Thursday, October 19, 2006

Of pure love and trust

Girls in mini skirts and tight pants and guys in hip hop style oversized pants and shirts are dancing to the rhythm of Eminem's 'the real slim Shady'.
Thinley, an unassuming young man is sipping Tiger beer with his close friends. A seductive and confident girl with blackened eyelids, lips colored dark brown and her oversized hip wrapped in a tight black dress reaching her thighs midway approaches and asks, "How about a dance?""Sorry, I like my beer now." He answers.
"Ohhhh! You are not as cool as I thought." She says as she saunters away swaying her hip sideways.
"There you go again. How can you not say yes to such a sexy creature?" His friends chide him.
Thinley and his friends are at the Graduate Orientation dance party.
A dark and rugged looking man, Thinley is attractive to girls in his own way. But he is a married man. And 10 years ago today, was the day when he first met his wife. He was thinking about his wife, and not even the oversized back-ward protruding bottom wrapped tightly in a black dress would seduce him enough.
"I know you are married. But rejecting a woman is not like a real man." His friends continue to chide him."You don't know me too well. I have seen more hardships than you know.""Oh, cut the crap. What does hardship have to do with dancing with a sexy woman?""Okay. Let us enjoy our beer and talk about other things." Thinley pleads."Hey Thinley, please tell us your love story please. I think it will be interesting." His friends plead.
So Thinley tells them his story as they sip their beer.
"That day, 10 years ago, the sun shone bright and hot. Cicadas shrilled. No breeze blew. More dust settled on my sweat-stained face each time I struck the hard earth with my spade. Working as a laborer during my short summer break from school was harder than I had thought.
I took out a handkerchief to wipe my face and looked around in case the omnipresent Lajab (labor supervisor) was around. What met my eyes set my heart pounding. It was not the lajab. A beautiful girl was looking at me. When my eyes met hers, she smiled shyly and looked away. She wore a mathra half kira and blue polyster tego and kept her hair short with a simple but elegant fringe cut. She was an epitome of innocent beauty at its peak.
We continued to exchange furtive glances. There was no doubt that the attraction was mutual. I got closer to her pretending to find harder places to dig. "Isn't the earth too hard?" I pretended to comment off-handedly when I was next to her."Yes, it is." She replied shyly without looking at me."What is your name?" I asked after a few awkward seconds."Karma." She replied.
That was our first meeting. But she had already stolen my heart.
Our next meeting was at the local Tshechu after a few months. As the evening dawned, people sang and danced. I led her outside. As we held each other's hands for the first time, it sent shiver down our spines. Hot blood gushed in our young veins. I kissed her virgin lips. Our bodies locked in passionate hugs. Only the silver moon watched and shone its soft rays on our smiling faces.
But soon, it was time for us to part and go home with our respective families.
That night, her beautiful face flashed before my eyes until I dozed off to sleep. She appeared in my dreams too.
The next year, I was in class 10. But tragedy struck my family. My mother passed away suddenly due to some illness. I was shocked and grief-stricken. Karma gave me emotional support. By now, our love affair was well-known in the village. So, we married and Karma continued to help my father when I went back to school.
I thought of my home and studied hard in school. I was more mature than my age because of my situation. As the eldest in the family, I was also concerned about the welfare of my younger brother and sister, not simply my own welfare.
Two years passed and I was finally in class 12. I did my examinations well. I had qualified for scholarship to study engineering in India. But tragedy befell me once again. My father passed away this time after a brief illness. No words would be enough to describe my grief at this tragedy."I will find a job and support my brother and sister." I told my wife. Although she was young and illiterate, she was mature and intelligent."No, you should continue your studies. I will do what I can to support you and your family." She insisted.Finally, I agreed to follow my wife's advice and continue my studies.
Four years of my study in India seemed like an eternity. My wife worked hard at home. She engaged herself in weaving when work in the field was less. She supported me financially as well as emotionally.
Without my wife, I would not be what I am today.
My wife is a simple illiterate village girl, but I find her much more intelligent and beautiful than the girls in tight pants, mini skirts, black eyelids and painted lips."
"We are touched by your story." "Let us toast to your wife" One of them suggests.
"Cheers, to a great wife!" They toast and then they drink happily.
In the background, the girl in the tight black dress is dancing a slow dance with a dude dressed in hip hop style. Embracing lovers sway their bodies to the rythm of the music together.
But for Thinley, his mind is on his village damsel who is waiting for him to come home soon.

