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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Color Matters?

In science, color is simply a property of an object that causes visual sensation due to the reflection of light, as a result of which we see things as either red, blue, green, white or black.
But human civilization has travelled beyond this nomenclature, connotations and significance that today, color not only is a visual symbol but is also widely acknowledged as a pictogram of human perceptions and thinking to characterize emotions, religion, art, politics or mythology. It is virtually a form of a non-verbal communicative language that expresses the meaning of the things without having to communicate. Adversely, due to its stimulation of our senses, colors have widely implicated and impacted on our belief system, impression, visual attractions and even on purchasing decisions. Some colors cause a lasting influence on our sense organs to an extent that it can sway our thoughts based on how it soothe or irritate our vision and ultimately cause either change of actions or reactions.
As much as color is used as an identity to signify some meaning across the world, in a country that follows Vajrayana Buddhism as its state religion, colors form an integral part of our belief system that are strongly pulsated with the religion and spiritualism. Therefore in Bhutan that ubiquitous prayers flags found fluttering over the bridge, across the mountain range, around the stupa (chöten), fortress, or temples shares the religious ideals and insights utterly grounded on Buddhism. The colors of white, yellow, red, green and blue (commonly in this sequence) which are simply universal represents the 5 elements of Nature viz. air (wind), earth, fire, water and space respectively. Buddhists belief that, to have harmony in the environment we share, and to bring fortunes and good health to oneself and other sentient beings, these elements has to be perfectly balanced. As the wind blows, the blessings of the Buddhist scriptures, mantras or sutras inscribed on it will be moved along with the wind to an unlimited space and anything that gets touched results in accumulation of better fortunes, eternal peace and happiness.
Prayer flags of 5 significant colors erected in the school campus

Unlike any other nation, Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, the only capital city in the world (I guess), doesn’t have traffic lights, a signal that uses red to ‘stop’, yellow to ‘slow’ or green to indicate ‘go’. As a substitute, we have human traffic regulated by the city traffic police.
Traffic police regulating the vehicle movement in Thimphu  (Photo source: Click LINK)
But alike the world, we do have yellow school buses, the color which signifies ‘safety’ and scientifically is visible under dimmer conditions (as its “lateral vision to detect yellow is 1.24 greater than red”). Similarly, the machines used for earth-moving and road-buildings used in our country are also yellow to indicate warning and safety.
Road widening in process with the help of yellow crane
Another interesting fact of its influence of color is entrenched in our tradition and cultural system where colors are largely used as a symbol to represent rank by the color of scarf (kabney) we wear (alongside patag that denotes power for officials of higher rank). Embedded in our unique Bhutanese etiquette, popularly branded as ‘Driglam Namzha’, the colors of the scarfs are worn as follows:
Saffron: His Majesty the King and the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot)
Orange: Lyonpos (Ministers)
Red: Dasho and male members of Royal family
Green: Judges
Blue: Members of Parliament
White with red stripes (khamar): Gups (village headman)
White: Ordinary citizens.
Village head headman (Gup) with khamar kabney during one of the school functions

This is me, wearing a white kabney, a scarf worn by ordinary citizens (men in particular)
In general, the yellow color which signifies temporal authority of His Majesty the King (as decorated in our National flag) and color red are regarded as divine colors due to its association with the monk’s rob, the followers of the Buddha and thus, symbolizes renunciation and separation from the materialistic world. White that connotes purity (the color of dragon on our national flag) and ceremonial scarfs (khadaar) is significantly another color that matters a lot.
The hills and mountain ranges, revered as spiritual homes to the local deities are adorned with prayer flags

The National flag of Bhutan. Yellow signify temporal power of a king, orange denotes spiritual tradition and Druk (the dragon is the native name of the Kingdom)
While understanding that the knowledge of how color matters is imperative in our lives, what I share here is just a piece from its oceanic vast. As much as realization is important, learning about its importance is necessary because as long as human civilization survives, colors can be one fundamental element and a communicative tool to distinguish religion, culture, politics and societal influences. Thus, as name is to a person, so is color to life.   
“Color is not just color but mood, temperature and structure” – Van Day Truex

Monday, January 18, 2016

On Wiki’s Birthday

If there is any non-commercial website that offers a wide range of information based on history, geography, science, technology, arts, biography, politics or information related to any information, it is definitely the WIKIPEDIA. Wikipedia is thus supposedly a synonym to ‘information’.
Wikipedia is a digital encyclopedia that was founded on 15th January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 years ago today. Currently, this online databank, regarded as the 6th most popular website in the world as of January 2016 houses more than 5 million articles in some 280 languages.     

