Saturday, February 6, 2010

Meat or no meat

Bemji people thought it was not a wise idea to serve meat during the Loechoe this year.

It was a good example for every one.

Some years ago, the tsip of Chokho geog urged the people not to use meat during the Chokue and death ceremony.

Occasions when death and promotion take place are important ones. There is always a big gathering. Yes the the occsion is as matter of rejoicing, but death is as different matter.

Now if every family in a village holds it, which is the custom, we are talking in terms of the amount of met that we will consume. Yes, in the earlier days there might have been only a few houses in a village. But consider the cluster of houses that have sprung up with the rise in population. So when we talk of the annual puja, we are taking of a lot of meat that is being consumed.

When we invite our guests and serve different varieties of meat dishes, the host feels proud and happy, and of course the guests enjoy them with gusto. And when the guests enjoy, it is a symbol that that every thing is fine.

Even during the death ceremony, meat is considered an important part. Of course, it is not important. When the guests come and enjoy, it reflects a sense of satisfaction. And that satisfaction makes the host feel good that the annual loechoe had been successful.

Of course it is the feeling that we should do better than the next house. But does it ultimately makes us serve what we want to do?

That is where the question begins. Nowhere in the Buddhist text has t been said that we have to use meat and alcohol as part of the religious ceremony, be it on death or a normal occasion.

Killing is against the Buddhist precepts and the most abhorred, yet the tradition of eating meat is not uncommon among the Himalayan Buddhists. Perhaps, there might be some reason. It might be the high mountains and cold temperatures or the lack of vegetables, but let’s leave it to the masters to decide on that.

So, does it mean that when we feed some people and they are happy at the end of the evening mean that some one who had died finds his/her way through the foggy afterlife, in accordance to the belief.

In some ways, it has been noticed that the use of meat is only among the Himalayan Buddhists, with the exception of some high lamas. How the Himalayan people, including the Tibetans, Bhutanese, Sikkimese, even Lhadhakis, Sherpas and Tamangs in Nepal, ended up eating meat as Buddhists, is something that really needs a little bit of study.

It is embarrassing to say that you are a Buddhist and you eat meat. It is equally presumptuous to pay for the animals about to be slaughtered and save them for a day or two.

It is a good step that the present Je Khenpo banned the use of meat and wine in the cremation ground and it is a good thing for the poor people. At one time, we always felt that having a good party where every one was happy with food and booze would ensure a safe passage for the dead.

What we all fail to understand, no matter which religion follow, is that we all are compounded things. Ultimately, we are just atoms that make up this world.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What was the agenda of the 13th annual education conference?

Most such conference usually ends up with the usual in-house problems that people face, which can be solved as part of the administrative work. Conferences are usually held to review the past performance and chalk out the future activities.

For some sad reason, the conference did not come out with something that really mattered in the long run and most of the discussions only focused on the administrative issues, which if the institution, department or the ministry had taken a little more effort could have been solved.

It was obvious that the dzongkhag education officers had some or other problem ranging from strategies for enhancing NFE and adult education to difference in enrolment due to rural-urban migration and misprints in budget allocation figures.

There were of course of the issue of stipends for students in Gasa, the bad or dated rations being supplied to schools and essay competition in rural schools. These are matters best solved at the administrative level. Or so it is thought.

Of course, there might be problems. It is often the complaint of most organizations at the rural level that their point of view is never heard or listened to. A conference of this nature and status is considered the platform where all such views could be aired, if not heard or taken action on.

No matter how small the issues may look from the national point of view, sitting in Thimphu, for some one sitting in a remote ramshackle school, they are important. The lack of something basic which, for people in the capital is of no consequence, presents a constraint on a rural teacher to make progress in teaching his class.

That is only one aspect. The teachers themselves have to face deprivation, ranging from lack of decent living space to supply of food and other essential commodities. Entertainment is a different story.

