Sunday, May 28, 2023

"Choosing Home, Building Success: Sonam Zam's Path to Making a Difference


In a world driven by the allure of greener pastures abroad, and even so dreadfully true about the wild rush we are experiencing in our own country, it is refreshing to encounter individuals who choose to stay back and make a difference in their local communities. 

Sonam Zam in front of her House

In front of her Oil Refinery Unit- Paro Refinery!

Meet Sonam Zam, a young high school graduate, who made the courageous decision to shoulder the responsibility of her family businesses instead of seeking opportunities elsewhere. Running a cafe nestled on a hilltop nearby since 2019, now working full time at the refinery unit which her brother established in April 2022 with a decent investment of little less than 30 lakhs, and a thriving backyard vegetable garden, Sonam Zam is a shining example of how passion, determination, and a deep connection to one's roots can create a path to success.


Explaining to me how the machines function...

For Sonam, the love for her home and family has always been paramount. Growing up in a picturesque Pangbisa Village surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, she witnessed her parents' dedication to their businesses and the impact they had on their community. Rather than succumbing to the allure of distant lands, Sonam realized the potential right at her doorstep. Inspired by her parents' and especially by her elder brother’s entrepreneurial spirit, she has embarked on a journey to not only preserve their legacy but to make her own mark.


One of her family’s ventures is a charming café perched on a hilltop, offering panoramic views of the JSW Law School and a tranquil atmosphere of Pangbisa. This space is a haven for locals and tourists alike. The café serves as a hub for community gatherings, serving freshly brewed coffee, delectable homemade pastries, and dishes that celebrate the rich local flavors. Sonam's dedication to quality, warmth, and hospitality has earned her café a special place in the hearts of visitors and locals, making it a must-visit destination. However, owing to her brother’s decision to leave for Australia recently, Sonam and her family have leased out the cafe so she can be with her aging parents more often and also delve full time into vegetable farming and to spearhead the functioning of the “Paro Refinery”- and to slowly diversify the products of her Oil refinery unit in the near future.


Sonam Zam's dedication to create opportunities at the doorstep is exemplified by her enthusiastic involvement in the backyard vegetable garden. They also have a green-house pitched to grow vegetables on winter days. Recognizing the importance of fresh, organic produce, Sonam along with her parents work in their large vegetable garden that supplies the market and commuters with a bounty of seasonal delights. While I was inside her refinery unit trying to comprehend the functionality of the complex machinery, I overheard her receiving at least 4 calls in regard to vegetable inquiries. 

The Oil Refinery Unit has come as an anchor for the community of which Sonam takes great pride. The unit buys local produce and helps convert it into oil which the unit sells to generate revenue. Thus, making it a win-win process for both the parties. The by-product of the refinery( oil-cake) can be used to feed the cattle. She is happy to contribute by producing something which can substitute import of oil to some extent. She exudes a lot of confidence and excitement in revealing her future plans to diversify products into different variants according to the different usage. Her knowledge about the health benefits of various mustard oil products in itself was commendable. She believes , one day her refinery will also be able to create employment for interested Bhutanese youths.

Oil Refinery Unit

Sonam Zams decision to stay back and nurture her family businesses while embracing her own entrepreneurial aspirations sets her apart as a beacon of inspiration. Her unwavering commitment to her hometown, her family, and the values she holds dear resonates deeply with those who aspire to make a positive impact in their own communities. Sonam's story serves as a reminder that success can be found not only in far-flung destinations but also in the soil beneath our feet and in the dreams we nurture close to our hearts.

Sonam Zam's journey as a young high school graduate turned entrepreneur showcases the power of passion, dedication, and a deep connection to one's roots. By staying true to her values and building upon her family's legacy, she has transformed her ventures into thriving businesses that contribute to the local community's well-being. Sonam's story is a testament to the fact that one can create a fulfilling and prosperous life by embracing opportunities at home and making a difference right where they are.

Finished product


Benefits of Mustard Oil! (info courtesy-

Let's delve into the fascinating world of mustard oil and discover the myriad of health benefits it has to offer, both when applied topically and consumed internally.

Heart's Delight: Mustard oil is a heart's best friend! With its low saturated fat content and high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, this golden elixir promotes a healthy cardiovascular system. Say goodbye to arrhythmias, heart failure, and angina as mustard oil helps reduce their occurrence, making it a heart-friendly choice.

Breathe Easy: Say farewell to pesky coughs and colds! Mustard oil has been used for centuries to soothe respiratory illnesses. Inhaling steam infused with mustard oil helps clear congestion and provides much-needed relief. For a powerful concoction, combine mustard oil with garlic and ajwain, and massage it onto your feet and chest to experience the soothing magic.

The Warrior Within: Harness the antibacterial, antifungal, and anticarcinogenic properties of mustard oil! Packed with glucosinolate and allyl isothiocyanate, this potent oil acts as a shield against gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers while keeping harmful fungi and infections at bay. Let mustard oil be your ally in the fight against these health threats.

