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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

With Love to Aunty :-)

Past two days, Business Bhutanians editorial team is in disappointment.

Reason: Not because Kuensel or other papers has used their story angle or wrote something against them.

Any Guesses?

Because, aunty is closed!

Since the time we have shifted to the TDSC building, aunty has been a savior for us. This lady in her early 40's has become a part of the Business Bhutan team. In fact she can be called a mother to them.

A wholesome meal of rice, meat, vegetable and dal for just Nu 45, is a good deal for reporters like us who is broke by the first week. But the greater plus point is the homely taste and the tinge of love with which she feeds us everyday.

One of the most common of things apart from being the best newspaper team in town, Business Bhutanians would all agree on without a second thought, would be “Auntie’s lunch.”

Aunty has been closed for two days, and people are already going haywire on where to head. Despite plenty of options, the addicted customers of the once Bhutan observer canteen now taken over by Business Bhutan, panic.

Usually, the moment the clock strikes 12:15 P.M, a familiar tone cheers up the reporters who are either transcribing or writing a story for the week.

“Lunch, Lunch,” goes a voice on the third floor. And like a war trumpet blown, the team gathers and marches towards the Zeeling building, and from a distance go, “Aunty, what have you cooked today?"

Every time she answers that question, her customers go," good."

But lately Aunty has been sick and the happy times are gone and we have suddenly realized that when she is closed, we have to think hard about where to head. (Even with a lot of options open, we are always disappointed with our decisions) and we go, " Our Aunty is the best."

We miss the taste and love with which she prepares food for us. We miss the noise we make when we are in her small room in the corner. More over, we miss eating together.

Because when Aunty is closed, we scatter and head in different directions.( That can match our pockets).

It seems like the whole of Business Bhutan team is binded by her food.

We miss you Aunty, " Get Well Soon." It has been long that we have been feeding on momo and koka.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Blues

Another chilly Monday afternoon..the kerosene heater is full on in the Business Bhutan editorial room, the editor's door is closed for sometime now..a meeting is going on inside. Outside in the reporters den, reporter go,

" Badsa.."

" Eka".." "

"Chakka"..it goes on and on..

" I had 25 $ million, "goes our CEO, now " I have 14000 $."

I have listened to Lady Gaga's poker face now I hear of this game called Poker. It sure sounds interesting but then I am not a gaming person. I dunno why, but these games never fascinate me expect the butterfly game which I have been trying to free for the past few weeks and have managed to free only three..still have a long way to go.

It is difficult people. My eye goes go red with the strain that I get after clearing a stage. I must admit, it is addictive.

Shaking it off.. For the past two -three hours I have been trying to write a strap for Seven- this week, it is going to be on 7 reporters of Business Bhutan. Sounds cool right? Just a 100 word summary of what we have learnt in the past one year and I am blank!!!

Reason: Either I have too much to write about or am confused what to write on. Maybe a last minute push from our editor and motivator would help but for now I can think of is writing a post on that.

I realize that I am getting addicted to my blog. I keep thinking on what should I write today, How to maintain it..How to increase my followers and posts and feedbacks.

I have started to love it more than the butterfly game and the long list of movies that i used to watch on when I was doing nothing. I feel like jotting down every time I am idle..and wonder, " Am I, on my baby steps to become a writer?"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cold weather and sad me

Lazy me, I missed another Sunday service today. Although yesterday I spend half the day in the church, today I spend the whole afternoon sleeping.

Can you imagine, I slept for about 11 hours...mornings are so cold now. Feel like cuddling up and sleeping. But I felt so rejuvenated after a hectic Saturday afternoon but mom would not understand that. She kept telling me that I slept all afternoon. I get one day to sleep and that also..

I got so angry from inside but then kept quiet. Not that, I wish to do it every time but what do I do when I cannot wake up. I would love to be a early bird and see the sunrise but in vain.

It seems a long time that I have witnessed the breaking of the dawn..oh, how I wish to be in Kalimpong.
I miss the early morning walks and the mist that came drifting by the veranda. And I would leave my doors open while I arranged my bed. I loved the air.

