Monday, July 25, 2016

The reward of Hoping Sincerely for the Best. Faith in Providence.

The Sorchen land slide news was a real hurting  anxiety because it could obstruct transport of goods including fuel supplies.  Yesterday all I was hoping for was a respite from continuous rain so that better progress could be made in clearing road blocks. And more importantly  the affected victims deserved at least a ray of natural sunshine. Just cannot imagine such dire  gloomy prospect under aggravated monsoon weather for already victimised people. But I did not think it was too much of an obstruction to the task of  passenger ferrying between Thimphu and Phuentsholing. 

We had a boy student going first time to a college in India. The student group was to meet tomorrow at P'ling and be taken the next day in train by the Agent.

All fees paid up to Thimphu Agent and all shopping for the college year done. A sense of happy  relief for the family members and a kind of forward excitement for the first timer.   The suitcase was packed and weighed and proper length rope readily packed for self porterage in case of trans-shipment necessity. The backpack stuffed with important documents and most essentials. And instruction given, " At no time to trust the backpack with Bhutanese or foregner, friend or colleague, young or old, male or female".  And " just blindly get over the overwhelming 1st week feeling at loss and lone, after arrival at the college".

The travel ticket already bought for Meto Bus Transport  (reporting 7:30 and departure 8:00 am ). Packed meal sufficient for two or more plus water bottle. Trans-shipment was way of journey in my younger days on the Paro and Thimphu to Phuentsholing freshly cut road. So I did not worry much about the actual travel over  monsoon blocked roads.

This morning drove to RSTA Bus Station at Lungten Zampa dot on reporting time. Was told to take the refund for bus ticket because there was no bus service to Phuentsholing. Checked with the Traffic Police and finally got the mobile number of Regional Director of RSTA who said Bus Service to Phuentsholing was stopped till road is cleared. I told him during monsoon, even cleared roads can get blocked again. But I could sense he had no authority to think out of the box. "RSTA did not want to be blamed for stranded passengers". I wonder who holds them responsible for monsoon vagaries. 

Next I searched for Taxis and fortunately found one Mini Bus. The driver Lobzang  said he will go till Sorchen then if not possible to proceed further, will call up his friend to pick his passengers from the other end. That sounded real sensible. The passengers were all Indian workers going home. I asked where they had worked. "Lingkana" they said. This one word was auspicious enough.

I told my ward, " You will make it today to Phuentsholing but keep me informed of the journey progress ". They left at 8:15. I got a call at 10.54 that they were being briefly halted at Tanalum  ( looks like the check post was waiting for clearance order). Much later at 12:18, they were at Gedu. And at 2:45 pm, the Uncle at Phuentsholing  phoned to say that the young man had just arrived at Phuentsholing. Well kudos to the young man ! He trekked around the Sorchen land slide area  carrying his suitcase and the backpack. "It was quite a distance but manageable " he cheerfully said.

I knew he had it in him. Afterall, boys from Haa Villages are sturdy farm hands during school breaks. I am now even more  convinced that the young man  Sonam Tshering will make good the 3 years investment to get a college Degree and better still he would successfully face the oddities of life, thereafter. 

I just want to say that our nation faces road problems during every monsoon. We cannot solve problems by banning travel or cancelling bus services. National life and movement must go about. The Royal Surface Transport Authority (RSTA) must understand that it's priority number one is to enable Transport and Surface Travel  not banning it. Calculated risks and difficulties must be borne by passengers and stakeholders to keep a nation in motion. Give advices on how to manage travel inspite of difficulties and inconveniences.

Grounding the daily life of a nation must be the ultimate defeated resignation not an option. That is why our esteemed volunteers, armed forces, civil servants, administrators including the honourable Prime Minister led  by His Majesty the King are out in the forefront to keep the nation in motion. They are there not to sacrifice their lives but to prevent the sacrifice of national living. 

After some hours, I gratefully came across RBP Thimphu fb Post with O.C mobile number, and  assurring Police guidance at Sorchen Trans-shipment. It was reassuring because someone in authority had understood the predicament of student and other travellers with reserved train tickets for specific days. It meant that the taxis would not be stopped on their way till Sorchen and transport would be available on the other side of Sorchen land slide.