Strength in Every Drop: Embrace the power of healthy blood cells! Mustard oil is a rich source of essential fats, providing the building blocks for diverse biological functions within our bodies. By reducing cholesterol and enhancing the structure of red blood cells, mustard oil strengthens and nourishes, ensuring vitality from the inside out.

Invigorate Your Senses: Let mustard oil awaken your body and senses! As a natural stimulant, it improves blood circulation, detoxifies your system, and leaves you feeling refreshed. Revitalize tired muscles, bid adieu to stress, and embark on a journey of rejuvenation.

Arthritis Alleviator: Find solace from joint pain and arthritis! Give yourself the gift of relief through regular massages with mustard oil. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids eases stiffness, reduces pain, and provides comfort to those grappling with arthritis. Embrace the freedom of movement and reclaim your zest for life!

Immune Booster Extraordinaire: Nurture your immune system with the perfect balance of nutrients! Mustard oil's composition, rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and vitamin E, fortifies your body's defense mechanisms. Boost your immunity and embrace a healthier, more resilient you.

Sweet Victory over Diabetes: Take control of your diabetes journey with mustard oil! The alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E found in this remarkable oil, has beneficial effects in managing diabetic hazards. Regulate your blood sugar levels and pave the way for a balanced, fulfilling life.

Fuel Your Appetite: Ignite the fire within and embrace a hearty appetite! Mustard oil acts as a culinary companion, boosting your desire to eat. By stimulating the stomach, promoting the secretion of gastric juices and bile, this remarkable oil kindles the feeling of hunger, ensuring you savor every meal.

Nature's Defense Against Cancer: Unleash the potential to fight cancer! Emerging research suggests that mustard oil may slow down the growth and spread of certain cancer cells. Explore the possibilities and let this powerful oil be your ally in the battle against this formidable disease.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Lunana: A yak in the classroom and my own sojourn as a remote schoolteacher!

After a brief stint with few Film Production Houses in Thimphu, I found myself without any big dreams left to surmount in life. Nothing in life started to unveil as worthy of my attention- Becoming a teacher for the fortunate Ugyen Dorji, the protagonist of the film, was the least he wanted in his life. Like him, I was lost and dismayed. Thoroughly! 
Me with the Machine! 
But we both were fortunate enough, as they say ‘Sometimes you find your strongest faith in the darkest corners’, I found my purpose of living and the reason to dash off my hopelessness and do something meaningful in life. Though, Ugyen manages to fulfill his dream of becoming a singer in a foreign land, the last scene beautifully portrays how much he misses our mountains, the native songs, the kind villagers and the loving children of his Lunana classroom, when he realizes a pool of audience is least bothered of him performing on the stage. 

The start of the academic year profile photo! 

Apparently dealing with my own quarter-life crisis, as I reflect now, the intense retrospection of the situations around me and the introspections of my own emotional status quo, the constant watching of some motivational YouTube videos and comprehending the message from Robin Sharma’s Book “Who will Cry when you die”, I desperately wanted to do something, creating a lasting legacy of sort…and in the midst of this grave desire to ‘Do Something’ in life, I finally decided to become a teacher for a remote community school. It was at the early spring of 2010 when I began my own sojourn of becoming a teacher. 
Me with my grade ii boys
I knew a little gist of the film Lunana: A yak in the classroom and I could also make a linear guess regarding its storyline. But how this film would stir my emotional attachments of my own journey of becoming a teacher and my brief stay at the remote community was a tale untold till this morning. Watching the film instantly caught my conscious and teleported me back swiftly to my most memorable years as a teacher at a remote school in Trashi-yangtse, some 700 kms from here. I had the privilege of serving the community and the children for two academic years, but the memories are engraved deep inside to cherish forever.

Like Ugyen, the protagonist in the Film, I was baffled by the genuine respect they showered me, the stories of hardships those villagers have to share, the small group of innocent children I was supposed to teach( yes you heard me right, I was supposed to teach them but they taught me many things in return), how all of them in that tiny village took care of me and the size of Lichen Community Primary School and of the tiny classrooms with mud-plastered stone walls kept simultaneously rolling in my head, moments by moments, memories after memories along with the realistic scenes of the heart-melting Oscar nominated Film unfolding beautifully on the screen of my MacBook. 

PP girls 

I was literally glued up on the screen enjoying yet missing the breeze of the mountains of Yangtse, warmth of the old and the wise there, sincere love of my former students, respect from the villagers, their sense of care, and the irreplaceable value they hold of a schoolteacher in their village succinctly tells how important a role we play in the lives of the remote dwellers as teachers! The analogy used by Azha Gup in the film to weigh the role of a teacher to a Yak for the community, benefiting and shouldering the future of the village, is truly inestimable. The mere presence of Ugyen, the teacher, in the village had renewed the lost hopes and aspirations of everyone in the village. Simple story yet it’s the craft of Director Pawo Chooyning Dorji to have kept it as simple as it could be realistic which makes this film easily garner so much love and appreciation from around the globe. 

