Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Last chronicle of “Today’s Phuntsholing Town: A long romantic affair on the line

When dust begins to settle down in evening on the pavements, streets and roads of phuntsholing, small groups of young minds, school boys and girls, come out of their houses in the latest outfits available in the market.

A couple of week earlier a fellow blogger Mr. Passang Tshering(maestro among Bhutanese Bloggers)  blogged a post regarding nuisance created by a group of youngsters;

There wasn't a day I didn't see groups of youth swaying by road under the influence of some intoxicants. And today some of then crossed their limits on to my car.. My poor already-injured car was peacefully parked alongside several others when a group of boys practiced their boxing skills on our side mirrors.
My wife and another car owner shouted from their windows only to get back all sorts of slang. I was in the class when my wife called me up, she informed me that the culprits were head in my direction and that I could track them down by the side of the Doti river.
The kids were totally senseless and one boy was bleeding badly from the cut he got from punching our mirrors. To my disbelieve there were two girls in same conditions making a show out of themselves on the road where hundreds were passing by.

I often find a group of youngsters be seated in circle in a small tea shop down stair Namgyel Phodrang Shopping complex where I frequently visit to enjoy the delicious momo served there. Some in their new yellowish Korean hairdo, few with tattooed arms and Super star, all star, D.C and Red Bull and other brand of shoes were warming their feet. One day on my brief sitting I overheard one of them glorifying his friend’s inability to remember what had happened the previous night. He mentioned that they were involved in a fight where his ‘friend in the question’ single handedly had knocked down two of their rivals. I just wish his otherwise heroic friend was not under any sort of intoxicants. 

Just the other day, I found myself in between some boys while walking down the street in front of Mig Cinema Hall. On my right a couple of boys were saying something to the boy who was walking on my left side. The boy said nothing but simply raised his middle finger! Good Lord, they were close friends else I just might have been sandwiched by blows and kicks. I was as embarrassed as were the onlookers.

This is what’s happening in mild cold of this winter under Phuntsholing sky. Other stories that I heard from a student of the High School touched my heart with much vigor. The student revealed to me that during their school days his female classmates ask him to tattoo on their hands. And his male mates and others would cross the Doti River in lunch breaks to the other side of the river just to get drunk. That’s one part of the story. More shocking and even more heartbreaking for me as an educationist was to comprehend that the students drag themselves back to their SCHOOL. I wonder how they pay attention to the lectures presented. And amidst the chaos I can only pray and wish more strength and patience to teachers and parents in places where youth issue is a big concern to befriend, guide and mold them to better and productive citizens.

To tackle the current issue of traffic I believe another new bridge over Doti River has been laid on papers and to solve the shortage of LPG (cooking gas) another supplier agent which would fulfill the requirement of all the commercial consumptions is also entering the market soon. The supplier might ease the problem. The poor management of waste, large number of people and the malfunctions of ATM counters could be reasoned to the arrival of large number of people on their pilgrimage. But those should not be excuses for concern authorities to step back. I believe they must be also having a tough time and must be giving their best to provide the services. Better luck for them there!   

But as of now everything, everywhere, somehow is really not working well. In past few days even B-mobile lines are not clear or gets disconnected frequently. Here, I am not being critical at all but what is happening here is a matter of concern to all of us. It matters to me, to my family and it matters to my neighbors if these things keep on happening the way it is happening! If concern authorities don’t gear up but opt to keep bragging about pass victories and successes and rely on excuses I fear more days of worry, waiting, frustration, disappointment and less peace of mind are knocking the doors of the dwellers of this part of the country where Gross National Happiness is the mother of all the ideologies preached, practiced and believed in.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

PART II: Today’s Phuntsholing Town: A long romantic affair on the line

Yesterday morning my brother and I had to wake up much earlier than at usual time. My mother had instructed us the previous day to take the empty LPG cylinder to the LPG booth below truck parking to get a new filled one. We somehow managed to win the battle of the morning bed. By 7:00 am in the morning we were out and at the place.
You cant spot me here because i am hidden by the truck
I was 97th person standing in the line that kept on stretching as the clock tick. Out of sheer curiosity I asked one of the ladies behind me whether the queue is always this long.  On which she only replied with a YES nod. After almost 1 hr and 40 minutes of waiting my turn arrived. I had to show my LPG consumer card to a security guard (belly bulging doma(betel nuts) grinding machine…sorry I can’t describe him better) before I could get in to make the payment.

 I was aware that the card holder should come in person if he has to get a new filled cylinder. I was also informed by a notice on dusty wall that the date to get a new one must be at least after 15 days from the previous delivery. The Card I was holding belonged to my brother-in-law but the date of pervious issue was on 25th October 2011. which mean that i could have refilled 4 cylinders if I had come on every 15th day. My brother-in-law was out of station to attend some workshop but i thought the date of last issue could provide the chance to get at least one new filled cylinder. But my logical thinking was not entertained despite my numerous requests. My brother and I came with the same empty cylinder back home.

