Monday, February 24, 2014

A Mobile Royal Court

When His Majesty the King begins a journey across the country, the people of the court do not try to estimate when they will arrive at a destination.

The purpose of the travel is not to arrive, but to organise what is perhaps the most unique royal court in the world – a mobile one.  It is not uncommon to reach the end of the journey well after midnight.

The mobile royal court begins as His Majesty’s motorcade starts on what is certain to be a long journey.  But in this court, people do not travel for days to receive an audience with their King – the King travels to his people.

On dusty farm roads, in lush valleys, in small towns and near villages perched on slopes, His Majesty’s car stops for whoever wishes to meet their King.  His Majesty stops for every single man, woman and child, at any time of the day or night.

Sometimes people approach His Majesty with their difficulties; other times they just want to greet their King or welcome His Majesty into their villages.

In case of appellants, each appeal is heard carefully.  Often, a royal command is issued immediately to the gyalpoi zimpon.  At other times, His Majesty commands that the issue be studied further.

Following the audience, the zimpon collects the zhutsi, or makes note of the cases, and begins to carefully register each one while still on the road.  Phone numbers are noted and calls are made.  Some villagers come without any papers and others don’t have mobile phones.  Many cannot remember their phone numbers.  This calls for the ingenuity to adapt to such situations – the zimpon uses the appellant’s phone to call himself, or finds someone close to the person, who has a phone.  Applications are written out on the spot.  The process of resolving issues has already begun, minutes before His Majesty’s motorcade has stopped for the next person.

The beauty of this mobile court is that it takes His Majesty’s kidu to everyone, and excludes no one.  It allows unprecedented and unanticipated problems to be dealt with, and ensures that His Majesty’s kidu takes care of people, when there isn’t a system in place to do so.

At Thungdari, in Dramitse, Mongar, a group of students have a special appeal.  The 13 students live in Rolong, and go to school in Trashigang.  They want a bus to take them to school every day.

Next to a steep bend on the Mongar-Trashigang highway, two women are carrying children on their backs.  Both the children have cerebral palsy.  The women, with tears in their eyes, tell His Majesty about their difficulties.  It grows more difficult everyday to carry their children on their backs, the way they are compelled to.

Two sets of wheelchairs are immediately granted to the women.  A medical team, which is part of the entourage, looks at the children.  The team travels with His Majesty, following His Majesty’s footsteps into the most remote pockets of the country, and administering healthcare wherever necessary.  Mobile clinics are set up on the spot, and a variety of ailments that the villagers suffer from are treated.  This is not a one-time treatment – cases are referred, prescriptions are noted, and parcels of medicine are sent through gups until the treatment is complete.

At other times, people approach His Majesty, because they have heard of His Majesty’s visit, and wish to meet their King and Queen.

In a shaded corner of a forested area near Phanas, in Ngatshang, Mongar, 84-year old Ugyen Tenzin has been waiting patiently for His Majesty to arrive.  He tells His Majesty that he has only seen his King and Queen in Kupars, and he has walked for hours to meet Their Majesties.  It is a touching moment for those present to see the old hermit present Their Majesties a flower.

Straight-backed men wearing their Nyarey and antique medals proudly wait for His Majesty along the way.  Some of these ex-armed force personnel have served the Third King.  His Majesty knows most of them by name, and greets them warmly.

The journey has several detours, taking His Majesty along bumpy farm roads to nearby villages, where people have gathered in a lhakhang or a school.  The stops are numerous as well – often, His Majesty alights from the car and visits the people in their homes and shops.

At other places along the way, villagers set up tshogchang.  Sweet cypress and pine leaves are burned as incense, seats are decorated, and the best ara is brought out in ornate palangs.  The women sing songs as tshogchang is offered to welcome Their Majesties.  With the ara, they offer the humble produce from their farms – boiled eggs and oranges.

These are cherished meetings, and the conversations are intimate.  His Majesty inquires about their families and work; the people talk about their lives and difficulties.  Because these are regular meetings, many faces are familiar to His Majesty.  Children have grown up, young people have married, and pregnant women have given birth to red-cheeked babies that they now carry on their backs.

There is a festive mood at these large gatherings.  His Majesty shares jokes, and often asks the officials of the entourage to sing and dance to entertain the people, who have been waiting for hours.
After every meeting, after some questions and advice, His Majesty always tells the people that he will meet them again.

