Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy on what GNP means

Below is a quote from Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy on what the Gross National Product means and more importantly what it does not mean, from a speech given in 1968.

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

- Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

You can listen to the speech in his own voice on youtube at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77IdKFqXbUY

How sad that such a great leader was assassinated so soon, in fact soon after that speech was delivered! Here is a short biography taken from Wikipedia.

"Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968), also referred to by his initials RFK, was an American politician, a Democratic Senator from New York, and a noted civil rights activist. An icon of modern American liberalism, he was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and acted as one of his advisers during his presidency. From 1961 to 1964, he was the U.S. Attorney General.
Following his brother John's assassination on November 22, 1963, Kennedy continued to serve as Attorney General under President Lyndon B. Johnson for nine months. In September 1964, Kennedy resigned to seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York, which he won in November. Within a few years, he publicly split with Johnson over the Vietnam War.

In March 1968, Kennedy began a campaign for the presidency and was a front-running candidate of the Democratic Party. In the California presidential primary on June 4, Kennedy defeated Eugene McCarthy, a fellow U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Following a brief victory speech delivered just past midnight on June 5 at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. Mortally wounded and unconscious, he survived for nearly 26 hours, dying early in the morning of June 6."

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Let's not lose sight of the big picture

PERSPECTIVE 5 June, 2010 - Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s article “Many questions, few answers” has generated much debate, both online and offline, just as he intended it to. I would like to offer my honest views on some of the issues he raised and some other related issues.

People’s opinions and perspectives differ. HH the Dalai Lama writes in his book “The Universe in a Single Atom” that “Any experience of consciousness – from the most mundane to the most elevated - has certain coherence and, at the same time, a high degree of privacy, which means it always exists from a particular point of view”.

Rinpoche’s view comes from a broad perspective of time and space, and a genuine concern to see Bhutan do well. Therefore some people’s reaction, questioning his qualification to comment on a mundane issue, is unfortunate. While we may not necessarily agree with him, we should be grateful to him for sharing his wisdom. Somebody has said, “In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” So too would Bhutan need not just people, who lick up to us and say, “everything is wonderful”, but also people that drive us into a reality check now and then.


Considering our population, size, geopolitical situation and the current global scenario, our culture and identity are of utmost importance to us. No Bhutanese would deny this fact. Historically, we have been fortunate to have never been under the yoke of a foreign power. This has ensured the continuity of our state institutions, culture and traditions in line with those established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the 17th century to this day. This continuity has always worked to our advantage, but will it continue to do so, if we are not willing to change some aspects of our culture, in tune with our newly adopted political system and the rapidly globalising, highly interconnected world of the 21st century?

This is a question that begs serious and honest contemplation with an objective mind rather than an emotional one. There is no doubt that most aspects of our culture are still relevant and very much kicking, but this should not deter us from looking objectively and modifying those aspects, which may no longer be relevant, and might do more harm than good in the long run to our efforts at cultural preservation itself.

On the other hand, my perspective differs from that of my friend Dorji Tshering, whose recent article implied that we better give up the phallic symbols that adorn the walls of Bhutanese houses, if at all we need to change any aspect of our culture. The phallic symbols have a sacred, but not pornographic, meaning for the people who use it. As long as they are used out of free will and not enforcement, there is neither the need to feel ashamed, nor the need to hasten their passing. In fact, I also showed postcards of phallic symbols from Bhutan to Japanese friends and their reaction was one of understanding and openness.


In our efforts in cultural preservation, Driglam Namzha, GNH, etc., I think the external appearances and actions are highly emphasized, while internal values are given little thought or attention.

Most of us, who are now engaging in these debates, grew up in an environment completely different from the one in which our younger generation in cities and towns are growing up. So, we have imbibed that strong sense of independence and pride, and belief in the age old values that define our relationship with others and the world around us. However, our new generation grows up watching foreign made Hindi and English TV programs seven days a week. And even in school, what they learn has little content on Bhutanese values. Whether they will share the same internal values that define our culture and GNH is a big question.

