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Day 114: Paro

Michael Palin - HimalayaHaving devoted most of this morning to the Dance of the Judgement of the Dead, I feel in urgent need of some light relief and take up Khendum's invitation to join her for an archery match.

For her, this means watching only. In one of the rare examples of sex discrimination in Bhutan, women are not allowed to take part in traditional archery competitions. Two other reasons why I'm relieved to be, like her, a spectator, are that it looks pretty difficult and most of the participants are roaring drunk.

The hospitality tent, set on a pretty, willow-strewn meadow, is full of bonhomie. Long, rambling stories are told, one man sings 'Waltzing Matilda' at full volume, another lurches by with a whisky and loud yell, another becomes droolingly amorous. Khendum introduces me to them.

One is the Secretary of Employment, another the Managing Director of the National Bank. Others are chairmen of this and that. I realize this is no ordinary hospitality tent. These are the movers and shakers of Bhutan, letting their hair down. And why not?

Well, I suppose one reason why not is that they will shortly be loosing off arrows at enormous speed in a field that contains not just the target but also women, dogs and small children.

The national game, they keep trying to tell me, is taken extremely seriously and any young Bhutanese boy, in a village or a palace, learns the skills early on. However, it's clearly not a solemn sport. Though women are not allowed to play, they have an important role as vocal supporters.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 114: Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 258

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