What was most interesting was the fact that Lyonpo Powdyel said that every child must receive basic education. He also pointed out the reasons: the parental carelessness, inadequate finances, and finally the complex education system from the past.

When education has been given a top priority in our development plans, why these small hindrances were not looked into is a small question to ask.

Education in the country has come a long way since the days when children used maize grains to form letters way back in the 1950s to the use of chalk and slates. Today, we have many Bhutanese experts who passed out from renowned universities, manning our educational institutions, planning the future course, which makes us all proud.

Somewhere along the line, something has gone awry. With all the good intentions, our education system has not been able to meet the required standard. No wonder, people talk of low standard of Bhutanese education. Or rather it is going down.

Thankfully, the talk of low standard of education has become a matter of the past. At one time, this was a big issue. Every one jumped at it and expressed their views. There is nothing bad for the education department to feel bad about. In fact, if one takes it with an open heart, it is a good feedback.

The only problem is that some feedbacks make you think, some annoy you and some make you angry. But we have no room to be annoyed or angry.

We should think over what they say. It is not always nice to listen to what others say.

But it does a lot good to listen.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tashi P. Ganzin: Gosh!! When do we stop studying?

Tashi P. Ganzin: Gosh!! When do we stop studying?

One never gets to become wise with qualifications. They are needed of course. But wisdom comes from the ability to use what you have in you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Before the year is out, reports say that there is a hundred percent increase

Before the year is out, reports say that there is a hundred percent increase in accidents in Thimphu. There is no need to work out the statistics.

But what does this mean? Let’s leave out the blame game we always have the tendency to engage in when we can’t pin a fault to any one, most of all the defaulters themselves. When a young per son is found at fault without a license or is holding a new license, we always tend to have a view that damages the reputation of a third party. In this case the licensing authority.

When we take to the road as a new driver, we always tend to worried. At the back of the mind, we always have this thought that we don’t want to crash into another car or a road divider, or even a wall or a tree.

Why? Because we don’t want to incur additional expenditure as we haven’t even finished paying the installment on the car. Considering the high rate of interest on car loans, an average new owner/driver of cars wouldn’t really like to pay additional cost of damages and repairs.

So we point out without real understanding that it is that group of rich brats, partying late in the night who is the cause of all the accidents. Or it is some reckless drivers, who don’t care about others who did it. That may be so. And, yet it may not be so.

There was this sad story of a man who bought a vehicle at a cost of Nu. 450,000. He was just learning to drive when he drove into the office car park. Some time in the afternoon, when there was less work, he wanted to go out and practice his driving skill. That cost him about Nu. 20,000 when he grazed past another vehicle on the road.

That wasn’t the last time. Some where on his way to Paro, some one’s car came and hit his car. He didn’t have the proper license to drive on the highway, so he had to pay up for the damages. He said he was on the right side. But he was wrong – he was driving without a license.

That is a technical issue. Now, it doesn’t mean mechanical but legal technicality. Now technicality is something that is difficult to define. That is why we need lawyers. And more of them are needed as we bang each other’s cars, or socially and verbally abuse each other or encroach upon what each of us consider is our private preserve, and so on.

Having said all that, the question is who is at fault?

When something happens, yes we make it a point to find an escape goat. Recent reports say that the RSTA is not careful about issuing licenses to the applicants.

The allegations of underhand dealings had always been there. There is nothing new about it. Any one can complain. There have been reports that RSTA had given license to people without undergoing driving test, or even on payment of certain amount of fees. Allegations are just allegations. If they are proven, then such practices will no longer take place, besides the officials/staff who are engaged in such practice would be brought to justice.

The problem is the small society in Bhutan. The man who complains does know the person who indulges in such practices. But he won’t openly name him.

There have been a few occasions when persons have come to this newspaper, who told us these are the facts. You investigate but don’t quote us.

Now, who really wants to take up someone’s burden? Every one has enough problems.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Let the New Year open new doors for opportunities, happiness and love for every one.

