Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Father returns Home

His Infant and High School (1965-1977 May)
The Sibsoo High School at Gola Bazzar in Sibsoo Dungkhag (Samtse) where Royal Bhutan Army currently occupies the campus is the Alma Mater of my father. That was the place where my father received his share of modern education which made him into a gentleman.
Sibsoo High School
During his entire schooling, he was excellent in dramatics and equally good in athletics. He has won a ton of sport certificates in his time and received accolade after accolade for his dramatic skills. He acted brilliantly for a skit ‘Paral Ko Aago’. It was an enactment of a famous Nepali Blockbuster. He swept the audience with his immaculate acting skill and his act of smoking a real cigarette on the stage purely out of  love for acting brought waves of anger among family members at home.

The Letter that changed his life (September 1977)
After completing eighth Grade (final grade offered by the school) he spends next four months toiling field and looking after cows. It was during these months when he had spent some quality time with our mother, the then a village girl.

Growing up in a large family she had to make a choice between household chores and walking to school. She took up the household responsibilities and allowed her brothers to attend school. She often visited my paternal grandparents whenever she was free from her unending chores, some time to chit-chat and often to help them with their share of work.

One fine day, a letter from ‘Man Power’ landed on his hand. During those times, the name ‘Man Power’ was commonly known for the office that recruited citizens in various government agencies. The office was stationed in the Capital, Thimphu. It was the letter that molded a man’s destiny. This letter which was typed on a thin paper using a typewriter commenced a journey that took my father 34 long years to return home but with great pride and honor.

His first visit to Thimphu (1977 October)
In those days, the motor road that we have today connecting Sipsoo and Samtse didn’t exist. The only route possible was through Indian towns. He had to cross our border to Indian town known as Thaljhora where ‘Dattha Transport’ would take him to Nagarkata and from there he had to board another mini bus to reach Jaigoan (border town near Phuntsholing, Bhutan).
My great grandmother holding me on her lap( pic: 1984)

My Great Grandmother, 98 years old now, gave him 30 Rupees (Bhutanese Currencies were not prominent then) to spend on his journey to Thimphu. Phuntsholing Town was a tiny patch of settlement then. On the following day he aboard BGTS (Bhutan Govt Transport Service) bus from Phuntsholing to Thimphu.

On the way up, the present Bustling Gedu town existed with only few huts and Tshimasham or Chimakoti as it was popularly known then served as a pit-stop (it still does) for drivers and passengers to rest and eat. The place also had few scattered huts. There use to be four check points before one reaches to Thimphu; First came Kharbandi ( now known as Rinchending Check post), the next point was near Chukha Bridge, then came Chimakoti (near present Chukha BOD) and finally at Chuzom (confluence where Paro-Thimphu-Ha roads diverge).
Thimphu Clock Tower  

While reaching Thimphu, the bus took him and his fellow passengers to an open space where we have our prized Clock Tower today. The open area served as a dropping point for passengers until the Tower was built. A smaller iron bridge use to run beneath the present Luntenzampa Bridge which helped traffic to cross the mighty Thimphu River.
Along Norzin Lam

The traffic consists of mostly Jeeps and a lot of people were seen wearing pants and shirts. Meanwhile, in the western world it was the hippy’s trend that blazed the time. ‘I looked like a hippy,’ he proudly said. He had long and shabby hair, tight gogo pant and had worn a pair of shiny leather shoes when he first came  to Thimphu.
My father up with the GO GO style

He was accompanied by his uncle to the ‘Man Power Office’. A long and heavy register on the desk of the ‘Man Power office’ showed him a list of vacancies for him to choose from. There were two hundred plus vacancies available, re-called my father.

One post captured their attention. The technical allowances paid for the post was Nu: 100. In addition to it, Nu: 300 will be paid as salary after the required training completes and during the training period a stipend of Nu: 200 will be given to the trainee. So, he placed his signature next to it and there forth his destiny was sealed.

Training and first official posting (77 Oct – 78 November)
His training in Animal Husbandry took him to VTI (Veterinary Training Institute) at Wangchutaba. In the middle of his training, he visited his village to get married with the village girl who always came to help his parents; our mom. On 18th May, 1978 they tied their knots and my father returned to complete his training. After completing his one year training and serving for six more months he went back to his village to bring our mother along with him to Thimphu.
Near Pangrizampa (Thimphu). Back drop: One of the mighty trees there.

The place where Tarayana Building and Chuba chu BOD stands today.

