I don’t have to imagine it any more or form mental images of what must go on out there nor do I have to content myself with fleeting glimpses of marching columns in orange fatigue. I went. I saw. And I took it all in – such as I am, native and natural, in my elemental self – with just my name: Bumden Khandu Wangmo.

I opened the symbolic vault and emptied my persona and paraphernalia, my ego and emotions, my acquired self and public face. I became myself – content to be a member of the big family, at peace with myself and with those around me. I was ready to receive what came my way – without pretence and prejudice.

My two weeks at Tencholing have been nothing less than an epic journey of discovery. I discovered why in his Royal Vision His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck initiated a national program to prepare the guardians of peace- DeSuup. I discovered what spirit of self-discipline and service it takes to raise a force that stakes its life in times of war and builds a community in times of peace. Above all, I discovered the golden threads of the eternal knot that binds the two armies of Bhutan and India, as indeed two peoples and two nations, in a rare spirit of trust and goodwill.

How else could I ever appreciate the flawless professionalism and exemplary dedication that so define and distinguish our security forces at every level? As difficult as it was for me to get used to life in the barracks, having to follow every detail of military training and live within the bounds of rationed time and resources, I am now a DeSuup, able to venture out and volunteer, equipped with enhanced stamina and strength, happy with the small blessings of a Spartan life.

I would have missed this golden opportunity if it were not for the graciousness of the Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Gautam Bambawale. The Ambassador and my colleagues at the Indian Embassy who were most supportive of my desire to participate in the DeSuup programe at a most busy time in my office. I shall ever remain grateful for the support.  It has been my good fortune to serve the Diplomatic Mission and play my humble role in furthering our exemplary relationship between our two friendly neighbours. I have grown and matured personally and professionally. My sincerest gratitude to the wonderful space and support provided to me by successive ambassadors, particularly by Ambassador Gautam Bambawale who combines rare efficiency and grace in his person.

It was the first time after college that I dined in a common mess and shared facilities with fellow-Bhutanese otherwise separated from me by age and authority but brought together by solidarity of feeling and oneness of purpose. The organisation of the day from pre-dawn to post-dusk, the necessity to complete all assigned tasks on time and to be present at all events and functions in correct gear was an education that I will always cherish with gratitude. It taught me to value what is truly important in life despite loosing your olive textured skin to the scorching heat of the sun and thus my weather beaten skin was clear evidence of me having attended to the training genuinely.

The manner in which each element of the Tencholing establishment approached and handled its role, not to forget the excellent diet provided to the executives by the Mess Secretary Lt. Col Karma Tharchin and his team, was absolutely praiseworthy. Whether it was the Content oriented efficient Training Officer Lt. Col Kinley Dorji or the most professional and the dedicated Adjutant Major Ugyen Nidup, the medical personnel or the encouraging sharp shooter Major Sonam Lhagyel, the adventure was worth taking. Major Lingi Jamtsho’s literary landscape was captivating. In addition Major Sigay Tshewang’s wit and humour were combined by the gentleness of Lt. Col Leki Wangdi.

Not to forget the indispensible Director Tashi Tobgye’s contributions to the program. The Non Commissioned Officer Instructors of the Military Training Team indeed remain to be the pinnacle of greatest admiration.

Above all there was one thing in common with all – professionalism. I learnt as much by doing as by seeing.

Quite apart from the fact that Bhutanese people have a natural sense of decorum and discipline in civic life, we are quite a happy-go-lucky people otherwise. What I discovered in Tencholing ought to be a happy consequence of inheritance and acquisition. The Indian Army has opened its hearts and its doors to several generations of officers and soldiers of the Royal Bhutan Army to receive education and training at some of their finest institutions across the country.

We can never forget the Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army, Goongloen Gongma Batoo Tshering for his excellent and dynamic role in leading the armed forces of Bhutan.

Besides various other forms of assistance, the generous support provided by the Indian Army through the Royal Bhutan Army in general and the Military Training Centre in particular, has been of immense help in imparting the most advanced professional training by senior officers, posting of seasoned officers spearheaded by the seasoned and the much respect deserving humble Commandant Brig. Thinlay Dorji himself are a testimony to the enlightened spirit in which the two armies have lived and worked side by side as brothers in arms. And for the Bhutanese officers to partake of the coveted Indian Military Protocol is a privilege in itself. It is my hope that we continue receiving the benefit of this enlightened support in the years ahead.

The evidence of success speaks for itself. Over the years, courageous Bhutanese youth who have elected to pursue a career in the services have distinguished themselves through remarkable dedication and commitment to excellence and brought laurels to their alma maters and their country. The inspiring level of dedication and professionalism that I witnessed at Tencholing must be the fruit of many years of conscious effort and development. The capability and confidence that our Army has built as a dynamic institution speak of the coming of age of our service forces and a symbol of our mutual collaboration.

Beyond Tencholing, there are heart-warming examples of deep bonds and abiding friendships that manifest themselves in the camaraderie and laughter-filled conversations during receptions and dinners when officers crack jokes reminiscent of their days together at college. Anniversaries and celebrations are more than formal functions. They speak of deep mutual respect and honour shared in common.

I on behalf of the my fellow DeSuups, offer my deepest gratitude to His Majesty our beloved King for instituting this wonderful program dedicated to the service of the Tsawa Sum. Tencholing has been for me more than the name of a place that gave me a lifetime experience. It has been a blessing of exceptional meaning and message. There were things that the eyes could see and marvel at. More importantly, there were things that the mind could discover and celebrate. I feel pride in the success of our service forces. I find joy in the mutuality of our relationship.

I am a DeSuup ready for action. More importantly, I am a pilgrim in search of relationships that honour and edify.  It has been my destiny to weave my own little story into the grand fabric of the illustrious Indo-Bhutan relationship.

DeSuup Bumden Khandu Wangmo

Embassy of India