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.