karmachoden

Spontaneous expression of thoughts and emotions in words.

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

An Encounter of a terrifying kind

My friend, who just got back home after completing her master’s degree in India, was on her way to Thimphu. We had a dinner together and she narrated an incident which almost broke my heart. Below is the account of things she narrated to me.

 

She got into a public bus at Gelephug bus station. She was placed at the last seat and she was all alone when she got in. A little later when the bus was about to move, a young gentleman got in occupying the seat next to her in the same line.  He gave her a sweet smile and tried to dig out some conversation with her. She responded in good faith. As the bus started moving on their conversation also grew. However, all hell broke loose when the young man started acting like a mad man. He seemed out of control. Suddenly he looked like he was being overcome by some uncontrollable spirit in him. He even started teasing her and asking her if she reciprocated his feelings.

 

She knew that he was under the influence of drug and that there was no point in arguing with him so she kept her distance. On the way, however, a lady got in and she had to occupy the seat next to the young man. He behaved with the lady in the same way he did with my friend. The lady in turn chased him to a different seat. He somehow managed to sit on the interior stairs of the bus. There was a lady with two kids just next to him.  He said something to the lady which off course my friend did not over hear but the lady started to abuse the young man. She slapped him, punched him and even was showing the up yours sign to him. She even started to hit him with the pointed part of her umbrella a few blow of which got blocked by an old man next to them.

 

No one in the bus dared do anything. The conductor was too young to even intervene. Later my friend noticed that he had swollen eyes and cuts all over his face.

 

Now why the incident did tear my heart? How could someone be so cruel as to hurt an already senseless man.? Instead why couldn’t the lady show some compassion? I was told that the young man was too high on drug to be a threat. He could barely move his own body let along harm her. So there is no question of self defense.

 

Is this world a safe place for our children if someone like the lady in picture could go to the extent of hitting an innocent, helpless young man.? How do we teach compassion and consideration to our children when adults don’t? And especially if she was a mother could she even think of inflicting pain on somebody’s child?

 

And it tore my heart because the young man in question was just a class 12 graduate.

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A Gratitude Lesson from the September 18 Earthquake

The earthquake that jolted Bhutan on 18th September 2011 is a good reminder for all of us that life is very uncertain and anytime anywhere anything can happen. Judging by the way people were frantically running about in the streets and open spaces to seek safety made me think if we are prepared for any disaster at the individual level. This is also a reminder for the construction people that we need quality structures with earthquake resilient features included.

This earthquake claimed many lives across India, Nepal and Bhutan. In Bhutan only more than 4000 structural damages are reported including houses, schools, BHUs and Lhakhangs with Haa Dzongkhag being the worst hit. Many people are still living in makeshift houses and tents out in the cold yet they are fortunate that they are alive. There are people who are mourning the death of their loved ones, there are people recovering in the hospital bed, and there are people who have been severely traumatized by the incident. Then there are the fortunate lots who live to narrate the various experience felt at the time of incident. I am one among them- the fortunate lot. Today I am here being able to pen my thoughts out because God has given me a second chance.

I was talking to some of my colleagues in the boarding schools and learned that the situations in the hostels were a topsy-turvy. One of them said that it was so chaotic that everyone was running about hysterically. She said that in reality the theory of “Dug, Cover and Hold” that they practiced under the disaster management did not work at all.

Since the time of the incident I have been contemplating about my life. While I empathize and send out my prayers to the victims of the earthquake, I am filled with gratitude for this life. And I wonder if all the survivors of the quake despite their material losses appreciate the fact that they are still alive and kicking. Think of those people lying helplessly in the hospital bed, the helpless prisoners in the jails, women struggling with last minute labour pain, and the old and the sick. What must have gone through them when they felt the tremor and were helpless to do anything. All they could do was pray and accept their fate.

Thus, the most important lesson we need to learn from the tremors that started from northeast India and shook Bhutan by surprise is that we need to redefine our very purpose of living on this earth. As long as we are alive on this earth we take everything for granted. But the near to death experience should at least wake us up from our slumber.

While we are living we are always running about ignoring the simple pleasures of life. We do not see the flowers bloom in the spring, we do not listen to the birds sing in the woods, we do not notice the branches that provide us shade in a scorching sunny day, and we forget to dance with the rhythm of the rain drop. We are always in a rush that we forget to relish the taste of the food that we eat, cherish the moments of togetherness with family or be with the nature.

Most of the time, we are either filled with resentment, hatred or bitterness with one thing or the other. We are never satisfied of anything that comes by and we go on complaining about life. Gratitude is a word that is so common yet so uncommonly practiced. Sogyal Rinpoche, one of the world’s most renowned practitioners mentioned in one of his teachings here in Bhutan, that “gratitude is the best religion in the world.” How many of us appreciate the little and small things that come our way bringing happiness?

I, for instance, have been fussing about my apartment since the time I moved into it. For the first time on that fateful day, I realized how lucky I was to be staying in that house. I felt so grateful to be staying on the first floor with exit door leading directly to the open space in case of major disaster.  I felt so grateful to be able to hold and hug my kids.

Then and there I picked up my lap top and wrote the journal of gratitude which was long overdue. I wrote in my gratitude journal, “I am so grateful for this life, I am thankful that the quake that shook the north east India and almost all part of Bhutan shook me to the point of redefining my very purpose of living on this earth, I am grateful that I am living in a flat where I could run away easily where as there were people who were  chained to their beds in the hospital and were helpless when the shaking took place for that lethal few seconds, I am so grateful that I could sit with my family and my friend and her family and enjoy the dinner and have a good night’s sleep despite the tremors we still felt in us. Most of all I am grateful, for today I am reminded once again that life is all about being able to appreciate the small and little things in life and being grateful for what we have rather than lamenting about what we don’t have.”

We talk of Gross National Happiness and we seek it in the material world rather than knowing that happiness lies in the little things in our lives. We always compare our life with that of others and find want of something or the other. I always say that never to compare your life with that of others and if you do then compare with those less fortunate than you and you will realize how blessed you are. If we find discontentment with our life all you have to do is visit the Jigme Dorji National referral Hospital and we will find that we have everything we want

Hats Off to the Education Minister of Bhutan

November 24, 2011 saw our honourable minister of education, Mr. Thakur S. Powdyel, receiving one of the most coveted prizes that one can dream of at the Philippine International Convention Center, Manila. It was the night of the celebration marking the 2010 Gusi Peace Prize International awards.
Gusi Peace Prize is a Philippine based award, recognizing individuals working toward the attainment of peace and respect for human life and dignity. It is the Nobel Peace Prize for Asia.The annual Gusi Peace Prize Awards is run by the Gusi Peace Prize Foundation that performs humanitarian work for poor communities in the Philippines. It was founded by Ambassador Barry Gusi in 2003.GUSI stands for four ideals: G as in Godliness. U as in Unification. S as in Service. I as in Internationalism. These four ideals are used in choosing the awardees around the world.
Our honourable minister was one amongst the 20 awardees around the world who was conferred with the title of Gusi Peace Prize for his contribution in the field of education system in Bhutan. Modern education system in Bhutan has come a long way since the father of modern education in Bhutan, His Majesty the third king brought about reforms in the education system in the country. His Excellency, Thakur S. Powdyel was a part of that education system as a student and then taking the role of a teacher since 1984. He then went on to serve as the vice principal of the only college in Bhutan where I was one of his students in the late 1990’s. During those days in the college we used to refer to his Excellency as the Shakespeare of the east. His teaching in English would capture the students with rapt attention. His philosophy lecture about life would convince the students to lead life of integrity and honesty.
From being a teacher in the school to a lecturer and administrator in the college, and then serving as the director for the only research section in the ministry of education, his Excellency has seen the emergence of the education system in the country through various lens.
Now as the serving education minister, his Excellency has been propagating the concept of Gross National Happiness as envisioned by his Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck as a developmental philosophy for Bhutan. The idea of ‘Green School for Green Bhutan’ through ‘Educating for GNH’ has been initiated under the leadership of honourable minister. The green school for green Bhutan encompasses eight components reflected as natural greenery, intellectual greenery, academic greenery, social greenery, cultural greenery, spiritual greenery, aesthetic greenery, and moral greenery.
In every school visit his Excellency has been trying to uplift the moral of our teachers and students by the mention of the nobility of the profession he has thus chosen in his entire life. His encouraging words, his deep conviction in the noble profession of teaching, his utmost faith and trust in the people who have chosen his way, has melt the heart of many teachers across the country.
Thus, it was no surprise when I heard that his Excellency was going to be conferred the title of the Asia’s most coveted prize for the very contribution that he has made in the education system in Bhutan. This article is my way of paying my humble tribute in joining the Philliphines Nation to felicitate his Excellency for the accolade. The conferring of such honour is one of the first of its kind and thus reflects the magnitude of Bhutan in an international arena.

Empower yourself

In RED-the colour of power, energy, action and confidence. My Friends and I decided to wear RED to pledge our full support to the volunteers who decided to brave the world by coming live on BBS television to share their stories.

