Jan 31, 2010

Russell Peters: The Green Card Tour (Just thought I'd share as I know there are many fans out there)

(Click the title to view clip on some of his ethnic jokes)

By now, Russell Peters, also known as the "King of Multi-Culti," because of his ethnic jokes has become a household name not only in South Asia, but almost every corner of the world.

Kicking off his 20th anniversary as a stand-up comedian, the comic performed at Madison Square Garden yesterday (and today) to sold out audiences.

Russell Peters is originally from Brampton Canada born to Indian immigrants. His jokes about his Indian upbringing has resonated now, not only with Indians and other South-Asian immigrants, but with every other ethnic background who can relate to that immigrant experience. And so last night it was not a surprise to find pockets of every ethnic group that one could think of in the audience, who responded with cheers every time Russell called out to the different groups.

Jan 29, 2010

Voicing dissent; by "Trashing" our PM?

While skimming blogs and online forums for the China/Bhutan border article,  I was slightly perturbed when I came across and the way people have been trashing our Prime Minister in that forum.

Although I am all for a free press (with control over only 2 things porn and violence) I feel that subjecting an elected leader of our nation to such indignities is quite unfair; irrespective of whether we agree or disagree with his policies; whether we like him or not. 

It saddens me that people do this especially knowing that he is, after all, the Prime Minister of our country.  I think is an excellent forum, in that it is one of the most free and uncensored ones, (there may be others I don't know of), but I think there are many ways of voicing or expressing dissatisfaction.  Rather than indulging in petty name-calling, mud slinging and disrespectful behavior (which is typical of western politics) it should be remembered that our tradition, our politics, has never been about that. Yes, at the time of Deb Rajas we may have been worse than American's and dealt our political enemies with the sword, but I think through the reign of magnanimous and enlightened leaders in the Wangchucks we have learned better. We have learned that it is all about working together, keeping the peace and not about partisanship and dirty politics. 

In some ways it was because we were not given free reign to do this, but instead focus on the bigger picture of our goals and how we could make things better for our country that we didn't have any of this nonsense.

Dissatisfied people should be bold and brave enough to provide healthy criticism by delving into the issues they feel have not been addressed.  Not crying foul at every little step the man takes, every word he says.

Thimphu Traffic 101

(Written in Sept/Oct 2009. Kuensel)

About 15 years ago there was a big brouhaha about introducing traffic lights in Thimphu. A traditional Bhutanese model of a traffic light was even erected outside the Tashichhodzong, but writers at Kuensel and citizens argued that there was no need for such development and the officials agreed. The idea was scrapped and for a long time and we Bhutanese were proud that Thimphu was the only Capital in the world free of traffic lights.

That was back then. Now, however, with mini “GNH” cars swarming every inch of our streets and Prados and Land Cruisers bearing down on us even in narrow alleys, one wonders whether the time has arrived – for not only traffic lights, but also more stringent rules of the road.

If we don't want traffic lights a simple solution is to have more traffic police posts erected at junctions that have roads diverting in more than two directions, especially near schools. Without both, traffic will only get worse than it already is and accidents increase.

The problem, it seems, is not only confined to Thimphu now. It was painful to read an article in the Kuensel dated August 5 “Students take charge of Traffic” in Phuentsholing.  In the article the principal Jigme Thinley decided to take matters into his own hands by letting students direct traffic after an increasing number of students were in accidents. “We had to act fast rather than wait for someone to take responsibility,” he said. This statement should put to shame the authorities in charge (Roads and Traffic). We can have policeman stand guard outside retired minister’s homes, but we can’t spare them to conduct traffic during rush hour and save numerous lives of innocent school children?

The roundabouts at some junctions have cleared much of the confusion between drivers who arrive at the crossroads. But many junctions where more than two roads converge or diverge don’t, and these are places where accidents are just waiting to happen.  It makes one cringe to see people competing with traffic at junctions to cross the roads. Should we still be proud that we have no traffic lights? White-gloved traffic policeman are an option to the lights and their gracious hand movements enamor tourists making them a uniquely Bhutanese experience, but we should have one or the other.

With such a situation it is understandable why every Bhutanese dream incorporates a car. If you don’t have one, you are in some ways, doomed.  Public Transportation systems have been developed, but not to the extent that it would deter people from leaving their cars in their garage. Walking and biking would have been wonderful options as Thimphu is a small town with destinations easily reachable.  But being a Pedestrian in Thimphu is an unpleasant and unsafe experience - unfortunately many have no choice.

Roads around the town have been widened, it seems, with only the motorists in mind. Come to think of it, the number of pedestrians actually outnumbers cars and drivers so why don’t they receive top priority when roads are expanded? The only reason one can think of is that the people who make these decisions don’t walk.  Footpaths should have gone in side by side every time a road went in or was expanded.  If there were footpaths all around Thimphu imagine how healthy, green, eco-friendly and safe it would be for us, especially the very old and very young.

Jan 24, 2010

Bhutanese Get together in New York

Last night, 23rd January, Bhutanese Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk and his wife, Aum Sangay Bidah, graciously hosted a get together for the Bhutanese community in New York.

