Started after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Tasha informs follower of global news in plain Dzongkha

KP Sharma

Lying down on the sofa at his host’s house, a monk, with his mobile phone placed close to his ears and head covered with his rezay (scarf) is deeply engrossed in listening to news about Russian advances in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Busy with the ritual, he had missed his morning news update. He is catching up during the break.

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine dominated headlines since February 2022. In Bhutan, while mainstream media left it to cable television and the internet, the more than a yearlong conflict in Eastern Europe is literally in everybody’s hemchu. Thanks to Tasha Global News (TGN), a Telegram group, more than thousands of Bhutanese are getting their dose of global news from the group, created by a Bhutanese based in New York, Thinley Dorji.

Initially started on WeChat, the group that started with about 50 people expanded to 107,172 members as of yesterday. Tasha started TGN after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year. Thinley Dorji got some messages on his WeChat group asking for details. Thinley, popularly known as Tasha, reads and listens to news and explains in simple plain Dzongkha. More questions followed and more members joined. Given the restriction of members, Tasha moved to Telegram, which allowed unlimited members.

The numbers are increasing and members share it with other groups. Dawa Zangpo, a 37-year-old shopkeeper, said he is hooked on the “channel”. “It is easy for people like us to understand and make sense of what is happening.”

Many said Tasha goes out of his way to explain and even analyse the news besides just sharing what is on the news. “It has become a routine for me to listen to the group before I go to sleep,” said a former monk, Kinley.

The group is popular among villagers, highlanders, and even the educated ones. Dechen Choki, a housewife, said that it is the only source for her international news.  “I have never heard the names of some countries and where they are located,” she said.

Namgay Wangdi, a construction worker, checks the group every evening. He finds it more informative and worthy. He said that other groups share screenshots of news in English which is difficult for him to understand.

According to group members, the channel has a bigger impact on society as it has a better reach than traditional media.

Not for profit

In a Telegram interview, Thinley Dorji said that unlike many think, he makes no money from the channel. “It has become like an obligation with many people eagerly waiting for me to update,” he said. He said he spends 30 to 45 minutes reading or listening to news and translating it before sharing it. “Some even call, drop messages and even complain when I cannot update,” he said.  Quite often it is converted into MP3 to be shared in other groups. 

A former guide who moved to the US more than a decade ago, Tasha said that he was happy with what he was doing. “My Dzongkha has improved a lot although it is difficult to explain some terminologies,” he said.

Tasha decided to keep it going after his recent visit to Bhutan where many people, especially, lams, monks, and villagers whom he met thanked him for his initiative. “I felt nice when people I met thanked me.”

Besides international news, Tasha has also become the source of what is happening in New York, USA.

Meanwhile, in the evening headlines yesterday on TGN was Indian Army’s “jet pack Suits” to bolster its surveillance capabilities. “I have not read much or researched much. Will share more soon,” he apologises to retire for the day.