Archery finals

Also beautiful

Also beautiful

The 2009 National  Coronation Cup archery finals are being played in the Changlimithang grounds. Team Phoja, who are widely regarded as the strongest team this season, needed just four rounds to win the first game. The score: 25 – 0. And the time: only 10:30 AM. Most spectators were resigned to a quick second game, and hence the match, in favor of the much more superior team Phoja. Some even ventured that the match would be over before lunch.

But team MPAB didn’t give up. They began the second match by scoring points before team Phoja, preventing, much to their relief, a second nill game. And they continued to do well till team Phoja overtook them to take the lead, 22 – 18. In the last round for the day, which started after 6:00 PM, spectators were treated to a dramatic turn around as MPAB scored four kareys to Phoja’s one sa-karey to take the second game 22 – 25.

The deciding game will be played tomorrow.

Talo archery

mila-tobgay-archeryI was in Puankha over the weekend to participate in a friendly game of archery in Talo. The game was organized by the local people to celebrate the inauguration of the Talo Sherda library by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

Built by the Zhabdrung, Talo’s historic archery grounds have seen fierce competitions among many successive generations of the neighboring villages of Talo and Nobgang. And the tradition of the grueling four-day archery challenge between these two villages continues to be the highlight of the local calendar even today.

This week’s photo features team Talo-Nobgay distracting Mila Tobgay, our ace shooter, as he prepares to deliver his arrow.

National Zorig Day

zorig-day2About eight years ago, representatives from the National Technical Training Authority petitioned His Holiness the Je Khenpo to identify a deity to watch over skilled workers. His Holiness recognized Pel Dueki Khorlo (in Sanskrit, Kalachakra) as the Zorig Deity. His Holiness also declared the 15th day of the 3rd month as Zorig Day, and composed a 12-stanza moenlam to worship Dueki Khorlo and to advance vocational skills in our country.

Yesterday, on the 15th day of the 3rd month, Zorig Day was celebrated across the country, especially in our vocational training institutes, but also in some business establishments that employ skilled workers.

In Thimphu, the day was observed in the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, which has put on an exhibition on Bhutan’s traditional art and craft. The exhibition runs for three days, till tomorrow.

Visit the institute in Kawajangsa to celebrate our traditional art and craft, and to honour our skilled workers.

Traditional Day of Offering…for the people

Today, the 1st day of the 12th month, is celebrated as buelwa phuewi nyim – the traditional day of offering. The tradition of people making offerings to the Dratshang on this day seems to have been popularized as an expression of love, devotion and loyalty to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Today is also celebrated as chunipai losar – a new year. Families and entire communities, especially in Eastern Bhutan, feast and enjoy traditional sports together for several days to welcome the new agricultural season. At the end of these non-stop festivities farmers begin the hard work of preparing their fields for the new farming cycle.

So let’s celebrate. Then get down to hard work. And there’s plenty of that in the new democratic Bhutan where offerings – of services and fulfilled promises – must be made to the people, not by them. Our King and our Constitution demand nothing less.

Chunipai losar-gi tashidelek!

A Girl with AIDS

My blogging efforts are paying off – yesterday I was invited to a private screening of “A Girl with a Red Sky”, a film about HIV/AIDS.

The film is short. But it is powerful. Tashi Gyeltshen, the film’s writer and director, presents a series of matter-of-fact conversations between the protagonist, a nine-year old girl dying of AIDS, and Death who has come to get her.

The film highlights the horrors of HIV/AIDS from a very different perspective – it shows Death shocked by the ruthlessness of the dreaded disease.

“A Girl with a Red Sky” was funded by UNICEF and YDF, and has reportedly already caught the attention of international HIV/AIDS activists. I am not surprised.

Nor will I be surprised if the film wins some international awards. Three Bhutanese directors have already shown the way: Dorji Wangchuk (for School among Glaciers, and Long Walk to Education), Kesang Chuki Dorji (for Doma Sellers) and Ugyen Wangdi (for Price of a Letter)

Well done, Tashi, and good luck.

(Of the 19 new HIV/AIDS cases detected in our country last year, 2 were infants.)

Sunday movie

I saw a movie on Sunday.

Drinchen (gratitude) is a love story that contrasts life in rural and urban Bhutan. And it draws attention to growing conflict between traditional and modern values. It is directed by Kezang P. Jigme, and stars Lhaki Dema (Best Actress 2003 for Chepai Bhu), Tshering Phuntsho and Kezang Tobden.

Drinchen is playing in Trowa, Changjiji. You should see it for three reasons.

One, you’ll enjoy the movie. The storyline is good. It has serious messages, but it is light. It’s enjoyable.

