Friday, March 20, 2015

Who do we call human?


I’m writing this post with so much emotion. I feel so much pain for the subject – a fish that has been caught and cut to pieces and laid out in the bowl to fry. Let me hold my emotion and let me give you the background.

My survey team is now in Punakha. We got here on 17th evening. We are put up at an apartment at Jigmethang. We got a comfortable accommodation here because our next-door neighbor is my friend Ugyen, who works as Kidu Officer. Last night she went to a remote Nunnery and did not return – thus having to sleep alone at her house – a bit sleepless because it was my first night and did not feel much at home. Because of that lack of sleep, I had to sleep this evening at 3:30 p.m. I had a very repulsive smell of meat being cooked that it woke me up. In half sleep I asked the girls in the same room with me if someone was preparing a meat curry. They said yes.

I woke up and went to the kitchen to find those pieces of fish in the bowl. One boy frying them in hot, hot oil, one boy squatting on the floor, squashing the spices to add to the fried fish. I must tell you, this brought in me such big pity. I call it pity because it was mixed with distaste. I asked, ‘where did you get it from?’ and the boy frying it told me that uncle (one of the drivers) caught it from a pond. I expressed a bit of the upset in me and left. Then in the one minute I was in the toilet, it occurred to me that they had killed a fish on the 30th of the Bhutanese month, which is considered auspicious. Moreover today is the 9th death anniversary of my father and my visit to the Machen at the Punakha Dzong this morning to offer prayer was made to seem so fruitless. I have been wondering about the unequal capability of feeling for others for quite sometime now. I have been blind to believe that all Bhutanese have some faith in Buddhism.

I did not become a vegetarian because of my compassion for the animals. I bore distaste to the taste of meat since I was a child. But thinking about it, even if I did not have that distaste, I would have become a vegetarian as I grew up and understood the equality of pain and fear of death, the equal preciousness of life – for both human and animals.  By saying this, I do not mean to be contemptuous – there is no feeling of superiority for being vegetarian. It is my deepest wish that once we have been born as human, all of us had the same capacity to for others. And others don’t have to be just human beings. I am sad. Really sad. Why did the fish have to die for our desire for a better meal? We are not going to die even if we are not fed meat. Is it too hard to put ourselves in the place of the animal we want to eat? How hard is it to think that the fish in the bowl, the pieces of its body fried in the boiling oil is you?


I tell you this: if there is no good you can do, better not do any harm.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Baby, it is you

It has been 17 years now but I still feel the nervousness rising in me when I see him. When I talk to him, I still feel like the nervous teenager in high school who has felt her heart flutter for the first time at the sight of a very good looking boy. But I must tell you, it was not his looks that drew me to him. It was not his personality either. What was it then? I question it to myself sometimes, late at night when my husband is snoring next to me. I also wonder if I am being unfaithful to my husband by not being able to forget him. But who do I blame? Don’t doubt me. Except hugs, we have had no elicit physical relationship. And yet, when I see him, I feel my heartbeat increasing and warm blood rising to my face.

This year, I saw him twice. Though, it is always a pleasure seeing him, I fear wondering if it means the frequency is increasing. The last time I saw him was just four days back. He was very kind to drop by at my house for lunch on his way back to Thimphu from a tour he had in the eastern dzongkhags. I must confess if my husband was home, I wouldn’t have been able to invite him for lunch. No matter how I tell myself that there is no reason for me to feel guilty, I feel guilty. My husband was on tour as well and returned that night – and that night was a torture for me. The guilt dimmed the happiness swelling in my heart at seeing my high school love, so much so that I couldn’t sleep well that night. I tussled in the bed a hundred times that night. If my husband was not tired from the long journey, he might have grown suspicious of my sleeplessness. I still felt like my heart was bubbling with youthful joy of love. I am sure I was not imagining my knees feeling wobbly still. That night, I felt like only love ruled our lives and nothing else mattered. I admit, I thought I could leave everything behind and embrace love. But of course all this changed the next day with my little ones scampering around the house – my day starting with preparing their breakfast and readying them for school.

It was not even an unrequited love. The first time I set my eyes on him and caught him looking at me, I knew we both felt the same. But my fate of who I would marry had long been sealed by my parents. I could not let down my parents and I had to marry the person of their choice. And today, here I am: though content, my heart feeling a little gloomy every time I think of what it might have been like to marry the only person I ever felt connected to.

I will tell you, this guy I am still so much in love with is not the person so many people will choose to marry. He is married and has kids too but he is still running around with abundance of carefree flirtations. It is like he has to leave traces of love everywhere he goes. And yet, it is him I love. Is it this compelling nature of him that attracts me?  Or is it the sexuality he exudes with the wayward remarks only he can make without flinching to a girl before an introduction? I tell myself that maybe, when I see him I feel myself freeing from the organized, family-bound life of obedience and obligation. Whatever it is, this time, I broke the rule and texted him sneakily that when I see him, I get so much energy, feel strong and he will always be my baby. Did I do wrong? Should my guilt go up? I will not worry myself with the answers. I will now cherish only love and be happy that even if I can’t turn back the things, I have loved truly.


And as I write this, I am listening to Kenny Rogers’ ‘We have got tonight’ and I feel right.

Note* This is a true story with just a small change in between. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Still feels like the first time

I was in the field supervising a group of enumerators for the Second nation wide GNH Survey, if you remember. I was in Samtse last month and now I am in Samdrup Jkngkhar. I got here yesterday. My team has been here for 19 days already but I had to take leave -- remember, I made a short update from Singapore? It was for that purpose that I had to take leave.

