Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don’t cry for me, my beloved country

The nurse has just left the cabin after dropping some tablets. My wife is complaining of a severe headache. It is close to midnight and there is silence at the JDWNR Hospital. She is groaning from the deep pain. My elder daughter is lying on the sofa trying to get some sleep. She is still terrified to stay home alone – even during the day. And she has her board exams going on.

As my wife slowly goes to sleep I walk off from the bed towards the window to get some fresh air. The night is clear and the stars are shining down on my gloomy world. “Why her?” I ask myself with a heavy heart. I must have asked that question a thousand times. “Someone whose life just revolved around the family and the house and my siblings.”  What is happening? Where are we heading as a society?

More than a week has passed since my wife was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood. The CT scan revealed a fractured skull and head injury with internal bleeding. She went into coma regaining consciousness only after a long and agonising night - assisted by a team of dedicated doctors in the intensive care unit (ICU). When the incident happened, I was in Lhamoi Zingkha, in the south. It was night and already dark. But I drove off against the will of just everybody who didn’t know whether to be concerned for my safety or feel sorry for my wife. As far as I was concerned I was suddenly going through hell, and as they say, might as well keep going. It didn’t matter to me that I had to pass through a thick and dangerous jungle of Buxa Duar in India before re-entering Bhutan in Phuntsholing. Save for few hours of stop there, where I let my drivers rest, I drove whole night reaching Thimphu the next morning to be near my wife - and my daughters who were terrorised by the incident.

They say that one often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it. While as a journalist and filmmaker I have highlighted the youth issues before, I have always thought, like any average middle-class Bhutanese, that the problem of youth was a problem that won’t affect me. I thought if I led my life, raised my children well and stayed away from certain places, I would be okay. How awfully I was mistaken. As a man and a father, I am angry and outraged by this incident. As a concerned citizen, I am sad and worried. When I grew up, getting assaulted or robbed was the last of our worries. My wife and I lived in Italy for over 8 years and as students we backpacked in the most 'dangerous' places on Earth and we came out without a scratch. How ironic that we get assaulted here – in my own country and at our age.

Mind you, we have been young too and we have committed our own share of mischievous deeds. But our biggest crime would be to raid some orange trees or slip out from the boarding school to watch some Hindi films. Taking drugs, indulging in gang fights, hurting someone or even smoking was totally unthinkable. Not that they were not possible but we knew what was right and what was wrong. Nowadays for these kids, the definition of crime seems to have changed.

Who is to be blamed? I have always said that the solution to youth issues lie not with the youth but with the adults. For, it may sound a clich̩, our children mirror us Рthe adults. What has happened, and continues to happen, is that in our bid to pursue our (adults') own goals, ambitions, hobbies and vices of life we have neglected our children and our youth. We have neither taught them to dream, aspire and work hard nor have we taught them the values that have defined us as Bhutanese. On their part, they have even failed to get some fundamentals of life straight. They seem to be moving in an ignorant plane of human existence with no memory of the past, no respect for the present and no aspirations for the future.

It is six in the morning. There is a knock on the door. The nurse has come again to check my wife and take her temperature and blood pressure. I let her in. I then unplug my cell phone from the charger and switch it on. Many text messages pour in adding to hundreds I received since the incident happened. Some wishing my wife a speedy recovery, many outraged by the incident and many more simply shocked that such a thing has happened. Many parents visiting me have expressed how they have been living in fear for their children getting attacked or involved in gang fights. Now they say that they have to also worry about themselves. If it can happen to my wife, it could happen to anyone.

After the nurse leaves, I pour some coffee and walk towards the window to watch the sunrise and the ray fall on distant mountain peaks. I go through the text messages again. This single incident, no doubt, has instilled fear among a section of the population that was otherwise cut off from this reality. This is of course sad, unfair and dangerous. But on the “brighter” side I hope that there is a serious reflection and a lasting solution to this growing menace. I hope that the trauma that my family and I are going through will at least bring about something positive in the society at large. My wife and I will be the happiest if that happens. I don’t want any vengeance or hatred or claim damages. 

