Friday, February 29, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
After a chilling ride in the wind for 30 minutes, I arrived at the place where the saloon used to be housed. But today, a sign in Japanese on the window read: “Tenanto boshu chu” (Looking for tenants). The saloon had closed down. Probably, the business in a small town is not as easy as it seems.
However, the McDonalds next door was doing a brisk business. I went in for my favorite burger and coffee. Munching on my burger and sipping my coffee, I remembered that a friend had told me two years ago that he used to get his hair-cut at a saloon run by a disabled man not so far from there. “I go there, you know, to help the guy,” he had told me. I decided to go there.
Recollecting the faint direction that my friend had described to me about the saloon, I continued pedaling away on my bicycle. A lone fat lady was waiting at a bus stop. Fat people are rare in Japan – most people in this country are slim and fit. They owe it to their food which they proudly claim is the healthiest cuisine in the world.
“Kono atari ni sanpatsuya san ga aru to kikimashita ga, doko ni arun desho ka?” ( I have heard there is a saloon around here. Where could it be?)” I ventured to ask the fat lady.
The lady seemed surprised, and even a bit startled, to be confronted by a foreigner – probably her first time. Although some foreigners take it to be racism or even undue pride of the Japanese, the reluctance of some Japanese to communicate with foreigners is nothing but their uncertainty about how to interact with a foreigner. Being an island country, they had been isolated from the rest of the world for a long time, and even today, there are people who have never talked or interacted with a foreigner here.
After making some awkward gesture, she said that she was sorry that she didn’t know about the location of the saloon.
I continued on my ride. After going about 300 meters, the sign of a saloon greeted me. It looked trendy, but there were no sign of customers. Hesitantly, I opened the door to enter. A pretty lady was talking to a man in suit. The lady looked anything, but disabled.
So I asked (of course in Japanese), “Is there any other saloon around here?”
“There is one about 200 meters from here towards the right.” She replied.
“Oh thank you. I am looking for that saloon.” I said and made my way out.
And there it was. The saloon I was looking for. It was very clean, nice and well equipped as any other saloon in Japan is. Two ladies, a child and a young man sat at the waiting lounge. A man was busy giving haircut to a customer. None of the people in the room looked disabled. So I wondered again if I was at the right place.
To figure out, I wanted to strike up some conversation with those who seemed to be waiting. “Could I get a haircut here?” I asked them. Everybody replied to me only in sign language indicating that I should ask the man who was now busy giving a haircut.
I had expected someone with a broken leg, but I then figured out that the man was actually deaf and could not speak.
When he had finished with his customer, he came to me and tried to communicate with me using sign language. But he found out that I was not good at it. So he brought a white board and wrote something in Japanese which was too difficult for me to read. I showed him my student card and foreigner’s registration card to introduce myself and put him at ease.
“Do you know Japanese?” He wrote on the white board.
“Yes, little bit.” I wrote.
“So you are from Bhutan?” he wrote.
“Yes, I am” I wrote back.
“Why did you come to Japan?” he wrote.
“I came to study at university here.” I wrote
“SUBARASHII” (that is wonderful), he wrote.
He then showed me some pictures of models for me to choose the style. I made my choice. He began his work and gave me a very professional service.
I thanked him for the service and paid him.
While passing me the change, he wrote to me on the white board, “Are you married?”
“Yes. How about you?” I wrote back.
“Yes. I have three kids.” He wrote with a very proud and happy smile lighting up his face.
“SUBARASHII” I wrote back.
On a closer look, the little boy with the beautiful lady at the corner of the waiting lounge looked very much like him. The lady was looking at us and smiling. Probably she was his wife, and the cute little boy his youngest son.
I made my last Japanese style “thank you” bow and made my way towards the door. The little boy was smiling at me and waving me good bye. His father and mother were smiling at each other. They seemed very happy, though the little boy’s father had been robbed of the precious ability to hear and speak.
“The most challenged people are often the people who know how to value those simple, yet the most profound things in life,” I thought riding my old bicycle back to my apartment.
It was not a bad idea to go out on windy Sunday after all.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
The solution to this scenario is not to backtrack on the good decision, but to overcome the challenge of providing enough trained teachers and providing other support and facilities if required.
History is best learnt in our own language, from the perspective of our culture and social background. This is an undeniable fact. We cannot justify learning our own history in another language just because we feel ‘our own language is more difficult than other people’s language’. That would make a sorry case.
Dzongkha is not a difficult subject/language. At least it should not be so for the Bhutanese. What is lacking is the interest to genuinely promote its usage. More support is needed from all quarters. When Chinese and Japanese could master their languages, which have much more complex writing system than that of Dzongkha, why can't we Bhutanese master our own language?
Yes, English is important too; but then, so is Dzongkha. We Bhutanese have to be good at both English and Dzongkha. And we can be good at both of them.
Last, but not the least, history is too important a subject to be neglected. Understanding our past, we are better prepared to face the challenges of the present and the future.
History should be taught by people who have genuine interest and passion for history. It should not be taught as 'one damned thing after another'. History has been mistreated enough as a boring subject.
History should be taught in a manner that connects the past to the present. It should be taught as an interesting story, which invokes total attention from the students and inspires them to love and appreciate our country more and emulate the deeds of historical figures.
That is what history is about, and it is better if the decision to teach it in Dzongkha, our own language, is not undone.
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