Thursday, December 11, 2014

The last phase of the year

I thought it was just yesterday that we had the new year celebration. Time has swiftly passed by without even realizing that it is nearing the end of yet another year. In the midst of all the intricacies of life, time has lost its essence. Has the earth spun thirty times faster? Definitely not, but it seems it has just been a month that we marked the new year's eve.

Reflecting on the things I have done in the last eleven months, I feel I have done plenty of things yet nothing which is of any significance. Whatever be it, life has to roll on. But for the moment, there are lot more things to be completed before I am all renewed for the fresh year.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Made My Car Breakdown?

After couple of reschedules for the training on the performance management system to be held at the Institute of Management Studies (IMS), Thimphu, I was to finally move to Thimphu a day before the commencement of the training. Since I was to head to the capital city, I decided to dust and wash my car prior to the journey although it hardly did any benefit given the muddy road conditions. With my essentials being hastily packed in a bag, I started embarking my solitary journey so that I could make it through a small window of time for the road opening which was caused by the road widening works. I did not want to waste my time in waiting at the blockage for hours with nothing to do and no one to talk with. My calculations worked well and I was just on time to get through the first block. It did not matter whether the road ahead was hardly visible from the cloud of dust, every vehicle was trying to take the race of life. As scary as it was to overtake a vehicle, equal number of vehicle zoom passed from the opposite side. 

I was trying as best as I could to flow with the rhythm of the convoy but my car started to weigh heavy after sometime. I had to push the accelerator pad to its limit on the first gear to match up to the traffic. There was also an unusual heat radiating from the dashboard and the car started to stall. It was then that I sensed something bad with my car. The vehicles behind me were honking a lot and were probably annoyed with me for not matching up to the flow of the traffic. I had to take chance on the next broader road to let the ones behind me to overtake and to look at the possible remedies. I immediately opened the bonnet and it was literally burning. It was really hot inside. With my little knowledge on the mechanics of the car, I immediately doubted the coolant level. To my surprise the coolant was upto its mark. I tried waiting for about 15 minutes to cool down the engine on its own. When I tried hitting back on road, my car did not move an inch, much to my dismay and only started to roar out loud on pressing the accelerator. It was as if the horse was refusing to take the next step.

Without wasting much time, I immediately searched for the car manual and luckily I had it tucked in the glove box. Unfortunately, there was no mention about this strange condition in the troubleshooting section. With no abnormal indication on the meters and gauges, I was left with little option. I went on to using my electrical background and started looking at the problem from the electrical field. I flipped through the pages of the manual to look at the layout of the fuses. Since, it was unusually hot in the engine compartment, I narrowed down the search to radiator fan fuse. For the sake of completing my mental checkbox, I swapped the 30A spare fuse with the existing radiator fan fuse. I had little hope that it could solve the problem. On the start of the engine and gently pressing the accelerator, my car started to move forward. I was so happy that it solved the problem much to my surprise. Moments later I was behind the wheels trying hard to get through the second block but I could not make on time. I had already wasted about 45 minutes on this problem but the time wasted was worth it as I gained a huge experience. As I drove to my final destination, I was mentally working out what could have been the root cause of blowing the fuse off. Finally, I settled with my hypothesis that I also washed the engine compartment and the bonnet hood by spray jetting the water as mostly done during the car servicing. The water could have caused the short circuit as it was only a one time fault and never re-occured therafter.

Lessons learnt: 
If you sense something unusual about your car, immediately park it at a safe place and attend to the problem.
Never spray water into the engine compartment.
Never trust your car temperature gauge. The meter showed normal on my car.
Ensure that you have spare fuses in the fuse box and lastly always carry your car manual.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Grey Zones of Technology

Source: Google
Technology is advancing at the speed of light. Look at our generation and I am sure most of us have witnessed the era of type writers. The nonstop tac-tac noise of the type writers echoing down the alley of the school block only signaled the nearing of exams. The question papers had to be typed and cyclostyled. Zoom past those days and look at the present day. You will see this generation of palmtops, ipads, smart phones. We can even appear exams online. The 1.4 MB floppies were short lived. Today, people talk and work in Terra Bytes (TB). But, that's not the point I am making here.