Attempts should be made to explain the significance and reasons behind the way we do certain things in our culture to our increasingly curious new generation, who have access to global information at the click of a mouse or touch of a remote control button, lest they lose this vital connection.

This reminds me of the driglam namzha lessons we used to receive as students in the early ‘90s and the graduate orientation program in 2000. The driglam namzha lopen was well-versed in all the facts and figures of how long the lagey should be folded, how low to bow to a minister and dzongdag, how elegantly the khadar should be unfolded while offering it etc., but he never explained to us that driglam namzha was a set of rules (not necessarily so rigid as he made them out to be) of social etiquette that one should observe in any setting, be it at home, office or even while in foreign countries. So the essence of driglam namzha was lost in all the nitty-gritty details of how many times to prostrate, how low to bow, how to push dressi quietly into one’s mouth with the right thumb, etc.


I include language as one important aspect of our internal cultural values that require urgent attention and support. Today, because of information and entertainment overload we experience, almost all of which comes in foreign languages via the Internet and cable TV, our languages are seriously threatened.

Dzongsar Khyentse rinpoche has observed our largely ineffectual efforts with Dzongkha’s progress, and suggested that we stop wasting time and resources on Dzongkha. However, Dzongkha is enshrined in our constitution as our national language, and I don’t think we should give up on it so easily. Moreover, Dzongkha is a language that is closely related to Chhoekay - the bearer of “our precious wisdom heritage, culture, and Buddha dharma”. Learning Dzongkha can lead to the understanding of Chhoekay and vice versa.

One of the main problems with Dzongkha’s progress is that we have been offering it only flowery lip service, while not taking the interest to learn or use it ourselves. In this connection, as a practical measure and our commitment to our national language, I would like to request all newspapers in Bhutan to start Dzongkha news websites like the one BBS has. Secondly, I would like to request all ministries and government organisations to open Dzongkha websites. Isn’t it hypocritical on our part to extol so many virtues and not make even the national newspapers and ministries start websites in Dzongkha?

A New York Times article in April read, “As far as the records show, no one has spoken Shinnecock or Unkechaug, languages of Long Island’s Indian tribes, for nearly 200 years. Now Stony Brook university and two of the Indian nations are initiating a joint project to revive these extinct tongues, using old documents like a vocabulary list that Thomas Jefferson wrote during a visit in 1791.”

Let us not put our own descendents in the same situation 200 years from now.


Ever since I got a chance to study abroad in 1996 after high school and see the world, I worried if Bhutan would one day join the ranks of developing countries teeming with poor street children, dirty drains and glaring inequalities. But over the years, I have come to believe that Bhutan will take a different path. GDP-wise, we are still one of the least developed countries, but if we look at the general living standard of the people, we are different from other least developed countries.

Thanks to the wise and dynamic leadership of our successive Kings, we enjoy unprecedented peace and stability today. However, the forces of change that will be sweeping over us in the coming years will be so strong that it may create great regional imbalances and big gaps between the rich and the poor. Indications are that the west will develop much faster in the next 10 years, compared to the rest of the country, mainly spurred by private investments over which government has little control. Improved transportation networks will be crucial to maintain some degree of balanced development and fight rural-urban migration. I wonder if it would be too big a challenge to try to halve the road distance from west to east to one day in the near future as one of the measures.

Yet, there is hope for us as we stand as one people united behind our King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Even as we debate issues from different perspectives, we should never lose sight of the bigger picture of what concerns us most as a small nation of very small population between two giants. Each and every one of us has a role to play to make each Bhutanese feel included and cared for; to enable each Bhutanese achieve his/her fullest potential; and to make Bhutan truly a land of Gross National Happiness.

This article was published in Kuensel on Saturday, 5th June 2010.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Lone bangchu represents Bhutan at Exhibition in Japan

There is an exhibition titled “Himalayas: People’s life and Nature” taking place at a museum in Tokushima, Japan. It started on 29th April and will go on till 6th June, 2010.

I visited the exhibition on 8th May and I was happy to see a bangchu(Bhutanese bamboo-made lunch box) on display. But I was surprised to see the label informing the visitors that it was from Nepal.

