Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dechog's first day at School

March 1, 2012 Dechog, my elder daughter woke up excited as she would be going to school. So was me and I called up my wife who was that time in Thailand undergoing a short training, that our child is going to school that day. By then, I had already bought her new set of uniforms, shoes and a suitable school bag.

She happily followed me to school. Neatly dressed in her new school uniform she appeared bright and pretty. Upon reaching the school there were old students as there were new students - some happy, some scared and some totally lost. And there were noises of children meeting each other and parents seeking directions while teachers greeted everyone coming in. Amidst all these, Tring-tring-tring the school bell rang.

Meanwhile, I was closely observing my child. I know it was a shock for her to see such a crowd. Gradually she started to wear different facial expressions. I could see her getting scared. I could feel her loneliness. I could see her become sad and loose her confidence.

"You are like any other child. Look at them how they're playing. They're happy and you should be happy too," I said. My words had no impact on her. "Come on, say you are happy. Aren't you?" I persuaded again. That time she did force me a cute smile. As I guided her to the line she broke down into tears and then kept staring at me. And as morning prayers went on she started to cry out loud which drew the attention of Madam Principal. She was then summoned in front of the assembly along with Madam Principal herself.
Madam Principal tried her best to stop her from crying and made announcement, "It's just that she has a bit of stomachache and that's why she's crying. Otherwise, no one should be crying in the school." But my daughter kept crying. When others got into their classes she would not want to go but kept holding my hands. That was the time she need me the most beside her. And now emotions were slowly taking over me too. I could feel my eyes get wet and the suffocation build up over my throat. I didn't know what to do. I was thinking may be I should take her back and enroll next year. To make her cry whole day long would be the most painful thing to do as every tear drop she shed came like an arrow piercing my heart.

As we stood at the classroom door, a lady teacher came to us with a chocolate, "Have this my child. You will be fine here and now get in the class," she guided her in the class. But for me, I could not leave her in that state. I went to the back of their class room and peeped through the hole to see if she's improving. For about ten minutes I waited there until a teacher friend of mine came and assured me, "It's always like that sir. She should be fine now. You may go now but in case she still keeps crying we'll let you know."

Then I headed to my office still worried about her state. And in the office too I was not in peace but fortunately I did not receive any calls from the school. That was her day one at the school and one of the most painful days in my life.

Today, November 21, 2013 (coinciding with her father's birthday) she sits for her final examination in class one. She's now happy in the school as well as she is happy with me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monks have worries too

During one of my official visits to Pemagatshel recently, I came across three young monks memorizing Buddhist scripts. In front of them was an elderly monk seated reclined over the window, proudly monitoring these young monks. While these children enthusiastically memorized these holy scripts, a simple thought ran through my mind - "For these children, their only dream could be study hard and rise to the ranks of Lopen, but for that Lopen in front of them, he must be already worrying about his old age (although his appearance at that point of time did not show any signs)."

I get this thought because while I was working in the district I had couple of monk friends (all Lopens) and we would often jokingly discuss over this contentious issue of monks losing their celibacy.

Why you monks have to marry?  Why girls are after monks? Once you have become a monk, does our religion allow you to involve in sexual affairs? Why some monks leave the Dratshang and marry? I would throw up these questions to them.

"I don't know what is in their (the ones who marry and go) mind?" one would say.
"These people are tarnishing the image of monkhood", the other would agree.
And on some occasions, "Wai sir!" they would say on a serious note.
"If we think seriously, what do we monks have?" they would begin.
"Being a monk we aren't spared by this constant process of aging.We get old like you and we have to die one day like any being on this earth. By the time we get old, our parents are long gone and our relatives are in their own world trying to meet their ends. Where do we look upon when we become sick? and, who do we look upon to take care of our body when we finally leave."

These put me a big full stop and may be this is why someone has rightly pointed out, "Never judge a person, we never know what kind of problems s/he is struggling with."

