It was in June last year, at the peak of winter that my family and I landed in Melbourne. The Intensive Academic Program that the AusAID scholars undergo for a month is honestly intensive. As is the purpose, it makes us understand what we will be expected to do as a master’s student and how we must perform the assignments. Having to attend the classes the next day I have been flown here, I felt totally disarrayed – more because I suddenly had to leave my 5 month old daughter at home for the whole day. It was a big change. A big change indeed.
As part of this introduction course called the IAP, we had to conduct a short survey. This was a group assignment. We were going to pick our respondents randomly – from the park, in the train, at the restaurants, at the hospital etc. I didn’t realize that it is really, really hard to get people to agree to be a respondent. When number of people who said ‘no’ outnumbered the ones who said ‘yes’, I felt totally dejected. I even cried, every time they said no. It was a very new experience for me. In Bhutan, we have people agreeing to your request all the time (almost). And it did not occur to me that people could refuse your request without any tinge of emotion.
After a while, I just feared to approach anyone. I think I made do with just 8 respondents. Later during the presentation, I found that in fact our group had the maximum respondents and ours was the longest survey. We surely must have pressured ourselves beyond the scope of the assignment – or we wanted to be the best. But anyway, the point is that, here, in Australia (must be like this in other countries too) you have to pay people if you want them to take part in your survey. There has to be some incentive or they won’t take part. The way people calculate each second of their time in terms of money is crazy. I mean, I still can’t come to terms with this idea. How can everything be calculated in terms of monetary value? Aren’t there things that are equally important or rather, more important than money? Out here, I am starting to see that a human’s life is valued based on the list of skills they have and the amount of money they make. Exactly! Today, in one of the classes a lecturer told us that if you are more expensive (your hourly rate, if you are to be hired as a contract employee), then people tend to believe what you say more easily. In many ways, the course is teaching me that all the principles I held all this time has to fall away, because everything is a process of politics (it should take a different topic on its own. I will write on it soon).
But my point for today is that, as a Bhutanese, we are taking so many things for granted. For example, even when we conduct surveys, we tend to think that people are actually obligated to be our respondents. These days, everywhere I read, I see more people complaining about what we don’t have than being grateful about what we have. I think, while it is good to be critical, it is worthwhile to appreciate what we have.