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About dreamingthruthetwilight

A fifty plus year old female who loves life in all its nuances, who loves people of all shades, who has a weakness for the well written word and a subtle strain of music, who loves to travel, who is fascinated by nature and who abhors religion in its divisive manifestations

Family trip to Coorg, Karnataka


My father didn’t get along with most in our extended family. So there were very few occasions that we had, as kids of spending time with our cousins. Those occasional opportunities, for that very reason, stay fresh in the mind.

When my own kids were growing up, the annual vacation in Kerala was looked forward to keenly because it meant a lot of fun with their cousins .

In Delhi,where we worked and lived, it would be the peak of Summer, with dry hot Loo winds blowing in from the Rajasthan deserts (do any of you remember learning about the local winds in your geography lessons? The names I remember are those of The Mistral, Chinook and Sirocco)

Dust-storms were a regular feature , with just an occasional shower which would temporarily settle down the dust.

In the initial years after I settled down in Delhi, the journey home used to be very long and tiring. The train traversed the entire length of the country from the North to the South. By the time it reached Andhra Pradesh on the second day , across which it would chug along the whole day, the temperatures would be really high and in the second class compartment, the passengers would be listless and less talkative. Many would carry along with them earthenware water- carriers , which would often topple over because of the movement of the crowd and then, to avoid the place getting all wet and dirty, newspapers would be hastily spread out on the floor.
Yes, even the reserved compartments would be crowded because the closing down of school for the Summer vacations meant that almost all of the homesick Keralites would be headed to their home state. There at this time of the year, the monsoons would have arrived and to be able to breathe in the wetness in the air and feast one’s eyes on the greenery was considered well worth the patient waiting in long queues even before the arrival of dawn, or sometimes the whole night, in front of the reservation counters, three months in advance, to get your tickets booked and the tiresome , long journey.

Later on , one became entitled to free Ac travel, courtesy my job in the Railways and to make it even more enjoyable , the route now went along the Konkan stretch along the Western coast of the Southern Peninsular region with the Western Ghats on one side. If the monsoons had already commenced, the whole topography would become mesmerisingly beautiful, with the hills of the Western Ghats in the distance, being covered in blue mists, paddy being sown , or already standing high in the fields, the rain splashing across the glass windows of the coach or pounding on the roof and rivulets of red muddy water springing up and flowing along , all through the landscape.

Funtimes that one month was, both for us adults and the kids, catching up with family and loads of good stuff to devour.
Now when my nieces and nephews have all grown up and between them have a nice bunch of kiddos, one didn’t have to think too long before deciding to join in on the vacation trip that they had planned . Coorg was the destination , which comes alive during the monsoons.Both Kannur , my hometown , where they had all gathered and the holiday destination , are not far from where I am now settled in Bangalore.

But then, the rains have been playing truant this year and the whole of June had gone by with just a few miserly showers. It was a long drive from Kannur to Coorg in two fully packed vehicles.

Fortunately, the weather decided to be at its benign best and it did rain and nicely at that.

The place they had booked was a home-stay near Madikkeri called Indraprastha-The Willows.

The owners, Prasad Kariappa and Meen Kariappa, were a very friendly couple. Their kids had grown up and settled in different places. The gentleman had started building this place thirty years ago. “He is still not done with it”, the wife complained.
“It is his passion and he goes on and on, adding this or that. But maintenance is such a problem. We don’t get workers nowadays to attend to even the plumbing problems”

Their home is beautiful inside, with the entire walls done with wood panelling. They didn’t have to buy a single piece of wood and every bit came from their holdings which spread over fourteen acres of land, in which the dwelling stands and another forty acres of plantation elsewhere in which coffee, pepper, arecanut and cardamom are being grown.

“My daughter says, we should plant at least a thousand trees to compensate for the ones that had been cut down for the house”, Meena told us with a half smile.

The homestay facility was upstairs. There was enough space for all of us to be accommodated. There were a few plumbing issues and no, it was not swanky in any sense. Maintenance did indeed seem to be a problem. The place reminded me of Meryl Streep’s place in “Mama Mia”

It was evening by the time we reached there .The crickets arranged for a really loud orchestra to welcome us. It was far away from the main road and there were no other sounds of the city encroaching on us at the getaway.