Whatever happened has happened. Although hell seems to be little behind now, I still have to keep going for a while. But I guess the worst is over. And those were moments when I felt my world falling apart. I felt like I was at the bottom of a well - scared, lonely and confused. From there, every piece of hope that showed that my wife would survive and every word of comfort, concern and support I received, starting from the highest authority, gave me the reason to believe and the strength to move on. I felt that the whole nation had come to my rescue. In these gestures - big and small, I see a glimmer of hope. That one day our sons and daughters will walk the streets of Thimphu, like we did, without fear and without causing endless worries to parents at home; that our youth will discover themselves, find the wisdom and know the difference between right and wrong and strive to be good human beings, and that our children will be able to dream and work for themselves, and for the generation that will come after them, a brighter future.

(Views expressed are personal and does not necessarily reflect that of the institution I work for)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The unsung hero of BBS - a tribute to a colleague

It was in June 1986. Radio NYAB had just become BBS Radio a few days earlier. I was a junior engineer on duty when the announcer for the Sharchop service reported to work in a not-so-perfect condition. “Where is the news file?” he asked around.

I passed him the file. He grabbed it and slowly walked into the Announcers’ Booth where he struggled to find his balance on the wooden stool he sat. “Can he even do it?” I wondered but I didn’t dare ask, as he was a senior broadcaster. When he was more or less settled, he signaled me to run the news sig-tune tape, which I promptly did. As the music faded out, he kicked off brilliantly and got the job done. Dorji Wangdi not only read the news that was written in English, he also did simultaneous translation and gave out the entire bulletin in flawless Sharchopkha. I was totally wowed by his extraordinary ability that for the next twenty years that I was in BBS, he was my walking dictionary – and someone I respected.

A decade later, on one occasion, we made an official tour to the east. By then I had moved up into senior management position while his career had remained stagnant because of his low “qualification”. He had by then also kicked his bad habits. When we reached Mongar we were surprised by a large group of people bearing gifts coming to see us. But they were there only for him. I knew that our RJs and announcers were popular in the rural areas but I never thought they were so popular. He was given a hero welcome wherever we went and I happily played his second fiddle. Being humble he felt little embarrassed and apologised to me for taking away all the attention. “Don’t worry about that. You are their man!” I assured him. In fact he was their superstar – almost a legend. His programmes and shows were instant hits. People loved his voice. His kunza lami zhelung was a classic. He had his weaknesses, no doubt, but he never failed in his tasks – simply because he loved what he did. And never once did he complain about his salary or his position.

So it was with a great shock and disbelief that I learnt of his sudden demise. I am sure his death will also sadden many in the east. For, he was the voice on the radio that gave them company as they toiled their lives in the farms. In a career extending to over 35 years, he brought them news, he gave them music and he raised awareness on everything from farming to public health to democracy. His legend had even extended beyond the frontiers. In fact in 2002 when I was filming in Omba Nye in Tashi Yangtse, I came across a group of people from Arunachal Pradesh (India) that borders with Bhutan to the East. When I told them that I was from BBS, they asked me if I knew Dorji Wangdi. When I said yes, they were so thrilled to even meet someone who knew Dorji Wangdi.

But for all the popularity, Dorji Wangdi died a poor man – with no possessions or properties. In the last few years he was deeply into religion. When we ran into each other lately he often talked to me about his dream to retire to his village with a small community radio station. Just a few days before he passed away he had apparently invited a large group of young colleagues and paid their drinks. To put it in a broadcaster lingo, he signed off in style. But thousands of farmers will miss him dearly. And among his colleagues he will be remembered as one of the best radio producers the country has ever had.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Transcript of the Royal Address of His Majesty the King in Wangdiphodrang

On 26th July 2012, His Majesty the King granted a kasho (royal decree) regularising a long-standing excess land issue in the district. Present at the Audience were 350 persons comprising Dzongkhag officials, Local Government representatives, retired public officials, retired military personnel and village elders. This is the transcript of the royal address.

“As I travelled to Wangdiphodrang today, I felt deeply saddened as I saw the ruins of Wangdi dzong. We lost a great treasure. I have prayed often, since the fire, in the Kundun of the Machhen, that we may be able to restore the dzong to its old glory and build a monument to the achievements of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and our forefathers, and a shrine for the peace and happiness of all sentient beings.