Happiness is what matters. Whether it is between two persons, family, among the communities or nations, happiness is something that really matters. Yes, while we talk of happiness, we have never lived by the principle of happiness and co-existence.

This is not the thing to talk about on this day. Yet we do need to talk about it.

For too long, we have been fighting each other. Bombing each other’ villages. Killing each other. Coveting what the other country owns through political and other means. Why should big countries make all the money and leave us behind?

Who are they to dictate those terms by which we have to live by? We are also the equal inheritors of this earth.

The third world always had the worst of everything. The so-called modern world today never realised that the Asians or other third countries were even worth giving a second thought to. And they have said so. With Copenhagen.

What do they know about a small country struggling to survive? What do they care if the streams in the mountains dry up because of the carbon emission or a lake bursts g its dam? Why should they care if some island nations go under the sea? The point is, does any one really look into what is really important?

It’s all relative. If it affects me, I should be concerned, if not why should I be? Simple logic? Some one is spewing more carbon and why shouldn’t I? And that’s where the problem begins.

No matter how big an issue it is, it will ever be considered as one. It is how you present it and who listens. That is another story.

More important is that fact that democracy has brought our people together.

The monarchy, after having consolidated the kingdom for the last hundred years, have finally handed over the management to the people. Isn’t it time that we should take it with a sense of pride and responsibility being bestowed from above, not as just a right by birth.

Like we always pay our respects to our elders, we should also learn to pay for what we have been bestowed on.

His Majesty, the King Jigme Khesar has been at the helm of the state affairs for the last two years. He had been taking the burden of the nation because he cares. Shouldn’t we also make a small start by taking part in it. Now the question is HOW?

There are lots. The only problem is we don’t know where to look and how to go about it. But LOOK is the catchword.

We don’t have to look afar. Every time we come out with project, we think of a donor agency.

Similarly, every time we want to chew a doma or smoke a cigarette, think how much that would help our country and of course ourselves.

Most of all, we don’t have to shamelessly extend our social service begging bowl.

These are something we Bhutanese can do ourselves. But we never do.

We, in Thimpu, watch on TV, Sherubtse or other graduates come and clean our streams once in while. We have never even thanked them properly.

We have to learn whom to thank for what we are today.

That’s the resolution that Bhutanese should make on this day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The more, the merrier?

The journalism fraternity has increased. Now we can boast of one newspaper for every 100,000 population with The Journalist in the scene.

That of course doesn’t take into account the launching of magazines like Druk Trowa, Yeewong and of course the much-talked about Drukpa. We have some nine publications going around the country now.

Yeewong, the first women’s magazine launched on 30 September, is about embracing every aspect of Bhutanese womanhood that makes Bhutanese women special and different. It would also be focusing on youth and child issues, according to its editorial stance.

Then on 9 November, Bhutan’s first film and entertainment magazine Druk Trowa came into the scene. For the first time, our film stars received publicity to their heart’s content, besides the weekly snippets that the newspapers wrote about them to cover their entertainment pages.

Then came the much talked-about Drukpa on 17 December: it plans to address the gap in the Bhutanese media and give readers something different in the process. Every issue of Drukpa will be based on a specific and special theme, which will be covered in an in-depth and comprehensive manner.

Now following on their heels, comes another weekly. It is run under the supervision of a man who is a writer in his own rights, and he has a bunch of reporters/writers who cut their teeth when Bhutan Times came into operation. Gopi knows what he is doing. So do his staff members.

The birth of this paper can be traced back to Tenzin Rigden, who may not have direct connections with this paper, but has much to do with why it came about in the first place. The end of his term, which resulted in a new management, caused the reporters to resign, and begin a paper of their own.

Tenzin Rigden started off with Bhutan Media Services, before plunging into newspaper when government decided to liberalise it, is a good writer and an organizer too. He has a knack of the business of media. But then like all journalists and writers, he is also susceptible to chew what he cannot swallow.

But then, that sounds like making remarks in retrospection. We all know the CICCC bid to make a name and fame clipped his wings.

