Monkey business

I tried to avoid eye contact. And deliberately scanned the audience, desperately seeking the volunteer who would rescue me. But there was none. And, from the corner of my eye, I could see the emcee walking purposely towards me.

“We have a volunteer,” she announced, smiling yet staring firmly at me.

“Me?” I argued, and quickly looked left then right to my immediate neighbours, hopelessly expecting that she was addressing one of them.

But the emcee was already looming over me. “Yes,” she declared, and led me on to the stage. As I steadied my buckling knees, I scolded myself for getting into this fix.

The sticky situation had begun a week earlier, outside the Musk, when Xochitl Rodriguez, a volunteer with VAST, had asked me for a favour.

“It’ll depend, won’t it?” I had answered, pretending to be smart.

“It’s for the YDF foundation day,” Xochitl had implored, and started to describe the nature of her request. But I had cut her off, claiming that “If it’s for the YDF, I’ll do anything!”

When she eventually got to explain what the favour was, I had regretted that I’d been reckless. A group of young women and men calling themselves Happy Valley Entertainment were to stage a play during the YDF foundation day. The play would feature social messages. And in the tradition of forum theatre, the audience would be required to participate in the play as the plot unfolded.

Forum theatre, a form of drama developed and popularized in South America, requires members of the audience – referred to as “spect-actors” – to extemporaneously join an ongoing play, and change its plot to produce a favourable outcome, normally one that would mobilize the viewers to political and social action.

Xochitl wanted me to be a “spect-actor”! And I wanted otherwise. Not to worry, she had assured me, suddenly confident that the audience would produce many volunteers, and that I wouldn’t, after all, be needed. I felt sure that my services wouldn’t be needed too, convinced that a packed audience would produce at least one volunteer.

But a week later, in Nazhoen Pelri, on the night of the performance, no one volunteered. So Xochitl hauled me on to the stage, my heart pounding, and my mind in overdrive frantically seeking a new storyline for “Jabajasti Korean Monkey”, a play about material greed and misplaced values and priorities.

The revised rendition still had Jabajasti as a misguided young man. But after a brush with the police, he receives YDF’s help, turns over a new leaf, and becomes a role model for his family and friends.

The beginning of my impromptu performance was clumsy. But, after a while, a new story emerged, effortlessly and naturally. And I realized that I was not making anything up – I actually believed in the new storyline. I believed that our youth were brimming with potential, but were inflicted by a growing malaise, one caused by a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives. I believed that they were crying for help. And I believed that the YDF was responding.

From leadership to counseling, education to sponsorships, sports to music, training to employment, and rehabilitation to employment, the YDF provides a complete range of activities for youth throughout the country.

But what the YDF does is not enough. And what they do will never be enough as long as we, adults, choose to be spectators – seeing the unemployment, the drug abuse, the suicides, the prostitution, the burglary, the gang fights, and the desperation, but deliberately not acting on what we see.

And that night, as we celebrated YDF’s eleventh anniversary, I realized that like the powerful forum theatre, the YDF also needed “spect-actors” – leaders who would stand up and join the YDF in its mission of providing “a better today, a brighter tomorrow for the youth of Bhutan.”

Photo credit: Xochitl Rodriguez


Facebook Comments:


  1. I feel sorry to say this, sir, but I do not find any good reason or substance in this particular post of yours. I will only give my comment on the articles that make sense.

  2. OL,
    For once you have found your niche, i.e. acting. Tashi Delek!

  3. Lyonpo,

    I heard that the Salaries of the MP’s have been revised from the existing Nu36,000 per month. Is this true?


    Could you also please give me how much actually does an MP earn per month including all allowances.

    Thanking you
    yours faithfully

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