Thursday, 16 November 2017

Doing Everything the Wrong way




If you do everything the wrong way, than you are safe. Yeah, I am talking about the traffic rules here in relation to Bhutan and other countries with right hand drive, but drives on the left hand side of the road. Confusing? Huh? The problem becomes expounded when one sits on the driver’s seat after driving on the left hand side of the road in a car which has a driver’s seat on the right hand side of the car. The left hand goes searching for the gear stick and bangs the door – therefore, switching to auto pilot mode is a big ‘no no’.

Before driving the left hand driven cars, I have never realized that, the drivers are capable of switching off and get into the auto pilot mode while driving. If it is done here, the car automatically gets steered into the wrong lane and they may find, not one, but so many idiots coming on the wrong side of the traffic. So many idiots cannot be wrong.

Having experienced driving on both side of the traffic, what I have learnt is that the driver is supposed to be on the middle of the road, if the road is just double lane. If you are driver and is you are at the edges of the road, you must be on the wrong lane. It is difficult to get the correct judgement of the broadness of the car. In trying to avoid banging the driver’s side there is chances of the other side taking a kiss or two from a stationary or a moving objects.

It would have been impossible to drive if the foot pedals were also switched. Thank god, the foot pedals remains the same in A, B and C orders, i.e. accelerator, brake and clutch sequence from right to left. The occasional banging of the left hand on the door, which going searching for the gear could be tolerated.

The tricky part is at the roundabouts, actually there is no tricks involved, just do turns the wrong way and exit the wrong way, switching off the logical and trained mind, deliberately. You will be safe. The vehicles approaching from your rrr… left always has the right of way. But in Israel, never forget to be sure of the right too. Some drivers may not know it or they would not care or they would be in hurry.
Honk means nothing other than showing the displeasure in driving skills of the other driver. Normally, you will not hear too much of a honk. Long honk means he/she is really - really pissed off with your driving skills, it would be followed by a dirty looks if you make a mistake of looking at the honker. But people avoid confrontation in the middle of the road, due to obvious reason. 

I still don’t know why the traffic rule is not kept same throughout the world. So much for the co-operation and coordination among the nations. If we dwell on the subject more it may cause the 4th world war, without having to divide the parties. I just wonder who might win. If the traffic rules are same the life would be so easy. There won’t be any challenges especially for those UNMOs coming from the left-hand-drive country. But then people do not stay put in one place these days. The inconvenience would be faced by anyone. 

I once had a Vietnamese friend who complained about having difficulties driving on the Aussie roads, I could understand only now, how difficult it must have been for him. It is easier, if there is a car in front of you. Just follow it and you will not drift to the wrong lane. Should you overtake, do not forget to do it from the wrong side.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Tel Aviv- the first visit.



It is always good to rest and recuperate in between work to be more productive. Nowhere other than the UN organizations took it seriously by providing weekends and compulsory days-off in between the work routine. 

After being in farthest OP for 14 days, I got the well deserved break. A man who heard gun fire sound only at the firing range and a man who heard the explosion only at the mines and road construction sites on the mountain, when observes and hears various sound in the vicinity of the populated areas and areas too close, only the prayers and the luck would keep away the stray bullets from hitting you and the innocent people in the nearby villages. The mark of collateral damages can be seen on the concrete walls; the collapsed buildings in vacated villages howls out the suffering of the people. It is very saddening for a man who had not seen violence. The fresh violence and indiscriminate firing become too much to bear even when you are not the target. 

On days off, it was decided to run away far and forget the about things that I have little power to change. To Tel Aviv I go. A city so beautiful and vibrant just two hours by bus distance and the difference in the environment is like heaven and hell. It was easy to get absorbed within the hustle and bustle of the city’s live oblivious of the civil wars next door. The noise of the explosion and gunfire cannot be heard because of the inherent din of the city. It was like any other multicultural city, I could see an Asian there, Black here, Caucasian there and Jew here, a perfect example of co existence. There was no sign of any religious dominance, but there was ample sign of tolerance and understanding of each other. It would take longer to know and understand the place better but the first impression was overwhelming. 

There was tight security checks before allowing entry to the city from the bus terminals. The bags were inspected one by one manually as well as through x ray machine. It was required to keep the city safe. Seven level of bus stations was too lavish but it freed up and created more space. It was bigger than an airport in some countries. 

