What a success mean to us


Resettled Bhutanese, as a community is doing well, there are many success stories among us and BNS is keen to publish them. When we think intelligently, what should count as a success story? Beating the race for life from among 250 million competitors before birth is a huge achievement. And yet, we never seem to count our worth on that. Success in the traditional sense is how far you are in comparison to your reference. What is that reference for us? In this piece, I will try to ask that very same question in a slightly nonlinear fashion. I will jump here and there but bear with me!

We live in a culture where getting the third position among three is apparently an achievement. There are no dumb people anymore; they are just slow learners. People around you will never say your child is fat and you should stop giving him everything he wants to eat. Your child can be about as sharp as a sack of wet mice, but teachers will still tell he is doing fantastically well for someone whose parents do not speak English as the first language.

 I am going to be a parent, and it frightens me how can I be true to my kids? Should I celebrate the all mediocre bits of success or motivate them for more significant achievements? When I finished my school with first class grades in my class my father would look at my progress report and say he would want me to have better percentages next time. I never felt my dad was not recognizing my achievements. I always understood my dad was proud from deep inside, but he wanted me not to stop and keep working hard. Even today my dad is apparently not pleased with what I have achieved and thinks that I have a long way to go. The same approach will most certainly make me a bad, egoistic parent in today’s context. Should I be that parent who posts FB status with a photo and a text “the proudest parents of –My future kid’s name here–” for my kid graduating from a nursery school?

We are a community in transition What should indeed be rewarded and what should not, is a question relevant and applied to us as a community. Every small success story may sound like an achievement today, but we should also make sure we want to improve continuously as a community. And that probably merit a pride for all.  We eventually should stop using the trump card of “a former refugee” and measure us as an average American, European or Australian. A Facebook publicity of small achievements, especially those of kids and young people may not be an excellent thing. Digital footprints tend to remain forever. If every statement I made about myself during my young age were publicly available today, I wouldn’t be comfortable, let alone proud, to hear it again. Bearing a label of the smart guy can be a burden on its own. I know many who were known to be smartest among peers in younger age, nowhere to be seen later.

A community needs role models to be proud of — even a country does. The fight for “Buddha’s birthplace” proves my point. Not undervaluing the achievements of the current generation, I look forward to a resettled Bhutanese winning something prestigious comparable to a Nobel, an Olympic medal, an Oscar or a Grammy during my lifetime.  That may be an overly ambitious reference, but I know of a great Nepali poet who said, “Fly out to reach the moon”. I have been believing in this maxim since the fourth grade, when I first read that.

Shouldn’t we bother to be proud of achieving anything less? No.  I think we should look behind and see our progress now and then, but we should also prepare to move forward. As I said earlier, we should not always be a former refugee, but a citizen of the adopted countries – a new American or an English, a Dutch or a Norwegian.  Ironically, I am still a refugee!

Khem Raj Gautam was born in Lamidara, Tsirang Bhuatan, now living in  Randers, Denmark. He is the Ph.D fellow at Aarhus University. He can be reached at

k[email protected]

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