I thought it was a mistake because I had not seen Nepalese using bangchu or even selling it in souvenir shops when I visited Kathmandu in 2007. So I came home and called a Japanese lady who has known both Nepal and Bhutan for a long time. She said, “I have seen some Tibetans in Nepal using bangchu when I visited in the 1960s, but I heard it came from Bhutan via barter trades in Kalimpong and Darjeeling.”

“Bangchu is a unique Bhutanese handicraft which you should take better care of. I have heard that some of the unique Bhutanese textile designs have already been patented by other countries.” She added.

I then carried out an online research on the various bamboo products from Nepal, India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam etc. to find out if any other country makes bangchu. It is amazing that the simple bamboo has given rise to so many products of different shapes, sizes and uses in different countries. However, I did not see any product from other countries that closely resembled our bangchu.

“We should really be grateful to the people of Kheng and Thrimshing-Kangpara (two places in Bhutan where bangchu is produced) for this unique invention” I thought. A little more research revealed that bangchu is made from a bamboo locally known in Khengkha as yula, and in Sharchop as ringshu. Its scientific name is Neomicrocalamus andropogonifolius. According to a bamboo specialist, "Scrambling species such as Neomicrocalamus andropogonifolius provide strong, flexible weaving material of the highest quality, widely used in cottage handicraft industries." Studies mention that it is found mainly in central and eastern Bhutan, and in Nepal (known locally as langma) and Nagaland (known locally as kevva). But Nepalese and Nagas do not make bangchu although they use it for making other products.

Armed with this information, I called the person in charge of the exhibition the very next day. After introducing myself, I said, “I am really sorry to trouble you, but I think the bamboo-made lunch-box on display is from Bhutan and not from Nepal. I am not really concerned about it as a Bhutanese, but I think it is important not to misinform the visitors.”

He wholeheartedly thanked me for the information. He promised that he would correct the information and also said that he would write to the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka from where the items had been borrowed.

A friend from Okinawa visited me this week and I went to the exhibition again with him. This time, I saw another label put near the bangchu explaining that it is a “product of Bhutan” with a handwritten subtext that says “Bhutan is also a country in the Himalayas”. It is the only mention of Bhutan in the whole exhibition.
While Bhutan has become more popular in Japan thanks to GNH and TV programs on Bhutan that are aired now and then, I still sometimes meet Japanese who have never heard of Bhutan.

Our handicrafts are not only a means of livelihood for our rural people, but a representation of our history and culture. They assert our identity while attracting the interest and curiosity of foreigners. They are our precious legacies which should be nurtured, protected, promoted and passed on to our future generations. Mechanisms to protect them through national or international patents should be explored, while taking all the measures to improve their quality.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Basis of Bhutanese Values

What are the values that guide a Bhutanese man/woman?

The answer probably lies in:
(1)following the principle of mutual sincerity and loyalty in relationships (tha dam tshig) whether it is between the ruler and subjects, husband and wife, parents and children, or between friends,
(2)following the principle of cause and effect (las rju 'bras) - the belief in the relation between cause and effect of actions.
(3)having loving kindness and compassion (byams pa dang sning rje) for all sentient beings
(4)following the sixteen pure rules for worldly conduct (mi chos gtsang ma bcu drug)
(5)restraining oneself from the three poisons (dug gsum), and
(6)restraining from the ten misdeeds (mi dge ba bcu).

I do not mean that the Bhutanese live up to these values/ideals to the letter in their daily lives, but it can be said that these values/ideals form the foundation of Bhutanese social values.

