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Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Well, it was not much really.
Just an accident on the zebra crossing at the Thimphu hospital resulting in a fractured pelvic bone and some cuts and bruises on my body.
Luckily I was not wearing glasses (hail contact lenses!)
Jokes apart, I had quite a serious accident with a cab in September 2010.
The cab driver didn't see me and I was too absent minded to look around.
The cab hit me and I was thrown a few feet away, unconscious.
Luckily, passersby and my dad's driver took me immediately to the emergency ward.
I was discharged after the wound on my arm was swabbed and I was given an injection plus after I underwent x-rays and an ultrasound examination.
"You are ok," said the examining doctor, " Just let the fracture heal through bed rest."
I thank the "bed rest" and good food (read eggs, butter, milk)  for gaining extra pounds which I haven't been able to shed till today.
But every event that occurs in your life is a learning experience.
And I learned from the accident, too.
For example, I learnt how lucky people who can pee in the bathroom are.
I learnt to be patient and not get fidgety while on bed for a whole month.
I learnt to walk on crutches.
I learnt to enjoy a back massage.
I learnt to wash my face with a bowl of water.
I learnt to enjoy a book as dark as "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D Salinger.
I learnt to savor Kahlil Gibran's poetry.
I learnt to cherish fresh air and green.
I learnt to long for company.
I learnt to edit stories for the newspapers I was working for.
But best of all, I learnt that so many people are there who care for me.
I learnt that in moments like this, the sight of a loved one uplifts you beyond anything else.
And I learnt that though you are just mortal, you can make life better for others by showing just an iota of compassion.
It surely was an affair (accident) to remember!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can Bhutanese writers wield the pen? (An article published in The Journalist)

A young girl was stranded in the middle of an isolated island for more than a decade. She survived alone on the island because she had the life-skills. She knew how to fish, light a bonfire and swim. Many passing ships tried to rescue her but she was a good runner and knew all the hiding places on the forbidden land. Whenever the travelers left disappointed, she would be on a cliff waving at them. Then one fine day, a group of determined sailors decided they had to take her back to civilization by any means. They formed a band and started a search operation, combing the whole area. At last, by a stroke of luck, one of them found her, sitting by a cliff, humming to herself and swinging her hands. He reached up to her silently and touched her shoulder. What was the girl’s reaction? Did she jump, scream, run away or catch hold of the man? No. She silently motioned for the man to take a seat and prepared a meal for him. What was happening here? The castaway girl was catering to one of the most basic needs of a human being. Even she knew and felt that. “And that is what a writer is supposed to do,” ended Kim Stafford, a writer and teacher from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, USA who along with team members from Poland and Alaska, conducted a writers’ retreat at VAST, Thimphu on January 25, 2011.
Writers are supposed to be a gifted lot. They gift their creations to the world. And in turn, they themselves are rewarded with the gifts of personal expression and realization. Kim Stafford, the son of the American poet William Stafford who has authored more than 2,000 volumes, said that even Bhutan is a rich breeding ground for potential writers.
“The people I have met in Bhutan are filled with stories from their lives and from their country. Having a strong story to tell, and clear affection for the human community - these are the foundation for being a writer. So, yes, of course, Bhutan is filled with people who could do important writing,” he told The Journalist.
He believes that Bhutan needs writers and their stories in order to develop its full identity.
According to him, democracy is not just counting votes but real democracy is a society where many voices can be heard - young, old, beginner, advanced and “each writer's voice can make a crucial contribution to this process”.
 “The world needs to learn how to behave in better ways, and I believe writers in Bhutan can help us all to better understand our responsibilities and joys as human beings,” he added.
Azhi Kunzang Choden, a popular Bhutanese writer who has books like “The Circle of Karma,” “Chilli and Cheese: Food and Society in Bhutan,” “Tales in Colors and other Stories,” besides several articles, to her credit feels that Bhutanese writers need to keep on growing by challenging themselves constantly to become better writers.
According to her, there is a market anywhere for good, inspired, well written stories but Bhutanese writers have yet to prove themselves in the international arena. The test, she said, is for Bhutanese works to be accepted for publication by an international publisher.
But Tashi Gyeltshen, an independent filmmaker who also dabbles in photography and creative writing, said that research one of the most important elements that goes into a piece of superb writing is sorely missing in the Bhutanese writing culture.
He feels that creativity depends on the freedom that culture/society gives to an artist including a writer. “Creativity means you should have discipline, passion, skills, and the willingness to take risks,” he said.
According to him, the potential of a writer depends on how the society can promote and nurture it but that the creative culture cannot be changed overnight such as poor reading habits, growing up with orthodox views which constrict creativity and  expression, etc.
What inspires Tashi Gyeltshen is personal expression. He said that when you want to say something, or have a story to tell the world, it motivates you to create. For most people, he feels, writing is a form of self indulgence but for works of art to have that magical quality, it must be authentic and rooted in one’s own practices, of course, not without having a universal quality to it which the global community can relate to.
