Sexual harassment

My wife and our daughter, aged 12, walk home every afternoon. They enjoy their walks, but they’ve been harassed by all sorts of men including commuters, taxi drivers and even school students, in uniform, younger than our son.

The eve-teasing is offensive and hurtful. Yet, they’ve continued to walk, even if they have to suffer sexual harassment, hoping that, sooner or later, we, men, will learn to respect our women, and permit them the freedom and simple pleasure of walking home from school or work.

During their walk today, they met the procession of vehicles carrying effigies and other remnants from the Jana Chidey prayer ceremonies. The men yelled catcalls at them; then they threw some remnants at them; and when my wife protested, they bombarded them with even heavier remains from the prayer ceremonies.

And who were the perpetrators? A couple of monks, in robes. And four policemen, in uniform.

My wife and daughter were harassed by monks, whose mission it is to spread the dharma, and by policemen, whose job it is to protect our citizens.

So they’ve decided to stop walking. They’ve given up. They’ve realized that eve-teasing in Thimphu is not just offensive and hurtful – it’s dangerous. They’ve decided, wisely, that, even in the middle of the day, Thimphu’s roads are not safe for women.


Praying for help

Lam Sangay

Yesterday, at the opening ceremony of ECB’s annual conference, I sat near Lam Sangay Dawa and his student-monks from Semtokha shedra. They were there, beside the choesham, microphone in hand, ready to preside over the sacred marchang ceremony.

The marchang, which was composed and popularized by Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyal, is an offering of wine – an oblation – to the lama, yidam, pawo, khandrum, choechong sungma, neydag and zhidag to secure their blessings for the removal of obstacles, and for the successful outcome of the endeavour being inaugurated.

Naturally, the sacred ceremony is important. And Lam Sangay and his monks were at hand, happy to provide the spiritual and psychological support needed to ensure the success of the new endeavour.

And what was the endeavour? It was the Election Commission of Bhutan’s Second Annual Conference. But Lam Sangay Dawa, who would lead the prayers, did not know it. He hadn’t been told.

So after exchanging a few pleasantries, he turned to me and asked, “What are we inaugurating today?” He explained that he needed to visualize the purpose of the marchang ceremony. And that he wished to offer his own prayers for the successful outcome of whatever it was that we were launching.

We had asked Lam Sangay and his monks for their help. And they had obliged. But somehow, we had forgotten to explain why we needed their help – why we wished to invoke our guardian deities.

And it’s not just the ECB. Lam Sangay Dawa, who is 56 years old and has already spent 46 of those years in the monk body, confided that he’s hardly ever told why he’s asked to perform the sacred marchang ceremony.




This morning, while going through some pictures, I came across a photograph that had friendship written all over it. I’m featuring it in the banner to celebrate international friendship day, almost a week after it’s over.

Seeing ‘dungs’ and ‘jalings’

Did Linda see the "jalings"?

Did Linda see the "jalings"?

Tan, Archibad, Tshewang, I_am_glad_I_didn’t_vote, GoodToSeePM&OLLaughing&Talking(aspiring), Tshewang Rinzin, The Postman, Karma CW, Ping­ pong and Namgay all identified the picture correctly and collectively screamed that “The big picture” was a pair of dhung chen, the beautiful long horns used by our monks.

The flood of correct answers prompted one reader, Linda Wangmo, to try to distract other readers by pointing out that the picture could be a close-up of a pair of jalings. Only one, SonanG, seems to have fallen for Linda Wangmo’s trap.

One reader, Nedag, berated me for posting a picture that was “…too easy” and called for “…more challenging” ones. And that’s exactly what I’ll need to do.

All of you deserve prizes. But Tan was first. Tan was correct. And Tan was straightforward. So, I’m awarding the prize to Tan. Congratulations! Please let me know, by email, where I should send your prize.

I’ve learnt two lessons from “The big picture – 2”. One, that the clue was obvious, which made the challenge too easy. And two, that our readers have a thorough awareness of our rich culture and traditions. The picture of the dhungs was taken during the Tendrel Tsechu in Tashichhodzong last month.

On lesson number one, I will, as Nedag advised, post more challenging challenges. But you can help too. If you have any photograph that you’d like to feature in “The big picture”, please email it to me. But you’ll need to sponsor the prize too. Otherwise, the incentives may not be right!

Guru’s birthday

Monks celebrating Guru

Monks celebrating Guru

Today, the 10th day of the 5th month, the Zhung Dratshang, our central monastic order, performed Tsho-khor for Trel-da Tshechu to commemorate Guru Rimpoche’s birth anniversary, and to offer prayers for the welfare of our country.

The Trel-da Tshechu­­ was first performed, on the 10th day of the 5th month, by Guru Rimpoche to mark the completion of Samye Monastery, Tibet’s first and oldest monastery. The monastery was built by King Trisong Detsen in the 8th century.

This week’s photo banner features monks performing the Tsho-khor for Trel-da Tshechu at the kuenra – the main assembly hall – ­of the Tashichho Dzong.

Tashichodzong: summer residence

Blessed Bhutan

Coming to Thimphu

In keeping with tradition that goes back many centuries, His Holiness the Je Khenpo took up his summer residence at the Tashichodzong today, the first day of the fourth month of our calendar.

And, in keeping with tradition, residents of Thimphu rushed to receive blessings from His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the Nangtens (sacred relics) of the Zhung Dratshang, the central monastic order.  Despite the rain, people of all walks lined the streets to welcome His Holiness back to Thimphu. It took the entourage almost seven hours to travel the short distance from Semtokha to Tashichodzong.

This week’s photo features Thimphu residents, some with their entire families, receiving blessing from His Holiness.

Education for all

Consider this: Education will get Nu 9,489.130 million for capital investments during the 10th plan. That is almost Nu 9.5 billion to develop the general education system. That works out to almost 13% of the 10th plan’s entire capital budget. That also works out to more than Nu 60,000 for each of the 157,112 students currently in the education system.

I’m happy that the government is investing heavily in education. Education has been drawing a lot of flak lately – standards are perceived to be falling, schools deteriorating, and school enrolment increasing at the expense of quality. So I’m glad that we are set to change our ways. After all, “the future of our country lies in the hands of our youth”.

Now consider this: The Dratshang, our central monk body, will get Nu 23.041 million for capital investments during the 10th plan to improve its education system. That works out to roughly Nu 7,680 for each of the 3000-odd students currently in the monk body. The money is just enough to build the one monastic school, in Mongar, during the 10th plan. And it looks like no other capital work – school repair and expansion, teacher training, curriculum development or the establishment of libraries – is planned for the next five years.

Monastic education has received little attention in the past. And the next five years threatens to be no different. We should reconsider. There are many more students in our monastic schools than we think. And literally all of them come from the poorest of the poor families.

We should also be concerned. If religious schools are sidelined, their students can easily feel left out and become disaffected radicals. This has happened throughout the world, regardless of religion. Let’s learn from their mistakes. Let us develop our monastic schools along with our general schools.

Quality education is important. And it is equally important for young monks. The future of our country lies in their hands too.