After completing his training in November of the same year, his first place of posting was at Veterinary Hospital then situated opposite to the present City Mall at Chubachu. Then he shifted to Dechencholing where he had to often give treatments to the Royal cohort of cattle at the palace. They stayed there from January of 1978 to June of 1980.
In Paro..(i am in front of my mother)

Between 1981 to 1986 November, when I was three years old, my elder sister was six and my younger sister was only a few months old, we came back to veterinary Hospital, Chubachu. From then on we moved out of Thimphu to Paro and got transferred from one District to another within a span of two or three years for next twenty six years.
 (Near Mount Coot-tha City of Brisbane)

Staying at Paro he got enlisted for three months training at Queensland University, Australia. It was the first group of Bhutanese sent aboard to be trained as Livestock Inspectors (now known as Regulatory and quarantine inspector, BAFRA).
My dad playing with the Kangaroos. 

After twenty three years the government of Bhutan offered him yet another opportunity to travel abroad on an official tour. This time it was Bangkok, “the land of smiles” for twelve long days starting 21st Feb, 2010.
Some where in Bangkok

2012-    Sipsu calling
On 26th September, my dad, mom and i packed our stuff for the final time. We moved on to our village in Sipsoo, the final place of posting for my father before he retires in October 2013.

That day when his feet touched the soil of our village my heart poured out all the respect and love that one heart could ever muster. I only saw a happy man but I couldn’t image the amount of satisfaction he might have experienced in the heat of the moment. It was a long travel around the country and arriving at the place where it all began must have meant a lot for him and I felt it too. My eyes were filled with happy tears and got moved pondering upon every little sacrifice our parents have made for our happiness. They indeed lived a self-less life.
At Paro........ Back Drop: The majestic Rimpong Dzong.
The moment my father stepped down penned a story of a man who served his country with his best ability. With all honesty, sincerity and utmost dedication he was there at the service of our King, Country and the People. When my mother recently asked him to resign owing to his ill health he said, “34 years went by….i am left with one more year to serve my country as a civil servant… so lets wait!’’

It was indeed an emotional moment for him. After we settled down with our stuff, my father hurriedly updated his Facebook status.. … He wrote:

Left his village when he was a young boy of 19 on tour for 34 years. Still one year to complete his official tour....he is now back to his village to complete his last 1 year which will be his final and his last one year time he has to cover many important works which will be his tour conclusion...God bless him.....
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The day we reached our village was also a very special day for my mother. Her journey along with my father also completed a whole circle. My heart equally felt for her too. She must have been also satisfied and happy for she has been doing the best what a mother could possiblely do for her family. She has been the rock of our family who decided on many things for the betterment of her family and has selflessly dedicated each day of her life in the service of her family. For last 34 years she has been anxiously waiting at the door for my father to arrive from office, the day commenced a year that marks the end of her waiting because my father has finally returned home for now and forever.

Monday, October 22, 2012

We were almost consumed while lighting the Drukyul.

With so much hype and glorification on the teaching profession, the Ministry of Education came out with an ambitious project among others called "The Light Drukyul Project."

It was very short sighted and poorly managed project that only had its sole purpose to fill in the gap created by a shortage of trained teachers in remote schools in our country for a time being.  For that The Ministry of Education galvanized the already disappointed and unemployed graduates to take up the place with glossy promises of better opportunities that brought more waves of shame than pride to the rooms of the Ministry of Education.

With brief orientation program, the HR department of Ministry of Education deployed the aspiring college graduates in different districts where the shortage of teachers was very acute. We were paid a nominal salary of Nu: 10, 000 per month.

With great pride we moved on to serve the nation through our contribution to the respective schools. We moved in with the even bigger hope of better opportunities after completing our two year mandate to serve in the remotest schools of our country.

Patala Primary School under Tsirang District, established in 1969, was the school where my friend taught before he joined along with me as a faculty member of Druk School this year.  
Patala Primary School: On one of the annual functions at the school.

A narrow and often slippery feeder road leads to the courtyard of his previous school. But in the summer he and his colleagues had to hire local horses to carry their luggage. They had to walk for hours uphill from Dovan, a place located along Gelephu- Wangdue Highway.

Walking extra mile with the horses
My friend had a Laptop and a mobile phone but no electricity to charge them. He says the school had solar panels but were to be used only in the evenings.

Like me my friend also sheltered himself in a one room apartment. Though I stayed in a nearby house in an empty room owned by a villager, he was allotted a small room which was previously used as a kitchen by his Principal. It was made of mud and stone prevalent in village construction. He narrates his stay inside that room with deep lament.