The sixteen pure rules for worldly conduct (mi chos gtsang ma bcu drug) are said to have been propagated by the Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo in the seventh century. These sixteen rules form the basis of conduct for Buddhists who lead worldly life. They are as follows:

1. Respect for the triple gem – Buddha, Dharma and Sanga (lha dkon mchog gsum la mos gus bskyed pa).
2. Seeking and following the dharma (dam pa'i chos btsal zhing bsgrub pa).
3. Repay one’s gratitude to parents (pha ma la drin lan 'jal ba).
4. Respect for the good qualities of other people (yon tan can la zhe mthong yod pa)
5. Respect for the elders and people in higher positions (rigs mtho ba dang rgan par bkur sti che ba),
6. To be able to benefit the one’s hometown and neighbours (yul mi khyim mtses la phan 'dogs pa),
7. To be honest and modest (bka' drang zhing sems chung ba),
8. To keep good relationship with one’s relatives (nye du mdza' bshes la gzhung ring ba),
9. To follow and keep company with good people (ya rabs kyi rjes snyeg cing phyi thag ring ba),
10. To know one’s moderation with food and wealth (zas nor la tshod 'dzin pa),
11. To seek and show gratitude to people who have helped you in the past (sngar drin can gyi mi rtsad gcod pa),
12. To repay debts in time and not to cheat on weights and measures (bu lon dus su 'jal zhing bre srang la gyo med pa),
13. Not to be jealous of others’ good fortunes (kun la phrag dog chung ba),
14. Not indulge in harmful gossips and have self-control (ngan pa'i gros la mi nyan zhing rang tshugs 'dzin pa),
15. To be polite and speak less (ngag 'jam zhing smra ba nyung ba),
16. To have endurance and to be broad-minded (theg pa che zhing blo khog yangs pa ste bcu drug)

In addition "the 'three poisons' (dug gsum) and the ten misdeeds (mi dge ba bcu), also contain practical injunctions for the daily lives of the religion's adherents, promising karmic consequences for observance and breach."

The three poisons are:
(1) desire,
(2) anger, and
(3) ignorance.

The ten misdeeds consist of three physical misdeeds, four verbal misdeeds and three mental misdeeds. The physical misdeeds are:
(1) killing,
(2) taking what is not given, and
(3) engaging in sexual misconduct.
The verbal misdeeds are:
(4) lying,
(5) uttering divisive talk,
(6) harsh words, and
(7) gossiping.
The mental misdeeds are:
(8) harboring covetousness,
(9) ill-will, and
(10) wrong views.

1. Rangjung Yeshe Tibetan-English Dictionary of Buddhist Culture, http://www.nitartha.org//dictionary_documentation.html

2. Fernanda Pirie, Secular morality, village law, and Buddhism in Tibetan societies, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 2006. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-145574673.html

Monday, May 17, 2010

2 kinds of Happiness

"The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven." - John Miltom

According to Sogyal Rinpoche, "there are two kinds of happiness: one based on material comfort and pleasures; the other on inner contentment and peace."

Rinpoche further adds, "Material happiness is often very expensive and doesn’t satisfy us. Whereas, if it’s based on deeper inner peace and contentment, then even when you face difficulties, you can overcome them.

"Buddha said all fear and anxiety come from an untamed mind. If you were to ask what is the essence of the teachings of Buddha, it is to tame, to transform, to conquer this mind of ours, because it is the root of everything, it is the creator of happiness, of suffering, of samsara, of nirvana.

"So, if you know how to use the mind well, it can be the most wonderful thing. Or it can be your worst enemy as, I think, John Milton said, “The mind is its own place and, in itself, can make heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.” The most important thing is to work with the mind, as great masters have said, it’s foolish to go looking for happiness outside, because you’ll have no control. When you transform your mind, your perception and experience transform, even appearances transform. Because happiness is not something that exists objectively, it’s subject to one’s experience. No matter what the circumstance are, you’ll be able to cope."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Unbeaten by the rain

"If in the east there’s a sick child
He goes there and nurses him
If in the west there is a tired mother
He goes there and carries bundles of rice for her
If in the south there’s someone dying
He goes there to tell him not to be afraid,
If in the north there’s a quarrel or a lawsuit
He goes there to tell them it’s not worth it.
When there's drought, he sheds tears of sympathy
When the summer's cold, he feels the farmers’ pain
Everyone calls him a fool
He is not praised
He is not blamed either
Such a person,
I want to be."