And this is what makes our monks worry. I guess it's true.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I kissed and then kicked - my confession

When I was in Junior High, I had friends who were quite familiar with this plant and its hallucinating effect. At that time, I only knew one function of it - use of its barks as fibers. In fact I grew up with it. We call it Ngenam. It grew in plenty in the forests of my village. It grows as high as double my current height. Every autumn I would accompany my grandmother in the forest filled with this plant. Its pleasant aroma still pleases my nasal chambers. My grandma would carefully peel off these barks and take home in bundles. She would then process it into fine threads using a wooden spindle. She would then weave Bundri (a flap of cloth with a string on one corner used for carrying cloths and other belongings) out of it. I used to carry Bundri to my school until I could afford to buy one green coloured (Made In India) bedding. I was fortunate then, not to have known about its other uses. Or else, I would have adopted these forests for my life.

"You wanna try "pot"?
Back in school, my knowledgeable friends introduced me to this so called "pot".
"Its a marijuana mixed in cigarette."
Yeah! I was already a good smoker by then.
"Take a deep inhalation and then exhale gradually," they suggested.
I did few rounds and I could already sense irritations in my stomach and believed its kick starts from my tummy.
After about few minutes, one of my friends started to puke while the other started non-stop laughs.
A water for the puke and a company for the laughs...other than that, I had nothing to do. And, I did not get its kick. That was unusual.
I tried it again during my winter vacation. Again it failed to give me any effects.
From there I decided not to go any further...I kissed it but it failed to give me kick, so it was my turn to kick it away and I kicked.
Let's say no to drugs and any other forms of substance abuse. Once it kicks us, to get up from that kick isn't any easy task.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ja ming Katang chospa la mai!

Stories just keep happening and this is yet another story that happened recently.

As always my kids have been best models of my drawings. Couple of weeks ago, I started to take hold of ballpoint pen giving myself a short break from the pencil. One day I happened to draw my child's face with ballpoint pen. It some how came out nice, so I posted it on my facebook page. It did attract few likes from my facebook friends and then I left on an official tour leaving behind the drawing in our living room.

After about two weeks, when I returned home, "Ja ming katang chospa la mai," (my eye is made large) she told me. I ignored it at first. After awhile, she reminded me again and started pulling my ear this time. I looked at the picture and said, "Oh ho giwala dempara, sorry na!" and turned away again. I thought she would be convinced by now, but later in the evening she said again, "Ja ming katang chospa la mai" and she seemed bit upset too.

"Alright!" I stood up, crumpled the page and straight away dumped it in the bin and said, "Okay I removed it now. I'll make you another one." She smiled and went away from me.

Few days ago, I made another one for her. This time I rendered extra care so as not to give her big eye. I think I managed this time. I held it in my hand and said, "Is this you?" (I was worried that she might have something to point out again) But this time she smiled at it nodded 'Yes' and sat on my lap.

Even a child of her age can point out flaws in her father's drawings.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My photo memories

Mount Fuji, highest mountain of Japan at 3776 meters. I'm told it has been recently recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites.

An Octopus-like island as seen from the plane.

Dancing clouds over Japanese mountains

The kiss of the last rays of Sun

Reflections stand high and tall too...

A closer look at the Dew-drops!
A bit of photo editing gave it a wonderful best so far.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's play English Rakugo! A lively evening with Mr. Kanariya Eiraku

Rakugo is a form of Japanese verbal entertainment. This form of verbal entertainment is performed by the lone storyteller on the stage. Rakugo artists uses only a paper fan and a small cloth as props, and without standing up from the sitting position he/she depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters, the difference between the characters depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.

On 22nd August, 2013 evening Mr. Kanaria Eiraku entertained us with his laughter filled performances. That evening, I had a chance to try it out too. I chose the one below:

The chemical formula
A teacher is talking to a student
Teacher: Ken, what is the chemical formula for water?
Ken:       It's HIJKLMNO.
Teacher: What are you talking about? There can't be such a formula.
Ken:       You said so yesterday.
Teacher: Did I?
Ken:       Yes, yesterday, you said the formula for water is H to O.

