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 9 years to Shaba



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.    



   


Monday, 10 July 2017

Dispersal

When I got up this morning,
There was something amiss.
I never knew that it could be you.
You guys left a mark in my heart.

All of you were amazing.
A remarkable group of people.
Gathered by previous karma.
That I already started missing you.
Photo Courtesy - HM's page Facebook.

You guys have done everything really well.
Your josh and zeal exemplary,
That we had in fact nothing to teach,
Rather we learnt a lot from you.

As you depart, safe journey to all.
Happy meeting with your family back home.
Take care of them and be merry always.
Taking good care of your family is taking good care of a citizen of our country. Therefore, In doing so u are doing service to our country.

All the best 25 batch.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cycle of Ngultrum 100.

Cycle of Ngultrum 100.

It was a hot and humid day, and it wasn't surprising as it was in the mid of summer. Whenever it is hot, swimming comes to our mind. But with the river swollen till the brim, it is risky.

The day was the Birth anniversary of Guru Rimpoche. Aptly, a visit was planned to visit the holy places. A drive and a trek towards Khamsum yulay Namgayel chorten in Punakha, drenched us in sweat due to a scorching sun.

'Nyendars' - a contribution/offering of money were made at every alter of the three storied monastery, constructed in a shape of a pyramid tapering towards the top. Additional offerings were made in the Punakha Dzong on the way back.

While returning, three boys waved to stop the car. There were spaces for all three as the official (Gypsy) vehicle was driven by my friend and I was the only passenger. While we were deciding whether to provide the lift or not we overshot them by around fifty meters.

My friend stopped the car, before he waved them to come, they were already running towards our car. They got in and told us that they were going for a swim. The only swimming pool at one of the hotels. They were told not to go the the riverside by their parents. The entry in the pool was not free, even though it was not a proper swimming pool a nominal fee was charged.

They were carrying only 150 Ngultrum, which would be enough for only one of them to get entry. But they assured us that they would request for a discount and succeed in doing so.

Upon reaching the hotel I asked for the fare for the ride. One of the boys with tears in his eyes reluctantly handed me 100 Ngultrum. Taking hundred bucks from him and I added another hundred of mine, I gave it back to the boy.

The kids stood there speechless. It was not even one tenth of the total offerings that I made that day in the monasteries, but giving to those kids, gave me more satisfaction than all of them put together. The look on the faces of the boys, the sparkle in their eyes, the smile on their lips and the gratitude that they had towards humanity would go a long way.

From one kid, two decades back, who could not forget the hundred Ngultrum given to him at Paro town by an acquaintance of his parents, to another kid, who was running short of funds to take a dip in the hot summer day. The value of money remaining same, due to level of possession and requirement, despite inflation and devaluation after so many years.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Games and Medals.



Nothing can make
The qualities innate
Come to the forefront
Than the games.

Games make you to gel,
Stronger with the team mates.
It makes you to bare
The emotions hidden somewhere

For those who haven't played
Learned to play.
For those who played before
Got chance to expose the talents.

Just two competitions
And medals were awarded.
Nowhere it's so easy to get the medals,
But during desuung training.

The medals are to be kept
Treasured as a souvenirs.
And to show to kids and spouse
The achievements of yours

Through: hardship, lack of practice
And teams formed impromptu,
That only you and the likes of you,
Would know - the proud people in orange.

The entertainment programs presented
Practiced in half sleep
Learning to sacrifice starting from the basics
That is the timings for sleep.

As the time went by
The course seemed easier
Changed not the training program,
But it was the desuups who changed.
And changed they did for the better.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Address by Thrizin, Lyenpo Sonam Kinga to Desuup 25th batch.



The talk was power packed from start to end hitting the right chord, with right punch of jokes making it hard for the tired and sleep-deprived audience to doze off. The audience being mostly from the eastern Dzongkhag the language for the talk was smartly chosen i.e. Sharshop to drive home the maximum points. The aim was clear and it was to make the audience understand each word leading to the broader understanding of 'monarchy in Bhutan.' And how it is different from others.

The back drop or the prelude to the lecture left the audience looking forward for the main course just like a good starter dish during the dinner nights which pretty much says about the oncoming main course.