Rats and snakes would often invade his room and summer days were nightmares for him. For him the mosquito net served more purposes than it was meant for. He never intended to use it for mosquitoes for they didn’t scare him much. He used it to protect himself from snake bites when he was asleep after a long and tiresome day at school teaching fractions and geometry to the village children.

Rain was plenty there. So, he used to spread a piece of tarpaulin on the mosquito net above his head to collect rain drops that dripped from his old and wreck roof.

 He had also provided one corner of his small room to one of his students whose parents were recently divorced. He provided him with everything and had asked him to work hard at school.

One unfortunate day, just after the school hour was over, dark black clouds started to gather in the sky above the school and strong wind blew. My friend was busy in his staffroom and the student was in his small room changing his uniform when lightening struck him and he suffered burns all over his body.
My friend with Bhanu[At Damphu Hospital.]
My friend was informed by the school cook that Bhanu, the student who lives with him, was no more. He immediately rushed to his room to witness a charred body of his student cum companion which made his eyes drift away for some minutes. He didn’t feel his breath when he placed his fingers under the student's nose. He immediately did the CPR( Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) procedure. The process did work and he immediately rushed him to Damphu Hospital[After a month he fully recovered and he continued his schooling].

He experienced a lot of things during his tenure there that tested his limits… a journey worth remembering.

I had my own share of slippery roads and uphill walk that often questioned me how long were I going to scare the life out of me. I didn’t have a proper place to take a bath. My school taps served as an open bathroom. The chilly wind that blew continuously in that cold place would chill my body more and the pit-toilet and its awful smell always frustrated me. The two hours walk to Yangtse Bazaar to make shopping for a week would numb my whole body.

But whatever it is, we honor our stay in our respective place of posting because the purpose we have served is larger than what the Ministry of Education had ever thought of and what Nu: 10,000 per month is worth of.

We didn’t limit our stay within the school compound and within the four walls of our one roomed apartments. We never demanded more respect from the villagers and the community as a whole. We always stepped down to their level and tried to understand each other and help each other in times of need.
The classroom and the students of Patala Primary School
When we were in the school, we gave our best in helping the children learn the concepts and skills and contribute extra services and took initiatives to boost our school’s growth. And when the school hour gets over, we joined the villagers to discuss the developments and happenings in our country.

In our regular conversations we shared with them the fundamental rights and duties of a Bhutanese citizen. How important it is for them to cast their votes and how much more important it is for them to come to the school and talk and discuss with the teachers regarding their children’s performance.
Sitting down with the villagers.
We not only acted as a bridge for the children to achieve their dreams but we did bring the community closer to the affairs of the schools for the mutual benefit of the community and the school. We did what we could possibly do the best for the children and the communities that received us like royals.

Where the Nation still looks down on the name so infamously coined as ‘contract teachers’ and the Ministry of Education still has the hangover of it. Amidst this, I need to salute my Light Drukyul colleagues who are now working in different fields and serving the Nation in different capacities for being there where your presence was most needed at the time and for being the agent of change for the communities we served.

It’s neither the Ministry of Education nor the Education Minister himself but the aspiring college graduates who dared to move in when the Education Ministry was facing a troubled time are the ones who stole the show off. I salute you FOLKS!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

One year Celebration...

On Friday, a week ago, my students and I celebrated our one year of ‘togetherness’. It was the day to remember the good moments we have shared in the four walls of our classroom and to continue the good practices of helping each other and working hard for the common goal. 

I had asked each one of them to bring a cake for themselves. Kelly, the student who dreams to be a ‘fossil scientist’ bought a big and creamy cake for me too with a thank you note on it. His father came to hand over the cakes.

The October month did call for the celebration as the year is closing in and the annual exam for them is also approaching. I really wanted them to enjoy after the yearlong effort they have been putting in and to roll up their sleeves for the annual exam. 

I have seen tears rolling down on their cheeks, the sweet smile that brightens their face and the laughter that makes me always happy. The healthy sense of competition among them, the pride they take in helping their friends and how happily they work has only tightened the bundle of memories for the gone by year that I would always cherish with deep affection. 

The following Photographs show how we celebrated our “One year of Togetherness”. Enjoy….

