Dayahaang, Ugyen Chhoden and a Desi

Buddha M Dhakal

Last month I watched a YouTube video featuring an interview with Bhutanese actress and filmmaker Ugyen Chhoden. Another one was a conversation with Dayahaang Rai and Ugyen.

Ugyen Chhoden seems pretty interested in Nepali film industry. And, Dayahaang, the young theater-spirited film maker of Nepal, has been quick enough to add an ingredient of diversity into his crew. Ugyen did fit well.

For many centuries, Nepal and Bhutan, as isolated Himalayan Kingdoms, had engaged in casual and civic interactions. Often known, the Bhutanese royal family members visited Nepal on pilgrimage to Lumbini, Boudha and Swoyambhunath. Nepal is the land of Buddha, the “Sangay” for Bhutanese. The present King of Bhutan is known to be born in Nepal.

Dayahaang expresses with outpouring optimism that he would like to visit Bhutan and take the opportunity to learn about Bhutanese film industry. He is interested to bring other Bhutanese artists to Nepali film, if they agree to sign a contract. Ugyen is motivated to be back when time permits.

Historically, a Deb Raja (also Druk Desi) Deb Jeedhur, had established a strong connection with the King of Nepal for help when he was candidly ousted from office of Druk Desi. J C White mentions another Desi having good relation with King Ram Shah of Nepal; eighteen monasteries granted to Bhutan. Why a feudal chief of Bhutan sought help from Nepal is unclear just from the account, but proves that Nepal-Bhutan interactions have taken place for a long time, mostly in the form of pilgrimage.

I can presume Dayahaang or Ugyen has not dug up the historical exchange of relations between the two Himalayan countries. They won’t probably bother to take the challenge, since it involves extensive research both in Nepal and Bhutan.

Some facts, mostly found in Nepal and rarely in Bhutan, give us the clue that friendliness existed so long, but had gradually tormented due to unfortunate events which unfolded in Bhutan in the 1960s.

Some historians have written that Shabdrung, the founder of the dual system of Bhutan, had been to Nepal occasionally. He was also awarded some enclaves in Nepal dedicated to maintaining Buddhist monasteries.

So, if he was interested in exchanging cooperation with Nepal, Dayahaang and Ugyen could easily emulate it. If that distressed Desi found hope in Nepal’s brave Gurkha soldiers, any Bhutanese dissident can seek shelter in Nepal. And so did respected Nado Rinchhen and others, who fled to Nepal in the tumult ensued after assassination of ‘prime minister’ Jigmie Palden Dorji in 1964.

Lhendup Dorji, the younger brother of Jigmie Palden, later took shelter in Nepal after being removed from the office offered to him in lieu of his slain brother.

Whatsoever, the diplomatic relations between Nepal and Bhutan should never be the basis of torturing citizens- like they did in 1988 when dissident leader Tek Nath Rizal along with two others were extradited to Bhutan.

In 2018, I met a group of Bhutanese (non-Nepali speaking) in the Indo-Nepal border check post in Panitanki, heading to Lumbini. Such road travel by non-lhotshampa Bhutanese citizens via Kakarvitta was stalled for a long time.