Once I got back home from that visit, I was unsure when to join my team because the New Year was just a few days away and if I didn't stay back to celebrate it with my family, I was going to travel on the New Year. No matter how hard it was, I had to decide on the latter. I travelled on Losar and got to the field to  eat dinner with my team. In a way, that was a huge relief. But leaving my family was didficult. One friend said, 'I can't believe you are leaving on Losar. As a mother, it is very important for you to be there on Losar'. I know that, but when I have to make choices like this, I also know that my husband can take up a role much better than me. He can be a super mother in my absence and I love him extra for that.

The parting was hard though. First, it was my daughter I had to say goodbye to. She didn't cry this time. Neither did she beg me too much not to leave. She came right next to the car, talked to me sweetly and said that I should come back soon. She stood by the parking and waved goodbye till we were out of sight and I couldn't help cry. Tears streaming down my cheek, I feared how the duration of two months or more will pass. We will be getting back to Thimphu only when we have completed the eastern dzongkhags and it means having to be away from family for two months or more. 

Next was saying goodbye to my husband. We rushed to get my bus ticket -- which we had booked through a friend. We rushed because we worried that if we didn't make there a bit earlier from the departure time, the counter girl might sell it to others. She had kept it for us as agreed.  After getting the ticket,  we had half an hour more before departing. So, we wandered around the stalls and it gave us time to feel settled and less rushed. But when I got in the bus and said goodbye, I cried again. And shamelessly, I must admit that though I am a mother and no longer a teenager after parting from her boyfriend, I felt the pang so hard. Should I consider it wrong for me to feel love because I am old now? In fact, I felt love rushing in my heart, and I felt like it was the first time I was saying goodbye to him after having fallen helplessly in love. 

I listened to Don Williams, wiped my tears and kept looking out the window, so the person sitting next to me won't know I was crying. This time, I felt a bit of dislike for our culture of having to be discreet with our affection. I wanted to kiss him goodbye and I couldn't. All we did was hold hands and look each other in the eye. Anyway, when you feel the heart nudging with love, that is enough as well and I quickly felt content and the tiny dislike for our culture disappeared. 

Maybe, in the rush of our everyday work and hustle bustle, we had forgotten to show that we love each other. And it  was a reminder that after 14 years, we are still going strong and everyday is a first day of love with him. And yes, there are many days that I feel like it is the first time and my friends from High School were wrong when they said I was reading too many novels and fantasising on true love that does not exist in real life. I have found it and I am lucky. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Meeting Rima, the Bhutanese Lover

Let me introduce her first. She is known has Rima and she is known to many Bhutanese because of her active blogging. I came across her blog for quite sometime. Until we started talking on Facebook, (which was quite recently), I had been wondering about her. I wondered whether she was Bhutanese and where she lived. So for the ones who are wondering like me: she is originally Indonesian Chinese. She is married to a Singaporean and lives in Singapore. She first visited Bhutan with her parents through the travel agent as tourist and she fell in love with Bhutan ever since. So, the second time, she visited Bhutan through the invitation of one of her Bhutanese friends.

Since then, she has been in touch with Bhutanese through the Bhutanese bloggers and those visiting Singapore. This time, I happened to be the lucky one and thus meet her, in person. She is a lady with an easy smile and warm heart. And she doesn’t mind taking the trouble to meet you, even if it means stretching beyond her normal schedule of the day.

We first planned to meet at Swissotel Merchant Court, but later after I told her that we (my friend Sonam and I) would like to go to Viva City, we changed the plan. She said, ‘wait in front of FoodRepublic on level 3’. I was bit worried wondering at the possibility of missing the opportunity but when I reached there, I was glad that it is a very specific place, right in front of the escalator from the level below and you could easily spot it. She walked up to us after a few minutes of our waiting and there it was – smiles and hugs already, feeling like meeting a long lost friend.

She took us to Sentosa island (skipping the detailed descriptions), Mustafa Shopping Mall, and then on the second meeting, to China Town. On our second meeting, she brought along two of her best friends and we had a celebration of the Chinese New Year (which falls on the same date as Bhutanese New Year). We were already talking easily and laughing together in celebration. Please read about the description of the celebration and the meaning of the food we ate on her blog.


For, pictures speak a thousand words, here are some as a treat for your eyes:
Siloso Beach in Sentosa Island. Quite an impressive place. Peaceful and calm.

With Rima at the beach, making connection

With Rima and Uden. Sometimes even when you are from the same place, you connect more because of someone far away.

It is called the Merlion and it sits gigantically overpowering you, showing its ferocious teeth

After Sentosa, food it was. We ate at the Indian Market, giving me priority because I am veg.

This is our dinner on 12th Feb 2014. Various Chinese food to celebrate our meeting, yet again. 

This, Rima explained is called 'prosperity toss dish' that is eaten only during the New Year Celebration. We were privileged. 

And here we go, tossing for the new year, wishing prosperity, happiness, good health and more of goodness of everything.

Before parting, smiling together and hoping to meet again. 

Her present: a red scarf which served me beautifully right the next morning.

And her present again: a red wrist watch. She probably observed me asking time to my friend and not wearing one. (Thank you Rima for your thoughtful observation and the beautiful presents. Until we meet again.)


So, though it was a short visit of four days and we had classes from 9-5 and assessment to do, she made it very memorable. We thank her from our heart and we hope to see her again with that beautiful smile. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A bit of what I saw today in Singapore

The pictures here are from the Garden by the bay--a wonderful human creation. It is described by some as the Avatar in real life. I will be writing a separate account of my visit here in more detail in a few days.