Thursday, May 31, 2012

Laughter is Really the Best Medicine

I received a mail from one Ms Christine Seivers of medical billing and coding in relation to my earlier blog on "Laughter- The Best Medicine". She has put up an elegant post on laughter and its health benefit titled "11 Reasons Laughter Really May Be the Best Medicine of All". I strongly recommend all the readers to go through the insights of her justification. Her mail is posted below as it is.

Hi Karma,

My name is Christine, and I work with I’m writing because we recently published an article,“11 Reasons Laughter Really May Be the Best Medicine of All”, that we think clicks with tone of your site and the passions of your readers. Here’s the link: (

If you agree, it’s our hope that you share the article with your audience. Either way, I’m glad to have come across your blog. Let me know if you have any questions, and keep up the great content!

Christine Seivers

Friday, May 25, 2012

My take on Rupee Crunch

Over the last couple of months, the Bhutanese print media has been flooded with nothing but reports on the rupee crunch also known as rupee crisis. This is the second wave of information-flood in Bhutanese newspapers, the first being an extensive coverage on the first democratic elections of Bhutan in 2008. This crisis has been scrutinized by various academic scholars, financial analysts, economists, politicians, reporters and their findings reported in the media and blogs. Since an indepth explanation of "how" and "why" has been thoroughly covered, I thought i would skip my part and let the wave settle by itself with time. However, weighing the gravity of the situation, it would rather be an injustice for me not to make a mention in my blog. The fact that I as a business student having studied macroeconomics in depth, makes all the while more persuasive to poke at this topic.

There have been many school of thoughts hypothesizing so called foreign currency crunch, in our case being the Indian Rupee (INR). Many a time,one could see blame-games being played by our politicians on the television. Nobody was responsible and yet everybody was responsible. Initially, people neglected this news overlooking it as something which would bother only the government and the central bank. Eventually, as the darkness creeped in, the effect of this "financial tsunami" was felt even by a farmer living in the remotest part of the country. The lifeline of the Bhutanese people were slowly being squeezed with the Ngultrum getting valueless across the border. The prices of the commodities sky-rocketed overnight and the private constructions brought to a standstill. The situation has still not been tackled despite the very many proposals.

For those who still ask "What the heck is this Rupee crisis?", let me explain it in simple terms without using the concepts like balance of payment, trade deficits, fiscal and monetary policy, etc. Bhutan's largest trading partner is India where imports far exceed the exports. Although we as end customers pay for the products in ngultrum, the dealers and distributors pay in INR to import the products from India. With increasing consumption(includes everything) over the years, the demand for INR increased year after another until such time when the credit limit reached the maximum. Bhutan can borrow a maximum of 3 billion INR from the government of India and a maximum of 10 billion on overdraft(OD) from the State Bank of India with 10% interest payment. These are called Lines of Credit. The total INR that Bhutan can borrow is 13 billion. The crisis was slowly building up in silence until it could not hold any further and the first mayday was announced when the ceiling of 3 billion(max limit) was hit. As of now the total borrowings have already reached 12 billion (9 billion on overdraft).

The central bank/RMA sold USD 200 million for INR from the foreign currency reserve as a speed breaker to this crisis but the forces of crisis was still too strong. The goverment of Bhutan has also appealed the government of India to raise the borrowing limits to 10 billion but the deal is still not finalized. However, these are all short and medium term remedies even if the approval comes along.

How can we as a citizen avoid the crisis? It is difficult, yet simple if each and every one of us act responsibly and consciously. Along the lines of Sogyal Rinpoche "If you cannot help others, atleast harm them not" which when applied to this case "If you cannot export, atleast reduce the import". Let me skip the remedial actions on macroscopic level and instead come to an individual level. The best way to reduce the import is by resorting to our indigenous products as a substitute to the imported goods. We could burn less fuel, avoid junk foods, save electricity so that we can export more, maintain backyard gardens,develop an entrepreneurial mindset and so on. If each one of us do that, one day we can say "Bye Bye INR". Last but not the least, be happy with what you have.

P.S: The above explanation on Rupee crunch is just my point of view and might not necessarily concur with the rest.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weird-ish Workplace

PhotobucketThe melodious ringtone of my cellphone goes off with intermittent vibration on the bedside table. As i remain dead to the cyclical ringing of the phone, i hear my son crying, possibly due to sleep-disturbance. Almost immediately, i wake up from my deep sleep, pick up the phone and say "heelllooooo" in my half-sleep tone. The phone is still ringing, i haven't pressed the receive button. As i press the green button, i learn that it's a call from the shift operator of Upper stage, Basochhu Hydropower Plant.I look up at the wall clock, the time is half past two in the morning.
I hear the panicky voice of Tashi Tobgay(HR guy)on the other end of the wire and he goes on "Sir!, we have a problem. All the machines have tripped because of grid failure and we have received instructions from the minister to start in island operation. The unit circuit breaker seems to have a problem. I thought I wouldn't disturb your sleep but we are left with no other option". I tell him "No problem, I will be right there. Meanwhile, could you inform my maintenance guys". He responds "Sure. I will inform your guys" and hangs up the phone. But why is HR doing the shift, I wonder?

