Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What a wonderful world!

I am in the village of Zunglen (Drepung Gewog, Monggar). It is a typical Bhutanese village with a typical rural hospitality. The family is thrilled and excited that I have stepped into their house with few of my friends. We are ushered into their best room – the altar, and offered tea and tengma (beaten maize) with butter. The tea ceremony is followed by ara (local sake) with fried eggs. The whole family is suddenly at our disposal attending to us that we are comfortable and well-fed.

So much of warmth, so much of hospitality and so much of good will. This is something I have noticed in all my travels within our beautiful country. I am sure many of us (urban dwellers) would have experienced these 5-star treatments when we were on tour in rural Bhutan. The question is, do we in any way reciprocate this hospitality when these people come to urban areas?

The answer, shamelessly, is a resounding no!

But, of course, to be practical we may not be able to invite them to our homes unless they are familiar to us. We may not be able to offer drinks to each and every villager coming to Thimphu.

But still, there are things we could do. For example, we could help them by doing our job well. I mean many of them come to Thimphu to make their citizen’s identity card, passports, driving licences and various permits, to see government officials or to pay their loans or seek new one. We could help them by speeding public services for them.

We could help them by drafting application letters, filling up forms or giving them directions. We can drop them to the right office and refer them to the concerned official. We could seek information on their behalf and provide them guidance and help.

We could help them by making it easier for them to avail some basic services. For example, the banks could employ few unemployed youths whose sole job would be to fill up withdrawal and deposit forms. I have done this many times as I waited for my turn with the token number. Hospitals could do the same. People employed to help them see the doctors and get medicines from the pharmacy. Remember they can’t read or write. Our public offices are so customer unfriendly that even I get lost when I land in a new office. Unless you spot someone you know, there won’t be anyone giving you directions and neither would there be any information guide.

There are so many things we could do to reciprocate the warmth and hospitality we enjoy in rural areas. So the next time you see a villager who looks lost in a bank or in the hospital or in your office, ask him if he or she needs help. You will not only bring some relief, you will also feel happy to have done something worthwhile that day. If you can't do this, at least don't run over them with your car, or shout at them, as they stray aimlessly in the streets of Thimphu.


  1. It is definitely a thought provoking piece and every single one of us should take a cue from it and "redeem" ourselves. Why "redeem"? Well, because, the great many things that we can do for our rural folks, as listed, unfortunately, can be the last of priorities in the scheme of things of most of us civil servants!

    I suppose it is easier said than done. One needs to only visit another office under a ministry different than one's own to gauge how "responsibities" are "discharged". A simple official task takes you running around the entire gamut of the organization, so much so that you even tend to plead with the concerned person to - (strangely..) carry about their responsibilities! So when a responsible and an educated civil servant can be driven to nuts to get a simple job done, the idea of our brothers and sisters in the service sector, doling out "service" to our country brethren seems remote, at least for now.

    Much as I would love to, but I have been in the civil service for 5 years and gosh, for the life of me, I cannot recall any single civil servant who has not made me make at least 2-"rounds" before the task at hand could be resolved. That "second" or ("nth" round - if you belong to that god-forsaken lots with no friends or relative in the service)is reserved for what has become a "by-word" and an accepted culture in the civil service which is to "remind" an official of what he was supposed to have done.

    So in sum, the next day (or god-knows when) if you still find that your notesheet or a proposal or a letter has fail to budge an inch on somebody's desk, the definite answer that you would get is " Na ge ngalu remind be nang ye ya? Tama tsha che joen tey, na joen ma tsho wa chen "call" che nang bey "remind" be nang la.."

  2. What an awesome piece..truely a nugget of thought for urban dwellers. But still, when will we change! Phew!

  3. Every journey starts with a single step, so why not start TODAY, NOW...

  4. Nice. We lack in lot many fields esp in reciporcating our services when villagers come to urban areas. Instead many use this advantage as an anvil to hammer the blows to terrify a humble villager. Perhaps it's to neutralize the frustration vented unto them by their bosses. hehe.

  5. If only we urban dwellers too extend similar kind of hospitality to our village folks by rendering friendly and easier service deliveries.

  6. Our country is at cross road. Every has to change...from attitude to working to everything that needs to be changed not for the sake of change but for the good purpose, yet keeping our culture intact...

    Presently, our civil servants hardly realise their own importance of position and for whom they are working for...

    Our civil servants have to revisit the definition of "civil servants". If they fail to serve the needs, but forget about wants, they are incompetent and no more deserve their post...

    Most of the time illiterate rural folks are abused, i say it because i have seen it, by their fellow servants, who are in a way paid by all of us to work for ourselves.

    Better get ready civil servants, for one day people will question all of you for just wasting their fund and time and for being abused...

    Yet, when there is still a room for improvement and time to provide better service to people, change your old-fashioned attitude of being Dasho (but nowadays people seem to get dasho's meaning wrong) that people are there to work for you and then you are paid for that.

    One day is not far way...

  7. Mr Dorji, are you sure that you are not over exagerrating?
    Have you been to Pema Gatshel sides, ever seen those poor women and kids depending their life on breaking stones and loading the gypsum boulders? I would be interested to know what you have to say about this. Please do let me hear la.

  8. Sir, that is a wonderful piece. In fact this happens especially when officials from the urban dzongkhags visit the remote places. I worked as a teacher in one of the remote schools in the kingdom. We used to receive officials from Thimphu and our own Dzongkhag. We used to treat them with much grandeur and hospitality, which momentarily touched their hearts. However, when we are in the town for our salary collection and other purposes, we often meet them but only to our dismay that they don't even recognize us. This is something we need to change, I mean our officials' attitudes.