My grade ii girls

This is indeed a story of so many individuals like me, and I am fortunate to have paved this similar path, a journey so precious and thus memorable. I have been there, behind and above those pristine mountains and valleys and I have also experienced it first-hand! I was, for the community, their very own schoolteacher, the readily available political and economic analyst cum commentator, Revered as honored at par to Village Lama during annual village pujas,  DTH TV Disk installer, mobile phone ‘settings’ expert, ever ready and happy consultant for their children’s’ birthday celebrations, and occasionally fulfilled the role of a marriage advisor too. 

Acho Karma in Red! We went for a football match with T.yangtse LSS staff

My house owner, Aap Mani Norbu, is akin to Azha Gup in the film, the unassuming yet wise and resourceful, I had many Pem Zams in the school, as much as they were cute, they were innocent and were aspiring to become someone important in life, I had friends (Acho Karma Dorji and others) like the guide Michen in the film, played by Ugyen Norbu Lhendup(the talented singer and musician) who is ever ready to render help, and not one but two female friends (as per what villagers liked to tease me with-owing tome being a potential 'govt-servant' groom for one of them) akin to Shadey, the ‘apparent’ ladylove or at least a female friend of Ugyen Dorji, played by the melodious- Beauty with Brain- Kelden Lhamo Gurung! 

With village folks

Lunana: A yak in the classroom is more than just a cinematic artwork meant to be screened on the silver screen. It’s a live portrait of individuals rejoicing the gift called life with bare minimum necessities, a beautiful tapestry projecting the simple yet difficult life of our humblest people happily living their lives in the far-flung pockets of our rural Bhutan. 
Trashi Yangtse town in the mid-ground

To all the people in the far east, the people who pampered me with your utmost care and love, who arranged a lavish farewell as a token of your sincere appreciation of my service, I missed you all today most dearly…….

And allow me to congratulate once again the Cast and the Crew, especially Director Pawo Chooyning Dorji for creating this history and announcing to the world that Bhutan isn't all about mountains, forest and rivers, there is more than what meets the eye....TASHI DELEG LA!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

My E-gress Address to my former School and my dearest colleagues of Druk

In Photo:Yours truly as John Mantel (The lawer-turned monk character from Robin Sharma book series) During Character Comes Alive -2013 Literary festival.

My farewell address dated 12/03/2021:

As I finally put in my long due resignation and got my relieving order this afternoon, I am so happy not for myself but for you. Seriously. Why? Please keep reading...

Before the Why? Let me express my appreciation. It's been a great pleasure and an honor to be in the moments of making children's life better by being a teacher performing to the best of my abilities..Thank you Galingkha Group and the School for the opportunity and parents and children for great acceptance and my fellow colleagues for being so kind by providing me a space to be witjjjou all whether you like it or not😜😜.

As I reflect my 9 yrs few months and couple of days of stay here, I owe you a list of pardons and since I am leaving I wish to drop a number of good wishes as well. So here it goes...

Sorry I often prolonged our reflection meetings with my suggestions and recommendations or by sharing my opinions on AoB agenda. I wasn't mindful that you all were already tired and I dragged all of you to endure our meet for next 20 mins...

Sorry! All of you must be bored to death listening to lavious acclaludes from principal about me and my creativity...the ideas are in the air...I don't claim it to be mine. Now you don't have to bear it any more.

Sorry for all the classes you missed or you had to forego because I took your children away for my 'organised' history educational field trips.

Sorry I invented, adopted and adapted a lot of new initiatives and programs for our school improvement where you had to put extra effort to materialize it. As I move out, programs like zhenphen Project, school newsletters, Flag Day celebration etc may be reviewed or removed based on teacher's efficiency and student benefits and the program's efficacy.

Sorry for my often lengthy presentations on school improvement plans and activities of which most of the suggestions and recommendations died a silent death but robe your precious time.

Sorry for I must have bored you to death by sharing my views and opinions about worldly affairs and then followed by suggestions on how we can make this world a better place to live. Now the floor is open for your say. I shall miss your presence Hundreds of km away.

Sorry for posting our school activities on my personal Facebook account every now and then, reminding you that you work for a company and for keeping you connected with school affairs even during off hours. I beg your pardon for robbing your family time.

And thus the good wishes for you now..

I wish you have lesser and shorter meetings. Extually I wish you don't have a meeting at all. Talking and doing is two different entities.We must divert our focus, time and energy in making things happen.

I wish you all have less periods to "teach textbooks" and more time and days allocated to "teach the children", A few free hours to understand our children by engaging in meaningful conversations with them will make them more wiser. I believe.

I wish you all enough strength to go beyond classroom, and the textbook driven teaching and learning experience. Be that teacher who is off the cuff! Be a human teacher!

I wish you enough courage to think about yourself and also the wellbeing of your family members. School and students as one entity: It is only one small part of your life.

