“Khozazampo” Hello (Greeting)
“Kathi joomo”? (Where are you going?)
“Na thathu Thimphu jui. Na nava Paro jui” (We are going now to Thimphu. We will go to Paro tomorrow.)
“Bhutan Leshimdu” (We like Bhutan)
“Bhutan , nima tatumdu…chyure chomme” (In Bhutan it is hot during the day . In the night it is cold)
Smatterings of Bhutanese picked up from Wangchuk , who drove us to Thimphu from Phuentsholing and through it the next day and thence to Punakha and Paro and back to Phuentsholing.
As you can see, our itinerary covered only the South-West part of Bhutan.. I hadn’t really taken a look at the map before we had started out. If I had, I would have realised that most of the forest cover extended beyond this area , covering a major part of this country. It would also have left me better prepared for the comparitivly lesser green territory that we passed through. Lesser green as compared to the images one had installed in the mind whenever one read about how ecologically conservative the development policy of the land has been.
The road trip was magical even then. Wangchuk had a collection of Bhutanese melodies on his pen drive and it gave an additional ambience to the experience. The roads were almost empty, once we left the city precincts , with an occasional vehicle overtaking us or approaching us from the opposite direction. Autorikshaws, an identifying feature of the roads in India, were altogether absent.
At this time of the year, at the beginning of Winter, during the day, sunlight poured down through the clear blue skies,creating patches of dazzling brightness interspersed with shadows at different turns of the road that wound its way round the mountain slopes.
Bhutanese labourers engaged in the building of roads and other construction activities earned around Rs.700 if they were men and around Rs.500 if they were females. Workers came from outside too, mainly India and Bangladesh.
Did corruption exist?, I asked Wangchuk.
The occurence was rare, he replied. Government officials caught taking bribes would be straightaway sacked, without even a pension.
There were no hoardings anywhere in sight. The people we passed by, were all wearing traditional clothes, the knee-length gho for men and the wrap-around skirts called kira for women. Even school uniforms were in the same traditional style.
We stopped for lunch and tea here and there at quaint eating places. Every building that we entered, even the monasteries , had the photos of the royal family decorating the walls. Clearly the loyalty was indisputable.
“The king is like God to us “, Wangchuk explained.
Did they have something akin to blasphemy laws? Did they have the freedom to utter anything against their king?, I was cuirous.
“Who would want to?” Wangchuk replied. “He gives us everything that we need ”
I recalled an article written by Professor Thurman in the local newspaper I found at the hotel reception that very morning. He was singing praises of the constitutional monarchy of Bhutan that was built on the bedrock of the principles of transcendental individualism, non-violence, learning, voluntary altruism and constitutional democracy.
After returning from Bhutan, I tried googling for that write-up and was pleasantly surprised that it turned up in a jiffy. Here is the link:
It was true…there was no evidence of any aggressiveness anywhere. There were lots of smiling faces. Their voices had a gentle timbre. The whole atmosphere was unhurried and non-competitive. Nothing exemplified that better than the pace at which Wangchuk ferried us across , with his frequent reminders that we could ask him to stop anywhere we wanted to take in the view or capture the scenes in our camera.