I am far from being a globe-trotter unlike many of my fellow-citizens. I am happy with the epithet: “You must be the most widely foot-travelled education minister in the world” with which my fellow-ministers would often embarrass me during education summits. I could explore my country that much more intimately and celebrate the magical details of this little paradise thanks to my many travels across the length and breadth of dear Druk Yul. How else could I ever connect my role with its soul, otherwise?
As occasion warranted, I journeyed to other lands and took in what little I could such as I am and paid my tributes to their many awakenings and achievements such as was their due. It was with as much joy and pride as with humility and gratitude that I travelled on behalf of my country and people and received uplifting goodwill and heart-warming love. This was rare good fortune for a humble son of illiterate farming-parents from a dreamy little village on the fringes of south Bhutan.
This is what most Bhutanese citizens travelling abroad would have experienced at one point or the other. Between home and host lie myriad imponderables. For one, you present your passport to airport security and immigration. The officer is often at a loss, flips the pages back and forth, looks at you, then at the passport, back at you again. He fiddles with the computer, often asks a colleague or two, comes to you, looks at you some more and finally enquires: “Where is Bhutan?”
We have come a long way as has the world. “Oh, you are from Bhutan? GNH country”! I pay my silent tributes to the primal fount of this holistic vision of development and smile at the officer. There is a smile back and the process is quick. It is quicker if you have had a good track record!
Many of us have often done long distance travel in our national costume. And, more often than not, one becomes an obvious object of keen curiosity. Somebody would invariably ask, “Where are you from”? “I am from Bhutan”, we have answered so many times. And, we have worked hard at situating our country up in the Himalayas, between India and China, or thereabouts. Finally, the process is complete. We move on. We come home. Life goes on…
So often, ever so often, I have been tempted to answer: “Bhutan is in my heart”. But this would be too abstract an answer to a busy officer at a sensitive counter. And, the airport is the last place for abstractions. I have to continue learning my geography and behave myself. I often have the human urge to travel. Above all, a sense of place and of pride is vital – for individuals, and for nations – all the more.
Deep inside me, I have to confess, it will always be my answer, at least to myself: “Bhutan is in my heart”.
As an educator, I am a man of faith even as I often witness instances of corrosive cynicism that hurts and disheartens. I still believe in the power of education as the noble sector just as I believe teaching to be an act of faith. One helps sharpen brains and skills but also build faith and character.
Just as faithfully and mindfully, one can enthrone and enshrine the nation in one’s heart! Nation-building entails a journey outside in and a journey inside out. You are always there to mark the milestone – steadfast. Someone will come around…
Thakur S Powdyel