Something Special about Bhutan

 
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Bhutan, to me, is like a “start-up country” - it’s a place where everything is so raw, where development is just starting, and where changes feels possible due to the scale of society and the openness of the people.

In my two plus years of working here with the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, I have truly been blessed with opportunities to work with some of these change makers, both young and old. These are individuals who are playful, who are prepared to do anything to make Bhutan a good society; one that respects the integrity of tradition while innovating where people can benefit from it.

I have been able to travel to 12 of the 20 Dzongkhags, where I’ve witnessed the tremendous diversity in worlds that people occupy in this country. There is no ‘real Bhutan’, as some people will tell you, nor is there some idyllic space where everything is perfect, where people are a picture of unflappable, ‘Shangri-La’ contentment that you see in postcards. Everywhere, there are struggles; struggles of poverty, struggles that come from transitioning from a closed and hierarchical society, and struggle that you will see in any small, developing nation.

And yet there is something special about this place, about these people, about their sincerity and collectiveness, and the general aesthetics of the spaces here. I’m not quite sure how to label it; maybe it’s the spiritual heritage that suffuses every room, maybe it’s the benevolent monarchs or the conversations about ‘well-being and happiness’ that always happen. Whatever it is, it’s why I’m still here.

STORY BY MANNY FASSIHI

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MANNY FASSIHI