Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Old Days in the Villages of Bhutan

‘Ajang Dojwang came around asking for favour.’ A fourteen year sister told his nine years old younger brother. Dojwang was a short form for the name Dorji Wangchuk. That was how villagers of Jurme used to shorten the name of a person. ‘If you are not so tired, you can go tomorrow to help them carry manure,’ she would say. A tired brother sulked for a moment.  He felt pain in the back from carrying basketful of manure whole day. Then, he would think of all the good things he would get to do. He would get to flirt and teased older girl which would thrill him. He would get to hear the riddle and stories. He would get to meet friends. He would get to look for uncollected sweet potatoes in the red empty field.
“What was Ngotsa (sort of favour) for,” he would ask his elder sister. ‘It is Ara Ngotsha,” she would say. In Ara Ngotsha, the owner of the field would measure the volume of wine to be drunk in frequent intervals. The worker had to finish all the wine given without qualms. If it was fish favour, one would get one or two pieces of fish during dinner as a payment for whole day’s work. Sometimes, the one who worked would take a piece to his/her family back home as a present.
The dinner would be often accompanied by dances and merry making. The dances would give way to Tsangmo where boys and girls competed their wit, intelligence and humour through exchange of a sort of Balladic song. Then, there will be riddle competition where one has to give an imaginary house to know the answer. The one who got more houses were considered as the winner.
As one cuddled up in the bed which were shared by more than five or six person under flimsy sacks or clothes, they would listen to moral stories told by elder people. The long stories were mainly chronicles of rich son and poor son, foolish king and wise poor servant, demonic lamas and saintly disciples etc. The weaker and right side always seemed to win the battle in the end. This was the not only lesson that rightful virtue triumphed at the end, it was also a way to ridicule the rich and powerful people sitting on higher social hierarchy which otherwise were not touchable.  In the cold winter night, old people would tell us stories till we feel asleep. With dead like a log relaxation in the night, the similar thing continued next day. When we go back to school after winter vacation, we would proudly sing the song; tell the tales and riddles we learnt during the vacation.
Today, this oral education system seemed to be fading. Even twelve years old nephew of mine in the village cannot tell a single tale. In my time, twelve year old were considered matured enough to marry. Many of my friends who were not admitted in the school married. Today, they have ten to twelve years old children. At twenty six, I feel awkward to answer the question, ‘when are you going to marry.’ Even in the village, instead of talking about oral tradition of education, the children are more into radio and mobile phone.  The stories told by school children come right out of few books teachers taught them in the school.
Back in the town, the kid plays violent video games or watch humoristic and violent Tom and Jerry and other cartoons. Slightly older children watch r-rated movies while their parents are busy socializing or partying. Even the housewife engages their free time watching Indian serials and ignoring children. Children are left to glean whatever they want to get from not-so-exemplary society. Teenagers are seen cozying up in the street in branded bizarre western outfit. The teaching of traditional value and culture is almost dead. The only time, most people wear our national dress is while going to Tsechu or school. The kindness to stranger and downtrodden beggar is not often seen. Our people are becoming materialistic. I imagine if there was this rat -race in America during the American Dream euphoria.
The Gross National Happiness is spreading the books while it is decreasing in our values and practices.

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