The above is an excerpt from a famous Japanese poem "Ame ni mo makezu" which I prefer to translate as "Unbeaten by the rain". It was written by Miyazawa Kenji.

Almost every Japanese knows this poem because it is taught in school. It is said that students have to memorize this poem. It is a beautiful poem about altruism and self-sacrifice.

The first few lines of the poem read thus in Japanese:

ame ni mo makezu
kaze ni mo makezu
yuki ni mo natsu no atsusa ni mo makenu
jōbu na karada wo mochi
yoku wa naku
kesshite ikarazu
itsu mo shizuka ni waratte iru

Which may be translated as:

Unbeaten by the rain
Unbeaten by the wind
Unbeaten by the snow or summer's heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desires
never losing temper
Always smiling quietly

I liked it the first time I read it. It is not difficult for Bhutanese to understand what the poet wants to convey because it has direct resonance with the Buddhist way of thinking.

There are many translations of the poem.

Here is a translation by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson from the book "From the Country of Eight Islands":

Neither yielding to rain

nor yielding to wind

yielding neither to

snow nor to summer heat

with a stout body

like that

without greed

never getting angry

always smiling quiet-


eating one and a half pieces of brown rice

and bean paste and a bit of

vegetables a day

in everything

not taking oneself

into account

looking listening understanding well

and not forgetting

living in the shadow of pine trees in a field

in a small

hut thatched with miscanthus

if in the east there’s a

sick child

going and nursing


if in the west there is a tired mother

going and for her


bundles of rice

if in the south

there’s someone



and saying

you don’t have to be


if in the north

there’s a quarrel

or a lawsuit

saying it’s not worth it

stop it

in a drought

shedding tears

in a cold summer

pacing back and forth lost


a good-for-nothing

by everyone

neither praised

nor thought a pain


like that

is what I want

to be

About the Poet:

"Miyazawa Kenji has transcended the generations to become one of Japan's most read and best loved authors. Born over a hundred years ago in 1896 in Iwate Prefecture, he was only 37 at the time of his death. Kenji's literary works received scant attention during his lifetime and only two books were published before his passing: a collection of children's tales entitled "The Restaurant of Many Orders" and the first section of his most famous work of poetry, "Spring and Ashura." The remainder of the great number of children's stories and poems that he left behind was edited and published only posthumously, after which the richness and depth of his art finally gained wide recognition." - from http://www.kenji-world.net


We were talking of smiles yesterday. Here is a quotation which you may like.

“There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.”

I don't know who said it. But it reminds me of my late father who once told me how amazing it is that there are so many peoples with different cultures and languages in this world, but all of them can communicate with a smile.

The smile holds almost the same meaning for the iPod-wielding mini-skirt wearing girls of Tokyo as well as the bow-wielding half-naked tribesmen of the tropical jungles of Papua New Guinea. Isn't it amazing?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The former glory of Drukgyal Dzong

That was then, this is now:

This week, I was lucky enough to lay my hands on a photocopy of an article on Bhutan that appeared in the National Geographic Magazine in April 1914. The title of the article is "CASTLES IN THE AIR: Experiences and Journeys in Unknown Bhutan" and was written by John Claude White, Political Officer of British India stationed in Gangtok, Sikkim. (Note: you can click on any image to enlarge it.)

Besides other interesting information on the conditions of Bhutan then, the article presents impressive pictures and descriptions of Drukgyal Dzong which now remains in ruins. According to this article, "The Dug-gye armory is said to be the best in the country, and is contained in a fine room, with a large bow window facing south and looking down the valley – in the Tongsa Penlop’s opinion the best balcony in Bhutan”. 'Tongsa Penlop' here refers to the First Druk Gyalpo. He was the Trongsa Penlop and not yet crowned when John Claude visited Bhutan in 1905 and 1906.

For the sake of all people who have seen the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong and wonder how it once looked like, I am sharing some pictures, courtesy of John Claude White.

The following is an excerpt of what the author says about the Dzong (click on it to enlarge and read):

In a paper written by His Excellency Lyonpo Thakur S. Powdyel when he was the director of Centre for Educational Resarch and Development, titled "Druk Gyal Dzong : The Two Faces", he laments the fact that “the most significant symbol of our victory should languish in a tragic state of ruin”.

