Saturday, April 21, 2012

Living in Paradox: The Brand ‘BHUTANESE’ is on its way out.

My experience of living in a remote place for few years and then my few months of staying in Thimphu now has enlightened me with a strange wisdom.

Everyone here is work-rich but time-poor. We, the urbanites, don’t have enough time for anything. The best question we ask is ‘Do you have time?’ and the best answer we get is ‘I really don’t have’. We simply don’t have time to dine together as a family. Mother is busy with her soaps on TV, children with their latest Play station games and Father is often outside dining with his clients to run his business. We don’t have time to sit down and ask how the day was because we are engrossed in planning for the next big day. A heart-to-heart conversation doesn’t have a place here. We rush, rush and rush more. Oops! How mechanical we are!

Back in my previous place of posting, we had all the time we needed. We (villagers and i) often use to engage ourselves in conversations that really made us feel good, brought smile on our faces, laughed till our stomach started to pain and tears rolled down our cheeks. And we don’t stop there. A whole family surrounds a small fire and eats the evening meal, serving each other and sharing concern of a neighbor. The conversation over the meal goes on till the moon in the dark sky becomes the brightest. Two hours of walk to the town use to take me four hours. Why? Because i meet people in their fields working or people coming back from the town and we get lost in our conversation. Time never became an excuse for anything. It was abundant like the leaves on those trees along the muddy route to the town or the wrinkles on innocent faces and on those hands that feed large rural families.

A near by village
All the five hamlets near my school were scattered. They were divided by thick forests. These hamlets consist of six to nine small houses and are closely knitted by a narrow path. But I never felt cramped there, it was always spacious. Why? Because people there have a big space in their heart for you! Everybody knows everybody else personally. They welcome you graciously into their mud plastered houses and serving is always a lavish affair with rich food (ama dashi, butter, fried cheese, curd, meat and red rice) and an endless supply of local wine and suja (butter tea). We easily connected to each other. We effortlessly understood each other. There use to be a genuine willingness to listen to each other. And so loneliness also never became an issue in that remote and isolated place of posting.
speciality of Rural Bhutan
Back here, we have conquered a large space in terms of settlement. The beauty of urban settlement is we don’t have thick forest, big rivers or high mountains dividing the communities. Yet ugliness of it is we don’t know who lives in the next door as our neighbor. We don’t have TIME to know him. We simply don’t care! A cup of streaming coffee shared or dining together in a restaurant is all business affiliated. The roads and pavements are wider here, we have recreation parks everywhere and shops and rooms in our apartments are spacious yet we feel cramped. A swarm of different people cross you every minute yet you feel lonely here.

Life was so beautiful there in the village. You don’t have to rush for anything. The villagers make you feel so special through softness in their voice and kindness in their deeds. They bring you fresh vegetables and dairy products at your door step with only smile on their faces and reverence in their heart. They don’t want anything in return. If you have that caliber to listen someone’s concern carefully, pays visit to a house and ask how are they doing and as simple as greeting with a bow of your head to the elders you earn respect there and it engraves a permanent mark in their hearts (The villagers still call me to inquire about me and expresses how much they miss me now).

But everything here is price tagged-from vegetables in the market to the respect you earn. No discount HERE what so ever. If you drive a luxurious car, lives in a flat or has enough money to spend and runs a business of your own has a place here. And when you have place you indeed have respect. And interestingly everyone here is also snobbish. So, the commoners push themselves to work more, earn more money simply to earn respect and a place here. How materialistic and finicky life and people here is?
Price Tagged!
A family in a village doesn’t have to beg to bring food on their table. They either work in their small patch of land to make their way out or their fellow villagers come in to provide everything what the struggling family needs. But I saw a healthy monk sitting comfortably on the pavement near the main junction along the Norzin Lam and was begging for few Ngultrums.

GNH on the street of Thimphu
The Wisdom? It’s emotionally beautiful to live in a Bhutanese village and I bet you are with me when I say “True Bhutanese can be found in the villages of our country. They live in the far flung valleys, on hills and on mountains of our country. The Brand ‘BHUTANESE’ is on its way out”.


  1. No, comments. You said it all!
    Just the comparison I wanted to hear for so long.
    You must be missing the village and the people.
    Even I miss home, Mongar. It is so much fun in Village because people know Personally and it is so much fun having conversation with them.
    Take care and Keep in touch.

    1. Yes Yeesi7 i miss them now and then....Thanks for dropping in....your every comment is highly valued..
      You too take care....

  2. Its simply a insightful comparison between the life in urban centres and those in rural villages. Being a son of villager, I too feel that life is much comfortable in the villages than in the towns. In the towns we might be surrounded by many but still we are alone because all are strangers and they dont have time to chat with us. But in the village, even if we are alone travelling by the paths, strangers passing by the path are fills our heart with warm gestures so we are not alone.
    Your last line is simply evocative. Keep posting la.

  3. Welcome to Link:

  4. Lovely post. Beautiful comparison! And above I love your pictures.


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