How appreciative a passenger would have been  if he or she was informed  in the morning that Sorchen road had suffered further damage but RSTA  will assist in Trans-shipment for those who have to reach Phuentsholing this day instead of being told at the counter, " bus service is cancelled and your ticket will be refunded". At times money is not the criteria, the destination is.  Cautions and precautions take away the meaning of life and  purpose of destinations.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A very concerned educational approach.

Today at Jigme Namgyel School, Motithang, Thimphu,  a Mid Term Meeting was conducted between parents, teachers and students.

Two education approach caught my attention: a) The first approach wherein every two teachers adopted  the students of one class. The objective was to act as helpful parents to the students in the school. b) The second approach was for teachers to identify students that needed the most guidance in studies or other areas and assist.

The Principal Tshering Drukpa said that the first approach was not too successful in that the overload for teachers were excessive due to number of students.  Thus the decision to be less ambitious but hopefully more impactful by adopting the second approach. 

Later Madam Sonam Yangden of Class VIII Section A,  elaborated how she and her teacher colleague propose to go about implementing the second approach. She said using the mid term exam results as the basis,  they will start with coaching the students with poor exam results.  Such students would be assisted in doing their home works in the class after normal school hours.  I feel that this would really get the students to learn better and catch up with their class studies. Afterall, home works are an exercise in recapitulation of what was taught that day.

The teachers are devoting the extra time and effort to improve the academic standard of students. This will be quite a burden upon the teachers and their immediate family members. And yet the teachers are voluntarily offering such a service so willingly and free of any cost to parents. I hope many under performing students will avail this opportunity  And that many parents will encourage their wards who need extra coaching to sincerely utilise this opportunity. 

This extra ordinary educational approach is a valuable gift. Jigme Namgyel School  has opted to proactively bring the under performers to the academic fold instead of complaining aloud  that under performers are  students who are inattentive in class  and generally ill behaved in school. I thank the Principal and his colleague teachers for such nobleness of the heart.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Facts about acts of aggression and terror

The depth of tragedy as well as rights and wrongs are mostly determined by powerful western media. And thus the miscalculation by leaders and misconception by general public. 

Tragic incidents happen almost everywhere from Middle East to Europe,  America and Asia. But the world in general feel the horror more when incidents occur in western countries. The media there are very powerful and by nature of character composition, they cover more widely and deeply what takes place in their own countries and that which have to do with their national interests.

Even then, the speeding huge truck mowing down so many people out to celebrate a national occassion at Nice in France is terribly horrible. And news coverage is understandable both intensive  and extensive. 

It is being said that the lone truck driver was killed by the Police. Strangely the driver is alleged  to have fired his gun before his suicidal drive into the celebrating crowd. Why would he fire into the crowd if his intention was to drive into an unsuspecting crowd? Also how does a driver fire a gun and at the same time drive a huge truck ? Was he trying to cause panic among the people  by firing into the crowd? Seems unlikely. Because the people interviewed deny hearing gun shots and probably most victims did not even hear the truck rumbling towards  them. There was " so much loud music" and " the incident happened immediately after the fireworks".

So gun shots would not have panic effect in an already  highly noisy atmosphere. And if the driver was out to shoot to kill. there had to be gun shot victims. But so far no such counts except for the driver who is declared to be shot dead by the police. There is much questions that begs answers. Though no answers and explanations can change the cruel fate of so many innocent victims. May their souls rest in peace. 

It is not possible to determine who is winning the " terror war ". Is it the ISIS whose positions in Iraq and Syria are under heavy  and continuous bombing from the air or western nations whose leaders and citizens too are sweating in dread against another ' terror attack '   in some or any part in their country at any time of day or night ?

France declares that it will not give in to terror. But the President has extended national emergency for 3 more months. This means the general public of France and those public in Iraq and Syria live under the same atmosphere of fear. Thus the real affected and losers are common general innocent people. Such people who have no say in starting a war of aggression or in executing retaliatory suicide  missions are the real victims of war and terror campaigns. To the victims there is no difference in ultimate death whether from war of aggression or war of revenge. Acts of unholy war and terror are both despicable. 

Neither the leaders of the developed and powerfully armed Western Nations nor the Leaders of fanatical sections of the victimised Middle East population  can claim grounds of morality.

The sufferings of the general innocent people on the streets of two opposing forces will ease only if the wars in Middle East are brought to an end. The West must realise that they are not conducting a war with ISIS the identifiable group. ISIS represents the emotion of section of aggrieved populace  who believe that the West and Israel do not tolerate  their existence and prosperity. Thus many terrorists and prominent terrorist leaders may get killed but emotion can not be killed or defeated. At every possible opportunity emotion will rise and strike.