There is no doubt that technology is advancing and making our lives easier day by day. Today, the earthlings might boast of sending numerous missions to other planets, building neural networks, growing test-tube babies, making near-human robots, constructing bio-computers and so on, but there is a wide area of blind spot which still remains unsolved. Think of the recent tragedy; the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian airliner MH370 carrying 239 people onboard. It is almost a week now and there is no clue as to what and how it has happened. Despite all efforts, the sophisticated technology has failed to locate the wreckage. When the satellites could capture a tiny space vehicle (Discovery) at the Mar's Gale Crater, which I suppose is thousands of light years from Earth, this gigantic airliner could not be traced which was flying just 35000 ft above the earth surface. Isn't it an irony? By the way, I have my deepest sentiments to those relatives of the victims who are spending sleepless nights with a glimmer of hope. This, I call the grey zone of technology.

Let's look at another case. The modern day pocket size smartphones can even count your heartbeats, analyze your mood, count your footsteps and do lots more, yet, science has failed to find out cure to those primitive diseases like cancer, hypertensions, hepatitis, schizophrenia, asthma, diabetes, etc. What good is it to boast of other things when these life threatening diseases take away our near and dear ones. At times, I feel that we humans have focused too much on the less important areas but have really forgotten to address the critical issues and concerns of humankind. No matter whether we dwell in the land of cyborgs and hybrids or still live in that primitive neo-neanderthal age, we are still humans and humans are mortals. So, the spear-headers and  cheer leaders of science and technology needs to step back, reflect, plan and take smaller steps instead of frog-leaping.
PS: Readers are apprised not to misunderstand me for an antagonist of science. Science have made wonders in my life. It has brought smiles on my face. Look! the camera has even detected my smile now :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Czech Republic enhances bilateral relations with Bhutan

When I went on a holiday trip to Czech Republic in 2011, little did I know that Bhutan and Czech had bilateral relations then. Infact, the recent visit of Czech delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Czech Republic's exhibition - "Czech Castles", which is currently on display at Thimphu came in as a surprise to me. I am being told that the motive behind this exhibition is to enhance the bilateral ties between the two countries which was established in 2011. It is good to know that Czech is keenly looking for "meaningful engagement" with Bhutan especially on the developmental front.

Let me share my knowledge and experiences from that trip, if this may in some ways, help in enhancing the bilateral relations between the two countries. Czech Republic is a landlocked country similar to Bhutan surrounded by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. Czech Republic and Slovakia Republic are the two countries formed  from the former Czechoslovakia after peaceful dissolution in 1993. It is located in the Central part of Europe with its capital as 'Prague' or 'Praha' as is known to the locals.

It was in 2011 Christmas vacation that I took a break from the studies and flew all the way to Paris and then to Prague. It gave me an opportunity to explore the central part of Europe. Prague remains one of the top tourist destinations in Europe mainly because of its rich history and many cultural attractions. The main attractions there are the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Dancing Tower, Jewish Quarter and Lennon Wall amongst many others. The people there are friendly, polite and helpful. What is more amazing is in the fact that modernization there has taken place in perfect harmony with the age old culture, tradition and architecture. One can see a seamless transition of past and the future portrayed in the form of present day Prague. Posted below are some of the pictures from  my visit.
Infront of the astronomical tower, Old Town Square
Wenceslas Square, Prague.
Prague Castle
Dancing tower
With the recent visit of Czech delegates, aid in many sectors were identified which includes Civil Aviation, Disaster Management and the film industry. However, the Czech Republic has prioritized the sponsorship of Bhutanese students. Besides, they are also considering investment in the film industry, hydropower and the tourism sector.
Hopefully the two landlocked countries can learn and gain from each other in due course and build an exemplary relationship despite the geographical isolation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hotstone Bath and Social Values

Hotstone bath is one thing which attracts lot of tourists to Bhutan just to have this unique experience. Dipping in Tsachu (hotsprings), menchu (medicinal water), dotso (hotstone) are some of the ancestral practices of treating different type of ailments. Since hotsprings are very few in Bhutan, most resort to hotstone bath. The practice is mostly famous in the rural community. Further you go into the rural pockets more wooden bathtubs for such practices would be found.