Next, I would find myself walking with a gang of Cluny girls walking down to college, and how we used to chatter everyday to college. We never ran out of talks and laughter. Sometimes, the group used to be so big that taxi drivers and lorry drivers used to shout at us, " You, Girls don't want to get married or what?"

And all we used to do was laugh about it. It would cost us Rs 5 to reach college but the charm we had in walking the stretch from 10th mile to 8th mile was something we did not what to miss out on. We all knew, this were the little things that we would miss later on in our life when we would venture out from college.

I miss the basking in the sun during breaks. The mix of momo and the Aloo Thukpa we used to have for lunch and the add ons. Rs 20 a day, and it used to fill our tummy..it was something gals.

All said and done, three years have passed. All of us are sailing in different boats, some have married and have become mothers, most are teaching, some are doing business, few still studying. All those girls I knew then have now become women. Serious ones!!

As I write, a lot of other memories come in, but then I would like to make it known to them, that i miss them all: Suman Singhal ( We used to call her Suman double), Deepa Bhujel (Skinny), Barsha (Chutki), Ugyen Lhamo ( Little Girl), Sister Shasi ( Our saviour) Yangchen Lhamo( Jerry), Kunzang C. Choden ( Moti), Leki Choden( Aiishh) Diksha Rai( Nakalii), Panna Rai( Nepali Avril), Karma Choden, Deepa Nirola ( Chamba), Barsha Sharma ( Lambu), Rinchen Dema( Th**)

Look at me, I was talking about the cold weather and bad temper, got drifted myself..:-)

Well, guys this is to tell you guys that I miss you all and I love you! I would write more on you guys..I can tell, you all want to go back to those good old days...Me too..!!!

Mom is calling me to do the dishes......gtg!! ( I need gloves)

Thursday, December 23, 2010


As most of us struggle with the last bit of our penny and patiently wait for the New Year which is round the corner; we are also counting days when we would get our salary.

Personally, the news of the onion’s price did not affect me much more than a story idea. Reason: I do not have to worry about buying it because I live with my parents and they take care of it. But then today I went around talking to shopkeepers and buyers for my story (with our intern Yeshey) and realized how much difference it makes.

We stopped at few vegetable vendors and spoke to them. The story they pondered on to us were so very realistic and so true. Although we live in a small society and pursue the modals of Gross National Happiness, an inflation incident thousands of miles away from our land, impacts lives of hundreds back home.

I never realized that if the price of the onion goes up, the cost of momos would go up. This I realized after I stood to pay at one of my favorite eatery (Zombala). One among the similar looking girl told me that they raised the price to Nu 40(from 35) owing the onion price.

Ahhhh…why didn’t I even think about it? See, it directly or indirectly affects me.

The other day, we had guests for dinner and then I was narrating them about the hike and my uncle (a jolly old man) said, “Do not offer me raw onions with food then,” while my mother continued, “No worries” and dad added, “Last week I bought it for Nu 45 a Kilo, If I had known I would have bought more.”

And I felt it doesn’t affect me!!!

With the hike, I came across many interesting lines from people whose living depended on the tear shedding delicacy. Almost all curries mom cooks would be tasteless without it.

Interesting comments: “The inflation is good enough to bring down a government in India.”

" I finished the last onion in the house yesterday and now I will have to survive without onions for weeks coz they are suddenly too damn expensive!"- Mahim

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Something very interesting happened to me yesterday. And I think it is very important for me write this down and remember.

It would not be easy for me to forget as well. The reason-21st of December is my younger brother’s birthday and that was why it happened.

Although I wanted to buy him a gift, but as always I was broke. Luckily I had Nu 500 in my ATM and I was thinking that I would go to Swiss bakery and buy him cakes-(It could not have been whole anyways). And as I was packing to go home, my mom calls and say- “Bring refine oil and sugar” what do I do now?

