Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections on a journey with the King

The three-week tour over and on my way home I sit in one of the many “resorts” in Bumthang and scribble down these thoughts. What has this epic journey through 6 dzongkhags, several villages and thousands of faces taught me? In the end, what has remained of the journey on me as a person?

Definitely, the 10 day-trek from Mongar to Nganglam passing through some of the remotest part of this country will remain etched in my memory for a long time. We have been to some of the most dramatic and exotic places where breathtaking sceneries made you lose a heart beat and where the heat, as comedian Phurba Thinley described, gave us free steam bath all along and the climbs so steep that the footpaths nearly touched our noses. And if the climbs were steep the descents were horrible. Do that few more time and you will lose your knees. The whole trek was as tough as it can get but the end result was rewarding. It gave us sense of achievements and valuable life lessons. It has made us understand our country better and more sensitive to harsh local realities. It taught us to cherish who we are and what we have. Because out there are some people who have nothing.

The brief visit to Rangjung (I was born just few miles from there) brought back my early childhood memories – especially of my late mother who was, at that time, the only one to believe in me. I don’t remember but apparently I was slow to learn to speak and late to walk. In fact I started walking properly only when I turned three and uttered full sentences only when I was four. Many had given me for a disabled
yongba and for a long time my father called me by that name. But no one is to be blamed. Even when I was past seven, I remember the whole family having a great time over my Supandi acts. I had very short memory power and very often I was unable to convey full messages to our neighbours because I would have forgotten the words by the time I got to their house. But my mother believed in me. We were extremely poor and often we didn't get three full meals. But my mother always kept us happy with endless jokes, bed-time stories and songs. She never had one bad day.

And this time, as I stood in front of more than 7,000 people in Rangjung as His Majesty addressed the gathering, I shed some tears of nostalgic happiness and of a great sense of achievement to have come so far in life. More than thirty years have passed since I walked barefoot and went hungry among those mountains. My mother would have been very proud had she been alive. But I am sure she is looking down on me with pride from above.

So for those of you who still have your mothers, make a call today and say how much you love them. When they are gone, they are gone!

To be honest, I have not done much for the community where I was born. But I have promised to do more. As a start, I managed to reconnect to few of my relatives whom I have not met for a long time and make new contacts with people I had not known before. In a nation in pursuit of GNH, true happiness (and not pleasure) should start from individuals and then should spread to communities and then to the whole nation. Only then we achieve our national goal.

The visit to Tashigang town, where I spent some years of my youth, to say hello to all the people I had known, and who were still there, was a cute experience. Back then I was popularly known as
kota and I had many anees (aunties) and ajangs (uncles) because I eyed some of their daughters. This time, when I walked in to their shops my anees still greeted me as kota. But my uncles would tell my aunties that I was now a dasho (?) and they were all little embarrassed. But I just hugged them and told them that kota was okay. Because for me that just meant their affections had not deterred even after so many years of not seeing each other. It was also wonderful to get some free chewing gums like I used to.

The royal tour took us to many places. Wherever we went there were
tshokchangs, songs and laughter. Meaning, if there is a place where gross national happiness could succeed, this has to be the country. Of course, there are merriments in other countries but what they don’t have is a leader who is committed to make their people smile and be truly happy and content. We have that in our King whose favorite dance “Jang taley tshokha” makes people collapse with laughter. And of course we had Phurba Thinley, Gyem Dorji and Khengtala whose mere appearances were met with a standing ovation.

Laughter and tears apart, we have a King who genuinely cares for the well-being of the people and in return is loved and revered. The way the people rush to get a glimpse of our King – some walking for days, and the way His Majesty sits down, listens, makes them smile and inspires is something that makes every Bhutanese proud. The fact that the King walks to places like Gongdu to see their conditions in person and treks along the southern borders to secure our borders; one can only feel assured and confident to be Bhutanese. Listening to His Majesty talking to children we can expect a brighter future for our siblings. The unique privilege of appealing directly to the King is a manifestation of the faith and confidence in the institution of the monarch as the ultimate source of justice, equality, hope and nationhood. His Majesty’s
soelra of thongdrels to the people who thereafter decide to hold annual drubchens in their village is important to uphold the community vitality and cultural continuity of this nation.

They say the end of a journey is a beginning of a new one. The one through Kheng is over but it is not “over” until we leave behind, or take back there, something that will make a difference in their lives. True, we cannot solve all their problems but still over time if we all do our bit, these less fortunate should catch up with the rest of the country and join the fun. Otherwise, the whole effort we have made and what we saw would have no meaning. Likewise the visit to my birthplace would have no meaning if I don’t reconnect to my roots or if I forget the people who gave me free chewing gums.

And the journey
with the King would serve no purpose, and might as well do the trip alone or not do at all, if my perspective has not widened. Or if my Vision remains as myopic as my eyesight or my memory - as bad as when I was a child.


  1. If I were your mother, I would certainly be proud of you :)

  2. It's very rare that we get to read such experiences, that we can only imagine otherwise. I'm happy that you shared yours with us. Look forward to more.......

  3. Long live the King!!!

  4. Thanks Kinga and thanks Tshering for your kind words.

    By the way, I forgot to mention the most unforgettable incident during the trek. In Wamrong one old man in his eighties offered to HM few eggs wrapped in a dirty plastic. In plain sharchopkha he told the King as he handed over, "I brought this especially for you." and I think, and I must check tapes, he also said, "Hold it carefully, it might break".

    HM was visibly moved by the genuineness of the old man accepted the gift and kept holding it for some time.

    It was such a beautiful scene.

  5. Thanks for writing this sweet article in your personal blog. To be honest when ever i get time, i always take opportunity to read n shed some tears.


  6. I still remember the golden words which my Late Father Chorten Tshering popularly known as Phajoo in east part of Bhutan said to me..My son we do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is our life? We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
    I am so proud of you that in this short life you have shown you capability. Its a big achievement. I like the line which you have mention in your blog about taking promises to help community and another was reconnect relative.
    All my good wishes and prayer are with you.

    RINZIN RINZIN NYRR road runner,
    Athletes Membership # 78726