Work in Process
To an outsider, the term "hotstone bath" is itself sometimes hard to make a sense out of it as expressed in Sabrina's blog What is a stone bath??? .
Unfortunately (with due respect to the hoteliers for using this word), the commercialized versions of hotstone bath tubs which is available in most resorts and hotels across Bhutan is just an attempt to make a close replication. Most importantly, it misses out the intricate social bonding process involved in the task which takes atleast a day. If the tourists are to pay a hefty price for this, then they must experience the process as well. More than the health benefit that one derives out of this "medicinal water", it is much about enhancing your family bonds, and building friendship.

As far as my knowledge goes, no scientific studies have shown the water to have health benefits but Bhutanese will not mind continuing with the practice. The placebo effect, good meals and societal bonding during the process may be some of the reasons attributable for the revival of health.

With this as a backdrop, the highlight of the story is about one such event which has recently been organized near my workplace. The spot is located just above the Wangdue-Tsirang highway, about five minutes walk including few hops over the boulders. The place is believed to be blessed by previous Jekhenpo's and they themselves have partaken in such bath several times.
Enjoying the fruit of the hardwork
However, my main motive in organizing this two-day event was something different. Deriving the health benefits out of this medicinal water was just secondary. It was primarily aimed at bringing the staff members closer together through such event and also introduce some sort of team building tasks. It involved a great deal of individual and a combined effort to make the event a success. With each of these tasks like collecting firewood, gathering boulders, cleaning pool, pitching tent and cooking meals, people knew each other better and learnt to work better together. There were no blame-games and excuses being played. All I could see was genuine understanding, sacrifices and cooperation getting stronger with passage of every hour. Just as you could see in the above photograph, people talked on different topics in the moonlit night. This two-day event drew close to fifty people which included elders and toddlers in equal numbers - all joyful and happy at the end. One might not see an immediate and a discrete effect resulting out of this team building tasks, but it will go a long way in making a harmonious community and a better place to live in. With the weekend well spent, I am all charged up to work now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Travelling in a Metro

Few weeks back, I was at Delhi attending a two-day conference on hydropower in India. Delhi is one place I have mostly been to as compared to rest of the cities in India. My first visit to Delhi was some ten years back while I was a college goer. En route to college, after travelling for hours in a train, we used to halt at Delhi to meet our final shopping wishes. Since then I traveled to Delhi on several occasions both on personal reasons and official. Delhi being the capital state of India, one cannot even imagine the human and vehicle population. Take a ride around Delhi and the traffic will move at a snail's pace. To reach a destination of few miles away it will literally take ages to get it there. The honking of the cars will deafen you the first day and blacken your white shirt if unfortunately you are wearing one.
Throughout all these years, I have been experiencing the same fate and never even thought of travelling in a metro. Honestly, the image of Indian metros I had was that of local trains - overly crowded and suffocating. One thing that I dreaded most was falling a victim to pick-pocketing. Imagine yourself being rendered penniless in a wink of an eye and where seniority counts even in the beggar's community. As a matter of fact, not only in Delhi but in non of the metros in India did I commute so far. This time, since the group was large we decided to commute in a metro. I was quite skeptic at first and took a while to get out of my comfort zone. Infact, I got really surprised to see the condition of the train and the boarding system. In my rating it was at par with any other world class metros. It was neat, clean and most important always on time - a complete contradiction to the conventional trains in India. 

Delhi Metro
Inside view of metro

As I write this post I also learned that " Delhi Metro becomes the first metro project in the world to be registered with the prestigious gold standard foundation for its energy efficient measures...". It was not only convenient to travel but was also cheap, faster and reliable. Delhi proves impossible is nothing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

UFO Landing in Bhutan: Is it a Project Loon Balloon?

Photo source: Kuensel
The moment I opened today's Kuensel(15 Jan 2014), I was excited to see the image of an UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) which landed in Shingdeygang village in Sibsoo. The images and talks about UFO always brings in me a sense of inquisitiveness and makes me wonder a lot. Read my earlier post on  Curiosity Landing on Mars where I mentioned about how I get fascinated about the the extraterrestrial lifeforms and the space crafts. Almost instantly, I was filled with numerous questions and wanted to see the object in real. The news says that the inscription on the balloon read who ever finds the balloon would be rewarded although what kind of reward is not mentioned. The object has been taken to Thimphu for further investigations.

