Yangyel Lhaden 

Drayangs are likely to reopen soon but visitors are in for a surprise as the government has expressed changes to numerous aspects of the establishment.

One of the changes would be doing away altogether with the request system or a major modification.

The dancers ask clients to sponsor dance or songs paying certain amount.

In a meeting with the drayang operators two weeks ago, Lyonchhen asked the drayang owners to reform the request system when drayangs reopen where the women need not make contact to request customers. He suggested the employers can arrange a salary system for the employees, and to have performance of only cultural dances and songs.

The entertainment centre operators during the meeting appealed to Lyonchhen to allow them to reopen their business and ensured Covid-19 safety protocols would be in place.

The entertainment sector had been closed for more than eight months now. 

The employees of drayang solely depend on request from customers for their income. The employees and employers share earnings from the requests equally.

The employees said that if they didn’t seek requests, the request hardly came by.

Druk Drayang Association (DDA) submitted three suggestions about reforms in request system–menu which consist of songs for request, contribution box where customers can pay if they liked the performance of group, and a general contribution box to the government.

  The talks going around in DDA group chat is many drayang owners are planning to surrender their business. The drayang owners said that they had been running in loss and drayangs could not operate with the reformed request system.

The president of DDA said that for the long run the government’s directive was a good decision but sustainability was the main challenge today. “We would abide by the government’s directive and see how it goes about for a few months if the government continues to grant kidu to the employees.”

Chencho Dorji, owner of Dorji drayang in Thimphu said that the directive from the government came in ad-hoc and they weren’t prepared for it. “We thought the government was not allowing us to operate the business due to Covid-19.”

Chencho Dorji said that the request was the main source of income for drayangs and if it was reformed then the whole concept and how drayangs worked needed to change. “Not all drayang employees are bad except for a few.”

If a drayang employee has a relationship with a man, the public badmouthed and cooked up stories. “All of them are adults and there is a difference between the relationships they have.”

The drayang employees said that they might not earn enough to sustain in big cities like Thimphu and Paro without the request system.

People working in drayangs are mostly school-dropouts, and from a financially disadvantaged family. For them working in drayangs is enough to sustain and they could send money to their parents in villages.

One of the drayang employees said that there were incidences where customers acted astray with her. “As long as we maintain good talking skills and walked away from rude customers, working in drayang is lucrative and not problematic,” she said.

The drayang owners are waiting for the directive from government about reopening date and directives about how drayangs would be