Maybe no one person can see a neat solution to war of terror where most victims are innocent public. But peace in Middle East free from aggression from outside forces may de- escalate the so called terror acts as well as stem the flow of refugees. Personally, I do not see the  French or that of any other  western country's national solutions in declaring national emergencies at home and sending more bomber planes on raids. Such mafia type bravo will continue destructions upon both opposing parties. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Prime Minister for Britain.

On 24 th June, 2016 after losing the national referendum on BREXIT, Prime Minister David Cameron tried to buy a 3 month transition time to leave his Post.  I had commented that he would have to leave much earlier.

Today 13th July, a new Conservative Party Leader Theresa May is taking over as Prime Minister. David Cameron exit would have been even  earlier but for the intense prolonged fight among Conservative Party eminent figures to replace Cameron.  The process did demonstrate that there are no real friends and no permanent enemies in Politics.

Britain faces more stormy political weather as BREXIT takes hold. But admirable thing is that the result of national referendum of 24 th June, will be respected and implimented.  That is the strength of true Democracy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kuensel Phodrong the Dewachen abode of Buddha Dordenma.

Perhaps the most imposing landmark of Thimphu the Capital of Bhutan. I had visited Kuensel Phodrong twice before but was not able to see the inside of the temples. The Day of the First Sermon of Lord Buddha turned out to be a great day. The Temples were opened for visitors and worshippers. And on top of that I received what I had hoped for - a chance contact with the spiritual being who made Kuensel Phodrong possible.

The morning part of the  day was devoted to Prayers of my own for the Day. And it was in the afternoon that my wife and I set out for Kuensel Phodrong. By then we hoped the crowd would be thinner. There  was a short light drizzle. I accepted it as purification blessing.

It was still quite populated but the complex is vast and serenity was there for one seeking it. There were many in traditional dresses and equal number in western clothes both outside tourists  and Bhutanese. Very few carried kami but for our age and purpose Kamni was a necessary part of attire. The environment was all peace and happiness and differently attired gathering made the atmosphere so free and open. The younger generation though in western dress were no less respectful in terms of obeisance and faith once inside the temples. The picture strengthened my hope in the future. I hope that my own grand, great and greater grandchildren  too would come to the temples regardless of how they would be attired to seek refuge and guidance.

The essence is faith and belief not style and attire.  The comfort of the larger society maybe of different desire but in all honesty, clothes make no difference. Afterall Lord Buddha was naked to the bones during the six years pursuit of Enlightenment and Jesus Chirst was nailed naked to the Cross. Torn jeans and slim dresses could be sore to human traditional eyes but blessings will come in measured doses of faith and sincerity.

I had really hoped to see the inside of Kuensel Phodrong though the complex was enchanting even at the outside. And view of Thimphu extraordinary from Buddha Point. The top level temple was said to be still under completion but the temples at the lower two levels were open for worshippers as as well as for curious visitors.

The upper level temple had the statue of " Nampar- Nangsey" ( I hope I heard the senior Lama correctly). The figure had four heads and surrounded by other holy figures. These are enclosed by huge pillars. It was possibly to view the statues individually if one circled the pillars. One worshipper complained about the obstructions caused by the pillars. The senior Lama explained the necessity of the pillars to support the huge Buddha statue atop the temple structure but it did not have an  appeasing impact.

It is easier to be wise at the hindsight. Still I just thought maybe there would be a complete change of appearance if the statues circled the Pillars rather than the other way around. The floor  space within the Pillars could be tiled blue to represent a lake and a Jangchub Shing in the centre. 

Prayers were being conducted in the lower temple. Upon inquiry, I found out that venerable Lam Tshering Wangdi the Lam who initiated and implimented the Kuensel Phodrong Project was himself leading the Prayers. I asked the Gelong what Prayers were being conducted and who were the sponsors.  He said in the morning it was the 16 Arhats and in the afternoon Prayer Offerings to Buddha Himself. As for sponsors, he did not know though he thought it was a Dasho. Later I found out that the sponsor was an association of Chhali officers ( of Monger Dzongkha living in Thimphu ). The Temple indeed was devoted to Lord Buddha and the 16 Chief Disciples. There were more than 16 statues lining the two sides of centrally seated Buddha statue. At one far end was a statue  of Shabdrung. "A little different looking I remarked " .  And an elderly man accompanying probably his grand daughter with her own baby said " possibly younger Shabdrung ". I think he was right. The face was longer and more fuller and younger looking  though the chin was adorned with the unique moustache and long beard. " The Arhats are all Chinese looking and the Khendums outside  are  Bhutanese looking " my wife thought aloud. The Arhats did look ancient whilst the Khendums vibrantly beautiful. So wisdom to ancient ChineseTeachers  and beauty to Bhutanese ladies, I suppose.