I wish you enough space to be who you really are as a person though within the professional framework. Being your true self and sharing about your weaknesses will not make you smaller. Children will only accept you more.

I wish you all speak your own mind and think your own thoughts in all school discussions. Education is a collective responsibility! It's not the content that matters but how you teach will. Be that bold Teacher.

I wish you all enough sensibility to put children at all times at the forefront in all your discussions and dialogues. They expect a lot from you.

I wish you all a lot of free time to relax and reflect on your own deeds, both professional and personal, to re-learn and unlearn. Make learning a life long mission.

I wish you all create more " accesses" to enriching learning experiences for your children instead of the lenghty assessments tools to test their memorization ability. Please save them from all those devils-The written exams.

I wish you more praise , acknowledgement and appreciation for you all do an amazing jobs.

I wish you more moments and occasions to enjoy your famous Damakopi Ji and less of 'superlatives' and 'comparatives' doses every now and then. All teachers are equal. All so precious. And thus Celebrate every one in the campus as a special member of the family.

Oopsy I robbed your 3 mins...I should stop it now here....Au revoir Amigos, Adiós Diviértete...Lok-sumaa Jhegay.... Khuda hafiz! ... Sayōnara!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

For Education Transformation: Look No Further Than The Royal Academy

It’s not new of HM expressing his grave concern over quality of education in his Royal Addresses. In fact, during every convocation ceremony of graduates HM has always stressed on the important role that education play in steering the nation towards economic development and social harmony.

The recent National Day Address had many other underpinning urgent reasons to yet again retrospect on the ever increasing importance of quality of education in the country.  Some of the subtle reasons are as follows: 

First thing first. 317 Students dropped out of schools as per the Kuensel report dated Dec, 9th 2020. Forget about how so many children didn’t take personal responsibilities to learn on their own during school closure due to covid 19, children in general don’t bother to give a heed to understand the importance of education.  This is just one problem. 

Domestic violence during the first lockdown was so high that when second lockdown was announced Her Majesty had to immediately put in place the Help Shelters for people affected by domestic violence. The whole purpose of real education thus far couldn’t meet its end.  

Divorce and suicide cases are increasing every year. What Education are we giving that children and young adults don’t value the gift called life? Similarly, unemployment issue was still unresolved and then the Covid 19 forcefully unemployed thousands within a month’s time. All thanks to His Majesty’s Kidu Fund for saving and sustaining so many lives of Bhutanese brothers and sisters. Not to mention the large number of youths unemployed due to mismatch of college degrees and the jobs available. 

We don’t have rigor to maintain and value our relationships, we don’t have enough of the sense of integrity to move on and compassion for others and for oneself, and above all we haven’t really shown the leadership of self to stand, take opportunities and make differences in one’s life and in the lives of others. We lack creativity and innovation to come up with new business and social ideas benefiting everyone in our community and nation at large. 

Inside a mud plastered classroom of Lichen Community Primary School in Trashi yangtse(April, 2010).

Yes, there is serious concern to worry about.  How well are we preparing our children for the new challenges of tomorrow should be the question to seek answers for. The exam oriented – test driven teaching learning should stop! The problem isn’t much with the National Curriculum, its more to do with the approaches, mechanism and the real purpose of the school education that we seem to forget. The scientific evidences of good, bad and the ugly can be left for education experts to reveal. The following are just some of my own observation of the downsides of our School Education System in place.

Testing is the Prime Focus thus Curriculum manifest itself as a content driven and ultimately encourages rote learning. This practice doesn’t encourage critical thinking, creativity and cannot accept any personal opinions and critiques thus leaving less time and space for learners to think for their own. 

Confused between 'urgent' and 'important' purpose of education: All resources of a school is geared towards becoming the top ranked school in the country by literally coaching students to score high marks to secure positions in National Exams. In the bargain, the low achievers as well as the high achievers struggle throughout the year barking up the wrong tree: There is no skills learnt or grooming of learners on all aspects of development happened. 

Lack of diversity in programs for learners at schools: Academic output is almost considered as the litmus test for all the learners. Academics is given too much importance, physical wellbeing is taken care to certain extent but social, spiritual and emotional aspects of child’s growth during those formidable yet important stage of school going children is almost non-existence. Though I must mention there has been humble attempts made but these areas are often considered as secondary needs. And thus holistic development which we all propagate so proudly does only appear best in books and thus children are deprived of many opportunities to be their best possible version of themselves. 

Lack of In-build Professional Support mechanism:  
Teachers can do only so much. The number of instructional periods allocated and whatever free periods is left is utilized for planning of daily lesson plans and corrections of pile of books and record keeping can only exhaust teachers. Forget about the setting of question papers for mid and annual examinations and the correction of hundreds of answer booklets. In addition to this, the numerous meetings to attend, preparing TLMs and much more. This culture of hyper-active workaholic approach which is often branded as being effective and efficient will only have direct adverse impact on teacher’s input in the classroom when quality of interaction between a teacher and a learner is deemed so vital. 

