Pictures such as this, featuring King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk and Jetsun Pema, adorn all squares in Thimphu. Picture by Sankarshan Thakur
Thimphu, Oct. 12: This could so easily be told like a once-upon-a-time-in-a-far-far-land tale; the trouble is its happening tomorrow. The raja-rani fairy fantasy isnt all a thing of the past, people, it is about to acquire a future narrative in a kingdom near you.
A medieval castle awaits in the lithe valley of Punakha three hours and several mountain folds from here, draped in silks, agog with light and sound, rippled with the murmur of meticulous arrangements.
A lively trail twists all the way to it tonight ó trains of fancy food and wine, ceremonial soldiery and traditional citizenry, monks and mendicants, dancers and archers and sundry ranks of a splendoured vaudeville about to unfold, a caravan of dainty guests wondering if their crisp creases will survive the hill road.
A happy hubbub spews and swirls about the misted cupolas of Bhutans valleys: the Crowns about to acquire a Queen. Dragon King weds his Butterfly Beloved on the morrow and the throne Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, 31, ascended in 2008 becomes whole with Jetsun Pema, 21, installed by his side.
Then the once-upon-a-time-in-a-far-far-land tale can begin to be told yet again. Fancy the sheer fact of it ó a King and Queen in bone and blood when democracy has been turning them to paper all over the place. Last stop: Kathmandu.
Fancy too the prospect that this will probably be the last of such tales to be told from our neighbourhood in a fair while. For all the elaborate rite and regalia that this moment is plunged in, Bhutanese royalty has already doffed its hat to the times and formalised a retreat from privileges.
The current kings father and predecessor, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, unrolled radical reforms that took the clout away from the crown he passed on to Jigme Khesar Wangchuk. They ushered an elected government in 2008 headed by Prime Minister Jigmey Thinley, a St. Stephens alumnus. The ballots chief credibility quotient: the party, led by the brother of the four queen mothers to King Jigme Khesar, was thrashed.
As Tshewang Choden, a schoolteacher scurrying back from holiday in Germany to be part of the wedding celebrations, said on the flight into Paros delectable aerodrome: We may not have made a name for ourselves as a democracy, but we are a vibrant one. And then she motioned to the hundreds of crates marked FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING being unloaded on the tarmac and winked: It does not hurt to have a charming monarchy on the side, soup for the soul, you know, is that what they say?
The Royal Druk Air handlers back at Delhis new international terminal were a harried lot this morning, though they seemed to be bearing their burdens happily. What werent they tasked to ship across to Bhutan last minute? Tonnes of bone china, glassware, linen, fairly lights a million miles longÖ.
Will they reach their appointed places in time to be put up? one of them gasped as they negotiated cargo regulations and ways to traipse around restrictions. Please, sir, this is a special occasion, this must go today, our Kings getting married.
Didnt the airport authorities already know though? Their VVIP departure list was falling off their manifests, it was so long. Laureates and ambassadors, politicians and civil servants, superannuated royalty and privileged plebeians, all honoured invitees in their own right. Among them Jyotiraditya Scindia and Devyani Rana, the once-rumoured tap of the tumult that wiped out the Nepal royal family one violent night in 2001.
When it landed at Paro, the flight coughed out a torrent through the front doors that went straight to waiting limousines, sans security, sans customs; the cattle class was a trickle at the tail, so few they could have justly felt they were the exclusive bunch, removed from the madding crowd that was headed straight for appointed palace rooms.
Not to say the segregation spared you the twinge of discrimination, self-appointed class cleaving nonchalantly away from self-deprecating underclass. But what the heck, you dont get a King marrying a Queen every day in these parts. And democracy will anyhow make them a once-upon-a-time tale soon enough.