for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Bhutanese (social) Intricacy

I am at Gelephu, a smaller border town. We came here to attend a workshop. My wife called her friend to host us for 4 days and he agreed like every Bhutanese.  I felt a bit awkward as my two kids, my wife made my group four in number. To live, eat, sleep at someone’s place was always a challenge for me but all awkwardness of mine was swept away by their hospitality. 
We were received warmly. Sonam, my wife’s friend, was happy to have us and he did not mind my son’s loud squeaks.  And Jigme, his wife, was all over my talkative daughter. Finally, Lekden, their son, was so excited to have guests at his place. Moreover, my kids were his new found friends.
I am meeting this family for the first time but we are talking like long lost friends, trying to catch on our bygone days. These conversations, as I observed closely, showed the social intricacy that we share. From the sharing of history, I found out that we knew each other, at least from some point of view. Jigme and my wife studied in the same primary and secondary schools.  Also, Jigme’s brother was my brother in-law’s friend. I also found out that Jigme is a sister of my Psychology lecturer.  Jigme and we became more closer though I could see that she was of a shy type.  Lekden and my daughter were of the same age and they became quick friends.
This is one from many incidents which portray the intricacy that we live as a Bhutanese.  One interesting example rules when we talk of this theme. I had a friend during my high school days and my relationship with him is genuinely intricate. From our friendliness, I figured out this- He (my friend) was my cousin. He is the brother of my brother in-law’s cousin brother’s  wife.  Are we cousins, actually? Bhutanese live an extended social family. Everyone is a cousin or a friend of someone. No one is alone. In some way, we know each other.  A man from western Bhutan while on a venture to  the extreme east will always find someone whom he calls a friend’s friend or a cousin’s cousin. I love this closely-knit society.
Coming back to Gelephu, today is my third day at Sonam’s place and we are happy and living a great time. My daughter has become even more talkative and Jigme is preparing tea for us, as always. Outside, the sun is great and I feel as if I am living a summer in the winter, the climate is very different. The doma (Betel nut) trees look tall and alien.  I know the town more and things are cheaper here, even meat (I have to live here if I wish to eat meat like I do). The road is also different and I take its advantage by driving at the 80 km band, making optimum use of my apex gear. I am not missing home due to their homely treatment and I wish to stay more but…

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