We had an early dinner , with plans to accompany Mr. Prasad on his morning tour through his plantation. Had lots of fun playing dumb charades before hitting the bed.

I slept like a log, but in the morning there were tales to be told by some of the others of a cat slinking in through the gap between the eaves and the roof and jumping on to the dining table and eating up quite a large chunk of the bread. As the door had been kept open at sunset time, mosquitoes had also found their way in keeping some awake with their buzzing and bits.

We went to Thalakavery the next morning, the plantation trip having been given up because the Boss wasn’t feeling too well. Then to the Abby Falls post lunch.

Before we came away , we spent some time chatting with the pleasant couple. Their drawing room was now a mini-museum of sorts. He had been collecting tools and other articles related to their early ways of life, mostly associated with farming and mostly made from bamboo and cane. There were contraptions to catch fish, to castrate bulls, to collect cow-dung from the behinds of the cattle that would stray in the fields , even before they hit upon the ripe grains that were waiting to be harvested, hulls for the oxen, caskets of cane , a bamboo hat that would cover the head and back, of those working in the fields , as they bent down to sow or add manure or harvest the crop, an old kerosene lamp, pouches and an old suitcase and lots of other stuff. He brought out a double barrelled gun too which had been with the family for a very long time and the dagger like weapon which was part of their traditional attire. The handle of the knife had been carved in ivory by Mr. Kariappa himself. Carving was his passion and there were many other items there , which he had carved out of wood.

They belonged to the Kodava group, who were the original inhabitants of Coorg. Later on, tribal populations from Wynad and Tamil Nadu had been brought in to work on their farms and these tribal settlers had then become part of the demography of Coorg , as had those who had come in to do and set up shops and other business ventures.
“Now we have become the minority and we have been given none of the concessions that have been made available to the others. We are now fighting for being included in the OBC list and also for autonomy. We’ll be going to Delhi In November to sit in protest at the Jantar Mantar” in the capital city,New Delhi.

Coorg or Kodagu , had in fact been declared as an independent state in 1950 . It was later on that it was made part of Karnataka, Meena told us. She did most of the talking . She had a very lively and friendly presence. Her husband was happy to fill in . No, he was not from the Army , he replied with a smile when we remarked upon his moustache. He and his four brothers had all along been working on their plantations.

Take note, the 14 acres plus 40 acres had been the share of this one brother alone.

So why would they need any concessions, then? We asked politely. We were indeed curious.

“People like us are the fortunate few. Most of the Kodava people are poor, many even below the poverty line. It is for them that we are fighting now. “, Meena explained.
One learnt from the material available on the Internet that land reforms had led to many of the erstwhile landowners , having had to give up much of their land, gradually leading them to penury.

It was a good break, all told and my grandson Zo had a whale of a time.

Nothing like travel to fill in the time taken off from the regular classes in school.

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Posted by on July 12, 2019 in Travel

 

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Leaves


This is in response to the prompt from this blogpost:

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS June 22/19

This is the first time I am participating and I am not at all sure how it has turned out.But yes, I did type this in as closely as I formulated my thoughts .

“Leaves leave beautiful impressions in my consciousness .They speak of Nature’s infinite variety , of beauty , of life itself, the very source from which everything else emanates. They are magical , trapping the streams of sunlight into their being with immense love for everything else that is in existence on this planet and synthesising the energy that sustains every ecosystem.
They throb with sensitivity, fluttering in the breeze, exulting in the sun , catching the glints and smiling in the reflected glory .The hues of green, each different from the other as are their contours and textures. Each revels in its uniqueness without any sense of competition or conflict , confident of its own worth and its place under the sun.

Each ages gracefully, turns yellow , flutters and falls and waits unhurriedly to become one with the earth. Waits, till it finds its way through the sap that gives life to another form of flora .
And so the cycles go on of renewal and beauty and joy and trust in the laws of a compassionate universe.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2019 in Nature

 

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The Winnowing Waves-my first published book


 

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This is my first novel and I am pretty excited about it.

