Monday, February 20, 2012

Let there be a National Literary Award in Bhutan

Most of the foreigners who visited the Bhutan as tourists and volunteers attempt to write the books on Bhutan describing its culture and environment. Bhutan perhaps gives them the peace and tranquility that are conducive to cultivate their creative juices. On other hand, the Bhutanese writers find it hard to find the readers for their works, forget the recognition. Many people have written the books either in national language or English language just to gather dusts on the bookshelf of local bookstores across the country. Of two genres, the fiction and non-fiction, the non-fictions seem to do little better. The non-fiction books are, at least, referred to by some curious foreigners and some local graduates attempting the civil service examinations.  Unlike its twin brother non-fiction, the fiction books hardly sell in Bhutan.
 Visit to any bookstore in the capital. Select a book by Bhutanese author and secretly mark it. After three months, you will see that same book on same shelf waiting lazily for you to buy. Besides non-favourable Bhutanese reading habits, the cost of the books also drive away some interested readers especially school-going children. The books are charged for quality of papers rather than the quality of content. The cost of a novella of fifty something pages by some unknown authors will be more than ngultrum 250.
If you go back to history, Bhutan has produced some outstanding writers like Penchen Tenzin Chogyal and monk Monk Ngawang who hagiographically chronicled lives and times of religious leaders and temporal leaders like Zhabdrung, Tenzin Rabgay, local feudal kings etc. Even today, Bhutan has some of the outstanding authors like Karma Ura, Sonam Kinga and some others who indulged in non-fiction and Kuenzang Choden, Gopilal Archarya and others who write quality fiction. Apart from known authors, there are also struggling and budding writers who are either waiting for some publishers or just wishing the some magic happens so that their books in the bookstore doesn't gather dust.
It is high time now that Bhutan institute the literature award to recognize the talents of Bhutanese writers. No doubt, there have been few awards for authors in recognition of literary works, but those awards were either from the State or government for some research which may not be completely based on merits of literature per se. Likewise, Dzongkha Development Commission also gave away few prizes for essays and books in national language but the award misses essence of literary in parts or whole.
In 2001, Bhutan instituted the National Film Awards to recognize the best works in the film. Since then, Bhutanese film industry has come a long way. The awards may be flawed since the juries are not educated in films, it at least gives the industry a sort of recognition that they deserve. In 2009, the government of Bhutan instituted the controversial journalist's awards that many criticized, yet there is at least recognition from the states for their roles and contributions for promoting the media.
Literary work is also the important form of media besides journalistic and visual media that will contribute to the growth of the informed and educated nation. The institution of literature award will go a long way boosting the morale of the enthusiastic but demoralized bunch of writers. The unregistered Writers Association of Bhutan which as of now only exists in website can play a major role in instituting the literary award at the national level. Even the government can also initiate the award which can be controversial as it happens most of the time. But then, some recognition is always better than non-recognition even if it is controversial one.
I write this with the hope that the budding writers get platform to showcase their talents. I write this with the hope that the young talents are recognized for their abilities and creativities. I scribbled this with the hope that these useless scribbles of mine may one day turned into the biggest reality of author's recognition.

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