Monday, December 26, 2011

My daughter's drawings

My daughter went to school starting this year. She goes to Samtse lower secondary school. But sadly I couldn’t be with her to see her go to school and see her learn because I had to leave for studies abroad. When I came back on break she had already done her exams in PP.

I was surprised to see my daughter like never before. Schooling has brought considerable change in her interest and behavior. Before going to school she was most often a prankster and always going out to play with friends. But now most of the time she engages in meaningful activities like drawing, writing, calling aloud spellings, numbers, singing rhymes and words she had learnt in the class. And to a father when a small daughter has learnt so much it, leaves so much to pride upon and rejoice.

Her result is on 17th December and she has few days grace before the results. In the mean time, since she has no home-works or any new spellings, rhymes, words to learn, she keeps busy in drawing and writing whatever comes to her mind. She pulls any paper lying around and start working on it. Sometimes her drawing and writing words of description below the drawing goes rampant. Few days back she drew a banana on one of my office orders; a house on one of my reports; scribbled on my lesson plan book; doodled on my medical prescription and smudged half a ream of my clean A4 papers with crayons. Despite of having bought her many drawing books, for reasons I couldn’t understand, she persists in drawing on papers lying around.

Yesterday I and my wife were out for shopping. When we came back home, what my daughter had for us took us by surprise. Our showcase was completely covered with papers. There were 16 papers, most of them drawings, a collage and one used for practicing spelling. She had them ingeniously displayed on the showcase. She had tucked the upper part of the papers in the drawer and the remaining that bore the drawing was left exposed. We felt as though we have entered a poster exhibition hall. For a moment we didn’t believe that she did all the drawings.

What she did next was even more surprising. She ushered us to each drawing and she had her own story behind each drawing. Let me take you through to some of her works and how she described them.


This she said is copy of her doll Jo Jo. But she has added a second name and given the doll a new name as Jo Jo Karma.


This she said was practicing the spelling of my name. She said that once when her teacher asked her to write her father’s name she failed to spell correctly. So she needed to drill the spelling of my name.
This she said is our altar. You can see the butter lamps lit, the water offering kettle, a row of water offering cups. Actually there should be seven but she drew nine.

This she said is the stupa near her school. You can see 'darshing' and 'agay' written in Dzongkha.

This of course is me.
This is a collage of our Fourth King. You can see just below the picture 'My king, very beautiful'
These are the fruits she like.


After she finished showing us all the drawings, I mumbled to myself 'My daughter is learning'.

Friday, November 25, 2011

After failing in exams

Last year I embarked upon a small project to find out the possible factors attributing to student's poor academic achievement. One section of the project required me to find out student's reaction when their teacher declared them failed and how society (parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, etc) reacted to them. I interviewed them and recorded our conversation. The following is a transcription without any manipulations of what they said . But the names aren't of anybody whom I interviewed.

Sangay: I was not able to go home that day (result declaration day) because I dreaded my father. He is a very strict man and I knew for sure that he would bash me. So I spent the night at one of my friend's house. The next day my father, on the pretext of excusing me took me home and bashed me black and blue. From that day onward I thought I should quit schooling.

Namgay: My neighbors insulted me by saying that I am older than other students and asked me if I wasn't ashamed of failing. They said if I had married I would have become a father.

Dorji: My friends shouted aloud on the way home that I have failed. While others laughed. It sounded like a joke for them but for me it was a big humiliation. From that day on I couldn't get into anybody’s company for quite a long time.

Lepcha: My friends passed me critical comments that next year I would be completing class 14. What they meant by that was that having studied in seven twice would take me directly to 14. They also added that I had only one year left to be graduating from a college and that I would be getting a job much earlier than them.

Yangka: I went to my cousin’s birthday party. There I met many of my relatives. Many of them asked me if I had passed. I had to tell them over and over that I have failed and it was so embarrassing that I had to quietly leave the party without even delivering the birthday gift.

Lethro: I felt embarrassed to sit in the same class. Other students would call me 'repeater'. It was more embarrassing to know that I was the tallest boy sitting in the class. At one point of time I thought I should quit schooling.

