The Rice-ing Prices

Sometimes in sixties, when Sey Dopola was Tashigang Dzongpon, every village under his jurisdiction were required to contribute labour to work in his farms and orchards. My maternal grandfather, along with some of the people from the neighbouring villages had gone to serve during their turns. Every morning they carried their own pack lunches to work but they were disappointed to see that their pack lunch went missing almost every day. The theft was reported to the Dzongpon when people no longer could tolerate having to stay hungry during hard labour. After some discreet investigation, they found that the culprit was a person called Dorji from Dorey. In fact, he was among those workers. During investigation, Dorji confessed his guilt. However, Dzongpon refused to believe that a single person could eat the food of so many people. So, the Dzongpon took him to kitchen and made him cook one big pot of rice of five dreys. He also gave him three long guteys of much coveted pork, some dried vegetables and two palangs of ara. The Dzongpon conditioned that if he ate all these stuffs, he was a free man but if he could not eat, then he was in deep shit for creating disharmony among the people. Dorji didn’t say anything. It was Dzongpon’s order he had to follow so he silently sat down on the kitchen floor and ate everything that was in pot and drank every drop of ara in the palangs while the Dzongpon looked on. He rolled the palangs on the floor to show that there was nothing left and also showed empty pot to the Dzongpon. The Dzongpon could not believe his eyes. He stood up and exclaimed, “ Dorji, shidu na nan towo oom tur rang zani!!!! ( Dorji, you would die if you eat so much food).” Then he left the room, exclaiming “paw oye, songou tey (what kind of person is this?)!!”
From next day the people carried their lunches in their hemcho (pouch) even when they worked. There was no point in complaining to the Dzongpon.
Jokes aside, there is a serious need to think about food supply in Bhutan today. The land where the food were grown earlier are lost to emerging towns and cities . Even if the land are available, people no longer are interested in working in the fields. Even the countries like China where rice was grown in abundance before, are now buying land for agriculture in poorer countries to meet the increasing demand. India, from where Bhutan gets its supply, announced that they would be importing food this year because there wasn’t enough food to meet their requirements. Many rich countries have eyed lands in Thailand too. Cash starved countries in Africa and some part of Asia are almost sold out. Cultivation of rice and other food items in fertile areas in commercial scale may be a call of the time. A sharp increase in food prices may leave many people far away from being happy.


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