Happiness is not just a personal state of mind in Bhutan; but it is more a measurement by which the King decides his people’s well being. Originally, it was introduced by the fourth King – Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972. Gross National Happiness represents the commitment of the king to his people to build an economy that would be based on the spiritual values of Buddhism instead of the materialistic rat race that the westerners seemed to be hip deep in.
The locals are quite proud of their King’s outlook towards ruling the country and the loyalty is visible in every gesture. The strong belief that the key to their happiness is their culture and tradition has kept the core of their country intact and has also fascinated foreign diplomats and leaders.
In fact, GNH is not just about the people but also about our habitat. Conservation of natural environment is in fact taken quite seriously. For example, fishing is banned and in rare cases one might be allowed to ‘catch and release’. Though many studies and intellectuals criticize the idea of GNP, the country seems to be flourishing.
As a traveller, I was surprised by the percentage of green cover in the country, which today stands at 70 per cent. I was also surprised by the honesty, simplicity and humility of the locals. They were not wary of bargaining and in fact, in some cases quite enjoyed it. The hodgepodge of their culture, their upbringing and the sincerity to keep their tradition alive has made people here content. There are still youngsters who want to see the world, who want to go to the west, study, work and experience a lot more than what their country offers, however, they call it curiosity. In the end, somehow many of them come seeking happiness and peace in their country.