White crane, lend me your wings!

Jade thrungthrung karmo (White crane)
Shogtsel ngala 'yar dang (Lend me your wings)
Thagring jangla midro (I will not go far)
Lithang kor ne lebyong. (From Lithang, I will return)

So wrote a lonely Tshangyang Gyatsho, the sixth Dalai Lama to a lady friend in Shol (a town in Tibet) as he was being led by Lhazang Khan and his troops just before his mysterious disappearance in 1706. He was only 24.
His rebellious life, non-conformity to established social norms and love for creative expression always intrigued me to read about his life and his love songs. Let me briefly share some interesting aspects of his short and chaotic life.
His predecessor, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatsho, known as 'The Great Fifth', was the first Dalai Lama to gain full spiritual and temporal control over all of Tibet. When he died in 1682 aged 65, the construction of the giant Potala which he had initiated was still incomplete and the Mongols and Manchus waited for opportunities to destabilize Tibet. Therefore, his regent Desi Sangay Gyatsho kept his death a closely guarded secret.
But the Desi did not fail to secretly send out the customary search parties for the new reincarnation, and in about two years found Tshangyang who fulfilled all the qualities of a reincarnate Dalai Lama. However, he kept the little boy in hiding, first at his birthplace, and later at Tsona and Nakartse.
It was only in 1697, 15 years after the death of the fifth Dalai Lama, that his death as well as the discovery of the sixth reincarnation was announced.
By that time, Tshangyang was already 14 years old. The second Panchhen Lama, Lobzang Yeshe named him Lobzang Rigdzin Tshangyang Gyatsho which means 'Precious Ocean of Pure Melody' and was taken to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. This name suited him very well as he was to write many songs later.
One of the first interesting things about Tshangyang is that he was the only Dalai Lama other than the fourth Dalai Lama Yonten Gyatsho who was a Mongolian, to be born outside of proper Tibet. Tshangyang was born in 1683 in Mon Tawang (now part of Arunachal Pradesh, India) to Lama Tashi Tenzin of Urgeling, a descendant of the Terton Pema Lingpa and Tsewang Lhamo, a Monpa girl from the royal lineage of Bekhar.
Besides many other legends surrounding his birth, it is said that when Tsewang Lhamo drank water at a nearby stream before his birth, milk started gushing out in place of water. This stream was since then known as Oma-Tsikang, meaning milky water.
Soon an entourage of Lamas looking for the reincarnation showed up at their house. When his mother called the little boy, he stood up from where he was playing and wrote 'Lama Khenno' on a rock with his finger. It is said that this writing on the rock remains there to this day.
When Tshangyang, aged fourteen, left Tawang for Lhasa, he planted three sandalwood trees and prophesied that when the trees grew similar in height and appearance he would return.
At the Potala, Tshangyang turned out to be an unconventional Dalai Lama. He engaged in all activities without reserve and refused to become a fully ordained monk. Instead, he even returned his novice vows to the Panchen Lama. He even refused to keep servants choosing to serve tea to his friends himself, and also refused to ride horses or sit on palanquin and preferred to walk.
Growing up to be a tall handsome young man, Tshangyang was a true lover of wine, women and songs. It is said that during the day he practiced archery with his friends and at night, he sneaked away from the palace and made merry in the taverns of Lhasa and Shol with his girlfriends often spending his nights there. His non-conformist behavior drew a lot of chaos, confusion and worries for himself as well the ruling class. His songs reflect this.
Mitsho ngala labpa (People gossip about me)
Gongsu dagpa khagtheg (I am sorry for what I have done)
Oloi gomsum thramo (I have taken three thin steps)
Nemoi nangla thelsong (And landed myself in the tavern of my lady.)

