Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Morning Yoga

School and training days have taught me to clear my bowel, or “clearing the bathroom” as it used to be called, early in the morning.  They said it was healthy.  I cannot vouch whether it is so, but I can surely say that it has lot of advantages and conveniences.  Creature of habit that I am, I have become a slave to this habit.
Another habit that I can’t shed is my addiction to having something to read while I attend to this business.  For the life of me I cannot help it, even on emergencies.  The newspapers and books, forgotten and abandoned after I am through with my business, strewn all over the place, especially on the bathroom shelves, irritates my wife to no end.  But old habits die hard and I don’t seem to be improving; only my immunity towards her ramblings has improved so far.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little Known “Ara Phunmey”

The tradition of  ”Lolay” in the Wang (Thimphu region) and the “Deepawali” (sorry if I have misspelt it) in the Southern part of the country are similar, in that people, the children in the former and all age groups in the later, go around the village visiting houses and singing the lolay and doushiri.  The house owners are supposed to offer these visitors money, food, rice and even flowers, in return for which they pray and bless the household.
                Equivalent to the above two, there is another one that is being practiced in the east, (at least in Pema Gatshel).  I am not sure if it is practiced in other eastern dzongkhags.  It is called “Ara Phunmey”, literally meaning, begging for drinks.  The men folk would go around the village, singing songs.  This is done during the Losar (New Year) and Thrui (Blessed Rainy Day).
                Though it is called “Ara Phunmey”, it is not only the drinks that they are offered.  On top of the drinks they are also provided food and meat.  The group would go around the village, visiting every household and singing songs, some of which I don’t hear any more. 
                Ara ma ga nain bu
                Singchang gala drik pey
                Tshering Tshomo lu la yang chey ru ru
Bjangchuk shing go patra
So yala tsemo lha shing shokpu ruru…
                A rough translation of the song goes something like this, “Even if you do not give me ara (locally brewed wine), it’s alright to offer me bangchang/singchang (equivalent to a beer)…”
                I am not very sure if this little tradition is still observed today, but I don’t hear the song being sung these days. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Little Knowledge is a … Funny Thing?

My father used to work as a caretaker of a little government guest house, which then used to be popularly known as IB (Inspectors’ Bungalow), in a little town that neither had electricity nor bus services.  But it was somehow connected to the outside world through a rough and narrow road that remained blocked most part of monsoon.  Since there were no hotels then, the guest house used to see a lot of guests, both the official types and the private visitors.  There used to be a lot of ‘philingpa’ guests (white people) too.  Through such interactions my father, it seemed, have learnt a bit of spoken English, which he was proud of.
I remember a Mr O’Brian, a Canadian volunteer teacher, who stayed at the guest house for about a month as there was no accommodation at the school.  Like all ‘philingpas’, Mr O’Brian was also very curious to try on many Bhutanese things and ways.  Seeing us eat a dish of chilli he wanted to try it and so he did.  I don’t remember what he exactly said but, I do remember him literally locking himself up in the toilet for the next two days. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Naming Them

Bhutanese are getting more resourceful when it comes to naming; be it a person’s name or a name for their business entities.  In the eighties and early nineties there used to be a shop by the name “New Ideas”, located at the heart of Phuentsholing town.  Lots of criticisms were directed at it, accusing it of not conforming to the traditional name.  To this effect an article even appeared in the opinion column of kuensel. 
But today the trend seems to have changed drastically.  People are getting lots of “new ideas” and they are getting more imaginative by the day, when it comes to naming.  One noticeable change is in the moniker of people, which are getting complicated and some of them even sounding like tongue twisters.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Losing the Roots

I come from a small village, located at the South Eastern part of the country.  Back in the late 70s it used to be a small village of just 15 households, where everyone knew everyone.  Except for two huts, all houses were made of stone and mud.  All of them looked similar - dark and ancient, in an imposing way.  The roofs were either wood shingles or slates.  The attics were used as granary cum store room and the ground floor housed the cattle.  The family lived in the first floor, which consisted of two rooms.  The outer room served as the kitchen, dining room, drawing room and the inner one housed the altar.  The whole family shared these two rooms.
Ours was a large family, perhaps the largest in the village.  My grandfather used to pride about this very fact.  Today we are 116 members, the progeny of our grandparents. Then, we were seventeen dining members, including us, seven grand children.  One uncle used to be away most of the time, either for ‘woola’ (compulsory labour contribution) or ‘druk dom’ (labour contribution for a year by a person for every six able bodied men).  Another used to tend the cattle and the supply of butter and cheese never seemed to exhaust.  My mother and her sisters used to do the household chores and weave clothes for the entire family.  Life used to be a simple one then.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taken for Granted – Making Security Our Responsibility

“The only time we ever think about breathing is when we have trouble doing it…” says Marty Klein, of Palo Alto, California.  There are some things we take for granted and never notice it till it is lost or endangered.  Security is one such thing, in the list of a Bhutanese.  It has been presented to us on a golden platter and we made it our right and never realized how we got it and what it took to get it and even more difficult, what it takes to maintain it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Clogging! – My Losar Greetings

New Year, as per the Gregorian calendar, is just over and it’s time for another of the few new years we, the Bhutanese celebrate, in different parts of this small country – Lomba in Haa and Paro region, Chunipa  Losar in the East, Dasain in the southern part and the Daw Dangpa Losar.  The immediate one due is Chunipa Losar, popularly known as ‘The Sharchokp Losar’. 
And it is time for another round of greetings – sending wishing cards (on the dwindle now), calling up friends and families (the order of precedence here is intentional; friends are always dealt with first, especially friends of the opposite sex type, after which comes the family), sending text messages (sms), which is the most popular form as of now, and finally through social networking sites, the most popular being the facebook ( I can’t imagine how we would have managed our lives without this facebook!).