Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lunch. No lunch. We are writers

“Sorry, sir, we are waiting for the projector,” NawangPhuntsho, one of the founders of the Community of Bhutanese Bloggers, apologises for the delay. It is already 10.30 and we were supposed to start at 10. More than 30 bloggers had gathered at Hotel Namseling for the first “unofficial” gathering of the Community of Bhutanese Bloggers. Unofficial, because in Bhutan all large meetings, conferences are sponsored and/or organized by the government. This is a private initiative. But the turnout is impressive. People from different walks of life and stature have come together – drawn by something they share in common – blogging.

The delay is far from being bothersome. I use the long waiting time to catch up with Sangay Khandu, a parliamentarian and an ardent blogger, and Gyaltshen K Dorji, a journalist who writes on technology for Bhutan’s national newspaper, Kuensel. I meet other people that I have met only in the cyber space. Among them is Rekha Mongar. "Nice to meet you after reading all your blogs," I tell her. Others are also as excited to meet me in person. “Sir, I have been reading your blog since my schooldays,” they come extending their hands. I feel flattered. 

Finally, after an hour, the LCD projector arrives. We all clap our hands and dub it as the chief guest. Nobody seems to mind the delay. “Punctuality is not in our culture. And since cultural preservation is what we do, we should maintain this too,” I remark. We all have a laugh. The First Conference of the Community of Bhutanese Bloggers sets off. Riku Dhan Subba is the first speaker.

Riku says that of late he has been blogging about the importance of staying connected to his village. “Maintaining my roots gives me an immense pride plus an identity and connection to the community that I belong,” he says in his presentation. “I visit my village at least 5 times in a year”. Riku’s talk is simple, humble and humorous. But what catches everyone’s breath is a story of a radio. “My father was the first guy to own a radio in the village. People gathered every evening around the radio to listen to it. Among people who came was also someone who would become my mother. I was told, that’s how they met,” he says timidly. The hall burst into laughter and applause. Riku continues, “And this is a picture of a tree in my village – a very special tree. Why this is special to me?” he asks. How are we supposed to know? “I was born under this tree,” he adds. “My mother didn’t stop working even when she was pregnant. She went into labour and I was born – under this tree”. Another round of applause and laughter. Riku’s stories were simply awesome.

Sangay Khandu, an MP from Gasa and prolific blogger, goes next. “My talk will be boring compared to Rikku’s,” he starts off. “But since I am an MP, I will share my knowledge of being one for seven years now.” Sangay enlightens on how bills are passed, issues raised and how legislations are enacted. ‘Always something new to learn everyday. Today I learnt about what House of Review really means,’ I updated my facebook page. It is true. I thought House of Review was something else.

Ugyen Lhendup, a small and unassuming guy, takes the stage next. He is an economist and talks about how pro-poor policies and public investments between 2007 and 2012 have brought down the poverty rate in the country. He had done an independent research and analysis and blogged about it. Among the series of slides with figures and charts something catches the eyes of everyone. 1953 is marked as the start of the Five Year Plan in Bhutan. The conventional wisdom and all textbooks say 1961. “Isn’t it 1961?” someone enquires. Ugyen goes dead sure on this. “I read the proceedings of the first National Assembly of Bhutan and there it is clearly mentioned that we are now starting off the planned development process. The year is 1953”. “He may be right,” I add, “Our Third King instituted the National Assembly in 1953. I also read somewhere that the planned development process was originally the idea of the Second King. So it is possible that the idea was carried forward by the Third and that he could have made it official in 1953 when the first National Assembly was convened ”. Another new thing learnt. Another to be verified. I love discovering.

The last to take the microphone is Tshering Dolkar, a professor at Royal Thimphu College. She takes us on a long journey of hers as a writer. From writing poems and essays for Kuensel as a student to writing textbooks for schools when she worked in Education Ministry. "Then I discovered blogging and found I could publish my writings. Then later on the facebook where I shared my writings and passions with great writers," she adds. “I have never authored anything and so in that sense I am not a writer but here are some poems I wrote through the years,” she proposes timidly. She reads couple of them and we are all blown away. “Why is that they were never published,” I thought. I didn’t ask her though.

Open discussions followed on subjects ranging from personal freedom to inspirations and motivations as to why we write what we write. The chairperson, Nawang Phuntsho, had to stop the deliberations because the conference had overshot the time – by only 3 hours. Lunchtime was long gone. There was no lunch ordered either. No budget. But the founders wanted to have this conference anyway. To start small. To start somewhere. So no issues whatsoever. We leave the place smiling - having heard great stories and made new friendships; and inspired even much more to pursue what we all share in common – writing.

Lunch or no lunch.

(The next conference is in Paro in October and I am already looking forward to it)


  1. Nice write always.
    BUT what stood out from this post (sorry to say but it is negative) is your use of the word Professor for Ms Tshering Dolkar. Professor is someone who has/had helped his/her students in tertiary institutes (usually for Masters/PhD) with their thesis/dissertations and someone usually holding a PhD. For instance, in Thailand, they are initially called, assistant lecturer. After couple of years and with a PhD they are senior lecturer..then after lots and lots of research papers in their names, they are referred to as Assistant Professor...and then when they get old (close to 60 mostly) and they authored and mentored thousands of papers & students respectively they get the title Associate Professor..There are only a few countable number of people with the title "Professor" without any preceding title of Assistant and Associate..Most retire as Associate Professor. I say she definitely does not deserve the title of Professor. I know you have your own reasons. BUT Sorry to say this but let's not corrupt the titles. Just like you called Gasa MP by name...let her br Tshering Dolka, Lecturer at RTC. definitely not Professor

  2. Elegant review of the day. I really missed this program in name of being far away from country. I would not miss any other edition of like programmes by Community of Bhutanese Bloggers.
    By reading your post, I could almost picture what it might have been like. And yeah, I missed none of the updates in Facebook by those in my friendlist. I was murmuring why couldn't I make it to this programme despite my textbooks nagging me to roger them up for examination.
    Thank you for this review. You are an epitome of inspiration.

  3. Tshering Dolkar works as an Associate Professor in Royal Thimphu College. I am not the one giving the title. She has it. You can check the website. Also there are no standard practices of these university titles. In Sherubtse you can become a lecturer with a bachelors degree, in RTC you need masters. In some universities like Hong Kong, PhD is a an entry requirement. Likesie the title of professor may be given to someone without a PhD, but someone with a PhD does not necessarily get the title. In both cases (with or without PhD) experience is what counts. I guess she has the experience.

  4. Splendid reflections of the day!...inspired as always...;)

  5. Job well done ---all the bloggers

  6. Had a great time listening to talks and presentation were superb :) :)

  7. Great initiative! Living on the edge makes it impossible for me to attend such bloggers meet bt I keep myself updated through social media... keep going...

  8. Sir, it is a wonderful write up. I always liked your writing and I never do skip reading.


  10. I really like your blog. You have got awesome content.Check out mine @