Kuensel Phodrong is a huge complex by any standard. And it is amazing. The project is still in continuous build up. One could be hard pressed to even dream of such a wonder. And so I did wish to pay  homage to the Lam Inspiration the venerable Lam Tshering Wangdi. Normally with religious figures, I simply bow down from afar but after seeing so much of his ingenuity in real demonstration, I had to have a closer contact to feel the aura. And just as I thought such an occassion would be too slim, the Lam began giving Wang with a relic enclosed in a glass Chorten.  I still do not know what relic it was but I got the blessing from the one I wanted - a close contact just for a second.

I am aware that the venerable Lam is not a declared Trulku and moreover I believe he is sort of married. In fact I am told that his consort is also quite an outstanding achiever herself. But it is not such personal details that such a personality need be measured against.  I feel simply awed by Kuensel Phodrong and Trulku or not, venerable Lam Tshering Wangdi made it all possible. He dreamt of it. He garnered funds for the project and most importantly he turned the dream into reality. If he is not a born Trulku then he is a self realised Trulku.

I know so little of the Project and even less about the spiritual personality behind it. Maybe in the near future one may get to read about this wonder project and wonderful Buddhist Saint who made it all so truly real. There is another great living Soul in the East at Takila Guru Statue Complex. The Lam who has been responsible for the Miracle in the East. I hope in the near future, It would be possible to receive Blessing from the other spiritual personality. I am in no position to arrange such disposition. But some days things just fall in place as it happened on Friday the 8th of July, 2016.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Political Decorum of Parliament of Bhutan.

There seems to arise an air of surrealism  when Parliamentarian speakers express their gratitude to the King for attending the concluding or inaugural session of Parliament, " sparing time to attend in royal person despite all other very important royal engagements ". As if Parliament can happen without the King.

It sounds like the mother expressing gratitude to the father of the baby for attending the delivery session. "Patronising " would be the kindest word.

And in the case of Parliament, the baby " resolutions" are meaningless without the King being part of the Session. The King does not usually attend in person the actual Parliament discussion session. My understanding  is that His Majesty should remain above politics and therefore, should not be part of political exchanges that rule the roost during the Parliament working session.  However,  that does not mean that the King is  officially unaware of discussions/ exchanges during the Sessions. His Majesty would be apprised of all happenings through established procedures/ channels.  Afterall,  the democratic system maybe only 8 years old but the functioning system of the epic National Body that encompasses dually elected Representatives of the People and Representatives of Administration and which serves under the grace and blessings of the King is 65 years old ( since 1952 ).

Under the Constitution of Bhutan, His Majesty the King is part of the Parliament.  Therefore, the attendance in Royal Person during  the Parliament Session  at inaugural ceremony , at the closing ceremony  or even during actual working session if deemed necessary by His Majesty is constitutional requirement. Not an act of kindness or favour by invitation but a fulfillment of constitutional responsibility. His Majesty is not a Chief Guest who leaves aside other tasks to oblige an invitation to be the Guest of Honour at a function. With out the presence of the King, constitutionally,  Parliament cannot happen. Parliament of Bhutan has three constituents: The King, the National Council and the National Assembly. 

The Speaker would be submitting the schedules of the respective Parliament Session to His Majesty the King for royal assent. And thereafter, it would be unthinkable that the Session would begin or close without the Royal Presence.  So instead of thanking the King as if like a Chief Guest at a Function for attending the occassion, it would be protocolly correct to seek the royal blessings at the beginning and express gratitude at the conclusion for the  blessings and guidance. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Vote of thanks by His Excellency Dr. Sonam Kinga the Chairman of National Council on the Floor of the Parliament of Bhutan.

This is the second time the laudable  Bhutanese intellectual Orator took to the Floor of the Parliament to offer Vote of Thanks to the two Honourable Guests from our neighbouring most friendly Countries of India and Bangladesh.

