Bhutan is rapidly changing. The alacrity with which change is coming in is sometimes overwhelming. While it is inevitable that economic progress will bring transformation, we could also be losing the very elements that have defined our society. In other words, what does cultural erosion mean to the Bhutanese? What impact could it have on the nation?
In less than a decade, modern amenities like roads, electricity and mobile connectivity have reached every nook and corner of the country. Our rural lifestyles have undergone dramatic change. It is ironic that as we take development to the farthest pockets of the country, our villages are increasingly becoming empty. What aspects of our development planning could be going wrong?
And, while we try to conserve our traditional skills through education programmes, the last builders and weavers in the villages are now almost gone. Economic opportunities have expanded and that has led to death of our traditional skills. Young people are increasingly leaving their village homes for better opportunities in urban centres, which means the old are dying with their skills. A day will come, and very soon it will, when we won’t have any knowledge about how to build homes the traditional way. Even as we speak, only a few build mud-rammed houses today. Building mud-rammed houses actually makes more economic, environmental and architectural sense.
We are also losing our language. In urban homes, Dzongkha, our national language, has already become a second language. Children today speak fluent Hindi but only spattering Dzongkha. Why is this happening even as we make concerted effort to make Dzongkha popular? What implications could this have in the long run?
Our family structure and values system are fast disintegrating. Year after year, increasing number of elderly people are thrown in the streets. Even as they have sons and daughters who are doing well, they do not find space in their homes. Old age homes, which we thought we would never require, have become a reality. In a GNH country, such antithesis is painful.
This is a narrative of our changing society.