This newspaper, ran a story around two weeks ago on three children who were begging for food as their family was going through very difficult circumstances.
The paper brought out the story to highlight the growing phenomena of urban beggars in Bhutan. We expected some reaction and then the interest to go down.
However, the overwhelming and continuous reaction towards helping this family has been a very pleasant surprise. The popularity of the story and the reaction of the people also say a lot about us.
Immediately after the story came out His Majesty the King’s Kidu Office located the family after which His Majesty the King granted Kidu to the family in the form of educational scholarships for two of the school going age girls with assurance of future scholarships when the other younger children reached a school going age. Census was also assured to the children. The scholarships had a mid may meal component given at the school.
The paper also received several calls asking for the location and contact of the family so that people can help them.
The paper through its official Facebook account saw several more genuine offers to help the family.
There were some who offered to adopt the children as their own children, there were others who offered to meet the expenses of education and there were many who wanted to give money and food. Some also offered to form groups to help the family.
As per Facebook’s own statistic the story reached more than 52,000 people with more than 259 shares in addition to the people who follow this paper’s Facebook news page.
This kind of a huge reaction has not been seen even for what are normally popular stories be they on corruption scams, controversies or anything related to the civil service pay hike.
The help that the family received and the continuing offers of help from strangers perhaps says more about why Bhutan is a GNH country then any number of complicated reports.
The immediate and prompt response of His Majesty the King’s office in helping the family itself is a testimony to why our Monarchy is genuinely so popular. Be it any natural or manmade disaster, His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen are there in person or through their representatives to help the affected people. The numerous rounds of land Kidu to the landless in the most remote parts of Bhutan also explain why Bhutan has been able to avoid the desperate levels of rural poverty seen in other parts of the South Asian region.
Bhutan may not have much by way of wealth and power in the comity of nations but the reaction of His Majesty the King and also of the ordinary people show that Bhutan has a lot of humanity and compassion and it takes care of its own.
Another example is that while in the country people may have their own differences and other rivalries but once outside Bhutanese people go out of their way to help another person who may be a complete stranger.
Even on the streets when people face problems there are always good samaritans rushing to help people.
A famous Hollywood actress who visited Bhutan many moons ago said that more than the temples she found a sense of spirituality in the people of Bhutan.
Some may say this is part of our Buddhist heritage and to some extent it definitely is, but this kindness and compassion is more of a shared social character amongst Bhutanese people of different regions.
Ultimately GNH is not just about happiness but it is the fact that while Bhutanese people may not have much material resources, we are more than ready to help and take care of the people and environment around us with a strong sense of compassion that is uniquely Bhutanese.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.