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!

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