A farmer with his cow near Bumthang, on the northern border of Bhutan. Bhutan's constitution states that 60 per cent of the country will remain under forest cover for ever, while the government's stated aim is for 100 per cent organic agriculture.
Bhutan – Been There

Meeting the Secretary of Gross National Happiness

Photo by Keren Su

Bhutan – Been There Meeting the Secretary of Gross National Happiness

Bhutan's search for Gross National Happiness provides an alternative way of looking at life that not everyone is happy with.

Julia Horton
Julia Horton

Karma Tshiteem is a man with arguably the best political title anywhere on earth: the Secretary of Gross National Happiness. I am sitting in my hotel in Bhutan waiting for him to arrive, when an unassuming man walks in and asks my name. I guess he must be the GNH Secretary’s assistant but it is the man himself.

Although apparently relaxed in his attitude and affable, Mr Tshiteem seems a little serious until his cell phone suddenly rings and he breaks off to answer it. Apologizing afterward with a grin, he says: “It was my mum. Her well-being is very important for my well-being!”

Trying to make anyone happy is a tall order, he admits, and he is at pains to debunk some of the myths about GNH. “Our job is to identify and create conditions for happiness, like preserving culture, but we’re clearly not going to get into the business of telling people what to do to be happy. Happiness is too fleeting and too personal. That responsibility rests squarely with individuals themselves.”

And he doesn’t expect to help everyone, adding with a wry smile: “Some will still choose to be miserable, but that’s their decision.”

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Bhutanese friends enjoy drinks in Thimphu, Bhutan, where bars and discos tend to be open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Bhutan prides itself on its wineries as well as their local concoctions like souza, which is Bhutanese tea, and Ara, a spirit distilled from wheat, rice, or corn. Photo by Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Paula Bronstein

Paula Bronstein

Canon EOS-1D Mark III

Agency
Getty Images
Aperture
ƒ/1.4
Exposure
1/30
ISO
800
Focal
24 mm

Bhutanese friends enjoy drinks in Thimphu, Bhutan, where bars and discos tend to be open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Bhutan prides itself on its wineries as well as their local concoctions like souza, which is Bhutanese tea, and Ara, a spirit distilled from wheat, rice, or corn.

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