Whether it is the fourth Thursday of November in USA or the second Monday of October in Canada, people in these countries have a reason to celebrate. History has enough evidence to reveal that commemorations have more or less remained the same, be it with respect to their significance or the purpose with which they originated; but festivals have slightly changed their dynamics, their root of significance and their purpose over the time. Who among those pilgrims, would have thought that the little feast they enjoyed to thank god for their harvest, in the Plymouth Plantation (now in the state of Massachusetts) would eventually become a Thanks Giving day for all and declared a national holiday. Clearly, this is evidence that any good thing done for a common cause is written down in history. However, the meaning and purpose with which Thanks Giving originated have slightly changed with the passage of time. But this has happened to so many other festivals celebrated in the other parts of the world, and I believe it is the demand of time.
Whether to accept and adopt the western culture or to take the best things out of it to fit ours is a choice of ours that need to be made wisely. To make this decision, one needs to understand the etymology of “culture”. Culture is different from customs or traditions. In reality, cultures are created by those who live in them as we interact and then talk about what we do and how we do it. We formulate a set of shared values, habits, models and conditions or norms that work in a society whether we mean it or not. Sometimes we do this in an intentional and productive way and at other times we get hiccoughs – meaning setbacks. Appreciative inquiries and insightful analysis done by focusing on the strengths and capabilities of our people and organizations, and then on what might be even better, should be taken into consideration while making these choices. If I were to make a choice, I would choose to extract the best values out of a culture, be it western or eastern, and mix it with ours to make it richer. Let the readers not misunderstand me. I am in no way trying to say that we should “adopt” western culture and set aside ours. If the message be understood that way, I shall be guilty of spreading wrong information and you of selective listening. What I mean here is that there is a lot to learn from the meaning with which Thanks Giving is celebrated here.
Having talked about the culture of appreciation in my previous article, it is my quest to recognize and reward excellence; be it just in the form of a “Thank You” or any other gesture, for those people whose contribution(s) in various phases of our exiled life have been so worthy that we feel proud of whom we are. There cannot be a better occasion to thank them than this particular day. Not that they gave us as big a thing as an identity, but they made sure that we did not lose it. It will be a great injustice on my part not to thank the Government of Nepal who gave us the asylum, to begin with, and the final share, of course, should go to the resettling agencies, their governments and their volunteers. But more importantly, there are hundreds of other individuals, dozens of agencies and scores of other groups, who bravely stood up for us and made our life easier than it would have been otherwise. The list is non-exhaustive and at this time my intension is neither to embarrass anybody by listing nor to do an injustice by not listing. Be it of the size of a grain of rice or the size of an elephant, a positive contribution to the society deserves equal round of applauses, full of appreciation and gratitude. Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of all the Bhutanese community, to thank all those positive contributors of our society, for their effortless stunt and selfless dedication.
Even having said so, my will to recognize the contributions of one particular group of people, whose repercussions are now reflected in the society, still puts them on the top of the list. Not that I want to overlook others, but to me, they stand out in the crowd. Even before the existence of any agencies, and while their counterparts were busy looking for a better opportunity to shape their lives, this group of noble people sat down in a corner of a small hut in Maidhar and started writing their mission. They knew nothing favored them, but they fought hard. Their dedication and unity paid them off. They accomplished their mission. I am talking about none other than the small group of people who started the education system in the refugee camp. It was long after the institution was set up that they were assured of some help by any agency. One can logically argue that education would have started anyway, and I agree, but would not have been possible until two years time from then. It is also not difficult to research and see how many refugee camps in the world have education facility. I do not know whether this event will be written down in History and the heroes be remembered, but certainly, them and their noble contribution will remain in My History forever.
“Whichever part of the world you live right now, I want you to accept my sincere salute and hopefully from those people who take my side. It is your teaching, your encouragement, your enduring lessons on unity, your positive attitude and your selfless act of will that is reflected in our society through the younger generation”.
Let’s all take a few private moments on this day of Thanks Giving to reflect upon those and make it a point to let them know that we are thankful for what they did to us. Let us not be like the hog that sits under a tree eating acorns but never bothers where the acorns came from. Our society, which was long been infected by skepticism, misunderstandings and ego problems is now looking more unified which is very encouraging. But we still need to forget the differences, as some of it can still be felt, and minimize the generation gap. Eventually, a time has to come when the older generation has to coordinate shoulder to shoulder with the younger generations to accomplish our long mission of struggle. It is not wise to wait for this time too long. We know we faced troubles in the past, but why not count the blessings rather than the troubles, and yet not become complacent. The past days are gone and gone forever. We also know that when problems seem insurmountable, quitting seems to be the only way out. But winners only get struck by the defeat, they don’t get destroyed. It is very important to remain persistent in our mission and not allow obstinacy to follow us. We have a long way to go and our experiences evidently speak that breaking of such a chain of unity is not uncommon within us. Yet again, let’s smell the roses. We will be disappointed because we know we will fail many times, but we will be doomed if we don’t try. We have sown the seed and the tree is going to grow. Let’s all make it so big that one day down the line, we all can sit under it and enjoy the shade in the scorching sun. Last but not the least I would like to quote what Robert Frost said in one of his famous poems, while riding on his horse in a deep forest, so much fascinated by the beauty of the forest, he never wished to come back. Yet he stopped in the middle and said:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep
(A Mathematician by profession, Mishra currently works as marketing manager in a Virginia-based IT company. He can be reached at: email@example.com)