About two weeks ago, I was utterly shocked to receive the water bill for December 2016 amounting to Nu.1,014. There was no way it could be justified because I have a small family and the level of water consumption is comparatively low. Suspecting false reading of the water-meter, I and my wife went to Thimphu City Corporation to complain. We waited at a counter until a grumpy woman pushed aside the shutter and demanded what we were there for. When we told her our problem, she directed us to the nearby counter. She had no warmth in her voice. She sounded very rude and straightforward. But we chose to keep quiet. However, we found the real angel at the adjacent counter. A beautiful lady with a charming voice named Pema greeted us warmly and politely asked us what was the problem. When I told her the entire story, she immediately agreed to crosscheck the reading and kept my contact number to call me back. Later that day, I received the call saying the reading was correct but the water-meter was found to be running abnormally fast. I was advised to consult the plumber from the National Housing Development Corporation which I immediately did. The plumber confirmed that the meter was malfunctioning and agreed to replace it. The next day, the plumber replaced the malfunctioning meter and also fixed a leaking connection. The water problem was solved, but I was worried the City Corporation might make an issue out of it because I had not sought their consent to replace the meter. I was concerned about how the reading can be continued.
Last Friday, I was walking with two of my friends on the Doebum Lam highway in Thimphu when a news reporter from India stopped us and asked us why Bhutanese people are happy. The reporter told us that his team was in Bhutan to understand our secrets to happiness. He excitedly talked to us how Bhutan has been known to the outside world as the Land of Happiness and that he was interested to find out why. So in response to his question, this is the gist of what I told him:
Both my wife and I love to live in harmony with everybody in the neighborhood. We know what does it feel like to be seen as a bad neighbor and hence, we don’t want to be quietly scorned at by people whenever we walk in and out of our house. This is the main reason why we don’t show any sign of frustration to anybody else even when we sometimes feel we are being taken advantage of. This does not mean that we are the enlightened beings, but we are trying our best to accommodate everybody into our life. But sadly we have realized that not everybody shares the same feeling like we do. It’s said that wherever there is God, there is always a devil, and I think this is often true. I have realized that every community has at least one or two ill-natured people who stir up and spoil the whole social atmosphere in the neighborhood. This often makes me wonder why we the human beings, so-called social animals, are not equally blest with the ability to empathize and understand each other. It’s really sad that not all of us have the same heart to accommodate each other although we share the same human realm on this planet.
I have no idea whether this same practice exists in other cultures around the world but in Bhutan, it’s generally acceptable to have an affair with or even marry the sisters of our spouse. We call them Mathangs (sisters-in-law) and we don’t share ethical boundaries with them. We can freely joke with them, tease them and even marry them if deemed necessary and appropriate. Since we are related only through marriage, we don’t hesitate to open up ourselves to each other and the society accepts it. But in Lhotsham culture where I come from, there is a slight distinction between the spouse’s younger sisters and elder sisters and there is a strong logic behind this distinction.
As human beings, we all are born sensitive. As babies, we can easily respond to the facial expressions and the tone of the voice of our caregivers. Even the slightest change in the tone of the voice or facial expression of our caregivers can make us either laugh or cry. This shows we are born with pure sensitivity and innocence. But as we grow up, we are gradually taught how to develop thicker skin. Great masters say it’s good to be sensitive, but it seems the society does not want so many sensitive people around. Since the beginning of human history, our society has always been looking for people who do not mind to kill and to be killed. Several wars and battles have been fought at the cost of so many lives fueled by unquenchable human greed and ego. Yet, it seems even the two great World Wars have not satisfied our men. The continuous bloodsheds in the world today, and the silent competition among the nations in the production of sophisticated weapons of mass destruction like the recent testing of Hydrogen Bomb by North Korea, all indicate that people are still preparing for the third World War.
Public safety in general should be a top priority everywhere but I can’t understand why it seems to be getting less attention in Bhutan. When I was in Australia, I realized that they displayed public warning notice even while carrying out a minor construction or maintenance works. If they do not do that and if somebody meets with an accident, they can be legally sued for their negligence. A friend of mine told me that even for the benefit of people with visual impairment, they are required to guard the risky area with either rope or a fence. But in Bhutan, I feel such developments are very rare, if not non-existent.
As a Buddhist nation sequestered by time and tradition for centuries, Bhutan has long been considered the Adobe of Gods mainly because of the spectacular beauty of its natural landscape interwoven with our unique socio-cultural identity. Tucked in the bosom of Himalayas, Bhutan has been blest with everlasting peace, harmony and stability. Having been groomed as a peace-loving nation in self-imposed isolation for ages, we take special pride in our rich and unique cultural and social values. But with the advent of cheaper mobile phones and cameras over the recent years, some Bhutanese today have begun to venture out on a new journey that can potentially ruin those values in the longrun.
Click here to read more