Thursday, July 13, 2017

                                  Tobacco making headlines in media

Tobacco and cannabis use recently made headlines in the mainstream and social media for wrong reasons. While the phrases used in the headlines were not only catchy but misleading in some aspects. Headlines should be catchy for the NEWS to sell but the content of any news must give the true picture of the issue at hand. Media must play a very important role in dissemination of information-in the truest sense!!

Let me give my opinion on the headlines and the issue of substance use in the country.

First the Editorial on Kuensel dated July 5, 2017 with the headlineBan has not worked. Now what?

Ban has not worked?? 
Hmmmmm…??    I wonder how one can come to conclusion on whether the “Ban” has really worked or not without actually comparing the data before the ban and after. Yes, it is true that the percentage of tobacco user in the country is quite high. But has the percentage been lower before the ban? This question has to be answered before one can conclude “Ban has not worked”
However, this is not to dismiss the fact that tobacco ban is without shortcomings. Every policy will have its own share of its limitations. Black market is one major side effects of the ban.

Secondly, Bhutan has the highest percentage (29.3) of adolescent tobacco users. While the figure mentioned in the report is credible, but media should make an effort to give the interpretation of what the figure really represent.

Now, picture this: 
A survey on Blood pressure amongst Bhutanese population has been carried out to study the prevalence of high BP.  The normal BP is 120/80 mmHg.  If the study shows 80% of the respondents have higher than 120/80 mmHg, media must NOT come up with crazy headline “80% of all Bhutanese are suffering from high BP.”   Most of the respondents may be 70% will have BP level ranging from 121-130/80mmHg, which is not a hazardous BP level. Only 140/90mmHg can be considered as HIGH, which only 10% or less may be suffering from.

Similarly, when it comes to issues like substance use, it is very important to dissect the figure and accordingly inform the public. The percentage of tobacco user may be around 30% but this figure does not represent the problem user (smoking more than 4 days a week). The problem user accounts to only 6.6% which comes to around 4,653 adolescents (9.4% of total population is adolescent which comes to around 70500 adolescent in the country). Considering the fact that more than 6 million worldwide (1 on about 1200 people) die each year due to tobacco related disease, the burden in Bhutan is not much of an issue.

Now, on the other hand, these high figures are definitely alarming and must be given due importance and policies in place to prevent further inflation of the figures. There is every chance that any of the 29. 3 % tobacco user can become problem user- We must prevent this at all cost. Secondly, substances such as tobacco and alcohol are called “gateway drugs.” After individuals are introduced to these substances, they are at higher risk of initiating other hard drugs like marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs.

Lastly, whenever an agency conduct an important study, after finalizing the reports, they must ensure the reports are shared with media houses and explain to them in detail the findings and the interpretation of the figures for public consumption. The media on the other hand must not demand or sneak at the draft reports/incomplete documents and publish just to make headlines. It is a shared responsibility of both the concerned agency and the media; the ball must be handled together instead of throwing in each other’s court.

By the way, Bhutan also tops the list in alcohol consumption with 24.2%.  Anyone surprised????

Disclaimer: The views expressed here is my own personal opinion and doesn’t represent views of any institution or agency

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Stranger

I did not believe when people told me that he is a cheat, liar and a thief.

I saw a familiar face while walking down the vegetable market last evening. He was staring at small kids playing in the busy street of Thimphu. His innocent, deep eyes were too familiar to not notice. I walked down to him and offered to take him for tea. He was emotionless but he agreed.
“Where do you live?” I Inquired.
“I live wherever I want” he mumbled.
“Which grade are u in?”
“I don’t study.”
All the while he never looked directly at my eyes. He was avoiding me for some reason. He hung his head low whenever he spoke. I learned that he dropped out of school from 9th standard. He was from the east and he had nowhere to go. I invited him to spend a few days with me before his return to the village. I was living all alone as I was posted three hours’ drive from my wife and kids. Tshering Zidane Tenzin was his name and 17 was his age.
I laughed at his name and asked, “Where is your mother?”
“Don’t know”
“Your father?”
“He is not important”
I could ask him no more questions after that. The sun lazily raced towards the horizon and the dusk soon gave way to darkness. Tshering’s head was still hung low and was shifting his legs every now and then. I prepared us dinner and ate in silence.
He had a bite on his neck which showed that he had a lover and his hair was dyed to orange yellow. I heard from my neighbor that he was riding a stolen bike. He was found loitering with other hooligans for almost a month. But no one knew where he was from and why he came to Thimphu. But I felt no threat from him and his acts did not bother me much.
Meanwhile, the geyser had prepared for my shower. I glanced at Tshering and went inside the bathroom with an uneasy mind.
Thirty minutes later, I found out that I have been bolted in the bathroom from outside.
“Tshering…Tshering…..” but I got no answer.
“Tshering!!!” I shouted and then banged the door hard but to no avail.
 I shouted for help from my bathroom window but in vain. I had to spend the whole night in the bathroom. The next morning, my eldest son drove from his mother’s place. My wife had sent him after I did not receive her numerous calls.
 He quickly unlocked the door and exclaimed, “What happened, dad?”
I was startled for a moment and hesitantly responded, “It was your brother”
“What??? He is with mom at home”
“No, your other brother”
“Dad, com’ on, Sonam is just three years old”
Then, I hung my head low and said, “Your half-brother” ” 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Farewell to U my dear Alcohol.

