Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Geography of Bliss

Picture Courtesy: Google

I have just started reading a book by Eric Weiner, Its called "The Geography of Bliss". The title of the book says that its 'One Grump's search for happiest place in the world'. But after having read few pages form the book, I saw humorous and hilarious Eric than the one described by himself on the cover of the book. Journalist by profession, Eric has displayed his unrivaled flair for writing. His writing is anything, but simple and humble that is temple of god. Through witty and often dark humors, (that appears in bits and pieces everywhere in the book) Eric not only entertains readers, but he also educates the reader about the profound aspects of a thing called "happiness and Happiest place".  Someone rightly said that "happiness is reading a book as entertaining as this" 

Happiness, as we know is a very subjective concept. The concept of Happiness differs from one being to the other. Mostly, its often referred to as the state of mind which cannot be quantified in ordinary terms. Its like an illusion! -Empty and always evasive!  As associated by many Buddhist masters, happiness is transitory like a multi-hued rainbow, which appears and disappears in a wink.  Yet, the ultimate aim of every living being is to find it and experience it once.

In "The Geography of Bliss", Eric attempts to bring forth what happiness means to different people in different countries. In other words "The Geography of Bliss" is a culmination of Eric's quest in finding the  happiest place in the world. This quest took him around the world and to the places which even his journalistic brain knows not much about. Finally, he puts forward as to what happiness is in ten different countries as follows:
  1. In the Nederlands, Happiness is a number
  2. In Switzerland, Happiness is a boredom
  3. In Bhutan, Happiness is a Policy
  4. In Qatar, Happiness is winning a lottery ticket
  5. In Iceland, Happiness is Failure
  6. In Moldova, Happiness is somewhere else
  7. In Thailand, Happiness is not thinking
  8. In Great Britain, Happiness is a work in progress
  9. In India, Happiness is a contradiction
  10. In USA, Happiness is Home.
Of the ten chapters, I have just finished reading about what happiness means in Bhutan. As always, I went blank while I was reading about happiness being a policy in Bhutan. Here the happiness policy has a reference to Bhutan's development paradigm called Gross National Happiness (GNH). From my personal understanding, policies never bring happiness to all sections of society in equal terms. For that matter, tobacco control act and the most infamous pedestrian day in Bhutan, I think are the living example of happiness policy that failed.  

In Bhutan, as I said earlier, happiness has a different meaning to different people. And therefore there are many people who do not buy the happiness definition given by our senior bureaucrats including some of the Minsters and the 'Think Tanks' alike. Their definition of happiness is quite different from the happiness that most Bhutanese envisages. It may not be documented anywhere but for them Happiness means travelling around the globe selling happiness. For them Happiness also means more land, more money, more power, and silencing the critiques. At the end of the day, Happiness for them is all about settling for a fat TA and DA from the public exchequer and still telling to the world that money and materialism are things that GNH do not advocate. We do not  know how far the news is true, but today, there are already a lot of rumors about how some section of Bhutanese society  are unduly profiting more from the happiness policy then the rest!

I agree with Eric with all my heart and soul on the count that Bhutan is not Shangri-La in any sense. People  definitely do not live 250 years! Rather we have many people living miserably below poverty line. There are people who toil day and night but ultimately settle for hand to mouth in the end. Crime rate is alarming. More  than ever, the level of corruption has reached a threatening level. We have a crises in the interpretation of laws and unilateral decisions have been made banning even our culture and traditions. People are getting kidnapped and paying ransom to those identified gun men and god knows what our security people are up to. We have our ambitious youths who wanted to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects and bureaucrats but are naively told to go and join farming sector. They are frustrated and crazily angry with the happiness policy? 

Coming back to the book, I liked the way Eric went wordless when Linda Leaming, asked him about how happy he was rather than how busy he was looking for it. I thoroughly enjoyed Eric's trip to Bhutan with a guide who , I think requires a lot of orientation himself. I think Tashi has truly depicted how 80% of Bhutanese people are to Eric. Bhutanese people indeed consider white languors as good omen and brown monkeys, the otherwise. Based on the reason he gave, I think Tashi was not wrong either when he said that the rivers and lakes are different. It is also true that we have lamas who can heal cancers, but I would not recommend all the American cancer patients to come to Bhutan, because already our GNH lamas getting polluted by dollar power.

I also liked a part when Eric asked Bhutanese home Minister about the relationship between the Happiness and Nagasaki. The answer from our minister was equally hilarious one too, but sadly I forgot it. I also liked the way Dahso Karma  Ura responded to Eric's question about GNH. "Lowering the expectations" was Dasho's response. I presume Dasho was right in his count.

By the way I still do not know whether this thing called GNH is either philosophy or an ideology. But certainly, I know that there are many Bhutanese who are highly ambitious, who love Money and who fear death just like any other beings. 


  1. So u got a copy! Enjoy reading. It's worth ur time :)

  2. jean paul jasperse12/10/2012 1:17 PM

    Peldhen, i enjoyed your writting,well worth your effort,HAPPYNESS is fleeting yes,awork in progress like our lives,like a cut diamond,we all see/seek it differantly,maybe it isto be content knowing you are doing the best youknow how each day,random acts of kindness,the list is long...but you are the generator of Happyness,it is within you to share and cultivate with's not selfishness:)

  3. Nice Post as always PSN sir!
    I think GNH in Bhutan is everything- Pride,blessing,curse, fake and the worst one an easy EXCUSE!.I really doubt if GNH as a policy will ever bring real happiness.


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