Literature, in any form, reflects the society of a place and time.
Most writers weave stories from a life lived. From a world seen. And for the conditions endured. When journalists write, the fiction is based on true life.
In writing and publishing 30-short stories in a book In Love with Butterflies and Other Stories, what these two former journalists, Sonam Tashi and Riku Dhan Subba, have done is to make us look inward.
Perhaps, that’s what they were doing themselves when they were writing the stories. That’s how I feel, and no one needs to subscribe to this view.
Just read the book and look within your mind.
As a former journalist, I went through the same pang and angst. At times I even curbed the exuberance of reporters to a level that the management thought was acceptable to our society, much to my own regret, and of course the reporter’s chagrin.
The writers (Sonam and Riku) were friends since their school days. Coming from different social backgrounds, their thoughts converged on the same thing – our evolving Bhutanese society.
They touch upon some quite a few sensitive issues that we Bhutanese would gossip about, even condemn it when it is raised in our own intimate inner circle of like-minded friends but will never come out against it in the open. These are just few instances but there are many that need to be addressed.
It is usually said that every journalist has a book in him or her. Some write to grind their own personal stone, some to display that they know better than the others and to see their name in print (even if no one buys the book). Some write with the hope that the society they live in will change for the better for everyone.
We don’t bother much about the last part.
Having said all that, let’s get on with the book.
Bhutan is a small country. Everyone knows everyone and we are worried of hurting the sentiments of our much-clichéd small Bhutanese society. For all the misplaced sentiments, we are willing to look the other way. I look the other way, because it doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t hurt my family.
The 1960s saw the opening of Bhutan. Before that we were a closed self-contained isolated society, very much satisfied with the way of our life. But then we needed to develop to keep up with the outside world.
Then the outside influences swamped us, diluting our own age-old cultural, social and economic values based on Buddhism, despite our own philosophy of Gross National Happiness. We didn’t know what to accept and what to reject. Smuggling of contraband goods and counterfeit currencies made their way into the newspaper columns.
The book also contains some stories of our social ills that we have accepted as part of our life. Alcoholism may seem like a minor social aberration (A Bottle of Promise) as compared to our efforts to please the visiting dignitary, (Chadi). Yet these are ills that we can do away with.
Today, I could understand why an expatriate worker with an international agency was so incensed about ‘night hunting’, which most Bhutanese took it as part of village social life. It is through acceptance that these practices begin to cause physical and mental damages to persons and society.
The book contains stories that are serious, humorous and almost frivolous – stories that we did come across at one time or the other in our life (wherein we may also have played a part unwittingly).
But did we ever pause to think how they would affect us?
Publisher: Bhutan Printing Solution, Thimphu
ISBN No: 9789998085008
Number of pages: 192
Price: Nu 299