Wednesday, December 21, 2022

An Uncommon Act Of Nationalism

Far removed from the madding crowd - atleast a good hundred kilometers to south of the capital city Thimphu, in a remote village located in a region extremely shorn of vegetation, stands a shanty little dwelling hammered together with rusted corrugated iron sheets and old used tin panes. Standing firmly and regally atop its craggy roof was our national flag fluttering vigorously in the afternoon wind.

An uncommon national flag

Celebration of nationhood. That may be so but the overhead high voltage power transmission line passing over the home seems dangerously too close to the CGI roof. The Dzongkhag Administration should require the power line to be relocated to a safer location - before an accident occurs. Metal/CGI sheets are known to be good electrical conductors.

The day was 19th December 2022 - just two days past our 115th National Day. Thus, the national flag fluttering above any old rooftops should not be a cause for the excitement of my imagination. But it did. There was something curious about the dainty little flag fluttering happily in the wind. Although I was intent upon arriving at my destination to shoot a special bird, which was still a good hour’s drive away, I stopped my car and walked back to take a closer look at the flag. I was right - this flag was without doubt uncommon - it had the word BHUTAN printed on it.

As we all know, our national flag does not need to be printed with the word BHUTAN to identify it with the country - it does so by its unique and distinctive colors. So then why was this flag printed with the words BHUTAN? I was puzzled - until it dawned on me what the fluttering piece of colorful fabric was.

It took my breadth away when I realized that I was witness to an uncommon act of nationalism - and that too at a most unlikely location, and from a person in whose station such emotions are believed to be most unlikely. I was touched deeply by his act of celebration of his kingdom's nationhood - something that many of us fail to do - either consciously or unconsciously.

I can guess that the owner of the house was either too poor to afford to buy a real flag to hoist over his rooftop on the National Day or, he did not have access to a flag, being so remotely located as he was. Thus, in my understanding, he did what would have without doubt caused him much anguish - he decided to tear apart a prized possession - a colorful drawstring bag fashioned after our national flag (most likely manufactured in Bangkok) - with the word BHUTAN printed on it.

For a villager of his meager means, shredding apart such a special possession would have been heart wrenching - but evidently he did, nonetheless. Because obviously for him, the symbolism behind the act of hoisting the national flag to celebrate the National Day was much more meaningful, than a bag that would have, in all likelihood, remained mostly unfilled.

When my day was done, on my return journey I once again passed by the shanty home located in the village of Chumelakha under Darla Gewog, Chhukha Dzongkhag. I was intent on speaking with its owner - Mr. Bal Kumar Karki - to applaud him for his most noteworthy act. Sadly, the man was still not at home - my loss.

A famous Buddhist Parable:
One day God in heaven looked down on Bhutan to see how many of his devotees had offered him butter lamps on this holy day. He was most pleased to notice that a countless number of his devotees had offered him few thousand Karmé Tong Choe” - Thousand Butter Lamps - spread across many regions of the country.

But among the millions of butter lamps that was lit on the day - the one that shone the brightest and the longest, was the solitary lamp that was lit by an aged abandoned woman - fueled by the last few drops of Shingmar oil she was using to oil her freshly washed hair.

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