We are blessed to have a King who not only genuinely feels for his subjects but also takes out a lot of time from his private life to do things for the welfare of his citizens. We, as his humble subjects, have so much to learn and emulate from his visions, thoughts, actions and his disposition. Of many, one of HM’s projects which is very close to his heart is the establishment of The Royal Academy in Paro. HundrED- a Global Education Non-profit which encourages creativity and innovation in education world-wide recognized The Royal Academy and its educational practices (especially The Five Areas of Development) in 2018 as one of the inspiring innovations in education in the world. The following paragraphs talks about the programs and approaches implemented in The Royal Academy. The summary is based on my humble attempt to understand the working of the Academy by reading online articles, their web content and watching their YouTube videos- Please visit their website for primary information.   

Gomdri is an orientation program conducted on the commencement of an academic year. It is designed to introduce students to the philosophy, the Five Areas of Development, Skills, Processes and Watermarks (Check the Learning Frame work in the bottom). The teachers converse with children to record their backstory and thus children with the help of teachers work on their individual Roadmaps ( Roadmaps are basically the statements of their status quo on all Five Areas of Developments and a list of measures, steps and actions they want to implement to overcome their weaknesses and challenges to attend to a better version of themselves each term. 

The implementation of measures and designing of individual learning experiences forms the second phase of learning. This second progressive stage is known as Yardak where knowledge gaps and weaknesses are strengthened with series of meetings and discussions between mentors and mentees. 

Shejun Phelrim is the next level of learning mechanism which helps students ‘enhance development and growth in the Five Areas of Development, Concepts and Domain content, Skills, Processes and Watermarks’. This stage focus on the creation of new knowledge.  The ‘Learning Experiences are designed in such a way that students are provided opportunities to demonstrate and achieve their indicators of success’.

Nature retreats for both students and faculty is one of the core features of the Academy. Such retreats enable learners to   ‘develop a sense of respect for nature’ and take opportunities to learn from the environment. ‘A learner growing up in such an environment retains their child-like curiosity to learn, engage and reflect’.

The Roadmaps prepared at the start of the year which are reviewed frequently constitute one of the important tools of assessment at The Royal Academy. ‘Assessment tools such as observations, classwork, reviews, and projects are based on teachers’ qualitative observations’. An individualized review papers (not the question papers as we call them) are prepared for children and there is no culture of invigilation duty as the Academy aspires to enable learners inculcate trust and a sense of personal responsibility making their learning and over all progress both personal and important for their life. Above all, ‘Understanding of the process of learning and the acquisition of skills during this process will be the key focus of assessment at The Royal Academy’.

The philosophy of education at The Royal Academy finds its bases in the teachings of Guru Padmasambhava. The realization of ‘primordial wisdom’ propagated by Guru Padmasambava which means the ‘Recognition of one’s innate awakened state’ serves as one of the purposes of education at the Academy. The ‘Learners engage in a sustained process of self-introspection in order to recognize that they are fundamentally pure, joyful, wholesome, creative and ever-evolving’. The Royal Academy also creates conducive learning environment to ‘enable learners to become their own treasure-discoverers’ by providing skills and processes to help learners ‘actualize their inner potential’.  

Thus there is no overwhelming emphasis given to the content of the curriculum (which we do in our schools) but the focus is in providing required set of skills (by strengthening the five areas of development of every individual learner) to face the challenges of tomorrow: Be it the choices to make or vital decisions to take in one’s life. The following are the Five Areas of Development which are intertwined (in a typical school set up every department work in silos) and are assessed in such a way that it encourages cross pollination of ideas thus enabling an individual learner to grow in a holistic manner.

Cerebral Development:
‘Cerebral development focuses mainly, but not exclusively, on the academic content of curriculum’. The focus is ‘on developing and enhancing the learners’ abilities in the three languages- English, Dzongkha and Mathematics’. The inter-disciplinary approach is used in creating the learning experiences for the three languages. The content will be drawn from the other subjects such as Life Sciences, Sports, Aesthetics and Computer Science. The ‘focus of cerebral development at The Royal Academy is creating opportunities for learners to develop Skills and Processes, and to engage their curiosity and creativity’. Learners and teachers co-create what they want to learn.

Emotional Development:
‘It offers opportunities to help build the learners ability to recognize their own emotions, understand the external and internal factors that influence them and regulate emotions positively. The Royal Academy will create a safe environment for all learners to express themselves and experience a range of emotions’.  Trust, among other universal values, is given utmost importance. 

Physical Development:
‘Physical development at The Royal Academy ensures the general well-being, health, hygiene and physical fitness of all learners. Through games and sports, students will value the spirit of collaboration, leadership and communication’. 