Well! What's your conclusions? I am sure you have many in your mind. Do you think parents, relatives, neighbors, friends and teachers should look down on children than providing support and motivating them? Do you think they should help remove the stigma attached to failing exams? I have already made many conclusions and written a report. This year's result declaration day for students is just around the corner. Do you think some students would suffer similar ordeals?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bhutanese films not so Bhutanese

Its been a long time since I last watched a Bhutanese movie. Gasa Lamai Singye is the the last I watched in the 90s. After a long gap, last evening I watched a recently released Bhutanese film in Samtse cinema hall. The movie quite surprised me by it's excellent visual and sound effect. Compared to Gasa Lamai Singye they were too good. I started to appreciate Bhutanese movie makers.

However my appreciation was soon marred when I noticed that the movie wasn't much the Bhutanese way. There wasn't any Bhutanese scent about it. It rather sent out an aura of a Bollywood or Hollywood film.The acts, dialogues, dresses, dances, hairstyles, songs, the story and the theme, practically everything were but aping of Bollywood and Hollywood movies. (Here I must make a point clear. I don’t mean to undermine Hollywood and Bollywood movies in anyway. They are absolutely great film industries doing a great job)

If Bhutanese movies pick such trend, it would be detrimental to the health of our tradition and culture. In fact, I didn't have to wait long to see it's effect. It was already taking toll on people who watched the movie that night. As everybody came out of the hall, people talked about how they enjoyed the film. Some of them talked about how the hero fell in love with the girl, eloped, fought villains and eventually got married. Some talked about the agility of the hero in pant and shirt attire in dance. Young girls talked about the beauty of the scene in one of the songs done in a foreign country. Boys talked about how beautiful the actress looked when she wore pants and skirts and the acrobatic, Kung-Fu like fight style of the hero. When they talked about such stuffs they are bound to try them because often we do whats in our minds.

I wanted to check with other Bhutanese movies and the next day I bought some Bhutanese film CDs and watched them. To my surprise, they too were tainted by Bollywood and Hollywood influence. Moreover, the movies centered around one theme i.e.love. As most love stories end on a pleasant note by way of marriage or reconciliation, it doesn't leave anything much for the viewer to think beyond, thereby teaching nothing. There is more to learn in life than just love. Duty, sacrifice, racial abuse, substance abuse, commitment, health, education, you name it.

Bhutanese film industry should produce educative movies, touching various themes. In doing so they must be mindful of the culture and tradition of our country. It should learn from movies like Gasa Lamai Singye, the old one NOT the new one; from Ap Wang Drukgyel, the old one, NOT the new one. They reflect true Bhutanese culture. The dialogues, the dress, the story, the songs, the act, everything is just so Bhutanese and thus worth emulating. The only shortcoming is in the visual and sound effect but that’s fine because back in 90s we didn't have much tech and even if we had, there weren't many technology savvies. Movie makers must be conscious of keeping the films consistent to the values and principles of Bhutanese tradition and culture.

PS:This is a personal opinion. Some may want to rebut my opinion. That'would be fine. because we would be starting a discussion over the issue because it needs to be looked into before our unique, age-old culture gets diluted any further.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Moenlam Chenmo in Samtse: In splendid pomp

On any of the days last week if you would have gone to visit houses anywhere at the outskirts of Samtse Dzongkhag, you would have found all houses locked because people have all left for Samtse public ground to attend a grand ceremony called Moenlam Chenmo. Now you might wonder what Moenlam Chnemo is. Well! I am not a religion expert and I can’t tell you correctly what it is but I can tell you what the person who sat next to me during the ceremony told me.

It’s a religious ceremony believed to bring peace, prosperity and wellbeing to all sentient beings on the earth. One or more high rank Lamas preside over the ceremony. Unlike other small scale rituals, it is held for a longer period of time ranging from a week to over a month. Public devotees come, pray and get the blessings from the ceremony. Literally it would translate to ‘The Grand Pray’ (Moenlam-Pray, Chenmo-Grand) but by objective it is ‘World Peace ceremony’. Of the two possible names, the latter is used most.