The prelude - all international relations are based on self interest.  If you think that there is some element of compassion is also involved, you are sadly mistaken. It is basically based on give and take.

The slide, 'who will give the shit?' surprised some of the audience. It was actually relating to the concerns of any country if our country faces some problems, and should we have nothing to offer back. No one would 'give a shit'.

If we the Bhutanese do not care for our own country, no one is going to come from outside to do it on our behalf. In the past when our country went through such turmoil, no one gave a damn. Really? But there was someone who cared for her. That someone was not the outsider but someone from within. And that is our kings.

Thus lyenpo began his lecture proper. The comparison of sizes - according to area, population, military might and economics made the listeners feel minuscule and vulnerable. The statistics that he provided and the graphics made even the lay person understand and grasp the meaning.

The vulnerability was heightened, by providing the glimpse of the history, about the fates of some of those countries between the two giants. The mare thoughts and shaking off the geo-strategic location of the country would not serve any good. If our country is small by size, so what? If our country has less population, so what? If our neighbors are giants, so what? 'So be it', attitude is not going to work. The history shows that and no one would be concerned about our country if not us.

Our monarch was established by the people when there was peace or lull during the turmoil. Our democratic government was established in the same manner. That is the difference between our government and the rest of the world. Those countries who abolished monarchy and replaced with democratic republic had not abolished the essence of monarchy. Dynasty rule still prevail. Using some means to get their own pedigree elected. Elected they are, but the dynasty still remains.

Some may say that we have a primitive form of government but this primitiveness is what made us survive for ages until now between the countries who can provide approximately 2 soldiers for every citizens of Bhutan.

The Dzongkha poem regarding the desuung training at the end, moved one to tears and at the same time made one laugh, taking the audience on a roller coaster rides of emotions.

(The last part of the lecture and before the break was missed for I was readying for mandatory drills, being adjutant. hmmm. Looking forward for the book, perhaps relating to same topic)

***"If you fell asleep you can read my book, which is coming soon", said Lyenpo.


Monday, 29 May 2017

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers



29 May is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

"The day was established to:
* Honour the memory of the UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the cause of peace;
* Pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage.

"On this day, UN offices, alongside Member States and non-governmental organizations, hold events to honour fallen peacekeepers. Since the first UN peacekeeping mission was established in 1948 until April 2016, 3,400 military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives in the service of peace as a result of acts of violence, accidents and disease.

"Peacekeeping is an investment in global peace, security, and prosperity. It is a flagship enterprise of the United Nations. Today, it deploys more than 113,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 16 peacekeeping operations on four continents. It is a flexible, evolving instrument that brings together political, security and technical tools to assist countries make the difficult transition from conflict to peace.

"Over time, peacekeeping has grown from simply monitoring ceasefires to protecting civilians, disarming ex-combatants, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, supporting free and fair elections, minimizing the risk of land-mines and so much more. They have also work to ensure that women are fully represented in peace processes, political life, and in branches of government including in uniformed services. All of these efforts are fundamental investments in building lasting peace.

"Peacekeepers Day offers us to pay tribute to the Blue Helmets’ invaluable contribution to the work of the Organization and to honour more than 3,500 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948."

It is also a day for Bhutan and its armed forces to participate and be proud of, as just a few years back she was able to contribute to the peacekeeping under the blue flag. A few websites are yet to update and include Bhutan as a contributing nation.

Like all countries, our country also faces tremendous amount of domestic adjustments and sacrifices, trying to assist UN in achieving larger and global peace. Bhutan being a peaceful nation owing to its peace loving citizens would be a good ambassador of peace. But propagating and spreading peace would be tricky under the complicated circumstances and requirements.

The peacekeeping mission had benefited the country in so many ways. It had also benefited the personnel involved financially and also in acquiring knowledge serving in multinational organizations. If there is peace, Bhutan would be ready to relinquish the benefits. But with fresh adverse situations cropping up, in various countries around the world coupled with the possession of weapon, capable of destroying the whole world, it becomes imperative for the UN to stop any conflict from escalating.

That is the time when the blue berets come in. The peacekeepers of the world, dousing the fire when  it is small. In this process some served to the peril of their lives. For them, on this day, WE SALUTE.