Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WHAT'S THERE IN NAME?

 
1: Did you ever felt the weight of your own name?
2: Were you aware that your name was ridiculed or heard people say it’s inappropriate for your gender?
3: Is your caste a burden or a comforter?  
4: Were you ever too conscious to act in line with the name and the fame of your family?
Tallest: Chewang. Taller: Tenzin Thekpa. Tall enough: me ( we proudly called ourselves as TEAM MAVERICK)
These questions didn’t hammer me till my high school days. Those days were too lively to answer such serious questions.  But like the reality TV show ‘The moment of truth’ I was bombarded with such questions when I was in my college.
‘What’s there in name?’ or Naam may kia raakha hai? This quick fix motivational line is of no use for me when my own name is in question.  My name shoulders me great responsibilities. It’s too heavy for me. Why? Allow me to elaborate it. But, before answering the first and the second questions I would like to answer the third question first.
Is your caste a burden or a comforter? For me it has turn out to be more of a burden than a comforter. Owing to the fact that if you belong to a Brahmin family you need to comply with more of Must not do list than with Do list. Although, people in general won’t agree with the preceding sentence but there are good number of men like me out there who holds the same sentiment. We are basically fed with so much of negative re- enforcement like; you must not eat meat, must not drink and must not marry someone who is not Brahmin. However, I don’t strictly follow the former two clauses but has been still hopefully waiting for someone who is equal to my caste with whom I can settle down someday. The underlined phrase above is the first of three causes of my burden. And in answering the third question I have also answered the last and the final question; Were you ever too conscious to act in line with the name and the fame of your family?  Yes I was and I do.i will marry a Brahmin girl.
The second cause is bit theoretical. But it does consume my energy thinking about the possibilities of it being a truth.
I had a friend called Tenzin Thekpa Bhutia in my college days who was bothered by my poor academic performance more than my parents. He was of the opinion that SHARMAS or the Brahmins are and should be intelligent. They are destined to be doctors and engineers. If not, work somewhere else where intelligence and brain is more used or at least score higher marks academically. And here I was doing a simple BA degree course and I was not able to score more marks than him. And so, I wasn’t up to his mark and to his theory.
The third cause is purely conditional, so to speak. This is also a creative and well thought out advice, gift you name it from another close and college friend Chewang Tobgay. He shared with me while we were walking down the Labong road in Darjeeling. Wonders will never cease if you happen to be  with your close friends.
He was literally advising me to have a high profile social and professional status in order to meet my marriage requirement. Why? Because he had another thought provoking  but heart breaking statistics that show most Brahmin girls graduate engineering and M.B.B.S courses. He warned me that these girls will have high expectations. There I was, perplexed and burdened.
Ok, before you get bored with this article and I shrink due to over dose of the burdens, let’s go back to the first and the second questions respectively; Did you ever felt the weight of your own name?   The answer is simple and a straight YES! Because the name I got is due to my caste. So the burdens make the weight. It’s that simple.  
Were you aware that your name was ridiculed or heard people say it’s inappropriate for your gender? My name is not at all funny but it provides me with entertainment free of cost. How? When strangers call or meet me first time, I get to see their SURPRISE faces because they invariably think of me as a female due to my name.




Foot note: i am grateful to Chewang and Thekpa.. God Bless Them.




Monday, August 29, 2011

CHO KHOR.....a religious errand


The school Administration declares Holiday for today and my students aren’t happy because they are not coming to school but at this time around the annual Cho- khor is underway. They are at the village Lhakhang looking ahead for a day long festival
Voluntarily the students take up roles and responsibilities and those who arrive late they just join the parade. Three of the elder boys wear wooden masks, little ones hold prayer flags and elder girls carry religious text on their back as the parade move from one small hamlet to another and back to the Lhakhang.  Apparently, it is excruciating climbing and descending hills through thick bushes and maize fields. But a refreshing trip for the villagers after a yearlong hard work.
One Hack of a Religious Procession
For past two days the local lay monks with whom I play soccer in weekends has been reading the religious text and chanting mantras. Today, the sacred texts get a long ride around the villages and the on lookers bow and touch the scriptures with their heads to get blessings. The mask dancers, the Kangpas as they are called in their local dialect, ask any amount of money by offering Khadars. Interestingly, the Kangpas are said to have magical hands so they are allowed to enter vegetable gardens and maize field and steal as much as they could. The simple touch of their hands is believed to yield a good harvest.
They Laugh Throughout The Day