It is raining heavily and i can hear the eerie sound of the wind forcing through the cracks of the dried bamboo prayer flag as it flutters rigorously in the dark windy night. I jump into track pants and collect the car key lying atop the humming refrigerator. As i open the front door, i see Karma Wangdi( maintenance guy) and Jamba Tenzin(plumber) waiting impatiently outside. I mumble something like "Why has the machine to trip at night?" to which i get no response from them, possibly because they are also in half asleep state. I drive the car to Upper stage zooming past tall buildings and old architectural monuments. Moments later we reach the plant and find lots of people gathered in the machine hall like a paparazzi gathered for some event. Heavy-bellied Dawa(parop Dawa) is shouting at the peak of his voice, warning others to stay away from the crane as he maneuvers over the machine. They have already removed the generator bearings and are in the process of removing the turbine. Tobgay and Raju(drivers) are hitting hard on the bolt-head simultaneously with a heavy hammer so as to remove the runner. Tobgay regretfully exclaims "One of the runner bolt got broken in the process of removing it". Oh! no, what a mess, I grumble.

I ask Tashi "Where are the maintenance guys" and he replies "There was a slight mis-communication and they have all headed towards intake". I immediately follow with my next question, who gave the instruction to carry on with this work, to which he replies "The asst. security officer gave them the instruction".
I, at once question myself - am i dead? Why are these wrong people working in the wrong place at the wrong time under a wrong instruction. With a deep chill of fear running down my spine, I anxiously look for my shadow to verify whether i m still alive or not for this could be the least of all possible things. Suddenly, the alarm clock beeps tring! tring! tring! only to wake me up from this weird dream. I remain disoriented on the bed until my conscience gradually brings me to the presence in time and place. I realize, I am not in Bhutan but in Denmark. It is seven o clock in the morning. The room is brightly lit by the sun's rays piercing through the window blinds. I get out of my bed still with a tinge of confusion.

The dream was no less than a horror-ish nightmare. Thank God! I am still alive, the shadow is still following me, and that, this dream may never turn into reality.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Of Chogos and Rimdros

Chogo is an annual event particularly marked by every household in the western part of Bhutan to appease the deities and gods for a good fortune and a bountiful harvest in the year that is to come. Rimdro is a lesser form of the appeasement which is generally adhoc in nature and often as a result of an oracle's prescription. This would classify as a spiritual bribery, isnt it? On a serious note, this is one moment where we pay homage and solidarity to the unseen forces for letting us share the four elements of nature. Sadly, at one point of time, this rituals also became a societal competition out of mere human ignorance. People simply looked upto those who hosted grandeur of foods and drinks. Thankfully, these days, people are resorting to vegetarian servings following a decree from the monastic body.

However, the story that i have for now is about one such event that i have my participation at a place called Hebesa under Wangdue district. I dont really remember the date..ahh...not even the month, but it was cold enough to make me wear my feather jacket. The Lam (religious head) of the village Goemba -monastery had generously invited the whole staff of the plant to his Chogo. With some decent contributions from each one of us attending the function- dont ask me how much we did - we headed straight to the house. The bus was full of cheerful and delighted people, jolting and cajoling all the way up to the destination. Happy they were, due to their very own reasons - some because of the abundance of ara (locally brewed liquor) to pour down the gutter and some expecting a promising courtship along side the festivity. The other reason was probably the presence of a young and a pretty girl in that house which nobody took a chance to miss the encounter. If these were not the reasons for making them cheerful, it was then that the rest were happy. Whatsoever it was, no sooner than we arrived, every nook and corner of the house was filled with people who never ceased to flock in continuously. By virtue of our good deeds in the past..ahem..we were led into the inner chamber which had the above-the-normal arrangement. Even more good was it, that, I got the privilege to sit on the carpet meant for the special guest, not that i was one of them but, nobody wanted to sit on it. I thought why not take a chance given the opportunity and there i was like a village head sitting on the thick carpet. Butter tea, milk tea, juice, etc were served one after another. For those who had an avid appetite for ara (do i consider one of them, besides the figures like Karma Wangdi and Pelden Nima?? could barely wait for the non-liquor servings to end. The shaky hands of one lady finally brought in the pot of ara. One could imagine the quantity that the pot contained and I could already visualize the state of the room after few more hours.

