Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An expedition to Merak and Sakten

Sometimes you look back in life and realize that that one choice was one of the best things that ever happened to you. 

During my sophomore year in college, we took this expedition for 16 days to the then virgin nomadic community of Brokpas in Merak and Sakteng. 

The Brokpas are a very important and celebrated tribe of Tibetan stock in Bhutan, one of the most spectacular semi nomadic people, a very mysterious and elusive people billed as primitive, unchanged, isolated and remote. 

The Brokpas in their beautiful attire

April 28, 2007: A class of 24 students with their Lecturer/course In-charge Mr. Jigme Nidup left for the expedition to break fresh ground pertaining to the studies on Brokpas as a partial fulfillment of the paper VIII course.(Guys what was the name of the paper VIII course? :P, sorry Jigme sir).

Clad in sunscreen looking like white monkeys with sun cap, umbrella, backpack and our supplies for 16 days, we started from the nearest road point, Phongmey in Trashigang and walked for 5 hours and reached Joenkhar, the nearest village from the road. 

After a night there, starting early morning the next day, we crossed numerous suspension bridges, climbed the cliffs, and crossed the valleys sometimes crawling literarily, cried and reached the most spectacularly beautiful place Sakteng after 8 tedious hours. 
Merak Settlement
Class of 2008 with Jigme Sir

At Nyakchungla, 4140 meters. From left : I, Kunga & Tshomo
With a clustered settlement, all surrounded by beautiful valleys among the Juniper and Rhododendron shrubs and a quaint river flowing between the valleys, it reminds one of an old scene from the medieval English settlement in a movie.

Merak and Sakteng ranges from an elevation of 2,500 meters to 5,000 meters amidst the sublime starkness of alpine grandeur. The Brokpas are known to tend their herds in pastures as high up as 5,000 meters during the summer months, moving to lower regions for part of the winter when a frigid reign is ushered in, accompanied by freezing temperatures, snow and ice and bone chilling wind. 

Polygamy and barter system is part of everyday life here in the mountains. When one wife stays at home and weaves, the other goes herding. 
The men conduct a brisk trade of bartering their milk and woolen products against essential commodities. Interestingly, when the whole country was suffering from Rupee crisis, these breed of people were not affected. 

After living in the tents for a week, interacting with the locals, working on the data collection with them and merrymaking in the evenings, we had to descend towards Merak, climbing Nyakchungla at 4140 meters. It took us approximately 8 and half hours to reach Merak. 
The study being socioeconomic in nature, we could get deeper insight into the lifestyle of the Brokpa community through different demographic attributes. 

Today, things are changing for these nomads. They’ve been connected with cellular phones, roads and electricity and students from this community are participating in mainstream development. 

My heart swells with pride whenever I see or hear or read about them on televisions, radios and papers respectively. 
I always seem to brag about this expedition we took. 
There’s so much to write about it. I just don’t know where to start and how to end it. It has definitely been one of the most interesting and memorable experience of my life and I’m grateful to my friends of Geography Honors, Batch 2008 and the most interesting and kind soul, our Jigme Sir for this beautiful memory.  

When I look back now, I'm super glad I went through this trip.

P.S: I had been meaning to write this post for the longest time, finally it saw the daylight today. Dates and facts have been extracted from our field survey report, Geographers, how many of you still have those reports? Also some particulars are from the excerpts of my journal which I carried with me during that expedition. I hope this refreshes your memory. When I look back, I miss those days tremendously. 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

This Weekend + Link Loves

Just when I was excited about the warm air just around the corner, it gets so cold and rainy in this part of the world all of a sudden.

Thimphu has been so gloomy and cold this week. Neither did it snow plenty (do we consider the frostbite on the mountains as snow?) nor did the rain stop. And yeah we didn't get snow holiday also this year. Sigh! 

Anyways, just to cheer things up, here's some interesting links from around the web that could just light up your day in this cold and gloomy weather.

2. Do you struggle to tie a scarf? Here are Three ways to tie a scarf.  

3.This realistic 10 Tips for a productive life should be practiced by everyone, I think.

4. This amazing 30 Day Photography Challenge. I'm so doing it. 

5. Envelope System for Budgeting is something I would love to work on towards maintaining/balancing my budget.

After Google reader, I've been using bloglovin', the most friendly and the coveted blog reader to follow and read awesome blogs. You can follow me here on bloglovin' 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Her // A Movie Review

Have you seen the movie Her? 
If not, you definitely should. 