The parade is as musical as it is religious. They play clarinet a sophisticated flute, cymbals, beat drum and blow horns.  The parade takes rest at a designated house in each hamlet.  A large Smoke is created to guide the parade to the house. There are five hamlets in total. There they are served with butter tea, milk tea, jow (fried rice) biscuits and fruits. However they eat only one lavish meal at the end of the day. Alas! I was about to forget the main item in the menu. The home made beverage of millet and maize is the best and are offered with great care and passion. Ironically, where a pot of this Holy Spirit is considered culturally sound and OK but smoking is equally disapproved and considered as evil deed.
That Yellow Thing In The Black Pot Is The THING
At the end of the day, the Master of the Ceremony collects the money from the Kangpas and equally distribute among the three of them. Historically the money collected was to be used for monastic propose and the stolen vegetables and cash crops are to be sold to government servant like me to make some money for next year’s event. It is also said that the parade used to be accompanied with dancers and singers. It’s another story of traditional culture being outdated due to modern life style.
From the religious point of view the holiday is observed because it was on this day that Lord Buddha first preached his followers. It is one of the auspicious days (this year it was on 3rd August).  It’s one of many religious holidays depicted in the government calender . But the community here, for no reason as such, celebrates the festival today.



MOCK DRILL FOUND NEW MEANING


This morning around 10:30 am, 2010 soccer world cup theme song blared from a small sound system and the students of my school rushed outside of their class rooms to an open space. Some couldn’t manage to get out. They had to lay down under the tables available nearby. The First AID Team says they succumbed to minor injuries. However there were no casualties.
Acting  almost like victims
Don’t you Worry…..as do ‘Eagles’ sing, It was just another MOCK DRILL on earthquake disaster conducted in the school. And the most sensible alarm or siren we could manage was shakira’s sensational ‘waka waka’ track. Students were acquainted to the song as it has served us as earthquake siren in the previous year also. Students were instructed to come out as soon as the song begins with that funny YEAAAAAAA……But the mock drill was conducted much elaborately. Thanks to new staffs namely Mr. sonam Dorji sir and Mrs Tenzin Wangmo who initiated the program.
The students were however briefed as of who shall lay under the tables and pretend to be unconscious, how many will run to the football ground with the expression of nervousness and fear and finally who shall hide elsewhere within the school compound to make the rescue team sweat.
the best place on earth to hide
Few senior students were handpicked to assist the three main departments namely First AID Team, Rescue Team and Attendance Team. The First AID Team was led by two ladies of the school; Miss Yashoda Sharma (who is wearing the gown) and Mrs Tenzin wangmo. Miss Yashoda Sharma later joked that her childhood dream of serving as a Doctor got fulfilled, though for few minutes.
victims are looked after
The Attendance Team was led by the Principal of the school and me. However I was mostly engaged as the disaster Photographer (I guess I named myself correctly). The photo below might mislead you of me for an aspiring politician bargaining votes based on false promises as THEY do.
Mr. comforter
The third Team was acted upon by Lopen Nado , Mr. Sonam Dorji and the school caretaker Mr. Kinchub Tshering.
Rescue in action
As the imagined calamity was underway, the Rescue Team found themselves in the game of hide and seek as few victims never wanted to turn up even after the mock drill was called off . The First AID team was fully emerged in treating the wounded that the earphones stethoscope got overused. And the Attendance Team didn’t face any problem as the survivors were fed with free show to enjoy. Nevertheless, in the words of the principal, everybody did a fabulous job.
earphones as stethoscope
At the end of the day, what I found more interesting, apart from the awareness we could create, was that the acting victims found a platform to showcase their ACTING skills and they were pleading the First Aid Team to pour some red inks on their hands and legs and insisting the Rescue Team for one more game of hide and seek!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blown with the wind