I think we can use this same technique to narrate stories to our children. I particularly find it very useful for me just because the change of tone and display of different characters by a single performer is so much fun. If you wish to know more about it or get a feel of how it is performed onstage, please visit this site to watch performances of Mr. Eiraku here - . I'm sure this will inspire you too.

Have a good time!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Traditional Social collective actions

It refers to an action undertaken in a relatively spontaneous way by a large number of people within the community or within the same village.  Such social collective actions generally result from internal or through natural processes, with no apparent external influence in response to the specific need of the community that ultimately gets ingrained as useful societal mechanisms. And, I’m sure we have many such social collective actions in our country.
Provision of the list of these social collective actions along with brief write-ups was one of the pre-requisites while applying for a training programme on Participatory Local Social Development (which I’m currently attending) offered by Chubu International Center of JICA, Nagoya, Japan. Therefore, drawing experiences from my own village, Banjar in Mongar Dzongkhag I managed to list down at least some of them here. The explanations provided against each of them are solely based on my personal experience and understanding gained during my childhood days.
Tshogchang – whenever government officials or Lamas visited the village or when civil servants from that village came on holidays, one member from each household with a Palang of ara (home brewed wine) would gather at the house where the visitors are hosted. This normally happened in the evenings after people returned from their fields. When the attendance of all members are confirmed, these Palangs are presented before the guests and then the host lady serves ara, first to the guest and then to all who are by then seated in circular fashion. Most often, this drink session is accompanied with the offering of few rounds of traditional Boedra dances too. After the session, the guests in return would provide some cash or gifts against each Palang. This is how people of Banjar village welcome their guests.
Dulang – whenever village gets information about the visits of government officials, the Peerpon (a village representative also known as Chupon) goes around household to household collecting grocery items such as rice, kharang, eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, salt etc. The amount and numbers of collection from each household would be based on the expected duration of stay of the guests and number of guests.
Dungzan – This term is same as picnic in English. During the lean season, people would organize among themselves and decide to go on a picnic. This usually happened among the younger generations of the village. In this case, each member or each family would contribute items based on their capability and availability within the family.
Boling – This refers to an individual effort and therefore, does not find relevance here however, I prefer to write it down here, together with others before I forget it. Sometimes, an individual or two would take up an independent farming activity on their barren agriculture land and reap the harvests independently. This is known as Boling in local dialect. This practice was prevalent among where there existed joint family.
Similarly, there are different forms of community labour contribution that village people observe.
Zhabto Lemi (Zhabto – voluntary; Lemi – labour) – This refers to voluntary labour contribution from the people towards certain communal activities of the village. In the past, activities such as maintenance of routes and water source management used to be carried out through this mechanism. A member each from the household would come forward and join rest of the members to take up communal activity. This at times appeared synonymous with the Gungdrang woola. These days, people still provide Zhabto Lemi during construction of Lhakhangs in the village or in the neighbourhood.
Gungdrang woola (Gung – household; woola – labour) – This used to be practiced widely in the past and this sure should have a standard definition already. But for now, I would simply define it as a compulsory labour contribution from each household. While this has been abolished long ago, its practice still continues in the village through mutual consent of the members in taking up important communal activities like lhakhang construction.
Danpa – This form of labour contribution or labour mobilization is commonly practiced in taking up farm activities or during house constructions within the village. In this particular case, a household or a family would go around the village and hire required number of labour force based on their time availability. Once the labour force is confirmed, it becomes the responsibility of the host to serve them adequate meals from the breakfast till dinner accompanied with liquor. The day ends with a grand dinner and a plenty of drinks.
Laktsab – In this form of labour contribution we can see a bond developed between the two – the person who hires and the hired. If today, I hire my neighbor for my work I’m required to go for his work next time when he requires my service. On the other hand, if today my neighbor do not come to work for me, it is likely that I may not want to go and work for him when he seeks.