A 2013 sci-fi film set in the slight future follows the story of Theodore Twombly, a lonely, soulful man with unattractive moustache and glasses who wears the high-waisted pants that have apparently become fashionable for men in this era. 

He falls in love with his computer operating system, (OS). By falling in love, I mean that he develops a relationship with an intelligent OS, linked to a smartphone handset with earpiece with a female voice and personality called Samantha played in voice only by Scarlet Johansson. 
That's not too unlikely in this era of smartphones and tablets, with our lives becoming increasingly controlled within those devices.

Theodore makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people in a company called BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com in a "creative" office space. Ironically, he is himself heartbroken with the impending divorce from his wife. 

There are some great moments in the movie with sentimental endings. It’s astounding how digital affairs are as sensual and heartbreaking – as the real thing. 

It’s about the fundamental truth that love is about sacrifice and sharing. It’s about accepting the knowledge that we must surrender a piece of ourselves, we must compromise, in exchange for a lasting and meaningful connection. 

It’s about the truth that no one is perfect; no one is ever exactly who we've imagined them to be. But if they're there in good times and bad, in the still of the night and amid the chaos of the day, nothing else matters. 

Her is a movie that is recommended for your Valentine’s date night, a movie which is highly significant in today’s lives. 

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's day. 

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Life Lately

Lately I have been: 

DRINKING: alot of Moconna instant coffee. I just love the invigorating aroma. 

LOVING: the clear blue skies and the warm air during the day. The arrival of spring just around the corner is comforting. 

READINGThe Husband’s Secret and Lolita. This is the first time ever that I’m reading two books simultaneously. So I’m having mixed feelings. But I’m loving The Husband’s Secret a little more. 

LISTENING: to Breakfast show on Kuzoo FM on the radio every morning while driving to office. I love the songs being requested and played. It’s amusing listening to all these conversations on air. And listening silently, you become a part of it too. 
Secretly, I love listening to the male hosts than the female. Oh don’t judge me now.

There was this particular host for the breakfast show that was supposedly to be an intern. And it was his last week on the show. A lot of callers were calling to show their love and support for him, it was so emotional. The love and support he had from the community was immensely overwhelming. It was impressive. He’s being missed definitely. 

WATCHING: Diana, a 2013 film which depicts Princess Diana's final rite of passage: a secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, the human complications of which reveal the Princess's climactic days in a compelling new light. 

WEARING: self knitted beanie and a pink warm robe at home every day. I’ve been living in it literarily this winter. 

ANTICIPATING : travelling solo for the first time in 19 days time. I’ve been imagining gazillion things on my mind. What if I miss my next flight? Did I check the flight timing correctly? What if I miss the train afterwards? What if I get lost? What about the jet-lag? What will the local time be there when I reach? What if…all these thoughts are giving my little brain a headache at times. 

How’s your week rolling on? Got any tips on travelling solo, I would love to hear.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Remembering Khuruthang

Year 2005: I went to Ugyen Academy in Khuruthang, Punakha. With much pride I dare say that it was one of the best decisions of my life to go there. Not because I could qualify for college from there but because I met wonderful teachers and friends and I got so much to learn from them. 
Also many wonderful things happened to me that teenage year which fairly helped me shape to become a person I’m today. 

For whatever reasons people used to say Khuruthang is a dead town. But to me, Khuruthang is a quaint sleepy town. 

The Puna Tsang Chhu river meanders undisturbed in the middle of the town and there are clear blue skies with plenty of warm sunshine; Khuruthang is the ideal place to live in winter. 
It’s a perfect town to untie the lace of your shoes, undress and get into the running river water in the scorching summer heat or take a stroll on the banks of the river towards the balmy evening.
More so, it’s a happy place to visit the weekend vegetable market and bargain for larger than life red dried chillies and crunchy puffed rice (zaw) with the locals. 

It’s the place to eat iced Frooti in summer and not get sore throat. It’s the place to climb a hill, stand on the top and feel the air on the face. Khuruthang is a perfect place for a happy ending. 

Fast forward to 2014: After nine years, I was visiting Khuruthang, this happy ending place. Except that it was not a happy ending this time but rather a distressing one. 

This past weekend, I was visiting an ailing uncle with my parents, only to find on that clear, sunny and warm morning that he breathed his last on the wee hours of that morning. 
Grief-stricken, we prayed for the deceased and the family and returned home.May his soul rest in peace.

I wonder when I will get to visit Khuruthang next and what memories I will have then. Will the memories be as happy and as sad as it should be? 
Only time will tell, I hope. 
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