“Tel Aviv is the first all-Jewish city in modern times. Originally named Ahuzat Bayit, it was founded by 60 families in 1909 as a Jewish neighborhood near Jaffa. In 1910, the name was changed to Tel Aviv, meaning "hill of spring." “

Beaches in Tel Aviv were amazing by the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea. There was no signs of inhibitions or restrictions on the beach. It was said that after the spiritual journey through the holy city of Jerusalem and other holy sites, Tel Aviv is a place to let loose and hit the bars, beaches and restaurants. Which it had in abundance to offer. 

My visit coinciding with sabbath ie Saturday, most of the shops were closed and the entertainment centers were packed including beaches. In Israel, one day in a week is reserved for enjoyment and reserved for family or other activities that does not involve work. In Hebrew “sabbath” loosely translates to “cessation” or “rest”. On this day the busses do not ply, shops and workshops remains closed. 

The well deserved rest to be productive the following six days. This tradition dates back to the creation of the earth and heaven in six days by the god and resting on the seventh day according to Judaism and Christianity. The rest and recuperation from time immemorial. 

Everyone of us has a destination to arrive at, but it is important to enjoy the journey leading to the destination. The break in between gives us time for doing just that. The people here enjoy one day a week with families and friends without worrying about works and avoiding any activities related to work. I already liked the idea. In the course of our journey towards the destination which we do not know whether we would be able to make it or not, we are getting older and frailer. It is better to have time during the course of the journey just for ourselves. One day per week for just ourself is a perfect choice.

So me too rest and recuperating.....



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Jordan Toothbrush!!!!



Jordan toothbrush used to be my favorite toothbrush because after I came across it, I did not use any other toothbrush. The angle, the length of the handle, the length and breadth of the bristles were just perfect for me. Above all, it lasted longer at least for a month of two. 

I have never bothered to ask why it was called Jordan. I knew faintly that it was a name of a country in the Middle East. The incident of making me write about this, cropped up when I am in the Middle East. Jordan lies just a couple of miles south of where I am. But then Jordan brush was not to be found anywhere - here. Before coming here, I got myself a couple of Jordan toothbrushes, at least six. Knowing it’s quality having used for so many years, I was confident that this much would see my year through easily. But that’s not going to happen which you will understand as you read further. 

Jordan toothbrush was called so, after a name of the founder of the toothbrush factory - Wilhelm Jordan. The name had nothing to do with the country - Jordan, as I had guessed earlier. 

After purchase of bunch of Jordan toothbrushes, I tried one upon reaching home. At one use only the bristles got twisted, like it had been used already for a month. I brushed aside the thoughts of it being an imitation of the original, and made myself believe that it must be a inferior quality among thousands. So I packed six of it and brought along with me. 

During my duty in a remote station, I took one of my all time favorite toothbrush, it would last longer than my duty time - that is two weeks, in a isolated area. Ruling out the requirement of taking a spare toothbrush. 

The first morning when I brushed my teeth, the brush started to give away. There are 14 more days to go without re-supply. I kept it away from the view of others in the wash room. It looked so ugly, worn out and old despite being taken out of the packet and used just once. I knew it’s going to deteriorate further, with every use. 


Three of us from different nations share the out post accommodation. As the day passed my Jordan brush, which used to be tough, durable and comfortable started becoming very rough and it’s bristles mangled. I had no options, but to use it.  

I did not display my brush in the toilet. The brand that took-over the world, is now about to be brought crashing down by the makers of the duplicates. It must be appreciated that it was made so exactly, that you cannot make it out unless you start using it. They could have given at least fourteen days life span. That was not given and started making money through production of imitations. 

I could not let my favorite brand down in the eyes of people who did not use the Jordan brand. I kept my fake Jordan brush tucked aside till I get the new one, eagerly looking forward to throw it beyond the gravitational force, to make it float in the space never to fall back. 

I took the picture of it in appreciation for the copy cats and being able to cheat people. Today, it is a simple toothbrush. Tomorrow it would be a crucial equipment which would be capable of taking life - a whole lots of lives. There are already fake electrical and construction materials that looked exactly like the originals. The contractor/builders were reported to be using fakes deliberately to generate more cuts. The repercussions would be worse - worse than brushing with a flattened, mangled, old looking toothbrush for weeks. 