Social Development: 
The Social Development area ‘focuses on developing wholesome relationships with peers, adults, community and the environment’. ‘Social Development aspires to help learners become a person of substance, one who is open to ideas, has the willingness to change, is a trustworthy member of a community and someone who conducts herself with integrity at all times’.  There is an initiative called ‘7 gifts from children’ where learners share about 7 unique things (traditions, festivals, food recipes(children share recipes and cook for each other during Sundays), songs and many more) from their locality with the rest of the children in the Academy. In this way teachers and students learn from each other enabling stronger bonding to happen. 

Spiritual Development:
Spiritual Development at The Royal Academy refers to the ‘idea of mindfulness and interconnectedness’. This area of development ‘aspires to ensure that each learner becomes the best that they can be for the benefit of individuals and the community’. The Academy aspires children to find joy in every experience and also ‘understand the essence of compassion and empathy’.

The Academy also has two sister centers, The Education Research Center and The Teacher Development Center, within the campus dedicated to conduct researches on education and learning and to help teachers develop professionally. The Education Research Center also develops curriculum and methodologies. The Teacher Development Center, on the other hand, will create teaching resources and conduct workshops frequently for teachers to equip them well to deliver the curriculum to meet the evolving needs of education in general. 

We have been doing the best possible but time has arrived to raise our own standards. Just imagine how much our Miss Phurba, Miss Dil Maya, Mr. Daw Penjor and Mr. Prakash would benefit with this sort of diverse exposure and learning experiences. The approach will not only take care of the academic aspect of our learners but also their emotional, physical, spiritual and social development. This will facilitate them to be even more emotionally stronger thus enabling them to productively channelize their different emotions( thus discipline issues will reduce, gang fights will be a thing of past),  be resilient enough to face any difficulties (reasons for school dropouts, suicides, drug abuse), value relationships and become more responsible and productive members of society and respect cultural diversity and value the importance of being interconnected with nature and people around the world which will forge them to think, feel and act for the larger benefit of all sentient beings.    

If one is genuinely concerned about the quality of education, we, as educators, must unlearn, relearn and learn newer and better strategies and approaches to help our children. Our focus must change from testing to equipping learners with skills to face and thrive in the ever evolving world. It is so encouraging to see sincere views and opinions shared on social media about the Bhutanese education system after the National Address of His Majesty. It simply indicates that we are good listeners and we are even better leaners….You would agree how gracefully we wear western dresses, learn and celebrate all the popular festivals and savor the taste of cuisines from different region and culture. With that same rigor, let me invite you to unlearn the approaches that didn’t work so long and for the betterment of our children and our collective future let us all learn, adopt and implement in our schools many of the best strategies and approaches from the ‘Ground Zero’ of Education Transformation in Bhutan: The Royal Academy. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

My Message to my Students on Children's Day

When my friends ask me why I decided to be a school teacher? I would often say that because we get July and January off I decided to do this job....

But deep down There is only one reason to come back to school as a teacher.....and thats to let you all create good memories while you are in the school! Why?  I must frankly speak, I didn't have very cherisable school days..and I don't wish the same to unfold upon you know what...the best most of the teachers did back then was to beat you up if you don't know the answers from the book, scolding, pulling ears, lashing with electric wires were some of their weapons of mass destruction...Let me also put this on record that there were few good ones too. Loving, caring and inspiring individuals who reminded me that it was possible to be kind and loving among unkind and unloving....and gave me this strong hope and a reason to aspire to be an individual who motivates, treats you in a way you rightfully deserve and not just instruct and indoctrinate.

When school resumed for 2020, you and me were unknown to each other....which made it even more interesting...thus in my history classes we had decided to know ourselves first....we also wanted to create a small class we  started collecting books....We had just started to write and post articles on our class blogspot.

We were also discussing about a year long personal project where each one of you would be working throughout the year, sharpening your talent, or learning a new skill or doing some community services... these were things you and me would have been engrossed in apart from the knowledge we would have pretended to discover from our textbooks...

It was all going well and good and then this covid 19 happened and our collective dreams and projects all collapsed. 

All this Pendamic wanted was to separate you from me, close the door and windows of our only room where we opened our minds and hearts, where we did study of past events but were eqaully creating 'history for ourselves..'...we were learning and growing together, there was pure joy to treasure one's old friends and also in finding a new one.

All this Pendamic wanted was to not let   me be that 'unreal' teacher for you, a teacher who gives you enough space and time to grow and blossom,  I wanted you to laugh with me and also laugh at my jokes, feel free to share your thoughts, come to me for some free suggestions or advices, I wanted to share with you what I want to achieve in life and what I failed to achieve......I wanted you to listen to all my flaws, failures and my hardships.  In those flaws, failures and hardships, I wanted you to find hope, perseverance and passion to do any tasks entrusted to you to best of your ability, to stand for a cause in life and to lead to create moments and memories.

I also wanted to share with you what little I have achieved thus far in my own life. I would not have been able to provide you anything worthy to take home but I wanted you to take the lessons out of my little success stories so that you learn and  understand that everything takes time and patience to make it happen and to make it possible in life. 