I want to thank you all for gathering here today. Having received the results of the Cadastral Re-survey for Wangdipdodrang dzongkhag, I wanted to travel to each gewog and village and meet our people. However, I know that at this time, there is much work to be done in the farms and my visit would be very inconvenient to our people. That is why I have asked only for you, the Gups, elders and retired public servants to come here to meet me. I ask you to convey everything I say, clearly and in detail to our people when you return to your villages.

On 9th of December 2006 my father - my King - commanded me to assume the duties of King. As Crown Prince, I had submitted to His Majesty, that there was so much to do for the nation, and that it was my prayer that His Majesty continued to oversee the work of serving the people. However, in the end, I had to obey my King. Shortly after, I attended my first session of parliament. At the time I hesitated to sit on the Throne as I had not received Dhar Nge-Nga from Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, nor had a formal Coronation. In spite of His Majesty, my father’s reassurances, I sought the Blessings and Guidance of the Guardian Deities in assuming my duties as King in the service of our people and country.

Since then, I have travelled the country and met our people. Of all that I saw, the overriding lesson is that land is the most important asset of our people. Yet, as a spiritual nation where environmental conservation is a fundamental part of our philosophy of GNH, we have set aside vast areas for forests (about 81% forest cover), biological corridors and national parks. Of the rest of the land, much is rugged, devoid of water, geologically unstable or inhospitable. Experts say only about 7% of Bhutan is arable. Land is scarce. That is why I have always felt that the most important duty I have is to ensure that all Bhutanese possess adequate land and shelter, under these difficult circumstances.

In order to address the problems of land, we started the cadastral re-survey in 2008 (having made preparations since 2007). We started from Lhuentse, as an auspicious beginning to an historic effort. Lhuentse is after all the home of (desi) Jigme Namgyel. I travelled to each gewog where the survey was conducted and granted land Kidu to the people, in the hope that our people and future generations would benefit. Even today, people come and meet me and speak of how their lives have improved since then. It is matter of immense happiness and satisfaction for me.
During the tour of Lhuentse and Mongar and parts of Trashigang and Trashi Yangtse, in a total of 38 gewogs, there were 29,125 cases of excess land amounting to 40,053 acres. Kidu was granted for all these landowners amounting to about Nu. 659 million.

Here in Wangdiphodrang there are a total of 8,211 cases amounting to about 1,989 acres, of which there are:
·      5,077 cases of individuals with excess land amounting to 782.5 acres
·      905 cases of Khimsa amounting to 166.75 acres
·      1,845 cases of encroachment on State Land and excess land surrendered during new sathram compilation in 2000, amounting to 761.9 acres
·      58 cases of Dratshang land amounting to 75.9 acres
·      194 cases of community and private lhakhangs amounting to 200.7 acres
·      6 cases of community land amounting to about 2 acres

I am pleased to grant all the excess land as Kidu. In addition to granting the land, the excess land cost shall also be waived. Those who have already paid the cost shall be reimbursed. The Kidu in Wangdiphodrang in excess land is 2,752 acres of land and a total cost of Nu. 28.4 million. Including chhuzhing excess of 4,857 acres the total excess land Kidu is 7,610 acres.

In granting this Kidu, I want to remind you all that our country is not rich. Yet, I am also aware of the difficulties of life in rural Bhutan. Homes have to be built, families must be looked after and children must be put to school. The simple task of buying CGI sheets for the roof of a small house is an immense undertaking in remote villages. Farming is not easy in most parts of Bhutan. And while early education is free, the costs are still high for rural Bhutanese and it becomes far more difficult if they do not qualify for government high schools and colleges. I know how difficult your lives are. Therefore, I am providing this land as Kidu so that your lives are made easier and in the hope that you will utilize this land to bring great benefit to the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Recognizing the importance of our people in nation building, the importance of land in building stronger futures for our people especially in rural Bhutan, and the importance of strong citizens with a stake in the nation’s future in nurturing participation and democracy - the King is granting scarce land resources and funds as Kidu. The people must now join hands with the King and uphold their duties in building a stronger nation.

Leaders and elders must advice our people in the villages to invest wisely in the land and remind them that it can be used to build their economic foundations for generations. We must all remember, that the very success of democracy will depend on whether a Bhutanese citizen has a tangible stake in the nation’s future. There is nothing more secure and tangible than land.

