Thursday, August 19, 2010

Regarding Sanga

Sanga works as the chief physiotherapist in Thimphu hospital. He is also indisputably the best in his business. His hands can do wonders. When you come out from his treatment session, you feel that your pains have disappeared. Sanga is warm-hearted and rarely turns down anyone seeking his advice or services. As he “sees” his patients, he also comforts them, encourages them and explains everything in detail.
There is one thing about Sanga, which makes him extraordinary – he is visually impaired. He also comes from a modest background and has obviously struggled to get where he is now. But having known him for years I forget he has that physical handicap. I take him like a normal person.
But Sanga is much more. Besides being a good professional, he also lives his life to the fullest. On one occasion I found him discussing an upcoming football match involving his hospital colleagues. Another time he was planning the next hike to the mountains with his friend and colleague, Dr. Chencho.
I first met Sanga some years back when I interviewed him on my TV show. He made me look deeper into myself and ponder. How come I don’t have any physical disabilities (touch wood!) and yet I am often grumbling about my life, my work, my colleagues and my career? If I were in his place, would I be even half as successful as him?
As age catches up, one feels the muscles and bones giving up easily and visits to Sanga get more frequent. But life, I guess, is a package. My visits are not only physiotherapy sessions but also a great occasion to talk about our common interest - hiking. As he ultrasounds my chronic backache, we share our trekking plans and adventures. The only difference – he treks for leisure while I trek for work. He has been to Singye Dzong. And so did I. But when I tell him my next trek was to Chumphu Nye, he tells me that's easy and that his was actually to Dragye Pangtso located some 14,000 feet – above Paro Taktsang. Shame on me, I tell myself.
People like Sanga are simply inspiring. Especially to those of us who waste our time badmouthing others and nagging about everything. And here is someone who is visually impaired and yet is doing his job well and enjoying his life. We often forget that we live in an imperfect world anyway. The only certainty in life is that life itself is very uncertain. 

So while you have all the limbs and senses, go out and have fun! See places that tourist pay $200 a day to visit. Make pilgrimages to holy sites blessed by every Buddhist master down the ages. May be the merit you accumulate would assure you a better reincarnation in your next life. Above all, walk to the remotest villages and take some smiles and laughter there while you are still fit and strong.

(photo courtesy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Heroes Around Us

Bhutan Today’s detailed account of Ugyen Dorji, 18, who risked his life to save another boy from being swallowed by Thimphu River, really touched me. Pity that other Bhutanese media did not celebrate his heroic deeds. As much as nothing substantive was done on the people who received the National Order of Merit last year or on the medallists from the last South Asian Games. This is what I meant in my earlier blog that “we rarely celebrate our own heroes.”

Talking about heroes and role models, someone asked me if there was anybody who is really inspiring. Without a second thought my answer was yes! Besides our Kings, there are many ordinary people whose lives and stories of daily hardships and survival, of hard work and dedication and of sense of duty and altruism are just as inspiring as the leadership and achievements of successful people we hear or see.

Years back, on a trip to Gasa, I heard of an extraordinary story of a schoolteacher who risked his life to trek for days to get to Lunana. Subsequently I made a documentary on him - a modest homage to thousands of teachers who are posted in far-flung areas doing their job of preparing the future citizens of our country. Aren’t they heroes?

How about that postman from Lingzhi, Ugen Tenzin, who for over 30 years carried mailbags between Lingzhi and Thimphu – at times carrying just one letter. Once he was even swept away by the icy Thimphu River. He lost all his belonging and nearly his life too, but not the postal bag which he didn't let go. The bag contained just four letters – one a ‘return to the sender’.

When I was a student travelling was no fun. Once it took me 13 days to reach Tashigang from Phuntsholing. Such stories are rare today. Thousands of National Work Force workers and engineers live on the road to keep the way clear for us to drive our Marutis and Land Cruisers through. Let alone acknowledge them, we can't wait a minute for a slide to open.

Lest we forget, our soldiers who died defending our country while thousands others who survived are living in the cold icy mountains and mosquito-ridden foothills to secure our borders.

In a collective journey we call nation building, the lives and works of thousands of such people, and even that of a farmer toiling to feed a large family or business people struggling to pay their employees on time, form the backbone of our country. There is no dearth of heroes and role models. It is our national obsession for gossiping that skews them - made worse by our inflated ego, greed and indifference. To be a hero you need not necessarily win a Nobel Prize or possess supernatural powers. You could do by jumping into a river to save someone whose existence you never knew before that very moment or by risking your life to deliver just one letter. Or simply by making a small difference in someone's life.

(In the photo above, RBP team rescued Ugyen and the boy. photo courtesy - Bhutan Today)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can I help you?

In his book Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki recollects of how growing up as a child his rich dad would never say no to whatever he asked. His rich dad would be like, “umm… Let’s see how we can afford it”. While his poor dad would slam his request with “We can’t afford that.” Kiyosaki argues that the we-can’t-afford-that statement not only closes the chapter altogether but it also shuts off your mind and creativity. On the other hand, the how-can-we-afford-it swings open the brain in search of infinite ways, means and possibilities. That’s why the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer - or remains poor.

These days many young people come out with new ideas to keep up with the increased competition in life. Business ideas in the private sector, story ideas for books and films, project ideas to create jobs and employment, activity ideas to keep the youth away from drugs and violence. Yet our immediate reaction is rarely How can I help? But rather,Won’t there be any problem? With such an attitude, of course, negativity sets in. We are looking for faults. And in the process we find many. We find that rigsar dances are bad to our culture. Never mind that our children are hooked to anything Korean anyway. Public concerts and open-air festivals cannot be approved in the name of security. Who cares that lack of entertainment is actually manifesting as other social ills like gambling, drug-abuse, street violence and alcoholism. Business ideas are shot down because of municipal rules, lack of capitals or the required collaterals. We don’t explore ways and means to get the proposals through. We are happy to reject them so that we make fewer mistakes and more promotions would follow.

As a young upstart, I really don’t remember how many times I was turned down. "Lack of resources" was a favorite line in those meetings. But that was few decades back. It is ironic that we continue to hear those same lines. True we have not become richer but we could have changed our attitude towards our youth given what they are going through. For me it used to be such a cruel remark that closed all possibilities for further discussion and put an end to my motivations and creativity.

Surfing through online forums these days makes me feel if we are not falling into a national pessimism trap. There seems to be so much negative energy among the "educated" lot. We are blind to what is going right. We only keep nagging on where it is going wrong. We don’t encourage best practices. We are rather happy to go on a witch hunt. We rarely celebrate the good deeds or our local heroes. Rather we simply bad mouth just everyone.

If you walk into any public office, or even a commercial joint, you are rarely greeted with, “Can I help you?” Few months back I read about a group of youth in Paro starting a signature campaign to get a basketball court. I am curious as to how many people asked, “How can I help to give these kids a basketball court?” And if at all they got a basketball court.