Its been round about seven months since my last stint at Bhutan Observer as the news editor. The ad firm"K4 Media" that me and my mentor/former editor-in-chief, "Tosh the Slosh" set up is picking the occasional cool breeze here and there. But the writing suffers; and really, writing brochures and web-content cannot and does not substitute for the sheer thrill and challenge of bringing out a Friday weekly.
I miss the frenzy of the newsroom- the sudden unexpected U-turns and roundabouts. Deadlines that come alive with some last minute info and unexpected quotes that rain in from anonymous corridors.
I read all the papers. Sometimes its pretty absurd when you have all the four papers on your table and you have started your writing career with one and worked for the other two. There's a bond that goes beyond the personal animosity (if there be any).
The sad news this past week has been the state of Bhutan Times. Reckless investments in ill-conceived (but well intended nonetheless) projects has put the paper in a financial mess. They are asking the government for a bail-out. Either that or its complete bankruptcy!
I hope the paper survives. Bhutan needs the fourth estate more than anything at this critical juncture. Without the watchdogs of the fourth estate the democracy will not work.
That is a fact.
This past week has been a weird trip; faintly reminiscent of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." The weekend was lost in the "Bardos" of our emotions. My state of the being was as they say in Buddhism "Like a butter lamp in the open, the flame at the mercy of the winds of change." They ask you to box that flame, so that it burns calm and constant, immune to the howling winds.
A Buddhist outlook does help you, it gives you options where you'd have been impulsive and rash; reckless and naive.
The fact that i was able to draw these alternatives from some subconscious well was a boon. Everything is so relative to where and what you are doing at that point in time.
The truth of dependent origination is magical! My ailments mean nothing in light of that context and the context of the circumstances facing me.
It does sound very corny but man it works!
I got more tattoos too; let's see...it started with a dragon a guy from the border town of Jaigaon who drew this very Bengali-Indian looking dragon! a little malnourished and confused! My mate Jimmy the Jewel tells me there are these young Bhutanese artists who been practicing with improvised tools and doing a darn fine job at that. I looked at some of the samples he'd done. They were great! artistic, creative and flawless.
I meet the artists. Their names are Ata Palden (who also happens to be a mountain-guide, rock climber, mountain-biker and the physical embodiment of Genghis Khan!) and Sonam Dorji known more commonly as Brother John, (there's a post somewhere here on the subject of Bhutanese monikers).
My dragon got a monumental makeover. He's now gotten back his self-esteem and respect. There's a thunder in his roar. He's become a proper dragon.
Seeing what they'd done to my dragon, i requested free-hand scales (anything reptilian) and there it show, on my forearm. Its a process in evolution, speaking strictly in tattooist terms!
Now I've an Eagle, a Raven, a Scorpion, Buddhist concepts done in Tibetan calligraphy: Hope and Fear (MeWa), At Peace (ZhiWa), Unshakable Faith (PaLeyZhiPa), a traditional Buddhist skull that depicts and symbolises fearlessness. In full translation it declares:
"Laughing in the face of death;
To live and die without regrets."
The neck calligraphy reads, "Self-Arising-Wisdom." They are pretty heavy! And if you can be aware and awake enough to remember these concepts when emotional tsunamis storm you, then you are becoming a practitioner.
A little mouse with wings and in perfect slumber is how i envision my dead father. He was a rat. My own rat sits on the forearm, somewhat tentative and cautious.
Then there's a quill on my wrist. its writing the mantra "Om."
A "Gung" (Bhutanese word for a mighty creature: in the jungle hierarchy, the Bhutanese believe that the king of of the forest is this little cat like creature with a long tail really sharp elongated claws) perches on my chest.
This Saturday night i got a Japanese "Koi" (a Japanese fish that is a popular choice of tattoo. The scaly fish is supposed to represent courage; swimming bravely in the ocean of Samsara).
Last night Brother John touched up fine looking Sanskrit Om with the face of the Buddha in it.
As works of art, the tattoos are beautiful. As concepts and principles, they are heavy; laden and embedded with wisdom. The challenge now is to honor these timeless truths and strive and aspire...at least.
"For a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's heaven for?"