Unless it happens to oneself, one would not understand. One should be ware of fakes and be smart enough to make out original from fake. Copy rights, consumer protection and the allied laws has its own limitations. 



Friday, 13 October 2017

The Change Over in Shift.


When a couple of men, three in this case,  had to man a post for twenty four hours, your biological timings are disrupted. Now, I appreciate our troops back home who do this continuously, as this is their profession. Staying up when all are asleep and being ready to take on any shift within twenty four hours. 

The only difference in UN?&@ as an observer from the troops is that, here for the officers, duty does not finish with the end of the timings of the shift. There are reports to be compiled and shared accordingly. The layers of checks and multi authoring spots any mistakes made by the tired limbs and the mind. It is a real nightmare to be woken up, from sleep by a phone call to correct some minor observation or typos. Every effort  would, therefore, be made to not get into such situations. 

Once my shift started from 2000h to 2359h -(8pm to midnight). Every decent officer makes it a point to take over shift at least 10 mins early and every decent out going officer is ready to handover 10 minutes late. This unwritten understanding not only oils  the inter personal relation between the officers from different countries, it also make us stand out as an officer, with integrity, loyalty, dedication and honor. But sometimes there are lapses due to failure of electronic equipment like alarm clock, failure of biological clock but definitely not the failure of intentions.  

My shift was over and I was ready to wait another 10 minutes. 10 minutes gone and my biological clock was asking for a immediate shutdown as it was not prepared and arranged for longer night duties. I got up and went to see what might have happened to my reliever. There was no noise in the Bathroom. It was pin drop silence in the kitchen. The stacked up remains of the cups and spoons were there untouched, as it remains unwashed at night, so as to not to disturb the sleeping UNMO just nearby. 

I opened the door of his cabin and there I saw him sleeping so soundly, curled up in a partial fetal position due to the cold. I felt real pity to wake up a man who was sleeping so peacefully. A man in his late forties sleeping so soundly! I thought of going back to the platform and doing the rest of the duties myself. But on the second thought if I do that the next day I would be more tired and if I do not do justice on my own shift then it may not sound so good. The feeling of a tired ONMO is like that of a fly caught up in a gyroscope and let free. In other words catch a fly put it in a jar. Close the lid and shake it for few minutes. Open the jar and let the fly free. Some will fly in awkward manner and some may rest for some time before it flies away. This was exactly how an UNMO feels after a week or so in OP. 

With heavy heart I called out his name softly. He got up in an instant and checked the clock. The alarm was set but instead of 11:30pm it was set at 11:30am. ( that’s why I prefer military timings of 24 hrs cycle like in France. After 12 noon it is 13, 14, 15 and so on). He said sorry but his body language said it all. It was not intentional and he considered it failure on his part to have wasted my time. Such fine officer! Which makes all of us in UN proud, to be part of, for a year - at least. 

We had a quick greetings and parted our ways within the small campus. He will be awake and I will be asleep that thought should make it sound like we are going away to a great distance until the dinner time. Dinner is the only meal had together, provided it is calm and quiet. 


Monday, 11 September 2017

Minefields


What we see at the surface level differs from what we see going in depth. Israel is a beautiful country, developed many folds comparing to my own country. The directly opposite traffic rules like that if USA always gave me a jolt whenever I daydream while traveling in a car. The population seemed lesser compared to Indian town and cities. Perhaps, people stayed indoors owing to the soaring mercury, touching or crossing 40 degrees everyday. 

There are lots of minefields marked beside the roads, traveling to the no so remote parts. A formidable obstacle system but with no expiry dates. It shows the lack of man power coupled with the fear for the enemy and the urge to hold the ground making defense stronger. But in retrospect, the piece of ground is as good as lost for it cannot be used. The idea must have germinated from crude animal feeling within us - if not mine it won't be yours. 


Large pieces of 'dunam ' and 'dunams' of land lay barren within the markings of minefields.  (Dunam is 'langdo' ) I am having the eerie feelings of connections between two society a world apart, when I came to know about the land being measured in terms of an area that can be plaughed by a pair of bulls in one day - which is 'langdo' in Bhutan and in similar ways it is 'dunam' in israel. It is still a preferred unit of measurement here. 

