Bumthang is one of my favourite places. It is also, undoubtedly, the most blissful spot on Earth. The gentle slopes surrounding every valley are in sharp contrast to the high mountains and deep valleys that characterise much of the landscape of my country. Bumthang was blessed by Guru Padma Sambawa in the eighth century when he introduced Buddhism. Guru actually came to Bumthang to rescue the soul of a local king that was kidnapped by a serpent-demon. The Guru subdued the demon. And on the spot now stands Kurjey Lhakhang – one of the most sacred places in Bhutan.
Another rescue mission is on again. Getting back the souls of thousands of people who have been traumatised by a fire tragedy of 26th October 2010. The fire nearly wiped out the entire Chamkhar town rendering 77 families homeless and 2 deaths and nearly killing the soul of the people who were celebrating the last day of the famous Jambay Lhakhang festival.
On 30th October as we drove in to Chamkhar my heart sank. I hate destructions, violence, deaths, and anything that makes people suffer. At such times I wish I had all the magical power. The next day when we met the affected people, who were gathered in a large tent, it was more shocking. To see people who were once prosperous lined up for food and dole, was heart-breaking. That evening as the King visited them in their shelters in freezing temperature, He came up with a revolutionary idea. The mood was cold and gloomy. They should smile. They should laugh, gather their strength and the confidence and move on. Whatever happened has happened - life must go on. I was tasked to put together a group from the entertainment industry. I started making some calls. The next day 13 singers and comedians rushed to Bumthang and straight to the venue.
The first night was tough even for the comedians. But as expected Phurba Thinley broke the ice. “I am sad for myself,” he opened the show. “Because Bumthang is our biggest market for filmmakers. Now my income will be down.” The crowd suddenly burst into laughter. The show began. But singing in front of lifeless face was still difficult. One singer nearly broke down in the middle of the song.
On 4th November we had the fourth and the final show. Over 4,000 people came from all over Bumthang. People laughed and jeered. They even howled and whistled. The climax was a duet between Rinchen Namgay and comedian Leki. Leki was dressed as a Bumthap woman and sang with a perfect woman voice. For a moment the tragedy was forgotten - replaced by happiness and smiles all around. There was the real gross national happiness!
Bumthang is slowly putting the tragedy behind them. They have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a now sense of normalcy and a sense of reassurance. People have begun to dream again – even people who had lost everything – including hope.The show must go on.