Later in the afternoon I went to Jaigoan to do some shopping where I shared the incident with my uncle who informed me that there are many people who earn Nu: 100 per cylinder (filled) when they sell it to third party within Phuntsholing town or in the bordering Indian town of Jaigoan. 'It’s a thriving business’, he said. He was as equally disturbed as I was on having to come in person the card holder himself to get a filled cylinder. He narrated an incident;

Once he happened to be alone at his resident. His wife and children had gone to village and his father -in-law, the card holder, was in Mumbai on some personal trip. At home the stove went off and he had to put up with his neighbor and resort to other means of cooking till his father in law returned. He strongly feels as I do that it is reasonable to get the cylinder filled only once every 15th day but the need for the card holder to be in person to collect is pretty much problematic.  
Photo taken from Taxi Parking; nightmare of traffic at day light

 On returning home after the hot conversation and shopping I was caught in another queue…GOSH!!!...this time it was a long line of vehicles stranded in a heavy traffic jam. It took almost 1 hr 2o minutes to disperse. It was the longest waiting on the road. Thankfully it was raining yesterday else the dust from the side of the roads and from the pot holes on the road could have made the waiting even worse. The whistle of the traffic police is the order of the day this winter here. No wonder the latest excuse for arriving late at office or at home could be ‘sorry I was caught in the traffic jam’.

In between Bus Terminal and RICB colony; Evening dose of Traffic Jam 

The rush of the people, honking of cars, streets filled with litters and over flow of septic tank elsewhere is slowly eroding my love for this town……(to be continued….next is the last issue)….

 Somewhere in Phuntsholing Town a narrow street is littered with plastics and papers

In front of Truck Parking; A septic Tank over flows.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Today’s Phuntsholing Town: A long romantic affair on the line

This winter Phuntsholing Town neither could please me nor appeal me. I found this place at its worse situation ever. The condition of roads, dust, frequent traffic jams, crowded streets with pedestrians, failure of public services, poor management of waste, gang affiliation among students, long queue in front of ATM counters and even longer queue with  frustrated people waiting to fill LPG Cylinders at various booths. Bitter feelings crept in my heart to see one of my favorite towns suffer. It was as if I am experiencing first hand breakup of a long romantic affair.
My acronym for ATM is "Any Time Misery" 
The first thing I did when i first arrived here was to collect my ATM card from the Bank of Bhutan (bazaar branch) which was processed in my brief visit in last summer vacation. The concern officer then had told me that the branch was running short of cards and I can only avail it after few weeks. I didn’t had that long time to wait so decided to collect it in the following winter vacation. So here I was holding my own ATM card with considerably a good Bank balance to pop out frequently from that metal box and to make believe others that I am some Lakhpati or Crorepati. The stylish tall lady in the chamber inside issued the ATM card and informed me that it will get activated only after 24 hrs.

In the following day I went to Samdrup Jongkhar to help my parents shift to samtse. It was my father’s 13th transfer in the span of 32 long years of dedicated service to the nation. Four days had passed in packing the stuffs.
Vehicles moving form SJ to P/Ling and G/Phu via Assam state.

On the fifth day, the last day to stay in the east, I was in need of some money so decided to finally use the ATM Card proudly. I flipped it few times between my fingers before entering the closed and secured room (where lots of money is kept inside and a curious small camera hung in one corner of the ceiling….funny part of it is that no matter where you stand inside you feel it is watching you always). To my disappointment there were no one outside or near by the ATM counter to showoff (I know you want to laugh your heart out….ok.. fine..do it..haha) but even more disappointment came when I inserted my card. ‘This card is not in the record’ read the thick screen in front of me.

Frustrated as I was I immediately called up the number posted on a piece of paper by the side of the screen to inquire. The officer on the other hand agreed to fix the problem. The system took another 24 hrs to mend the service. The opening ceremony of my ATM card was very good. I withdrew Ngultrum 40,000. Now here, i don’t want you to concentrate on the amount of money I withdrew or wonder how I spent it, the point I want to raise here is that the concern BOB officers (Phuntsholing BOB) who were accountable to activate my Card within 24 hrs of issue has shown Spectacular carelessness in their duty and has defamed the whole service.

That was in samdrup Jongkhar where not many came to use the ATM facility at once. Had this incident occurred here in phuntsholing it would have embarrassed me a lot. The day my card became active I was eagerly waiting to utilize the card where onlookers would be more in number. I got Excited because i was now back in Phuntsholing town after settling my parents in samtse.  And Phuntsholing town gave me the waited opportunity. But, I waited, waited and waited in a long queue which never seemed to get shorter. Finally when my turn came I was flashed with an instruction that stated ‘Host is busy….. Please visit to the nearest ATM counter!’ The waiting and the almost rude instruction dissipated my excitements. The nearest ATM counter was chained with even longer queue of people.

At times the ATM Counters do play some game. My sister once had to face it. She wanted to withdraw Nu: 3,000 from the ATM counter (T-Bank) situated in the Tashi Commercial Complex to do some purchase for her 18 months old baby girl. The screen kept on instructing ‘Please Try Again’. At her third attempt the transaction receipt still revealed that she has been debited with Nu: 0. She then left the counter for another one nearby.  On her way an alert message in her mobile beeped. It stated that Nu: 3,000 has been debited from her account. Thankfully when she checked her balance via mobile sms the balance was untouched.

Other services were also infected with the same disease and much disoriented. By Five o’clock in the morning people line up in front of LPG booths to exchange an empty cylinder with a filled one. 

….to be continued………..

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