Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why wait for Reading Year to start reading?

(Editorial - 2nd for daily newspaper Kuensel)

The prime minister, in his state of the nation report, declared 2015 as the Reading Year.  It is one the best news from Parliament in recent days.
It is also a news that almost every Bhutanese citizen would welcome, although  they may not  be practicing it.
Reading is important, perhaps more important than pay raise and taxes, for it focuses on more than just deficiency among Bhutanese.  The benefits of reading are many.  It exercises the mind, teaches concentration, and provides a wealth of knowledge – all of which everyone is aware of.  But its importance gets drowned, and ignored, most likely by the supposedly important taxes, salary hikes, and other issues of national interest.
It’s a cliché that Bhutan leaped from a culture of rich oral tradition to the visual medium, forgoing the printed word.  But if oral tradition was rich, it’s a good indicator that Bhutanese can be good readers.  It’s simply a matter of timely intervention and a necessary push.
Reading skills do not emerge out of the blue, and no age is too early (or late) to start.  To read, one has to comprehend, and to comprehend, one has to talk, understand and know language.
Scientific evidence supports exposing children early to language, as early as the time they are in the womb. Literacy in the first and second years of lives is most effective in making them skilled readers later in life.  It is in this nascent period, that language develops at a pace that is unmatched at any other age, or ages put together.
In the UK, a ‘talk to your baby’ program found that children, who are less spoken to, have a smaller vocabulary then their peers.
In Bhutan if most adults are a lost cause, the reading habit is still not beyond hope.  If adults feel and know reading to be important and good for their children, they will, and must, take up the responsibility to teach their children to read, and develop it into a habit.
While buying a toy from a store, pick up a book too – a picture book, an alphabet book or a book of words.  Inculcate in your children the hunger to read, to feel the printed page under their fingers, and to crave the smell of paper.  This done, in years to come, they will pick a book, for they would know well about the untold treasures it holds.
Scientific evidence also shows that those who read are those who perform well academically, not to say that’s the sole reason why children should read.  It simply means children grow intellectually and, as they grow, they understand things easier, better and faster.
Next year may be the Reading Year, but one need not wait that long.  It is said children are made into readers on the laps of their parents. Start today.

Taxing the taxed

(First editorial for the daily paper Kuensel) 

Vehicles are prized possessions, be they luxury or necessity.  The news of  lifting of the ban on import of vehicles would have sparked excitement, if it were not for the revision of vehicle import taxes, deliberated in the National Assembly, snubbing it out.
Instead, the feeling it has generated is one of exasperation and disappointment, despite the government’s reasoning.
The reasons are, to some extent, why there is a disgruntled lot.
But most importantly, the burden of tax increase, including the five percent on fossil fuel, would weigh down mainly on the low-income group.  The revision is expected to set off a chain reaction, with the uncontrollable inflation receiving yet another boost.
For the low-income people, the preferred vehicle comes in small packages and lower cylinder capacity (CC).  The government proposed a 110 percent tax on the import of vehicle in the 1,500CC category, and the National Assembly reduced it to 100 percent, citing reasons, such as unaffordability and necessity.
Those imported from India will not be levied customs duty, which is 45 percent, only sales and green taxes.  In retrospection, the government imposed the ban to control the outflow of Indian rupee.  The situation could be put to task, with those wanting to buy vehicles choosing the cheaper option.
The government will garner a handsome sum from the taxes, but the question is: at whose expense?
There are those who’ve been waiting for the ban to be lifted to buy their first cars, which can also be the first family car.
At the assembly discussions, members argued that it would be appropriate to let first-time buyers purchase without the revised rates.  The second, it was said, could be taxed the new rates, because it would then fit as a luxury.
This makes sense in the light that public transport system is either lacking or unreliable.
The five percent fuel tax rubs salt on the wound.  Cost of transportation will increase, and this will lead to increase in cost of goods and services, and here again the low-income group and farmers in rural areas will be hit the hardest.
The intention to raise vehicle import taxes is misplaced, despite motives, such as environment factor, control of vehicle numbers and reducing sreliance on fossil fuel, being laudable.
What’s important, at least for the time being, is to first have alternatives in place before taking the plunge.  Electric cars are to decrease reliance on fuel, but it is yet to establish itself.  Besides criticism faced at home, the vehicle in question, Nissan Leaf, has been receiving negative reviews in the international market and in Japan.
The capital city has a fairly good public transport system, but it needs a major boost to serve and cater to the masses.  In other districts, public transport is almost lacking.  An alternative should be in place, like an efficient and reliable transport system, so buying a vehicle can warrant a second thought.
With rising cost of living, aren’t citizens, especially from the low-income group, already taxed enough?

