Message on Happiness Day

Today is a big day for Bhutan … and the world.

Today, people all over the world will come together to observe the first International Day of Happiness. My family and I join the people of Bhutan in celebrating the first ever global happiness day.

I thank the prime minister and the government for their hard work and perseverance in advocating Gross National Happiness at home and abroad. I congratulate them for for successfully promoting happiness in the international agenda, and for pushing the United Nations to adopt the resolution on happiness. Their efforts have led to the adoption of the International Day of Happiness.

Today is a good time to think about our priorities – to ask ourselves what is important and what we aspire to do with our lives. It is also a good time to take a deliberate break from regular work; to spend time with family, friends and loved ones; to be true to oneself, free of material ambitions and insatiable desires.

Today is also a good time to reflect on Gross National Happiness and how it was born. It is a time, a proud time for all Bhutanese, to remember that His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, gave the world a new idea, a new calling. So today is a time to offer thanks to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for gifting GNH to Bhutan and to the whole world. On this happy day, I urge all Bhutanese to offer prayers for our beloved Kings.

Tashi delek!

 

Walk the talk!

Careful

South Korea is home to 50 million people. They have the 13th largest economy in the world and are a member of the G-20. They are the world’s leading exporter of some of the best electronics (think of Samsung), home appliances (LG), cars (Hyundai Kia) and ships (Hyundai). They have hosted the Olympics, the World Cup and the Asian Games. They have the world’s best education system, enjoy one of the highest internet penetration rates, and boast a popular culture that has taken much of Asia by storm.

But in spite of all their successes, South Koreans are still grappling to identify themselves. And try as they might, they have not yet been able to brand their country successfully.

On the other hand, Bhutan, a small country tucked away in the Himalayas with barely 600,000 people and with one of the smallest economies in the world, possesses a powerful brand. Not may people know about Bhutan, but those who do know – almost every one of them – associate our country with GNH and happiness. GNH is a powerful brand, one that is the envy of some of the richest and most powerful nations.

The GNH brand was not created overnight. Instead it developed gradually – naturally and effortlessly – over several decades, during the period that our beloved monarchs worked tirelessly to improve the social and economic conditions of our people in an equitable, just and sustainable manner.

Today, however, that brand, GNH, is being undermined on two fronts. When we talk, we overuse GNH, and by overdoing it, we risk demeaning GNH to a hollow slogan, a trite cliché. But when we work, we ignore GNH, and by not practicing what we preach, we risk making our own people skeptical and cynical of GNH and its promises.

The GNH brand is a national asset. We must treasure it. We must nurture it. And we must celebrate it. But we must also remain faithful to it. For that, we, ourselves, must first understand what it really means, and then we, collectively, must work hard at putting it into effect.

Otherwise, we will diminish our brand image. And, as a small country, with barely 600,000 people and with one of the smallest economies in the world, we will find it exceedingly difficult to rebrand ourselves. And we will find it impossible to revive the GNH brand.

Everlasting smile

Mark that smile

Mark that smile

Yesterday, at the Clock Tower Square, HRH Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck launched Grand Mutual Smiles, a project to exchange smiles – digitally, using smile detection cameras, computers and cyberspace – between the peoples of Thimphu and Linz, Austria.

Thimphu’s Smiles project will be on for a week. And it was selected to introduce what’s being called “80+1: A Journey around the World”, an eighty day event featuring projects in at least 20 locations around the world. The projects showcase themes that are critically important for the future ranging from food and markets to exploration to co-existence. Thimphu’s theme is “celebrating happiness”. Hence the smiles.

So if you come across Pierre Proske, the project coordinator and a group of VAST volunteers, offer them, and the world, your best smile.

A footnote: My wife learnt a song when she was in preprimary in Motithang School. And when anyone in our family sulks – and I’m normally the perpetrator – the other members get together and sing it. It’s sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne and goes like this:

A smile is quite a funny thing,
It wrinkles up your face,
And when it’s gone you never find
Its secret hiding place.

Note to our teachers: the full song is available here.