To the senior citizens present here today, I want to reiterate the importance of local government, symbolized in the Dhar for Gups being granted from the Throne. Local government is not the smallest or lowest form of government, it is the most intimate and closest form of government for the people. It is very important. You must work to strengthen the office of the Gup and independence of local government. In the few years of democracy, we have seen immense success in the way we have built the framework for democratic governance. All the institutions and pillars of democracy are in place and there is vitality in the way different institutions work with each other. However, we need to give special focus to local government from now on.

Lastly, since 2006 my reign has been defined by the responsibility entrusted in me by my father, in introducing and building a strong foundation for democracy. I have constantly worked to build, nurture and support institutions of democratic governance; to inspire the faith of the people in democracy and their active participation and; the growth of healthy and vibrant debate, consultation and awareness. The early years of democracy have been a success.

A King’s sacred duty is in looking after the wellbeing and Kidu of our people. Thus, I have spent these years meeting my people in their homes and villages as I fulfill this duty. I pray that my people will utilize to the fullest the Kidu I strive to bring to them, and ensure that its benefits accrue, not only to them but to the future generations. I do so wholeheartedly in the knowledge that this land Kidu is going to none other than our humble, hardworking and committed farmers. I am most happy if it is of benefit to them, the back bone of our nation.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Royal Decree of His Majesty the King on Wangdue Dzong

On the 24th of June, the historic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was destroyed by fire. 

However, through the efforts of the armed forces, dzongkhag officials, De-suups and concerned citizens, we were able to retrieve our sacred relics. I am deeply grateful.

It is through the strength and faith of our people and the spirituality of our nation that these sacred ancient treasures remain with us, in spite of the tragic fire.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, our people from all walks of life have strived, within each one’s means, to contribute towards fulfilling our fervent hope that the dzong may be urgently restored.

I am deeply touched and inspired by our people’s unity and nobility of purpose.

Therefore, I hereby grant Nu. 100 million from the Armed Forces to the Zhung Dratshang for the Dzong Reconstruction Fund.

In addition, I offer Nu. 100 million from the Kidu Foundation.

These funds I grant on behalf of our People of the 20 dzongkhags and together as one, my People and I, pray for the continued peace, prosperity and happiness of our beloved nation.

Granted on the 13th of July 2012
Punakha Dzong

(His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wangdue – the day after

A thick smoke was still gushing out incessantly from Wangdue Phodrang dzong. An officer with a megaphone stood atop a fire engine directing his men to point the water jet toward what used to be the stationery store of the dzongkhag (district) administration. “Heaps of paper are still burning,” another officer told me. 
A day after the 17th century historical monument was razed to the ground by a devastating fire, I stood there helplessly and together with my friends - among charred beams, broken pillars and burnt cornices. The dzong was destroyed to the last inflammable item - making it the worst fire disaster in over sixty years. The last incident was the destruction of Drukgyal Dzong in Paro in 1951.

The area was cordoned off and accessible only for investigation and recovery teams. Every now and then, a team of volunteers or soldiers came out carrying half burnt statues, loosely-bound scriptures or anything they could extract from heaps of earth and fallen structures. We silently rejoiced at every item that was salvaged. After all, every object represented a piece of our history.

Shock, sadness and anxiety were visible on every face around us. Army personnel and fire fighters, on the other hand, were simply too tired. They had been working since the fire broke out the earlier afternoon. “We brought the fire under control around 3am in the morning,” one fire officer told me. “It was dangerous but we had to do that at night or else by morning strong winds would blow again and the fire could spread to the rest of the town.” Yes, the wind. Wangdue was known for that. The wind in fact kept slapping ashes and dusts on my face and into my eyes.

Wangdue Dzong was built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He was a drukpa lama who unified Bhutan under one central administration. The story goes that when the Zhabdrung was looking for a site to build the dzong, he came across a boy named Wangdue playing by the riverside – making a sand fortress. The boy told him that he was building a phodrang (palace – fortress). The Zhabdrung then took that as the good omen to build Wangdue Phodrang dzong on the ridge above the river. And ever since, except for few repairs, the structure had remained intact.