Whose idea was it to conduct Moenlam chenmo in Samtse?
According to the master of ceremony in his opening speech, the idea sprang up during last year’s Dzongkag Yargye Tshogdue, when two member Gups stood up to say that for a Dzongkhag like Samtse where there is likelihood of cultural influence form the neighboring country India, ceremony such as Moenlam Chenmo is overdue. It wasn’t the voice of only two persons but of many hundreds because the idea came as a wish from the people in their Gewogs. They received a cent percent support from the rest of the members in the Tshogdue and the chairman declared it a very pious idea and decided that they would divert all efforts towards making it a reality.

Budget:
Subsequently series of meetings were held to plan the logistics of the ceremony. Budget was discussed and the members in the meeting raised hands as though an award would be given to who raised first, to say that they will contribute form their salary, a certain percent. This is an indication that Bhutanese people would willingly give whatever when its religion. Then other civil servants, private sectors, corporate sectors, business community and farmers followed suit. A total of Nu.83 lakhs was gathered. This was truly a gesture of devotion of our people for religion.

Preparation:
Preparation started. The organizing team did not encounter any hardship in mobilizing labor required. Civil servants, farmers, businessman, students, police and army they all lend their helping hands. And just the day before the grand ceremony the public ground looked splendidly exquisite. A makeshift plastic covered roof was built covering almost the entire ground under which the devotees would be sitting. The most beautiful object on the ground was the pavilion that overlooked the ground. Painstakingly adorned with glossy Dhar from outside and tapestries of the Buddha on the inner walls, it just looked magnificent. And at the centre of the grand pavilion was the majestic golden throne on which the Je Khenpo would be sitting and presiding over the ceremony.


Just above the ground and behind the Dzong a makeshift kitchen was built from where food and refreshments would be served to all the devotees. There too were volunteers. People willingly came forth to be chefs because they believed that more than sitting, praying and chanting the mantra during the ceremony, will cooking and dispensing food fetch them more merits.
Picture:The pavilion
Picture:The golden throne on which the Je Khenpo would be sitting and presiding over the ceremony.
Picture: HH the Je Khenpo
Picture:The makeshift plastic covered roof covering almost the entire ground

Transportation:
People as far as from Tendu (75kms from Samtse) Sipsoo(50 kms from Samtse), Ghumauney (25 kms from Samtse), chengmari (10kms) Mechetar (5 kms) came to make their prayers and wishes but at the end of each day they had to return home. So the organizing team arranged vehicles for them for free. People expressed gratitude to the Dzongkhang administration team for arranging vehicles without which they would have had to travel by taxi which costs a lot.

Accommodation:
While for people from Dorokha and others who could not return home every evening, tents were pitched to spend their nights. They were also served meals.
Picture: Tents pitched for people coming from far.

The devotees:
Approximately more than eight thousand devotees gathered at the ground everyday. They would come as early as 200am because coming any later than 2:00am would leave them no space to sit in the makeshift roof on the ground. As the ceremony proceeded everybody got busy on their rosary chanting prays and mantra Om A Hum Baza Guru Padma Sedhi Hum. When they were tired sitting they would stand up to prostrate in reverence and faith to HH the Je Khenpo. Older people collected every bit of energy they had to use for prostrating. Even children, if they had money did not buy toys this time but rosaries and they too were lost deep praying. Students would come right away to the ground from school and sit there for awhile before they headed home. People of all walks of life gathered there to pray for peace, prosperity and wellbeing of all living beings.




