To Mr. Khaw BoonWan, What did you expect?
Dear Mr. Khaw,
I was not surprised when you said Bhutan is not the last Shangri-la on Earth, because I had a friend from your country who found Bhutan only “full of mountains and valleys”. When you visited Bhutan, what did you expect? Those flying mountains you saw in Avatar? Or every Bhutanese merrily dancing in designer clothes? Well, you must have at-least expected fancier cars and taller buildings but we only have taller mountains (not flying ones) and thicker forest (truly natural).
I am not surprised even when you said “Most of the time, I saw unhappy people, toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products.” because I heard a proverb in school that goes, “Two men looked through the prison window, one saw the mud and other saw the horizon”. I am only surprised that you have spent “Most of your time” in Bhutan looking in the fields. I am amazed at your ability to figure out whether the people are happy or unhappy just by looking at them- O’ you even knew they were “worried about the next harvest”. No wonder you country export human resources.
I visited your wonderful country sometime ago, and it felt like a city from the future. The transportation system held me spell bound, Cleanliness of the street is so much that I didn’t find a fragment of dust on my shoes after walking for the hours. Every building and car looks new, and there is no question about the civic sense among the people. Four days after I landed in Bhutan I woke up and started sharing the stories of your wonderful country – yes it took me four days of sleeping to shake of the hangover of many sleepless nights in your 24 x 7 country. I read the amazing history of your country and thought to myself, if Bhutan’s to develop, Singapore can be our vision.
But since you questioned the presence of happiness in Bhutan, let me answer by telling you few things that you overlooked when you visited my country.
Those people you saw in the fields weren’t unhappy, if you have gone closer you would have heard them singing and enjoying the social lives, perhaps you won’t understand that. If you have spent a little longer time watching them, you would have seen a woman with basket on her back and holding arms with several children coming with steaming food – we don’t have McDonald or KFC. Then everybody will sit down to eat their lunch, laughing and joking, feeding babies, for over an hour – you wouldn’t have had so much time to sit and watch I know, time means money in your country. But we have luxury of time. People don’t worry “about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products.” In fact, we don’t do much commercial farming, we do most of them to keep with the tradition. And when the sun sets, doesn’t really matter what time, people leave for their homes where they have a large family waiting. Large family because we don’t chase away our children when they become 18 or children cast away their parents when they age.
We don’t need Health Insurance to survive, nor have to go for Education Loan for educating our children. We don’t hang the drug users, we counsel them to hang on to their lives, we don’t have to have a job to survive, and when we fall sick even the furthest cousin comes to attend without having to update Facebook status.
If you reread our history you will find that our wise Kings have hidden us from the outside world so that we could remain the way we are today. If we start mining our mountains and lumbering our forests, we can become Singapore, but no matter what you do you can never become Bhutan. It is far too difficult. We shall be the last breath of oxygen on earth.
Bhutan may not be the Last Shangri-la but we are happy.
Passu Diary is a blog journal of an ordinary Bhutanese.