Wangdue Dzong was built to protect the more important and grander Punakha Dzong (that is located just 13 kilometers upstream) from possible incursions from the south and to facilitate the spread of Buddhist dharma in Bhutan. However, thanks to its strategic location (Wangdue falls on the East-West highway), every Bhutanese has fonder memories of Wangdue for it greeted travellers coming from every direction. After a long head spinning drive down from Pelela in the east or snaking upstream from Tsirang in the south or hopping from Thimphu in the west, Wangdue Phodrang was there to greet you - sitting majestically atop a ridge on the confluence of two rivers. It is sad that for a long time to come, these journeys will not be the same again.

On a more personal note, I visited the place several times. The most beautiful memory is, of course, of the dzong playing location to my documentary film “Rocking the Himalayan Kingdom – Blof in Bhutan”. The Dutch rock band, Blof, and local traditional singer-song writer Jigme Drukpa were working on a musical fusion and were recording a song inside the dzong. The documentary did very well in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2006 kicking off my indie career. My Dutch friends were as shocked as I was, when they learnt of this tragedy.

It was close to midnight when I got back to Thimphu. Although dead tired from the long day, I found it difficult to sleep – still disturbed by what I saw. So I lazily switched on the TV, which was just in time to catch some statements by His Holiness the Je Khenpo on BBS TV. “Tragedies happen and that's fate. But we are fortunate that all important nangten (relics) were saved and no human casualties were reported.”

Hearing those words, I felt a lot better.

Maybe this is really fate. Or maybe this is Mother Nature’s or God’s way of bringing our people together, to build something better and ultimately make us come out stronger as individuals and as a nation.

(At the time of writing this article, over 16,000 people had signed up on facebook as a part of Citizens' Initiative to rebuild the dzong.)

Remains of the day - Wangdue Phodrang dzong

His Majesty the King rushed to Wangdue when the news of the fire reached Thimphu. (In the picture - His Majesty the King, His Holiness the Je Khenpo and senior government officials)

Assisted by soldiers and Desuup volunteers, His Majesty the King personally coordinated the rescue operations 

The fire started from the main entrance making it impossible for fire fighters to move into the dzong

Mani (prayer wheels) burnt and then crushed by falling beams and pillars

His Majesty and Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen inspecting the items retrieved from the dzong

What remains of a painting of Thousands Buddha

A computer CPU probably belonging to the district administration.

The first courtyard of the dzong

A collapsed kachen (pillar)

An officer keeps an eye on the statues and scriptures recovered from the dzong

A fireman looks out for more blazes

Fire fighters and volunteers worked through the night to contain the fire

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When "Happiness is (not) a Place"

      A certain Mr. MSG (name withheld) wrote to me from Punjab. He came to Bhutan last month and went through the most unusual incident - he was drugged and robbed.  
      MSG sent his photograph, his cell number in India and even an alternate email ID. So it could be a true story, which makes it then a very disturbing phenomenon. 
      I thought twice before publishing his letter. I decided to go ahead. While it may bring some bad reputation for us, it would also serve to caution other travellers to be more careful. More than anything I hope our own law-enforcement agencies would take note.

Respected sir,

      I am MSG from Ludhiana city of Punjab state in India. I am a gypsy to himalayas and a perpetual tourist. I had a chance to visit your beautiful country in March end this year. I entered from the land border & stayed for a few days in a hotel (the central hotel) in your border town.
      Then on 25/03/2012 I started a journey on permit no 230680 dt 24/03/12 & took a bus from your border town to Thimphu. The driver (a middle aged person wearing your national dress) was so nice a person that he talked to me for many many mintues after emptieng the passengers. That was a very good experience(alas it lasted more).
      Then a white small car (perhaps alto) made a secreching halt when i left the bus. The driver was a 30 +, 5 ft 6 inch medium built fair looking jet blacked hairs raised 45 degree (bad) bhutia. He offered to left me at a good hotel for 60 bucks. I boarded my bad luck then & there. He talked me sweet & agreed to show the whole of Thimpu for 250 rupees. I agreed while riding the good widening roads of your capital.
      I purchased a few items for my personal use while stopping at 4-5 shops. He noticed with leer a white kurta-pyjama wearing sardar with wads of new 100 indian rupees notes stuked in his pockets. Then he asked me me if i drink. To my bad luck I ordered him to bring a foster beer. He served me inside the taxi.
      When I opened my eyes I found myself laying in a cheap hotel room. My watch showed 11 am of 26 march. All my pockets were empty. I came out & noted that I was staying on the main road near a chowk manned by a traffic policeman.
       I also noticed that my eyes were drowsey & my leg movements were incohirent. The bad bhutia perhaps drugged me a with a large dose of a sleeping drug . I landed in the police station just across the hotel. The people were very nice there and heard my story very intently. But they were also surprised by the contents of the story. They discussed it among them with many times with astonishment. They told me many that this types of things are un-heard in Bhutan..
      They recorded my statement vide gd no 616/1320 dated 26/03/2012.there is a minor difference in the facts. Perhaps of my drugged state when I reported the case to the police authorities. The amount involved is not too big for me but the incident shaked my trust in the people & monarchy of Bhutan.

