Pema’s left foot

Today I met Pema Tshering. He was born with cerebral palsy and congenital deformities in his spinal column. As a result both his arms are useless. And he has only limited use of his legs. He is 28 years old.

I first met Pema, in Mongar, over four years ago, during an audience granted to him by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck. He was lively, bright and funny. And he was confident – he eagerly accepted Her Majesty’s offer to train him at the Institute of Zorig Chusum in Thimphu.

Pema can’t walk. But he uses his feet, especially his left foot, to do everything. He picked up line drawing very quickly, so I suggested that he learn to paint. I’d thought that he could make a living selling simple artwork and postcards.

I was wrong…he was capable of much more than simple craft. He chose to learn the more physically challenging patra, traditional woodcarving, and is excelling at it. His carvings of dragons, the eight lucky signs and thuenpa pinzhi are as good as any of his classmates. And he has already sold many of his creations.

Pema has one more year of training before he graduates as a certified patra carver. After that he plans to open his own workshop. Become self sufficient. And support his grandparents. He says that he has been “fortunate”, and attributes his good luck to Her Majesty.

Look out for Pema: artist, entrepreneur, and an inspiration to us, “normal” people.


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  1. I think our youth can learn from Pema. Anything is possible. Why do our youth lose heart?
    Be trained, become skilled, on top of your school education and our youth are capable of making a difference in their own lives, as well as the society.
    Three cheers for Pema!!!
    Three cheers to Her Majesty too, for encouraging and supporting him…….

  2. This is inspirational.
    I guess many of us can learn and be inspired from Pema.

  3. this is truly inspirational. I hope you will write more on such issues in the future. Our Bhutanese youths need more inspirational figures like Pema these days. Keep up the good work,lyonpo-la.

  4. did i miss tchoden’s comment?
    oh there it is..i didnt.
    but Oh! i’d love to 🙁
    why waste time commenting on every single article..why don’t you update your own BLOG???
    by the way i dont read your comments..i mean i did, a few times ..and i have drawn a conclusion that you agree to every single thing written here..
    and you even went on to Blame DPT government for the fog /smog in Thimphu ..Get a life

  5. and..i forgot to comment on the article..
    this man is real inspiration.he is the real Bhutanese Idol(i mean one of them)

  6. everyboday is normal Lyonpo
    including pema and all the disabled people in the world. Pema is physically disabled and we are ‘able’. just a personal view

  7. Pema is sure an inspiration to us and our youth. He has the dedication and will power which some of us are devoid of…i have met pema and feel that its time we make such opportunity avaialble to others who are diffrently abled has he is…

  8. Pema must be a very talented lad. I am so impressed, but the future of many trainees from the Zorig Chusum Institutes in Thimphu Kawajangas and Trashi Yangtshe and other vocational training Institutes are in bleak. Few of them managed to set up their own business of traditional arts and crafts and few managed to find employment, but many of them go back to their villages and work on farm and sometimes find some painting or wood curving work. Quite a few of them were kept as a temporary or some called it internship in their parent institutes. They are made to work for their institute’s production sections which produce various arts for the sale, but with a pay scale of Nu.3000/month, they are having hard life. They are in dilemma, if they are included in the Government pay revise group. Their honorable Lyonpo (Labour and human resources) was found specking nothing about their pay revision in the assembly during the pay revision discussion. On the basis of their low pay scales, some teachers/lectures taking care of the sale unit even promised of providing them some percentage from the sale of their art, but when they worked hard on their piece and it was sold, the percentage went into their lecturer’s pocket. Nor it was accounted for the government revenue. Frustration appears to have built among them, but they are helpless.

  9. It is indeed sad to know that there’s actually not much scope for zorig chusum passouts, although I had always thought of them as a fortunate lot. If we think of the uniqueness of our culture and its popularity among the international people, it seems there is scope for zorig chusum products in the international market. Currently, our biggest international buyers are the tourists but we all know that our products are too expensive. From what I gather, our products need to be diversified as per the market demand. I think we have been making the same old products every time, with the same old traditional methods. How about some innovative ideas? What happened to Mawongpa? I thought they had started well and was becoming popular. I had them stitch a coat for me from a local hand woven piece of cloth. It was incredible.

    And, not to forget our own domestic buyers …….there must be a creative way of marketting for these clients….how about exploring?

    With respect to the ‘sale unit’ in the training institutes, I thought its existence was justified if it generated revenue for the development of the institute rather than individual pockets. And, as far as I know, the payment for temporary employees has increased alongwith the pay hike. So, this is good news. Be well informed before you venture into any business … my personal advice to the zorig chusum trainees.

    And, I think it is time now for the institute to modify its curriculum as per the changing market. Trainees should be given advice on possibilities in the world of work with the skills they develop. Something like career counselling ……………..

  10. Pema Tshering- I call him the Gifted one who strived hard to reach wher he is today. An ever smiling young man who teaches us that Passion can take us places.. God bless him!!
    I come from India and loved the humble and happy people of Bhutan…

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