The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden is the first novel written by a woman in Bhutan. Using simple language and straightforward plot line, the story weaves around Tsomo and her literal and metaphorical journey from her childhood to her old age.
Set in the mid-20th century Bhutan, The Circle of Karma‘s protagonist is Tsomo, who lives in Tang valley in Bumthang (one of the districts of Bhutan), is burdened with household chores and envious of her brothers getting a religious education from her scholarly father, who was a gomchen (a religious scholar/monk).
She deeply loves and respects her mother. She fears her father. She wants to learn to read and write but being a girl, she is not allowed to do so.
Her observant nature though allows us a glimpse into several cultural aspects around her such as the nature of society and its bias towards women or the rituals that happen around her in her society.
Dasho Kinley Dorji’s collection of 13 short stories about different aspects of Bhutan is aptly titled, Within the Realm of Happiness.
The thirteen stories are a mix of fiction and creative non fiction that take a leaf out of his life as well as the different shades of his country.
It begins with a wonderfully innocent story, Angay, about a 10 year old who is intrigued by her grandmother’s (Angay in Dzongkha) mousetrap and what she does with the mouse when finally caught.
This is followed by an equally warm story, Mi-mi’s Surprise, about a father-son relation and the skills the father passes on to his son, Dorji, along with a surprise gift.
Two Men, Two Worlds is a relevant story about the division that modernisation created and is continuing to create among the Bhutanese people.
Love children’s books?
How about next time you pick up one from Bhutan?
Bhutan maybe a tiny country which we do not often think about but it does have a thriving children’s books culture that use remarkable illustrations.
One such book that was launched last year in 2017 at Bhutan’s annual literature festival, Mountain Echoes, was Khakey written by one of Bhutan’s youngest authors, Yeshi Tsheyang Zam, who is only 11 years old!
What is the book about?
With simple fun dialogues and beautiful illustrations by Chand Bhattarai, Khakey is about an interesting ritual carried out mostly in Paro, in Western Bhutan, on the first day of snowfall, where one secretly tries to deliver a big ball of snow filled with some ingredients.
What is the purpose of this ritual? Read and find out.
Yeshi mentioned at the launch about how the idea for Khakey came to her since it is a ritual that many are unaware of and is also decreasing in practice due to rise in urbanization and decreasing snowfall.
One last reason to pick it up?
Khakey has adorable illustrations such as these:
Read more here: