With less than six days left for the big day on November 11, there is a lot of preparation works going on. And there is also some sense of urgency as people clean the city, roads are repaired, bridges and dzongs are lit up and almost every project or activity rushed to be completed before the important day.
There is excitement in the air as some practice dances, school children rehearse programmes and the capital city gets decked up with fresh flowers and lot of new structures completed on time. The 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo is an auspicious day and we see everyone working hard to ensure that the day is befittingly celebrated. This is a happy moment in Bhutan.
The mood is the same across the country as they prepare their towns too. Some of the initiatives that were put in place in commemorating the birth anniversary would have positive impacts long after we finish celebrating the big day.
For instance, the entrance gate to the Changlimithang is now a permanent structure. We need not bring it down to be rebuilt for the National Day celebration on December 17. We need not uproot the hedges along the expressway divider and plant it with flowers next spring.
The big question is what happens after the celebrations? Will we go back to our old habit of littering the town and expecting someone else to clean it up? Will the flowers die and the beautiful structures be smeared by lime of the doma chewers? Will the potholes in our roads reemerge only to be filled only before another important day?
Maintaining the city had been a difficult task. If it is a mistake at the planning stage, the residents are not helping by not taking ownership of public property. Even before workers completed planting flowers along the Doebum Lam, police had arrested two men for stealing flowers. This is our problem. We cannot agree that flowers look more beautiful in the garden, in its natural state.
In the last five years, we had invested a lot in beautifying the city. Starting from the 16th SAARC Summit, which Thimphu hosted in 2010 to the visit of VVIPs in recent years, we have had several rounds of beautifying the city. Unfortunately, there are not many improvements left from those huge investments made.
It would be tragic if we have to do it all over again. The freshly filled potholes in some areas are already disintegrating. Long after the volunteers left, trash is accumulating in some corners. We hope the streetlights and the lights that adorn the bridges and dzongs will stay, and be replaced quickly when their fuses blow.
The difficult part should be finding the funds to do it. Ironically, it is the maintaining part that is the challenge. As we relish in the thought of a great celebration next week, the biggest gift could be a little change in our attitude towards public property.