Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Burdensome Beasts

Social, cultural and religious traditions and practices are NOT God given – they are essentially necessitated or influenced by compulsions imposed by nature, climate, geography, and a number of other factors.

For many decades since I can remember, one of the practices I had noticed was that during the winter months, the mules and ponies from the Northern highlands would unfailingly migrate to low-lying places like Thimphu and Punakha where they would remain for a number of months. Then, come end February/early March, they would return to their homesteads spread across the alpine regions of Laya, Soi, Lingzhi, and Lunana. By mid-March, their winter grazing grounds would be completely void of these visitors from the freezing North.

Freed of all burden: Mules/ponies roaming listlessly around Thimphu Metropolitan areas

But this year I was surprised to see them still merrily loitering in and around Thimphu. This is early July – what the dang hell are they still doing here - impeding vehicular traffic and increasing workload for the workers of Thimphu Thromde (Thimphu Municipal Authority)?

A friend sitting by my side remarked:

“Wai Khengtala, are you suffering amnesia? Don’t you know this is PDP domain – mules and ponies are accorded primacy now”.

“Funny guy”.

But I was intrigued – they are supposed to have long gone to their alpine villages. What happened? Why are they still here?

Then it dawned on me:

Yet one more carcass by the wayside, resulting from the country’s failed tourism business!

First it was the Stray Dogs on the streets. Upon suspension of tourism – the strays on the streets began to suffer starvation – the situation got so bad that His Majesty had to institute a stray dog feeding program.

Then we heard wails of woe from the Walking Stick Fashioners at the base of Taktsang. They complained that they have been deprived of their employment and livelihood - there were no buyers for their wooden walking sticks.

Next, I got to hear of the sad demise of the wooden Phallus Carver from Lingzhi who use to plonk himself by the road side next to the Zangthopelri near the Vegetable Market - morning to night - every day. He supposedly died of withdrawal - because without the income from a stream of tourists who use to buy his wares, he had no income to finance his nightly quota of booze.

Mules/Ponies are beasts of burden. During the pre-pandemic days when tourism flourished unabated, there was a continuous flow of trekkers who required the services of thousands of mules/ponies. The highlanders who owned these animals would earn huge sums of money every trekking season. To give you an idea, I use to pay a hire charge of Nu.1,700.00 per day, per pack pony, and Nu.2,500.00 per day for every ridding pony I required.

The business was so lucrative that my pony contractor in Laya would make an annual trip every year to Mongaar – to buy feed for his animals: a truck load of corn/maize. The areas where I used to trek had no grass for his animals – so he had to carry the feed from home.

Every trekking trip I would require a minimum of 15 ponies.

Now that the tourism business has been driven into the ground, these animals are no more the beasts of burden. Instead, they have now become BURDENSOME BEASTS. Thus, from all indications, it would appear that their owners have put them to pasture!

1 comment:

  1. Nu 1700 per pack pony????? that's simply untrue my friend