The mine field are that of mixed kind. Both anti tank and anti personal mine were said to be found. There were many stories of man getting injured straying into minefields. Anti tank mine cannot be actuated by the weight of a man, therefore, it is not a threat to a man on foot, and if it is actuated he will not live to tell the tale. 

Now, I understand the work of lady Diana for the mine affected regions. The anti personal mines can easily blow off the leg of a man and if you are (un)lucky you will survive the rest of the life on one leg or on prosthetics. 

The guys who placed the mines were no more as they were probably dead. And the country responsible for placing the mines in the area control the area no more. It is the nuisance left behind after the bloodshed and wars were long over and forgotten. 

The bush fires, here, sometimes said to have detonated some mines but not all. Comparing to the fires in Bhutan bush fire is nothing but so much of caution is advised, perhaps due to the likely explosion of the mines. 

The olden days mines are crude and durable and remains unchanged. Even when the attitude and the mindset of the people change, when the situations change, when the diplomatic relations change, the mines remain there unchanged 'as constant as northern star' ready to explode and do what it is supposed to do - explode if actuated! Without any discrimination, whether a friend or foe, making the area not only useless but also dangerous, long after the dust of battle settled and people starts to settle down. 

The little barbed wire fence with a red triangles (international sign of mine field) sign is enough to stop and caution people wandering into the minefields. The initial fear subsides after seeing the minefields regularly. It is just a matter of time and impuissance that makes us embrace the odds be it as risky. 

The minefield runs along the highways, the signs and little triangles reminds one to drive cautiously and be in the black topped part only. It would be a tricky situation if, by chance one met with an accident and drive into or fall in the minefield. Getting out of there without stepping in the mine will be like taking a leap of faith. Using prodder a primitive method to move in the mine field would be useless as the ground seems really hard. 

The life goes on with orchards just adjacent to the munefields and settlements right next to the minefield. The children must have been educated early in life about the mines and the danger it poses. 


As for me, I heard about mines pretty late in late in life i.e. When I joined the military academy and only in my second term I was introduced to mines. That's why our country is unique perhaps one country among few which does not have land mines problems. If at all we required to lay mines it should be laid with a kind which self destructs after certain time. Bhutan a Lha gi yul indeed. I am already counting DLTGH (days left to go home) to enjoy the peace, to enjoy fresh air, to see the greeneries, to see the rivers, the mountains and to feel the time running in slow motion. To hear the birds chirping, to hear the stray dog's barks, to play archery and to never have a fear of mines and fear of, from where a next missile or an artillery shell would fall. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Hearing Vrs Seeing


When we hear Middle East we tend to think of desert and sand and all those resources and problems related to desert. I was no different and had a feelings that I would be greeted with sand dunes and arid land with no water and food supply. Though I googled up and seen the area from the google earth I did not think about how I would be surprised after landing here. 

The development in the region can be compared to that of Perth as that was the only place abroad where I had stayed for a longer period. It way ahead of our country. The happiness index and GNH I do not know but there was continuous water from the tap and it was crystal clear, there was electricity supply and food in abundance. If you have money there was everything. 

It may be too early for me to say that there is no sign of violence and turmoil that is usually depicted by the media in some pockets of the country which generalized the whole region, but I am yet to see the disruption in the normal lives of the people and delivery of goods and services. It is better than our part of the world where the frequent strikes and protests in the neighborhood affect the normal functioning of most people. The public services especially in transport area are disrupted most often than not. 

In a place depicted with security problems, the lives of the people are more normal than most of the countries. Perhaps due to the efficient management of the problems by the amazing equipments which does not let the problem percolate to the people? However, the fluid situations were made known to the people as accommodations and houses were seen having blast proof shelter from the artillery and others forms of shelling. There are also public shelters in the vicinity of towns and cities. People are aware of what needs to be done in times of crisis or when the siren is sounded. 

Overall it is thronged by the tourists being the holiest place on earth for three main religions of the world. There are many places of historical importance regarding the Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The blessings ordained to the place is evident from the crops and fruits bearing trees flourishing at a place where the ground looks little fertile and bearing fruits disproportionate to the size of the trees.