In one of my college days, a lady yelled at us saying "When the wine is in, wit is out", and yes truly it was. The room started getting louder, noisier and merrier, the GNH was starting to take its effect. Talks on random topics, mostly to pull the legs of each other was presented with some exaggeration. Some of our mates, who were less immune to ara were already in horizontal position meaning dead flat and snoring. Those of the new recruits who were keen and passionate about their just gotten jobs were all ears to my lecture on work and learning. Did I tell you that I have this terrible other-side of me wanting to speak out everything but secrets, when i am between tipsy and near-drunk. Nonetheless, they were eagerly listening to what ever i had to say, atleast it looked that way to my then drooping eyes. By then, most of the people had already called it a day and retired to their respective houses and there i was like the "last of the Mohicans" still taking some intermittent sips and blabbering out some fundamentals not bothering who i was speaking to. Gradually, the potful of ara was overpowering every mankind and most of the bachelors could not even stand upright or atleast pretended that way, so as to spend the night in that house for their good own reasons under this pretext. Even before i could realize that i thanked the owner and left the house, i was knocking at my very own door only to hear the yelling of my wife for being so drunk and late. There went on the never ending blah blah blah....until i realized that she had stopped only to start again, but this time waking me up for the breakfast. That moment was one of a kind, and for this, I live my life as the way I am and that I be invited to all the Chogos and Rimdros.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Leaders in the making

In what it seemed as a survival feat or the closest resemblance of the National Geographic's "Man Vs Wild", the 2012 batch of Full-Time MBA students of Copenhagen Business School, Denmark undertook an arduous journey in the woods of Sweden. The Leadership simulator or the LDP trip to Sweden has always been the much talked about topic in the whole course. It gained the highlight and the hype for it is about how the theory is put into practice.

Fortunately, the weather favoured us with a bright and a clear sunshine. The travel time was about 6 hours by bus including the ferry from Denmark to Sweden. The "mission folder" was handed over to us during the journey so as to better prepare ourselves with the task. The 6 hour long journey brought us to a military camp, technically called as per the mission as a "drop zone". Each one of us were provided with a backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, torch, rope, cup, plate, compass, knife, etc. With all these stuff added to personal cloths easily made it big and bulky to weigh around 25 kgs or so. Four teams were formed comprising of 10-11 people with an immediate appointment of general managers. During the rest of the course in the forest, each one of us had to take the roles of HR, Logistics manager, operations manager, assistant GM and general manager.

Day 1:
Still cheerful, the teams were dropped at different locations but had to find their way to the base camp using map and compass. It was already dark when our team reached the camp. We had no time to choose a proper camp site and had to settle for a sloppy area near the lake. The makeshift tents were immediately pitched, fire was lit and the packaged meal cooked. The first misfortune for the team came in when one of our team member had a knee injury. While he took rest, we took turns to guard the fire through out the night. Since the tent did not provide enough room for us, most of us had to sleep in the open space only to bear the freaking cold night.

Day 2:
We had to wake up at 6:00 am and set the journey of the day by picking up 10 ribbons on the way to the next camp. It took us half a day walking in the forest with the backpacks. The next destination was to reach an island for the night but before that we had to rappel down a cliff and use canoe to sail us across to the island. Everyone was low on energy and the cheerful faces just gave some light and forceful smiles at times. We lost our way several times even to the extent of crossing couple of hills. For most of us, the rappelling or the abseiling was a first time experience. I could literally feel my heart pounding so hard on my chest and the steep cliff gave me an adrenaline rush. It was already dark when we reached the island. Everyone was so tired and hungry that no body was in a mood to talk. Fish was all we had for dinner without any ingredients. The semi-cooked fish only tasted delicious to my hungry stomach and so did to the rest. This time we all managed to squeeze inside the tent for the night.

Day 3:
Woke up early morning and packed our things for yet another unknown destination. We had one loaf of bread for eleven of us for the whole day. I could already hear the grumbling of my stomach and the slice of bread did no good to it. We used the canoe to get back to the shore and prepare ourself for the final task. Fortunately or unfortunately, this task was so demanding and it was my turn to become the general manager. The task pushed me to a new limit and i felt i became a lot more wiser. We finally built a rope bridge and every one got transported to the other bank. Some preferred to swim across but it nearly took their life due to hypothermia. We walked for another couple of hours and at last reached the camp near the beach. Finally we had a good food and a real bed to sleep on. It was so relaxing after spending days and nights in the forest that even a five star hotel would not have provided that amount of comfort.

Day 4:
Had a morning session called "reflected teams" where we took turns to reflect and give feedbacks to one another in a style which was quite unique. We started our journey back to Copenhagen and reached back sometime around 7:00 PM. The much talked about leadership simulator had just been completed and I feel I became wiser and enlightened after several rounds of feedbacks and reflections. The three days in the forest taught me more than what i learned thus far in the course. I wish one day i could pass on this experience to my fellow mates back home.

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