Monthly Archives: October 2014

The definition of development and its interpretation has different meanings

By Celin Thomas

Interesting post title isn’t it? Well I was just thinking about the sector I’m working with and the world that I just visited recently which is far different from where I come from, culturally & even economically. All of this made me ponder over the definition of development and the interpretations of the meaning of the word development.

My search for the meaning of the word development showed me this…

the process of developing or being developed.
synonyms: evolution, growth, maturing, expansion, enlargement, spread, build out, progress, success, blossoming, blooming, burgeoning, headway
a specified state of growth or advancement
a new and advanced product or idea

an event constituting a new stage in a changing situation.
synonyms: event, turn of events, occurrence, happening, circumstance, incident, phenomenon, situation, issue, outcome, upshot

I guess pretty much is the same meaning and definition of the word development that we associate with all the time. Working in the development sector, I have started questioning development itself. I mean the interpretation that I have as opposed to the interpretation of development by the people I’m working with and working for.

The bigger debate here is not just restricted to the meaning of development & its interpretation but it extends to a more sensitive and spiritual zone- where we question, is the idea of development shared by all is same? How do we gauge development? Does development complicate your life? Does development ease your life? Can we be happy without the development being proposed? Why are some people happy despite lack of facilities such as infrastructure, electricity & internet?

There may be more questions, which will be coming to your mind as you read further. But my mind has been constantly wondering as how is Bhutan the happiest nation in the world? Yes I visited Bhutan, I think its a beautiful, scenic nation and everyone must explore it. Its a safe place to visit, culturally and religiously rich country indeed. The people there, they seem to be very relaxed and at peace.

Tourists like us visit such places to find peace and solace. Looking at the staff at the hotel and resort where I lived, I wondered what makes or restricts these people from not pursuing higher education or looking to achieve higher goals, career-wise and otherwise also.

My tour guide informed me that its only the last 10 years with the help of India that infrastructure and telecom have found way here. Most youths travel to India for higher education and return as they prefer the life Bhutan.

Living there I felt there is every reason for them to return- climate, peace and a laid back lifestyle. It may also have a lot to do with the heavy influence of Buddhism in Bhutanese people. I mean not having ambition may seem a little odd for someone like me who comes from a culture and upbringing that has always made me think that your worth & significance is determined by your occupation, marriage & kids. But to come to think of it, the Bhutanese also have the similar expectations as my culture does, the only difference is this- that there is no aggression or pressure involved. They believe in the Buddhist way of life and follow the natural course that life takes and refuse to go against the tide. There is never been a need to prove anything to anybody nor the pressure to do so.

Does this mean that they resist change because they cannot handle it? I don’t think so as there are many Bhutanese who have migrated elsewhere and are involved in different professions elsewhere, is what my tour guide mentioned. I think the gross national happiness of a country has a lot to do with the mindset of the people living there. They don’t seem to be irritated or agitated, certainly not frustrated or unsatisfied.

I think the Bhutanese know the secret that desire causes all suffering and that to live a full life, one doesn’t need to struggle too much after all. As what one needs to survive and live happily is all around us. Maybe we don’t need to struggle after all. I mean there is no point miffing your peers/colleagues, straining personal ties and chasing a goal that will not have any meaning after you realize there is no one you can share the happiness associated with it.

But then again, I maybe wrong! Some people do find happiness in a Jacuzzi then soaking in the natural spring waters/ rivers; some find happiness in a high flying life than in the simplicity of agriculture and living with the nature. I guess the choice is purely individualistic and the decision and action also needs to be driven & initiated from within.

I’m not sure whether Bhutan will continue to remain the same as it is when I visited in September 2014. It will change and I could see glimpses of it during my brief 5 day visit. The youth is heavily influenced by Indian media and Korean films, though they will continue with their faith in their religion- they will eventually adopt a different life style.

Thimpu the national capital is completely urbanized and doesn’t offer much to a tourist. Paro is beautiful and the areas on the outskirts of the city have the rural ethnic vibe which is very original Bhutan culture.

I think Bhutan is also adopting the interpretation of development as is understood globally and this fact will change the gross happiness quotient also. And I hope, it only improves it…

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