Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness"


A journey isn't just about the places, but about each one you come across - a journey is about all those lives that touches yours.

To all those whom I'll never meet again.

Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 1/7 by Riyanka Roy
As I pointed my lens towards him, he folded his hands.
Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 2/7 by Riyanka Roy
She's 4-year-old, and she knows she's pretty. She refused to be clicked.

We've always learnt about the concept of 'Gross Domestic Happiness' that Bhutan believes in, but it's actually difficult to understand until and unless you visit their land. Tucked in the Himalayas, this little nation is beyond beautiful - and so are the people!

Each day, I came across hundreds of faces, that had a curve - call it a 'smile' - a curve that can soothe your senses, a curve that appears naturally to them. I tried to understand how it can be possible, and then I realized that it's actually their way of life, their faiths and beliefs, their inner calmness and outer peace that makes them happy.

Can you believe it - Bhutan has no traffic signals! A country where they never felt the need to put up a traffic signal, instead they have only one traffic warden who stands at a crossing in Thimpu. People would just put a brake and let you cross the road, and they are never in a hurry, unlike everyone in India!

No policy is enacted in the Royal Nation, unless it passes the happiness filter - cigarettes are banned since they lead to unhappiness, and so are plastic bags. Everyone owns land and if one somehow ends up without any, the government gives him five acres and money to build a house.

Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 3/7 by Riyanka Roy
The eldest family member, came to reserve seats for the rest, at Tsechu.

Being a budget traveler, I was mostly hitchhiking, and there wasn't a single time when I was refused a ride. Even if someone was going to a different direction, they would care enough to drop me where I wanted to go.

Each time I went out to eat, people would come and greet me with warmth, as if I'm their relative or friend.

I had my best times with the kids - they are carefree and full of life. They would just flock around me whenever they saw me with my camera. There was a communication barrier - they barely understood English, and I was clueless about Dzongkha - but we bonded over actions and emotions.

Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 4/7 by Riyanka Roy
They flocked around me, as if I'm Santa Claus.
Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 5/7 by Riyanka Roy
When I wanted to show how beautiful she looked, she covered herself with her jacket - shyness!
Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 6/7 by Riyanka Roy
"Oh, you are from India. India is a big country", he said.
Photo of Bhutan ~ Where People Define "Happiness" 7/7 by Riyanka Roy
The monk who resembled Chengiz Khan!

Maybe the source of true happiness lies in the celebration of life. Maybe we should all have a simpler way of life and like Bhutan, find happiness in the natural things - streams, mountains, clouds, silence, smiling at strangers, and chanting to Buddha. Maybe nothing is more important for us than being happy from within.

To quote Jamie Zeppa - I love how the landscape gives the impression of vast space and intimacy at the same time: the thin brown line of a path wandering up an immense green mountainside, a plush hanging valley tucked between two steep hillsides, a village of three houses surrounded by dark forest, paddy fields flowing around an outcrop of rock, a white temple gleaming on a shadowy ridge. The human habitations nestle into the landscape; nothing is cut or cleared beyond what is requires. Nothing is bigger than necessary. Every sign of human settlement repeat the mantra of contentment: “This is just enough.” (Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan)