutionalized campaign against excessive meat consumption like we have for alcohol, tobacco and other substances which when consumed in excess becomes health hazards? Perhaps meat could be another root cause for rising NCDs in the country and NCDs are more common among urban dwellers than rural people.  Available records confirm the correlation.

source: google
And some may be of the view that Bhutanese Buddhist rituals are also heavily laden with non-vegetarian meals. Well, that is right. Today, even the after-death rituals take a party like atmosphere of meat laden buffets. I must confess that, this is all because of us. We can only blame ourselves for this trend. His Holiness, the Je Khenpo had issued repeated decrees on doing away with meat in rituals.  We must be ashamed of our conduct by not heeding to His Holiness’s decrees. Can we blame our religion for this?

So, before it is too late, let’s come to our senses and scrap the idea of slaughter houses.  The idea of slaughter houses should not have even taken roots in government thinking, in the first place. I am glad that petitions have come against the idea both from outside the country and also from our religious body, the Dratshang Lhentshok. I hate to use this word, but the idea of slaughter houses needs ‘SLAUGHTERING’ in the first place.


Gyembo Namgyal
May 13, 2015 02:40 pm

Sunday, 10 May 2015


source: google
For the last few days, media stories in India was dominated by the ‘Hit and Run’ case that happened in 2002 involving Bollywood super star Salman Khan. The kind of coverage given to this case with diverse views and opinions made me make my own observations and decided to write what I thought about it but, I abandoned it after some paragraphs.  With the issue not dying down easily with fresh twist and turns being given to the entire episode, I decided to put my little perspective on this issue.
Right from the onset, I must make it clear here that, I am neither a legal expert nor do I posses much understanding of how legal system works.  Whatever is written is entirely my personal view. Drawing reference from Salman’s case, I just want to present my simple understanding on how, while serving various peripheral interests; people may in fact be losing the real perspective of the issue itself at hand.

This is reported to be a case that took place in 2002 in Mumbai, the state capital of Maharashtra with a car running over some people sleeping on the pavement. One person lost his life and some others injured badly. The controversy still rages on with some saying, the actor was driving while others including the accused, now convicted in the case, denying it. Some saying there were four people inside the car while others say there were three.

Whatever, a case was registered against the actor. One of the key witnesses was the bodyguard provided by police to the actor, who unfortunately died of TB in 2007. There were lots of discrepancies on how things took over from that moment including the incidences leading to testing the actor for alcohol level in his blood, according to reports.

It was unfortunate, that the case took 12 years to come to a conclusion. The people who suffered the most were the victims who are poor and some of who lost their livelihood from debilitating injuries they sustained. It was unfortunate for them. Despite the fact that the case took so long, Salman had reportedly obliged to court’s direction and have attended all the hearings leading up to his conviction recently.

While media is still having field day with the issue because it involved a high profile celebrity, the case in itself is something that happens every day on Indian roads. Some are more horrific and yet make just a mere mention at best and soon the cases are forgotten. Some may have even escaped justice while victims suffer with not much compensation paid to victims and media hardly follow those stories later. However since a superstar is involved in this particular incidence, it continues to get all the attentions from media.

It was also understood that, following the accident, the trial court ordered the actor to submit over 19 lakhs Rupees to compensate victims which the actor did immediately and was even willing to make further compensations. This was reportedly barred by the court ordering the actor not to make further compensations and also to refrain from visiting those victims apparently in a bid to prevent him from buying witnesses. While compensations for the rest of the victim have reportedly been made, the family of the deceased is yet to receive their compensations because of disagreement between the deceased father and his widow.
source: google
As is the procedure, the culprit must be tried and sentenced for whatever laws he must have broken that night. The actor was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in jail. This was hailed by many people as law being impartial irrespective of status. The law also provides defendant his right to defend himself within the legal provisions. So, he exercised his right and secured interim bail and within two days moved High Court and secured reprieve. And this time the same people began questioning the fairness of justice system. Isn’t this cynicism? Why the case took 12 long years to conclude is something that is for the system to look at and make remedies if necessary.

I have been watching debates of all kind on Indian televisions. Never ever had an entire panelist agreed on any issue like they did on the legality of court granting bail to the actor. At times, I had the feeling that it was media which seem to disagree with court’s decision and make it look like the entire decision being influenced by money and star power. This could be why oftenmoderators found themselves against panelists who all seem to agree to the correctness of all the procedures followed in the actor being granted bail.

Another interesting observation was about the views of the victims. They said that, they are least bothered by the conviction or the sentence handed over to the actor.
“All we are looking for is some kind of monetary compensations that can alleviate our sufferings. We are least concerned with his sentencing,” said one of the victims. Media repeatedly failed to highlight on the aspirations of the victims.

What is interesting is that, the actor who is well known for his charitable activities was willing to look after the well beings of the victims irrespective of the outcome of the case. This is exactly what the survivors want and he is willing to do just that. For the victims only such an action can bring about the real difference to the lives affected by the accident. The concerns for media, authorities and social workers must be on how best victims’ sufferings can be eased.

source: google
I was also asking myself how the situation would be handled if it was in our country. There would be definitely pain, anguish and sufferings but at the end, if there is no motive, the parties will come to a compromise called Nangkha Nangdrik and matter settled amicably. The victims need not wait 12 years for justice. Justice will also be served in accordance with law for the culprit within few days or weeks. The departed soul will also rest in peace when there is no wrangling and bickering in the aftermath. The affected family can devote their precious times praying and helping the soul find peace and in rehabilitating those injured.

Finally, I would reiterate here that, this is my personal view on an issue that has dominated Indian media in the recent days making it look complicated. All I am asking myself is why don’t we make things simple by not forgetting the crux of the issue. The crux of the issue here according to me is that, an accident has taken place in which poor victims are involved. And their sufferings need to be alleviated fast rather than the issue being made a good fodder for all sorts of wrangling in public domain simply because it involved a film star. This is flip side of being a superstar. Nothing can get away that easily.

Happy Reading

Gyembo Namgyal

May10, 2015 9:00pm

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Just a few days back on May 2, schools everywhere in Bhutan marked Teacher’s Day. The day is a special one as it is also the birth anniversary of the Father of Bhutan, late His Majesty, the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It was under him that Bhutan shed its self imposed isolation from outside world and embarked upon the rapid path of modernization. Marking this special day as Teacher’s Day is a befitting tribute to the great monarch enabling all of us to pay our respects and gratitude.

The day as a teacher’s day reinforces the special bond that exists between teachers and students. For students, is a day to thank their teachers for bestowing upon them, the priceless gift of knowledge and for bringing them up to be responsible and productive citizens of the country. And for teachers, the day reminds them of the onus they have in not just teaching lessons from text books but also shaping young people into complete human being through their exemplary conduct. Like everybody else, I also thanked all my teachers, some taught lessons in classes, others taught things about life and living. I owe all of them my heartfelt gratitude.

This year, the day also brought a pleasant surprise to me. A close friend came to my place with a beautiful wishing card and a generous gift of books for a mini library that I am trying to build at home. I was humbled by such a gesture from a friend who admitted that despite being a friend, he learnt valuable lessons and meanings of life from me. I wonder what meaningful thing I could have said all along except that, whenever I see him confused, I try to share my take on issues confronting him.

What made it even more special is the fact that, this is only the second time he wished someone with a card on Teacher’s Day in his entire life. For me this is bound to be my first and certainly the last. So, it is a special one.
Thank you Tashi, for your thoughtfulness. If you have benefitted from our friendship in any ways, it is because of your receptive attitude and the desire you have, to change for the better. Although, I am not a teacher, I accept your beautiful card that I have it pasted  on my living room wall and the books will make a prized addition to my small library.

Thank you and god bless you always!

Gyembo Namgyal

May 6, 2015 10.30 pm