Finding Myself Back In The Land of Happiness: The Introductory Chapter | Bhutan
Wherever and whenever you travel, it’s not only the photographs of the natural or man-made wonders and moments that you bring back but you carry the people and culture in your heart forever.
Believe it or not, the universe always conspires to create the kind of memories that every particular soul requires to prepare you to be your best self. Life isn’t always fair and it throws at you some of the meanest things when you least expect it. Each one of us fights these phases in individual ways but sometimes it becomes so intense that all you need is to drop the struggle and give yourself a space that will heal you.
There’s no doubt about the therapeutic effect of travelling. I have always considered it as a means of growth, healing, discovering and rediscovering oneself because it leads you through an inward journey, unfolding exclusive experiences that nurture your soul.
Travelling to Bhutan, the Land of Happiness as it is called happened just at the right time of my life. It was a long cherished desire for almost a decade that over the years, however, went quiescent either because of studies, travelling across India or the corporate cubicle. It wasn’t until the visit of His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan (The King) Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Her Majesty Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck and the Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck in India in October 2017 that the dormant love for visiting this country surfaced strongly again. And surprisingly enough, my dream materialized without any prior formal planning in November 2018 when I was fighting a personal crisis for the past few months. What’s more joyous about this trip was that this year marks 50 years of the special friendship between India and Bhutan!
The first day of my journey had begun with a mesmerising introduction to the Land of Happiness by Chang. A tour guide by profession, he’s also the friend and philosopher for the rest of the days I am here. Dressed in traditional Bhutanese attire, his appearance and interaction are so cordial and courteous from the very first second that I was sure this trip is going to be an amazing one.
As the wheels rolled, Chang painted a charming picture of the destination that quite naturally elevated my expectations. For the first time, I was travelling to a place without any homework or research. On reaching Paro, I was completely spellbound!
This country is so beautiful and the air is so fresh that the moment you step on it, look up the sky and the mountains, then close your eyes and take a deep breath filling your lungs with all the goodness around, half of your soul’s burden is gone!
It’s such a delight to see the Bhutanese people donning their national dress ‘Gho’ and ‘Kira’. But I felt what makes them even more amazing to the eye and other senses is the smile they wear all day! Just look at their smiling faces and you kind of receive an instant message that seemingly reads “Why take so much stress? Keep smiling because it costs nothing.”
The Bhutanese people maintain a very balanced outlook towards life. Unlike so many of us, they haven’t forgotten that they’re alive and there’s a lot to learn from their wisdom. Simply walk along with them or beside them and you can sense the virtue of humility in every step they take. And trust me, you’ll be blown away by their sense of humour, gracious hospitality, and soothing happy demeanour.
This land is so much about the human qualities that are disappearing in our fast-paced lives. For instance, I can’t help but mention the friendship between Chang and his father, Mr. Kinley (I used to address him as Kinley Sir). In today’s technologically enriched lifestyles, the communication gap between parents and children (young or adult) has become wider universally. We hardly have time for each other and sitting together, listening to each other is now almost a rare scene. But it was truly a pleasure watching this father-son duo working together and occasionally chatting. Their delightful giggles are powerful enough to instantly brighten up your mood and have you in rapture.
Another memorable episode I’d like to mention is that of a morning when the temperature dropped significantly and we all were shivering underneath layers of clothes. We had stopped by an eatery to have our breakfast and gathered around the fireplace for the same. Once done with the food, I went outside only to return to the fireplace soon after 😀 I was feeling quite cold and seeing me squeezing in by the fireplace, Kinley Sir laughed and asked if I am okay now. He informed that this cold is nothing and that the upcoming months are really cold. He then hummed a Bollywood song, “Abhi to party shuru hui hai” (the party has just begun) and raised his hands giving a dance move. We laughed out our hearts together. It was such a beautiful relief and a valuable lesson for those people who are always complaining! Life isn’t always fair, accept it, learn from it, strengthen yourself, and move on. Those words are absolutely relatable to life – The Party Has Just Begun!
The peacefulness, calmness, kindness, and the positive vibes that surround this place and its people are all that we are constantly searching for amidst the daily chaos and distraction in our concrete jungles.
The last day of the trip got me a bit emotional. I went quiet for some time and tried to soak in the mountain views as much as possible. Everything I’ve closely observed in this short duration started showing up in front of my eyes, all at once. The majestic royal properties in Thimphu, the scintillating blue skies framed by the undulating slopes and ridges, the remarkable memorials that are breathing the land’s history, the breathtaking beauty of the streets and lanes of Paro, the peek-a-boo of the pleasant sun through bewitching willow trees, the soft murmur of the rivers, the fascinating sight of the Tiger’s Nest, the inexplicable spiritual connection in the country’s oldest monastery, the enchanting Haa Valley, the dreamy Chele La Pass, only to mention a few. To be honest, I wished I could stay longer.
Chang sings an evergreen Bollywood song every now and then –
“Chalte chalte mere yeh geet yaad rakhna:
Kabhi alvida na kehna..kabhi alvida na kehna…”
[While going along, remember this song of mine
Never say farewell..never say farewell..]
It’s true to the core. If you visit this beautiful country once, you won’t be able to say goodbye ever. After my sojourn in the Druk land, I am now carrying its essence in my heart and it’ll stay with me till the time I live. I’ll always remember Chang’s warm and inviting house, the most delicious tea he offered (Yes, it’s the most delicious tea I have ever had), and his sense of responsibility and commitment in both his professional and personal life. I also won’t forget the bonding I developed with Kinley Sir and the fatherly figure he had been.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Julia Roberts film “Eat Pray Love” where travel plays a pivotal role in self-discovery. However, I learned a new concept this time – “Eat, Enjoy and Sleep” (Well, that’s what Chang’s WhatsApp ‘About’ section reads 🙂 ). If we take a note, it’s a big lesson. Life is this simple and there’s no need to make it complicated with thoughts and worries that are beyond our control. It’s a waste of time and energy to entertain negative forces into your life. Embrace the positives, count your blessings, enjoy every moment, establish inner peace, and cultivate compassion. Live every day! Never lose hope because I’ve learned, “there is always a next time”.
To conclude, when I visited this place, I didn’t expect much except that I’ll be wandering in a long-desired destination far away from my crisis. But Bhutan helped me find that piece of myself which went missing for a long time because of my own negligence. It taught me to fall in love with myself, again. For me, Bhutan isn’t just the Land of Happiness but also the Land of Hope and Healing. The purity and simplicity of this land helped gather myself together, bit by bit, every day and led me through the transformation I needed.
I am thankful to the Almighty for also being kind enough to let me have the opportunity of spending my birthday on this blessed land in the presence of so many wonderful people! It’s the best birthday I’ve had.
I came back with a stitched heart, mind, and soul – I returned being the person that originally I am.
Thank you, Chang! Thank you, Kinley Sir! Thank you, Hari!
Long live Bhutan.
Long live the friendship between Bhutan and India.