Two, you’ll support the local film industry. Bhutan makes about 18 feature films on average each year. The average film project costs about Nu 2 million and employs about 50 people. In our context, that’s serious circulation of money. And that is very good for our economy.

Three, you’ll support Trowa Theatre. The movie hall, which opened in July this year, has 440 seats, state-of-the-art sound system, air conditioning, backup power generator and a good cafeteria. Good money has obviously been invested to build infrastructure that Thimphu needs. Now Thimphu needs to use it. On both the occasions I visited, there were hardly 100 viewers each.

So go out once in a while. Go see a movie. It’s good for our economy.

Happy Lomba

My mother is a Khengpa and dad is a Haap. So our family has always celebrated both New Years.

Haaps (and Parops) celebrate Lomba, their new year, on the 29th day of the 10th month – that was yesterday.

Celebrating Lomba means eating huge quantities of hoentoe – buckwheat dumplings stuffed with dried turnip-greens, cheese and lots of butter. Good stuff.

Lomba also means sharing this delicacy with friends as an expression of one’s love, affection and loyalty to them.

All this means backbreaking work for Tashi, my long-suffering wife. Lomba would, indeed, be difficult without her!

I wish everyone Lomba Tashi Delek!

Folks, a festival

No less than 350 farmers are participating in the Folk Life Festival in Punakha. The three-day festival, which is organized jointly by Tourism Council and ABTO, was inaugurated yesterday by HRH Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck.

Though the festival was originally planned in 2005, it is said to resemble, in content and style, the hugely successful Smithsonian Folk Life Festival featuring Bhutan in Washington D.C earlier this year.

I like the idea. We need to diversify our products for tourists. And we need to expand the tourist “season” to include the sunny winter months. This festival helps in both fronts. Plus it allows Bhutanese to learn, enjoy and celebrate our culture.

I like the venue. The weather in Punakha is balmy at this time of the year – perfect conditions for the wide range of outdoor activities required for the festival. A big plus is the support to the local economy. The festival cost Nu 1.5 million, most of it would have been spent locally.

I’m not sure about the turnout. I counted only 11 tourists yesterday. That’s bad. But if the festival is marketed well, and in advance, there’s potential to attract big numbers.

I’m disappointed. Only 12 tour operators showed up yesterday. That’s 12 out of about 400 registered operators, most of who complain about the scarcity of tourism products. The festival is a viable product. Go check it out.

I’m happy. The farmers did not just put on a show. They genuinely enjoyed themselves. Whether they were cooking or playing archery, dancing or weaving, pounding rice or extracting oil, they had fun. And that is important.

I’m hopeful. The festival was done well. I hope it’s organized every year. Tourists and farmers would enjoy that. I certainly will.

Ap Gyengye and Bhutan

Yesterday, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and members of the Royal Family took part in the consecration ceremony at the completion of major rehabilitation carried out at Dechenphug. The rehabilitation was commanded by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the greatest Dharma King in the world.

I was barely 5 years old when my mother introduced me to Ap Gyengye in Dechenphug Monastery. Since then I’ve visited Dechenphug several times a year to honour Him and to offer prayers for His support. And during the last four decades I’ve seen increasing numbers of people make the pilgrimage to Dechenphug.

Ap Gyengye has served our King, our country, and our people exceptionally well. And our sacred relationship continues to flourish. Gyengye Jagpa Milen Kheno!

Tower in Trongsa

“I’m returning after 48 years!” exclaimed Dr Jagar Dorji, MP.

The Ta Dzong, which was constructed more than 350 years ago as a watch tower above Trongsa Dzong, was used a as a make-shift dormitory for students of Chokorling School in 1961. Dr Jagar was among the 13 students who lived in Ta Dzong for a year.

We were in attendance when His Majesty the King inaugurated the Ta Dzong as the Tower of Trongsa Museum on 10 December. The conversion of the dzong to a state-of-the-art museum took over three years and Nu 120 million. That’s a lot of money, but well worth it.

Worth it because the Tower of Trongsa shows off our history and heritage, and art and culture magnificently. Well worth it because the museum will attract tourists and much needed jobs to Trongsa.

I asked Dr Jagar what he thought of the conversion of Ta Dzong. “Nice, very nice”, he beamed. Naturally. He hails from Trongsa.

The Tower marks the completion of three interrelated projects assisted by the Government of Austria. Through the projects the Trongsa Dzong was partly renovated, the historical baa zam (traditional cantilever wooden bridge) across the Mangde-chu was rebuilt, and the Ta Dzong was converted to a world class museum.

The projects have finally made Trongsa a tourist destination. And that will allow the local economy to grow while also promoting our rich culture and heritage. Such projects must be encouraged.

Well done.