Pota laru zhugdi (When residing in the Potala)
Rigzin Tshangyang Gyatsho (I'm Rigdzin Tsangyang Gyatsho)
Lhasa zholdu doddi (When I'm hanging out in Lhasa and Shol)
Chhelpo Dangzang Wangpo (I'm lover Dangzang Wangpo.)

But indeed he was not an ordinary person. It is said that even when everyone in the bar would be drunk the Dalai Lama's mind was always crystal clear. Even the most qualified Buddhist masters of the time could only conclude that he was a living bodhisattva based on special marks on his body amongst other signs.
He wrote some of the finest poems and love songs in Tibetan. They are simple and spontaneous expression of a young man's experience and longing to be what he was. Today, his songs not only have woodprint versions and handwritten copies, but also translated versions in English, French, Russian, Japanese, Indian, Mongol, etc.
Some of his songs reflect that he was constantly aware of his fragility and imminent death.

Datai tshethung dila (In the short walk of this life)
Dekha tsamzhig zhune (We have had our share of joy.)
Tingma jipai lola (In the youth of our next life)
Jelzom ayong tawo (Let us hope to meet again.)

Thus he wrote and sang.

Later, his songs inspired many other Tibetan writers and lyricists. I find that Drungtsho Sherab Jorden's booklet of 'Tsangmo' published in Bhutan also have a lot of influence from the sixth Dalai Lama's love songs.
Meanwhile, the power struggles between Desi Sangay Gyatsho and the Mongol Qosot leader Lhazang Khan cast an uncertainty over the Potala. Desi Sngay Gyatso had maintained the alliance with the Dzungar Mongols who were hostile to the Manchu. But the Manchu emperor, Kang Hsi, had forged an alliance with Lhazang Khan. In a battle that ensued, Lhazang Khan defeated the Desi and killed him, leaving the Dalai Lama unprotected.
On June 11, 1706, Lhazang Khan removed the Dalai Lama from the Potala and declared him deposed. When Lhazang Khan's troops tried to take him to Beijing, the Dalai Lama's supporters took him to Drepung Monastery. There, when the Dalai Lama heard that a massacre of people blocking the monastery's entrance was about to take place in the hands of Lhazang Khan's troops, he walked out and gave himself up. In a very compassionate act, he refused to let anyone die in his place.
Tsangyang Gyatso was carried off toward China. However, at Gunga-nor, a small lake to the south of Kokonor, on November 14, 1706, at the age of 24, the Sixth Dalai Lama vanished. While it is most likely that he was murdered, rumors abound as to whether he died due to illness or escaped and continued to wander about Tibet for many years thereafter.

Nobody understood what he meant when he sang "From Lithang I will return" until the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatsho was born in Lithang. It was customary for the Dalai Lamas to leave a coded message about the next reincarnation before their death, and Tshangyang Gyatsho, the ocean of pure melody, had left it in the form of a song, true to his name.
Reliable articles and sources on the Internet claim that in 1959, over 260 years later, the three trees that he planted in Tawang resembled each other but they showed an ominous sign when they mysteriously burned down. Soon after, the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso came to Tawang, but it was as a refugee fleeing Tibet.
The following song clearly expresses the sense of injustice he felt at the hands of the ruling class and the war-like Mongol factions.

Shidi nyelwai yulgi (Residing in the realm of death )
Chogyal leki melong (Yama, the mirror of my karma )
Dina thrigthrig midug (Here in life, there is no justice)
Dene thrigthrig nangzhu (In death, please judge and grant it.)

