Friday, May 20, 2011

Once Bamboo Thatched Roofed

Wamling is a small village located in Shingkhar Gewog, which is officially 7 days walk from Zhemgang Dzong in the past. Thanks for the modern developments and infrastructures. Now it takes only one to two days to reach to the village because of access to road. Wamling is a secluded place but full of paddy field starting from top to bottom of the village (Sengling thang to Zengling/Namling).
Shingkhar Gewog comprises five Chewogs, namely Shingkhar, Wamling, Thrisa on one side of Chamkhar Chhu and, Radhi and Nimzhong on the other side. There is a Primary School in Gewog centre which is supposed to be the oldest school in the Gewog. It must have been built around 1977 when late Dorjila was a Chimi of the Gewog. At present the other two Chewogs (Thrisa and Nimzhung) are access to a Community School each. This in fact has eased the admission pressure and minimized the distance the children had to travel till the Gewog centre.
An eye view of Wamling in winter from Upper village
Source: Lekey Dorji





As mentioned earlier, Wamling has good amount of land which can be used for cultivating paddy. This place has been blessed by His Eminence the sixth and seventh Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpochhe and has his monastery established in Wamling. Kheng Tshokeyling Monastery has been established in 2000 with 30 monks in Phu. 
Tshokeyling Monastery in Wamling


People live happily and self-sufficient with what they harvest from their land. The climate favours the people in the village to grow different types of crops (Dru Na Gu) the nine varieties of crops. Chilies, potatoes, garlic, spinach and ginger grow well in little higher altitude like Phu, Sengling thang, Mer ko be and Grok to la in the early season of the year than places in lower altitude. 
People from other Chewogs would come to trade/ buy paddy or rice from people of Wamling. People from lower Kheng (Maath) would also come with their bamboo products like banchung, beolo, palang, bamboo mat, etc. to trade for grains particularly for paddy/rice. People from Bumthang would also come to the village to trade their dairy products for rice and other grains. In fact it is a trade centre in the Gewog.

