Tshering Palden

Chatty. Jovial. Smart.

They seem like any fun-loving ordinary Bhutanese youth that many comes across on the street. They have varied interests, but one thing common among them is their talent in public speaking.

Dusk was falling rapidly and the winter wind biting to the bone. But four young individuals (two female, two male) equipped with microphones are practising for the biggest day of their lives at Changlimithang.

Deviating from the norm of experts shouldering the most important task of guiding the events on the National Day, the home ministry, this year chose the young ones.

They were selected through a competition and audition at the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. A committee of experts chose them among nominations from various schools and educational institutions.

Their parents and well-wishers are more concerned than happy for them. They said they were proud and are doing their best.

Tshering Lhaden, a student of Dechenchholing Higher Secondary School, is one of the two speakers in English.

“On the day I had my last exam my principal told me that I was selected to be the MC on the National Day. I was shocked and surprised.”

She enjoys History above all other subject and her favourite chapter has been the Hereditary Monarchs. The Class XI student from Trashiyangtse said it was a lifetime opportunity.

“I feel proud and at the same time, a little bit scared because if I make some mistakes in this grand event, everybody will see me on the television. But I am happy.”

Tshering Lhaden is not sure what made the selection panel choose her because she had been an MC only once that too for a debate competition in her school this year.

“We are all working so hard because this is the National Day celebration and it’s a great event for the entire country.”

Her elder sister, who is on vacation from college, helps her at night with her pronunciation and intonation.

The four would dress in intricately woven gho and kira, sponsored by the organising committee. “I have never worn a tshoglham,” Tshering Lhaden said.  “I  would like to acknowledge all the people for giving me this opportunity. It means a lot to me.”

The eldest in the group is Younten, a Dzongkha teacher graduate from Paro College of Education who is waiting placement.

His parents from Pakshikha of Bongo gewog, Chukha who are farmers and proud of his achievement but may not be able to attend in person to witness his talent.

“It’s because of Their Majesties The Kings’ noble contributions that have bestowed us with peace, prosperity and happiness. Getting this opportunity to participate in the National Day celebrations and furthermore to present in front of Their Majesties makes me proud and most privileged.”

He said they are being trained by experts right from the basics such as how to speak, the techniques to hold the microphones and body postures. The speeches have also been scripted to suit their calibre.

“Many have given us useful tips and we have been practising accordingly.”

Since November 29, the three of them, excluding the second male MC who had examinations, had practised for eight hours straight on most of the days.

“There are plenty of youth who are competent enough to be the MC. But the four of us were selected through the audition and I feel we are honoured,” Younten said.

“My parents are proud of me having got this opportunity and they have borne all the costs in travelling and being here to practice for the big day.”

Youngest among them is 15-year-old Sonam Tenzin Wangchuk who finished his Class X examinations at ELC High School the previous day. He joined the practice at Changlimithang yesterday.

He has less than four days to perfect his scripts and memorise the entry, exit and the order of events. But he is confident that he would be able to keep up with his colleagues and be at his best on the day.

“Given my experience, I am confident that I can do it,” he said. “My spirits are high.”

He was the runners up in the 12th Golden Youth Award this year among more than 80 contestants from schools across the country. He has been an ambassador for Design For Change for the last eight years. He had even spoken at international forums.

The fourth MC is Passang Wangmo, a second year student of Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law. From Paga Goenpa in Chapcha, Passang  is the female MC speaking in Dzongkha.

“Before the MC were all experts in the field. But this year the opportunity has been given to the youth and being able to participate makes me extremely happy,” she said. “There is no room for any errors which makes me a little more anxious.” 

“There is huge pressure on us because we’re performing at the national stage and the standard of delivery has to be perfect,” she said. “I’ve never had done anything of this scale.”

Passang was in her village, Paga Goenpa in Chapcha, Chukha when she learnt about the audition results.

The practice here has made us so much better in our conduct. “Looking back, what I did as MC during my school days seem so rudimentary,” she said.