He was born in the mountains, up in the northern Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, where the air was then still fresh and the trees were green.
Up there, in the small, remote village of Ulaytokpo in Ladakh, Sonam Wangchuk went to school with other tribal children.
Education was difficult, he recalled, because minorities were discriminated against, and schools were lacking and poorly-equipped.
Teaching standards were abysmal during those days and what was written in textbooks was irrelevant to the lives of mountain people.
“I had a very rough education in the mountains,” Wangchuk told ucanews.com during an interview in Manila. “Not much with what you got from the textbooks made sense,” he said.
He was then too young to understand, but when he got older and was confronted with financial difficulties to continue his own education, he opened his eyes.
“I had to teach other students to support myself,” he said.
“It did not make much sense, even to people in New Delhi, and even in London,” he said with a smile.
He stressed the need for spiritual and religious leaders who should preach about “a new form of non-violence and peace with air, water and all living beings on this planet.” “We need to update our religion,” Wangchuk told ucanews.com. “Our religion is somewhat outdated from the time when people were killing with guns and daggers, our leaders are still talking about peace of that kind whereas the current problem is not the peace of guns and daggers,” he said.
Wangchuk said the “main causes of violence and deaths these days are environmental in nature [and] lifestyle related.”
He said he looks forward to “new ways of seeing religion” where Hindus and Muslims, for instance, would not only say that they would not eat this or that kind of meat but would say that “we don’t use plastic bottles, we don’t use cars for no reason, we use public transport, we use steps rather than escalators.”