Dasho Nishioka: a life of selfless contribution

In the history of modern agriculture in Bhutan and Japan-Bhutan relationship, one man stands tall like the Mt Everest in the Himalayas. He is Dasho Nishioka. Today, Bhutan continues to reap the fruits of his immense and selfless contribution which spanned 28 years from 1964 till his sudden demise in 1992.
On 6 May 1964 at Calcutta Airport, Keiji Nishioka, 31, and his wife Satoko, 28, boarded an old transporter plane to Hashimara. This was a long awaited journey and they were excited, but they were also a bit scared because the plane was very old.
Nishioka loved nature from his childhood and took up agriculture at university. Later, a 1958 Himalayan expedition of his university ignited his love for the Himalayas. When Nakao Sasuke, one of Nishioka's teachers visited Bhutan in 1958, Lyonchen Jigme Palden Dorji requested him for an agriculture expert. Consequently, Nakao's recommendation of Nishioka was affirmed when Nishioka and Satoko visited the Bhutan House in Kalimpong in 1962. Since then, it was a long wait until Japan's Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency (now JICA) formally dispatched Nishioka through the Colombo Plan in February 1964.
From Hashimara Airport, a Bhutanese Government jeep brought them to Phuentsholing. After a day's rest, the same jeep took them to Paro. The road to Paro had just been completed a few years ago. When they reached Paro after 15 grueling hours, it was already dark. The next morning, the view of a lush green valley of fields and farm houses with the Rinpung Dzong in the background enthralled them. Since then, they never had second thoughts about the comfortable life they left behind in a fast developing Japan.
Now that he was in Bhutan, Nishioka did not want to waste any time. He immediately reported to the agriculture office. Most of the staff, including the head were Indians. He received a cold welcome. "How can the agricultural techniques of Japan, an island country, suit the needs of Bhutan?" they questioned.
Never the one to give up easily, Nishioka decided to let the results speak for him. Starting with a small experimental farm and three boys as his apprentices, he first attracted the attention of farmers and officials alike with his fresh and healthy vegetables. In particular, his radish, the size of which was never seen before in Bhutan, became the talk of the town.
By the second year, he got a larger and better experimental farm. Working hard, his successes grew. He also successfully experimented with a Japanese variety of rice. He now understood well the climate and soil conditions of Bhutan. But just then, his two year initial appointment was nearing its end. Fortunately, his request for extension was granted by the Japanese government.
Now, the government of Bhutan provided him a much larger area in Bondey for his experimental farm. He named it Paro Farm. He now had enough space to experiment with many varieties of fruits, vegetables and rice. He would get up early and work till late. He grew potato, tomato, onion, asparagus, new varieties of rice, melon, watermelon, cherry, persimmon, peach, pear, apple, grapes, strawberry etc. in his farm.
He also initiated and encouraged the farmers of Paro to sell vegetables in Thimphu and Phuentsholing. In September 1966, he himself rode the first truck carrying vegetables to Thimphu from his experimental farm and other farmers. He was nicely surprised when all the vegetables were sold out within three hours at Thimphu. Selling vegetables in Phuentsholong started in 1967.
Upon his request to the Japanese Government, farm machineries first arrived in the kingdom in 1968.
Among the new methods of farming that he introduced, one of them was transplanting of rice in straight rows using a rope as a guiding line. Farmers were reluctant to give up their age-old method at first. But Nishioka convinced them by proving its effectiveness with better yields.
During the coronation ceremony of His Majesty the King in 1974, Paro Farm was honored to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to be served to the distinguished guests from other countries.
As the government entrusted him with the work of planning the development of agriculture in all Bhutan, it was necessary for him to travel to different places as well. His first visit was to Bumthang during the autumn of 1964. They went by jeep until Punakha where the road ended. From there, it took them eight days to reach Bumthang on foot. In 1966, he also visited Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar, met with the farmers, gave them advices and distributed seeds.
Besides introducing better varieties of fruits, crops and vegetables, his other concern was the development of skilled manpower and future leaders in agriculture for Bhutan. He groomed the boys who worked with him to be future leaders. He also initiated and sent the first two Bhutanese, Jampel Dorji and Dolay Penjor, to study the Japanese techniques of agriculture for a year in Japan in 1968.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Government was deeply concerned about the poverty of Zhemgang region. The people of Zhemgang owned almost no rice fields and depended on shifting cultivation which failed to produce enough to feed them. In 1972, the government entrusted Nishioka to prepare a general development plan for the region. He submitted the plan after a year. The government then entrusted him to carry out the plan within a span of five years from 1976 to 1980.
It was 1975 and he was now a father of two kids. His daughter Yoko was seven years old and son Tetsuo was two years old. From 1976, he would have to be in Zhemgang, away from his family in Paro. They also had to think about their daughter's education. Therefore, Satoko returned to Japan with the two children in December 1975. They planned to come to meet him once a year.
From 1976 to 1980, Nishioka, with his ten staff, applied himself totally to Zhemgang's cause. They held numerous meetings with the villagers, constructed 17 suspension bridges, many irrigation canals, over 50 hectares of rice fields, farm roads, schools and clinics and also sent young men to be trained as farm machine drivers and operators in Paro. He introduced the new varieties of rice, potato, maize, orange, apple, cardamom and planting of agar wood which holds great export value. The lives of the people of Zhemgang improved drastically.
For his untiring and selfless contribution, His Majesty the King awarded him the red scarf and the title of 'Dasho' in 1980. 'Dasho' means 'the best one' and it is reserved for outstanding individuals who normally hold high posts. So far, Dasho Nishioka is the only foreigner to receive this title. He humbly dedicated it to all the farmers and staff who had worked with him.
In Paro, the rice yield per hectare tripled with new varieties. When Druk Air started its operations in 1983, he also initiated the export of high value produce like asparagus and strawberry to other countries by air. Paro Farm had now grown to about 13 hectares and had about 40 regular staff and it trained about 150 people annually. Farmers also made study visits to the farm. Agriculture Machinery Centre was established the same year.
Diplomatic relationship between Japan and Bhutan was established in 1986, and in 1987, Prince Naruhito visited Bhutan. A visit to the Paro Farm was part of his schedule. Dasho Nishioka was excited. By now, it also had a nursery and a biotechnology lab.
But impermanence often strikes us when we are least prepared. On the evening of 21 March 1992, Satoko received a telephone call from Bhutan. After an awkward pause, the person on the other end said, "This morning, Dasho Nishioka has passed away in Thimphu Hospital. He complained of toothache, but his condition suddenly worsened." The last time he had met his family was less than two months ago when he was in Japan for the New Year.
The loss gripped the hearts of all Bhutanese with profound grief. His family flew in to Paro to pay their last respects. The government held a grand state funeral on 26 March on a small hillock overlooking the Paro valley, his home. The agriculture minister, members of the royal family and civil servants and farmers attended the funeral.
Dasho Nishioka witnessed the transformation of Bhutan into a vibrant modern country from an isolated mystical kingdom. He played his own big part in it. Today, we continue to enjoy the fruits of his love and sacrifice. He will live forever in the hearts and minds of all Bhutanese. Incidentally, one of the bridges that he built in Zhemgang is called 'Nishioka Bridge'. But more than this physical bridge, the human bridge that he built will continue to connect the peoples of Japan and Bhutan forever.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
*Originally submitted to this year's 20th anniversary newsletter of Japan Bhutan diplomatic relations and resubmitted for publication in Bhutan Observer.Celebrations of the anniversary are on in Bhutan and Japan this week (17 October 2006). Japan Bhutan diplomatic relations were established in 1986.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We too should invent