And “passion”, he says is “the grease that keeps the machine running”.
“Otherwise talent breaks down. When we talk about writers, it is not about good language but creativity.”
Some of the Bhutanese writers The Journalist talked to agreed that the publishing world in Bhutan also has to develop. And no amount of publicity will work if the product is not up to the mark.
A critic however said that readers do not exist in Bhutan and the few that do are “show-offs” trying to fit into the elite intellectual society. “Books here are meant to be published, not read,” he observed, “And there is no such formula by which a Bhutanese writer can touch the pulse of readers in our society.”
It is not an unknown fact that Bhutanese representation in the international literary circles is almost nil and an observer who agreed said that this is because there is no platform for nurturing creative talent in Bhutan.
“Because of the non-existence of an enabling environment, the Bhutanese have very little belief in themselves. Nobody will say they want to become a writer, photographer or film-maker. Everybody will vouch on becoming a doctor or engineer,” he said.
Tandin Wangchuk, an upcoming young writer who has already published three books, agrees that there is almost no market for books written by Bhutanese writers as compared to foreign authors.
“The books written in English are too expensive and only a few buy books in Dzongkha which is a sad thing.”
However, not to lose hope, is Azhi Kunzang Choden’s mantra. “Each one of us is a unique individual, so write as individuals, as you see, understand and interpret your world. You do not have to try to be somebody else by using their thoughts and their language. Write simple sentences,” she suggests.
And like Kim Stafford advised writers against discouragement, “Writing, like any spiritual practice, requires the long view. You are on a journey, and if you can learn to give yourself to the journey and enjoy the process of creation, we will meet in the land of success together as writers.”

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Nu 1,500……that was all I had in my purse when I set out for a two-week hiatus to the east on June 13, 2012 with a close friend.
I knew I was not carrying enough money but I did not have more and I believed that God would provide for me.
For lack of money my friend bought direct tickets from Thimphu to Bumthang  
The journey from Bumthang to Mongar the next day we spent juggling our time between sitting at the back seat and an upturned bucket because we could not get tickets. However, we did not complain.
God provided us a Toyota hilux for free the next day from Mongar to Kanglung, Trashigang.
We stopped at Yadi for tea and snacks which we got for free, too because we accidentally stumbled upon a believer’s restaurant. We prayed for the family and felt blessed in return.
Once we reached Sherubste (that was where our friend plus sister is staying with her husband who is a lecturer and her two small daughters), we made ourselves comfortable.
We stayed six days at her place and observed a seven-day fast starting the very next day we arrived. I observed it for spiritual renewal and renewed I was.
I learnt about being a woman (babysitting, folding diapers, baking cakes, making momos and a whole lot more....maybe God was "preparing" me!), about generosity and hospitality (from our hosts in Trashiyangste where we also spent two days), about delivering a sermon to a crowd and leading prayer service.
We had hitch-hiked to Trashiyangtse because we were short of money but when I returned with my friend after our revitalizing and rejuvenating stay in the two dzongkhags, I had Nu 2,500 in my pocket. God’s providence.
The poorest (in the worldly sense) people did not withdraw from giving to us.
This was a lesson in large-heartedness.
I am not a very wise spender but I had decided that I would trust in God to provide for me and my friend. He did not let us down.
It is not only in plenty that God blesses us. He is pleased to bless us when we put our trust in him during scarcity, too.
Great lesson learnt.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I started out as a reporter around three and a half years ago.
Well, I can’t say I decided it. Fate did (and I am glad it did).
Starting out as a reporter – meek, vulnerable, just out of college and most strikingly, an introvert inclined to be depressed all the time leaned the scales (and the tides) against me.
I had few friends and absolutely no contacts. My sole world was my soul and my best friend was my supportive dad.
And to tell you a secret – I hardly read newspapers then except the entertainment section.
With all these handicaps, I started out but got selected in Bhutan Times, the country’s first private newspaper, solely on the strength on my language or so to say writing skills.
I remember I had to write on media and democracy. I admit now that there wasn’t much substance in my essay, just aesthetic charm.
But I slogged for the one month I interned.
I admit I didn’t do many screamers; howlers were more like it.
But I think the management knew I was trying and trying hard.
At the end of the month, my first front page story was published, interestingly on “night hunting”.
Six months I was at the capital and everybody was nice to me and appreciative of the “suicidal interludes” I wrote for the paper.
Now, I wonder why I was so sad. There was no reason to be.
Then, like a bolt from the blue came the news – I was to be posted as the eastern correspondent for the paper.
Fear, apprehension, nervousness….the question – “Will I manage it?” dogged me throughout the time I journeyed from Thimphu to Trashigang.
I need not have worried because my family was there.
But my dad got another posting after a few months.
It was a blessing in disguise.
I became so independent and strong I could not have imagined it was the same me.