And I:
And I was one among them praying, chanting and prostrating. I have never been religious this long before. For the entire week I sat there not just chanting prayers but fascinated by the way people’s devotion and faith manifested in various ways. In fact I was already relishing the prospect of receiving blessings from the ceremony long in advance. I already posted news in the facebook to invite people to attend the ceremony.
I took my rosary and chanted as many Om A Hum Baza Guru Padma Sedhi Hum as I could and this (photo below) was the count on my rosary at the end of the ceremony. (I hope you all know how to count on a rosary)
As I sat among the crowd I felt a world I never felt before. There were kind people everywhere. There were people who willingly lend their helping hands. There were polite people. The ground was filled with aura of kindness, politeness, generosity, friendliness and buzzes of mantras and prays. And I felt as if I was experiencing heaven. Instantly I prayed that the world be filled with such places and people for all the time to come.

Donations:
Because we believe that any investment we make in today’s life for the good of all living things reaps good Karma in the next life which will bestow us with better living form such as humans or Close-to-God form, people, despite of the contribution they have already made still wanted to make more contribution but this time in the form of donation. A corner exclusively meant for donation attracted almost all devotees. The donation was for four causes:
1. For offering meals to all devotees.

2. For next year’s Moenlam Chenmo.

3. For wellbeing and longevity prayers for His Majesty the King and self.

4. For Saving animal from butchering.
By the fourth day of the Moenlam Chnemo, this is what the board that displayed the total amount donated read. I could take the shot of the fourth day’s update only. The amount would have been the double by the last day.

Maiden display of the giant tapestry (Thongdrel):
The last day had the maximum number of people than any other days because the day had two important events, 1. The maiden display of the giant tapestry 2. Administrating blessing by HH the Je Khenpo. More than fifteen thousand devotees had gathered even earlier than the usual reporting time of 2:00am. The former took place in the morning while the later towards the afternoon.

Before daybreak the new giant tapestry (Thongdrel) of Guru Padma Sambawha was hoisted and consecrated by HH the Je Khenpo an up it stayed majestically in the air taking its first display. It was an awe-inspiring scene. It is believed that even by a single glimpse at the giant tapestry would wash away all our sins. After the consecration was done everybody took turns to walk past the base of the tapestry to get the blessings of the Guru Thongdrel.



Blessing:
Perhaps the most awaited event in the ceremony was HH The Je Khenpo’s Tshe Wang (blessing). Starting from about 1:00pm, HH the Je Khenpo walked through the crowd and ended the Wang at about 6:00 pm.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am nervous

It’s been more than a week that I have been pondering for a topic for my first blog post but I could not find one. My mind's been racing. It picked a topic and started thinking on it but it soon found a drawback and shooed it off and started thinking on another. It disappointing because even a week after I created my blog page I have nothing to post. At one moment I got cold feet and nearly gave up on it. (What a shaky start. Isn’t it?) But I had a hunch that I should keep going. And it dawned on me this morning that I was actually quite nervous of starting blogging. So I felt ‘why not I candidly share the reasons that make me nervous? Why not I make a topic out of it for my first post? It will help clear my mind.’ So i decided on it and here I am with the first topic.

My hands are still shaking as I write the reasons. But I am collecting my composure and here they are the reasons.
1. Poor writing skills: I have never practiced writing before. As a school boy I never participated in any writing competitions, let alone winning. As my blog title– ‘The Novice Pen’ suggests, I am a novice writer. A writing tutorial says ‘Writing is no easy task. It needs gathering ideas, refining them, putting them in to logical sequence and good language,’ So, Would I be able to do all these? Would I be able to post articles worth reading?

2. Bad language skills: A bad writing skill means I have poor language skills. I remember my teachers always urging me to read and saying that reading is an effective means to improve your language skills but I never read, owing to which I have a very poor knowledge in language today. So I am prone to myriads of grammatical errors.

3. Scared of scrutiny: You know that I have neither good writing skills nor language skills. Now imagine what kind of a blogger I would become. But as I stated earlier that I have developed some kind of liking for blogging I will keep posting despite of my shortcomings. These fragile articles will be read by people all over the world, and I am scared of their eagle eyes.

However, I will not be deterred by any of the above factors because the sole purpose of venturing into blogging is to get rid of them. As I post more articles I am sure I will receive valuable comments from readers on the subject i write and language. I will respect and value all the comments and work on them.
Wish me luck!