A Symbol of victory: (Some excerpts from Lyonpo Thakur's paper)

As if Zhabdrung’s departure from Ralung was not enough, the Tsang Desi vowed to destroy the former and gain total control of the Southern Land. The first attack was launched in 1617 - just a year after Zhabdrung's arrival in Bhutan, the second in 1634, and the third one coming in 1639, in all of which the Tibetan invaders were thoroughly routed.
Finally, a peace treaty was signed in 1639 and Zhabdrung was recognized as the Supreme Authority of the Land of Four Approaches in 1640.
In the meanwhile, events took a different turn in Tibet when the Gelugpas supported by the Mongols toppled Tsang Desi and nullified the earlier settlement with Zhabdrung, making irresponsible and impossible demands on the latter. The result was the resumption of war in 1644 by the combined Tibetan-Mongol army against Bhutan.
The war eventuated in a crushing and disgraceful defeat of the invaders and the signing of a new settlement in 1646 with the Tibetans agreeing never to attack Bhutan again. The terms of the settlement were, however, never respected and the allied Tibetan-Mongol army launched another attack in 1649, with increased reinforcements and power.
The second Tibetan-Mongol invasion, as the event is called, had the attacking troops marching as far as Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro, holding these places under siege for close to four months.

The attack on Paro was led by Depa Norbu. The might of the Bhutanese forces, however, soon proved invincible and the invading army was routed clean during a night attack and made to flee for life towards Phari. The pursuing Bhutanese army followed them and meted out the most humiliating defeat the Tibetans had ever suffered. All the weapons were seized and the enemies taken hostage.
The Bhutanese troops under the command of La-ngon would have killed the enemies if it were not for the good offices of one Lama Kuenga Sonam who negotiated peace between the Bhutanese and the Tibetans. The prisoners of war were set free to return to Tibet - but not before surrendering all their arms and ammunitions to the victorious Bhutanese army.

The terms of surrender were signed at Phondoe where the Bhutanese constructed the famous monument - to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the Tibetans, as well as to prevent possible future attacks - the Druk Gyal Dzong.

According to his paper, “One of the special functions held at Druk Gyal Dzong was the three-day annual prayer. The prayers would start on the 27th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar and conclude on the 29th. It was the last day of the prayers in 1951 that saw the face of the Victory Dzong change for ever.
The wind blew hard that night and toppled one of the butter-lamps in the utse. The fire soon spread, fanned by the breath of the night wind. To make matters worse, it is believed that a bat's wings caught fire too. As the bat flew madly about in panic, it lit fire wherever the wings touched. Soon, the dzong was an inferno of blaze”

Lyonpo Thakur further laments “It was bad enough to let the famous symbol of our victory be reduced to smoke and charcoal, in the first place. What is worse is that we have apparently grown comfortable looking at the spectacle of ruin. We escort the tourists to the top of our broken citadel, regale the sense of "strangeness and beauty" as Buckley (2003) refers to, pose for pictures with the face of ruin as our backdrop. That is about all."

Links to sources:

For a shortened version of Lyonpo Thakur's paper that appeared in Kuensel, please visit this link: http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=3154

The copy I got of JC White's paper was hardly legible though the pictures looked okay. So I did a search on the Internet and I was able to locate a copy on the net too. You can find it here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19697099/Castles-in-the-Air
Text is good, but no pictures were visible on this link.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A poem's power

Not many people read poems these days. But sometimes the power of a poem could be so profound that it can motivate you to achieve your dreams even in the face of most challenging of circumstances.

Few days ago, I was watching NHK Television before Japanese Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki blasted off towards the International Space Station onboard the shuttle Discovery on April 5th, to became the second Japanese woman to go into space after Chiaki Mukai. Yamazaki, a mother of a daughter talked of the various challenges she faced preparing for this day for the past 11 long years.

What kept her going most of the time was the motivation she derived from the following lines of a Poem by Japanese Poet Takamura Kotaro, she said.