 Part I
 If you ever happen to get your posting in the east……I suggest these two prerequisite to have in you; the first requirement is to have big yet strong heart and equally important is to have a healthy liver.
Let’s begin first with the thing that feels and later on with the thing that helps digest.
After a brief orientation on teaching conducted by ministry of education in Thimphu, I was posted to Trashiyangtse, in eastern Bhutan. Lichen community Primary School was the place. 
The School, teaching staffs, teaching materials and resources available didn’t bother my consciousness. The staffs were professionally and socially sound, the materials were amply supplied by the Government and the academic blocks well constructed. The children act no differently. Their innocent and expressive faces caught every ounce of my attention in a positive note. But their stories made me experience a paradigm shift in the way I regarded death of one’s parents.  
As every man I had my own conviction. I had this believe that every parent will look after you through high school and see u graduate, see you get a job, manage a bride for you and latter they caresses and bring up  your  children. They are there for you more than half of your life! It was sort of mandatory on part of parents to be there for you, it was what I presumed. During my schooling I never had friends who were orphan/ looked after by single parent or I never heard of it. This atmosphere further cemented my conviction as I grew up.
But here in this small village with serene atmosphere, my fantastic conviction had no place. There are children seemingly cute, cheerful but consumed by destitute. There are orphans, children with single parent and illegitimate children (bastard is so mean a word to entitle poor souls, what wrong on earth did they do to call them bastard?) in almost equal proposition in a school of 65 charming students. You indeed need a big yet strong heart to meet and stay with these children.
The day I knew all about this whole thing I promised myself that I shall not limit to teaching them English grammars but make them smile, laugh and make them feel loved at least while they are in school. I do so much of storytelling and hugging. However some of them are recipient of Kudu (financial help from Government) but when I questioned myself ‘What else can I do for them?’looking at their small bright eyes my heart literally melted. So did my conviction!

Audacity of Hope


He doesn’t know his father’s name nor can he recognize his face if God could ever arrange their meeting. His mother died when he was 5 years old. He was brought up and is looked after by his grandparents; aagay  Dorji Norbu and aang-gay  Dema. This is a story of Hope. This is a story of Pema Dorji, a Class V student of Lichen Community Primary School, Trashi Yangtse.
Like any other rural family, Pema’s family was also self-sufficient; a patch of land to till, cows to rear and most importantly they were HAPPY. But just one month after giving birth to a baby girl, Pema’s Mother died of an illness. Following the dead of his wife, Pema’s father left everything behind and went to settle in another place. Where an irresponsible father didn’t bother of his new born child, a relative who stays in Chokordung (Trashiyangtse town) volunteered to look after the baby. Now, she is in Class III at Trashi yangtse Lower Secondary school. Pema Dorji yearns to meet her someday.
Pema says, with a sign, he would have helped his mother in every possible way had she been alive today. As far as his father is concerned, he doesn’t have any feelings for him. Even upon my numerous insisting he didn’t utter a word. He just nodded his head and gave a sneer.
On his way to school and back home, which is 4kms of walk each day, Pema often finds himself face to face with wild animals like bear and deer. He, in his animated voice, narrates an incident of encountering a bear. One day as he was on his way to school, he saw a black bear approaching towards him roaring like a lion and he had eluded the hungry beast by hiding in bushes. He, like any other boy, burst into laughter after mentioning his heroic escape to me.  
During monsoon, his journey to education becomes even more challenging. The thick forest through which Pema Dorji and Sherub Dema, a school mate, travels 6 days a week is graced with slippery path and leeches feed mercilessly on those tiny tired legs. In-addition to it, a seemingly small stream that runs down the gorge turns itself into a little monster and erodes the temporary bridge, made out of plank, which connects the hamlet with rest of the hamlets on opposite side of a mountain.
On one such incident, Pema and Sherub were returning from school. They didn’t find the bridge to cross so they returned to a hill nearby and shouted at top of their lungs for help. As luck would have it, Tshering Wangmo, Sherub Dema’s Elder sister was working in her field. She heard them calling and she rushed down the hill to the gorge with a rope. As Pema narrated to me, they were pulled across the fast flowing stream with the rope tied around their waist.
Pema Dorji says he is grateful to his grandparents because it was them who admitted him in the school amidst tragedy. 
Ordeal of such measure has not yet depleted the desire of this little boy to become Pilot. He tells me he wants to give his grandparents everything but a flying experience shall definitely be one of the first gifts.