Despite the criticisms for the articles that it congregates being surfaced to a wide ‘openness’ (meaning anyone can edit the article), it is preferably, for many of us, the first site to encounter on our way to search for the information. On this account, I can vividly recollect a colleague of mine, who submitted an academic paper at the eleventh hour containing information directly replicated from the Wikipedia. By the time it was submitted, we would detect every paragraph ending with the word [edit] or some reference numbers like [1], [2], [3] etc. But quite interestingly, as far as I remember, these papers were never returned for resubmission. Let alone plagiarisms been highly rampant (though out of sheer ignorance) those times, we never got a lesson that the entries in the Wikipedia were unreliable and variable on the grounds that the articles don't include bylines or editors, and therefore facts are vulnerable to constant change on every edition. 
Photo courtesy: Click  LINK
However it may be, personally to me, Wikipedia has been the first mother website that feeds me with a skeleton of ideas and a link to add flesh on my write-ups. Academically, it was more than a literary embassy that housed information about the entire world. And thus, for being a template of information and guide, I wish Wikipedia, an esteemed 15th Anniversary. May you continue to enlighten the entire world.  
“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information” – Steve Carrell     

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Empowerment + Entitlement = Enrichment

“It is only through the Empowerment that grassroots democracy will secure their Entitlement to grassroots development and together lead to Enrichment of all”, said the former Diplomat turned Politician, Mani Shankar Aiyar, who addressed on Friday Forum Lecture yesterday at the bravura hall of Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) in Phuentsholing.
Envisioned by His Majesty the King, who is also the Patron of this autonomous body, RIGSS is a premier institute for the promotion of excellence in governance, leadership and strategic studies. As a leading leadership establishment, it offers an avenue to coach and educate both incumbent and potential future leaders of Bhutan on governance, leadership and policies that can comfortably move Bhutan into the 21st century and beyond. So far, it has trained a huge number of legislators, executives and bureaucrats that forms the top helms of the varied organizations and has a decision making influence.
Besides, various enriching activities for the participants, the final day of the training program is graced by the keynote delivery of eminent personalities from both home and abroad.
As such, I was fortunate to have a privilege in attending the 12th Friday Forum Lecture by His Excellency Mani Shankar (although I was not a participant who had an official passport of eligibility). The grandiose hall was pregnant with the presence of some Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, bureaucrats and largely by the civil servants from different sectors. And more blessedly, the grandeur of that magnificent and enchanting talk was further venerated by the Royal glamour due to the presence of His Majesty the King. So, basically that evening, my heart sang a song of double happiness: seeing His Majesty the King and listening to a prolific public orator.
His Excellency Mani Shankar, who has served from the time of Rajiv Gandhi, the 6th Indian Prime Minister, narrated a talk titled, “Democracy – From Parliament to the Grassroots” largely based on his experiences of a being a politician from the world’s largest democracy.
Photo courtesy: Click LINK
Rajiv Gandhi used to say, Mr Shankar told the floor that, “India is the world’s largest democracy but it is also the world’s least representative democracy”. The crowd roared into an insoluble laughter. He referred this statement based on the current Indian population which is at staggering 1.2 billion being represented by just only 5000 elected people’s representatives.
In the course of narrating the birth of Indian democracy, the former Union Minister of Panchayati Raj boasted that, “Indian democracy is unique in a sense that the country adopted democracy as soon as it’s independence from the British colonization in 1947 and democracy is still surviving”. So, he shared the floor about the secrets of Rajiv Gandhi’s bold initiatives (despite many failures and condemnation) to sustain democracy in grassroots development through grassroots democracy by introducing Panchayati Raj. Because of this unique local government proposal, His Excellency, shared this success story of stabilizing democracy in the large India by having established close to 2.5 lakh elected institutions of local government with 30 lakh representatives of which impressive 10 lakh are women.
“This exercise of gender empowerment which in scale is without precedent in history or parallel in the world” he said. And more interestingly, the Panchayati Raj groups are largely composed of deprived sections of Indian society, particularly the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes.
“But unfortunately, this silent revolution in empowerment is being virtually blacked out in the media”. 
He stated that for economic progress to translate into equitable progress, democracy was to be taken to the grassroots level by giving local community the Empowerment. When they are empowered, they can voice for their right to Entitlement for the basic infrastructures like health, education, water and sanitation. Consequently, when all the sections of the society have secured entitlements, this is where the road to Enrichment begins.
“Now, the Panchayat Raj has a constitutional sanction that makes it irreversible, irremovable and ineluctable because it gives the local community to determine the fate of its local destiny while at the same time remaining part of the larger destiny of the State”.
While as much as I was engaged in his capturing talk pondering about the evolutionary stages of democracy in India and its struggles and survival despite being populous, I couldn’t fathom how insightful and farsighted our Kings were, particularly the fourth Druk Gyalpo, who ushered in the democracy as the Royal gift to the people of Bhutan with all these settings in place inside a unique development model, the Gross National Happiness.
I humbly acknowledge Mr. Shankar for the lecture which not only Encapsulated with wisdom and political acumen, but also Engaged, Excited, Energized and Educated me beyond compare.
Thank you Mr. Chewang Rinzin, the RIGSS coordinator and the current Member Secretary, for floating an invitation to all the non-participants of the RIGSS program.
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not” – Thomas Jefferson   


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