A round this time, in preparation for the annual choku at home, my uncle comes over to make sikam for the family. The block of meat would be left out in the cold the night before so that it gets chilled enough without totally freezing over. The next morning, he lays out a mat and takes out his special dozom with a flourish, which he inspects by running his thumb the entire length. As he zeros the tip of his dozom to tentatively mark the thickness for the strip on the pork hide, he is like an artist slowly driving his knife through hide, lard and meat. My uncle is an excellent sikam slicer.
I have always been fascinated with what our hands can do when the mind and heart have our back. My uncle is as good at traditional painting as he is at slicing meat. He is also good at shaping chopping blocks. He is a simple and ordinary man, but he seems to find inspiration from the mundane things that surrounds us. The joy of really giving the best is what gets him revved up, as most should. It really isn’t about the task as long as it’s done well; it becomes the measure of a person and what he/she deems “important”. Yet, here we are trying hard to inculcate dedication, determination and dignity back into the fabrics of our very own society, which is ironic especially when it is evident our forefathers put their back (read literally) for their future, of which we are lucky to benefit from. An agrarian society actually alludes to our ancestors who had to have a “hands on” attitude about living.
Putting the “blue back in our non-existent collar” may be difficult when the mind has been aggressively reset from the time we joined school. The bourgeois in modern education have managed to change a “hands on” attitude to slowly but surely a “hand it over” attitude.
This November brought two events in Thimphu, which is symptomatic to each other in a sense; the Global Entrepreneurship Week was a campaign to recognize entrepreneurial practices and provide a forum for policy makers and speakers to promote a “culture of innovation”. The other event was the celebration of the World Diabetes Day, where citizens rallied against unhealthy lifestyles and took to testing their blood sugar level.
To point out the obvious, Bhutan is suffering from two lifestyle diseases. Unemployment, in Bhutan, is begotten by avoiding to “roll up the sleeves”. Diabetes stems from ignoring a life of discipline and determination. It is not so much what can be avoided but what can be done with it. A proper “rewiring” of attitude is what it will take to begin the mend. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but if we do that, we may probably be on our way to saying goodbye to these maladies that cripple our society. In the words of Bruce Lee, “knowing is not enough we must apply, willing is not enough we must do.” And the question we need to ask is do we have the fire to work up a storm?