There is no lunch arrangement along the way.  Everyone in the entourage carries lunchboxes, and eats wherever lunchtime finds them.  It is a surprise for government officials, who have been invited to join the entourage, to find no grand lunch for His Majesty on these journeys.  Often, His Majesty will eat at a small restaurant, where buses stop on the highway for lunch.

As the slow journey nears its end, people set up bonfires to keep warm, as they continue to wait in the dark.  The cold, the occasional rain, and even snow, are not enough to send them back to their homes.

In Mongar, after more than 8 hours of travelling from Trashigang (a journey that usually takes 3 hours), His Majesty greets the people gathered in the town square with the same energy as at the beginning of this journey.  More than an hour is spent in conversations, and the dark and cold bothers no one.  The scene may evoke nostalgic memories – a similar mood prevailed here when His Majesty graced the town just before the Royal Wedding.  The torrential rain that poured that day was as unsuccessful in dampening spirits as the late hour is now.

The mobile royal court has no set working hours.  It accommodates all those who approach.

Contributed by  Dipika Chhetri.  
Dipika serves in the Royal Office for Media, and had the privilege of being part of the royal entourage on His Majesty’s recent tour to Mongar, Trashigang and Trashiyangtse from January 27 to February 17, 2014.
(Published in Kuensel dated 21.02.2014)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A message to HM the 5th King on the occasion of his 34th Birthday

I want to share this message written by (i dont know the exact source, once i know then i will definitely name him here), on our king's 34th Birth Anniversary. I have read this a long time ago and hope you would like to read. It a simple but heart touching message. And, i would like to wish our king many many happy returns of the day :). You are the greatest inspiration for us and we will always love you. Once again, happy birthday!!

Two of our great kings
We the people of Bhutan have always felt the love of our King. We have always been inspired by His Majesty’s “Loving Kindness.” His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk began His reign by declaring to the people: “I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother, and serve you as a son.”

Never ruling you as a King, His Majesty spends majority of the time walking to remote villages of Bhutan (names of villages that majority of Bhutanese people have even not heard of) from Gortsham village to Shillingtoe village to Samrang village. I remember His Majesty once said, “I cannot think straight in the capital Thimphu, I am happiest when I am with my people in the villages, I can look at their faces or remember their faces when I make important decisions that affect their lives.” When in Thimphu, His Majesty spends most of the time sitting down with the people from taxi drivers to civil servants to youth.

Protecting you as a parent, His Majesty adopted thousands of needy students across the country as Gyalpoi Tozey (which literally means those who share King’s food) giving not just financial support but love and care as a parent lifting them up with human dignity. Today being a Gyalpoi Tozey is a rare honor because you are treated as King’s child with “Loving Kindness.” Some of Gyalpoi Tozeys have already graduated with impressive degrees such as civil engineering, business administration, information technology, and so on from colleges both from abroad and Bhutan. Our King has given them rare opportunity to prove that “I may be poor but I’m not poor in brain.” By taking care of them as a parent, these vulnerable children never felt like poor children because His Majesty would personally send them pocket money in an envelope. For example, once when there was huge flood in Bangkok, students of Rangsit University were evacuated to different locations in Bangkok. I met some of Gyalpoi Tozeys studying at Rangsit University. “His Majesty has sent us a surprise – extra pocket money and affectionately told us to go shopping to relieve our stress from flood worries as the university is closed ... we are all so happy,” they told me.

Caring for you as a brother, His Majesty has granted countless individual audiences to those embarking on new journey of further studies or other endeavours. Those who received audience are always inspired. “It was really a life changing experience,” said Karma Wangchuk. “His Majesty’s words were like blessings that would lead me to be amongst the best,” said Renuka Chettri. “It really did touch my heart,” said Kezang Tshomo. “Inspiring, enlightening, moving and encouraging,” said Kinley Wangdi. “I do feel proud to be a citizen of this country,” said Kinley Dema. “It was a very inspiring and humbling experience, and I was pleasantly surprised and happy that His Majesty remembered an old schoolmate,” said Sharda Rai.

