His Majesty the King’s untiring and visionary work to better the lives of the people, and empower them to build a life of peace, prosperity and dignity is exemplified in the story of Khenadang.
On the auspicious occasion of His Majesty’s birthday, we tell this story in tribute to our beloved King.
In Khenadang, the sky is endlessly blue and cloudless. The mountains enclosing a deep valley are aglow with swaying grass and yellowing maize in the winter’s sun.
A farm road twists into the valley, past a community Lhakhang perched picturesquely atop a hill, with four hundred steps leading to it, past an extended classroom with swing sets outside, past a gigantic mango tree, and past neat little cottages with blue shutters, and pretty gates covered in bougainvillea blooming pinkly.
The village is filled with the peaceful noises of animals; pigs grunting, chicken clucking, cows lowing, birds chirping among the persimmon and passion fruit trees.
Yellowed pumpkins are piled outside the houses, alongside a collection of slippers, and cobs of maize are drying on the roofs.
It is the picture of an idyllic village, but all is quiet, and even though the doors are not locked, the entire village is empty- every member of the 46 households who live in Khenadang, Pemagatshel, are in the courtyard of the community Lhakhang, with their King and Queen.
The people are dressed in their most colourful best. Having known hardship more intimately than most, they bear the quiet pride of having achieved better for the sake of their children.
The people of Khenadang have lived in the village for only slightly over a year- before that, they lived in the most inaccessible parts of Pemagatshel, and most owned small plots of land that did not yield much to survive on.
Under His Majesty’s People’s Project, a multi-sector task force, with the National Land Commission, GNH Commission, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and other relevant agencies helped the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon build this village- where people now have access to water, electricity, road, and have been assisted in building homes, rearing farm animals, and growing crops. An extended classroom, an outreach clinic, and a village community ground, where the giant mango tree stands, were included in the village plans, along with the community Lhakhang.
“Our lives have improved a thousand fold, due to His Majesty’s benevolent kidu,” says 66-year-old Tshewang Dorji.
Tshewang lives in Khenadang with his wife and two adult children. They rear farm animals, and sell eggs, milk, cheese, and vegetables in Pemagatshel. A retired armed force personnel who served during the reign of the Third Druk Gyalpo, Tshewang describes his previous village as hard.
“We had a small plot of kamshing, which hardly yielded enough for us to eat. Today, we make a good income, and more than anything, I am satisfied that my children’s children will receive education, and have the same opportunity as everyone else in the country to succeed,” he says.
The project already seems successful, after just a little more than one year. While the people enjoy the public Tokha granted by His Majesty at the Lhakhang, His Majesty visits houses in the village, asking questions to the people about their lives, their hopes and difficulties.
The names and stories of the people are recorded with painstaking care on Polaroid photographs- one day, these pictures and stories will be brought out, and the difference between the stories now and then will illuminate the true success of this project.
The Khenadang Project is one of five such projects across the country aimed to bring people to settlements that are more fertile, and closer to road, electricity and water, education and health, and most importantly, an opportunity to elevate themselves and their children from poverty.
By Dipika Chhetri
The writer is a Media Officer in the Royal Office for Media and a former journalist.