An opinion and a confession: elections in Assam are over

So what were my choices? A candidate fielded by the Congress party who was also the Municipal commissioner for the last few years in Ghy, and outside whose main office a pile of garbage was rotting for the last few years? He was watching the garbage turn to compost all these years, or what? On the other hand, I was told that he has spent some of the money for the schools in the area( I went to visit the one in my locality and talked to the headmistress to verify, this was apparently true). So okay, this guy seems to have done something. But what about the party itself?

Then there is this lady candidate fielded by the BJP, who shows up in posters everywhere with Sushma Swaraj .. I don’t know much about her. A search on the internet does not reveal much either.

There is hardly any information about any of the independent candidates either.

I spent a few days thinking about it. Then I thought, okay, let me vote based on the manifestos of the parties instead of the individual candidates.

Hmm… then I read about the agendas published by the parties. Here are the decision points I have . BJP is offering rice at Rupee 1 per kg, while congress is offering similar food subsidisation programmes. This is their poll-pledge, their agenda of what they will do for the country. As a voter, I immediately think – okay, so where are these food subsidies going to come from? Do people need free food, or do they need a way of generating some income? In places I visited in the last year, the employment for 100 days in a year to one member of the family has had mixed results. So has the Self-help groups. Should the mixed results count as a plus point for the ruling party. Is it enough to tilt the scales? Nopes, not with the lukewarm follow-ups they have planned in the next few years.

So then I am back to square one. I am finding that making a logical choice is impossible for me, given that the only things I see in the papers are the populist plans.

So I finally am left with no choice at all.  So, I FINALLY DID NOT VOTE. I know, I don’t deserve to have any opinion on any matter in the future, because, hey, I did not vote. But I have only one thing to say – I could not really find a person/party who deserved my vote.

< Just read in the Hindu newspaper about some of the items on BJP election manifesto, in which the party makes some pretty tall claims about India’s greatness in days gone by. According to them, we are the “world’s oldest civilization”, apparently, we are not, rebuts The Hindu. The Chinese civilazation is as old, perhaps older. According to the BJP manifesto, we have some tremendous capabilities in the iron and steel industry, because, you see, the Qutb minar, made partly of iron, has not rusted yet. Lord help us if we have to go back that far in history to realize our own greatness! There are more gems like this -but I guess this suffices to give an idea of hard the BJP is trying to convince Indians of our own greatness. How about looking ahead a little, and figuring out how to continue in this vein?

Meanwhile, a small ray of hope. The BJP manifesto does have something about an issue I care about deeply – conservation, and a clean green world. It plans to invest and generate 20% of energy used in the country through renewable energy. Clean, non-fossil. Hmm.. got to see how feasible this is.


Last post from Bhutan: visit to the oldest Buddhist nunnery

The little sis and I had a great experience chatting with the nuns at the oldest nunnery in Bhutan. We had to work hard to get to the place – an hour of hiking uphill along some lovely forests of pine, fir and rhododendrons ( etho-metho in Bhutanese ).

The trail to Kila Goempa was on the way to Chele-la. We persuaded our driver L to accompany us (little sis’s idea actually) – which was great because he had to translate for us.. none of the nuns were conversant in English. We followed a train of nuns all the way to the nunnery.

The monastery looked a little like the Tiger’s NEst ( Taktshang), clinging to the side of a cliff. There were spectacular views of the Bhutanese Himalayas.

We chatted with some young nuns – they were really young, and much like other giggling young girls elsewhere. Except they were giggling while making wicks for the butter lamps. And they were living high above a mountain secluded from everyone ( yes, they visited their families once a year).

Anims at Kila Goempa
Anims at Kila Goempa

They said they volunteered to become nuns – one as early as when she was nine years of age.  Was that the real story – or was it poverty? We cannot know. It was difficult to communicate with a translator, though L really did a good job.

The weird bit was this young nun takes out a diary where she had a picture of, no, not Buddha, but a Bollywood actress. and then she shows us some lyrics of “Kaho Na Pyaar Hai” that she had written down ( some of it was right !). The music playing in the wooden room heated by the Bukhara was a Bhutanese rap song! I no longer have any illusions of nuns and monks spending time only in meditation and prayer !

We then met an 85year old nun  -she’d been there for 40 years now. Her wooden floor had deep impressions where she stood in prayer, as many as 1000 times a day. She looked really frail – but when we asked for a photo, her feminine vanity came back and she brought out a colorful rosary to make things really picturesque..

"Grandmother" nun posing for a photo
"Grandmother" nun posing for a photo

From the nunnery, we went up to the Chele La pass, the highest pass in Bhutan. It was extremely windy- the prayer flags fluttered in the chilly wind as we took in the view of the mountains. Nobody else was up there – the peace and quiet was great.

On the way back from the monastery, we passed by a Yak herder’s camp. A group of Yaks were grazing on the meadows.. little sis went crazy with the camera.  I went crazy taking pics ofthe lovely wildflowers.

Wildflowers on the trail to Kila Goempa
Wildflowers on the trail to Kila Goempa

Back in Paro now, and heading to Guwahati tomorrow. As usual, the feeling is bittersweet – I am missing my daughter, so I am looking forward to getting back.  But I dont want to leave this beautiful country.

I think the solution is to come here with N and Appa 🙂

Blogging from Bhutan: An archery contest in the Himalayas!

What a lovely day it was today in Thimphu. And what better way to spend a sunny Sunday than sit with the locals and while away the day watching the Archery contest..

I had gone for a walk by the river when I saw this bus-load of gho-clad men with bags on their shoulders near the archery ground. They were the teams who were competing today. The teams were unloading their bows and arrows, and guess what – the organisers were unloading bottles of beer for the archers. Apparently the beer helped in the aiming 🙂

We spent a happy hour watching the teams compete. It was interesting because of the enthusiastic song and dance routines they did to either cheer their team or distract the opposite team.

Song and dance routine at the archery grounds
Song and dance routine at the archery grounds

We went for a hke in the evening to the BBS tower ( Bhutan’s radio station). The view of Thimphu in the evening was awesome.

Oh yes, before I forget, I had one of the best Thai meals ever today. Baan Thai in Thimphu, where we had red chicken curry and eggplant with basil sauce. The little sis wants to go back there again, she liked it so much!

Looking forward to the hke to Tango and Cheri Gompa tomorrow.

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Blogging from Bhutan

Thimphu is beautiful – I love this country, already!

Wide streets, low traffic, clean air - paradise!
Wide streets, low traffic, clean air - paradise!

Yesterday we spent some time getting our permits, the govt officials were courteous, and we got our permits within a few hours of applying. We hiked up to the Takin reserve, established by the Royal Family, accompanied by our self-appointed guide Tenzing.

Takins at the mini-zoo (national animal of Bhutan)
Takins at the mini-zoo (national animal of Bhutan)

Thimphu is a beautiful city. I dont know about Gross National Happiness but what I do see around me is this –
The roads are clean, traffic snarls are non-existent, the air is pure and crisp. The houses are all the same, built in the traditional style, which is why there is a harmony to the city. The mountains surround the city, there is greenery around. Children play in the parks. A group of young kids were training for soccer. I could walk on the street alone at 10 pm at night without any catcalls. Somehow, this place is safe. I guess thats the big difference from the other side of the border.
The difference was apparent the minute I crossed into Bhutan from the border town of Jaigaon in India. Jaigaon was haphazard, dirty, plastic-littered, full of rickshaws and autos. Phuntsholing in Bhutan was neat, orderly, clean air. Sigh.

Jaigaon - haphazard border town on the Indan side
Jaigaon - haphazard border town on the Indan side
Gateway into Bhutan: town of Phuentsholing
Gateway into Bhutan: town of Phuentsholing

TOday we visited the ountryside of Punakha – rice fields, green waters of the two rivers, the large Dzong dominating the village. And the Dochu -la pass with the Chortens that the Bhutanese built to atone for the sin of killing the ULFA militants holed up in Bhutan. And let me not forget the Awesome views of the Himalayan range from the Pass.

108 chortens at Dochu-la pass
108 chortens at Dochu-la pass

The Bhutanese are lucky!

Bomb blast in Assam: once more

I don’t have anything new to say about this. Its the same stuff happening all over again. Its just depressing.

The media, always sensationalists, seem more repulsive today as they scream out for the audience details of the person who is seen burning on the screen. I understand they want to present the true story, but the images are just too graphic. And somehow I always had a problem with the tone of coverage – a hint of excitement in the reporters voice instead of sympathy for the people who died or are injured. And pointing out clearly that so-and-so were first to cover the event and so on.

Wonder how this will affect the elections if at all?