      Please investigate the matter seriously & get the thief cornered. Otherwise it was my first & last visit to Bhutan.


Dear MSG, 

      You should come again if you love this place.  Because as we gypsy our life with a series of journeys we should learn to move on from the bad moments but cherish those happy ones.  I have been to India several times. Few times I also got robbed. Once by a policeman who extorted me in Bihar, where I was on a pilgrimage. 
      However, I have many happy stories from India. Three involving honest people - all coincidently happened to be Sardars. I always cherish them more than the unhappy ones. 
      Once as a student many years back, I was transiting through Delhi, when I decided to make a day trip to Agra. As I was heading back after visiting Taj Mahal the car I was travelling broke down mid-way. After losing several hours trying to fix it, we gave up. I had a flight to catch for Italy (on a non-refundable ticket) early next morning. So I tried to stop another car losing few more precious hours. It was dark by then and I was getting little desperate. 
      Then finally a worn out Maruti van pulled up driven by a young sardar. I hopped in and immediately explained the situation. He understood, told me to relax and he assured that he would deliver me to the airport on time.
      We drove whole evening past midnight. I dozed off for most part of the 5-hour journey, dead tired from an uneventful day. Early next morning at around 2am he woke me up to say we were entering Delhi. An hour later, after rushing in and out of the hotel to collect my bags, we reached the IG Airport just on time.
      The Sardar guy could have taken me anywhere and could have robbed me. But he was a good man. I paid the fare and also, moved by his honesty, I emptied the few thousands of Indian rupees that I had from my brief stay in India.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

His Majesty The King of Bhutan at The Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture

New Delhi, India
December 23, 2009.

During my year at the National Defence College in Delhi, I came to value my visits to this auditorium as a place, at which one would hear words of wisdom delivered, often very memorably. I always thought of myself as the humble listener. Even though I am here today as a Head of State, this auditorium fills me with the same reluctance to speak – I wish I was here to listen. I know that there are others present and others who have preceded me on this platform with far greater experience in leadership and with much greater achievements behind them. And then there are those of you who are poised on the brink of remarkable careers in the service of a great nation and people. I feel humbled in your presence.

But I accept this responsibility because I represent a small nation - the Kingdom of Bhutan and her citizens who, I believe, possess a unique experience from which they may offer – through me - something of value to the people of the world. So when Shri Jyotiraditya called with the invitation to be here I said ‘Yes’ immediately – as friends – and out of great respect for the late Shri Madhavrao Scindia. This is indeed a wonderful forum in which to represent Bhutan. Thank you all for this opportunity.

The title for my talk today is ‘Changing World and Timeless Values’ – the reason for such a title is that I had always wanted to think more deeply about how one might find an enduring place for simple human values in a world that is becoming unrecognizable from one generation to the next. And how, sadly, while the need for values is stronger and more urgent than ever, the climate in which they would flourish grows more and more unfriendly. Alas, I am neither an academic, spiritual leader nor philosopher and I can only bring to this important topic my own personal thoughts.

Many years ago, I told a group of students at a convocation ceremony in Canada that “The power of the individual has never been greater than at this time in history and yet, the helplessness of the less fortunate may never have been as distressing either - in an age of plenty. Modernization and political change have raised the individual’s freedom, but it has also led to a less desirable and unconscious freeing of the individual from his obligations to society and the greater good. An inherent sense of values has gone missing.” I told them, I felt that while young people leaving university must be armed with degrees, it is more important that they be endowed with a strong sense of values that bring meaning and purpose in their lives as well as stable, bright futures ahead for society and the world.