[Boku no mae ni michi wa nai, Boku no ushiro ni michi wa dekiru.]

There is no road before me, But I can leave a trail behind me.

The poem was introduced to her by a teacher in her school, and since then it had a strong impact on her, she said.

Walking the talk is important, but sometimes an inspiring talk could be half the walk.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Number of Graduates in Bhutan

Title: Less graduates, fewer jobs
Published by: Kuensel

7 August, 2010 - Less than two percent of the Bhutanese population went to college and received a university degree in the past two decades.
There were about 8,200 Bhutanese with university degrees between 1987 and 2009, Kuensel records show that. The figure excludes a small percentage of Bhutanese graduates who did not register for the graduates orientation programme.

Year Grads
2009 : 1,330
2008 : 1,222
2007 : 1,034
2006 : 777
2005 : 664
2004 : 495
2003 : 401
2002 : 383
2001 : 272

With the tertiary education policy recently endorsed by the government, education officials say it will serve as a guide to make Bhutan a knowledge based society and cater to the increased demand of the people to pursue higher education.

From 62 in 1987 the number of graduates chasing every job on offer rose to 1,330 in 2009. Just ten years ago, only about 205 graduates entered the job market.
But even for the small percentage of graduates, considering the country’s total population, Bhutanese employers are struggling to creating avenues to accommodate people completing tertiary education.

In January this year, Druk Green Power Corporation saw more than 44 graduates apply for the post of an assistant finance officer, Bhutan foundation saw 60 applicants while Kuensel received almost 200 applicants against a vacancy for a marketing officer.

Education minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, said it is widely accepted that higher the education level of citizens in the country, the greater the benefits to the society. “It is important for Bhutan to continue expanding opportunities for its young people to enter tertiary education,” he said.

The minister said tertiary education, provided by the government and as well as funded privately, is available to over 21 percent of students completing class 12 annually. Which means that of the 6,500 students having completed class 12 this year, about 1,330 are continuing higher studies.
There are about 3,671 students pursuing tertiary education outside Bhutan, especially in India while colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan have about 5,243 students.

The new tertiary education policy, on the other hand, proposes the government increase the age-cohort participation rate, which means the number of 19-year olds entering tertiary education, to 33 percent by the year 2017. Education officials said by 2017, there will be approximately 14,000 students of which tertiary education should be available to about 4,600. This would be done through various funding and management mechanisms, giving tertiary institutions autonomy and assuring their quality and by incentivising foreign direct investments in tertiary education, education officials said.

Many reason that the streamlining of tertiary policies and increasing tertiary capacity to produce more Bhutanese graduates from within and outside Bhutan would pose increasing challenges to the job market.

A labour ministry official said although the quality and skills of the graduates have been debatable in recent years, the increasing numbers alone will not create a knowledge based society if these people are not supported through employment opportunities to gain hands-on experience, skills and knowledge. “At this stage, we lack a proper study of the job market,” he said. “We have, for several years, been saying that there is actually no dearth of jobs but the unemployment problem is a consequence of mis-match between the skills and available jobs.”

For instance, about 126 IT and computer science graduates competed for eight government slots through civil service entrance exams in 2009 while there were 22 government vacancies for 13 civil engineers.

An education management consultant from the United Kingdom who wrote series of articles in the media on tertiary education in Bhutan, Dr Austin Reid, had said that “unless the rapid growth in tertiary enrolments, a response to social demand, is matched by a corresponding growth and changes in the labour market to produce more jobs and increasing proportion of highly skilled ones, the consequences will lead to a mismatch between supply and demand.” He said the ramifications of that eventuality will be felt throughout sectors of society.

Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel said the development of the recent education policy has been a joint effort of all relevant sectors and such coordinated approach was deemed absolutely necessary. “We should be mindful of the specific requirements of the different sectors of the economy and the possible mis match between qualifications so that graduates match the specific requirements of the job market,” he said. “The tertiary education policy will make possible specific programmes to support the country’s more immediate economy but also programmes that will support the holistic development of individuals and the society.”