December 1st is my daughter’s birthday. She will be turning 12 on this day. Papa is out of station which leaves with only my boy, girl and me at home.  Unlike in the past like cutting the cake, blowing off the candles and lighting the butter lamps we decided to celebrate in different ways.  We were exploring how we will go about celebrating her birthday when suddenly the BBS announced that few groups of people with HIV AIDS from Lhak-Sam will be coming live on BBS on 1st December marking the World AIDS Day.

Well, we found how to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. We decided to stay glued to the TV and wait for this group to come on live. We decided to listen to them, hear what they have got to say, how they have fought with not only the disease but also with the discrimination by the society. I thought to myself what better way to mark my girl’s birthday.

This is the time to teach her about responsibility, compassion to ones with HIV-AIDS and how we can go about contributing in our own little ways to help them fight the disease with love, care and compassion. She can also learn how as an individual she can prevent zero HIV infection.

Bhutan is a small country with closely knit society. Discrimination is least expected in a supposedly compassionate society like ours but it’s happening whether we like it or not. This year the World AIDS Day theme is “Getting to Zero” which means zero new HIV infection, zero AIDS related death and most importantly zero discrimination.

What we need to understand in a small society like ours is that HIV-AIDS is like any other diseases. It does not happen just by the mere carelessness of the individuals involved in sexual activities. Look at the innocent children born with it. Look at those blameless individual who must have got the disease through some infected blades in the barbers shop, or through wrong injections.

What we don’t understand is that more than the pain of having the disease, it is the pain of the discrimination that is killing them slowly.  It is the attitude of the people against those infected with HIV-AIDS that is not acceptable. On this day it is only right to think responsibly, positively and share the responsibility of providing the much needed care, support and compassion to all those carrying the killer disease with them.

On this day, I would like to salute the volunteers who decided to come forward and brave the world. Their action will go a long way in helping people understand the pains and turbulences that the people with HIV-AIDS go through on a daily basis.  It is now the responsibility of every one of us to join them in solidarity to combat the disease as well as the discrimination jointly.

Lets us remember that zero new HIV infection is the responsibility of every individual and zero discrimination is the responsibility of the society.

Coming home with MEDALS

Three smiling faces stood in front me in my office humbly displaying their medals and certificates to me.  There was not a bit of haughtiness in their disposition over what they had achieved. I was touched to the core of my heart. I could not have been happier to see the boys having proved their capability in science and having added value to their CV by carrying certificates from one of the most renowned institutions recognized internationally.

Before departing to Delhi they had come to my office for briefing and housekeeping. They had introduced to me as Sonam Tobgay from Jigmesherubling HSS in Khaling, Trashigang, Karma Gyeltshen from Tendru HSS in Samtse and Giri Huang Limboo from Chukha HSS in Chukha. They are none other than the three gold medalists who had just come back from New Delhi after attending the award ceremony at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. They stood out as the medalist amongst the 634 students across the country who sat for the IGNOU-UNESCO Science Olympiad 2011.

IGNOU-UNESCO Science Olympiad is a programme initiated by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi in collaboration with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), South Asia Office, New Delhi in 2010. The programme was aimed to search for and motivate the science talent in the South Asian countries.

Bhutan got the invitation to participate in 2010 coinciding with the Bhutan Year of Science and Technology which was celebrated on 10th November 2010 marking the World Science Day. I was coordinating the programme in Bhutan which gave me the opportunity to coordinate the IGNOU-UNESCO Science Olympiad too.

The science Olympiad is done in two levels of tier test. The tier-test 1 is to be conducted in the home country of all the SAARC countries. The question papers are distributed from the IGNOU in New Delhi and we have to conduct the test here in Bhutan.

In the first year we saw a maximum of 405 students who registered for the tier –test 1 out of which only about 390 students sat for the test. The answer papers had to be sent to IGNOU again for correction. We had three gold medalist and 37 merit certificate winners in 2010. The gold medalist then had to go to New Delhi and sit for the tier-test 2 where in the medalists from all the SAARC countries had to compete. The three medalists from Bhutan in 2010 were Karma Tenzin from Ugyen Academy, Sonam Drukpa from  Jigmesherubling HSS and Ugen Wangchuk from Trashitse HSS.

From what I observed as a coordinator, there were maximum participations from the east in consecutive two years. Jigmesherubling HSS is backing the gold medal for the second time this year and the school is optimistic that they will bring more medals next year.  Students from far flung places in Bhutan seem to be more aware and more interested to take part in such kind of programmes.  All the three medalists come from humble family background and had no prior exposure to the outside world.

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