Yes, the life must go on with the sound of the guns and mortars. The life must go on in the midst of the fields laden with mines. The life must go on with the neighborhood of friends and foes. And the life must go on with the danger looming above the head like a dagger hung by the thread above the head. Safe, we are not anywhere. No, not even back home but life goes on... 

Friday, 11 August 2017

After 8 years to Shaba # RBA



The changes and the improvements in the landscape and the surrounding can be seen when you visit a place after a long break. I happen to visit RBA Shaba campus after eight years and the direction in which the organization is moving can be seen from improvements in the infrastructure especially, the mess.

There used to be a simple elongated mud wall house as mess, before. The short stone walls all around served as a boundary wall. It exemplified the humility as well as destitution of the organization. We chose to believe the earlier one rather than the later one. However, it did not lack the warmth and the air of the mess. So many parties and so many events were organized there.

Now, as I entered the wing, firstly the gates with huge walls declaring the morale of the wing with immaculately dressed guards greeted the sight. Little further up, what used be a waste land with one huge water tank was converted into a beautiful flower garden with no trace of the ugly water tank.

Right after the first turning a concrete building with huge and dark windows, within the boundary fence made of iron rods, welded into traditional Tashi tagay shapes and appropriately painted with just two colors - black and yellow, pleased the visual senses. It somewhat, gave the feelings of awe similar to entering the Mhow cantonment. It filled me with pride belonging to the organization that is moving forward in leaps and bounds.

I hesitated to enter the mess initially, thinking that it must be a mistake. It was too grand too futuristic in design and presentation. The fittings and rooms - just royal! The organization is moving towards the right direction with the guidance of the great leader.

Mess really is the window to showcase the values, morale and esprit de corps of the unit. It is a place where brethren from other units were entertained and hospitality extended. Shaba mess succeeded in arousing the feelings of awe to the visitors. The feelings of "yes-we-too-can" of the Organization in general.

I am just amazed by the state of art mess and mesmerized by the design and the fittings. To take care of it and to improve upon it, however, remains the responsibility of all of us who may be availing the facilities.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Security Breach??




An old man appears on the doorway, and he wants to sell chili. It was surprising that the moment the door was opened he was inside the house. It had been quite some time when such things were done. It is a Bhutanese culture to come inside and talk when the door is opened. Only when the old man did that, I realized the fading culture of coming inside or welcoming the person inside, be it stranger.

The western, cautious culture of seeing from the security peep hole or putting the safety chain and talking to the person waiting outside keeping the door ajar, had already become an acceptable trend, whenever the door bell is rung.

We have changed. The society had changed. It is only when people from villages drop on your doorway you realize the changes and the stranger stands out like a sore thumb in the eyes of the children who had not seen such things. Those were the days when dog did not eat dog. It was never required to be wary of the fellow countrymen.

Though I had bought enough supply of chili, two kilograms of chili were bought as he was threatening to give one kilogram free when I was buying only a kilogram. By the physical appearance and dressing, he wasn't looking affluent yet such generosity can be expected from only the endangered species of the Bhutanese.

He was looking frail but not tired. He was looking poor but not hopeless. He was looking just like our fathers and forefathers. He said that he was from Baylangdra which is quite far. He cannot reach back to his home in the absence of private car. But I could not and did not offer him the shelter for the night, and feel terribly sorry for not asking. The cautiousness and being wary of the stranger had set in.

I know I have been infected and changed like all the other fellow beings. The carpeted, varnished and polished floors inside the house are much hinderance for welcoming as much as a stranger with ill intentions.

Nothing was breach of security for that old man. He remain as pure as the surrounding from where he was coming from. The innocence, the humanity and the pureness might be misconstrued by those who had not seen the past. (Saying just like that)

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Swifter decision led to swifter mistake



When I parked my car for a short break on the way, a white metal on the tyre caught my eyes. It looked like a thumb pin, that we used to put on our shoes during our school days. Only when I tried to pluck it out, I realized the length of the metal that pierced the tyre.

I remembered seeing a news where an arrow hit a person and that person being taken to the hospital, without taking out or disturbing the projectile, perhaps trying to stop him from bleeding to death. I did not try to take out the nail out of the tyre, fearing the tyre breathing out to flat. I reached my destination without flat tyre but the nail in my tyre nagged me more than the tyre.