This is the theme of my conversation with you today. I truly believe that the only way to observe the most important things in life and in this world is by putting them through the lens of ‘Simplicity’. You must break everything down to its fundamentals, break it down to basic human instances. For in the end, no matter what country we may be from, we are human beings – no matter what our cultures and beliefs may be, we share the same needs and abide by the same fundamental values.

In fact, it may be these very values that could guide us, through the great problems, even those of environmental degradation, terrorism and world poverty. Perhaps the first of these values is the sense of a shared planet. This is a world that is shared – not between governments and nations but among us, the people. It may sound idealistic – but this is a natural and practical way of approaching things that seem intractable and inflexible – no matter how big the problem. The image of a shared planet must always be present in our minds – and especially in the minds of those who are in positions of leadership.

I don’t claim to be an expert on global issues but it can only help in the search for a solution if we remember that this planet must be passed on to our future generations and to other living beings. Isn’t it natural that every individual will seek to enhance his inheritance and pass it on to his own children? Shouldn’t it be even more natural, then to assume that our generation … every generation that inherits this earth must pass it on stronger and more secure to the next?  Without this simple guiding value, that our world is shared among us and our future generations, we will continue robbing our planet and our children.

Is it wrong to assume that a huge step to finding solutions to global problems, and averting future crises, will be taken if we can think in the spirit of community and fraternity, not as individual entities? When we accept that this is a world of people all alike, of families all alike, of communities all alike - of countries facing the same challenges – of human beings ultimately seeking the same thing – then we will truly be in a position to foster well being, security and happiness.

In this interconnected world no nation stands alone. How could it? Disease, poverty, strife – these afflictions do not understand national boundaries – the internet age and the free and fast flow of information shows us daily, the incongruity, injustice and inhumanity of a world of vast inequality.

“Individual or even national success is a ship that cannot carry everyone together to the same place at the same time”. Rich nations must stop to be mindful of the poorer ones left behind. Successful people must stop to remember those who didn’t make it. No nation today can stand alone in achievement. Time is slowly telling us that there can be no lasting individual success without success as a community and there cannot be lasting national progress and success if it does not fit into a future of global peace, harmony and equality. The world must progress together or fail together.

I believe that any real and lasting solution to global issues can only come through a universal wave of human empathy, desire and passion for the common good. Global problems are problems that face mankind and our planet. Governments might mediate problems at the global level, but its effects are felt by people, like you and me.  While we know it is an accepted process that governments and large institutions debate the issues, negotiate and bargain on the concessions to be made we tend to forget that in protecting our own constituencies, we jeopardize the world and thus ourselves and our own future generations. Global problems cannot be solved by protecting local self-interest.

As I said before, I risk sounding idealistic – but the fact is that I believe it is only when we are willing to bear the embarrassment of being a little innocent that we will be able to say – ‘Let us place the interest of humanity, not national populations and constituencies, above all else. Let us take political risks and strong decisions in addressing the needs of humanity. The answer to global problems will come closer at hand when we grasp that universal simplicity – that sense of a shared planet and a shared fate for those who walk on it. We need shared human endeavour not just negotiated change.

I have been inspired in the way I look at things by Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its pioneer, my father His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply - Development with Values.

We strive for the benefits of economic growth and modernization while ensuring that in our drive to acquire greater status and wealth we do not forget to nurture that which makes us happy to be Bhutanese. Is it our strong family structure? Our culture and traditions? Our pristine environment? Our respect for community and country? Our desire for a peaceful coexistence with other nations? If so, then the duty of our government must be to ensure that these invaluable elements contributing to the happiness and wellbeing of our people are nurtured and protected. Our government must be human.

Thus, for my nation, today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of Kindness, Equality and Humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future. It ensures that no matter what our nation may seek to achieve, the human dimension, the individual’s place in the nation, is never forgotten. It is a constant reminder that we must strive for a caring leadership so that as the world and country changes, as our nation’s goals change, our foremost priority will always remain the happiness and wellbeing of our people – including the generations to come after us.

Thus, that is why I say GNH is Development guided by human Values. The greatness of the concept lies in the simplicity of its origin. For, it is born from nothing other than one person – King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s - passionate desire to serve a country and people – from virtuous human endeavour.  

I am confident that the noble goal of Gross National Happiness will be key to Bhutan’s success in maintaining our unity and harmony – indeed our character as a nation.