I stayed a year in the east as a correspondent.
Soon, there was a change in management and problems arose. My dear colleagues walked out and I was terminated, too because I became sick and irrational.
I am schizophrenic but I have no qualms about admitting it. Sometimes, you see the light only when there is darkness and this malady has taught me so much about life, myself and God.
At the end of another month, my health stabilized and I joined Bhutan Today.
Here started my first stint as an editor. I was reporting as well as learning to edit.
After some months, I was transferred to Gelephu as a bureau correspondent again.
Life was lonely but I was again independent.
After the end of a busy day, I would sit on the balcony, watching the rainfall, or listening to cicadas and sip a cup of aromatic tea.
However, I was not to stay in Gelephu for long.
When I visited the capital after a period of time, I met with an accident (a cab hit me) and I was bed-ridden for a month.
Another blessing in disguise.
My well-meaning boss delegated me solely to the editorial desk and soon I turned copy editor.
After I was on my feet again, I was reposted to Thimphu and I started editing for two newspapers.
The training I went through was grilling, thrilling and wonderful.
Now, I am news editor for The Bhutanese and it seems like I have come a long way.
How does it feel like to be (known as) an editor?
Well, to be frank, the name sounds good and it is uplifting to the morale but I know I have a long, long way to go.
Dealing with reporters is tricky – you have to know when you should get close and when you need to withdraw.
Personal and professional prejudices should be kept at arm’s length though sometimes no matter how much you try, they tend to overlap.
And as for my knowledge and expertise (or the lack of it), I feel like a frog in a pond sometimes.
I am learning day by day, minute by minute.
Sometimes, I feel like the reporters can teach me a lesson or two when it comes to economics and finance!
I still need to hone my analytical and expressive skills.
I know I have got a tremendous bit to learn.
So the onus of being “an editor” does not come easy; tagged with it comes responsibility to yourself, the reporters, the newsroom as a whole and most importantly the society.
What you write can build or destroy.
What you write can kill or heal.
I am lucky I am known as an upcoming paper’s editor but I know I have yet to prove that I really am one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well, it was a wonderful week in St.Petersburg , Florida in the USA, (Feb 12 to Feb 18) - the city of beaches and sunshine though the weather was not exactly as warm as we had expected and it rained on our last day at the state.
The Media Project did a wonderful job of bringing together 18 Christian journalists from across the world in the premier Poynter Institute of Journalism to train them on management and leadership issues.
I met a wide variety of people who had personalities as diverse as the colors of the rainbow.
I made good friends like the ever effervescent Irene Akoto from Ghana, Anna-Liza Kozma from Canada who was always brimming over with enthusiasm and energy, and Caroline Comport who was a top manager and adept at handling people and deadlines. Emeka Izeze from Nigeria and Jennifer Arul from Chennai had the advantage of experience and in-depth knowledge, and of course how can I forget the quiet and humble Aramide Oikelome also from Nigeria? I told her while departing, “Quiet waters run deep.” The same applied to Promise Hsu Hong from China and Victor Lugala from Sudan who with their silent presence made a substantial contribution to the workshop.
Baby Lyn Resulta from the Philippines and Dorothy Teoh from Malaysia with their expertise kept the conference room alive with discussions. So did Lekan Otufodunrin (Nigeria), David Sseppuuya(Uganda), and KL Chan(Malaysia) – our techno-expert.
Then there was Kristanto Hartadi from Indonesia and Mauricio Avila from Chile who had two things in common: salt-pepper hair and a silent sense of humor and maturity.
Dismas Lyassa from Tanzania acted very much the Prime Minister he was ordained to be! (Sorry, Dismas, for the joke!)
And of course, there was Rexford Johnson from Sierra Leone doing all the monkey business (he likes apples) and mischief while I was teased for being soft-spoken and timid. “The Princess of Bhutan” was an epitaph that stuck to me throughout the workshop. I just smiled and said I was “common royalty”.
I also evoked a lot of surprise, and horror from some quarters for saying we did not have “dessert” in Bhutan.
I once also evoked uproarious laughter from Romania’s Cristi Tepes, arguably the nicest, funniest and largest guy in the group, when I patted his very apparent belly and said “Gross National Happiness”.
Then the leaders: Jill Geisler – nothing beats the lady! She knows her stuff; and Arne H Fjeldstad – He is TRULY “the bishop” (I found my spiritual mentor in him and I consider myself blessed. TRULY blessed).

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It hurts deep down
At the pit of my heart
I am disintegrating
Never felt complete
Ridden with guilt and sorrow
Never felt that I belong
An alien in a familiar world
Resurrected memories
Feelings that stifle
How I wish I were
Like the birds in the sky
Free and flying
Caged in a coop
I flutter my wings
Like a rooster with clipped feathers
Shadows from the past
Shady tentacles pull me back
Into a world that I have tried to escape
My heart is broken
Into shards that cut me
I bleed