Friday, May 30, 2014


A frozen midnight.
Is that a possibility?
So the scales don't dip 
to the other side.
I'd like to stay on this side.
This side of the clock.
This side of the day that ticks away.
Weigh the scales down with all my might,
If I might say.
But those sixty ticks, clicks and chimes
don't stay.
Can I freeze you midnight?
Is there a giant battery
I could simply pull out
to stop you?
Is there a way 
to break you?
So I don't have to exclaim
It's midnight already!
I've got little fingers to entwine with 
tiny feet to hold in my palms
and it's today I must savour it. 
It's today's dose 
not tomorrow's.


There's no such thing
as Love.
Narcissism. Narcissistic. 
the only one.
 almost bursting
but not flowing out,
only to
when children
No! Don't!
Don't get me started. 
You're not confused.
There's no such thing
as Love.
It's Narcissism.
Don't confuse emotions.
Your Love for the other person
is pure Narcissism.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Still a dreamer

The life we've already lived – it's no surprise- is worth looking back at and reflecting on. Breaking it down to a decade, because that's when I graduated from college and started work, I am surprised how less ten years can be.

Here I am after the sad bus ride back home from college, and after the snow fall on the day I started interning with the paper where I'd later work for the next ten years of my life. I still do. Just that I am on maternity leave and writing this at home sitting next to my two-month old boy who just woke up and is squirming and straining. It's gas problem that babies have to grow-out of, something I've learnt from my experience with my first born. Yes, I've two sons to go along with a marriage and a career. All of which sums up my life in the past decade.

Coming to think about it a career, a marriage, two children in a decade is a lot even to spell out, so simply imagine what it'd be like to actually live it. No wonder when I reflect the last decade seemed to have zipped by, and it leaves one with a feeling of how less ten years can be. Life certainly is short.

At the threshold of another decade in life, my youngest sibling is at the beginning of the decade I left. She just returned from India having finished college. If her life seemed to have dragged so far, she'll regret how fast this decade's going to be and it's kind of worrying because where does that take or leave me. I'd really want it to be eventful but slow.

And at the beginning of another decade I write this down, hopefully it'll be able to help me reflect at the end of the tenth year.

I don't want to call this my 'Bucket List' because it has such a finality to it. I will call this my list of must-do things. These are things that complete and make me whole. With all the I and Me going on I definitely sound like a selfish and self-centered person. Maybe I am. Or maybe I just need to do it and find out if it really does make me whole (I know it will), and keep the judging to others and not be bothered by the judgements.

  • Grow and groom a garden (beautiful enough to soothe an aching heart and not just for the butterflies, bees and birds)
  • paint (that empty canvas that comes to my mind each time I think of painting)
  • write a book (inspire others to write too)
  • sing a song (make a crowd go wild)
  • climb a mountain (cross a river/s, sleep under the stars, and feel the warmth of a camp fire on my face while the frozen wind chills me to the bones from the back)
  • take a stunning portrait of a baby (pursue it as a hobby)
  • publish my poems (make others feel the melancholy, sadness, heartaches and dejection that inspires and makes me poetic)
  • Holiday with my family (hold hands, leave footprints at a beach, sip on a cool, tall lemonade, smile, and leave memories in photographs that'll age beautifully)

I've just realised no matter how fast or slow, or consistent or inconsistent, and whether there have been external or internal influences affecting my thoughts and actions, I am still that dreamer I used to be. Happy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Baby Blues