Two new interesting inventions that I read about recently prompted me to write this article. They are the blow-up man - a companion for women, and Toyota's automatic brakes. Before I write about the inventions themselves, let me introduce how an inventor is recognized and rewarded.
When someone makes an invention, he or she can apply for a certificate authenticating his invention. That is called a patent certificate. For instance, Alexander Graham Bell holds the patent for telephone. If any company makes use of the new invention for commercial purpose, the company must pay royalty to the patent holder for a certain number of years. This is a system by way of which an inventor is recognized and rewarded for his efforts and time.
In developed countries, it is not uncommon for some professors and scientists to live on huge amounts of money they receive as royalty for their patents. This not only helps the individuals themselves, but also the economy of the country to which they belong.
Do you know of any Bhutanese who owns a patent for an invention? I do not know anyone. Application for a patent for a new invention can be a lengthy process, but the effort can be worth it if the invention has a wide practical use, and hence commercial value. In Japan, applications for patent are handled by the Japan Patent Office. In Bhutan, it is handled by the Intellectual Property Division of Ministry of Trade and Industry.
If you think that all that was there to be invented has already been invented and nothing much remains for you to invent, please think again. Every year, various patent certificates for inventions ranging from simple devices to complex intelligent systems are issued to inventors. In Japan, top universities alone file hundreds of patent applications for new inventions every year.
An invention can stem from a very simple idea. The first recent invention that I want to talk about is called a blow-up man. If you are a woman and you are feeling a little bit lonely in your car at night, all you will need to do is press a button. Up will appear the blow-up man, strong and erect. When you have finished using him, press the button again and he will flatten and disappear below the seat. The inventor, a car insurance company, said that the blow-up man will look like a real man from outside and give company to women who feel afraid driving alone at night. The blow-up man will deter robbers and thugs that target women driving alone at night. Isn't it a nice and simple invention?
The second invention is a bit more serious. Toyota today (25 August 2006) unveiled their first automatic brakes. With this invention, even if the driver does not apply the brakes in time, the car, fitted with sensors and cameras (computer vision), will automatically brake when it approaches a pedestrian, a cyclist or an obstacle. Thus it will help prevent collisions and save lives.
We the Bhutanese take pride in ourselves for our ingenuity. Let us take it a step further by encouraging our people in general and our youths in particular to explore their creativity to make some new inventions and obtain some patents.

