The Dragon's Voice by Bunty Avieson

The Dragon's Voice by Bunty Avieson

Author:Bunty Avieson
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Published: 2015-03-10T04:00:00+00:00


A Victory for the Media

Bhutan Observer’s four rural reporters come to Thimphu for a week of writing workshops. I’ve been looking forward to meeting them, particularly Gyembo Namgyal, who lives in Pemagatshel, four days’ travel away in the far east of the country. Gyembo is a legend. He did not finish school but I am told he reads books, lots of them. In a country that doesn’t read, this is considered remarkable. Gyembo writes at least one feature each week, usually two or three. He ferrets out the most interesting characters and wonderfully bizarre stories in the south-east. When I read his features, I usually find myself smiling.

A month or so ago, management decided to offer Gyembo a job in head office. The paper was short-staffed, and giving him a promotion seemed a good solution. But when Tenzin personally phoned Gyembo to tell him of this news, Gyembo resigned on the spot. He didn’t want to come to Thimphu.

Tenzin tried everything – cajoling, threatening, offering a pay rise and a more important job title. Nothing worked. Finally, after weeks of fruitless negotiations, he got to the root of the problem. Gyembo did not want to leave his cow. Tenzin suggested he bring it with him, saying there were plenty of cows in Thimphu. But Gyembo felt his cow was too old to travel such a long distance. Perhaps when the cow died he might reconsider, but for now he wanted to stay in Pemagatshel. And so he did.

Gyembo arrives two days late thanks to a landslide on the main highway that delayed his bus. He is a fascinating mix of the modern and the uniquely Bhutanese. Like all the reporters, he’s on Facebook, but his world revolves around his cow. He is tall and solid, with a gentle manner and a colourful, beautifully pressed gho. I like him immediately.

I also meet Tempa Wangdi, from Trashigang, slightly north of Gyembo’s region. He is Gyembo’s opposite in every way. I am only 168 centimetres tall, and he barely reaches my shoulder. He is a frenetic ball of energy, with darting eyes, and is irrepressibly cheeky. It is impossible not to like him, though I imagine he would be exhausting to live with. I discover that although he is happily married, his wife lives elsewhere. He is extremely pleased to be called to the head office – not to do my writing workshops, he tells me cheerfully, but because he has a few issues to sort out with management. He would like a filing cabinet and a motorbike. Also, an increase in travel allowances. Horse porters in his region have raised their rates, so the cost of getting around the villages and yak camps and mountaintop monasteries has also risen. These issues are being ignored and it is time management addresses them, he tells me within minutes of walking in the door. He is like a small, highly charged rocket.

We end up with the four rural reporters, five Thimphu reporters and two staff from Bhutan’s media regulatory authority, BICMA.


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