"U ve been a very good fren bt now u are acting strange and demanding too much from me.. Now U ve started drinking me..I almost killed the GOAT.. so, i ll have to break up with you after exactly a year of wonderful relationship..Thank U for teaching me 2 dance anywhere i felt like dancing and boosting my confidence level. i shall always remember those elated moments.
But, recently, U made me crawl on all four over muddy puddles and forced me to sleep in those DIRTY drains..I even got AMNESIA;i still cant rememba how i reached home from the BAR..i dont want to miss anymore moments of my life.."

your's truely,


Note: I wrote this after i got ridiculously drunk during Gomphu Kora in March, 2013.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Night with cow herders

The sun wanted to play hide and seek. It hastily hid behind a big mountain; the very mountain I was trying to leave behind. But my legs were too heavy for me to carry and I couldn’t keep up the pace. I was alone. I was on my way from a visit to a remote village called Melongkhar in Trashiyangtse. I had already started my return journey towards Trashiyangtse. The school principal had generously asked me to spend the night at his residence but I was determined to return home. The journey takes about 5 hours to reach the nearest road point but I was determined to make it in 4 hours. It was a downhill journey and I felt confident until the sun prematurely hid behind the mountain.

Fear started overtaking me. I knew I wouldn't be able to reach my destination nor can I return back to the village as I was in the middle of my journey. The songs of the birds and the rustling leaves were my only friends but I grew suspicious of them. I felt like they were hatching an evil plot, along with the sun, against me. By now, the sun’s rays has let go off its grip from the tallest mountain peak.  The blanket of darkness began to cover the entire mountain slope.

I took out my ‘Black and White’ Nokia mobile phone from my hemchu. It was 5:42 pm. Anxiously, I dragged myself down the sloppy trail hoping to meet other travelers. Soon, I met scores of travelers- travelers with horns and tails. Nonetheless, I was happy to meet my companions for I knew its master won’t be far. Few hundred steps and I landed at the doorstep of a cowshed. An elderly couple, Meme Pema Norbu and Abi Gumo were its owners. They were sitting happily around a small fire in their cowshed no bigger than an average toilet in Thimphu.
Meme and Abi

“Kuzuzangpo la,” I greeted them.
“Kuzuzangpo lopon.” “ Oga joncha ya la?,” meme Pema Norbu greeted back with a question.
I told them about my journey in a tired tone and ask them how much longer I have to walk to reach the road point. Meme Pema Norbu confirmed that the darkness would outrun me and offered their cowshed for me to spend the night. I agreed without second thought and quickly settled near the fireplace. Abi Gumo offered me a big bowl of tarchu (whey) which I hurriedly gulped in a single sip. She offered me another. This time I was more civilized and drank with proper etiquette. (I could still feel the warmth of the fire and the warmth of their company as I write these lines).

Meme and Abi have been herding cows for more than four decades and are married for 43 years. They herd cattle for about 9 months and spends the other three months in their village. All their children are grown up and have gone their own ways. Cattle are their main source of livelihood and they seemed to be more attached to their cattle than their children. They have very little expectations from life and are happy with their cattle. They were more content with their 18 cows in their simple cowshed than those businessmen who own dozens of trucks and live in sophisticated mansion. Happiness radiates from their face and there is nothing more peaceful than a true, happy, genuine smile. The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

Abi Gumo served me dinner and three of us ate like a family. I felt very much at home in their small, dilapidated cowshed. It was more comfortable than the luxurious hotels I have been to. One can never eat like a child,eat like nobody is judging you, in any hotel. But, in their shabby hut, I slurped three plates of rice in peace and the meal was more satisfying than the grandest of dinner.

Tensionmo and her mother      
With filled belly, sleep was next on my menu. I made my own bed using my gho as pillow and Abi Gumo gave me a blanket. We chatted about our lives and shared our past and aspirations of our future. Meme Pema Norbu claim to have been to Thimphu a decade ago while Abi Gumo was content to have visited Chorten Kora. Most of the talks were about their cows. Meme was in happy mood because his toka (ox) returned after wandering off in the forest for 3 days and Abi was happier because one of her cows gave birth to a healthy calf. The calf was just 10 days old and Abi Gumo gave me the honor of naming the calf. I wanted to name the calf “Tension” (my nickname) but since the calf was a female, I named her “tensionmo. Abi spent the night chanting “Tensionmo…” in order to by heart the name of her new calf while meme was chanting “Om Ah Hung Baza Guru Padma Sedhi Hung.”

With the dazzling stars above my head mesmerizing my eyes and the mighty Tawang Chhu humming from far below, the melancholic breeze caressed my hair gently drowning me into deep sleep. Last thing I remember was the betraying songs of mosquitoes encouraging me to slumber away into the realms of dreams.

When I woke up the next morning, Abi Gumo was still chanting “Tensionmo….” while Meme was into deep meditation. Abi offered me a bowl of tarchu which I drank, simultaneously, scratching my hands and legs. Everyone was happy; the mosquitoes being the happiest. I quickly got up, dressed and went to enjoy the morning fresh air. I took some pictures of the cowshed and “Tensionmo.” Abi Gumo has already prepared breakfast when I returned. After a healthy breakfast, I took pictures of my friendly companions, thanked them for their warmth and love, and offered some cash for their hospitality. I took a final glance at “Tensionmo” and continued my journey with happiness in my heart and tears in my eyes.
The Cowshed

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa

With an encouraging look on his face, he urged me to try little harder. His expression was like “It is coming, try little harder.” 
Clank !! Clank!!! Clank!!! 
The lid of the kettle came off before I could land a drop of tea on Rigsum Gonpa Lama’s Cup.
It was during annual Tshechu in Trashiyangtse I was appointed as a Zhudrep (A person involved in offering tea, fruits, sweets, etc to rows of people starting from a lama/ high ranking official). All eyes were fixed on me while I was offering tea to the Lama. With the clanking noise, now, even the ears in the room were fixed at me as well.
I was numbed for a second and then involuntarily, I picked up the lid, mounted on the kettle and placed my fingers on the lid. Then I continued serving tea to the Lama.  I was supposed to place my finger on the lid before I pour tea to prevent the lid from falling off. But with just a single practice with an empty kettle, one can hardly anticipate such mistake while one is focused on precariously carrying a hot kettle on your palm and walk towards the lama while at the same time perfectly aligning step by step with your partner.
Now let me provide a short history on Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal journeyed towards Bhutan and when he arrived at Thang-dzong Nang, in 1637, the Bhutanese people, hailing from all walks of life, and also from neighboring countries (today India and Nepal) greeted him with a grand reception. During this event, inconceivable amount of material riches were piled up before him in offering, and taking this as an auspicious event, Zhabdrung Rinpoche significantly renamed the place as Pungthangkha meaning "the Mouth of the Plains to Heaps [of Riches]." Then he had everyone present there to sit in rows and recite the lineage-supplication to his successive re-incarnations, which was indeed the beginning of the present-day "Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa" (rows of auspicious sitting) ceremony. Since then, as all forms of noble activities were ventured with the preceding of this ceremony, it served the purpose of accomplishing all endeavors free of obstacles (Jamtsho, T, 2009).
Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa is offered at the beginning of any significant public function in Bhutan.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Juliet

Dearest Luv,
   Two Thousand three hundred and seventy six days ago, my eyes caught an angel. It has captured her like a Kodak and ran her image million times in my head. Cupid has struck me with his arrow perfectly. The arrow had your name dear. You are the answer to my prayers; a gift from the heaven above.
 In you, I found my other half; the better half that I had yearned to see for a long time. You are the destination of my life’s journey and I do not wish to travel any farther without you. We shall journey together till the end.
        The journey so far has been great. We had to travel on bumpy roads at times but we came out strong. Our strength is our ability to understand each other. The foundation of our relationship is rooted deeply in mutual trust, respect and understanding. These are the fuel that will keep the fire of love burning.
Our fate has been kind and the karmic connection unquestionably strong. The invisible string of fate has bound us well. I hope the string would bind us together in our coming lives too. I shall always be your Romeo.

                                                      Yours Alys,