No Gain, No Pain!

Dhur Da Chham: Photographed from the cover of
Tshering Tashi's Book "
"Bold Bhutan Beckons"
It is a "No Gain, No Pain", not the famous saying "No pain, No gain"!

The article "Reluctant mask dancers" by reporter Gyempo Namgayl of Bhutan Observer brought to light perhaps the most itching issue about the difficulties being faced in the village community to conduct their annual or bi-annual Tshechu(s) - the festivals. It is no new thing, in fact the local leaders have been facing similar difficulties for years. Now children go to modern school, and nobody wants to stay back at village and become "Gomchen", hence no dancer.

As a village kid, I would be eagerly welcoming the Tshechu season, and I would be totally in a festive mood. I can vividly remember how I enjoyed those unique dances showcased by our monks and elderly people which now remained as a story of past. About five years ago, the last time I saw Tshebar Tshechu, it was not as exciting as it used to be like many years back because most of the dances are gone with the dying dancers. Nobody took keen interest to learn, and follow their suits. Now all one can see are few 'distorted' and copied versions performed by elderly folks! Quite a mercy. Equally disturbing is that there are no enough people to fulfill the requirement for each dance. Usually they are performed with less dancers than are actually required. See the problem? Of course, the situation can be attributed to seeing better future with modern education than being a dancer. Honestly speaking who would want to remain as a dancer for whole life? Will they be able to make a life as dancer? No, I don't think so. They are not RAPA employees, they don't get paid, and they don't get to perform in the five-star hotels and get paid for it. In short, they don't have needed facilities to remain as dancers. Who is responsible for that? The Government? Well, I could certainly see light on the hands of the Government which may facilitate and set aside some budget for each gewog, and ultimately could be used to pay those dancers.

I can already know what our government would say if we ever asked them for that favor, though. They would say that it is our community festival, and if we are not responsible for it, why would government be? But in this economic period of time, without income, it will be hard even to keep the flow between hand to mouth continuous. Almost everything in the market is becoming expensive day by day, and those lower sections are the worst hit. So it is only understandable why nobody wants to work for no benefit in return. Yet there are few who under the compulsion and 'threat' from the people in power are still putting their valuable efforts to make the Tshechus running. I salute them! I like our Government, which is founded with the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, for stressing equally more on culture preservation. But if they are only funding and helping those tsechus conducted in the proximity of capital and only tourist-accessible destinations, there is seriously something lacking in our goal of culture preservation. That doesn't mean that our government is not doing anything, however. In fact, for the last few years, I have been reading the news and hearing from people that our monasteries are being renovated. I applaud them. But we still need those renovated monasteries to hold Tshechus, and for that matter need willing dancers to dance.

Without that, those smiles seen on our people's faces would eventually come to an end in the GNH land. Our community is known for being deeply rooted to their ancestry bonds, and they remain helpful to each other in good times as well as in bad times. That is one of the reasons behind those smiles on our faces. However, if village leaders, or any other leaders in that capacity, compel those 'reasonably-unwilling' dancers to dance, and worse enough slap them with monetary fines or punishment or are "boycotted by the local religious community indefinitely", what would happen in the long run? The harmony that has been prevailing in the community will be lost, and there will be many divided sections of sad people.

So it is high time, the government took some extra initiatives to address such issues, and together we can not only preserve our thriving cultures, but also bring back those which now remained lost. Nevertheless, for the name of preserving culture, I wouldn't want the masks danced to the tune of rock bands as reported to have performed in the very recent Miss Bhutan 2010 finale! Its a complete dilution of culture, and it wouldn't be desirable.


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