If I tell her I do not have enough money to buy the 5 litre refine oil and the sugar, It would be my bad. I was tensed. However I managed to say, “I was not carrying my ATM, and mom insisted that I should buy a one litre jar. Hmmm…

And I needed to buy a voucher as well!!

As I climbed down my office stairs, I realized that Swiss Bakery is closed on Tuesday’s but no matter what I need to buy some pastries. Till I reached the PNB ATM, I was trying to figure out if the money would be sufficient.

With the last of my salary, as I crossed the zebra crossing towards the Plums CafĂ©, I got an idea. I walked in the bakery at the edge and saw a perfect birthday cake. I asked, “Azim, How much is it?

The reply came, “500.”

As I stood there confused, pressing the notes thinking hard if I should buy it or get scolding back home. For a moment, I wished I had a genie.

Then I used a bit of Marwari ( or say Lamsang) inside me. I decided to take six pieces of pastries instead (We were 5 at home so why waste and two pieces of black forest would make my brother happy).

Stingy me, I never felt so bad being broke.

Next, I walked into a grocery and bought the oil and the sugar with a hundred and some changes left. (This is good, I thought to myself).

As I walked past strangers carrying my load and my mini laptop bag over my shoulders, I thought, “Shame on you.” “Why can’t you save? I always felt, it was okay to be broke by the first week of the month but with this experience,

I, Saraswati Sundas genuinely feel that it is about time, I do some serious thinking about how to manage money.

P: S –Guys, I did promise a gift for my brother, once I get my salary J

Friday, December 17, 2010


As trees wither and leaves fall homeless on the bare footpath that led to our worship house, but when the door of our pastor's villa flips open with young people moving in, You can catch a ear to what must be going inside the room..as you enter the worship room, you are simply tempted to hurry unlacing your shoe and join the gang of young people who have gathered to sing and dance.

We sing, " Good tidings for you, wherever you are,
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year..

It seemed like yesterday that we had done away with our last Christmas song and left for home feeling exhausted and so very full with the goodies we get to eat, and before we realize, Christmas is here again.

The Christmas tree is back to its usual place, with new addition of decorative and lights dazzling the white cotton patches, homes look bright and cozy. And as habitants wait patiently for the carol groups to come and bring the good news, the convoy of messengers walk in the cold December night, chit chatting and talking about how much fun it is.

And I sit to write about Christmas, I feel the hangover from my last nights carol trip!

I would like to come back again..:-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On how I Became a Journalist and a blogger

When I finished college, the only thing i was sure about was that I do not want to sit for the orientation nor the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) exam. The only thing I was sure of, was that I did not want to become a teacher ( Not that I hated it but then I could never picture myself becoming one.) No, not even if i were to stay home and do the dishes. I just could not picture myself teaching.
I never realized that I was growing up to be someone who would not plan things but venture and bump into things.But then I always wanted things to work that way.

Few days after my final year exams, I plan to visit my sister in Bangalore along with some friends who were going to look for a job..well my mother always wanted me become a teacher but then I took a chance. I went in for a walk-in -interview in Convergys and yes i got the first job of my life.

Customer Care Officer; that was my first post..of course i had heard a lot of things about Call Centre job(s) but then I wanted to see for myself what was it all about: well guys, it was a good experience..sometimes it helps you to experiment!! It gave a a whole new take in life.

When I got my first salary; I felt proud!

After eight months I come home and see, My dad has applied on behalf of me to intern in this United nation discussion forum called, "Solution Exchange". Though the job seemed monotonous, I managed to pull through in 6 months..I must say, it was worthwhile.

And then came this vacancy for reporters: I did not have a journalism background but then something at the back of my mind kept telling me; Give a try!

Today, I am a year and 3 months and 4 days old and am here: Saraswati Sundas from Thimphu

When I see this byline and I think serious, I recall, the early days of my training sessions where I seated amongst journalism graduates wondered if my English honors degree would do me any good..now when i look back..I wow.

