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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating Democracy, by Namgay Wangmo, student PHSS. THE BHUTANESE DEMOCRACY: A GIFT FROM THE GOLDEN THRONE

Bhutan, the land of Drukpas, blessed with the hereditary kings since 1907, has always remained  a happy, independent and proud country. People in our country wear our unique national dress and take pride in doing things differently with the foremost goal of “Gross National Happiness” the royal vision that the whole world respects and appreciates today.

Bhutan was continuously blessed with benevolent kings and the process of modernization came to this last “Shangri-La” in the 1970s and with modernization Democracy began to step in.
A Century of Monarchy brought Democracy.
Democracy is young in Bhutan, but it is greatly praised for its unique origin. Democracy has come to this country in the most unusual way. The people were happy and were unwilling to creep out of the monarchical wonderland. People did not demand for democracy but it came as a gift from the Golden Throne despite the peoples’ reluctance. Therefore, the irony here is that, while in some countries people demand democracy and have to fight for it, in our country democracy was imposed on the people by our beloved kings. Our kings gave up their power for the sake of the people and country, which is why we, the Bhutanese people should honor this Gift.

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the third Druk Gyalpo’s opening Bhutan’s door to modernization also brought in key aspects of a democratic state when he ordered the establishment of the National Assembly or Tshogdu in 1953. People elected their representatives to the National Assembly to voice their concerns. Though how the chimmis voiced the peoples’ concern and views in the National Assembly then was far from what freedom of expression means in a democratic state, but it was still a significant step towards Democracy.  His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyelpo King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, a blessing for the Bhutanese people started the process of gradual devolution of power by handing executive power to the Cabinet of Ministers, establishing the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdue and Geyog Yargay Tshogchung in 1981 and 1991 respectively.   The final step to ensure that the Bhutanese people enjoy prosperity, freedom, and independence was ordering a new democratic constitution to be drafted and transformed the government from absolute Monarchy to a Democracy. This democratization was carefully planned by our farsighted kings for the people’s sake through many noble visions of power decentralization, enabling the people and giving voice to the people.

The Bhutanese people were politically innocent in the beginning, but gradually began to understand the gift that our farsighted king bestowed on us. The responsibility that each individual citizen had to shoulder to make our Democracy strong and clean without any corruption was another important aspect that came with understanding the gift. To relish this gift, the very first contribution that each individual could make was to exercise the right to vote. Thus, the Bhutanese people had to make their choice between two parties.
For Most Bhutanese, the two parties were known as the “crane” and “horse” respectively after their logos. “Crane”for Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) led by Jigme Y Thinley who stressed political integrity as the bedrock of sound democracy. On the other hand the opponent  ‘’horse’’ for People’s  Democratic Party  led by Sangay Ngedup , campaigned with the slogan, ‘’walk and  talk’’ and  ‘’service with humility’’

There was not much difference between the two parties in the political ideologies or policies, both the parties  were working  towards the royal vision of ‘’ Gross National Happiness’’ and promising to develop the nation.It became a day to be marked by the Bhutanese people on 24th march 2008, when every citizen of this country elected their democratic government and cast their secret ballot for their right candidate. The outcome confounded expectations and sent a stunning message across the country where Druk Phuensum Tshogpa the “crane” won by 45 seats out of 47 seats.
Thought the Opposition Party remains weak with only two members, but in the past two and half years of democracy the Opposition Party has made considerable contributions as to make sure that the Ruling Party maintains transparency and is accountable for its policies and decisions. The Opposition Party has done their best in questioning certain decisions by the government and has made the Bhutanese people more aware of issues that are important to the country, throwing light on issues that the people are ignorant about. The latest hot news being the Opposition leader suing the government for not following the constitution with regard to revising the taxes in the country. Good Governance, one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness is the key pillar when it comes to ensuring the other pillars stand strong. Therefore, it is important that the Opposition Party live up to their role and responsibility in the democratic arena. So far, the government has functioned well and up to the people’s expectation.  The people and the country have seen various developmental activities carried out by the new government and have served the people well. New roads have connected remote geogs and illuminated them and their children with electricity and new schools. The One important development that I as a student have seen in the school is the infusing of the GNH values. The GNH values infused in the school curriculum will no doubt in time produce good results. This initiative came from the new government as they realized the importance of the words our beloved kings, ‘the future of our country lies with our children’, for Gross National Happiness to be achieved the children of our country are important.