Reading has been a passion from as far back as I can remember, which goes back to the time that I had just started putting alphabets together to form words and I would try and make sense of the words I came across on any printed space or signboard on the streets.

As a child it was Enid Blyton who cast the spell and in my late teens,  the Mills and Boon series and authors like Hermina Black  and Barbara Cartland swayed my romantic heart. The community library just next to our house also provided us with a lot of books in my mother-tongue, malayalam.

As an adult, there was no particular genre that I preferred. I HAD to read, that was it.

In the job that I held for twenty five years in a Central Government Ministry , before  I took voluntary retirement , ten years prior to my superannuation date, there was a lot of writing that took place. May be it was my proclivity to write that made me use my  pen for the notings and draft letters submitted to the higher authorities on the files and  made me depend a lot less that one normally would , to dictate them to my stenographer and have them typed out.  But there was no scope for creativity in that milieu of presentation of hard facts and figures.

I was busy even after my retirement in matters that I had involved myself with , which again , had little to do with writing. But I had started a blog and later joined Facebook when i started putting up posts of this and that and pretty much everything that interested me or wanted to share.

It was only after I relocated from Delhi in North India , where I had spent close to thirty five years,  to Bangalore where my daughter was settled , to sign in for the role of doting grandmother,that the seed of an  idea of putting something together in the form of a book , was planted in my mind. I had  in fact straightaway written the first chapter of a novel, which i thought would effortlessly take off, considering that I could call upon my vocabulary without too much effort and because I imagined that there would be plenty of time to spare.

But my grandson became my only area of abiding interest till he started to go to school. By that time , the initial fervour had subsided and i would half-heartedly take up the chapters with huge gaps in between. It was only in the course of the last one year that I approached it with any amount of consistency and then too, by the time I had finished putting together around twenty five chapters, I was gripped by impatience to be done with it.

Thereafter for a few months, I tentatively explored the regular pubishing platforms , but was left feeling dejected, seeing how long and tiring the process would be and that too without any guarantee of success.

So I went the self-publishing way and the book has been available online for the last three months.

To most of my friends here, the background and culture in which the characters are set in will be totally strange. But may be, just may be , it will make for an interesting reading. The society  and places are all familiar to me from close at hand and hopefully, I have been able to add a touch of authenticity to the story. I will be delighted if you get a copy and read it.

It is an attempt to capture the changing patterns in the intra-community and inter community relationships  that one has witnessed from my childhood up to the present time in my homestate, Kerala , a caostal state in the South of India.

In India the book  is available on the Notionpress online store , amazon.in and Flipkart

For those outside India it is available on amazon.com

Here is the link:

https://notionpress.com/read/the-winnowing-waves

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Books

 

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Bhutan Diary-5 -Takstang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)


When one thinks of Bhutan, the Tiger’s nest Monastery perched  high up on a mountain cliff is the lasting image that one carries around. That we had to go there was a given. How difficult was it going to be, was a guess that we didn’t seek to answer, when we started out.

From our hotel in Paro, we set out quite early, between 5:45 and 6:00A.M to reach the flat rocky base from where we would start the ascent , by around 9:00AM. My grandson and I hitched ourselves to horse-backs . We were told  that they would take us more than half way up the climb. Wangchuk , our companion, driver and guide , gave us his card to call him up in case of any need. That was a reassuring start . Daughter was going to trek up the whole way. But old mother Hubbard had not set any challenges for herself and so that assurance was just what I needed for myself and the kiddo who was short of a few days to turn six.

 

The path up the incline is a mud track, with boulders along the way. At this time of the year, it wasn’t as difficult to progress as it would have been during the rainy season, when the trail would become all slippery. It wasn’t a very broad trail and our horses had to give way to the ones coming down and it was scary when it would choose to edge along where the land just dropped below . They were sure footed, of course and used to the climbs. But accidents do happen. But then, there’s a lot to say for optimism.

