I am not sure if the book will come out in the same name going forward – but yes, it shall be a book about our community – our stories, issues and concerns – about Bhutan and the Bhutanese – about what we lost and what we gained as humans.
Think of birthdays – and the pomp and show; gifts and party; drinks and dances; the splendor – they all come to mind; naturally. Birthdays are celebrated across numerous cultures and countries. But as children growing up in a village; I and my four siblings never celebrated any birthdays. During those days, birthday celebration was not in fashion. Today, it has become a social norm – the first thing children want on parents’ calendar. Make sure that your kids’ birthdays are celebrated each year – for celebrating their birthdays is also celebrating them. It is a rare privilege to us parents and for the children. New birthday clothes, lots of gifting and people coming to the house always mean a lot of excitement and fun to them.
I have tried to keep birthdays simple for my children. In my household, a birthday anniversary – even for my kids – is only a household occasion – attended by a few family relatives. I tend to think that internalization of the significance and value of any birthday matter more than the flamboyance that often accompanies birthdays. I think that a birthday anniversary should be more meditative than celebrative. Birthdays should symbolize a growth in progression; an acceptance of responsibility and maturity.
Birthdays are more for kids than us adults. As we grow older as I am rapidly doing – the fascination that surrounds a birthday begins to gradually disappear. Birthdays aren’t as exciting; gifts aren’t attractive – unless someone can add years to our life. A new birthday each year steals the thrill and induces fear in peoples’ minds. Each new calendar brings a frightful reflection – the extent of green time left to enjoy and experience is slipping away. Yet, some of us adults still dare to celebrate birthdays and we may do so for a different reason and in a different style.
The rationalization is in making birthdays – a valuable social tool – to do something significant and positively meaningful while we can. We have torn piles of calendars and made many trips round the sun. If anything, speaking in the Bhutanese context; our lives have been very eventful and full of hard experiences – good and bad – some useful and some useless – some to be digested – some to be discarded. We have witnessed enough changes globally and in our own domestic context; historically as well as politically – experiences that the past five generations together had not known.
The ‘generation thing’ is structurally hierarchical. There is ‘my past generation’, ‘my generation’ and the ‘next generation’. Each generation owes the next, a moral responsibility. But the premise always remains the same. The values and experiences of the preceding generation are passed on to the next generation – the next generation picks and chooses from them and moves on – without needing to hit ground zero again. Each generation wants its following generation to do better – and they mostly have. Studies show that civilizations and cultures grow steady and last long if each younger generation chooses to construct their own lives without breaking away from the collective experiences of the past. The more civilized, developed countries have long kept this practice live by encouraging people to write books and biographies and archiving them for the benefit of the upcoming generation. These values and experiences offer some gainful insights in building community organizations in the future. Such a practice is noble as it strikes a harmony between continuity and change as much as it helps the next generation save a lot of time in civilization.
The realization is here – and I am setting up to do my part. This October 19th I finally decided to celebrate my birthday – my first in life – that too in my own selfish way. No party, no balloons and no birthday cakes. I remembered my parents, for without them my own birthday couldn’t be here. Then I hugged my family – I am glad that each year – I am here to kiss them. And then; I sat quietly and made a solemn commitment to spin my much coveted interest into a birthday resolution. It was a very clean birthday – no late night party – no food or alcohol wastage. My window to the world opened the first day I was born on this earth. My birth anniversary now opens my window as I see it. My birthday resolution goes like this – “I shall write and publish a book on ‘Politics of Gross National Happiness’ on or before October 19, 2015”. That is my mission statement and my objective; emphasis added.
I am not sure if the book will come out in the same name going forward – but yes, it shall be a book about our community – our stories, issues and concerns – about Bhutan and the Bhutanese – about what we lost and what we gained as humans. A birthday is a private affair for many but I tend to shred that practice and turn it into a community fare. When the fruit of my labor finally hits your book shelf; each of you should be able to see ‘a piece of yourself’ acting through the lines. As I write this, I am remembering the next generation and my own – in whose respect and honor – I humbly dedicate my next three birthday anniversaries.
I have posted my resolution on Face book – not necessarily to raise expectations – but to open up the agenda to you – the stakeholders. Your support and critique during the course of writing the book shall be dearly valued and appreciated.
After my birthday message has gone, several well wishers commented to wish me well. I accept the good wishes that you have sent, as your birthday gifts to me. Many people have offered to buy and read the book that I have not even written. I rest assured of your readership.
What was surprising – I was astonished to discover that there is a gossip going around in the community; that my book is already published and is out in the market. Some people have contacted me to inquire about it; others have called me to congratulate. The power of gossip is astonishingly efficient, especially in our community. Some people are experts at making a ‘remix’ of everything and distributing it with their own twist to it; others feed on it without checking facts. Well, this write up should end all such misconceptions and gossip trips. The fact is that the book shall be out only on or sometimes before October 19th, 2015. Those of you who actually know the truth – please feel it as your moral responsibility to send out the right message.
Leave that as it may, and let’s be back on birthday resolution. Ordinary individuals can do extraordinary things if they commit to do something higher – above and beyond themselves. There are over 70,000 Bhutanese people in the Diaspora. Each day, week or month – there are hundreds of birthdays – some are celebrated – some are not. Even if a few people – in one of these birthdays make a social pledge like I have – it could spark as many minds to make similar commitments each day; as there are number of individuals celebrating birthdays. If resolved and acted upon, that should be enough to set the stage for dynamism – a momentum for change which may produce significant results – significantly bigger than what many organized bodies may accomplish. No membership, no rules, no manifesto, no structure, no committees, no fundraisers etc – just ordinary individuals committing to do something – and producing extraordinary results. If I decide to do one thing, it means something – if five of us decide to do something – it means more. But if ten of us, fifty, hundred or a thousand of us decide to make a simple but a constructive birthday resolution – the impact could be incredible. Mind you – a commitment to buy a house, a business, a car or even to obtain a degree or to get tied up in a nuptial loop – will not do. Your resolution should have a utilitarian purpose – a social purpose – and no commercial intent. Mr. Jogen Gazmere has committed to produce a film of his own by 2014. I am sure his debut show will unravel Mr. Gazmere’s brilliance of artistry and originality – while attempting to release and heal some of the social apprehensions that dwell in our community. Thanks for setting – what I would call a responsible birthday cub (RBC) – and I assure you – that I am already in.
Those of you, who are eager to join this auspicious club – Welcome! On your march; get, set and go.
November 3, 2012.
The Author is a long time writer and often writes articles for news columns. He has written over 40 articles so far – published in the mainstream media in Nepal and through BNS. He is one of the Contributing Editors of Bhutan News Service and currently lives in Charlottesville, VA with his family. He can be reached at [email protected]