Wamling in Summer
Source: Lekey Dorj
Chou Chan and Kharang are no more taken by people since the last decade. The flour from maize is being used for feeding animals and brewing Bangchang and Churma (Ara). The living standards of people have changed dramatically. It is evident from the type of house people live in today. Almost every family lives in two storey houses which are roofed with CGI sheets. In the past the roofs of their houses were the thatched bamboo mat (Balep) where they had to spend a day to get one or two sheets of bamboo mat. Collecting bamboo for roofs used to be a crucial activity in winter and every household would be seriously engaged with this business. Some people who were affordable would go for wooden shingles (Pang kang) which demands lot of man power in the process. Most of the people go for bamboo mat which not only serves the roof for his home but for a shelter protecting their crops, firewood and for the animals.
There are two sources where people were bound to get bamboo for their houses. They are Shingkahrpai Ri (am mountain/land belonging to Shingkharpa) and Ser gu la (a mountain or a land belonging to Thrisapa). People living in lower altitude (Pampa) would choose any of these sources but no choice for people residing in higher altitude (Gon pa pa) They had to either go to Ser gu la or Ta rey thang, a land which is owned by Wamlingpa. But distance matters a lot. Usually, most of the people choose to go to Ser Gu la side.
The journey has to start with the first or second crow of rooster with a Mepchey (Kaawn in local dialect) in the absence of the Moon light. Before really going to collect the bamboos, they would plan and find who would be going for the collection. It was usually the responsibility of men and boys to collect the bamboos but family who doesn’t have men, the women and girls were taken by their parents with them. Our parents would send us early to bed so as to wake up early with first crow of the rooster. By then, breakfast, delicious lunch would have been ready and particularly, our mother would wake us. Boys loved going for Rui (bamboo) collection because they get delicious food/curry. The nature of the work itself was tiresome and parents feed them with good and delicious meal.
When mother wakes us, we just need to wash our face, have breakfast, take patak (knife), ma ling kai and Phrak zhu (rope), and Gala pa ney (muffler )  and Lag shop (hand gloves) to protect ourselves from extreme cold. With a Kaawn, we would be leaving for Ser gu la, calling and collecting friends from their house. By the time we reach Kringpola/Phu, it would have been dawn. Climbing up the steep slope/hill/mountain would be a challenging task. We need to pass a place call Tang. It is a beautiful place where there are three small lakes (Tsho). Tang is still being used by the people of Wamling as grazing land for their cattle. The next place that we need to pass is the scary and fearsome Wambrak (clif). Then reach to Pong de la. This is a place which divides the distance equally. There we would have little breakfast to reenergize and refill our stomach. Lunch should be kept hiding in the bushes/under dried leaves or under the roots of trees. 
Bamboo forest,
Source: www.planetiskcon.com
When arrived to final destination (Ser gu la) it would have been stroked 9:30-10:00 AM. We would locate the places where we would get plenty of Rui (bamboos) at one go. We would scatter in different directions in order to save our time. The sound of cutting and chopping of Rui (bamboos) could be heard louder as if the armies firing their guns in wars. “Ow, weith Ag pa myang pay” which means how many you fetched so far, would be the frequent questions asked to each other in the bamboo field. Some would say just 15 or 20 or some say Tong Kher tak, Phek sang Chuth ta, etc. which means they are almost done and ready to leave home. We need to hurry but if someone is not ready, we need to help and make sure we all move together.
Thought tiresome, coming down from the mountain would take lesser time to reach home. But when reached to Keer Wang Khag, a place where we need to pull up ward would take almost 30-45 minutes. The place is before we reach to Pong de la for lunch. Our eyes would feel like bulging out from their sockets and our body would tremble out of hunger and thirst because of the tremendous force that we need to apply to pull the bamboos. Some Hitlers as we would describe would reach earlier than others and they would show their humanity to come for Gam Tok. He or she would push from the behind/tail of Rui. Finally we would reach to Pon de la, where we would take our almost frozen lunch. After a short rest we need to resume our journey so that we are not late for the weaving. There would be a kind of competition to see who would reach to a resting place without taking rest in between.
We would compare Rui and pass comments regarding the size and length of the bamboos. If the bamboos are short, elders would nick name Tshan ta la. Tshan ta is a square hand woven bamboo mat meant for drying grains and other things above the oven.  Tang is a departing point for Gon pa pa and Pampa/Krongpa. They would bid farewell to each other and ask if they would go for Rui the next day. 
Weaving bamboo mat,
Source:http://environment.yale.edu




Strong and muscular men (Nyegay) would carry around 75 numbers of Rui out of which three sheets of mat would be woven. Ordinary men would carry 50 numbers of Rui for two sheets of mat and teenagers would carry 25-30 numbers for one sheet of mat. It depends upon the length and size of the bamboo too. Neighbour would come to ask/beg for Pheg sang (bamboo leaves meant for making broom) and young boys and girls would come for Pak Shu ma (a matured bamboo cut either into half or quarter to tie bamboos together). Boys use it for making Pak Shu mai Lee (bow) and Mya (arrows), and Chhe kang (Kongthang) and other weaving/netting materials by the girls.
Now people do not go for all these activities so much as their needs have been fulfilled by CGI sheets. Youths of today in our village are lucky and no worries of getting exhausted in their winter holidays. This is the indicator that GNH is experiencing in our village too.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. So many details. You bring in so many happy memories of those days. Thank you so much. And indeed our bamboos are disappearing now. This means people didn't use them in a sustainable manner. When we have to resort to foreign made goods like CGI sheets, it means we have run out of natural resources or people are either gradually becoming lazier by the day. Development does that. Earlier people used to cut firewood with their axes, but they think it is too tiring to do so. And now powerful power-chains (chain saws) are used. But you are right, life these days is much easier.

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