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Bhutan?s crowning glory

Royal family in Bhutan represents one of the rare examples of a monarchy where succession has been implemented by abdication in an orderly and unostentatious fashion, writes Abhishek Singhvi.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2007, 03:05 IST
Candid corner | Abhishek Singhvi
Candid corner | Abhishek Singhvi

In a bustling capital like Delhi, events and activities are hardly scarce. But a fortnightly columnist is always attracted to the unusual, the novel and the offbeat. On these criteria, many fortnights are barren. But not the preceding one. Let me deal with two experiences clearly meeting those requirements.

The first relates to a lunch hosted in honour of the visiting Bhutanese monarch, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who, I happened to meet for the first time. Several novelties about him, his family and his kingdom came to mind and I must summarise some of them. The king is all of 27 years old, exuding youthful dynamism, athletic grace and unprecedented humility. Oxford and US educated, he is well-rounded and well-informed. His family represents one of the rare examples of a monarchy where succession has been implemented by abdication in an orderly and unostentatious fashion. His father abdicated last year, when he was only 52.

I was reminded of my student days at Cambridge over two decades ago, when there were already appearing in the British press articles about when the British monarch would hand over charge to a dynamic, young Prince Charles. Twenty-five years later, status quo prevails in Britain.

If one explores ancient and medieval history, peaceful transfer of royal power, even to offsprings, would be seen as an extreme rarity. Monarchs have usually been either too attached to the trappings and splendour of the throne or too unsecure to risk abdication. Bloody coups have been the norm; voluntary and orderly abdication rare.

In contrast to neighbouring Nepal, where the drafting of the Constitution is proving to be difficult and is also generating instability, Bhutan has quietly been working on a Constitution and discussing it with its people over seven months. It is transiting from a monarchy to a democratic, constitutional monarchy peacefully, with multi-party elections scheduled for 2008 and even a mock poll to be held later this year to familiarise the electorate. Its Constitution is also toying with new ideas that have eluded other mature democracies, like the provision for minimum educational qualifications for people’s representatives. The five constitutional pillars are already in place, viz. the Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney General’s office, Civil Service Commission and the Audit Commission.

Bhutan can by no means be called a closed society — it appears to have managed beautifully and in a calibrated manner the controlled entry of television, tourists and some other elements of globalisation. In this, it has neither spurned the economic benefits of tourism nor imbibed the deleterious effects of any shallow pop culture.

The second unusual institution/idea I came across is KVR. Murthy’s ambitiously-titled organisation, ‘May God Rehabilitate Mankind’ (MGRM). Founded by a restless, versatile and highly-talented Indian based in the US, MGRM devotes itself to the concept of holistic healing. Its basic mantra is that the concept of rehabilitation is not, and cannot be, limited to physical rehabilitation (e.g., of those suffering from arthritis or other orthopaedic problems), but must encompass physical, psychological, social and spiritual evolution and rehabilitation.

MGRM has published an innovative calendar, where a parallel is sought to be drawn between the world’s famous revolutions — the American, the French, the Chinese and others — and the need for holistic evolution and rehabilitation at the physical (pertaining to the body), psychological (pertaining to the mind) and social (pertaining to the individual’s standing in society) levels. Albeit abstract, the parallel starts by pointing out that there is a base thought around which all revolutions revolve — the thought of removing feudalism led to the French revolution; the thought of removing a complacent monarchy led to the Chinese one; and the thought of removing the British led to the Indian freedom movement.

However, planning in the pre-revolution stage addresses only the physical dimension of the disturbing factor, without giving attention to the after-effects of the revolution on the social and psychological needs of the people. For example, South African independence and Nelson Mandela’s release did not necessarily end repression and segregation in the country. Similarly, Indian independence led to a division of the country. Hence, concludes MGRM, pre-revolution planning is vital to ensure positive results in the post-revolution phase and such planning has to holistically take into account the physical, psychological and social needs of each and every individual.

Applying this to individuals, MGRM notes that while disease, death and disability affects individuals physically, discrimination, abuse, divorce, etc. affect them psychologically and lack of resources and finances affects them socially. Thus, “every individual is a revolution waiting to happen”. However, just as a large-scale revolution can end up with negative results if not planned with complete vision, an individual’s revolution can also breed negativity in society if not addressed in totality.

MGRM then concludes that its concept of Ultimate Rehabilitation (UR) alone can convert an individual’s anger into positive energy. MGRM seeks to bring about UR at two levels — within the individual and society.

MGRM, which treats each individual as different and unique, is itself founded by a unique individual. A Delhi IIT alumnus, Murthy has several (earned) Ph.Ds on diverse technical subjects, ranging from medicine (endocrinology) to engineering. He is peripatetic but mostly in the US, while MGRM pursues its activities in several continents. Clearly, here is a man and an idea about which there can be many views, but also an institution of unquestionable originality and creativity.

Abhishek Singhvi is MP, Congress National Spokesperson and a Senior Advocate


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