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Saturday, November 26, 2011


If I didn’t know pain, how would I joy?
If I didn’t know hate, how would I love?
If I didn’t know trouble, how would I peace?
If I didn’t know betrayal, how would I loyalty?
If I didn’t know suffering, how would I empathy?
If I didn’t know poverty, how would I cherish plenty?
If I didn’t know loneliness, how would I comfort the friendless?
If I didn’t know depression, how would I wipe away another’s tears?
If I didn’t know want, how would I fulfill the needs of the deprived?
If I didn’t know travail, how would I God?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I was going to the far-east after two long years. I had stayed in remote Trashigang for almost ten years with my family including a year alone as a bureau correspondent for the first private newspaper in the country before being reposted to the capital.
From Thimphu, it takes two days to reach Trashigang and the same applies on the way back. I noticed a peculiar pattern on my four-day journey back and forth in a bus.
The first day, I excitedly boarded the bus and noticed an unkempt young man hovering around the bus. I thought he was the driver but later, a man smartly dressed in a pangtha gho whom I had mistaken to be a gentleman about to board the bus took control of the wheels. The other was the so called “khalasi” (in borrowed Bhutanese parlance) or famous “bus conductor”.
Everybody was speaking in Sarchop so I put in my bit – a smattering of words here and there. The journey from Thimphu to Bumthang where we halted for the first night was ok – if that is the term one uses for boring music, yawns and unusable toilets where we halted for breakfast.
Apparently, the driver was not a chatty, effable one (until later) and every time a good song came up in the music player, he forwarded it but I bit my tongue though it sorely tested my less than saintly patience.
The next day was louder. The passengers warmed up to each other along with the eastern weather. Then followed the “khalasi’s” usual routine – of flirting with the belles in the bus. He was standing just before me and I was sandwiched between the girl who was the target of his corny jokes and who to her credit matched his “wit” with equal candor.
The other passengers joined in and when we reached Mongar, a middle-aged woman clambered up next to me. She would not leave the “khalasi” alone, with her repertoire of equally crude jokes.
Then a father of two kids and the driver started cracking jokes about “mewakchas and fewakchas” (women and men). I think you got the gist. Everybody at least seemed to be enjoying the crass jokes, which we Bhutanese term “humour”.
We finally reached Trashigang and departed ways.
On my way back, the same pattern repeated itself, though the “vulgar verbosity” started a bit earlier, towards evening of the first night back towards Bumthang.
The next day, the whole ride back to Thimphu was riddled with jokes about the male and female anatomy, with suitable metaphors used by the driver - a pot-bellied dark man, the “boy or kota khalasi,” two middle-aged village women (it’s the “aunties” who lead) and again I was in the centre of this cozy and should I say crazy group.
I hate to be judgemental here- of course, many will say that this is the everyday scenario in buses and it’s a Bhutanese way of connecting but I was wondering – Can’t we do far better than that?
I agree there was much merriment involved but in reality not everyone was enjoying it. There was a young man and woman seated together. When the jokes began to get dirtier and dirtier, the man got up and moved to the back seat out of obvious embarrassment. And when the “kota” hinted to his boss about it, the whole group threw a volley of harsh words at him indirectly.
Then, there was a married couple with a kid who also did not take very kindly to their rude remarks about their relationship in front of the whole horde of travelers.
It is not that we should be a robot-like lot with no sense of humour but there is a right and a wrong sense of humour. Cracking jokes, especially ones that are not pleasing to the aesthetic imagination and at the expense of others is height of rudeness.
There are intelligent, bright, innocent, good jokes and if we are good observers with a touch of wit, we can sense something funny in the most atrocious or simplest situations. The Bhutanese need to realize this.
Bhutanese seriously need to learn the art of good conversation.
Good talk counts as much as good manners.