Table full of happiness

Tsangma R Dorji moving his little fingers to entertain the whole class

My girls singing a local hit song.
Cakes, juice, sharing and enjoying

With smile, Master Kelly digs in his big cake like a "fossil scientist".
 # A big thank you goes to all the parents of my class for making this small yet memorable moment possible for me and for the children by sending us the cakes. Even bigger THANK YOU goes to Kelly's dad and mom for the delicious cake that not only sweetened my taste buds but also touched my heart. Thank you all once again.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Living with million dreams

In becoming and living a life of a teacher, I felt, “I just don’t have dreams, I live with them too”

Students of my previous school in Yangtse Posing for a snap with me
after wining the Inter-House volleyball competition 
This feeling deep inside me has been the most inspiring and provoking piece of self-awareness since the day I gave my first lesson in a mud plastered classroom in a remote school in Trashiyangtse almost three years ago. This year, I have been teaching in Druk School and the feeling has only become stronger and the dreams I live with are more fascinating.

In my previous School, Lichen Community Primary School in Trashiyangtse, Alma Mater of my teaching career, though the children didn’t have new clothes and nice shoes to wear they did have dreams which made their eyes look up at the sky. But their dreams were as simple as their lives, as innocent as their character and as honest as their reality.

When they grow big, all of them wanted to look after and take care of their parents. Almost more than half of my class wanted to become teacher, followed by driver and ‘I want to become a productive government officer’ use to be the pinning statement when I asked them about their dreams.

My Principal’s daughter was the only one who wanted to be doctor and Pema Dorji who walks the longest distant from his house to school wanted to be a Pilot. Sadly, Pema Dorji was often mocked at by his friends because they regarded Pilot as an alien dream not for them to actualize.

Druk School Children with me at the Coronation Park in Thimphu
Now read these following paragraphs and read between the lines too. These dreams are cherished in those little brains of my class II children of Druk School. Mind you, those little brains think only big thoughts. I call them ‘My fantastic twenty two’. Their English language competency is very strong. They will budge you with detail on anything and mend your grammar skills.  

In a class of Fantastic twenty two, I have a fashion designer who will design clothes for us some day. I live with two engineers who would lay out the design of your dream house, five doctors to choice among whenever I need some treatment and four movie actors, a super model and a singer to entertain the nation. ‘Sir, I want to be a Ninja’, said the shortest boy in my class standing on his chair.

Tshoki  Penjor Toffy, a brilliant girl in my class wants to be a housewife. Don’t get disappointed to hear it. She does have reasons for it. Actually she wanted to be a shopkeeper but the numbers of shops we have in the Capital made her drop that idea. And secondly, she loves to collect entices like her mom does.

Sayuj Chettri, the master questioner of my class wants to be a discoverer- the archeologist of sort who would reveal many secret truths of human evolution. He is often found placing his index finger on his temple and wonders in his own world. Tampering his temple area of his little brain with his short index finger, he once asked me, ‘sir, where…..did….you…..come……from?

Pema Tenzin is the mathematics topper of my class. He loves to make word problems and does subtractions and additions very quickly.

Pema Tenzin told me once that his dream is to become a ‘trio’. I asked what are they and he said he wants to be an Astronaut and also wants to pilot both airplane and a bullet train which in totality makes up his ‘trio’ dreams.  But his prime focus is in becoming an astronaut. He wants to land on the moon and see the stars. He also wants to witness how sun moves from one place to another. He says that he would take plenty of water to drink because there is no water there and it’s dusty too. He seriously wishes to also dig deep into the reasons why India is so hot and why moon is white.

Another smart boy has his own fascinating dream to dream about. He says, ’I want to be a Paleontologist’. He adds, ‘fossil scientist sir’ to make sure that i (his class teacher) understood his dream. He wants to study fossils and gather more information on how life started in our planet. He wish to bring the mighty mammoth back in live.

My class topper, the girl who loves reading a lot, wants to be a child dentist so could be treat only small children like her who are often troubled by cavity. She also wants to be a super model and like her successful father.

Tsangma R Dorji, another smart boy proudly announces the class in one of our Friday class meetings that he wants to be a farmer. The whole class stared and laughed at him profusely. Nevertheless, he stood solid like a rock because he had a valid reason to validate his dream. He informed the class that if he can grow for himself he doesn’t have to buy vegetables form the market which is very expensive these days.

My students in Druk School are amazing. I swear you won’t know when a day got over if you happen to sit down and talk with them. You would take home many wonderful thoughts.

I have a dream, like other teachers, that one day the dreams of my students get fulfilled. I have a dream that the children I have taught and will teach in years to come are being motivated enough with my words and my presence in their lives.
English Class in full swing at Lichen Com Pry School, Trashi Yangtse.

Teaching is one amazing profession folks! Being a teacher, your presence has a direct impact on children’s lives and you live with a million dreams at the end of your career. The dreams I live with has just began its count.

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