Bhutanese across the globe and youth in Bhutan take it to heart and pledge to play their part in the project
Bhutanese from all walks of life, within and outside the country had heard that the 116th National Day celebrations would see His Majesty make a very important and historic announcement. When the clock finally ticked and the moment arrived, His Majesty raised the curtains of the megacity, to thousands of people inside the hallowed stands of the historic Changlimithang stadium. People who had thronged the historic stadium and those watching the Royal address live on television and social media were not only emotionally moved. Their sentiments were also awakened and emboldened.
Expressing their gratitude to His Majesty the King for conceptualizing and gifting the Royal vision of a megacity in Gelephu, Sonam Dhendup, who is pursuing a Master’s in Information Technology in Perth, Australia, said that His Majesty’s speech was a life-changing one for him and his friends. “I will complete my course in the summer of 2024 and will immediately leave for Bhutan to serve the country,” he wrote to Business Bhutan. “I will also do everything possible to urge other Bhutanese citizens in Perth to move back to their homeland once they complete their program.”
Talking to Business Bhutan over the phone from Tokyo in Japan, Karma Choden said that the Mindfulness City was the greatest gift she and the country could ever receive from His Majesty the King during this lifetime. Hailing from Dhur in Gelephu, she said that the National Day this year was a very special one for her. According to Choden, her spirit and sense of responsibility have been lifted to a height never seen before. She is now ready to return to Bhutan soon and work towards lending a helping hand in the megacity project.
Kinley Wangmo from Melbourne, Australia said she was just speechles when His Majesty said the Gelephu project is partly for those in Australia. “I can never forget the words: ‘To our fellow Bhutanese living abroad, know that you are always in my thoughts. You are part of the reason why we conceived this Gelephu project. Even though you are away from home, I know your hearts are with us in Bhutan. You yearn to be home with your family and friends. If you could choose, you would be here. The Gelephu project is to enable you to return. In the meantime, please work hard and gain knowledge and skills. Your experience and exposure overseas will be invaluable for Bhutan as we build our future together.’” Though Wangmo would be returning after a year, she said that a question has pierced the hearts of many Bhutanese living abroad. “If our King can do so much for us, what can and what should we do in return?”
For those like Tashi Tshering in Canberra, Australia, his dream is to return and make investments into the Mindfulness City project. “It is a collective dream where we should work collectively and reap the benefits collectively too,” he said.
Dema from Paro in Maldives has cried and missed home more. She said that His Majesty’s vision of the Gelephu Mindfulness City has given her a definite future path and that she would return to Bhutan. “I realized that our King is working so hard for our people and all the people should support His Majesty.”
Working in the USA, Pema Gaki Tshomo, said that His Majesty’s address has touched her heart. “East or west, home is the best and I will definitely come back to Bhutan,” she said.
Migma Lham, who is at New Zealand with her husband said that the couple has given a lot of thought and has decided to return. She said that she understood His Majesty’s address and that the Royal vision is for his people. “Our selfless noble leader has assured a very good future for us. And I have realized that home is the best.” Like His Majesty said, she said that though they live in a developed country, they miss home and that their minds are always with their parents and children. Migma Lham said that she has explored and found out that many foreigners want to invest in Bhutan. She also wants to come back and start business at Gelephu International Airport.
Purna Gurung and Kamana Guring who are at Brisbane, Australia, said that Bhutanese people in Australia cried after watching His Majesty’s address. We were missing home and “His Majesty’s address has made us miss home gravely.”
Purna Gurung said, “I feel proud to be a Bhutanese. I will come back and support my King and country in all ways possible. Kamana Gurung said she would upgrade her qualifications and earn money to invest at home. “The path of my future is paved. I will come to my country.”
In Canada, a group of Bhutanese were glued to their television set, listening patiently to His Majesty’s address. As His Majesty touched upon the topic of Bhutanese living abroad, it was a time for self-reflection.
“Emotions caught the better of us that moment,” said one of them. “We were lost in that moment actually and His Majesty’s words were a grim reminder about why we are known as Bhutanese and why we should return to Bhutan after the completion of our studies,” she added.
Meanwhile, Tashi, a graduate who has been contemplating moving to Australia, the National Day address changed everything. “I was told by my mentor to wait until the December 17th announcements. He was right. I will now hone my skills by doing whatever possible to prepare myself to be part of the team for the Gelephu project,” she said.
Dechen Choden, another graduate had the same to say. “I did not want to leave Bhutan. But there is severe peer and family pressure as our parents find no opportunities for us here. The Gelephu city announcement and His Majesty’s special attention to us have removed all these pressures. I will now devote towards working in the country, whether at Gelephu or in other places,” Choden said.
Amidst the crowd in Changlimithang on that day was 73 year-old Susmita Bhujel, who came from Gelephu just to hear about the Mindfulness City from His Majesty the King. “I got inside the stadium at 2 AM and despite the chill, I am fully satisfied and returning home a happy woman after hearing the golden words from His Majesty himself. Now I must go back home, spread the news and encourage other people to unite and work collectively towards the realization of the megacity project,” she said, adding that His Majesty has reassured the youth about Bhutan’s potentials and their role.
Meanwhile, the National Day address saw His Majesty spell out how South Asia is experiencing an unprecedented economic transformation and Bhutan’s opportunity. “The land connection from Gelephu or Samdrup Jongkhar through Assam and Northeast Indian states, to Myanmar, Thailand, to Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, is a vibrant economic corridor linking South Asia to Southeast Asia,” His Majesty explained.
“We are in a unique position to reap great benefits if we seize the opportunity, make good plans, and work together diligently. Some have suggested that we export high value Bhutanese products, like Bumthang honey, organic fruits and mushrooms to niche markets in the Middle East, Singapore or Japan. Such efforts may help but they won’t bring us sustained prosperity,” His Majesty said.
About the youth, His Majesty said. “I empathize with our youth who are at a crossroads. Given limited opportunities at home, they are faced with the challenging decision to move abroad for better incomes. Even our professionals – doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, lawyers, and architects are in a similar position. Separated from their families and friends, they make sacrifices to venture abroad for the sake of their children’s future.”
His Majesty reiterated, “Our challenge is that we have barely 700,000 people in our country. Unless we find the right solution, our population may dwindle to the point when we have more shops than customers, more restaurants than diners, and more houses than tenants. Guided by our collective aspirations and concerns, a clear path unfolds before us. Our immediate goal is for Bhutan to become a developed country.”
Towards the closing stages of the Royal address, His Majesty exclaimed that though the project is an ambitious one, it is in our hands to determine our success. “As we start such an ambitious project, all our efforts and prayers will be for its success. Some of you may also have concerns about whether Bhutan is ready and able to carry out such an endeavor, and whether everything will go according to plan and bring desired results. When we set a path for ourselves, it is good to have legitimate concerns. But we must not hesitate,” His Majesty said.
“I became King at 26, and now I am 43 years old. I will do everything in my power to realize this vision. I will put my own life on the line. And I will do it for your sake because you are an extraordinary and noble people. You are extraordinary in your devotion to one another and your love for the country. Let us work together with fearless determination to build an extraordinary legacy during my reign, and for the next generation,” His Majesty said.
Tashi Namgyal & Sangay Rabten from Thimphu