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Day 104: Gantey

Gantey, Bhutan 
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Evidence of the cult of Drupka Kunley, the 'divine madman' on a house in Gantey village. More common in East Bhutan, these painted penises are believed to ward off evil spirits.
Michael Palin - HimalayaA bright girl called Dawa Zangma, which means 'moon', lives here and helps the family income by weaving. She can make a kira, with all its complicated colours and patterns, in eight days.

Dawa Zangma is 13, apple cheeked with straight, thick, dark hair. She's about to leave the home and the loom to go to boarding school.

She lays aside her work and helps her mother prepare butter tea, which we drink sitting cross-legged on a small carpet, which is rolled out specially for us. There are, as far as I can see, no chairs in the house, which she shares with her mother, father and two sisters. Benji confirms that in a traditional Bhutanese house where there is little money around life is lived on the floor (which is why they move with much more agility than myself). There is no cutlery and no glass in the windows, which are covered at night by sliding bamboo shutters. Everyone eats or sleeps in the one big room, dominated by the stove at its centre.

The attractive appearance of the houses belies the condition of the villagers. We are still in the Bhutanese winter and those inhabitants who can afford it will have packed up everything and moved to lower slopes with their livestock. Those who stay on may be employed in the reconstruction work at the monastery, but that's about it. A woman, well wrapped up, sits behind the counter of the single local store. On display is a pretty meagre selection of chillies (the sine qua non of Bhutanese cuisine), cabbage, cauliflower, beans, potatoes and dried fish from Bangladesh. Though they seem to enjoy eating meat and fish, the Buddhist prohibition on taking life means that it all has to be killed by designated butchers within the country or brought in from outside.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 104: Gantey
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Gantey
  • Book page no: 243

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