By Phuntsho Choden

Link to source: http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=16340&mode=&order=0&thold=0

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A friendship camp in the mountains of Tokushima

September the fifth, the long awaited day for the camp finally came. The sun was shining brightly. The cicadas were singing in joy.

I hurried myself to Tokushima International Association (TIA) office. Almost all the participants had arrived when I got there. There were 48 of us including the organizers and foreigners from seven different countries viz. China, India, USA, Kenya, Australia, Mongolia and Bhutan.

We departed at 9.00 AM as scheduled. We passed through Kamiyama. As our driver deftly maneuvered the bus along the winding mountain roads through the lush green forests, I felt like I was in Bhutan.

At around noon we reached the camp site, Fagus no Mori Yamashiro. There is a lone wooden house with a wide space for camping in front. It has a dinning hall, kitchen and place for accommodation. Around it were many fagus trees. We enjoyed our lunch of tenpura, rice, miso-soup and other Japanese side dishes which had been kept ready for us.

After taking a rest for a while, we divided ourselves into eight groups and started making boxes for the birds'nest. We then went into the forest to put up the boxes on the tree trunks for the birds to come and make their nests inside them.

As the evening approached with cool mountain breeze, we started preparing for the barbeque.

The meat sizzled over burning charcoals. Beer flowed aplenty. Soft drinks too were abundant. Meat was in good supply. Funny jokes were inexhaustible. Alcohol opened up even the most reserved persons. And thus, new friends were made, and old friendships were reinforced.

As if we were not already blessed enough to have such a merry time, the heavens sent us another gift. As the day gave way to the night and the birds of Mt. Takashiro began to retire to their nests, a full moon began to rise from behind the mountains far away. Silhouetted against the twilight sky and the shadowy mountains and trees, the tranquil sight of the gentle moon was breathtaking. I felt as if it was saying to us, “Take it easy, Humans! Take it easy!”

As the night progressed, the portable Karaoke system really came in handy. First on the stage were some Chinese students who crooned some modern-sounding Chinese songs. But it was the TIA Director, Mr. Morino and Ms. Zhang Juan, a Chinese exchange student from Tongji University in China, who really broke the ice with a melodious Chinese number.

The duo’s powerful vocal sent the throats of others itching. Up rose Mr. Bayar from Mongolia and took the microphone in his hands. He belted out a melancholic, loud but heartfelt Mongolian melody that echoed across the deathly silence of the forests of Kisawa. “This is probably how the lonely Mongolian herders’ songs also echo across their endless grasslands”, I thought to myself.

Next rose Mr. Sanmoy from India. As he began to sing a song composed by India’s Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore, his wife could not resist but join her husband on the stage. “What a lovely couple!” someone whispered to my ears.

Others followed with English songs, oldies, Elvis, Beatles, Japanese Enkas, Japanese Pop songs, Chinese pop songs etc. While some sang, others danced. And so the merrymaking continued. The beer kept flowing. The gentle moon continued to look on from above too.

I retired to bed around midnight with Mr. Bayar and Mr. Sanmoy. Others continued chatting around the bonfire and I was told that some of them went to bed at around 4 am only. We all slept on the floor in the same hall, but it was quite comfortable.

The next day, we woke up to greet a very clear and sunny Sunday. I washed up and took a short walk with a few friends along the rough road going higher up the mountain. Then at 8.00 am, we had our breakfast of rice, miso soup and beef stir fry.

We cleaned up, loaded our stuff on to our vehicles and said good bye to Fagus no Mori at 9.00 AM. On the way back, we stopped to see two waterfalls, Ogama no Taki and Otodoro no Taki in Naka town. At Ogama no Taki waterfall, to everybody’s surprise, Mr. Mark from USA took off his shirts and plunged right into the stream to take a cool natural shower under the waterfall.

We then headed back towards Tokushima city. If anybody was hungry, there was Onigiri (Japanese rice ball) inside the bus. We arrived back at TIA office at around 1 pm, safe and sound.

It was one hell of a friendship camp, thanks to TIA!

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