The Gross National Happiness
The last Shangri La, as some have called her, Bhutan, is encompassed with numerous myths such as the flying tiger and lakeside mermaids. She lures seekers with her captivating beauty, mystical monasteries and the endearing nature of her people. One of the mysteries the curious mind strives to solve is the question: Is Bhutan really a happy country?
In the 1970s, The Fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, brought up the idea of a Gross National Happiness (GNH) over the Gross National Product (GNP). This is a holistic approach to contentment; well-being and over all care for the people. The question “How can a country be completely happy?” probably has crossed your mind at least once or twice by now. In an age where happiness seems to be a mere daydream, we encounter not one person, but an entire country striving for happiness. This is a puzzle for many and me, as well.
Honestly though, as bizarre as it seems, achieving happiness does not seem impossible in this landlocked country. A tiny kingdom tucked away in the majestic Himalayan heights, secluded yet adored by the masses. A kingdom where happiness is not just a trifling emotion but a way of life, one can easily spot content in their eyes. It is interesting to see that a Drukpas measure of contentedness is not particularly measured by their economic or social statuses; some of the happiest Drukpas are apparently the young, the unmarried and the unemployed! They are a community of people who adore their monarchy and care for their neighbors.
Now, to answer the question I started with, is Bhutan the happiest country in Asia? I would have to say no. I do not think there is such a thing as a ‘happiest country’. However, I will have to say that the Drukpas radiate a certain atmosphere of joy and peacefulness that is almost enchanting. Let me tell you though, cynicism will blind you of all the beauty you could experience. Take a journey to the last Shangri la, marvel at this experience and take home with you an aspiration for happiness too!