Alcohol in the GNH Nation
Well there is no denying. We Bhutanese love alcohol. Alcohol drinking in Bhutan is widely accepted as a social norm and it is an established thinking that alcohol drinking is rooted into country’s custom and culture. Traditionally, alcohol drinks have played a significant role in Bhutan and this concept still persists today. Locally brewed alcohols like Ara or Bangchang either from fermented rice or wheat is served in every ceremonial, festival, and religious occasion. It is known fact and an evident practice that every family in the rural Bhutanese household would brew Ara for various use and purposes. The use of alcohol is therefore, considered necessary in every walk of life in the rural population of Bhutan.
The customary practice of alcohol use is still prevalent in the rural areas where village folks drink alcohol from dawn to dusk underlining the significance of every time period. Alcohols are used in various ways and at different point of time in a day, like there is “Zhenchang” -alcohol offered on rising, then “Tochang” with breakfast, “Tsoechang” at lunch, “Tshogchang” during dinner, and finally “Zimchang” before going to bed. Thus, the substance serves meaningful purposes in the context of tradition and social norms, and often people use alcohol for many reasons such as for pleasure, relaxation, socialization, celebration, emotional revival from sorrows or melancholy, peer pressure, and so on.
Considering the above facts, it is not alarming to learn that the top ranking killer in Bhutan is Alcohol. Needless to mention, alcohol is also responsible for considerable number of children born with deformities. In a recent report, children with deformities were more in eastern parts of Bhutan. Direct consequences of alcohol like liver disease and deaths due to drinking and driving are on the rise. According to reports, more than half of the Bhutan’s active alcohol drinkers are youth. When we bank upon our youth for the nation’s future, we cannot afford alcohol to spoil the youth. So many lives are wasted by this intoxicating liquid. So many talents are killed by alcohol. So many children go without proper education and parenting. Just a seemingly harmless drink develops into a dreaded habit that spoils our life. While we are busy pursuing to accomplish the so called gross national happiness, we cannot neglect such issues as alcoholism that undermines our very effort to become a happy society.
Well the choice is ours: Drink alcohol and be euphorically happy for five minutes. Or create awareness to scale down alcohol use amongst youth and work for a sustainably happy Bhutan. Alcohol and GNH can never be expected to go hand in hand.