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The pursuit of happiness, Bhutan’s way and a pointer to India


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By Moses Manoharan


A visit to Bhutan fetches the traveller a unique benefit: happiness. It is not to become part of the people’s blissful outlook on life. It is drawn from a reverence for their rulers, and it paints a pretty picture postcard vision that rivals the natural beauty of the tiny Himalayan kingdom, bounded by two giants -- India and China.


Bhutan’s national sport may comprise a few archers shooting at a stadium in the national capital Thimphu, the local television programming could be a bit more exciting, but the people are totally cheerful.


They have an unstinting confidence in their rulers and it is based, among other factors, on the seamless connect between the governors and the governed. Practically anyone you meet in this country, however modest of station, has a tale to tell, of meeting the current king or his predecessor, his father. A young lady remembers a visit to her school and a chat with him, while others speak of various encounters, mostly spontaneous and always heartwarming.


The message is clear to those aspiring to be liked, or even loved, in India, which has a special relationship with Bhutan that is unrivalled in its all-encompassing nature.


The pursuit of happiness must start from the top and then it will surely percolate down. Its leaders must be accessible, warm, spontaneous, and yes, cheerful too. To be youthful is a plus. Where our technocrats pursue economic progress, in Bhutan development is measured in Gross National Happiness. With scant resources, Bhutan still manages a smile, where their Indian counterparts, blessed with a nation rich in resources, scowl their way through life. It pushed the Indian sporting icon, Sunil Gavaskar, to wonder why Indian crickets snarled and hurled abuse when they took a wicket, hit a  century or won a match. Indian political leaders, even the young ones, cultivate an aloof, unsmiling countenance that is considered by many among the people to be arrogance.


The easy smile, the courage to mingle with the people and an unassuming humility will win hearts that yearn for a genuine leader connected to the masses, not just at election time, but all the time.


The pretenders to the position soon to be vacated by the current incumbent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, appear to glory in his grim demeanour and carefully choreographed public appearances. Not for him the spontaneity or warmth associated with those who purportedly care for the wellbeing of their people. Claimants to Singh’s position range from a reclusive and elusive legatee to a brash rightwing politician. Neither is known for an easy connect to the people, accessibility or knowledge of the secret of wearing a permanent smile, the kind Bhutan’s king sports so effortlessly, as he poses in pictures with his exquisite looking wife in wedding posters across the country. It is a magical connect that conjures up the hope and belief of youth and romance that must surely be the bedrock on which economic growth and development is built.


Somewhere along the way to achieving global power, India’s rulers have discarded the prime building block on which a nation’s prosperity is founded -- its people’s happiness. India’s rulers would do well to look to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk of Bhutan, and what they would consider his quaint notion of creating national wellbeing.


In this endeavour, the media can help by ending an unseemly competition among channels to telecast the world’s most horrific rape or unearth a corruption scandal, proved or unproved, as often as possible. Events presented without hectoring or sensationalism will go a long way to lift a nation plunged in gloom and despair over governance. It may just mitigate the general state of unhappiness.

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