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There were side tracks along which those on foot could choose to proceed. They would make the distance shorter but the incline was steeper. The weather was clear and hence warmer than we expected.IMG_9080

 

Somewhere at half-point, we were left to go forwards on foot. There was a cafeteria there. Daughter had caught up with us there, all read in the cheeks and perspiring. I bought myself a stick which would help me in negotiating the climb. Grandson and I took turns in depending upon it to get a hold on the tricky terrain.

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We stopped often , both for myself and the kid. My knees were okay but at that altitude, the oxygen levels had reduces and that would make me short of breath quite often. Paro is around 7000 feet above sea level and the height up to the monastery from the base was another 3000 ft or so.

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The track wound itself around the mountain through pine trees and the view of the surrounding mountains and the valley below was breath-taking. The little one was tired by the time we reached the point from where we could see the monastery perched straight across on top of another slope, to reach which we had to descend around 600 steps, not at once , but in different levels and then climb up another 180 steps or so.

 

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The Takstang Monastery or the Tiger’s nest gets it name from the legend which says that Guru Padmasambhava , who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan, had flown to the cave there  from Tiber , on the back of a tiger. The story further goes on to say that he had meditated there for three years, three months, three weeks, three days  and three hours.

The monastery was built around that cave in 1692. It was razed by a fire and rebuilt in 1998. While the first time, Taking up the building material to that height must have completely been done manually, in1998 they had used cable cars to transport the material.

 

Traditional building styles in Bhutan had never followed any drawn up plans and was just a skill that was passed down. Even at present , there are perhaps no architectural courses offered in the Bhutan Universities and most of the architects now in the country,whose numbers are still few, have qualified abroad. One of the first projects that the head of the Bhutanese Institute of Architects, Ms Dorji was involved with after returning from Australia as a junior architect, was the reconstruction of the Takstang Monastery after it was burnt down.

“She explained to me how they set up a camp at the base of the cliff with a temporary office, sleeping huts, material storage and construction area.  No measured drawings or similar documentation of the structure had been recorded so for the reconstruction efforts they had to go off old photos and diaries.  Apparently a call went out worldwide to people who had visited Taktshang appealing for photographs.  From these, a detailed scale model was built at the base camp rather than plans (as the Bhutanese craftsmen couldn’t read plans).  The materials were then winched up the cliff on a pulley system, and the full sized version constructed over the course of 5 years.”

The above excepts are from a blog which will tell you more about architectural traditions of Bhutan. Here is the link: https://jeninbhutan.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/14-architecture-and-construction-bhutan-style/

 

We visited only parts of the monastery as it was already past noon and we were concerned about our journey down . We wanted to take it slow and reach base before it became dark.

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It was easier going down , of course, but it was still a 3-4 km trek back.  I had always wanted to be fit enough to accompany my grandson on a trek somewhere. I hadn’t been sure the opportunity would come as he was still little and I was past sixty two. But then the universe conspired and the little legs co-operated albeit reluctantly at many stretches. For him, this will be a tale he will probably boast about once he grows up or feel humbled by. We hope it is the latter.

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A visit to Bhutan is incomplete without going to Tiger’s Nest. It is do-able if you are in fairly good health and your knees are still in good shape and your Bp levels are not high. I do have borderline BP, but did not find it beyond my limits.

You just have to choose your own pace.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Travel

 

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Bhutan Diary-4 -“Simply Bhutan”


 

“Simply Bhutan” in Thimphu, is a museum which seeks to showcase the traditional culture of the Bhutanese people.

We were welcomed with the drink “ara”, a fermented drink made from rice, in the small circular welcoming area, on the walls of which hung the photographs of the five kings. Those who had passed on to other realms had the white “kadar” draped below the photograph. Those still alive had it draped around the top of the photograph. This is a small white scarf which symbolises purity and is used during all ceremonies.47574777_10155809410677093_2616340591771910144_n
Our guide, a pleasant young girl, told us about each of the kings and the appellate given to them which represented the most significant achievement during their respective reigns.

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The first one , who had established the kingdom, after unifying all the warring warring factions within the land was known as the King of Unity. The second who worked towards establishing Bhutan as a distinct cultural and political entity , removed from the rest of the world, was known as the King of Separation. The third was known as the King of Modernity. The fourth Jigme Singme Wangchuk who is known for factoring in the Happiness of the people into the country’s development goals is known as the King of Happiness and the present one, who ascended the throne after his father’s abdication and has been carrying forward his father’s intent of establishing an elected Government is known as the King of Democracy.