The first honoured guest was His Excellency Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India 2 years back. And this time His Excellency the distinguished  President of Bangladesh. The address to the Bhutanese  Parliament by Prime Minister of India was delivered in Hindi. If his intention was to demonstrate regional hegemony, perhaps the choice of language was correct. The President of Bangladesh sensibly  delivered his address in the English language. The message of friendship and admiration was well communicated and have to be equally and effectively well received. 

On both occasions the Vote of Thanks were delivered by the Chairman of National Council of Bhutan. Incredibly well researched, absolutely pertinent to the occassion and delivered in eloquent elegance. Your Excellency Dr. Sonam Kinga , you are incredible! You make Bhutan and Bhutanese stand out in the brightest light of a knowledgeable and cultured sovereign society. I know the protocol necessity of delivering the Vote of Thanks in Dzongkha. But I wish both the nations of  Bangladesh and India and their fellow citizens  could hear you make the thank you speech in English.  Such weighty substance delivered so smoothly and with such flair of ease as if reciting a great poem. The nation of Pelden Drukpa have her own share of leaders who are at par with the best that world in general can produce.

The Parliament of Bhutan achieves a mile stone every time  the Speaker solemnly welcomes a guest of honour in the most formal and extensive introduction to the essence of the moment followed by the address of the distinguished Guest and concluded with meritorious vote of thanks. A historic event that honours the Guests and reveals the diverse awakening of Bhutan's political culture.

I thank the distinguished President of Bangladesh for remembering His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck of Bhutan. To hear His Excellency express the gratitude of his Country
and People to the Third King of Bhutan is so heart touching. We in Bhutan have far greater reasons to be thankful to the great King but such great gifts to the nation are seldom adequately acknowledged.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A wavering Bhutanese Cabinet on framework Agreement with European Investment Bank.

I read through today's Kuensel article by Kinga Dema regarding the Parliament Deferment of Ratification of Framework Agreement between Bhutan and EIB. The Agreement was passed by National Assembly which is controlled by the ruling PDP Party and now objected to by the National Council. The differences between these two legistative bodies happen so I am not surprised. The incongruity lies in the about turn positions adopted by  the Foreign Minister and the Finance Minister of Bhutan.

The Agreement could not have been submitted for ratification to the National Assembly without  being approved by the Cabinet and for Cabinet to approve,  the two dealing  crucial Ministries of Foreign and Finance have had to vet and approve the Framework  Agreement with European Investment Bank.

Now in the face of objection from the National Council and Joint Parliament Committee proposal to defer, Bhutan's Foreign Minister who was the first Attorney General of Bhutan sings a different tune. He is quoted as stating:

a) That he was in favour of deferring the ratification because the National Council objection was not on few clauses of the Agreement but the Agreement as a whole.

b) Considering the importance of the Agreement, it would be more appropriate to do a through review by the Government and defer the agreement to another session for deliberation. 

The Finance Minister of Bhutan supported the new position of the Foreign Minister and is quoted as saying, " We will review the EIB and then take the opportunity to discuss it later ".

This demonstrates that the Cabinet of Bhutan takes account of only prevailing politics not long term national interest when it comes to signing agreements or joining international financial organisation.

It would have been in Bhutan's long term national economic and development interests  to have joined the other  Founding Members of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) spearheaded by China. Many Eurpean Countries and India are Founding Members of AIIB. But Bhutan  played short sighted politics and refused to be a member. Instead Bhutan had  warmed up to EIB and now suddenly Bhutan  is supposed to have realised that the Framework Agreement with EIB compromises sovereignty of nation.

I do not know how or to what extent  sovereignty is affected but any membership or partnership to international Agencies or Organisation would naturally limit the national authority of a nation. There are wider international norms to adhere to. "One cannot have the cake and eat it too" is the saying that is now quoted by European Union to Britain after the BREXIT vote. And by the way the structure of EIB may get altered with the exit of Britain from the EU.

I am not saying that Bhutan should or should not ratify the Framework  Agreement with EIB. But why is Bhutanese Cabinet adopting such capricious mood swings when it comes to  national Policy on  International Agreements?  Yesterday it was for Ratifying Framework Agreement with EIB and today it is for indefinite delay. What and where is the itch. Even a bitch knows where to scratch. Can the Bhutanese Cabinet make up its mind on more sound national Policy?