Tashi- the friendly guide
Tashi Wangdi (Blessed with happiness) was the affable tourist guide who was with us from the time he received us at the Paro airport to the time he saw us off at the airport six days later. At 34, he represents the typical youth of Bhutan with big aspirations. During the course of the five days he was with us I tried to probe him about his life and he was more than willing to oblige. Here is his story:
Tashi was born in Punakha, old capital of Bhutan, where his father was a small time businessman. After doing his schooling in Bhutan, he moved to Darjeeling to get a BBA degree. At Darjeeling not only did he learn to speak fluent English but also a smattering of Nepalese. While in school he was so naughty & mischievous that his father had written him off as a `no good fellow` and would not give him any pocket money. As an enterprising young fellow Tashi decided to try his hand at being a part time Tourist Guide, which not only helped him earn his pocket money but also made him learn more about his country. He thoroughly enjoyed his part time job because he loved meeting & talking to people. This helped when his father passed away when he was in college and he not only had to look after his own college education but also help his mother supplement her income from a small shop she was running and support his younger brother to complete his studies.
After his graduation, when he returned home his mother insisted that he take up a government job because it would ensure security and continuity. With her contacts she helped him get a job in a government department. Within two weeks into the job he realized that he was not cut out for a desk job with fixed hours. Much to his mother`s disappointment he quit the job and after undergoing an intensive training course as a Tourist Guide he became a full time Guide. His deep knowledge of his country and his ability to answer any questions posed by tourists and his excellent command of English helped him become a popular guide within no time ensuring a decent income from his new career.When I asked him if he read a lot, he laughed and said, `the only books I read are the comics. But I am a keen listener & observer`
While continuing as a guide, he started a night club in Thimphu, the capital city in partnership with a friend. He gave up the business when he found he could not devote enough time to it.
While young men in Bhutan marry when they are around 30, he was married to his sweet heart from school days when he was only 24 and the couple today have three boys ranging from 11 months to 8 years. Like all the boys in Bhutan, after marriage, he moved to his wife`s home on the outskirts of Thimphu. It is an independent cottage with a small garden with a couple of bedrooms which he shares with his father in law, mother in law and his brother in law`s family. His father in law is a successful cinematographer. No wonder his wife also got trained in a film institute in Delhi and is a successful documentary producer. The family lives a comfortable life with the joint income of all the family members.
His brother is currently working in Australia with whom his mother lives. Though he also had opportunities to go abroad and earn in dollars, he decided to stay put in Bhutan because he loves his country and would love to make it big in his own country. One of his dreams is to start his own travel agency which will have some specialization like offering a variety of water sports.
Commenting on democracy in Bhutan and how it has helped people, he gave his trade mark smile and said,` Under the King we paid less taxes. We now pay more taxes. In the name of development the government is collecting more money from people but we are not complaining. Incidentally our government does not like open protests of any kind`
Bhutan is boasting of a high Gross National Happiness. When I asked him if it means that everyone is happy in Bhutan, his answer was illuminating, `Happiness is a state of mind which varies from person to person. However the overall happiness can be judged only by Good Governance, clean environment, good health etc. I do believe that overall people in Bhutan are happy people, whatever economic strata they belong to`
Tashi himself came across as a happy fellow doing a job he is passionate about, earning a good income, with a loving family, living in a decent place and generally contended with his life. As a parting shot he told me; ` Someday I would like to get into politics and serve my country`.
At the airport when we were bidding him good bye I thanked him for all the time he spent with me answering all my questions without losing his patience. I told him that I hoped to see him as a Minister in his government in the future. He gave me a big hug and thanked me for the blessings.