Happy world?

20th August 1987. It was getting dark. I’d reached my university in Pittsburgh earlier that day. I fought to control my jetlag and hide my culture shock. I was tired and hungry.

So I made my way to a MacDonald’s and timidly requested for the set meal that offered a cheese burger, fries and coke. The lady taking my order tried to protest. But I respectfully insisted that that’s what I’d have…I was too nervous and shy to construct a full meal by ordering a la carte.

I understood what the fuss was about as soon as my food arrived. It came in a paper castle. And dinner included a toy. I’d ordered a Happy Meal!

31st January 2009. We’re at Paro Airport. I’m going to Thailand on a short holiday with my family. My children are excited. I’m excited too – it’s been almost two years since traveling out.

I can hear my daughter and her cousin plan their holiday. They are quite thorough. They’ve already decided what they will have for dinner tonight: Happy Meal! And they even know what toy they want – Kung Fu Panda.

Globalisation is real. The world is, as Friedman famously puts it, flat. Even for us, mountain folks. So, like Po, the bungling panda, we’d better learn to negotiate our new terrain – our happiness will depend on it.


Facebook Comments:


  1. I did not understand. … So?

  2. yours is an elite family in Bhutan, so it’s no surprise when your kids know what “happy meal” is and what toy they want.
    Think of many many other family who has never been to thimphu let alone know what McDonalds is.
    Anyways I didn’t get what you wanted to tell us. All I know is “Secret recipe for the soup: There is no secret”
    Enjoy your Holidays

  3. Your piece made me remember an incident I had when I first started out from Bhutan.

    It was some good years back when i first got the opportunity to travel and work in the Carribean. I had to break the news to my family. I called up my dad and told him that I was going to the “Carribean”. The rest of the conversation went like this…:

    I : ‘Dad, I got a chance to go and work in the Carribean. I will be flying out very soon.”

    My Dad:”Karey.. What?” Son, are you ok?
    (A sixth sense shouted; America, America. Say America, he will know it)
    I : No, dad, i am going to America to work.

    My dad: “ha ha ha..Aum whom? where is that?

    (My geography classes zoomed across my mind like a fast train.)
    I : It’s very far away dad.

    Dad: How far? Is it as far as Trashigang?

    I : No dad, it’s very very far. Way further than Trashigang. Further than…… (i lost words)

    My Dad : ‘wow, that’s really far.Is it anywhere near Jagar DDelhi?

    I : “no Dad, It’s …20 times further..than Delhi.

    My dad: Mmmmm… that must be really Far. My son, start early (He always wanted me to wake up with his rooster)and don’t be lazy to take a pack lunch. Stay put in the Bus and be polite to the driver.Be careful of the “jagas’. Always be respectful to your elders. Stay away from bad people.I will do some “rimdos” for you as well.

    I: Yes Dad, i will be careful.

    (I just bit my lips as hard as I could.. I realized I still haven’t learnt enough words to explain where I was headed for, and I was going on a journey.)

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