Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming is a memoir with travel and spirituality interspersed in between. She mentions about how, in 1994, when she was planning a long trip to India and Europe, her friends convinced her to visit Bhutan as well and she added to more weeks to the trip. And these two weeks that spent in Bhutan, especially Punakha, changed the course of her life. She mentions that at that time, people in America did not know where Butane (Bhutan) is. She then mentions that she again visited Bhutan in 1995 and 1996 travelling to every corner of the country, learning about the people and how they lived before she finally moved there to teach English at an Art School in a suburb of Thimphu in 1997.
She talks about her marriage to her colleague in the Art School, a Thanka painter, Phurba Namgay, their different upbringings, different languages, and different religions. She mentions very sportingly about her visit to Namgay’s house to meet his family, which in the villagers view was like being married for all practical purposes. She tells about the gross mistakes she made while learning the language. The most hilarious of then was the one in which she is talking to her mother-in-law, who did not know English and she with her manageable, Dzongkha and they were actually repeating each other.
She describes about their trip to Bangkok, where Namgay spent most of his time looking at the aeroplanes and also about their visit to US where he became a devotee of appliances and worshipped on the altar of mass consumption.
She describes the culture, the language, the various rivers, the currency, the religion, the post office, the handmade paper factory, the traditional dresses of men and women, the Thanka paintings, the history, the mores of Bhutan with the enthusiasm of someone who genuinely loves the country. She mentions that the Bhutanese King is more interested in Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product.
In the first chapter, she explains patiently about the slow paced nature of the Bhutanese people. She explains how she learnt about the difference in the learning system as compared to America. She also talks about the similarities and differences between her hometown and Bhutan, and their people.
The cover by Phurba Namgay, her husband, gives the book a very “Pick me up” look. While introducing a new Bhutanese word, she has very carefully put it in italics, which helps us to look at the glossary and then when it is mentioned again in the book, it is easier to relate to. The Epilogue is very well written.
Spending four years of my childhood in India, close to Phuntsholing, in Bhutan, I found it very easy to relate to all that was mentioned in the book, the markets, the bailey bridges, and especially, the post-office, I remember shopping for stamps for my cousins’ collection and mine too, but they have the record stamp, the one that plays the National Anthem, but I don’t.
A lovely book. What did I miss, some beautiful pictures, that could have made it into a coffee table book.
Book Source: A Gift from my husband
Publisher: Hayhouse India