Overtime, I have seen us( myself, Lucky Wangmo, Sonam Pelden), others had already worked with other papers but three of us were the only freshmen( or do we call fresh-women) growing in our profession. So far, Lucky and Sonam has given the paper some very impact stories from the organ donation campaign to raising allowances to educated unemployed youths, they had done their bits..for me: apart from my BBS story that sensationalized the whole issue, the only achievement I can boast of is about my story http://www.businessbhutan.bt/?p=1343 which was unexpectedly nominated for the Media awards.

Deep down, I still feel I can write .I always loved writing and kept telling my college friends that someday I would write a novel..(when), I haven't decided on that but I feel it might just come true..

But for now, I just want to focus and become a good reporter. I must confess- I always regretted not having opted for journalism but now that I have this job, I would. I do not think I have given my 100% so far but then I am trying....Aby sir, avery good inspiration and he has been telling us Business Bhutan reporters to blog and this is my first attempt to be a writer like him..I hope it works!!!

Written on 4th October, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Journalism in Delhi Heat

Yesterday I finally decided to pay Nu 10 and take the disco pencils from the withered boy who comes to greet any commuter the moment the traffic signal turns red. A couple of days back, on my way to work at the Hindustan Times House, I came across these groups of children, who looked more dedicated and punctual. They have now become a part of my internship at The Mint, a business paper in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal.

On a summer day, I join the office goers in the capital city of Delhi, hiding my face behind sun glasses to protect my flushed face, and ear phones that hooks me to radio fever 104 FM throughout the 30-minute ride from home. As I reach office, I feel like a Bollywood actress (I mean one wearing a see through dress, thanks to the sweat). I get down from the auto and walk across the subway to office.

The very next moment, I find myself standing tiny with almost a dozen of unfamiliar faces, of which only some care to smile. Here, I have learnt to smile less. The moment I enter The MintOffice, I get a homely feeling. Over the past few days here, I have managed to introduce and get introduced to a couple of grilled journalists and beginners.

Unlike, the news room back home, one doesn’t have time to greet their colleague sitting opposite. Here there is no time to sit and gossip. The reporters are good and aggressive; a tactic that I seriously need to learn.

The huge office bay doesn’t allow you to know each and every person here and it’s not until the lunch break till you actually get to see these people lighten up at the office canteen. It always packed but amazingly never runs short of food.

We never saw reporters sitting beside the editor when he is editing his story or not even see a reporter going to say he has filed the story. The office runs on a computer intranet called idos, which smooth the progress for the editorial team. No one needs to meet in person.

While I struggle to make my way through the coordination here, I keep counting the days. I panic if any of the stories I do would appear, I rush to bother the few sources who have become familiar to me. I look at my watch. It’s getting late and I am told, it is unsafe here.

I pack my equipments, take an auto and enter the fleet of vehicles that show no sign of vanishing.

This is new for me, and this is news.

A story on how mobile phones has changed the lives of Bhutanese Farmers

Looking through his thick lenses around the busy Saturday market, Birkha Bahadur, 49, signals a vendor at the next row settling back on his tattered stool, “The man was supposed to come by 12 noon and collect the meat but hasn’t showed up.”

Birkha Bahadur occupies a small space in the Centenary Farmers’ Market. He brings mutton from Tsirang and sells it to buyers in Thimphu. He fixes the deal through his mobile phone when the sheep is slaughtered back in Tsirang.

Asked on how mobile phones have changed his business, he said the little device has helped him to sell meat faster and cut down on extra costs and time. He does not have to go around selling, instead he has now saved the number of the clients on his mobile and inform them.

Bhutan’s move from having no mobile phones to a growth in mobile subscribers in 2008 was close to 100%. The technology has been the biggest boon in the microfinance sector and transformed rural society.

Although Bhutan’s mobile banking system is not fully fledged compared to other countries, mobiles have compensated for insufficient infrastructure such as no roads, telephone and post offices making communication easy helping in expanding market efficiency and market behavior.

And service providers are willing to collaborate.