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There was a range of caskets, big and small, weapons, water carriers made from yak leather and ropes made of yak hair , placed around the area.

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All of it had been articles of everyday use in the old days. Bhutan had changed a lot since then, of course. But there is still an abiding simplicity in the living styles even now.
Their traditional dress , for example, is uniformly worn by everyone even now. May be there is some difference in the material, but to the outside observer, there appears to be  no scope for the Bhutanese population to flaunt their status through the range and texture or design  of the clothes they wore. Food similarly, is very basic. I did try out a couple of traditional dishes, Emu Dakchi , which had potato and Kewa Dakchi made from big green chillies, both cooked in a white cheesy sauce. My taste buds approved it.
Just inside the entrance are, there was a live demonstration of how mud walls used to be built, by ramming wet mud with poles, singing all the while to make their labour light.

 

The guide told us that the songs also included prayers asking forgiveness from all the bugs and insects that they were likely to be killing in the course of building those mud houses.

Those houses were very well suited for the climate of the land. One later learnt from the Internet that the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, headed by the well known Dr, Tashi Zangmo was doing much in reviving and promoting the old construction methods.

http://www.bhutannuns.org/mud-house-for-nuns/

There was also a corner devoted to the “Fertility Saint”, with an array of phallic representations .

 

Women wear them as talismans around their neck or hang it on the eaves or at the entrance of the houses to usher in prosperity. He is also known as the “Crazy Saint” because of the unusual methods he employed for bringing enlightment to the people. There is monastery in Punakha dedicated to this saint.

You can read more about this crazy /wise saint in this link :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drukpa_Kunley

 

Inside the quaint cafeteria, four girls swayed to lilting music while we sipped at a sample of “Suja” or butter tea, which is very popular in Bhutan. It is brewed with tea leaves, yak butter,a dash of salt. They had sprinkled a smattering of roasted rice grains on top of the brew.

After the guide took around . explaining all about the traditional living of Bhutan, we reached a stall where a real surprise awaited us. Here sat Pema Tshering , who had been inflicted with cerebral palsy when he was a child. Abandoned by his parents, he grew up in the village under the care of his grandparents. The queen mother happened to visit that village and came across the young boy. Moved by his plight, she sponsored his education in an art school where he learnt painting and carving. Pema now earns a living out of this craft. He has received recognition worldwide now. The work is exacting , he admits, but he is happy that he is able to eke out a living. He is even planning to build a house for his parents who are now old. Compassion and forgiveness constitute a major gene in the emotional wiring of the Bhutanese people, it seemed.

This is a place any traveller to Bhutan must visit. For some reason it was not included in our itinerary arranged by the Travel Agents. Thanks to the suggestion rendered by Wangchuk, who drove us and accompanied us to the various places, we were fortunate to have not given it a go by. They charge Rs.200 per person for entry, but it was well worth it.

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2018 in Travel

 

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Bhutan Diary-3 -Dochula Pass


We were fortunate that we were travelling through Bhutan in October, when the weather was clear and bright. Dochula Pass, about an hour’s drive from Thimphu , on the way to Punakha, is best visited at this time. Then, you are able to see the majestic Himalayan ranges all around, the snow capped peaks adding to the allure .

 

Here, on a green hillock, 108 stupas have been erected in memory of the Bhutanese soldiers who had fought against the Assamese rebels who had built a base there to direct their insurgency against India. Queen Ashi Dorji had commissioned it.

 

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I should have stood in one place and wielded the camera , instead of trying to capture the scene while walking .Even so, I guess you may be able to get an idea of the ambience of this beautiful spot in the following two videos

 

 

 

There is also a beautiful temple called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Temple at the Dochula Pass , which has been built in honour of the fourth Druk Gyalpo (head of Bhutan), Jigme Singme  Wangchuk.

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In December, the annual Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Festival is held in the open environs of this place and they say that if travelling to Bhutan  during that time , this event should not be missed , for it would envelop the art and culture of Bhutan during those days for the benefit of those who participate.