Another factor that has always played a central role in our success – without which we would certainly not be where we are today – is India’s friendship. Some say Bhutan was wise to seek strong bilateral relations with India. Yes, after all whether we speak about our socio-economic progress or our recent transition to democracy, India has been our steadfast partner and friend.

But I feel that the true wisdom lies in the fact that we sought and continue to seek true friendship with India. I see the roots of our ties in the difficult yet most personal and intimate journey of Pandit Nehru to Bhutan in 1958 on the invitation of my grandfather. And how, after all these years and such a great widening of our cooperation - our friendship remains as intimate and strong as it was then - between two very great men.

It is said that a man’s most important relationships are formed in the early years of life. I have always said that this saying holds so true for India and Bhutan. One country – while still radiating joy and warmth from the attainment of Independence – ushered the other into the realm of modernization.

Since then, our relations have grown strong, vibrant, and dynamic. From religious and cultural links to political and economic cooperation - today our ties encompass a great diversity of areas and issues on which we work closely together in each other’s best interests. The strength of our friendship is even more striking when viewed in the context of the profound changes that have taken place in the world in the last few decades. With modernization our peoples have a greater awareness of the world beyond our region. And though awakened to new realities and experiences, our friendship has evolved, as only true friendship can, over time. Despite the vast difference in size and population, our friendship has been constant because of the pillars of trust and understanding on which we have founded it. Our relationship stands as a model of partnership and cooperation.

If we view India Bhutan Friendship - through the prism of simplicity – the perspective of fundamental human values, Indo-Bhutan friendship began as a bond between two men – two leaders – and that our best future lies in an unaltering bond between our two peoples.

Finally, let me say something about the role Values play in my life as an individual – and as someone called upon to assume a position of leadership.

As a young person, I thought a great deal about the future awaiting me. I thought about the question of how good Kings and great leaders come about – what factors bring them into being. We see that world history speaks of leaders with great foresight and vision – leaders for troubled times – leaders for young nations and ancient empires. Leaders in different fields. All kinds of leaders – religious, economic, political.

After many years of observing my father, working with government, touring the country, living in the villages and meeting the people , I learned that you don’t just become a leader for a prescribed and planned situation – you have to offer leadership whatever the circumstances. Now, having assumed the duties of Kingship of this small Himalayan nation in the midst of a globalizing world that changes in an instant, it is even more clear that there is no way to foresee the circumstances and plan for leadership in such a world.

So my guiding principle has been born and nurtured on the simple instinct that in order to do the job I have been given as best as I can – first and foremost, I must strive to be a good human being. So while the wider vision is crucial to me – it is more important for me as a King whose aspirations are lodged within those of my country and people – to be able to crystallize that vision – to fulfill the ultimate aspirations of the people – in the form of simple daily acts carried out from moment to moment.

I take each day as it comes. If someone in a village has something to tell me, I stop and listen. If an old man’s house must be rebuilt after a natural disaster, I try and stay there to see it through. It may take an extra few minutes or months but it must be done. Not only is it the duty of a good human being, but each moment, each action is to me, a building block that will one day take shape in the wider vision. Besides, its all very well to have a vision that stretches to the top of the peaks, but unless you re walking a little up the hill everyday, you will never get there.

That is why today, I do not have my eyes on the rewards or legacy that accrue to the work of leadership. I prefer to focus on the immediate, most pressing needs of people – not just in Bhutan, people anywhere. Every day, as an individual, I aim at being a good son, brother, friend – a good human being. As a King, I always find myself humbled by the duty to serve a country and people. So I strive to do so in a spirit of Kindness, Integrity and Equality. I always seek to discern what is right – what is good for the country and the people - every moment of the day. These Values mean everything to me and they will always define me, and my duty to the country.

I cannot imagine living in a world where one’s duty is only to oneself or to one’s family or country. We must build from these true and intimate relationships outwards and upwards to the nobler duty to the greater world and to peace, prosperity and happiness that is global.

In conclusion, after this long speech, all I have said is that there is only one starting point to resolve any problem – big or small – that is one’s self. Each one of us must embark upon our personal journey towards the timeless goal of living a good life – being a good human being - even as we tackle the world’s largest problems.

Thank you for being here to listen to me today.