Monday, November 4, 2013

Where happiness is a national currency!

Land-locked mountain kingdom conjures up an irresistible image of a Shangri-la, with happiness being its gross domestic product. In every direction around the kingdom, unhappy situations prevail in its diverse manifestations - be it India or Nepal or Bangladesh or even Myanmar – and yet it has stood firm on its idea of Gross National Happiness. None of its neighbors, however, have made any effort to guarantee happiness for its people.

Buffeted between two economic giants, Bhutan has continued to measure the development of the country by how happy its people have been. Happiness clearly gives the kingdom its distinct identity. Also, it is the only country in the world where its King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, during his thirty-four years of rule (1972-2006) made it a point to visit every single household in the country. Few modern rulers have had the pleasure of seeing the improvement in the lives of their people from such close quarters. No wonder, the monarchy is so loved by the common people in Bhutan.

Not much is known about Bhutan, though. Omair Ahmad helps draw an intimate portrait of the kingdom as it has shaped itself out from some of the most transformative events in the world history. Every bit of what he writes is readable, as much to a student of history as to an avid traveler. One learns that saints alone shaped Bhutan, its society, song and culture. And the country did not even have its own currency until 1974; taxes were collected in kind – either in goods or in labour. Much to anybody’s surprise, dried meat and ara, Bhutan’s traditional drink, were stored in the treasury. To avoid the tax thus collected from pilferage, ara was stored in the room just past the King’s chamber.

Written in non-fiction storytelling style, the narrative is not only interesting but informative too. Though the writer has strong empathy for the country yet he captures a bit of everything about the country, its history, its politics, its landscape, its people and its culture. Now that the kingdom has started taking rapid strides to move on the world stage, one wonders how its youth will negotiate the traditions with the modern....Link

The Kingdom at the Centre of the World
by Omair Ahmad                          
Aleph Books, New Delhi
Extent: 231, Price: Rs. 495

1 comment:

  1. "Happiness" in Bhutan is kicking the Nepalese Bhutanese OUT, in hundreds of thousands and not allowing them to come back!!