The glow of the neon lights cascaded in ripples of warm air that hit the skin unforgivingly. It took some time getting used to the heat in the neonatal ward.
But it numbed the post c-section backache that was making life miserable lately.
A line of white tents, as if pitched mid-air looked like luxury tents for tourists somewhere in the Sahara desert, glowing blue under a clear night sky and surrounded by gentle golden dunes that went on and on.
But this room was a far cry from luxury hotels. And as if as a reminder a wail from one the 'tents' interrupted this reverie.
Nothing luxurious about phototherapy beds. Just a fanciful thought.
In a flash a woman stood up from the floor, lifted the sheet from the tent, and scooped out a naked infant, bawling for attention. The white sheet lying between the glass and the infant was soaked in yellowish fluid. It was a good sign that the few days old baby was recovering from jaundice. Phototherapy was working in breaking down the bilirubin into a substance that could be digested and excreted with other wastes.
It was good to see infants recovering in the neonatal ward but the overpowering feeling of sadness couldn't be ignored.  There seem to be, in the air, a consolidated sadness of parents and family members of the tiny helpless patients.
So as I sat on the floor behind the phototherapy bed where my four-day old son was getting treatment, tears welled up my eyes.
Just then my sister and her husband walked by to say they were leaving. "Are you crying?" she asked. I said no. "Come on, I can see the tears glisten under the blue light," she said, trying to bring some relief to the tense moment. Tears started streaming down. "Well there's no reason," I said. "I am just crying."
It was the truth. And a lie too.
The drop in hormones after delivery was to be blamed, or so I've learned. It's called postpartum blues or baby blues. It was second pregnancy and repeat c-section for me, but the blues caught me off guard this time around.
Just a couple of months back, a friend was caught in a similar overpowering emotion that she simply sat on the bed in the ward and let tears roll down when her brother-in-law came in. "Don't cry," he'd consoled her, and instinctively handed her the chocolate he was eating. "Here, have some chocolate," he said.
She narrated the incident like it didn't matter and I felt much better.
Over the days, weeks and months such a situation could ease up and become only a memory. It meant, even for me it should only be a phase I'd overcome and become a 'been there, done that' moment.
The other day, as the milk came in and the breasts became engorged, I was overcome with a powerful emotion that I simply let tears roll. It was an 'Alice in Wonderland' moment. I felt like a giant crying gigantic tears, which were more powerful and capable of wetting the cloth than the milk I was expressing to get some relief.
I found myself unable to explain, so I blamed it on the engorgement. I simply felt blue.
Back in the neonatal ward, in the mothers room were baskets containing hot bottles and food, relatives with grim and tired faces, and  mothers recovering from labour and c-section. Most mothers preferred to sleep on mattress laid near infant's treatment bed. The two rooms, while identical were the opposite in terms of cleanliness.
The neonatal room was spick-and-span. The mother's room looked like a dharamshala. Without a bed I had to find a corner to stack my mattresses.
I sat on a bed of a stranger when I had to eat. My mother had sent soup, rice and scrambled eggs. And as I sipped on the soup, I couldn't help but let my lips curl down, like that of the fish in an aquarium I'd been face to face while stealing shots with a camera.
Outside, we could see the parking lot near the ER. It was a cloudy day matching my spirit and the spirit inside the ward.
I looked around the room and saw tired sleepy eyes, some nodding away while others looked stoned with worry and sadness. A parent draped in a gown, worn while entering the ICU trudged in and plonked on the bed, only to be called back to the ICU again. 
Something was desperately required to lift the spirit here. With each mouthful I blinked tears away.
The mood was so much different here than in the maternity ward where mothers and fathers cooed to their newborns and happy relatives visited with gifts and food.
The neonatal had the saddest aura about it and it didn't help for I had the blues.
Entering the phototherapy room was a task. I'd simply ignore the first few beds in the phototherapy where infants lay naked with tubes running through their nose and hand. They looked helpless with their tiny fingers and toes, limbs and arms. I dreaded what it'd be like in the ICU.
The two days and nights spent at the neonatal ward dragged. Everyone in the ward desperately wanted to leave, but not without their little ones safe and sound.
Day two in the ward was a Sunday and the testing facility staff had requested the ward not to send patients for bilirubin testing because the machine was down.
So on Monday, when the nurse instructed parents to take their babies for the test the ward suddenly seemed bright and alive.
With the lights out and the sheets hauled over the phototherapy machine, the room wore a different look- a very welcoming look. It was bright and airy and not under the haze of neon lights that seemed to have a drugging effect. 
After the test Leki came with the result. "It's 17," he said and my face simply dropped. I was that melancholy fish in the aquarium again. It had to be below 14 to get a yes from the pediatrician to go home. More importantly, it indicated my son was not recovering as expected.
"I am joking," he said. "It's eight. Can't you see? It's scribbled on the paper."
The weight in my heart suddenly disappeared.  We were headed home.