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Re-Normalising the exceptional

It was an event truly exceptional, viewed from the perspective of the general run of things today. How many governors of the country’s central bank will assemble the chief executive officers of important financial institutions, business leaders, investors, and policy-influencers and call upon them to be partners and stakeholders in the innovative business ideas developed by young college students?

But this is exactly what Dasho Penjore of Bhutan’s Royal Monetary Authority did on Friday, May 25, 2018 when he literally took on the role of the master of ceremonies as he welcomed the heads of the country’s financial institutions, angel investors and engaged citizens and invited the three student-teams from the Royal Thimphu College to present their business ideas culminating from the 2018 edition of the Mekong Business Challenge final completion held in Bhutan earlier in the year.

It was an evening to remember as the packed hall of the Financial Institutions Training Institute near the Harmony Youth Village applauded the unique business models that featured the country’s first low-sugar candy, waste-paper-born jewellery, and low-alcohol-content wine each of which received overwhelming approval as well as heart-warming offer of support to take the projects forward.

It all began on a rather unexpected note. The Royal Thimphu College had invited Dasho Penjore to be the Chief Guest at the Prize Award ceremony in the evening but he insisted that he come right from the morning and look at each of the 11 presentations from the participating teams from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam plus Bhutan that converged at the Royal Thimphu College, together with the MBC officials, sponsors and judges, on March 18, 2018. Having sat through the day, the governor was convinced of the high quality of each model and forthwith offered to host a meeting of the three teams from the RTC with the heads of the financial institutions as he ended his address during Prize Award in the evening.

For this educator, there was something more than a vote of confidence in the viability and promise of our students’ business ideas and the encouraging show of support from important individuals and institutions that can make a difference. Beyond the animated talk of pitching the ideas, financing and return on investment and street-smart pragmatism, there were wider vistas and higher purposes on the horizon.

Sitting in the audience, this thought ran through my mind: what if this rarity were to become a commonality, if this exception were to be the norm! This evening, this coming together, promised hope; it gave reasons for confidence in the ways of the possible, and the desirable. It seems we can do beautiful things on our own strength, on our terms, in our way! The power of the simple and the genuine was so palpable.

If one individual and one sector can help generate so much goodwill and positive energy, it is reasonable to expect others to do likewise in our own spheres, in big ways and in ways humble – by affirming and supporting genuine efforts, and doing our part, in the diverse fields of our national life that secure and strengthen the outer and the inner life of our country.

I am exceedingly happy and proud of our school-children, Pema Choki and Tandin Wangchuk, who had no second thought about returning the money they found on their way home to the rightful owner, and were duly commended for their exemplary action. There have been other instances in the past, including the recent one of 32-year old truck driver, Kabo, handing over the wallet that he found to the police.

It is only natural and appropriate that such exceptional deeds should make news, headlines, and gain legitimate space in editorials. Looked another way, such ways should be the normal ways, such deeds the natural deeds, the self-evident right actions.

In many ways, the fact that such beautiful actions become exceptional, and are seen as exceptional, could be a measure of the ethical distance that we have travelled as a society. Imagine Bhutan if all of us could be Pema Chokis and Tandin Wangchuks – personally living out tha damtsigand integrity in our public life as well as our private life!

These children normalised the exceptional, rather than exceptionalise the normal. And, that makes all the difference.

We are given this little space and this precious time to live our lives and to play our roles. What lives we touch and what hopes we inspire is our call to take. But building this nation takes all of us, the best of us, and every fibre of our being.

This small country of ours, this blessed spot of our good Earth carries the promise of a paradise in real time and in real space.

History will tell what we make of this promise.

Contributed by 

Thakur S Powdyel

Royal Thimphu College.

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