Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A love letter to my country

Dearest Bhutan,

I love you unconditionally and I hope it remains so for lifetimes to come should there be many. I write this out of my love for you so please do not weigh me by the word or a phrase or two, it flows as swiftly as a mother’s milk, you couldn’t separate the drops and it flows as spontaneously as it is being suckled. You of all should know that the essence is the essential not the words, nor the phrases nor the full stop or the comma in the right place, the essence itself. I write this for I have gotten into trouble for unleashing words like swords that have pierced systems and institutions and I do apologise, so here comes the writer’s disclaimer. Should it offend you, please treat this to be fiction, should it touch your hearts and rush your mind then please do spend a moment or two and contemplate. For reasons that make me a woman, this is emotional, I guess I think from my heart and my womb and remember the dead and the unborn and worry for them and us all, again, another female trait. I write as a feminine voice, that today holds a high held head but still thinks very deeply from the heart and still sheds tears when need be.

I shall shout and scream here no more, this is the last, it seems pretty futile talking to deaf ears. I shall blame no one no more, it’s like a sour relationship where we all pass the blame game ball and rotate it over an oval ever rotating table. It quite reminds me of passing the parcel game that we all must have played when we were little. We are all to blame; starting from our votes (I am not saying we put the wrong people to power, am talking about the thought of voting ) which usually ended up for our cousins and friends and family members and their friends and so on and perhaps also for the few deserving ones. Most of us voted with our hearts, if you are an exception, I am sure there are many, then I applaud you. We are seldomly known for what we do but more for our father’s name or the bloodline or our ancestral heritage and it bothers me to think, what if you have none of these? These are the Sonam Tsherings. These are the people I am most concerned about.

We are all a part of this, this that is the contemporary scene in Bhutan, in all developmental spheres including this Amend the Tobacco Control ACT page that exists on Facebook for voices; urban educated expressive opinionated voices, voices that care and dare to share. Do not monitor or scrutinize this page and judge its intentions in terrible light but look at this as a new generation of voices, voices that want to participate in the democratic processes, voices that tell you please steer the ship and adjust your sails, for we are all sailing the ship of development and progress towards comfort and happiness, for it carries us all together through time, through thick and thin, let us stick together as a wise intelligent nation, that not only stands high on the mountains but that which makes decisions of the highest thought, the most profound and practical. Many such pages should in-fact be launched, using communication and technology for other policy matters will generate much more nuanced consensus and opinions rather than taking for granted that the people who we elected can read and understand our minds, hearts, conscience and consciousness which I think we did not surrender with our votes. But yes we did give them our voices, which should be their voices, not their individual ones alone. So when you say why were we sleeping when you passed the ACT, I throw that back at you, why did you get elected if you did not come to ask our opinions? Do you only come when in need of votes? So who was half awake?

I do wish to tell you, as a woman, I care, as a citizen too, the thought of people who are currently behind bars torment me, I get nightmares knowing that I hold one of the few pens that will touch your heart or fry your brain, that words come to me and by virtue of my education, I can think and reason, perhaps much better than many as we are a country of mostly farmers and so when I do not stir the storm, voice my concerns I feel hypocritical first of all to myself. Therefore these changing voices, sometimes anger seems to do the job and this I hope is much more subtle and touches your soul somewhere as a Bhutanese, as one of the brick in the wall that makes modern Bhutan. I wish to participate in such an interesting time that you are going through dearest Bhutan, Tobacco ACT and even otherwise as a nation. We are progressing, yes if growth means cars and buildings and all things materialistic. I will not drag GNH into this because that would make this letter an unending one, where again we all have opinions about its construction, perception and implementation. I believe dear Bhutan that we are a happy nation because of everything ancient that is intact, that has been handed down over the generations, with much care and concern, be it nature of which we all at times forget that we are still a part of, culture which again stems from it and both nature and culture evolve. Whether Darwinian or not, evolution is inevitable. As human beings too, we are evolving, the next generation that is born is always more intelligent, I am sure we all told our fathers that and our children will do the same. We all live, age and die, that is the ultimate truth.

I chose to smoke cigarettes when I was in high school, I wasn’t a regular but that was the start. But I chose it just to re-emphasize. Years later, I still do, not very regularly as nicotine doesn’t charm me much anymore but yes I do. When I was in London I used to buy a pack of twenty for roughly Nu.500; cigarettes in England are very expensive. Not very long ago they started a BAN too. They did not ban the choice to smoke, or to produce receipts which usually only air travelers have access to, they rather chose a more strategic implementable method; they banned smoking in public spaces, pubs and clubs and parks and so on. Importing cigarettes from another country into England isn’t allowed, well not for direct flights into England but transit ones can get away with it if you can pocket it into your check in baggage. There are always tricks and means, aren’t there? Dear Bhutan, why am I telling you about England? I have lived there for three years and what I have learnt is that when a reasonable logical system and an implementable one is in place then it is so much reasonable and easier to implement and enforce. Given my Asian looks and our anti-aging genes, I had to produce an identity proof every time I bought a pack, sometimes even for a lighter and bouncers at pubs too do the same for alcohol, strictly 18 and above. They control enforcement and very strictly so, on the sales part, with high end tax and penalizing people who violate the same, especially if they sell to minors. The enforcement is equal and the same for one and all. England itself here is not the example we should follow Bhutan, but perhaps to borrow some of its well functioning system and policies wouldn’t hurt us if from their ancient voyages around the never setting sun and their lessons learnt and wisdom earned can be used for our own need to maneuver our boat in this tobacco storm. What I do find (again this is a personal opinion), is that our own system is run by our hearts, dominated mostly by men’s thoughts (I want more feminine voices since we think differently perhaps we would govern differently), and as for the ego debate let us not ponder on the gender.
As His Majesty says, let us build a good system. Sometimes it is wise to let the system itself change and evolve and so I pledge on this page and the wider audience, let us all contribute, let us all voice our concerns, with words that do not abuse and swear, but reason and converse, let us all participate in this modern Bhutan that we are building, let us make the most prosperous nation in the whole world; we are almost there, we are not too far from the shore. Keep heart.

Ps- I am told, please do confirm, that an ACT when passed cannot be changed for a year even if amended. So dear Bhutan, are you going to keep the victims of the system, so that the system and decisions made prevails? Or, will you think as a Buddhist country, be compassionate and loving and kind, and forgiving and free the monk and others who have little children, and their minds, what will become of the minds I do wonder? The body will wrinkle I know but their minds? Will they fear a ring of smoke or the smell of tobacco, the receipt that they could not produce or the system itself? Are we building fear my dear Bhutan? Building a comfortable country dear Bhutan I think first of all stems from happiness. Oh wait, did you not say that, that is not my line!

Until I return,

I remain yours truly,


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