Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Gross National Happiness

Last Saturday, the 26th of March, 2011 was one of those rare days when I accepted a dinner invitation at the Bhutan Suites being hosted for a visiting group of tourists from mainland China. I am not much of a party man and I generally try and avoid attending dinners and gatherings because I hate the air of pomp and formality and the need to be prim and proper and knowledgeable and funny and interesting. And, all of that has to be achieved wearing a Gho and shinning, virginal white Lagey and in an atmosphere where each one is trying to outshout the other - in an attempt to be heard and appreciated.

I accepted the dinner invitation because one of the members in the Chinese group was representing the Chinese National Geography that is planning to publish a book on Bhutan in collaboration with Ridge House International Ltd. of Beijing. She wanted to meet me because the publishers are keen to include some of my photographs in the upcoming book that is scheduled for release sometime this year.

The food was good and the wine and the booze flowed uninterrupted. I was particularly impressed with the efficiency of the dinning staff at the Bhutan Suites. They kept a hawk-eyed vigil over the entire guests and ensured that every single food plate and side plate and wine glass and whiskey glass remained filled and overflowing.

It is in the Chinese genes to be loud and boisterous at dinning tables and drinking places. Those of you who have been to eating places in China and Hong Kong would have experienced the cacophony and the high pitched voices and laughter they kick up at every table where they sit and drink. They simply love the fun of laughter and loud talk.

The dinner on Saturday was no different. The Chinese guests simply loved their trip to Bhutan and they were having great fun. The noise and the laughter got even louder than I remember from my past experiences at eateries in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. I was very happy for them but a man can take only so much noise and fume, so I moved out of the dinning hall and into the lounge to escape all the sound of happiness and mirth.

There is where I saw Karma Singye of Peljorekhang and many other khangs, seated on the sofa, quietly nursing a glass of whiskey. My acquaintance with him dates back to the time when I pioneered the computer business in this country. After about 5 years of my playing the field - alone and without competition, Karma Singye stepped in and decided to give me a hard time. But I like the man, he is persistent and focused and likely to succeed in whatever he does. I wished him all the best and got out of the game.

We began to talk of this and of that and I inevitably ended up asking him that one persistent question which I never fail to ask him, every time I bump into him;

“Have you remarried”?

The answer, after close to 20 years of having been divorced from his wife was, still;

“No, I have not yet remarried”.

Wai, wai … God Almighty, will some one out there grab him? He is good looking, eligible, loaded to his eyeballs and solidly dependable. HELP!!!!! This guy is going to waste! :)
Anyway, now coming to the reason for this post, Karma Singye told me something heartwarming that night. He tells me that whenever he chooses to present his suppliers and associates outside the country with a gift, he chooses my book “BHUTAN BIRDS” the cover photo of which I am posting below for those of you who have not yet seen the book.

He tells me something that makes me even more proud. He tells me that three of the recipients of his gifts of the book wrote to him to say that after reading my book, they have decided that they must visit Bhutan at any cost. Karma Singye feels that through that book, I have been able to promote Bhutan as a tourist destination and, thus, rendered a small service to the nation.

Some one also told me that during the PM’s visit to NYC to attend the GA, he also chose to present my book to the heads of states whom he met during the course of his stay there.

Now, for me, this is GNH. I thank my Publishers for their trust in me and the Designer for her superlative work and the Printers for the excellent job they did in the choice of paper and printing work. This strengthens my confidence in myself. I need this from time to time - so does everyone else.


  1. Wonderful. No surprise there. Bhutan Birds is going to be in circulation for a long, long time as it is not only a pioneer of its genre in terms of substance, contents and quality, but authored by one of our own! About time for you to launch your second one. Sonam

  2. Hi Sonam

    Thanks ... yea I am working on the second one :)

  3. just reading your blog inspires me to go back to bhutan again without any work baggage.

  4. For a long time I was thinking of asking you to write a book, shame on me I didn't know you already have... You have never mentioned it on your blog... and poor me I only know as much as your blog presents...

    I would love to go through the book no matter what...
    and I am proud you did that!

  5. Yes sir, I totally agree with you. This is how we contribute to our GNH (in practice) in our own simple ways. I can imagine the satisfaction that you get from your hard work and contribution to society. Please keep going.
    Best wishes,

  6. Hi arcibald
    I hope you do come back without the work baggage. And this time, hopefully, you will visit the interior of the country. There are some stunning places I am sure you will love.

  7. Hi PaSsu & Lingchen,

    Thanks ... really, really makes me happy particularly because I believe that tourism generates a huge amount of jobs for all levels of the Bhutanese society. Government and some related industries have some great plans in the pipeline to boost tourism. I hope we are able to keep up with the ancillary services that also need to geared up.

    One hope I have is that the government will de-list DrukAir as a profit oriented entity and allocate it the status of service industry. This way, it should be possible for them to reduce their fares to reasonable levels. Right now, whenever we quote DrukAir fares, their jaw drop all the way to South Pole. Very large prospective tourists gets dis-heartened when they hear of the DrukAir fares. It does not make sense to them that they should pay so much for air travel. They seem prepared to pay for services, products and everything else but it does not make sense to pay so high for air tickets.

    The government should recognize the fact that making DrukAir fare reasonable is one way of drawing in more tourists.

  8. Hi. I stole some glimpse of your book in the bookstore and decided I need a copy of it since long time back. Once I have it I hope you will be kind enough to give an autograph on it. Thanks in advance.

  9. Hi Tongs,
    I would be most happy to do that.

  10. I do that too uncle, whenever i need to and want to gift a foreigner. Although it is a little beyond my level in terms of cost but i wish to introduce my country to the outside world with excellence and this book seems to be appropriate in all terms. It was a pity i didn't get it autographed, someone i gifted to told me if only i had it signed by the author.

  11. Apologies, but somehow I have never been interested in birds and hence have never set eyes on your book. I however, happen to know a little bit about Karma Singay of Peljorkhang and what more can I say, apart from saying that he is a thorough gentleman. If we had a few more Karma Singays in Bhutan, without doubt, Bhutan would be a much happier place.