Shantideva said this more than a couple of centuries ago, “All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains has come from wishing pleasure for oneself.” The inherent reflex to look out for your-self and survive is perhaps an in-built survival mechanism. But so is the inherent quality that makes one jump straight into a dangerous scenario to help a fellow being. After all, who among us does not suffer?
The past weeks have been heavy on the Bhutanese. The fire that ate up a whole stretch of shops and houses in Bumthang on the last day of the festival at Jambay Lhakhang was a devastating tragedy. Livelihoods were lost in a matter of few hours. Perhaps it speaks a lot of the human heart that it almost always takes a tragedy to bring about what is inherently good and noble in mankind. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo was heading towards the burning town as soon as the news spread. His Majesty the King was at the scene as promptly upon his return from His visit to India. Thenthe Prime Minister visited the site.
Those who lost everything had their monarchs and leaders offering immediate help and relief, together with a personal show of solidarity and support. It will take time for them to come to terms with what has been lost but if there is one thing the fire could not extinguish it was the burning Bhutanese desire, from the monarchs down to the common man, to do whatever they could to help and to chip in a prayer, light a butter lamp and help raise funds to ease the burden on the homeless victims.
Some of the media houses in Thimphu organized fund raising flyers in their respective mediums. The Managing Director of Bhutan Today said the amount of envelopes coming into the office with contributions had filled up a quarter of a room. The Motion Pictures Association of Bhutan held a fundraiser at the Clock Tower. It was life raging on, as actors, singers and comedians sang, calmly pleaded and broke bread and jokes with the packed-in audience. Sacks were passed about among the public and everyone chipped in what they could. In Phuentsholing, a young woman organized a small dance party, raising a small yet considerable sum for the victims up north.
In the end, it is these gestures that epitomize what it means to be human and in this particular case, to be Bhutanese.