Bhutan, Asia’s happiest country, has a lot of stories to tell. And we mean that literally
Words AURELIA FERNANDES Photographs KRISHNA PRABAKAR T
“Is Bhutan really a happy country?” Krishna asked, breaking the brief moment of silence in the car as we drove from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. “Are people really happy, or is that just something everyone says?” he pressed on, looking expectantly at Bheem, our driver and guide of sorts, who kept his eyes glued to the road, but had a wide grin on his face.
A mere spectator to their budding friendship,I continued to stare out of the window while eavesdropping. “Sir, it’s simple,” Bheem said.“What are the main things people worry about in life? Jobs, education, health – things that cost money. The government here helps you with everything. Medical bills are taken care of, education is also free. If you want to study further or go abroad for further education, it helps you with that too. I don’t know about happiness and all, but there is definitely less reason to worry.” Krishna seemed content with this answer (for then) and, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense.
“Sir, tension lene ka nahi, dene ka!” Bheem quipped out of nowhere, cackling at his own joke and what proved to be his go-to catch phrase throughout the trip. Although we couldn’t guarantee the happiness quotient, we soon learned that the Bhutanese were definitely a lively and chatty lot. From orchard owners who urged us to take apples, provided we scaled a high fence, to locals leading us down a straight path that Krishna managed to get lost on, and store owners who trusted us to babysit during rush-hour (my official introduction to Baby shark...doo doo doo), our 10-day trip was a rather eventful one, and I’d like to think a lot of the credit goes to Bhutan’s shiny, happy people.