Thursday, 20 November 2014

Coming Back to Bhutan



The lone stretch of landing strip surrounded by mountains covered with green forest and those that were not covered with forest were done so by the snow. The Druk air descends to land awkwardly negotiating the only approach path between the mountains towards the tarmac. The view from the plane above is so breaths taking you feel as if you are flying over the heavens, like in some cartoon movies.

The feeling of pleasure to see such country that is so beautiful and its environment well preserved almost like a country out of a book of a fairy tale, overpowers the images that is being fed by the internet sites that is anti Bhutan. The silence of the Bhutanese in those sites is, as if to say, “Come here and see it for yourself.” There are some foreigners who despise Bhutan due to the misinformation that they gather from the internet just as one might despise some Muslim countries if one just go by the internet information. 

The preservation of the environment does not come free of sacrifice. And those sacrifices are made by the people of Bhutan. It is evident from a glance to the towns surrounding the airport that the people lead a very simple but contended life. Despite having so many trees Bhutan does not boast to having many numbers of woods based industries. The furniture for the personal consumption are made in a cottage industry. 

As the travel begins from airport to Thimphu the capital city, the sacrifice made by the people of Bhutan to save the environment can be seen. The country so rich in forest wealth has its citizens so simple. There is no lumbering or mass scale logging. The loggings are done as part of thinning the forest and new trees are planted for every one that is felled. It fills the visitors with pity for the people of Bhutan because their sacrifice is for the good of the world because there is no international boundary for the atmosphere. The oxygen is emitted from the lush forests of Bhutan to the world for free and there is no intention of making the country rich by extracting and destroying the forest to increase our GDP. The forest is protected by the constitution. If we visit our neighbouring country for example Kathmandu we can see the plight of the forest there. Desertification is easy but forestation is a difficult task.

The GDP is a formula expounded by some economist that was deemed not applicable to Bhutan by our farsighted Kings, instead new philosophy of development was put in place by our Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck the Gross National Happiness. It must have taken a great courage from a great King to say that because it could have easily been a subject for mockery citing that a poor country is trying to hide its inability to catch up with the GDP is trying to hide behind the screen of GNH. The relevance to the philosophy and the vision can be appreciated only now as the world is undergoing climatic change, global warming, ozone layer depletion, rising sea level amongst many others brought in by the rat race created by the philosophy of GNP.

The plane lands safely and I m back home in my own country where the principle of development is based GNH (Gross National Happiness) and not GDP. There were not so much of crowd in the immigration and custom clearance desk. The only queue that was formed was by the passenger of the plane that had just landed. And there are no signs of another aircraft landing anytime soon.
The wall clock in the concourse was seemingly running slower as we waited for taxi and other modes of road transport. No one seems to be in hurry. But the tourist who came with me were looking a bit shocked because unlike in their country there is no exigencies in the look of the workers and people who have come for the reception. They seem to be glad to see smile on the face of all besides receiving a welcoming greeting and a smile of acknowledgement from people they never met.
The road from the airport to Thimphu follows the contours of the Earth and no attempts were ever made to bore hole in the mountains to make tunnels. The moist air flowing from the clear river makes the travelers feel fresh like being in the ‘oxygen parlor’ abroad. Little bit of dust that were blown off from time to time from the damaged road makes one feel the scent of the Earth and keeps one attached to it. It is hard to see even dust in the metropolitan cities like NY, Tokyo, Sydney, etc. the mother Earth is fully covered with concrete. 
 
The river flowing parallel to the road is so clean that we can almost see the fish swimming lazily without fear because fishing is not allowed and even if it is allowed the people out here would not be keen to harm a living thing. The people are very religious as it can be seen from the numbers of monasteries and chortens all along the way and in every village on the way.

I was travelling in a very slow paced car comparing to the speed in developed countries it was travelling at the maximum 50 km per hour, I checked the milometer craning my neck not being able to believe the speed at which we are travelling. The road is a two way road, which means that the vehicles move on the same road in both the directions. It would be a nightmare for the drivers from the developed countries to drive in such road because in their country most of the roads are one way road. If one is weak at heart the oncoming huge trucks can easily give a heart attack. But the accidents are not as many despite the road being two ways.

I had a pang of feeling that why people do not immigrate to other countries and keep staying here. Even the comfort as a sweeper in the developed country is better than officers here. But answer will dawn on to us only after staying here for a longer duration. There was a time where one can keep the house unlocked and find nothing being stolen but now a days Bhutanese are getting influenced by other cultures and they seem to be learning very fast. Internet and foreign movies do have negative impact. When the personal wants increase beyond personal income people resort to all sorts of crimes to catch up the gap by stealing, cheating, lying and to the extent of digging the content of old monuments.

Some people rightly call Bhutan as a shangrila – heaven on earth. One would realize that only after being away from her for some time. With all its limitations in modern technologies and infrastructures, it still makes you feel at home and safe and longs to come back to her no matter where ever you are: to breathe the freshness of her air, to see smiles on the face of its people, no matter how poor they are they are ready to help the needy fellow human beings and even animals. While travelling on the Bhutanese roads at night - alone, the ghosts are feared and there are no worries of thieves and car-jackers. 

Now with prevailing and preferred type of governance i.e Democracy, it is in the hands of the people of Bhutan and its elected leaders to steer the country in the right direction.