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)


  1. splendid,outstanding work "la

  2. Beautifully written and thanks for sharing it with us la.
    Ugyen jumped into the river without a second thought even though he knew he was risking his life for a complete stranger...this definitely, makes him a true hero.

  3. Bhutan Today really did a good job. For me it was really refreshing because all we get these days is bad news - corruption, scandals, murders, suicide, drugs, violence, rape.....

    I mean, could it so bad? Is nothing good happening in this country?

    Last year during the Earthquake, everything was so depressing that I asked the Kuensel reporter, "Isn't something good coming out of this? Someone who saved somebody? Somebody who made a narrow escape? Why don't you find out"

    So they got the story of the guy in Yangeer who save a child from death. It was so nice.

  4. wow.....very nice.thank you for sharing, and i liked the phrase: nation building....

    lets cheer for our heroes...

  5. We are so engrossed in our 'rat-race' lives that we forget to look around and see happiness in small things or find heroism in a traffic police who stands in rain and sun and stops a busy traffic to help an old lady get across the road.
    Our country isn't short of heroes, our sights are too narrow to see heroism in someone.
    'It is our national obsession for gossiping that skews them - made worse by our inflated ego, greed and indifference.' You brought out the general Bhutanese attitude. It's a pity. Hopefully it will change with time.
    The story you cited of the postman is unheard. Thank you for sharing.
    The documentary on the teacher is my all time favourite and my whole family never tire watching it every time it is broadcast.
    Salute to all the heroes we fail to acknowledge in our daily lives. Salute to you for remembering and taking time to acknowledge them.