A Slice Of Bhutan In India

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Are you a die-hard foodie, a philatelist, an inveterate traveller? Or simply someone with keen interest in handwoven textiles or handicrafts? Maybe you fall in none of these categories but it’s organic food or pickles that teases your interest?

Head to the Bhutan Week celebrations at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The celebrations kicked off on September 23 and will be on until September 30. It’s a ‘mela’ of all things Bhutanese as Indian and Bhutan mark the golden jubilee of formal diplomatic relations.

Organised jointly by the Royal Bhutanese Embassy, the ministry of external affairs, the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the IGNCA, the exhibition was jointly inaugurated by vice-president M.Venkaiah Naidu along with the Bhutanese Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo Wanghuck.

And truly, the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ has come alive at the IGNCA with stalls selling intricately woven handloom items in silk, cotton and wool. Stoles woven with baby yak wool and scarves, even the Bhutanese kira, which is the traditional dress worn by women. There are beautifully crafted cloth bags as well as purses and even caps.

Business which was lukewarm in the initial days has also picked up. However, some stall owners did complain about lack of adequate publicity for the exhibition which saw few visitors coming in the initial days. Others complained of the heat as they sat under tents under a blazing sun with just a pedestal fan to provide relief from the heat while still others said that this was the peak tourist season for them in Bhutan too.

For most Bhutanese sellers it was not just their visit to Delhi but to India too. And while sales may not be brisk, it’s given them an opportunity to explore the Indian market while giving visitors to the exhibition a taste of Bhutan as well.

Sangay and Tandin, two young women, who have a shop at the famous Crafts Bazar of Thimphu began learning to weave as little girls. “I learnt to weave from my grandmother and mother,” said Tandin. So did Sangay as she explained to visitors the intricacies of Bhutan’s weaves.

There is also a stall run by OGOP (One Gewog One Product), a Bhutanese government initiative that aims at increasing and supplementing rural cash income. Selling organic products, among them honey, buckwheat flour, red rice, quinoa, turmeric and red chillies, OGOP has Bhutanese Queen Jetsun Pema as its patron.

Launched in 2015, OGOP identifies at least one authentic Bhutanese product from each Gewog (a bloc) and develops it by finding and plugging gaps in their value chain. While ensuring quality, the OGOP then also helps Bhutanese farmers market these products.

According to Tashi, the Deputy Chamberlain in the Queen’s Project Office, OGOP’s objective is to have a good quality product from each of the 205 gewogs in Bhutan. To start with, there are 80 products and OGOP is working to expand the project to all gewogs.

The OGOP, he said, was prompted by the realisation that Bhutanese farmers needed both training and marketing assistance. “The Queen, during her travel, saw farmers selling their products at throwaway prices. With OGOP helping them now, farmers no longer have to depend on middlemen to sell their products and are also getting better prices for their produce,” said Tashi.

An array of Bhutanese cuisine, from pork and yak dishes to spinach soup with green chillies, momos, red rice and pancakes made with buckwheat flour are also available at the exhibition. And in the evenings, there are programmes showcasing Bhutanese culture and music.

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