It is a cold and chilly evening as I stop a Taxi and hop in. A policeman stands near a roundabout with a talkie set in his hands to monitor the traffic of the rush hour. The Taxi zooms in to a halt at the roundabout as another car speeds away just few inches away from its skin. I can’t say which vehicle is at fault but I hear the policeman shouting few words at the Taxi driver. The driver just nods his head in affirmative but just as we are through the roundabout, I hear the driver grumbling, "Come 2008, he cannot shout at me like that…"
Well, the year 2008 may just be another year for the world but for the Taxi driver and all the Bhutanese, it will be a year which will definitely be recorded in the pages of history. The count down has already begun and it is only days away in the calendar.
For one thing, the last two years have been the black or inauspicious years and the word Lona has almost been engraved in our mind. Come 2008, the black years will be adieued goodbye for good and people will have reasons to venture into new endeavors or resume the ones which have been stalled for the years. Marriage ceremonies will be celebrated in abundance in many households… In short, people will simply have the reasons to embrace the new year with joy.
Another reason for the joyful welcome of the year is for the splendor of the 5th king’s coronation to the golden throne. Yet another dynamic and charismatic king has already been in the making with the peoples’ monarch, the forth king, already having handed over the reign to the crown prince and we already see the latter as the head of state. The country’s historical National Stadium is getting its finest touches to perfection for the celebration and the country’s narrow and curvy roads are being widened and straightened up. And come 2008, we will see the new king formally and ceremoniously crowned to the Golden Throne, heralding yet another golden era in the history of Bhutan.
But quite ironically, the 2008 will also be the year for Bhutan to end the absolute monarchy and enter into a multi-party democratic system which brings along all the hypes of otherwise unknown subjects like democracy, politics, politicians, parties, campaign, election, peoples’ rights and the things like that. Ignore as one might, but the glow of 2008’s grandeur is clearly visible in everyone, everywhere. You go to a bar for a quick sip of beer and you hear people talking politics and the names of the political parties are spelled out at least once or twice. You read a newspaper and the headlines glare at you of the reports of political parties and/or individuals campaigning or having familiarization tours in otherwise unheard of nooks and corners of the country. You walk down the street and you see colorful posters on voting guidelines spread on the walls. You switch on a TV and you see the clips and faces of aspirant politicians and hear their voices over the cranky telephone talks. You go to your village and you note that your illiterate parents know more about politics than the read-and-write lot like us. You concentrate on your work and you get a voter form to fill up. You sit around for a quick chat with a colleague or a friend and the subject of the talk eventually boils down to politics. In other words, everywhere you see people politicking and hear people talking politics… and more politics. And in the midst this aromatic scenario, if turning a blind eye and deaf ear to all the hypes and happenings in and around us is being in the sense of what is called apolitical, it is next to impossible a thing to do.
But whatever is the argument, the year 2008 is coming right into our hands. Matter of fact, given the choice we would have very much loved to be under the same noble system of leadership that kept us glorious over the last entire century. But introducing democracy would have been nobler and with better reasons. It is a sacred and noble gift from our 4th King, the gift purer than gold. But more than that, it is heavier than a mountain. Therefore, every political party as a democratic institution, every politician as a hope for the people and every individual as a citizen should value the noble gift and answer the call of the nation at this juncture and beyond, but in a right way.
With this in mind we all wait, almost with fingers crossed, for the year 2008 to come, hoping that the change will be of more good than bad, hoping that the promises will come true and that the political parties will not just care for the number of voters but also hear the voices of the people, and ultimately hoping to see the greater and glorious Bhutan. Or will 2008 be just another year that will just come and go? There are as many questions in our mind as there are excitements.
As apolitical individuals in the truest sense of the word, we can only wait and see, doing what we are required to do as part of the historic transition our country is going through right now. But one thing is always clear; come 2008 or not, the policeman might still shout at a faulty driver in the roundabouts, for there sure will be law and order in the land and we are definitely not headed into a mess of a system in the name of one’s democratic rights.