“Bank can provide banking facility and we can provide access,” said Thinley Dorji, the managing director of Bhutan Telecom. He added that the mobile facility takes off better in remote areas. He said there is a need to promote public awareness and educate the farmers and how to make the best use of the facility.

Currently, Bhutan has around 300,000 mobile users and around one-third of the users are from rural areas.

Bhutan National Bank (BNB) launched mobile banking system in March making banking possible throughout the country. BNB tied up with B-Mobile and Tashi Cell. Balance inquiry, transaction details, money transfer and bill payments is at your finger tips.

The service is faster, cheaper and safer way to transfer money than the alternatives, including handing an envelope of cash to a bus driver.

The Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay, wrote it in his blog: “Almost half our population, and mostly farmers, now carry cell phones. So mobile banking should now be possible throughout the country. And our farmers should finally find it worthwhile to open bank accounts.”

With rural mobile phone use for business, farmers can now save money and have safe banking facility.

All this have direct impact on economic growth: an extra 10 phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points, according to the World Bank. More than 4bn handsets are now in use worldwide, three-quarters of them in the developing world.

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture, states better marketing facilities have resulted in an increase in food production which has raised income and improved the livelihood of the population. Marketing has boomed after the portable device entered the scenario.

Tenzin Chophel, the communication officer of the Ministry of Agriculture told Business Bhutan that, “today every rural household owns a mobile and they can communicate through it with the agriculture administrators in their dzongkhag.”

Villagers in Dungkar, Lhuentse, a one-and-a-half hour walk away from the main road, now have the option to send a message when and how to collect the potatoes and also fix the deals with potential brokers before the yield.

Aum Zam, 58, a Kishuthara weaver in the Bumthang, looking proudly at her Nokia 1100 said, “Business has been going good for me, I get orders from my buyers on my mobile. Once the order is done, I inform and ask my customer to come and collect it.”

Sherab Gyelsten, a gewog administrator explains how the farmers in Tsirang have been using the mobile service to get farming tips. He said, “rather than wasting a day to visit the help center, the farmers can call and get the help.”

A study by the World Resource Institute found that as developing-world incomes rise, household spending on mobile phones grow faster than spending on electricity water or anything.

The Bhutan Telecom managing director said, “Banks should see it as an opportunity to reach out to new customers. Tie-ups between banks and operators will help support the rural customers and expand the scope.”


Whether one believes in the hypothesis of the world coming to an end in 2012 or not, one bitter question we can disagree on is; do we even have to wait for the predictions to come true?

This morning, I woke to the death news of somebody I knew. He had fallen off a cliff with his Maruti van (Uncle had given me a lift some years ago). Although I was sad, I could do much rather than praying that his family can gulp down the loss.

Later in the evening, I hear another death story of someone my mother grew up with. He died of a prolonged illness.

This is definitely not the first time I have lost somebody I know but then every time I hear about it, I tend to relate all loose ends.

One might chose to die a natural death or from a prolonged disease. But I am sure; no one would like to have a surprise death. And yes, Death does not come with a notice. It just looms over our head and takes you off-guard.

I have always wondered what would go in the mind of somebody who knows he is dying.

I assume, by the time you realize you are dying, you might not get a chance to even bid farewell to your family and your loved ones. It might just look like any other day in your life; you might have works pending, you might have promised your beloved a surprise and then it suddenly strikes and you lie there helpless: with the death knell seizing your life away.

Your voice will never be heard again, neither your smile bring happiness to your family. All that will be left of you will be memories that will soon be mellowed with other aspects of life.

And even if 2012 doesn’t bring an end, you will at least be a history for your family. It might take a while for your family to balance life with your absence, but they would learn to live with it overtime.

Although we cannot change anything, we all wish that nothing happens to our loved ones; we never have to lose them.

If only we knew when our time on earth is coming to an end, and we could bid farewell to our family and friends. And let them know how much we love them and care. And how much we want to grow old with them.

Never mind, while the whole world is living with it, I think it is okay for God to be so ignorant!!