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DR LOTAY TSHERING: PRIME MINISTER OF BHUTAN

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NOTES FROM BHUTAN AND THE REMARKABLE DR LOTAY TSHERING: “Prime Minster should be a surgeon or think like one”

    We went to Bhutan recently to launch the surgical skill centre by the IHPBA (International Hepato-Pancreato Biliary Association) foundation. Among the many interesting facts about Bhutan healthcare and education are free in the country. No wonder, the people are happy.

    But even more remarkable is Bhutan’s Prime Minister. Here’s the story of our interaction with ‘Dr Lotay Tshering—the Surgeon Prime Minister of Bhutan.’

    I wrote to him when we were ready with the surgical training centre, inviting him for the inauguration and not expecting a reply. I could not believe it when he replied within four hours, saying ‘yes, I will be there but not as a chief guest.’

    Wow, here’s a PM who doesn’t want pomp and show!

    When we went to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), we learnt more remarkable facts. JDWNRH is the only tertiary care hospital and is teeming with patients from all over Bhutan. There are only three surgeons to look after elective and emergency surgeries. They literally work 24×7, 7 days a week.

    They have another ‘honorary standby surgeon’—the PM himself. The staff told us with pride that he comes every week on Friday to operate. Though he is trained in urology, he can do all abdominal surgeries ‘as there is no one else.’

    If there is an emergency or a difficult problem, just ‘call the PM’. He comes even if it’s midnight. The nursing staff is pretty happy to help their PM in conducting operations. No hang ups. Just normal scrubs and slippers for him.

    After teaching the residents and interacting with staff. It was time for the inauguration. We were expecting the security staff to come and clear the place. There were no great arrangements. His seat was demarcated with a special robe. Everyone was relaxed.

    The prime minister walked in with a beaming smile and just two people. His personal secretaries. No commandos, no paraphernalia.

    He is obviously happy to be with his staff and students whom he knew by name. After inaugural by a simple untying of a ribbon, he explained ‘in Bhutan they never cut a ribbon or cut a cake with name. It’s not a good omen.’

    He demonstrates his surgical skills to the residents and guides them to tie knots using the endotrainer. We commented that perhaps ‘he is the only prime minister who can tie laparoscopic knots.’ A loud laugh was the response. He was obviously happy to be teaching.

    ‘If you had come two years ago, you would have seen me working day and night at the hospital. Now I only come on Friday. This is the best stress relief for me. I sleep well on Thursday thinking about the number of patients I can help. We need more trained doctors,’ the PM says.

    He gazes wistfully. ‘Distances in Bhutan are 16 hours from remote areas to Thimphu. I used to go on camps. We had to operate on three patients on the same bed. Start with a young patient at 6am and finally elderly by 10am and 5pm. We had to finish 300 surgeries  and move to the next camp.’

    We promised all help with training and technology. In fact, as I write this, equipment from all across the world is being collected for Bhutan.

    What about politics, we probe. His tone turns serious. ‘I want to make Bhutan a developed country on par with other countries. That’s why I joined politics. I think like a surgeon—no dilly dallying. If you do have it, just do it. Don’t procrastinate. I also feel politics needs surgery to cut and remove obstacles like corruption and self-interest lobbies.’

    A surgeon is best suited to be prime minister, or the PM should think like a surgeon.’

     The writer is Head of Surgical Oncology, Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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KULDHARA—JAISALMER: THE HAUNT REMAINS EVEN AFTER CENTURIES

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

 

    Ghost towns and villages have often held our attention. But simultaneously, they have also unleashed our imagination to some hair-raising and eerie trepidation. So, its character remains quite aloof, from the oppressive ruins of the rich and arrogant castles and fortresses. One such village, nests in Kuldhara. Located in the deep-seated, desert region of Western Rajasthan. Where, when, you stand under the hot striking sun. You might not get to see a single human form till the horizon. In all earnest, such unspeaking and phantom towns and villages may not utter a complaining word. But then they scream about the enduring trauma. Their inhabitants might have undergone and that gives us a chance to peep into their harrowing lives.

    Rajasthan brims in the expanse of Thar desert. It has no dearth of ghost villages. That remains almost unpeopled for various reasons. But only a few of them have got as much attention as Bhangarh and Kuldhara. Perhaps, due to the myths attached to them. So, while we were in Jaisalmer. It was only natural for us to undertake the sightseeing of Kuldhara.

    It simmers in deep desolate wilderness, at about 18 km, west of Jaisalmer. And it certainly has a story to tell. Where, we came across a young boy named Bhairo Sharma. Who narrated the aghast episode, in an emotional tone. Is when, I reflected after many years. That there was someone doing justice to the forgotten art of storytelling.

    It happened some 300 years ago. When, Kuldhara was a prosperous village. Where, Paliwal Brahmins used to reside under the state of Jaisalmer. The story thus throws up a spine-chilling feel. When, the evil eyes of Salim Singh. The all powerful tyrant and debauch Prime Minister of the state. Fell for the daughter of the village head and desired to marry her by force. He then threatened the entire village of grave consequences, if they did not acquiesce to his wishes.  

    The entire clan of Paliwals then lived in those 85 villages. They forthwith held a council. Where, it was decided, instead of acceding, to the demands of the depraved Prime Minister. They would abandon and leave their village and homeland. To, save the honour and purity of their daughter from the evil eyes of the monster. And soon, they all left for good. But before departing they ordained a powerful curse on Kuldhara. That, after them, no one else shall ever be able to settle and prosper in the village. And from that day onwards the village remains unoccupied, barren and even deserted. It gives an isolated and godforsaken look. Perhaps, quite similar to the unseen yet imagined faces of the residents of those times, that too, centuries ago. It is also believed. People who have attempted to stay here overnight have been haunted away by some strange and abnormal phenomenon.

    The parallel story that runs and appears to be as plausible as the first one is. Salim Singh, upon not being obliged by the Paliwals raised the taxes to such an extent. That it became practically unbearable for the local community to survive in the village. So they decided to migrate to greener pastures. However, people are more inclined to believe the first story. That has a tinge of both romance and mysticism in it.

    The dilapidated and tale-telling houses and monuments are now maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). One can enter the village only after purchasing tickets. After which you drive along the prime street. That appears to be the main boulevard of the settlement. Where, even now, after centuries one feels gloomy and sad. For there are rows of houses with their roofs fallen. And the ruined walls give a sense of melancholic past. Where, the entire landscape is dry, dusty and sun stricken. That conveys a blaring message of atrocious human upheavels. Even, when, the era denoted happiness through righteousness.

    We halted at a location. That appeared to be the hub of the rustic village. Just close by there was a house in good upkeep. We entered to see the rooms that were well maintained. Following the path we even went up the stairs and up to the roof. From where, the entire village was visible. Though, I could not feel any supernatural presence. Yet that element of sombreness struck me while I was there. One could say the animation was missing. Ladies in the group could not withstand the countenance of destruction and slowly walked away.  I could even sight an unvisited and left alone temple nearby. Gradually, we cruised past the ruins available in the form of the crumbling walls. For a moment, it gave me a flash of those lives that lived there centuries ago. There was definitely something spine chilling even when everything around was so calm and unmoved. Perhaps, the collective curse of those helpless citizens was still pulsating there. Where, everything was looking so recent. And one got a feel as if someone was calling you from behind those dilapidated houses.

    Kuldhara remains a desolate place with forlorn looks. Curses don’t die so soon, they say. The ambience brings across a kind of seeping sadness to your heart. Especially, when, one thinks of the unfortunate people.  Who, were forced to leave the land of their forefathers. However the place doesn’t appear to be spooky for any other reason barring the wicked crime spelt in the story.

    Even, when, the ASI has taken over the settlement. It remains to be seen if this village will ever flourish. By flourish I mean—will the lineage of the people, who left generations back. Ever come together to salvage their motherland. And last but not the least. Was this a quintessential example of a migration that moved a civilised settlement? My answer would be no.

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SHORT STORY: JOB OF GOD

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charvaha god at work indian king

    Long time ago there lived a king, who was habitually righteous but extremely arrogant. One day, he called his Prime Minister and said,

    ‘I have a doubt that keeps bothering me. As you know. In this universe everyone has a job to do.  Just like the king, who is supposed to rule. A soldier’s job is to fight, a trader is supposed to trade. A teacher is supposed to teach, a preacher is supposed to preach and even the rest of the citizenry have prescribed jobs to do.

