It is the annual three-day tshechu in Gelephu. People in the thromde and from nearby gewogs had come to the border to be a part of the festivity. Much of the small town is cordoned off for vehicles to let people walk and enjoy. To the delight of the residents and visitors, businesses small and big have extended to the streets.

Albeit the tshechu fever and businesses trying to make the most of the three-day local festivity, not many are openly talking about the transformation planned for Gelephu and beyond. Perhaps the vision is way too big for them to comprehend. 

The nation is at the cusp of a huge transformation. At the centre is Gelephu, the epicentre of the 1,000 square kilometre Special Administrative Region. Today, His Majesty the King and His Holiness the Je Khenpo will attend the salang ceremony of expanding the Gelephu airport to an international airport, which many say is the start of the project. 

When the tshechu fever is gone, Gelephu and the rest of the country will realise His Majesty the King’s vision for the country and people. Special economic or administrative zones are not new. There are many around the world. Many of them are at strategic locations to make the most of growing economic prospects. Economic realities are forcing nations to rethink development plans. 

Ours is different. The Gelephu project is an economic plan based on the ideals of Gross national Happiness. If our development philosophy of GNH has appealed to the world looking for alternatives, the Gelephu project, propagated as a mindfulness city, is deeply rooted in our development philosophy.

Many may not get over the concern of losing their land. The vision is clear and it will not rob people of their land. For those who can comprehend, it is the unison of two visions or ideals.  His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo introduced the concept of GNH. His Majesty the King is putting it into practice and showing the world how it can be done in a 21st century economic model.

Meanwhile, like a young woman running a fast food stall in Gelephu said, what we need is to believe in the Royal vision. She believes what her King plans will work out. She is a landlord not concerned with the plan “as long as it benefits the country.” Those aware of the transformation are upbeat and feel that it will be a pride of the Bhutanese and an example to the world that has been trying hard to find a middle path for development.

As details of the plan emerge , many are ready to look at the larger picture. This is evident when His Majesty unveiled the vision as a mindfulness city and not as any other special economic zone where money is the main driver. When the planned mindfulness city was presented, many were awed by the vision. Some were surprised because the image of the city they have is different from what was presented. The average image of a mega city is a concrete jungle with skyscrapers.

Gelephu is different because the vision is different, out of the ordinary.