(I’ll keep on adding as and when I come across such other forms of social collective actions)

These may appear outdated to some while most would have their own experiences to share like mine. But, I'm now beginning to understand what it actually means lot for a community and its harmonious existence. And more so, the PLSD concept recognizes it as one of the main assets of the community that's required for successful implementation of any development projects at the grassroots level. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

My first night-out

In the other room, my brothers got into conversations, as the dusk gradually crept in. They talked about their ‘night hunting’ experiences. It was in 1980s, when I was a young school boy. I was not even fifteen then. Those days, night hunting was common among rural folks. Hearing their experiences I was getting tempted to venture it myself too. But as a young undersized boy, the thought of it was enough to make me shy and uneasy.

Acho Jigme promised to guide me and my cousin out that night. Probably, he had already sensed our temptations. "I'll take you to our neighbours place," he said. Our neighbours place was barely twenty-five meters adjacent to our house that stood at the corner facing south. "There are two girls, you know that," he began to draw up strategies for us. His hands pointing through our kitchen window, he showed us the direction, "They occupy the store room, while parents prefer to remain warm in the kitchen near the hearth."

"One of you should carefully tip toe to the main door and lock it from outside so that you do not create any unusual scenes should any mishap occur," he continued, "Meanwhile, one of you could mount on the wall of storeroom to prepare your entry through the window, ..."

Three of us sneaked out after everyone in the house fell asleep. Midway to our neighbour's house, "I have to attend to nature's call, you can go now," Acho Jigme stopped. "Do as I say! and no flashlights please," he went back.

As we reached the house, my cousin preferred to mount first. I went to lock the main door as instructed by Acho Jigme. By then my cousin had already opened the window shutters halfway through. The soft beams of setting moon was enough to guide us through.

I followed him up the wall. Before, he put in his head, I managed to take hold onto that window too.

Our knees trembling from the excitements, we were readying ourselves to fit in carefully when suddenly, a strong beam of flashlight surprised us.

Down came my cousin crushing over me. He fell down and I went sliding over the wall, badly scratching my right leg.   With no words to share, we surrendered ourselves - my cousin limped as I pulled home my right leg.

At home, as we opened the door, "Was it successful" he burst out into a huge laughter. But we had no mood to share the laughter with him that night, instead we went to our bed straight away.

Lying on the bed, I thought "If it weren't for Acho Jigme's prank, we would be dating the girls already. And, my first night out was an encounter with Acho Jigme's prank!

Acho Jigme was my first cousin who wouldn't talk much. We used to call him Ajime. He was better known for his hard work, dedication and the strong determination in doing whatever task he was assigned. When other brothers went to school, he was left behind herding the cattle and helping parents at home. And I still remember that he had one regret in his life, of having not gone to school along with other brothers. However, he had managed to learn ABCs, 123... and Ka Kha Ga Ngas... through his own initiative even before I started my school. I loved him so much that, I would often go to live with him in the forests along with cattle, during my vacations. I used to enjoy his company even if he never talked.

Unfortunately, in early 1990s a severe disease of unknown nature took away his life at a very young age. 

Let this anecdote be a fond remembrance and a tribute to your exemplary personality that you portrayed to us. I shall always remember you. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The story of Mirgola (A story for our children)

Once there lived a fisherman and his wife.
They had two children.
My creation of Mirgola is something like this

Every morning fisherman would go down to the nearby stream and fetch home four fishes.
One for his wife, one for himself and one each for his two children.

Any extra effort to catch more fishes was a waste of time and effort, for the God would bless him with only four fishes at the end of the day.

One day while fishing, he thought, “If only we had no children, my wife and I would have two fishes each.”

So fisherman decided to take his two children in the deep forest.

In the middle of the thick forest, he prepared a fire.
Two children sat besides the fire and soon fell asleep by its warmth.

The fisherman returned home happily.
“Hereafter, my wife and I would have two fishes each,” he thought greedily.

Next day, he went for fishing again only to catch two fishes –
One for him and one for his wife.

Ever since he abandoned his children, he caught only two fishes in a day.

Now he thought, “My life is not getting any better even without children.”
With regrets, he decided to bring back his children.

In the middle of the forest, he saw his two children piling stacks of twigs. They have grown hairs all over their body. Their faces had become pale and ghostly and looked hairy.

