Blessed to be in America
Blessed to be here in the USA; glory to God
Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom whose ruler is a young hereditary king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk. This kingdom’s culture is heavily influenced by its religious practice - its Tibetan form of Mahayana Buddhism, which incorporates elements of Tibet’s ancient Bon shamanist beliefs. Bhutan's rich cultural heritage is still very much alive, a factor that contributed to the country's isolation from the modern world until the 1960s (iExplore.com 7). Its traditions and distinctiveness draw most tourists, especially its remarkable and pristine natural beauty. However, despite all this beauty and seemingly attractive nation, my parents thought it wise to leave everything that they had known all their lives behind and seek greener pastures in a different country as refugees. Little did they know how tedious of a process it would be, though they eventually reaped the fruits of their hard-earned labor. In this essay, I will be giving a detailed story of my life journey from being a refugee to eventually settling down in the USA by providing details on Bhutan's cultural practices, why refugees decided to leave the kingdom and why people were kicked out, and everything that transpired for the Bhutanese Hindus, concerning my family's experience.
Bhutan is well known for its spiritual and cultural legacy, an attribute influenced by Buddhist beliefs. The Bhutanese culture is encompassed several diverse aspects, with one of its most outstanding ones being the wearing of the kingdom’s national costume in public. The design of the Bhutanese national dress is strongly associated with social status and class. The males in the society usually wear belted robes that go up to the knee, while women’s robes are belted at the waist and are ankle length (Tourism Council of Bhutan 5). Various aspects dictate a wearer's class, including the fabric’s texture, color, woven decorations and embroideries. In the kingdom, status is important in human interaction, which had traditionally been a medieval practice. Temples are central to family life, and the family's women often acquire inheritance.
Polygamy is common in rural regions, with arranged marriages being an accepted state. Although a woman can be married to one husband, she is only allowed to have one legal one since no legal recognition is granted to polygamous spouses under Bhutan’s customary law. In line with the arranged marriage tradition, weddings are often kept simple and a low-key occasion, with elaborate rituals being performed for lasting unions amongst the bride and bridegrooms. Previously, the minimum age for marriage was as young as a teen for women and early twenties for males. In the past, there existed a traditional practice known as 'Chhu Ngyen,' which meant child marriage, in several sections of the country. The norm was for two children in the village or neighborhood to be married at a very young age by their parents, and then later as the children grew into adults, they would marry each other. However, such habits are increasingly fading in Bhutan. The popular and prevalent courting tradition in the eastern portion of Bhutan is called 'sergamathang/khotkin' - meaning marriages between cousins and in-laws. This type of marital union was regarded as an honor in ancient times. It is no longer as frequent as it once was due to increased educational understanding and medical concerns. Polyandry, or pursuing well over one husband, is still practiced in some regions of Bhutan, as is polygamy. Polyandry marriages, even to this day, remain prevalent among Bhutan's highlanders. The practice of two or more brothers marrying the same bride, known as "fraternal polyandry." Even if such customs exist today, locals and neighbors will be cautious to discuss them with an outsider. Many people consider it a disgraceful behavior, but the good news is that people's attitudes are changing as a result of these open marriages. In regions such as Jomolhari, there are households in which a woman is married to two men. In such a household, one husband often stays at home and offers a hand to the wife with all matters house chores and management. The other one, rears cattle and yaks, and moves with them from place to place in search of pasture. As per traditional Bhutanese beliefs, Polyandry began with the intention
Traditionally, the locals believe that the practice of Polyandry started with the intention to prevent further division of their land and other household properties in olden times. n rural areas in the western part of Bhutan, it is very common for the husband to move into his wife’s household. Interestingly when it comes to children inheriting properties from their parents, daughters inherit more in the western part of Bhutan. On the contrary, women in the eastern part of Bhutan don’t inherit property from their parents because they marry and settle in their husbands' hometowns. However, both these traditions and cultures are changing because the pattern of the family is evolving and economic dynamics changing. Nowadays couples marry the person they love and settle down on their own. Many couples are writing their own love stories but on the contrary divorce rate in Bhutan is staggeringly increasing.
Etiquette in Bhutan is so significant that an entire government ministry was set aside to ensure that citizens abide by the existent pre-requisites of dressing, speech, respect, eating and the Buddhist clerics. The dietetic custom is unique, with chili being utilized as a vegetable instead of seasoning. The Bhutanese add a lot of dried chilies while preparing dishes. Moreover, before eating or drinking, people often throw a little of the drink or food they are having into the air to request God's blessing. In line with etiquette, the Bhutanese attach great significance to social etiquette through simple acts. For instance, in greetings, they give Hada when welcoming their guests, appear physically humble when speaking to their elders and try to stick to subjunctive words to express euphemism. Gifting is another important social aspect of Bhutanese etiquette. When receiving a gift, he/she is not expected to open it in the giver's presence. Additionally, the recipient is expected to first turn down before accepting to receive a present. Also, it is deemed polite to return the gift container with goodies inside. Lastly, when visiting the temple, the Bhutanese often take off their shoes, speak in low tones and walk around the temple in a clockwise direction. Similar to many other cultures, the Bhutanese believe in taboos, most of which limit people from doing certain things. For instance, touching a Bhutanese's head is taboo, for it is sacred and illegal to smoke in public.
The state's official religion is Buddhism, and it makes up approximately seventy-five percent of the total population. Hindus make up the majority of the remaining quarter, while a very small percentage of the remaining population believes in animalism or a combination of Buddhism and indigenous beliefs. Buddhism is the primary belief system for the people of Bhutan because it serves as a source of their identity. The Buddhism practices are mainly sourced from Tibet, although there are several variations to the one practiced in Tibet through aspects like monastic organizations and religious ceremonies. The ruling royal family substantiates the blossoming Buddhist monasteries and convents. The government also funds the monks and nuns living in Bhutan annually. The second largest religion in the country, the Hindus, live in southern Bhutan, primarily along the Lhotshampa – an ethnic community. The Bhutanese Hindus include Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Bhutanese law gives its citizens the liberty to practice their religious beliefs and protects this right through diverse policies. It achieves this by also ensuring that Buddhist values are respected. The Bhutanese are peace-loving citizens and tolerate one another's beliefs. As a result, the country has survived the shackles of forced conversion or religious violence.
Why refugees left Bhutan
The Lhotshampas are a group of Bhutanese refugees who speak Nepali. In the 1990s, these refugees registered in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal due to a protest against the Bhutanese government’s oppressive ways by some of the Lhotshampas w