All this Pendamic wanted to do was to take away these moments from us.

All this Pendamic wanted was to Rob Me of the very reason and my purpose  to become a classroom teacher.

All this Pendamic wanted was to teach us a that unkind and unloving way...shattering all my purposes, suspending all my dear moments with you all and distancing us for no reasons of our own....

All this Pendamic wanted was to remind us that no matter how long I keep my doors open, it's you who need to walk in. No matter how much and how best I provide you as your Guru, but it's your personal  responsibility to learn and grow, to perfect your craft and mend your imperfections...with this onset of e-learning we all must have realised....that A Guru can at best be there for you but cannot be always be with you...

Happy children's Day my dear young friends....

With much love and virtual bear hugs,

Your supposedly Class Teacher but for this year I shall remain as your virtual class teacher.  See you soon.....Enjoy the day...

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Lighting A Candle Tonight: World Suicide Prevention Day-10th September,2020

According to World Health Organization 8 lakh people die globally due to suicide every year. Which means 1 person every 40 seconds. (Which would also mean when you complete reading this article at least 9 human being would have already committed suicide.) There are more deaths from suicide than from war and homicide together.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds. Pesticides, hanging and firearms are the most common methods used globally.  75% of suicides occur in low- and middle income countries and almost half of those deaths are between 15-29 years old. 

These statistics is worrisome and suicide is indeed a growing concern around the world. The data recorded at home is also not so pleasing. A record maintained by National Suicide Prevention Program between 2016-2018 states that 272 Bhutanese took their lives in those three years. That amounts to 1 suicide a week.  1 citizen in week taking away their life should be a wake-up call for a nation just over 7.8 lakh people! There are many reasons to consider for suicide and suicide attempts. Our transitioning society (rapid development, rural urban migration, and new set-up in work places) brings in more hardship and difficulty. To adjust to the new environment of workplace, and the lesser time spent with loved ones because one has to earn a livelihood. The accessibility to drugs, and sudden changes in individuals behavior due to bully, harassments, financial difficulties and loss of ones loved ones are many causes for suicide and suicide attempts.  

Through studies conducted by The International Association for Suicide Prevention in 2019 found that For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicide behavior. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide (IASP, 2019).   If this data is translated into our own scenario- Because of 1 suicide every week (according to 2016-2018 study) 25 of our people will also make an attempt or will have serious thoughts about suicides every week. And along with this, as the report suggests, approximately 135 people would also suffer from intense grief or are otherwise affected (Look at the out-cry of fans of  Sushant Singh Rajput- Being a rising movie star his sudden death and suicide being a prime cause has spilled over grief and frustration across the globe) immensely. Suicide is without a doubt a very sensitive issue. Thus, No wonder why people do not want to discuss or debate openly about suicide. It’s very contagious in nature-affecting the well-being of a person who hears about the incident. But we must stand up and fight this culprit to prevent further loss of life. 

Life is precious and no Country and Leaders than our King and the Royal Government place so much importance in protecting and saving each and every citizens life. The Ministry has adopted No health without mental health approach to make our health and social services more conducive to assist people (with depression and suicidal thoughts) providing counselling and psychiatric services. The RUB colleges also has incorporated counselling as a separate course in its various colleges. There is multiple coalition and collaborative programs initiated by public and non-government bodies to prevent suicides in our country (Check this report here and if the promises have not been materialized we need to notify the concern authority

The The Mind over Matter Bhutan’ and ‘Bhutan Suicide Awareness, Prevent and Watch are Facebook forums (but sadly, both the forums seem not so active) where individuals can share their concerns to understand their own grief so suicidal thoughts never invade ones conscious. If you are not a fan of Facebook, you can tune-in to Radio Valley 99.9 fm for the Mind over Matter Bhutan sessions hosted by our very own Namgey Zam (I think its still in air?) If one fear going online or go on record, one can also pay a visit to numerous care-providing institutions where they will get necessary help. 

The responsibility should not be only imposed on public agencies and NGOs. It should be the sacred duty of every individual. This responsibility is both sacred and noble. Why? If we manage to prevent one suicide we would be preventing 135 fellow Bhutanese from experiencing intense grief and we could be also preventing another 25 of our own people from committing suicide or at least help them refrain from any suicidal thoughts. It takes just ‘one suicide prevention' to break the chain of grief and stress that affects many fellow friends and family members. It just takes you and me to stop stigmatizing suicide and openly discuss regarding it so people who are in need of help and assistance in their life can easily approach for necessary intervention. It has to be you and me to avoid any further loss of life due to suicide. 

Its in you and me to check on the feelings of our friends and family members. If they express hopelessness about their future, tell them you are ever-ready to help in whatever way possible. 

Its in you and me to watch out the actions of our loved ones. If they display overwhelming pain and distress, tell them its transitory- things will be ok and assure them that you are there for him/er always. 