Next day when I mounted my car on the dock at the workshop, I was greeted with another bad news. The rear shock absorber was smeared with oil and that oil was covered with paste made of dust mixed with oil. It was the sure sign of leaky hydraulic oil from the shock absorber. I wanted to change it immediately but the spare part was not available. I placed a demand for the spare part from Thimphu. Even though there was no queer noise of weird feelings while driving, I did not like the fuzzy look of the shock absorber.

When the car was mounted again on the dock, after three days, to change the greasy, fuzzy, dirty and soiled shock absorber, I realized the reason, responsible for its dirty looks. The memory of spilling the engine oil form the jerry can in the dickey of the car and the oil running down along the rear shock absorber to the ground, came flashing back. The flashing back of the memory was too late. I had a new shock absorber in hand and the other was in the process of removal. I was shocked. I would have liked to have a shock absorber for myself too. I had to take another decision fast.

I took out the soiled but perfectly okay shock absorber and installed a new one. I accepted the mechanical charges and the cost for new shock absorber as a punishment for swift decision based on wrong judgement. And to remind me of the blunder I have a old shock absorber, clean and sparkly, kept at home ready to be installed, just in case.

I could have cleaned and reinstalled the old one, and given the new one, back (provided they took it back), but I did not want to trouble the store who serve the customer by making the spare parts readily available from foreign countries.

Rear shock absorber for Santa Fe 2005M, anyone???

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Salutes



Salutes is a military is way of wishing each other. The junior salutes the senior and the senior returns the salute. It is as simple as that. 

Then - I watched the dance competition show in TV and there, when it was appreciated beyond normal level, the judge gets up and gives a salute. This indicates that when you appreciate someone beyond normal level you salute. It is like saying -'I appreciate you for what you are and what you do sir.' 

When we receive salutes in the morning while going to the office, if we take it as the sign of appreciation, it would motivate and encourage us to put in more effort for the very people who looks up towards us and be worthy of a person to receive a salute. 

We may be earning less in terms of monitory benefits but we earn at least hundreds salutes per day. Every salutes was ingrained with innumerable days of drill periods during the training periods. It comes naturally for a person who had undergone that drill. 

When a young girl asked an officer how much he earns per month.

He replied, "I earn at least couple of thousand salutes per month."😀😀

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Coincidental encounter with a right tourist.


As we climbed to the apex of the number of Chortens at Dochula, there was one lone tourist taking pictures. She must be in her late fifties, smartly clad in black. The moment I looked towards her, she pointed the camera towards Gasa. The mobile phone camera would do little justice to capture the image of Gasa. In order to diffuse the awkward situation, I asked where she is from.

“I am from Israel”, she said.
 
Exchanging views
Thereafter the conversation ensued, like meeting an old friend. It was a sheer coincidence that I was on my way back after processing visa for Israel. And here at the top of iconic monument, I meet a person from the country where I would be going shortly. She came here for an educational tour, to learn about GNH and to learn how it could be applied in her country’s education system. How could we thank the expounder of the philosophy? The GNH had become the symbol which represented our country for the ones who knew little about our country. She told me that it was like a tonic for her to breathing fresh air and seeing greeneries all around.

It was quite relieving for me to learn that Israel is not as bad as the medias tend to paint. She was proud of her country and the military in particular. Israel is a flatter country comparing to Bhutan. There is lesser rain and the whole country turns “the colour of your king” for the rest of the years. She had great respects for the teachers as she bowed to my wife, when she told her that she is a teacher. She highlighted the importance of teachers in shaping of the country’s future citizens.

I had many things to ask but I did not like to disturb a tourist. When she asked me why I was going there, I was trying to tell her about the area of separation, the alpha line and bravo line, the agreement of 1974 between Israel and Syria, which she does not seem to know at all. It is not small country like ours. It also showed that people does not bother much about other’s business.

By the way she carried herself, by the way she talked and by her thoughts, I could make out about her country. I have met with a right ambassador of the country at the right time, and at a place, near the center Chorten, built in commemoration of the of the success of the Army led by His Majesty the Fourth King.

The meeting diffused my apprehensions of going there, as I was trying to diffuse an awkward situation of taking a picture. I would be looking forward for the trip and a wonderful stay as I wish the same to the lady from Israel.