Other members of the press fraternity looked on him with awe. Sadly, at the end of it, his board of directors and shareholders were not impressed.

Though the Bhutanese media scene is booming, one criticism has been the lack of depth on issues covered in newspapers. That is correct. But how do we go about correcting this problem? This will happen only when, if not all but most of the literate members don’t wrinkle up their nose, read the Bhutanese product and give fair comments to encourage its development and growth.

Despite the courage it has taken to plunge into it, Bhutanese media still needs time to build itself into an institution that the country will look up to.

But then, the new media organizations joining the fraternity means that the government is open about it. After all, media and democracy go hand in hand. That obviously is the reason why free media was allowed in Bhutan even before the first democratic elections were held.

In some countries, the newspaper and magazine business is almost like cottage industry.

We in Bhutan haven’t come to that sad stage. The possibility is very near. Yet despite all that possibility, let’s look up to the brighter side of new news organizations coming into operation. Whatever is happening is for the good, like one journalist said.

The more the merrier.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How soon can we infuse GNH into the curricula?

(Note: This is something that happened somewhere around 13 December, I am uploading it only for information.)

With the workshop on Educating for Gross National Happiness that ended Saturday, the kingdom today stands at a remarkable crossroads in its history, in terms of its education policy.

Once the GNH principles and approaches are embedded in the structure of the country’s educational system and curricula, GNH will be a living reality in Bhutan. This is a decision that will influence the future of the country for generations to come.

And it should rightly be so. GNH, the country’s guiding philosophy since 1972 has sought to integrate sustainable and equitable economic development with environmental conservation, good governance, and preservation and promotion of the country’s ancient culture and profound traditions.

What does this mean in practice? First, sustainability principles, values, factual knowledge, and behavior would not only be taught in dedicated courses on environmental science, protection, and conservation, but they would also serve as examples in mathematics exercises, grammar texts, science experiments and more.

Noted educators like David Orr have critiqued conventional science texts for neglecting and underplaying human dependence on the natural world, and in some cases implicitly promoting environmentally destructive behaviors by implying the potential dominance of man and technology over nature.

A GNH curriculum would correct that present imbalance by focusing more on the interdependent nature of reality, including human interaction with natural forces.

It would also promote and teach respect for indigenous human cultures, languages, and knowledge. A few Bhutanese educators have been inspired to take students into the country’s old-growth forests to show and teach youth about the medicinal value and uses of local herbs and plant, which are in danger of being lost if not incorporated into formal educational curricula.

Of course, much discussion had taken place between our leaders and the educators before this concept of incorporating GNH into the education system ever came into being.

Our Education Minister himself has emphasized that genuine GNH curricula would go beyond mere conceptual and intellectual learning but attempt more effectively to integrate heart, mind, spirit, and behavior. In other words, such curricula would incorporate learning that draws not only on reasoning alone but also on experiential, artistic and feeling faculties, and that attempts to translate knowledge into action.

The first step in designing GNH curricula has already been taken. The assembly of a top international team of educators has contributed all they could for the system. Now the real task is to put all those points, depending on what fits where, breaking them down to subjects, topics and activities.

The workshop has provided the education ministry with a road map and a plan of action to begin the process of incorporating GNH values and principles into the school system by the beginning of 2010. Lyonpo Powdyel himself expressed confidence and optimism when he said that we know now what we should be doing in the next couple of weeks and months. And a national task force has been constituted to implement the plan.

Confidence and optimism is one thing, but it takes time to arrange things. Logistics take time. First and foremost would be to orient the principles to the new concept and approach.

The concept is beautiful, but how does one go about integrating it each subject. That calls for experts and cannot be left to the individual teachers, without proper guidelines.

Besides, incorporating the GNH principles and approaches to the syllabi involves a revision. Revising the text books on various subjects calls for time and lots of experts in a particular subject. This is particularly interesting when we realise that our school text books haven’t been revised for the last five years or so.