This was Druk Yul’s GNH Moment, an edifying union of body and soul, a coming together of the nation as one happy family. My Israeli friend and Bhutan-lover who watched our 112th National Day celebrations live on television and followed His Majesty’s royal address to the nation was overwhelmed and struck to the core: “This does not happen anywhere in the world”.
The moment was made for Druk Yul. The preceding days’ inclement weather made way for a glorious sunny morning to welcome the auspicious event and warm up the multitude that had started filling up the stadium from well before midnight to secure their place despite the December-chill. Thanks to the sustained hard-work of the celebration organising committee and volunteers, the grand Changlimithang national stadium was all decked out for the big day.
Joy and jubilation, excitement and suspense reigned supreme as the event unfolded in the hallowed tradition of the Druk Yul’s National Day celebrations. The most delightful royal announcement came towards the very end of His Majesty’s address to the nation: that our beloved Gyalsey would have a royal sibling in the next few months! The multitude went wild with cheer.
As we reflect on the profound message of our beloved Druk Gyalpo and look ahead, we cannot afford to miss the compelling royal call: the imperative for a small, land-locked nation, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world, to take full advantage of our size and the genius of our people and achieve what big countries cannot; to chart a robust 21st century economic road-map for national self-sufficiency and self-reliance; to build an efficient, dynamic and effective service delivery system via strategic policy interventions including legal reforms; to make our youth true assets of the country especially through the institution of the national service system.
His Majesty highlighted the need for the Bhutanese citizens to be conscientious, trust-worthy, industrious and competent especially at a time when our people are travelling far and wide and forging partnerships with people around the world. Quality, capability, discipline and integrity were emphasised as the core standards that ought to define Bhutanese people at all levels.
It pleased His Majesty to command that the need of the hour was unity, harmony and shared objective among all the citizens to take our blessed country, the world’s gem, forward. Our beloved Druk Gyalpo explained with extraordinary clarity that we should never think of ourselves as Ngalops, or Sharchops, or as Lhotshampas, but as Drups, the citizens of one nation under one King.
This profound royal advice, this sublime message from a caring King to His dear people, this prayer for a united nation and a bright future for our children and our children’s children and beyond is a precious gift and a strategic pathfinder for all Bhutanese for all times to come.
If we fail or falter as a society and as a people, it will not be for want of light and leadership from the golden throne but for the poverty of our own initiative and action befitting that gift.
As we look ahead, we need to identify and address the hurdles that stand on our way. Too many rules and regulations and rather poor, and often unfair, implementation, growing perception of apathy in the bureaucracy, divisive practices along political, social and communal lines often choke our society and harm the prospect of a shared vision for the country.
As the wise ones say, big doors swing on small hinges. Little things matter. I was in for a rude shock on the eve of our 112th National Day celebrations. I had to be at the celebration venue the next day to take in as much as possible of the excitement and spirit of the occasion especially because I had an engagement with the BBS that evening to reflect on the big theme of His Majesty’s address to the nation.
Following several inquiries, I finally got to ‘the right person’. After some earnest initial apologies that there might have been an error, he returned and fired point-blank: “Since there is space-constraint at Changlimithang, we invited only the “Immediate-Past Ministers and Red-Scarf-holders”. I disqualified myself on both counts. “The gallery is open to all”, I was promptly assured. As is normal, exceptions to the new strategy were obvious.
But for some divine intervention, I would have missed the opportunity to partake of the most important event in our national calendar. However, the new-found strategy will disqualify me and the likes of me forever. I know now why so many retired civil servants and senior citizens feel so conveniently ignored on such important occasions after so many decades of dedicated service to the nation.
It is a wonderful expression of our citizens’ abiding relationship of love for and loyalty to our country and our kings that finds such spontaneous expression in large numbers to be part of important national events like the National Day. It is time that we started improving and expanding our vital infrastructures like the multi-function national stadium. Otherwise, we will have to continue finding ever more novel ways to secure exclusion or perpetuate prejudice, and widen the gap further!
We move on in faith and hope, healed and buoyed by the all-embracing, all-inspiring message of our beloved King and get on with the vital task of nation-building in the vision of our far-sighted monarchs. My own shakeable faith and deep convictions remain exactly as I have reflected them in A Blessing called Druk Yul generously published by our national newspaper as a full-page supplement for the National Day.
A special gift awaited me as our revered Druk Gyal Zhipa granted a healing touch on my shoulder and graciously inquired of my well-being. It was my moment as a subtle vibration ran through my being as I stood in gratitude and prayers in front of Bhutan’s King of Destiny.
As for now, we wait in joy and anticipation for the auspicious arrival of the royal baby that will mark yet another GNH Moment for our dear Druk Yul, and apply ourselves to the vital task before us. Our 112th National Day celebrations will go down in history for some of the most unprecedented royal proclamations by our beloved People’s King.
May the sun of peace, prosperity, and happiness shine on our precious Jewel of the Himalayas forever and ever… Druk Yul forever…
Contributed by TS Powdyel
TS Powdyel is the former education minister (2008-2013)