    That is the law of the universe. In the same manner. The person who runs this universe. Also must be having a definite job to do. About, which, I know nothing. So please tell me what is the job of the person who runs the universe. That is the job of God.’

    Prime Minister had no ready answer. To this very tricky query of the king. As no one had ever asked him a question like this. But he tried to deflect the king’s attention by saying.

    ‘Your Majesty! No one has an answer for this very intelligent question. Neither, it is mentioned in any book—as the job of God.’ He then halted for a few moments. But, since, he was an extremely cunning person he thought for an instant and added, ‘Nevertheless, your question is quite valid. As this question came to my mind also and that too several times. But since my job was to advise you to help you run the administration. I didn’t bother to ask. And these are spiritual issues. Where, I  think the Raj-Purohit (Chief-Priest) will be in a better position to give an apt answer.’

    After expressing his views. He strategically left the place immediately. Leaving the entire responsibility of answering the question on the shoulders of the Raj-Purohit.

    When the king posed the same question to Raj-Purohit. He too got bewildered, as no one had ever asked him such a question. Because, no one knew what the exact job of God was. And everyone, only knew to the extent they had read in the books. Even in the books there was no separate information about God’s job responsibility.

    But the King specifically wanted an answer to his question. Raj-Purohit couldn’t have dared to offend the King, so he sought a week’s time.

    King agreed and said, ‘okay, but I need a comprehensive reply to my question.’ Raj-Purohit went home. In the next one week he went to all the libraries in the kingdom and went through all the books that he could lay his hands on. But, no where, he could get a comprehensive answer to this question.

    By the end of the week he was mentally quite exhausted. So he went out of the city and sat under a tree and started thinking. How will he show his face to the King tomorrow, or should he leave the kingdom and flee.

    One shepherd boy who was grazing his sheep nearby. Saw the Raj-Purohit sitting there in a pensive mood and recognised him. He asked, ‘sir, why are you looking so sad?’ Raj-Purohit replied, ‘child you please do your work, as I have some spiritual task to handle.’

    But, when the child assertively asked again. Raj-Purohit narrated his problem. Knowing full well, the boy will not be able to solve his problem. But the child was smart. He said.

    ‘Raj-Purohit ji, if you are troubled only because of this small question. Then please go home and relax. Tell the King, this shepherd boy knows the answer to his question.’

    Upon hearing this. The Raj-Purohit was stunned. Because, even the most renowned scholars of the kingdom didn’t know the answer to this question. He pleaded to the boy to let him know the answer. But the child insisted. He alone, would tell the king. The answer to question.

   This relaxed him a little bit when he left for his home. Next day when he reached the King’s court. The king repeated his question and with great amount of eagerness and waited for the answer. But was flabbergasted to hear. That the answer to his question was available with a shepherd boy. He immediately ordered for the child to be there. The boy arrived at the King’s court in great enthusiasm.

    When, everyone looked at him with a great amount of disgust. And also waited for the valuable words to come out of his mouth. The king asked, ‘O shepherd boy! Do you know the answer to my question. That even the renowned scholars sitting in my court don’t know? So tell me all that you know about the subject?’

    The shepherd boy hesitated for some moments and then said, ‘Your Majesty! Before, I answer your question. I wish. I be given the right kind of seat to sit. Because, as far as this query is concerned. You are the student and I’m the teacher. So, I’ll provide you with that knowledge. In principle the seat of the teacher should be higher than that of the student. But such is not the case here.’

    Upon hearing this, everyone started whispering in an appreciative manner, about the boy. The King also felt some sense is his statement. After a few moments the King vacated his throne and requested the shepherd boy to occupy it After which he eagerly was waiting for the answer, while looking at him.

    But the boy after sitting on the throne went quiet. He started enjoying the great feel, while perched on it. The King got restless and in an arrogant tone he shouted. ‘Hey you child. Will you answer now. What is the job of God?’ The boy looked at the King and peacefully asked, ‘what answer?’ and on hearing this. All those present in the King’s court were stunned. The boy then said, ‘the job of God is to put down the arrogant and lift the humble.’

    This story is one out of the thousand stories of Puran (mythological scriptures). That is still relevant even today. Just as, it was in those days. 

by Kamlesh Tripathi

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We are an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. If you wish you could contribute for the cause. The bank details are below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

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