Of birdflu and food self-sufficiency

In the wake of the ban on the import of poultry products from India following the bird-flu scare in February 2006, chicken and eggs virtually disappeared from Bhutanese dinner tables. Is there something positive we can learn from this experience? I think there is. Why can't we learn to produce enough of our own?
We are an agricultural country with the agriculture providing the livelihood to the majority of our people. Why can't we produce enough chicken and eggs for our domestic consumption? We are not talking about producing our own TVs or cars. Will producing enough chickens and eggs be too difficult a task to achieve?
Encouraging poultry farm business among the Bhutanese can not only overcome a situation such as this, but also provide employment to our unemployed youths. Most of us would not get into the poultry business for religious reasons, but there are many Bhutanese who would not mind doing this business. They should be encouraged to take it up. Of course, there will be stiff competition from Indian poultry products when there is no ban on import from India. But with a good strategy of branding and concentrating on quality, this competition will not be too hard to overcome.
Lately, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken a lot of initiatives to improve the livelihood of the rural people by providing better opportunities to market and sell their products more effectively and efficiently. Such initiatives are indeed laudable. As is one of the strategies of the ministry, Bhutanese farmers should concentrate on the quality of their products, either in terms of being more organic or being pesticide-free, to capture the market. Many consumers would not mind paying a little extra for a product which is perceived as more healthy.
Our experience shows that there will be enough market for our local produce. It is a common knowledge that many people in Thimphu prefer Wangchutaba chicken over Indian chicken, local pork over imported pork, and local eggs and vegetables over imported eggs and vegetables even though the local produce cost more. With a good branding and marketing strategy, there is surely enough room for more farm based businesses to grow in Bhutan and even compete in the markets of India and Bangladesh as well as beyond. Organic fruits and vegetables are highly prized in many developed countries.
As is the global trend, most of the city-dwelling Bhutanese consumers are increasingly conscious of the health risks that may be posed by what they consume. Many Bhutanese have expressed concern about what the pigs and chickens are fed and how much chemicals are sprayed on the vegetables and fruits before being exported to Bhutan. We could only guess. But today's KOL article 'More pesticides in edibles' reports that most food items imported from India contain dangerously high levels of chemicals.
In developed countries such as Japan and the USA, agricultural inspectors test fruits and vegetables for various pesticides and the defaulting farmers if any are penalized severely. The tests are so sensitive that they can detect a pesticide to the scale of a pinch of salt in a swimming pool. If a chemical was used, its residue is inevitable. However, if it is below the allowable limit, they pass the inspection. In the absence of such strict regulation and testing in our region, we cannot be sure about what we are consuming. As a precaution, rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water, peeling off the covers, throwing away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, and cooking them are said to reduce pesticide residues.
The good thing is that we still trust that the produce of our farmers are safe and healthy. There lies the competitive advantage of our farmers in our domestic market. Tapping on this advantage, our farmers should produce more, whether it is chicken and eggs or vegetables and fruits. We all like to buy local. Don't we?
And the next time, we have a ban on the import of poultry products, let our dinner tables show no dearth of chickens and eggs. This will also take us one step closer to our cherished policy of food self-sufficiency.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Old dating practice misunderstood