“Che chey…my Che chey!” he called out his children.
They stared at him but did not show any signs of acquaintances or attachments.
Instead they walked backwards and gradually disappeared in the forest and then became Mirgolas.

Sadly fisherman returned home and spent rest of his life catching only two fishes daily.

It is believed that the day fisherman abandoned his children; the local deity of that forest adopted them and has turned to Mirgola. Today we also believe Mirgola as local deity.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Helpful Samten

“Thinley, you got any cash?”
“No, Karma might be having some,” they looked at Karma.
Karma shook his head and asked, “Why?”
“Do you see there?” Kinga pointed to an elderly village boy who sat on a stair top with a basket full of oranges.
“He got fresh and appealing oranges there,” murmured Kinga sadly.
“I’m just as hungry as those oranges would make my mouth watery,” Kinga drooped down his head.
“Let’s walk closer, he may be kind enough to spare at least one for us,” Karma suggested.
As they approached closer that village boy looked familiar to them.
Wai…wai, he is our friend Samten,” three kids looked at each other jubilantly as the luck came rolling on to their table once again.
Wai! Onu Tsatru sam omabu tabthur ra chhokala, ya Tshelu zai,” Samten handed them oranges.
Few years ago, Samten was their class mate.
Su…ng ya…sung ya sungya, sungya lemo drensho…,” Samten would sing from old folk songs in his coarse matured voice. His class mates knew how to play with him.
“Wow! Samten has a good voice,” Kinga would praise.
“Yeah! He knows lots of songs,” Karma would add.
“But what is the use, he hardly sings any song for us,” Thinley would turn up sarcastically.
Samten would feel offended and say, “Ok, which song would you like me to sing?” and start singing to please them.
These kids although young were also very smart, while Samten happened to be an elderly student in class two. At his age others were in class five. He appeared little bit retarded and his performance in the class wasn’t that good either.
Simple and soft-spoken, Samten became a favorite student of Thapa sir an Indian Nepali teacher who taught them mathematics. He didn’t have his family with him and lived all by himself in a make-shift cottage provided by the school.
Thapa sir would call Samten to his house most of the time to cook for him. Samten would not fail to serve him faithfully for he knew how to cook well. During weekends Samten would fetch him firewood, wash his clothes and clean his house. Being so he had all the advantages of accessing the table of Thapa sir. Particularly when examinations approached he would pick up some expected questions from the table and start preparing discretely. But these kids – Karma, Kinga and Thinley were just smart enough. They knew exactly how to get themselves into that loop.
“This question has been really nagging me, I’m sure this will come in the exam,” Thinley would prompt rest of the friends.
“Where? Which one?” Karma and Kinga would pretend to show interests in that while Samten would miserly think, “These kids don’t know what I’m studying is ultimately there in the exam.”
But, “What do you say Samten?” Thinley would seek Samten’s opinion.
Slowly Samten would raise his head and say, “No. I don’t think that will come. I feel …”
Samten would gradually disclose his expected questions to the other three one by one. And that’s how these kids would learn.
When the real examination comes, Thapa sir would have framed questions with slight modifications. But for Samten a slight twist in questions would mean completely a different set of questions while other three would fetch good scores in mathematics. This way Samten failed and failed again. Not being able to move up the education ladder, Samten finally decided to stay back helping his parents at home.
Samten looked into his basket. There were last three oranges left in it.
Ya nai sam zan thai last three lespa la, Om la ngokhen tey bu mangthu,” Samten handed them last oranges.
“Thank you Samten,” the three friends acknowledged.
“Samten,” called Thinley.
Samten looked at him.
“After you left school, three of us have not been able to score high marks in mathematics,” said Thinley.
 “You had been very helpful to us then,” added Karma and Kinga.
“Hahaha…forget all these now I have to go back home before it gets dark,” their helpful Samten walked down happy with whatever little money he earned that day  from a basket of oranges.

Wrote this story few months still keep happening, but the writing seems to have stopped!!