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2014: Journey comes full circle

COVER STORY: 12 best of the year

January 11: Lauri students labour for learning  

Children and youth in the capital are kept engaged during their vacation with different activities ranging from learning how to paint to dance to music lessons. The choices are in abundance for them and they are able to pick up different skills from a very young age. The idea is to involve them productively during their free time so that they do not engage in undesirable activities and come in conflict with the law.

However, children and youth living in remote parts of the country are also kept busy with different activities during their vacation. There may not be art, dance or music classes but they are busy all the same. In this cover story, the writer explores how in Lauri in Samdrupjongkhar children start to earn through temporary jobs to ensure that they can go back to school. For these students, coming back home from school in winter means working, earning and helping their parents.

Febuary 8: The mystical unexplored nyes

Every winter, thousands go for pilgrimage to India and Nepal and beyond to  gain spiritual merit from the places blessed and sanctified by Buddhist masters. The opportunity to see and experience other culture while on pilgrimage is exciting but there are nyes in the country that are still unexplored and less frequented.

We have nyes as sacred as Taktshang, most of which still remains hidden.

In Trashiyangtse, the Om Bha nye is one of the many unexplored nyes. In this case, inaccessibility is the reason why it has remained unexplored. However, Tshelung nye in Thimphu is one of the most visited nyes.  It is just over 40km from the capital city and has a road connection. Like most nyes, both are of Guru Rinpoche, the bringer of tantric Buddhism in the country.

Febuary 15: Of men of strength  

 

When 20 nyagoes, each representing a district, starred in a reality show Nyagoe Dhendur, it took the nation by storm and legends of village strongmen were revived. In this cover story, the writer narrates stories of each nyagoe. The stories are narrated with great enthusiasm. It proved that such men do exist among our people.

March 22: Hanging the plough

 

The most valuable possession in a rural community today is the power tiller. The beast like machine  is the much-coveted farming tool and has proven its capability. Construction materials, food and water among others are also transported using the power tiller. The demand is only growing and the power tillers are here to stay.

June 21: The mobile revolution (in rural communities) 

 

We’ve all heard of how cellular technology has changed lives in rural Bhutan. Writer gives a details of how it has affected, benefited, and taken over a community in Trongsa.

The use of mobile phones in rural communities, broadly speaking, is similar to how urbanites use it. The difference is the setting and the gadget, usually a supposedly outdated black and white screen cell phone.

Cell phones are used for communication, entertainment, gaming and courtship. They are the only source of entertainment.

July 12: Boys who become monks

Having a monk from a family was a mandatory and it still continues to this day. But for different reasons. Parents who do not have enough resources to be able to support their children . So they encourage their children to join monkhood. In many monastic institutions in the country, there are many young monks. Most of them are sent to these institutions because of poverty.

As they grow up, some fit into the mould, others leave, exercising their freedom to do so.

In doing so, some get lost in the maze and complexity of life, while others continue practising their faith, but without the maroon robe.

July 19: Radio-The comeback medium

 

Long before television came to the country, with all its flare and glare and blare, radio was the only source of news and entertainment, the only modern device that kept people in the remote corners connected to the world beyond.

Then came the television, in June 1999, and killed the radio, they say. But radio lives yet, a decade and a half since, very much alive. And by the look of it, may be just growing popular.

A year after BBSC’s FM radio transmission went nationwide in 2004, it started a few dial-in programmes in English, Dzongkha and Tshangla. The pro-grammes are now many, not only slightly modified but with addition of Tsangmo and Lozey and Alu Da Nyencha, among others.

A media impact study found that radio continues be the most popular media in the country.

August 16: Growing up before time

 

As informal boarders,  young children of farmers in remote communities are learning be independent. It is not an easy way. They have to walk for hours to school and back. That’s why  many children in the rural pockets of the country live in huts near the school without their parents. They cook for themselves, fend for themselves and take care of each other. Often they have no electricity where they live, no modern cooking equipment, proper toilets.

While children learn to be independent, they are exposed to risks. It is a long hard way to education.

September 13: Suicide is not the solution

Suicide is one of the growing public health issues in the country. In 2013, 96 suicide cases were reported. Many cases go unreported because of stigma attached to it and other factors. Often, the impact suicide creates ripples through society. But as quick as the ripples appear, the impact disappears. Family and loved ones are left behind and struggle to come to terms with a new reality. Health experts tell us that depression, which is a normal response to loss or misfortune, is one of the leading causes of suicide.

The government is planning a much-needed suicide prevention unit. But suicide is not an issue that the government alone can tackle. We all have positive roles to play.

October 4: Social Media in Bhutan – The good side and the bad side

Social media has been in the news and mostly for the negatives associated with it. It is new and challenges we face are also new. How do we put social media to good use?

Social media has great potential. But we need to know how to use to our advantage. In the wrong hands, it can be dangerous. We have see this happen in our own country. The opposition party filed a libel case against a user of social media.

We stand at a crossroad today. As we launch ourselves further into digital age, we recognise that we need some education on how to use social media responsibly.

October 18: The changing (high)landscape

 

Bhutan’s mountain communities are changing. High up along the famed Snowman Trek route, at 3,840m, is a village known for

its beauty and uniqueness. This prettyhamlet of the highlanders, where women still wear heavy jewellery around their necks and conical bamboo hats, though, is in quiet transition. Laya is fast shedding its proverbial good looks and donning a new one.

One begins to notice change begins from way far before reaching Laya, along the forest trails laced with waterfalls. Thousands of trees are being cut to lay electric lines that will go to Laya. Countless trees, old and young, are felled also for the planned road up to Taktsi Makhang, a little army post before reaching Laya proper.

But even as this highland community stands at the cusp of change, softness and hospitality, for which the people of Laya are widely known, has remained yet.

In the southwestern remote community of Lauri, changes are happening too. But unlike in Laya, changes here are fueled by road that is under construction.

November 29: NCDs – The modern malaise

 

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise in Bhutan. Also called chronic diseases, or lifestyle diseases – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – are not passed from person to person. These are the diseases associated with the way a person or group of people lives.

With development the way we live is changing rapidly, and more and more Bhutanese are succumbing to NCDs, the greatest killers of the modern era. Globally, NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year. About 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Considering that Bhutan is at an early stage of the demographic transition, high prevalence of NCDs could become great health and economic burden to the country if they are not addressed promptly and appropriately. The good thing is: they are all preventable.

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