It was not night hunting, but night dating. Non-bhutanese teachers who came to Bhutan at the start of modern development programmes termed it 'night hunting' without understanding the practice well. The practice served as dating between prospective future partners for rural people who were too busy during the day time. With modernity came a different class of people to the villages - businessmen, teachers, civil servants and dashos. When this new class began to abuse this rural system, it began to look like a bad practice.
In rural Bhutan of the past when there were no roads and electricity, and people had to walk for days to buy a bag of salt, young people did not have the luxury of passing their time dating each other during the day like the young people of today. They had to fetch firewood and water and tend to the farm, the cows, the pigs and the cocks and hens. The list was endless. As necessity is the mother of all inventions, the system of dating at night was born, out of necessity.
Young men discreetly visited a girl's house at night, like Romeo at the window of Juliet's bedroom, to let her know of his feelings and his intention to marry her and have children with her. However, owing to the fact that most girls did not have separate bedrooms and that Bhutanese are generally self-conscious by nature, such visits were not as blatantly common as it is often thouht. This practice served a very useful purpose in rural Bhutan; the purpose for the young people to meet their prospective future partner, which is very important in any society.
People often think that under such practice, anybody could go and sleep with anybody he liked. It is a mistake. The visit was often pre-planned with subtle gestures between the two people involved. Quite often, the visits offered a chance to talk with the girl's family too on a serious note. It was not an exploitation of the weak when it happened between the rural people, but an agreement on equal terms just like asking the apple of your eye out to a dance party these days. There were cases when unplanned visits ended in injury inflicted by the girl's father, brother or uncle.
With the passage of time, this practice has been misunderstood and grossly abused. Anyway, it is good that it is losing its popularity now. It served its purpose when it was needed. Nowadays, with roads, electricity and piped water supply at their doorsteps, most of the villagers have more time to date like the people in towns do. All things must change with time, not for the worse but for the better. And this practice is surely breathing its last now.
Today, you go to a village and try to revive this old system - you may be lucky if you return an injured man and not get your head chopped off.

Drukyul: my motherland

Bearing no nightmares of colonization
Nor ancient grudge of any brutal wars,
Blessed indeed are we, the Drukpas
The bearers of Siddhartha's treasures.

On the lap of the rugged Himalayas,
Is my motherland, the Land of the Dragon
Like the mythical flower Udumbara,
A rare jewel in this strife-torn world.

"The once-in-three-millennia Udumbara,
comes now quietly into bloom,
"The legendary Holy Law Wheel King,
Walks now the earth as the Druk Gyalpo.

Our wonderful past is our proud legacy,
The future that lies ahead is our beckoning hope,
United in our mind like faithful disciples,
May we, the dragon people forever march forward.