The government has asked drayang operators to reform their business if they are to reopen. This was not received well.
While suggestions are being put forward to the government to relook into their interest, the government’s advice to reform is a good opportunity both for the operators and the women that have been suffering from an image crisis. Drayangs, despite the jobs they created, is associated with sex, alcohol and indecency. It is young women that is most vulnerable in the business. It has to change.
Drayang is not a Bhutanese culture. It is a copy of the cheap entertainment centres in the region where it is also associated with alcohol, drugs and prostitution. It is a surprise that we let it grow into a full-blown industry even after knowing that it was not right. It is lucrative thus it is spreading. There is no town without a drayang.
The suggestion of Zhungdras and Boedras replacing girls in skin-tight kiras dancing to rigsar and Bollywood music will be difficult. But the business model has to change. The salary system may not interest both owners and dancers, as the income from the so-called “request” system is huge. Some dancers earn higher than civil servants at a chief or a deputy chief level. The flaw is in the request system as the request is two ways making women vulnerable to exploitation.
If we could look at Drayang as performing arts, we will visit a drayang to appreciate art, not to drink or seek companionship. We know the average profile of a drayang visitor. It is not the elderly or women even if they want some entertainment. And the entertainment in the is not what they look for. The government could help drayang owners with expertise.
We have not given much importance to arts and artists anyway, but we are already witnessing the birth of a small creative revolution here in the country. Whether it is in the film or music industry, publishing and advertising industry or in multimedia, we are noticing change. Some of our films and filmmakers are competing for prestigious regional and global awards because of the quality and the creativity.
We have seen recently, during the lockdown, how with effort, recognition and support we can be creative even if we are still learning. It may not please all, but the innovations in mixing old and the modern has had some people want for more entertainment. For once, there were options for not having to watch students dancing to “tape” music on our local cables.
Some drayang owners are talking about closing shops and letting their staff go. That is an option. But if they can reshape and bring some change in the way they conduct business, the scope still remains. This could be yet another benefit from the Covid-19 pandemic.