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Chablop PaSsu

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The Gift

The Gift is indeed a gift for the children of Bhutan. We know quite many stories with such deep values passed down as folktales, but The Gift is an original story that is no less than an ancient tale of wisdom.

The beautiful illustration does justice to the heartwarming story.

ལྷོའི་ཆོས་འབྱུང Lhoyi Chojung

A translation of the only Bhutanese book from the 18th Century. The history project that took the writer, 10th Je Khenpo, three decades to write and publish it. It's, therefore, the most important piece of literature.

Dasho Keiji Nishioka: A Japanese Who Lived for Bhutan

It's an inspiring biography of Dasho Nishioka, a famous Japanese whom every Bhutanese knew for his extraordinary deeds. For someone from Japan, a metropolis to show interest in Bhutan let alone live here, back in 1964 is in itself an act of destiny.
With no road connectivity beyond Dochula, Bhutan was geographically a hostile country back in the 60s even for the natives but a young man from Japan comes with his wife and overcomes all these difficulties as if they owe so much to this country, is like a fairy tale.

Every Bhutanese must read this book for several reasons;
1. To learn the meaning of service, humility and dedication. He was a Japanese who flew all the way to improve our lives, while we remain too absorbed in our selfish endeavours.
2. To understand what actual hardship looks like; walking two months across the country to reach the east...
3. To see how Dasho fixed the innate Bhutanese illness of being lazy
4. To recount Dasho's contributions and celebrate his life because with him the agricultural revolution took place in Bhutan; commercial farming began, the idea of vegetable market emerged, created the whole value-chain with potential to export but also we could see we haven't moved on much since then. We are still talking about the same problems that Dasho Nishioka and team faced and solved back in the 70s...

While I am so inspired by the story and acknowledge the effort the two scholars have put in to create the first tangible record of a great personality, I somehow feel a sense loss, incompleteness, a gap that's so dissatisfying... for his story to be told in just about 100 pages.

But credit to the two scholars for taking the lead. They have created a source to refer to for the future researchers and writers.

Technically, the book can be made more reader-friendly by printing on any other paper but a glossy one. I can see the it was done because there are many pictures but text and pictures can be printed separately on different types of pages.

The Circle of Karma

It’s been years since I read The Circle of Karma and I still have vivid memory of the arduous journey Tshomo takes. The story is almost like a endless nightmare one has across long nights, but then it somehow relates to stories my mother told me about the lives of people during the road cutting from Phuntsholing. Our people were always resilient against the physical hardships, and even when I read the book the most heartbreaking parts are the episode of betrayal and abuse and not the backbreaking hardships.

For putting Bhutan on the literature map of the world, for being the first Bhutanese book to be translated into multiple languages and for inspiring generations of bhutanese writer, we owe so much to this book and to the most respected and beloved author, Ashi Kunzang Choden.

Escapades Awakenings

Escapade Awakening is a powerful story told with brutal honesty; the work of fiction is a raw reflection of life in rural Bhutan from the past decades. Such story can only be told as fiction, otherwise one can risk exposing the shameless stories of many civil servants who walked into the villages.

The great book could have been wrapped in a better cover and given a more suitable name; I would have called it Thruelbub after the name of the strong female character in the book.

The Hero with a Thousand Eyes: A Historical Novel

During my days in school in 90s, this was the only book by Bhutanese on the library shelves among the thousands of other books. One can imagine how lonely this book must have felt.

Dasho Karma Ura, the undisputed authority on Bhutanese History, became a part of history himself by becoming the first Bhutanese to publish a book in English, there by forging a new path for us.

The book, which can now be considered a classic, take us back in time through the memory of Dasho Shingkhar Lam. It’s interestingly written in first person, and one can get the feeling of being there in the moment as Dasho Shingkhar Lam walks his way across history from the court of Second King to Third King.

Thus i Heard

Thus I Heard is a deceivingly small book that is packed with everyday humour; it’s a kind of funny companion one can carry in a pocket and refer to whenever one feel low.
It can be read at once or be read slowly over time.
It’s a compilation of jokes that are told and heard everywhere but never recorded as such.

La Ama... a mother’s call

La Ama is perhaps the first book I have read completely in a long time. And the very first book I have finished in on sitting. I am a very slow reader and 198 pages would usually take me over a week but Chador Wangmo has begun her book with a tight knot of suspense and I didn't want to put down until I untied it. Soon I found myself too engaged with Dechen Zangmo and wanted to be by her side until she wakes up.

Chador has invented a unique plot that is strategically woven to fly us across time and places and put us in exactly same state of being as the narrator. Chador's mastery over English language brings out the strong waves of emotions that the story has to offer.

