Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bhutan: The Last Shangri-La

This is purely a academic work and already a published work in 'The Drukpa' sometime in May 201o issue (i dont remember exactly :P)


Shangri-la is a utopian concept. It is the idea of an imaginary distant society in which everyone works well with each other and is happy. This is true in Bhutan. Bhutan is a distant Himalayan land which has been unexplored by the outside world. The pristine environment, preservation of Tibetan’s Buddhist culture and a strong sense of spirituality are the factors that labels Bhutan as the last Shangri-La. It has a spiritual atmosphere where war and sickness are non-existent and where there is no real concept of the passage of time. This essay discusses as to how and why Bhutan can be referred to as the last Shangri-La.

Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan Buddhist kingdom sandwiched between the two giants, China and India in the Asian subcontinent. The land of the thunder dragon, the dragon king and happiness for all are too amusing a syllable to the outside world. The Himalayan kingdom is considered as some fairy tale land in the 21st century where perfect bliss and contentment exist. This notion has reached further heights with the introduction of the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the development philosophy. People live in peace and harmony, governed by the principle of moderation and isolated from the corruptions of civilization.

Bhutan is a real Shangri-La of legend, preserve of Himalayan culture and an ecological paradise (Langley, 2008). In its entire history, Bhutan opened her doors for the first time to the outside world in the early 1960’s. Until then, Bhutan was a country enshrouded in mystery, untainted by foreign influence or international trade. When the world was at wars, Bhutan was unheard of to the world outside. This is because the strategic location of the country in the heart of the lofty Himalayas made it unfeasible for foreigners to tread into the country. Moreover, the Bhutanese people were always suspicious of foreign influence. 

Until 1999, there was no television and internet in the country and it can be virtually said that the Bhutanese were shunned by the outside world. Bhutan then was a paradise hidden from humankind. Shangri-la is a haven of peace and tranquility and the world-weary diplomats find Bhutan as that haven for a getaway from their hectic life. Williamson (as cited in Fisher & Tashi, 2009, p.325) said ‘avarice, crime, poverty and begging’ were conspicuously absent in Bhutan. She described it as ‘a true Shangri-la.’

Bhutan is the supposed setting for James Hilton’s classic novel, Lost Horizon (1933) which introduced the world to Shangri-La, a lush, changeless world where no one grew old and the people lived according to the guiding principles of the high lama. Since time immemorial Bhutan has been unified by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to whom Hilton refers to as the ‘high lamasery.’ Here, books, music and meditation become the foundation to conserve the frail elegancies of a dying age. Remoteness, seclusion and peacefulness create a certain tranquility and timelessness in Bhutan.  

“Bhutan is a nation full of promise and potential. We have the security and confidence of our own culture and traditions…” (His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (as cited in Wangchhuk, 2008, p.35). His Majesty believes and is convinced that Bhutan’s rich culture and tradition will continue to strengthen the unique national identity in the years ahead. What has sustained Bhutan is its vision to be a self-reliant country where its rich legacy of culture and tradition are intact and people live in harmony with nature and the environment. 
It is the best place in the Tibetan world to see traditional-style architecture with sloping roofs; distinctly Bhutanese in design (dzongs).

Bhutan went green and stayed green long before environment became a priority elsewhere on the planet. It is a country to protect some of the planet’s last green remaining forests with the loveliest mountains on earth. Bhutan has one of the richest biodiversity in the world with about 3,281 plant species per 10,000 square kilometers and has been declared as one of the ten global biodiversity ‘hot spots’ (Introduction to Bhutan, 2010).Bhutan’s system of national parks and wildlife preserves cover over 25 per cent of its total land area which is far more than neighboring India’s and China’s, both implicated in large-scale environmental degradation. Bird-watchers love Bhutan which has over 700 bird species recorded, and botanists are thrilled by Bhutan’s range of unusual flowering species.

FRONTLINE/ World (2002) reported that Bhutan is a country with no traffic lights and no fast-food chains. It has more monks than soldiers. It may be the only country in the world to measure GNH. The active monasteries with a rich tradition, imparts spiritual training to monks. Before the introduction of the western education in Bhutan, monastic education was compulsory where every child from a family has to be sent to the monastery. Today also we see many such schools across the country.  It may take another decade or so for Bhutan to come up with traffic lights and fast-food chains. This makes Bhutan unique from rest of the world. 

Bhutan is the first nation in the world to ban tobacco in December 17, 2004. Ireland and Norway followed suit. Plastic bags are also banned. Already acclaimed as the last Shangri-La,Bhutan moved towards a more eco-friendly nation with these bold step.
According to Tenzin (n.d) culture constitutes 75 per cent of the total tourism business and it is the third largest foreign exchange earner. Culture is the foremost reason for tourists visiting Bhutan. Her strong policy of preservation of culture has become her strength to avoid outside invasion. That is why Bhutan has never been colonized like so many other countries. Bhutan did not have to go through anarchy and bloodshed unlike many other countries to transit into a democratic state and thus have become the youngest democracy in the world.

Though termed as the last Shangri-La, Bhutan is fast on the road of   modernization and. It is the fastest urbanizing nation in South Asia. However, GNH being the main development philosophy plays a vital role in balancing the acts of modernization, urbanization and spiritualism. Although the winds of globalization have started sweeping in, Bhutan will always remain as the last Shangri-La because of its stringent policy of environmental and cultural preservation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An untreated obsession ^____^

I have this huge obsession over wedge heeled shoes... I never seem to get enough of it! Its definition and the shape, the cosmopolitan look it gives and most importantly the comfort it gives make me crazy over wedge heels. It also gives the increased balance and comfort while still allowing you to get used to having the heel of your foot placed high above the level of your toes.

