Dasho Kinley Dorji’s collection of 13 short stories about different aspects of Bhutan is aptly titled, Within the Realm of Happiness.
The thirteen stories are a mix of fiction and creative non fiction that take a leaf out of his life as well as the different shades of his country.
It begins with a wonderfully innocent story, Angay, about a 10 year old who is intrigued by her grandmother’s (Angay in Dzongkha) mousetrap and what she does with the mouse when finally caught.
This is followed by an equally warm story, Mi-mi’s Surprise, about a father-son relation and the skills the father passes on to his son, Dorji, along with a surprise gift.
Two Men, Two Worlds is a relevant story about the division that modernisation created and is continuing to create among the Bhutanese people.
Although many say that their favourite story from this collection seems to be Pretty Woman, mine were Karma, Harsh Winds and When Fortune Smiles and A Bhutanese in Japan.
Karma is a creative non fiction piece about one of author’s good childhood friend, Karma. The narrative style is brilliant where the narrator is narrating about his memories of Karma from school as well as giving a glimpse into how Bhutan used to be then and how its development affected him. On the other hand, the story is also narrated by the various regulars at Gyeltshen’s Bar, and through them as well we get to know more about Karma’s character.
Harsh Winds chronicles the author’s own trip to Laya and the Royal Highland Festival. Through his visit, he not only shows us Laya’s beautiful landscape and people but ruminates on the need for cultural preservation as well.
A Bhutanese in Japan is a humourous take on his own trip to Japan and the adventures he had on his trip there.
When Fortune Smiles brings out the author’s typical sarcastic and humourous style (If you have the honour to hear him speak and attend his talk, you would know that he is someone who is quite witty!) and is about his perplexity at how the police at Paddington Station do not want to know when one is robbed because they do not want to help!
The other stories of Within the Realm of Happiness range from talking about the joys of storytelling (An Episode) to the need for take climate change action (The Answer Lies Back Home) or about how one disaster (Takstang Monastery fire) can bring people from far and wide together and give them a sense of home (A Legend that Lives).
Apart from the straightforward tales that are spun in the collection, Dasho Kinley Dorji, begins with an enlightening introduction that provides the reader with a brief yet sweeping history of the country and its many changes.
Within the Realm of Happiness should be a leisurely read, done in one sitting while also illuminating the reader with some of the most relevant questions that plague the country.