The story is about a girl who is abandoned by her parents and abused by people in whom she places her trust. She has surrendered to her fate and hungry husband, until one day it becomes too much for her. In her attempt to escape from her brutal husband and with nowhere to go she meets with an accident. In that deep unknown space between life and death, she finds herself with her mother putting together the pieces of puzzles from the past and reconnecting with her. She discovers that she has been reliving her mother's mistakes.
"was there any reason to fear the outside world when brutal predators existed within the family walls?" (p.126)
Chador Wangmo has subtly and creatively exposed the secrets hidden behind the closed doors of our society. It's a book every Bhutanese woman must read to find the strength to make right choices at the right time, and it's a book every Bhutanese man must read to ensure that it happens but not as a favour, rather as natural as it should be.
"I wonder if marriage was a union of two souls as it is often said or merely the ownership of one soul over the other." (p.172)

Drukyul Decides

Drukyul Decides- In the minds of Bhutan's first voters is a complete record of what happened in 2008 in Bhutan. Flipping through the pages I can see how we prepared our own government for the first time, how fates of some men were changed forever, and in doing that how we changed our fates.
While the rest of us were busy, anxious, and excited about the whole new process of people making their own government two men took it on to themselves the responsibility of writing the history for the future. Gyambo Sithey, the author who sent me this book and Dr. Tandin Dorji didn't not miss anything from 2008. The book is already becoming interesting, and like wine it will only grow better with age. Years from now this book will be a priceless piece of record and the two men will be thanked more than ever.

The History of Bhutan

Bhutan history is not among the favorite subjects among the students. An average Bhutanese would know more about history of some other countries than they know about our own country. The history told to us in the school were merely fragmented events of perceived importance, lavishly glorified and often giving an impression of fairy tales. The core element of historical narrative is missing, isolating events and historical figures at superficial levels.

It can be justified that history taught in schools, which remains the only historical narrative most of us live with, is only foundational reading and therefore can’t be used as the yardstick to measure the width and depth of historical content on Bhutan, but even beyond school our frustration will only grow to discover that there aren’t much to explore further.

The History of Bhutan by Dr. Karma Phuntsho therefore is the answer to a national longing for a comprehensive narrative that connects the dots and illuminates the dark corridors of our historical memory. It not only provides a better alternative to the only few historical sources we depended on, which are ironically documented by either Indian or western historians, but also gives an unbiased account based on in-depth researches.

The 599 pages of the book contain captivating details and authentic accounts of our historical events, from the prehistoric period to the modern period, through a long thrilling medieval period. Bhutan history suddenly begins to sound real and without the gross exaggerations it’s already so compelling.

This book is definitely going to disappoint some of us who pride in our fairy tale like history, where we were made to believe in superpowers and flawlessness our historical figures, but knowing them with their humanly weaknesses and them with the abilities overcome the odds gives us stronger reasons to appreciate their contributions.

I grew up hearing secretive stories of assassination of Zhabdrung, and I remained confused till recently as to how Zhabdrung, who went into permanent retreat on his own in Punakha Dzong, could be assassinated. This book presents the detailed account on the question of succession after Zhabdrung, and how controversies emerged over the incarnations. In fact, the game of politics played over multiple incarnates gave rise to the beginning of the era of lay rulers. Only this book clarified that the stories of Zhabdrung I heard were of different incarnates and not of the great Zhabdrung himself.

The detailed accounts of different plots, conspiracies, rebellions, and assassination during the internal conflicts over long period of time make our history one of the most thrilling to read from a general reader’s point.

The accounts on the wars we fought with Tibet and later with British India make us see how we struggled, opposed to the easy victory we were told, to defend the sovereignty of this tiny nation even in those times, and one can’t help but feel proud of how our leaders played their cards well since Treaty of Sinchula, and how over the century they managed to amend the treaty to ensure our sovereignty. It’s the terms and use of certain words in these treaties that saved our independence when over 500 princely state disappeared to make up the republic of India, including Sikkim in 1975.

We like to believe that everything fell in place after the emergence of Jigme Namgyal and very much so after 1907 after King Ugyen Wangchuk was enthroned as the first king of Bhutan, but this book will surprise us with accounts of how much they had to go through to establish their dominance and maintain it. The same struggle to suppress fractions of power continued even during King Jigme Wangchuk’s time. The changing dynamics and political issues both from within and outside during the successive kings, beyond the lists of developmental activities we read in our textbooks, and how they used their tact and steadfast leadership to overcome those, gives us stronger reasons to appreciate and truer meaning to our loyalty to the golden throne.

Without reading this book, no Bhutanese can truly separate Myth and Legends from true historical accounts and therefore understand the depth of our history and appreciate the magnanimity of this last surviving kingdom between the two biggest nations on earth.

If so much resources were there, why couldn’t earlier historians bring them to us? Well that when we must acknowledge Dr. Karma Phuntsho’s unique strengths as a Buddhist scholar with mastery over choedkey, complemented by his experience as academic researcher at Oxford. These two attributes of his gave him special access to the hidden world of Bhutanese history in Buddhist texts and those that were archived in British libraries in England.

The Legend of Pemi Tshewang Tashi

The heart breaking folklore of Pemi Tshewang Tashi that was once only accessible to old rural folks was made into an awesome 2D animation film, which literally gave a new life to the story and broaden the audience base to urban movie goers. It’s an animation that’s so far, the best ever produced in our country, perhaps the longest and comparable to its cousins across the world. They went for nothing less than excellence.
The film has added a new dimension to the story and revived the ancient tale that was almost disappearing.

Now, with movie further crafted into this illustrated comic book, the folklore is going to reach every school and every child.

Dear Seday

Dear Seday is a love letter that tells a love story from 90s in the most nostalgic way possible. I love the book for the it’s raw 90’s setting, quick wit and the form in which it’s written.
Only Ugyen Gyeltshen could tell an entire story in one letter.

The book design and the central character’s name are a bit unromantic but overall this is one best Bhutanese novel I ever read.