On October 14 last year I saw all the tall men of Bhutan together. Carrying babies, pulling their friends, wives, sisters or mothers to the front of the kilometers-long line along the Norzin Lam, they waited hours for a glimpse of Bhutan’s Royal Couple who wedded the day earlier at the Pungtang Dechen Phodrang Dzong, the Palace of Great Bliss.
The waiting was worthwhile. At around 10pm, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar with Her Majesty Queen Jetsun Pema reached Norzin Lam after stopping at different places on the way from Punakha, accepting greetings and sharing pleasantries with older folk and children.
I had to really struggle to get a glimpse as people shoved and pushed. But despite that, a sense of discipline prevailed. It just needed a ‘please’ from the policemen for the crowd who would rush into the road when they heard the siren of a pilot vehicle, to return back to the line.
The King and Queen looked really fresh, never losing their smile despite hours of a tiring journey that had taken a whole day. Normally, a car-ride from Punakha to Thimphu takes just two hours.
Like many others, I also moved from one ‘view point’ to the other along the road to get a better glimpse. At the main traffic, I couldn’t see the King and Queen as the tallest of all Bhutanese congregated in front of me; I saw only the bodyguards of the Royal Couple. So while they stopped to greet people at the traffic, I rushed ahead toward the Bank of Bhutan gate and waited for their Majesties to arrive.
That night I walked home. Despite the autumn chill, my heart was warm.
Following is an excerpt from an article I wrote on the Royal Wedding.
“ This union does not mean that I am starting my own family. From the very day I received the Dhar Ngay-Nga from the sacred Machhen, the people of the 20 dzongkhags became my family,” His Majesty said in parliament (in May 2011) introducing Jetsun Pema as the Nga Gi Aum. Thus, His Majesty presented her as someone who would be unwavering in her commitment to serve the people and the country.
“As my Queen, I have found such a person and her name is Jetsun Pema. While she is young, she is warm and kind in heart and character. These qualities together with the wisdom that will come with age and experience will make her a great servant to the nation,” His Majesty said.
His choice of the phrase “great servant” to describe the queen is noteworthy mainly for the way in which he perceives her role of Servant Leadership. A servant leader considers the will of the people as his/her will. The qualities the King has fond in the Royal Bride are most essential for a servant leader: warm and kind in heart and character.
The international media has portrayed the Royal Union as a fairy tale event; the young king of a cloistered kingdom marrying a commoner. But for Bhutan this is no fairy tale, it is very real.