How could I ever leave the matter at that point? I almost instantly googled about what it could really be and after my little online research, I was taken to a google project site called "Project Loon" . Project Loon is an undertaking of Google and it is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters. So, these Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere and are carried around the Earth by winds. People can connect to the balloon network using a special internet antenna. The project Loon pilot test began in June 2013 and thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand's South Island.
Launching of the balloon
Balloon when airborne

The above images are from various online sources which resembles the one that landed in Bhutan. Sipsoo's UFO is supposedly one amongst the thirty which was launched as a pilot project and the reward that we could request from the project is free internet in Sipsoo :).  For the time being let's wait and see whether it is really the balloon from Project 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Becoming a Culinary Hobbyist

I don't know what triggered me but somehow, of late, I have developed this passion to experiment on cuisines from different parts of the world, and here I have become a culinary hobbyist. Partly, the influence is from the American and Indian Master Chef season shows which were nicely orchestrated on the television. Thanks to google for providing step-by-step recipes to thousands of food to a novice like me. has become my all time favorite website when ever I feel an urge to get into the kitchen.  Cooking makes me really engaged on weekends and the satisfaction is even more greater when the outcome justifies your hardwork. After hours of following the instructions given in the cook-book, my food passes through a trial judged by none other than my wife and our two kids. It is not surprising when at times they just throw away or spit out what I have prepared after spending hours in the kitchen. After all, it is my first attempt into all these dishes and to nail it down on the first attempt would mean defeating the famous chefs :). The below pictures are from my last weekend's work out.

Hot and cripsy Egyptian falafel 
Rusted Potato Salad
Up until now I have done carrot cake, pizza, chicken masala, fried meat balls, potato salads, pani puri, kebabs, falafel, deserts, tom yum, and lots more. My passion is not just limited to trying out new dishes but I have even tried on mocktails and other drinks. My homemade Irish Bailey Cream remains a top-chart as of now. With every new attempt, I get drawn into this pool of mouth-watering delicacies from all around the world . Mexican casserole and Cuban beef stew is definitely in the next.

Monday, January 6, 2014

More of "I quit" in the Land of Happiness

The recent article published by The Bhutanese on the high suicide rates in Bhutan is quite shocking and pitiful. Bhutan stands at 21 out of 110 countries in a 2011 WHO global ranking on suicide rates. When Bhutan is known to the outside world as a land of happiness, the Last Shangrilains are supposed to be happy in all aspects of life.  It is not the case as per the WHO figures. The Suicide rate of Bhutan is at 16.2 per 100,000 of population. An independent survey carried out by the paper also found that the suicide rate was increasing every year. It reports of 92 suicide cases in 2013, a jump from 65 in 2012. The "I Quitters" are mostly in the range of 18-25 years of age.

 Back home, everyone knows that the suicide rate is on an increasing trend but no significant measures have really taken place to combat this issue. What makes a youth with full of promises and aspirations suddenly decide and say "I quit"? Is it the strict disciplinary actions in schools? Is it because of family issues? Is it because of unemployment? or is it because of other reasons?. There are endless questions that one may need to ask and ultimately thrash out the root cause which is slowly creeping into our society. GNH and high suicide rate is quite a contradiction. 

I would not even dare to give up on life no matter even if the sky falls down. Buddhist precept is strict on committing suicides and as a Buddhist we are made to believe that one will be condemned to commit suicide for a thousand life time if one commits it now. I only wish that this concept gets ingrained in every human mind and work to walk through the problem instead of simply giving up on life. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

De-blogged for a while

It has been quite sometime since I last updated my blog. At some point of time I even forgot that I maintained one. It requires quite a lot of passion to keep it alive and updated which I do not have. One new year resolution that I made is to constantly update my blog so that my domain is atleast worth its registration :) .
Fast forwarding all the events that happened since my last post, the latest of all are the new year and the Nyilo (Winter Solstice) celebrations with a day's rest in between. New Year eve was a blast. The preparations were superb to our own standards but the turnout was average. Not many people came for the countdown but we still enjoyed thumping to the rhythm of the tracks. It was half past four in the morning when we retired to bed. Last evening we again had a Nyilo get-together but this time it was a closed group function. Nothing could be more exciting than sitting around a fire, sipping home-made Bailey cream, talking on endless topics and watching our kids play. Marilyn Monroe was right in saying "This life is what you make it". No matter where we are, all it takes is one small idea to bring smiles and laughter to many faces and such social gathering surely makes our life cheerful. 
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