I’ve been working on a children’s storybook for a few years. The idea must have been lurking in the universe and somehow, my consciousness chanced upon it. The story is about a time on earth when humans intentionally and unintentionally have turned into robots. A slow evolution has caused a kind of condition, where humans have lost their heart and the ability to love and feel compassion. But, there is one special place on earth, tucked away, in the Himalayas, the last Shangri-la, where, a little cyborg girl, journeys to rediscover her heart.
Much like the little girl, I came to Bhutan, a decade ago, in search of something! Maybe, I was looking for peace, happiness and healing!
My story idea is a result of my experiences in Bhutan. This imagery further comes to life from my recent visit to Gelephu now being transformed to GeSAR- The Mindfulness City!
I heard, in the earlier days, Gelephu was spelled as Gaylegphu. According to His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Gaylegphu meant Gawa Legpai Phu, which may mean a happy, beautiful place! Perhaps, GeSAR is manifestation at its best or it could be a prophecy, or it could be the conspiracy of the deities, the bodhisattvas! There is more magic than what meets the eye.
His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Monarch of Bhutan has envisioned a heavenly and timely city based on the principles of mindfulness and balanced living! He identified a place, in the south of Bhutan named Gelephu to transform it into GeSAR (Gelephu Special Administrative Region.
Gelephu, bordering Assam, an Indian state, is undergoing a transformative facelift at the heart of this metamorphosis. Its intrinsic beauty lies in a landscape adorned with sub-tropical trees and charming villages nestled at the foothills.
Embarking on a drive approximately 48 km from Gelephu town to Tareythang unfolds a mesmerising vista—golden rays caressing abundant fields, diverse plantations, and joyful homes. The journey towards Sarpang leading to the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, is a vast corridor home to majestic elephants and other creatures. All of this will be integral to the Mindfulness City.
I found Gelephu town’s transformation plan very interesting. The approach is one of avoiding flattening of any elements. Instead, the focus seems to be on aesthetically altering the façade to metamorphose into a captivating town, ultimately becoming a haven for all and a hub for artists.
Hundreds of people gathered, as His Majesty toured around the town, sharing his ideas with the invited group. There was joy, hope, love and questions on the faces of the locals, as they watched their beloved king in their midst. It was a treasured moment. His Majesty noticed a retired civil service officer and invited him for a picture. The sense of gratitude on the face of the elderly man was something that cannot be measured or earned. Such is the King and such is Bhutan. Even though the conversation was about the future of GeSAR, the town and its people had His Majesty’s attention!
Bhutanese compassion and wisdom permeates the air of Bhutan. This wisdom, compassion and mindfulness stands as Bhutan’s true monopoly— the software of GeSAR.
Global investment opportunities
GeSAR’s foundation, its essence, is deeply embedded in Bhutanese beliefs. Therefore, investors will be chosen based on their adherence to core values and principles. Despite Bhutan’s wealth in the minerals and abundant dense forests with high-quality wood, the temptation to exploit these resources for quick gain is evident. However, a longer and correct path, has been chosen, emphasising that achieving swift wealth is not the goal. While economic growth and human resource development are crucial for global competitiveness, it is clear that there will be no compromise on Bhutanese vision of development with values!
GeSAR may benefit investors, tech companies, researchers, institutes, and businesses seeking an environment that facilitates mental expansion and optimal utilisation of their cognitive and physical capacities, away from the chaos and hustle of a conventional city life.
Health (With advanced technology and AI), Wealth Management, Education, Green energy and Spirituality are probably the five domains on which the research and development of GeSAR is moving forward steadily. In my short time in Bhutan, I have experienced immense health benefits and overall well-being, just by merely existing here. I can only imagine, the kind of work Global hospitals and experts in the field of medicine can attain by having a base in GeSAR. With green and renewable energy at the forefront, Bhutan is known to be the only carbon-negative country and has been a champion in environmental preservation. Research and findings in this area can help the future of our planet earth and future generations. Every aspect and every thought regarding this city is grounded in noble intentions.
I see immense opportunities for international educational institutes to set up high schools and universities! Parents may aspire to see their children learn and grow in a safe, healthy and green environment.
Local Opportunities and Promoting Human Transformation
The core team of GeSAR is in the process of shifting its base to Gelephu, with some members already having done so, and this number is expected to rise in the coming months. The team, situated in Gelephu, may seek simple pleasures and indulgences in their new environment such as a cafe, an appealing lounge, a bookstore and maybe a shopping mart, giving rise to fresh and new business opportunity.
But, all initiatives must be executed with refined taste and artistic flair. Hotels have the potential for upgrades and requiring hoteliers enhancing the skill sets of their staff.
Amidst ongoing discussions and local curiosity about GeSAR, in a short time from now, locals of Bhutan may be able to contribute by proposing unique ideas and investments that align with the overarching vision. It’s time for everyone to think creatively and embrace entrepreneurship. The call is to upgrade personal skills and expand knowledge.
Addressing youth related issues is imperative, as community interaction will form the foundation of research and development.
The future of GeSAR hinges on the adaptability of children and youth to this futuristic yet rooted space. They need to embody qualities such as being astute, curious, inquisitive, disciplined, empathetic, pragmatic, compassionate creative thinkers. And this responsibility falls on the shoulders of parents, teachers, and everyone involved.
Bhutan has consistently been a collective dream for its people. Having lived here for a decade, I’ve observed that in Bhutan, everything is interconnected, akin to community living. It has undeniably been the country’s true strength. Therefore, yet again, the people must unite, believe in the dream and work collectively as a community.
GeSAR transcends beyond being solely a dream of the Sovereign; it’s a dream of the monarch for his country, his people, and the world. In the future a mindfulness city won’t merely be a luxury, it will become a necessity in the evolving global landscape. It’s not just about what Bhutan has to offer; it’s about what the world needs. This endeavour is more than an investment, rather it’s a karmic debt that the global community owes to the world. All one needs to do is listen from the heart and see with the soul; everything becomes clear.
While sceptics may question it today, the dreamers will believe, and the doers will act upon it. The ideas behind GeSAR draw from ancient wisdom, bridging the past with the future. Values may shift with culture, time, country, and religious beliefs, but wisdom remains unshakeable.
The reality is that, no matter how diligently one endeavours to grasp the entirety of it, the complete picture resides in the vision of the mastermind, the Monarch himself. He takes on the role of a storyteller, sharing the narrative, and in a light-hearted manner appoints himself as the CMO, the chief marketing officer of GeSAR. While it may sound amusing and captivating, but reveals the depth of its significance to His Majesty, the extent of his investment and concern for his people and the country.
If the place in my story is like GeSAR, the little girl, may find the utopian place, and may find her heart. GeSAR sounds like the hope!
GeSAR in my imagination is finding a paradise! People cycling under the sun, structures meticulously designed to ignite thinking minds, imagining and innovating. Musicians and singers craft melodies as passers-by absorb the ancient zhundra (traditional music). Small groups engaged in meditation around the Tree of Life, while majestic beasts and small creatures are observed from a respectful distance. It’s a harmonious symphony of interdependence.
Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the patron saint harnessed his power to subdue negative entities, transforming them into local deities who later pledged their support and became protectors. While the modern-day entities differ, the essence of the story endures.
GeSAR’s Tree of Life must grow, branches stretching out covering the world, and the roots growing deep down into Mother Earth, in the land of Guru Rinpoche!