Despite Bhutan and India being strategic neighbours, there is little that the youth of India knows about the youth of Bhutan. In an important youth exchange program organised by Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS), Bhutan and Centre of Escalation for Peace (CEP), India, I had the chance to interact with 11 youth from Bhutan in New Delhi, India. This is where I learned most about Bhutan. Before this, I did not know that Bhutan is a Constitutional Monarchy. Often, when I thought of the word “Monarchy”, I thought of Kings who were despised by the masses. But my perception about Monarchies changed entirely after interacting with the youth of Bhutan. The reverence and awe which they had for His Majesty, was unimaginable. They spoke of His Majesty with respect and humbleness. The way they described the people of Bhutan’s relation with His Majesty showed that there was a community feeling in their interactions.
I learned that the people of Bhutan often saw the King at public ceremonies in the Capital City – Thimphu. While the King interacted with the people in the Kingdom during the ceremony, he was given his space and people never rushed to him or gathered around him. The idea of a public figure like a King getting his personal space was unimaginable to me. Coming from Mumbai, India – The city of Bollywood, celebrities are often surrounded by their fans and media. No politician in India would ever move out publicly without his bodyguards or be given his space by the masses. The way the people of Bhutan interact with His Majesty at public ceremonies depicts the respect they give him and the feelings which they have towards him. The feelings aren’t those of superiority but rather of equality and family. After learning this about Bhutan, I felt a deep respect towards the people of Bhutan and it’s politics as well.
Often the word “Politics” has a negative connotation to it worldwide, it is often perceived to be dirty rather than something productive. I had never imagined politics to be a positive word, fuelled by discussion and public involvement till I heard stories about politics in Bhutan. The youth of Bhutan genuinely trusted His Majesty and believed that he was going to bring positive change to the nation. They deeply believed in the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the importance of being content rather than simply making money. I realised that there are very few people in this world who are taught by politics and policies in their country to value their happiness and to measure it just like economic outcomes. I was intrigued to see that most of the Bhutanese youth spent time discussing the simpler things in life and what made them happy. I was even more fascinated to learn that a discussion about “happiness” could be “political” in the world.
In an era where we all believe that the personal is the political, very few of us talk about “happiness” in political terms. Understanding the impact of positive policy making which taught citizens to value their happiness made me draw a deeper appreciation of The Kingdom of Bhutan. I realised that His Majesty and the people of Bhutan shared a deeper relationship where he valued the people’s happiness and the people of Bhutan valued the policies which His Majesty incorporated to bring changes in the country.
Learning more about politics in Bhutan made me reflect on the changes which were necessary to bring in the mind-set of people in India. Valuing community, teaching the citizens to respect politicians and people in power as “equals” and not superiors, valuing happiness and creating a space of trust between the citizens and those in power. Never before had I felt so drawn towards a political yet so personal personality from a country like I was towards His Majesty of Bhutan.
Via the India Bhutan Youth Summit, I had gained more exposure towards what I imagine policies in India to be like in the future. My interactions with Bhutanese youth had made me ask myself “If politics is indeed personal, why don’t we all measure contentment, happiness, understanding and respect, instead of simply valuing economic growth?”
I realised the primary difference between the Constitution of Bhutan and that in most other countries worldwide – The Constitution of Bhutan taught people to value what comes from within and made it a Constitutional right, instead of merely teaching citizens to value what can be derived from the external world. On learning more about the policies inculcated in the Constitution, my respect and appreciation for them and politics in Bhutan only grew from within. Indeed, youth from India will benefit by learning about Bhutan’s policies not only from a perspective of shaping India’s future, but also from a perspective of shaping their own values.