Serving you as a son, His Majesty is taking care of thousands of vulnerable elderly citizens across the country who have no one to care for them - from Amma Tashi Zangmo in Durung village to Agay Tandin in Jang village to Angay Dhan Maya Rai in Logchina village. Massive land Kidu initiative of our King currently happening is also because His Majesty believes that land is best kept in the hands of our people. 
Talking with the elderly

Thus, we the people of Bhutan have always been inspired by our King’s “Loving Kindness,” but I have always wondered with curiosity, like a little child, where do our King draw His inspiration for “Loving Kindness.” Then one day what I saw on our King’s study table inspired me (and I’m sure now you too) beyond imagination. It’s a rare treasure. It’s a handwritten note from our Royal Angay (Grandmother) Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuk to His Majesty the King in 2006 when His Majesty the 4th King handed over the country to His Majesty the King, in an unprecedented and unexpected surprise move, in peaceful and quiet transition. Since I was inspired beyond imagination, I have memorized those beautiful words of wisdom, forever, in my heart. It’s a rare treasure that would inspire every Bhutanese and beyond – beauty lies in its simplicity and profoundness in being human being first. 

the Royal Family of Bhutan

So here it is, for your inspiration:

“My dearest Khesar,

The Buddha once said to King Prasanjit

Oh, Great King, your works are vast and numerous

Whether you are seated, whether you march, eat or are in Repose

May all your Acts, Laws, and Judgements

Be inspired by “Loving Kindness”

In this way, you confer unlimited benefits on your subjects
And collect unlimited merits for yourself.

With all my love and prayers for you.

Your loving Angay,

(Photo Source: HM KJKNW Official FB Page)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Entrepreneurship & Agribusiness in Bhutan

In Bhutan, we lack the spirit for entrepreneurship and self employment. This can be attributed to many factors such as our inability to take risk, disability to organize our mindset, less encouragement from family and friends and our stereotype culture where we place great importance to civil service.

The extremely high interest rate charged by the banks also disallows a person to set up their own business venture. And, the recent rupee crunch has left a deep impact in our economy.

More than 50% of the Bhutanese population are the youths. And, almost 7000 are jobless at the moment.  For a small country like Bhutan with just around Seven Hundred Thousand people, the unemployment rate is alarming.
This reminds me of His Majesty's recent address to the students of Sherbutse College. The excerpts from His Majesty's speech "our greatest advantage is that we are small - it opens up all kinds of possibilities for us, and others admire us because they see our enormous potential''.

His Majesty also reminded the students of the increased challenges and responsibility we are faced with today, with the rupee shortage, inflation, and negative balance of trade. ''We need to diversify our economy," His Majesty said.

His Majesty also asked the students to reflect on whether 3 to 4 years in college will be sufficient to see them though the rest of their lives. His Majesty told the students that we have to work even harder to consolidate past achievements, and ensure that our children inherit a wonderful country, where they can achieve the things we could not, and live by certain standards that we can only dream of...

Bhutanese are very fortunate to have leaders like our kings who places great importance on the people and their lives, who constantly guide us and whom we look up to as role models. His Majesty's speech not only makes it clear that he is really passionate about the future of our country but also stresses to diversify our economy.

Every year hundreds of youths complete their studies and compete for the limited jobs available. The Royal Government of Bhutan should diverse our economy towards the agri sector. This sector if properly developed could have a positive impact on our youths, on our society and on our nation.

The govt. should also create a vibrant platform for more of our jobless school dropout youths and encourage them to take up entrepreneurship programs. So, that young talented people come up with various creative & innovative ideas. And, also assist them to set up their own business units.
Both for the government and the youths, self employment through entrepreneurship like agribusiness is the need of the hour. It can solve the unemployment problem faced by the govt. to some extend. At the same time, it can provide food security in the country and help in alleviating poverty & hunger, and also we can depend less on import of food because there is already a big deficit in our Balance of Trade.

I would like to urge our youths to take up agribusiness as a source of employment and income since Bhutan is still an agrarian country and there is lot of scope in the agrisector.

We say girls and women enjoy gender equality in our society. Even then its very hard to see a woman/girl coming forward for self employment. There are just a handful of women entrepreneurs in the country.

That is why Bhutan is facing a lot of youth related issues like abuse of drugs, teenage pregnancy and gang fights to name a few because our youths are not engaged in productive activity. 

The question here is how can we engage and encourage our youths towards agriculture? How can we promote agriculture as a fun and lively activity? 

It is evident that our youths do not want to take up activity involving hard labour but given proper guidance it shouldn’t be a challenge as there is no other option.