Its in you and me to observe the behavioral change in our friends and family. If they are withdrawing from friends, changes in social activities, show more anger or hostility and display sleep disturbances ask them the reasons and try helping them out. 

Its in you and me to check on the signs of distress displayed through talking, writing (and sharing on social media), or making plans for suicide. Tell them things will be perfectly ok and assure your support and direct them to get help from concern professionals.   

One of the initiatives of IASP to observe this years World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th 2020) with the theme: Working together to prevent suicide, is urging world citizens to ‘Light A Candle tonight on your window at 8:00PM to show your support to suicide preventions’. 

If not anything, tonight lets cast some light to brighten the darkness unknowingly intruding in the lives of our near and dear ones. Let’s assure them, through the brightness and the warmth of the candle light, that we are all here to help and also to convey this message that ‘killing yourself wont end the problem, it only increases the worry, sadness and problems of people who you leave behind!’ 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Food fiesta on Facebook Amidst Lockdown: The reasons and how detrimental it may become in long run.

Everything came to a halt when our country was put under lock-down on 11th August. Though Government ensured delivery of all services needed but there were still things to worry about. The access to essential goods became difficult by the day. 

Yet, surprisingly, nothing deterred many folks on Facebook to experiment new dishes or treat themselves with one’s favorite. A slice of irony on a plate full of National Crisis? May not be.  If food and its implications are to be considered seriously- there are many underlining biological and psychological reasons for our indulgent on eating as well as sharing photos of our meals on social media during this lock-down.

Interestingly, after lockdown relaxation was announced last Monday (31stAugust), not many people on social media shared photos of meals they have cooked for themselves. What could be the reason? The apparent reason could be a sign of relieve on hearing about the relaxation of lock-down. It could be also due to mundane thoughts revolving around getting back to daily routine so costumed to most urbanites which might have diverted their attention and their other-wise food-frenzy mind prior Monday.   

According to science, people hardly eat when they suffer from short-term stress because it shut down our appetite. The anxiety triggers our nervous system to send messages to the adrenal glands to pump out the hormone ‘epinephrine’ which helps activate our body’s fight or flight response, and fast-track our physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold. This could be one scientific evidence why we also didn’t see many meal photos shared by fellow Bhutanese on social media in the first week of our lockdown. 

The science also says that if stress continues, the adrenal glands release another hormone called ‘cortisol’ and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general including the urge and the motivation to eat more. Thus, we prepared and did a lot of experiments with food and then we all engaged in so called ‘Emotional eating’ or ‘stress eating’ to make ourselves feel good, comfortable and above all relieve stress by eating more than usual. The lock-down continued so did the stress level, and you guess it right, the change in our appetite also became apparent.  Eating more often and thus sharing photos of meals became quite rampant after the second week of the lock-down.  

It’s not a new trend to post photos of meals on social media. In fact, in western world it has become an obsession. This fancy trend is often referred as ‘Food Porn’ or ‘Gastro Porn’ because of the avalanche of meal photos shared and how additive people have become of watching these meal photos. This addictive behavior leads to ‘visual Hunger’ meaning your urge to eat those meals (beautifully presented and seen frequently on screens of your gadgets) become so strong you bend over backwards to get it prepared and eat the meal irrespective of its implications on your health. 

There is another shocking food–fact. Many food survey done abroad also indicate that when we strongly feel distress we increase the intake of food high in fat and sugar or both which is detrimental to our health in long run (Check your posts and feeds to cross-check on this). 

So what really made us flung photos of our meals on social media (especially on Facebook) and what could be the best guess to justify this recent online rebellious behavior of ours?

Apparently, one reason is our ‘Herd mentality’ that makes us do what others are doing and make ourselves feel good and happy about being in a league of people with similar tastes and likings. We also share photos to announce to the world that we are so proud that we could prepare the food ourselves. Sharing photos online of what we have cooked also is an attempt to showcase our personal preferences and tastes, and cookery skills-Making your Photo of meals represent you, at least virtually, and uphold and guard your personality on social media. 

Many may argue to protect their justification on recent online ‘food fiesta’ by saying that it was just a perfect time to connect with family members through home cooked food and sharing photos online was just a spontaneously act. But If aforementioned food statistics is to be taken seriously, we have to be mindful of eating whatever we see on our screens and also be equally sensible enough to not share so you don’t influence others. 

All said and done, the recent ‘food fiesta’ on Facebook tells us one thing very loud and clear: We relied heavily on food to lessen the burden caused by all the difficulties string-in by Covid 19. Through Food experimentation and sharing the photos online we made ourselves feel good, happy and important and above all we managed our emotions and succeed to certain extend in de-stressing our 21 days of in-house quarantine during this historic National Lock-down. 

(My personal reflective piece ( inspired by self- realization of the bitter truth)written suppossively for a newspaper a week ago...this is just an opinion..and I am equally guilty for the wrong doing 😜😜. Enjoy reading and if you like it/finds worthy of sharing please do so. Thank you)

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