Saturday, September 19, 2009
Bhutan Posts (I)
Tucked and nudged in-between the high Tibetan Plateau and what is the vastness of confounding neighboring India. Bhutan’s geographical location makes it a buffer of sorts between two very big giants, two established nuclear powers, together accounting for a staggering portion of the world’s total population; the Republic of India and the People’s Socialist Republic of China; stuck between the largest democracy in the world and the world’s last biggest strong hold of communism.
These two megaliths have had a major war in the sixties over claims of territorial lands and border infringements that continue to the day.
I’m glad the Chinese didn’t venture further south when they overran Tibet in the late fifties and the Indians when they came up north and swallowed the kingdom of Sikkim. For that we are thankful to the northern mountains, the southern jungles and the guardian deities. Most countries can afford, rely on and make use of conventional and non-conventional arms and armies to safeguard or further their goals of nationalistic politics.
We have none of that, what we do have are guardians as crazy as it might sound. Four of them, protector-deities of the four directions of the country,; call these the Bhutanese border patrols, and they more often than not deliver keeping our country safe and preserving the continuum of the Buddhist way of life.
This is pretty cool in an age of technological high tech worship, ideological wars and quasi religious crap that now plague and burden the middle-east and George W. Bush’s white house (at the time of writing the W was there still...will Obama bring about a change to that marbled-house!?); mostly with innocent civilians suffering the consequences, as they have always suffered, the first casualties of war are always the commoners. As someone wise once noted, yes we did need a wise ass to note that!
Thankfully spared of the psychological scars of an often long and brutal colonization that have been the fate of many, the Bhutanese have survived, keeping, holding and building forth a country in the hot political cauldron that is south Asia and in a world growing scarier by the day.
So Bhutan’s no Switzerland of the east, it’s never been colonized, is neither a protectorate nor a part of India, is not a part of Tibet or China, is not an authoritarian country but rather a constitutional kingdom with a beloved king at its helm and elected representatives of the people at the highest levels of governance who are subject to the peoples votes with checks, balances and rotations. People are free, the laws are just, and the government just doesn’t tell people what to do and what not to do.
There are debates and discussions at all levels before a decision is reached. Furthermore Bhutan’s not an official ‘democracy’, ‘theocracy’, ‘socialist’, ‘capitalist’, ‘communist’, ‘militarist’ or any other forms of governance. Rather it’s all of these and yet none of the above. Bhutan’s officially a constitutional monarchy, combining the good elements from all forms of governance and making it suitable for the Bhutanese and their uniquely Buddhist way of life, and it’s proved to be a well governing functioning one at that. No mean easy feat this!
“The environmental page”
Considering its size, Bhutan’s been blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna, as it rises from the tropical plains and foothills at 700m above sea level to the alpine north where the highest peak stands at some 7450m. I have never been there myself, but the hundred or so mushrooming travel agencies and their brochures will highlight you on those ascending and descending facts.
The kingdom is thus much bigger than it appears to be. Just as nothing much is what it appears to be. Among it’s many rich collection of flowers, butterflies, birds, orchids, rhododendrons, magnolias, blue sheep, yaks and takins, tigers and snow leopards, elephants and one horned Indian rhinos, golden languor and the enormous horn-bills is the nation wide rampant to abundant natural growth and proliferation of cannabis sativa, or marijuana. For further information on flora and fauna, contact the National Environmental Conservation or the Royal society for the Protection of Nature.
If you happen to be a botanist, naturalist or one of those folks with a lot of affection for our four legged cousins, or of the winged feathered kind, this bountiful kingdom is worth your dollars and euros the government rightly charges.