It doesnot not mean i am not comfortable in stilettos, I am :) but i rather prefer wedge heels over stilettos.Ah!! how it hurts to stand on stilettos all day :( yet women love to wear it. I have had innumerable bad experiences with stilettos. A couple of them broke down when walking (which was really embaressing) :P and few of it got stuck in the holes of the sidewalk. Had a tough time to pull it off, sigh! 

Just to avoid all these ordeals unnecesarily, I am so obsessed over wedges. And how i love to flaunt in a good pair of wedge. The sexy feeling it gives you just like in a good pair of stilettos and the comfort is simply superb! :)

Oh this gray pumps are a big No No!

Yea these are the ones that i am so drooling about :P

And this one...looks so nice & comfy with the flora print :)

And here this gladiator wedge is even more trendy and can go well with any outfit

Monday, July 18, 2011

The day I graduate

It is my convocation day and I am late, holy cow!!! Well, I did not intend to be late but provided the Bhutanese stretchable time; I thought I can be chronically late by an hour. So I go to my graduation day an hour late :P. and the usher (who happened to be from my college) at the entrance nearly made me a dead meat. 
I was there to get my degree so I did not care a bit of him chiding me. Had it been for some other reasons I would not have resisted him, come what may!

After a hard time wrestling with the gown, I ran the stairs like Cinderella except that she ran out the ball room and I ran inside the hall :)
Oh I am finally seated inside the hall and had to wait for another good 40 minutes for the actual procession. Oh how I hate the Bhutanese approach of waiting and waiting and never beginning a meeting or for that matter this special occasion. Why cannot they (we) come on time, do the business and part on time.  

Nevertheless, the good 40 minutes was worth the wait, I will tell you why?  

It marked the grand entrance of His Majesty (HM) the king with his lovely fiancĂ©e. 
Oh what could be more grandeur than this? A beautiful sight, a feast to these eyes of mine which has not laid on such a sight for a pretty long time now. 
The 45 minutes informal discourse with the king was awesome. How His Majesty began the session, it was truly romantic. It was so romantic of him to have started the discourse with Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If.” 
It was a reminiscence of my childhood days when HM read out the poem so beautifully. Next he introduced his would-be bride with a kiss on her cheek. It was an outrageous royal P.D.A, How sweet! A huge round of applause followed that and we could see her blushing. :) 

The discourse was constructive, it portrays HM’s unconditional love for his people, truly a peoples’ king he is! His charisma never ceases to enchant us (me):)
Awarding the certificate with a handshake and a photograph each with some 1000 plus graduates must have worn him out. But my king, throughout the session, not a look of despair was seen on his handsome face. 
The stolen glances to his fiancee in between the breaks made us gaga. Oooo!!! That extra mile of HM to be there for us on our big day and to award us the certificate individually is truly heart rendering.

The entire day rehearsal for the convocation the previous day had already drained me out, I had never been this tired my entire life. But the day, the moment was worth it.

Here is a sneak peek from the day; I could not capture the actions inside the hall as we were not allowed to take cameras inside. 

Tired everyone of us...queuing for the lunch at the end of the day

And finally we graduate...my roomie from college on the right :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

That Summer in Paris and Abha Dawesar - A book review

A repost again! Though spring is over, this post is in memory of the last spring I wrote about when i was in RIM(2010).

It has been quite sometime, probably a month since I last blogged in. The very reason was because I had been suffering from writer's block and the rain today jerked the inner person in me and made me come to this site again after a month or so. Its a wonder how this rain cajoled the lost passion in me today-my passion for writing, it made me bed ridden for approximately five hours and drove me to finish Abha Dawesar's That Summer in Paris which I had difficulty finishing since some two weeks ago. Thank you spring rain!!!:)

The rain today came at an odd hour, the ominous clouds started hovering over the skies above me in the late afternoon and as I predicted it gave way to heavy downpour making me dizzy and breathless.

I am not that fond of rain nor do I love to play in the rain unlike others who likes to go out in the rain. This again doesn’t mean that I hate rain. I love watching the rain, the droplets of water hitting the ground and on the CGI sheets especially means music to my ears, a rare treat in the early spring and a feast to my eyes.

I gave the rain a quizzical glance from the window of my room and tried to ask why at this hour? I had so many plans in my mind today; do some laundry, play tennis,go out for a walk and visit a friend. But darn this rain! 'It spoiled everything' I thought to myself and retired to bed with That Summer in Paris with a cup of steaming coffee, Gradually I was taken to Paris, the plot setting in the story, to New York and to India by Abha Dawesar. 

Prem, Pascal, Irene, Maya, Homi, Ratan, Deepika and of course the very renowned Eiffel Tower became a part of me for the next five hours or so. In between I took breaks to go to the loo or to refill my coffee mug, apart from that I was deeply immersed in the seven lives of these people whom I have never met before. In the end I also attended the funeral of Mr. Rustum(Prem) who dies at the age of eighty, Maya couldn’t bear the loss of Mr. Rustum though she was expecting it. She was alone and lonely and I tried giving her company.

All in all I was so tired moving to and fro from Paris to New York with them but the short vacation with the Rustum family in Paris was a refreshing one especially with Ratan darling, the cute grand nephew of Mr. Rustum.:)

I got to thank the rain today for the wonderful voyage, had you not poured today I would have still not finished That Summer in Paris and I would have missed the trip to Paris and New York though I have not been there literally eh! Thank you rain for the wonders you did unto me today. It’s an ethereal beauty as to how books are our greatest company for all times to come and there is no denying to this fact.

Erotic love, incest relationships, cancer, depression, noble prize effect, writer's block and the beauty of Paris, not to forget the title is what Abha Dawesar(a Harvard graduate) talks about in her book, That Summer in Paris.


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