The sole reasons to solve youth unemployment do not lie only with the youths and the government. It is also the duty and responsibility of our teachers and parents to make our children aware of situations in the country because they are the future of our country and it is them who will stir our country in the future.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book - The Story of My Experiment with Truth

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
Mahatma Gandhi

At some point of time,we all may have heard about Gandhiji and his ideologies in Satya Graha. We may have even studied about his freedom struggles which finally lead to the freedom of India from the British empire in the History of India/World.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi popularly known as Gandhiji is one of the most inspiring global figures of our time.

But have we ever tried to dig deep into his personal life. The story of  My Experiment with Truth is the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. The book starts with Gandhiji as a child and his recollections from early childhood to adulthood and his marriage, his education, his stay in South Africa & England are also accounted. He also recounts every details of the story of his life and how he developed the concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century.

I don't want to bore my readers by telling the story of Gandhiji again. If you haven't read the book yet, please grab your copy from the nearest book store. Because reading for yourself is much more enlightening than reading a review written by someone.

So, in the year 1999, the book was designated as one of the "100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a committee of global spiritual and religious authorities.

I have read my copy of the book. So, when are you going to do it?

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 –> Wish to be an Agricultural Entrepreneur?

1. Are you self-motivated?

2. Can you plan and be well organized?

3. Are you goal-oriented?

4. Do you have problem solving skills?

5. Can you handle pressure?

6. Do you have a vision?

7. Do you have a business idea?

8. Are you passionate about your product or service?

9. Did you check if there is a market for your idea?

10. Are you willing to invest more than 8 hours per day on your business?

11. Have you considered how the business will impact your family?

12. Are you financially ready to take the step into self-employment?

Courtesy: Syecomp Business Services Ltd, Accra

Monday, February 10, 2014

Organic Farming (a Dream or a Reality)

Farmers farming in a traditional way (Pic Courtesy: with kind permission from Farmer Sangay)

In the year 2013, the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) announced that Bhutan will become the first country in the world with 100% Organic Farming. Since then, the process of preparing to turn Bhutan into a fully organic country by 2020 is in full swing.

 Bhutan is known as a country that accords the highest priority to environmental conservation, a nation whose constitution requires at least 60% of the area under forest cover for all times to come, a nation that has brought a paradigm shift in development theory by introducing the unique concept of Gross National Happiness, a nation where tradition and culture still plays a vital  role in the daily lives of the people.

beautiful valley of Wangdi

Apart from Tourism and Hydro power, Agriculture contributes 20% of the country’s GDP. Cash crops like gingers, cardamoms, mandarin oranges, apples and potatoes are exported by Bhutanese to earn some revenue. And, 65% of the population is involved in the agricultural sector.

I think it can be possible to achieve 100% organic farming because if we dream of something then it might not be impossible to achieve it.

Sensing the significance of food self sufficiency in the region, the RGOB has invested a lot in the agriculture sector already. The RGOB supports various agricultural activities including providing better quality seedlings, training our farmers and giving various incentives.

 However, it is more importantly centered only in some parts of the country especially in the north. Whereas other parts of the country especially the south from where I belong has been neglected and has seen less developmental activities during the past few decades.

Farmers farming in a traditional way (Pic Courtesy: with kind permission from Farmer Sangay)

 Apparently much of the Bhutanese vegetation is still unpolluted. Since the RGOB has the influence to persuade Bhutanese to become organic farmers our youths should take up agribusinesses as a source of income and self employment.

Talking about farming in our country, even in this modern age, our Bhutanese farmers use out dated and intensive traditional tools for farming. Instead of using modern power tillers and tractors, we depend heavily on the traditional system which is labor intensive. The sloppy mountainous terrain makes it even more inconvenient to practice modern farming system.

Similarly, I have seen a lot of our farmers especially villagers whose yield has been decreasing every year.
And, also noticed not a lot of people work in their farms. They either abandon their land or sell it. Our farmers are becoming simply villagers.

So, if the Royal Government keeps on supporting various measures to take up agriculture as an entrepreneurial activity in the coming few years, the dream to make Bhutan an organic country by 2020 will not be very far away. Moreover, the RGOB will help create employment opportunities for our youths. And, at the same time we can help ourselves in terms of food self sufficiency.
Since, i am not equipped with proper knowledge to address this issues, i leave it best to the concern agencies and people to ponder on.

Thanking you all for taking your time to read!.