As we all know the Bhutanese community in New York has increasingly grown - workers/students/Mission members - in the last few years or so.

In a short note to the attendants, the Ambassador said that the occasion for getting together was because he did not get the opportunity to observe/celebrate national day with all the members of the Bhutanese community in New York during the real National Day (December 17) because it was a working day and many Bhutanese who are working in New York could not make it. The other reason was also that the list of invitees included many outside guests and the hall could only accommodate so many people.

Climate Change and Bhutan: Nature reporter Anjali Nayar reports about the retreat of glaciers in Bhutan

Jan 22, 2010

Jan 20, 2010

A Major Breach in Ethics on the very story talking about it!! What an Irony

Ok, a week or so after I ruminated about the "Standards and Ethics of journalists" and being a journalist in Bhutan in the 90's, I was rather disconcerted to find that "The Journalist" a new newspaper (that has joined the ever increasing number of publications in Bhutan) used my blog entry without my permission!!

What an irony, that "The Journalist" was trying to make a point about the Standards and Ethics of journalism through my story but was, by the very act of printing my story, breaking one of the biggest rules i.e. lifting a story without permission.

While I was credited for the piece there were a few things that I, as the writer of the piece, was not comfortable with:

Jan 9, 2010

Finally even the Nepalese President has come to realize the irresponsibility of the Nepalese media

(click title to read the story from the Nepal Times

This is something that the Nepalese media has to realize.  As the President says, Nepalese media has been making superficial reports and do not go deep into the issues that will contribute to meaningful change in Nepalese Society.  My observations of the Nepalese media is that it minds every country's business, but their own.  It is high time that they start being more analytical about their own business (the media business and their own country) and focus more on issues within Nepal than outside its borders.

The poor country has been through a great deal and the people have suffered immensely (including the royal family) in the past decade or so.  As a neighbouring country we know that if things improve in Nepal, Bhutan couldn't be happier. Their happiness is ours, their suffering also becomes ours. What impacts them, eventually impacts us. Living so close to one another, it is high time that these countries realize this about belonging to the same regions.

While we talk about interdependency at the global level, we often overlook it when it comes to those closest to us. Every country has a bone to pick with its neighbour -  India and Pakistan over Kashmir,  India and China over borders, Tibet and China over the whole country (and to me this is the worst of the examples in the region. If anybody has issues about human rights and refugees in the Himalayas or even in the world, PLEASE take up Tibet's cause. These people have been subjected to the worst human rights abuses for 6 decades and the world leaders including the UN turns the other way), Nepal and Bhutan over refugees, Nepal and India over politics, India and Sri-Lanka over Tamil rebels, Cambodia and Thailand, Thailand and Burma and on and on it goes.

I hope that the Nepalese and the Bhutanese media can learn from this and realize that especially in a poor and developing/ or rather underdeveloped regions like ours, the media has a larger responsibility to shoulder.  It must realize the meaningful and powerful role it can play to make a difference in their societies, rather than focusing on petty politics, sowing seeds of disenfranchisement and aggravating problems between governments and people.

Jan 7, 2010

Standards and Ethics for writers/journalists

(click the title to read the NY Times article)

After reading this editorial in the New York Times, I just felt that I had to write a little something from my own experience as a poor journalist, working for a poor paper (subsidized by a poor government) in a poor country. (I have deadlines to meet and said I wouldn't be writing until after Jan 15, but nevertheless let me give a little time to this topic)

Ten or eleven years ago (maybe a little longer even) I was an up and coming, enthusiastic and dedicated journalist working for Kuensel (at the time the only newspaper in all of Bhutan). The little/meagre resources - and no press freedom at the time - didn't make us very independent or powerful journalists and most of our reporting was focused mainly on development and social issues rather than politics or entertainment (of which there was hardly any).

The media was still a fledgeling industry (or rather just hatching from its egg in Bhutan) and we were just understanding and experimenting our roles in a society bound by all sorts of limitations (small country, small town, no press freedom, no money etc. etc) but nevertheless pushing boundaries, one story at a time.

I have never been to journalism school but it was on the job that I learnt about the responsibilities that I had to shoulder as a reporter, importance of facts (cross-check, cross-check, cross-check), of not inserting my opinions and biases into my stories etc. etc.  I, however, did not learn about accepting gifts, after all, Bhutanese people are all about giving gifts (reporter or not, in the justice departmtent or not, govt official or not) - a dhoma here, a pen there, a ride, a meal...  And with the gift, no matter how big or small, Bhutanese people are all about obligations and understanding what it means when someone does something for you. People on the lower rung of the social ladder know how they can get papers pushed, appointments made and other things they need/want to the top of the line/list with these simple acts - a bow, a "Dasho", a Dhoma, a pen, a pound of butter, a meal, a ride.

Perhaps I was young and not fully educated on all of these nuanced obligations (perhaps I was, but in this case just thought that it was not a personal gift but rather an obligation on their part, given that we were all working for the same poor government,) so I learnt the hard way.