The tiny fragments that builds a nation

The event marked the joys of being united, of being one and of keeping Bhutanese bonds of nationhood alive.

The tiny fragments that builds a nation

The event marked the joys of being united, of being one and of keeping our bonds of nationhood alive

December 16: It’s six in the morning and like the cold streets of Thimphu, Lungtenzampa is frozen too.

Yet, the bus terminus just below is unusually bustling with life. Hawkers and vendors shouting: “tshatom tshatom thukpa!” (hot hot porridge!), cabbies going about their usual morning rounds and people scurrying with loads and suitcases while whiffs of steam gush from their mouths and nostrils.

In the ensuing commotion only one thing is evident—that everybody seems to be in a big rush today.

“No. No seats. Sorry, it’s Friday and traffic personnel will be manned to monitor on every bends. Am just sorry,” a bus driver says to a young man in his early twenties.

He is Dawa, a student studying in Chennai, India, and who had come for a short break to go and help his parents who runs a restaurant in Trongsa during the celebrations. He looks dejected but keeps doing the same to every bus driver that is on the scene.

The buses suddenly roar to life hurling bellows of smokes from their rears as the first rays of the sun glistens up the distant mountain peak at Phajoding.

In a corner of a bus of about 34 commuters, headed for Lhuntse, is an elderly couple with rosaries in their hands. Their eyes are half closed and their whisper of a prayer gets dissolved as the bus slowly begins to chug forward.

After a brief lull a woman, probably in her mid forties, and who is seated next to the old couple, begins to strike a conversation with them. “Where are you headed to in Lhuntse?” the woman asks followed by a brief laugh.

Her tone is that of a yell, lest she feels that it would go unheeded into their old wrinkling ears. Two teenage girls in the front row giggle at the act.

The old lady answers her back in her native language while the woman nods back in agreement. They are headed for Tshangkha in Trongsa but had to book tickets till Lhuntse as all buses headed to Trongsa were packed for the next four to five days.

“How can I afford to miss this event of a lifetime? Maybe I won’t live to see the next national day celebrations happen,” the old lady snaps, adding she had heard that the occasion will be graced by His Majesty the King, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and HRH the Gyalsey too. 

The old couple, after a dusty eight-hour ride, finally boards at Tshangkha. They are told that they will be ferried by public transport buses early next morning so that they don’t miss the big event.

Elsewhere in a crowded bar in Trongsa, 42-year-oldd Nado from Drakteng is watching a wrestling match. Dressed in his finest, he is joined by his fellow villagers, eight of them including a kid. The room is jovial and the mood upbeat, and outside, the otherwise quaint little town, is bustling with life.

“Our village community is performing a special Zhey (dance) tomorrow and I feel honored to be performing in front of three generations of Kings. What more could we wish for,” Nado says, adding that the Mangde tsho zhips (the four provinces of Mangde) have all united for the historical event and will be showcasing their unique cultural identities.

Outside, a man is hosting the national flag complete with a portrait of His Majesty the King and glittering neon lights. The town is filled with happy gleaming faces and children laugh and run amok the streets that are glittering with lights and neon bulbs.     

The Big Day

December 17: It’s just five thirty in the morning yet the celebration ground is almost half filled. Volunteers and Desuups escort the old and the elderly first followed by women and children.

The queue is getting longer by the hour and by seven the ground is almost filled to the brim. Others make do near the basketball court above the ground.

Dressed in his best and decking a military scarf complete with medallions is 65-year-old KB Gurung who retired from service in 2004 after serving for 33 years in the army.

KB Gurung says that he is fortunate to have lived to see four generations of Kings. “I am glad I have lived to see this day and all I ask and pray is may our country continue to be blessed by our beloved monarchs who has always been our guiding fathers,” KB says, adding that if he had one wish in his life it would be to see the coronation of our beloved Gyalsey.

Elsewhere two young school girls are busy picking pet bottles and papers strewn across the basketball court. “Our King always advises us not to throw garbage or litter our surroundings. I love my King,” says one amidst giggles.

The big hour finally arrives as His Majesty steps into the dais. People young and old, men, women, the rich and the poor and the powerful and the disabled, everyone have all shed their differences for a while and stood in unison listening like an attentive school kids as His Majesty spoke.

“Bhutan is a perfect example of a country born and united by the vision of a King. I am amazed at the level of unity among the general citizenry and their love for the King,” says Gyaneshwar Tiwari, an avid biker from Delhi, India.

Gyaneshwar says he and his friends came all the way from Punakha, which was supposed to be their last stopover in the country, when they heard of the celebrations.

“I am a little disappointed as I won’t be able to take back pictorial memories of the event. Nonetheless, the journey as a whole was awesome,” Gyaneshwar adds.

That undying song in us

December 18: The celebrations are over and all that is left of the event are memories. Memories that will last a lifetime.

74-year-old Sangay Wangdi from Langthel in Trongsa, an retired army and who was also a part of the 1974 coronation celebrations, folds his hands as he reminisces of the event.

“Never in the history of Trongsa did three generations of Kings visit at the same time. What more could we wish for. Just a glimpse of their majesties is an inspiration enough. I just pray for their majesties’ long life,” Sangay says.

Like Sangay, 69-year-old Thinley Yangzom from Nobding in Wangdiphodrang says that as a young girl she remembers walking for days, sometimes a week, to reach Trongsa from her village.

“Today it is just a matter of few hours’ drive all thanks to our visionary monarchs. Had it not been for our kings I couldn’t have made it to this event as I can barely walk now,” Thinley says, her hands folded in prayers.

Elsewhere in a crowded bar in Bajothang in Wangdiphodrang a group of municipal workers have gathered for a drink after a hard days labour. They sip their glasses while their eyes are glued to the television set.

They are watching one of the dances, a rebroadcast of the event. Among the crowd is Dhan Maya Tamang, 42, from Chargarey in Samtse.

“This song never fails to amaze me,” Dhan Maya says, her eyes welled up. It is a song, a fusion of different cultures in the country which was played in the event. “Our kings are truly Dharma Rajas (Bodhisattva Kings).”

The celebrations have long ebbed but the memories and the songs still lingers.




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