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Later, we  sat in the nice cosy cafeteria, after going around and slouching on the sun-bathed grass of the hillock, drinking tea and eating fresh cream rolls, while soaking in yet again the panoramic view of the mountains and the cypress trees on the slopes, through the glass windows. Flags were festooned all over , fluttering in the breeze. They were blue (sky),white(clouds), red(fire) green(Water) and yellow(earth)in colour depicting the elements.

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Flags were festooned all over , fluttering in the breeze. They were blue (sky),white(clouds), red(fire) green(Water) and yellow(earth)in colour depicting the elements. Buddhist mantras were inscribed on them and they are believed to bring in good fortune.

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And here’s a video clip of our drive back from the Dochula Pass.

 

More in my next blog.:-)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in Travel

 

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Bhutan Diary-2 -Driving through


“Khozazampo”  Hello (Greeting)

“Kathi joomo”? (Where are you going?)

“Na thathu Thimphu jui. Na nava Paro jui” (We are going now to Thimphu. We will go to Paro tomorrow.)

“Bhutan Leshimdu” (We like Bhutan)

“Bhutan , nima tatumdu…chyure chomme” (In Bhutan it is hot during the day . In the night it is cold)

Smatterings of Bhutanese picked up from Wangchuk , who drove us to Thimphu from Phuentsholing and through it the next day and thence to Punakha and Paro and back to Phuentsholing.

map of Bhutan

As you can see, our itinerary covered only the South-West part of Bhutan.. I hadn’t really taken a look at the map before we had started out. If I had, I would have realised that most of the forest cover extended beyond this area , covering a major part of this country. It would also have left me better prepared for the comparitivly lesser green territory that we passed through. Lesser green as compared to the images one had installed in the mind whenever one read about how ecologically conservative  the development policy of the land has been.

The road trip was magical even then. Wangchuk had a collection of Bhutanese melodies on his pen drive and it gave an additional ambience to the experience. The roads were almost empty, once we left the city precincts , with an occasional vehicle overtaking us or approaching us from the opposite direction. Autorikshaws, an identifying feature of the roads in India, were altogether absent.

At this time of the year, at the beginning of Winter, during the day, sunlight poured down through the clear blue skies,creating patches of dazzling brightness interspersed with shadows at different turns of the road that wound its way round the mountain slopes.

Bhutanese labourers engaged in the building of roads and other construction activities earned around Rs.700 if they were men and around Rs.500 if they were females. Workers came from outside too, mainly India and Bangladesh.

Did corruption exist?, I asked Wangchuk.

The occurence was rare, he replied. Government officials caught taking bribes would be straightaway sacked, without even a pension.

There were no hoardings anywhere in sight. The people we passed by, were all wearing traditional clothes, the knee-length gho for men and the wrap-around skirts called kira for women. Even school uniforms were in the same traditional style.

We stopped for lunch and tea here and there at quaint eating places. Every building that we entered, even the monasteries , had the photos of the royal family decorating the walls. Clearly the loyalty was indisputable.

“The king is like God to us “, Wangchuk explained.

Did they have something akin to blasphemy laws? Did they have the freedom to utter anything against their king?, I was cuirous.

“Who would want to?” Wangchuk replied. “He gives us everything that we need ”

I recalled an article written by Professor Thurman in the local newspaper I found at the hotel reception that very morning. He was singing praises of the constitutional monarchy of Bhutan that was built on the bedrock of the principles of transcendental individualism, non-violence, learning, voluntary altruism and constitutional democracy.

After returning from Bhutan, I tried googling for that write-up and was pleasantly surprised that it turned up in a jiffy. Here is the link:

Turning to monarchy fortuitous for Bhutan, says Prof  Thurman

It was true…there was no evidence of any aggressiveness anywhere. There were lots of smiling faces. Their voices had a gentle timbre. The whole atmosphere was unhurried and non-competitive. Nothing exemplified that better than the pace at which Wangchuk ferried us across , with his frequent reminders that we could ask him to stop anywhere we wanted to take in the view or capture the scenes in our camera.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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