Democracy in Bhutan should guarantee peace and prosperity in the country with a uniform development taking place in the country, and corruption in the country should go down. Important power checkers have been put in place by our wise leaders to help our government function well; they are the Supreme Court, Anti-Corruption Commission, etc. For Democracy to flourish, the government and the people should work hand in hand intelligently so that a strong and vibrant system of governance takes root in our country. 

We as Bhutanese citizens and students have got the responsibility towards democracy, like Plato said ‘It is the duty of every citizen to participate in the political life of the state’. We can play individual roles because when it comes to democracy every citizen of this country is empowered with a right to choose their own government for themselves and can raise their voice and express their views. As a student the individual role that we can play is exercising the power to vote that is gifted to us. The people supported the government when the Bhutanese people casted their votes to declare their choice, their government during the first election held in the country. However, the peoples’ role does not end there, our beloved kings have gifted us democracy and with it comes all the aspects of democracy. One of the most important roles we can play as citizens of a democratic state is exercise the freedom and privileges of democracy in the right manner. We should not misuse our freedom of expression or any other freedom that we now have because of democracy, but we can share our views and opinions in a constructive way, be a critical friend to our government to help our government serve the people and the country well. We can further help to make illiterate people understand democracy better and create awareness among the people about the importance of casting their vote for the right people.
Our democracy is young like us and it needs to grow with us becoming strong and shouldering the responsibilities for our people and live up to the expectations of our benevolent kings.

Thank You.

Namgay Wangmo
Punakha Higher Secondary School 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being an English Teacher

If you ask a tourist how easy is it to get directions in Bhutan, he or she will tell you they never got  lost in Bhutan, not because our towns and cities are small but because most people living in the urban area understand or speak English.
However, the situation in the classroom is different and belongs to a completely different context. Though we learn English right from our elementary classes and though English is the medium through which other subjects are taught still only three or four students in a class of thirty five are good in English in most classes in most schools. Now when I say good in English you may wonder the scale with which I am measuring my students and qualifying them as good. My standards are shamefully humble and I have to do this not because I want to but because I have to. If a student is in class nine and doesn’t know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ or if a student is in class eleven and doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘yell’, what can I do but lower my measuring scale. You may say that this is a grave matter for me as an English teacher. Yes, it is and I have thought and tried to analyze the problem so as to solve it but so far I have only managed to think about my students’ English and suffer from headaches.
 One reason why they are weak in English I feel is because they have no reading habit. Reading which is very integral to the development of the intellectual maturity in them. But can they be blamed for this handicap, some may say yes and some no but that is not what I want to ponder on. But again, if the teachers at the elementary levels can set the foundation well then I would gladly thank them for the easy job I will have and not have to yell at my students to make them understand the meaning of the word, ‘yell’. The foundation should be made strong. To me a student is no different from a building, like a building to rise up strong it needs good and strong foundation. This doesn’t only concern English; it is with regard to all the subjects, but English is at the center of this foundation and the teachers should define their roles with profound sincerity. Elementary teachers should be paid more and given more incentives than secondary teacher because they are more important. The government should motivate them to work harder. And what motivation is more motivating than money.
I have tried things with my students. Like making them write journal entries every day, just half a page of any thing that they want to write about. I have tried movies so that they understand the elements of a story well. I even tried music so that they will develop listening skills and with it comprehension skills. They know what an argumentative essay is and know how they should write one. But I have not checked their note books, I have not taught them grammar because I don’t know where to start and also because I hate grammar. I feel when one is too serious about the technicality of language then he or she is barred from that spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings which he or she aspires to put down in verse. So, I admit I have not been sincere either. So, how can I improve my students’ English?

Friday, September 10, 2010

My favorite Poem

I studied my favorite poem when I was in class ten, back then it was not my favorite. Not because I didn’t like it or didn’t understand it but because there were not many poems I read or took interest in. But still there was something about the poem, few lines imprinted in my memory. 
‘ How dull it is to make a pause, to make an end, to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use’ ,
‘To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost reach of human thought’.
May be it was because of the stylish way in which my teacher read the poem to us or may be because it was my teacher’s favorite poem, so that’s why the interest in teaching the poem came to him so naturally. And later on when I had to teach the same poem to my class 12 students I was excited with a nostalgic atmosphere surrounding me in the class. I tried to replicate the lesson like I experienced it ten years a go but my memory failed me and I knew I was too ambitious. But when I took the poem as a poem which I was most familiar with, things started falling into their place. I studied the poem again as I now had to teach it to my students and I wanted my students to enjoy it like I did as a student.
For me no poem is as inspiring as or as beautiful as Ulysses. Of course there are many beautiful poems, some of my favorites being Elegy written in a Country churchyard, Ode to Autumn, Birches, and many more but I love Ulysses because of Ulysses always roaming with a hungry heart. His hunger for knowledge and the way Tennyson puts it beautifully in powerful verses is very connected with my profession. Teaching is one profession where you have to follow knowledge like a sinking star, where every experience should serve you well and the untraveled world will gleam to attract you and inspire you to continue further on your journey.
So,I want to say these words every morning before I begin my day;

‘’I am a part of all that I have met,
Yet all experience is an arch where thro’
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to make a pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!’’

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Writing.

I have not written anything for sometime now and this feeling is suddenly making me afraid; what if I can no longer write what I feel, what if the words that I use can no longer give shape to my feelings. If this happens, I might lose a precious part of my life. The part that helps me reinvigorate my senses to the happenings around me. It helps me not to act on my impulse but gather a ground from where I can contemplate my doings and bring about maintenance to the life I am living. Writing has opened my soul and made it ready for me to look at myself through critical eyes to bring better changes. The things that I write have made me aware of my own feelings that I record in words to revisit them later. Sometimes I relive them. In reliving those moments, I gain control over in studying, understanding, and realizing myself in a much better and sometimes improved way. Thus, I am thankful for this gift, which helps me understand myself and the life that I am living.

I want to write poems, for they say poems are the vehicles of ones feelings to the outside world. It is the noble language of the hearts that only a heart speaks and is contained by a heart. However, I seldom am able to write one, is my heart not worthy enough for this noble writing? Must I fret and squeeze to lay my senses on some powerful verse? On the other hand, am I just not pleased with the words that my muse sends me? I have the feeling that I can write my heart. I just need the right moment to put it down on paper. I have written few and when I read them they help me to contemplate my feelings, they give me joy and feed me the nectar from their flowers of petal-words. Bacon said reading makes a man full and writing a complete man. So here I am, writing away my thoughts and feelings but I feel I have not yet fully tamed my skills. I need to polish my words so that it would shine back my feelings like looking at a clear mirror of my emotions.
So I pray to the God of words to bless me with words of clear purity and expression to pass on my messages to the outside world and to my own heart the beauty of life that is laid before me for my senses to nibble on. I thank for the words I have at my disposal right now and pray for more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


A teacher is known to mould,
The young minds as told.
We give but don’t take,
For theirs and our conscious’ sake.

The tasks are mighty high,
But still the limits are like sky.
We toil on the trace,
Keeping our face.

We are said to be the light,
That shine through the darkest night.
But people don’t know a teacher’s a mule,
Working and burning his fuel.

Day and night,
Fighting like a brave knight.
We follow the tiring tread,
To earn the future bread.

We give but not know to fake,
To serve and to make.
The future with our touch,
But it is only this much.

Sad it is to know,
That every one is a foe.
Every voice is cruel,
Forwarded to a crazy duel.

It is not warm,
Like a barren farm.
Every thing is strange,
Which needs a swift change.

To lift up the spirit of a teacher,
Like a filmed feature.
Motivate and raise desire,
Like the warm bright fire.

Thus I urge,
To let my soul merge.
With the heavenly dove,
To bestow love.

Not bothered with critics,
Not swayed by mystics.
I travel my road,
With my undying code.

To this life I commit,
My life I submit.