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Laya, one of the communities that was until recently considered secluded in the folds of the mighty mountains high up north, is changing. It has now shed the look and feel of remoteness with which the community used to be happily associated just a few years ago.

Such changes brought about by the nation’s conscious development initiatives have been Bhutan’s modern narrative. Evolution, influenced by changes, will continue, even more rapidly in the future. The community’s unique features and elements like dress and architecture have already undergone major shift. Laya, as yet, may be grappling with the challenge to save its face, but it has managed to preserve its soul intact.

Even as the road has come to the community, people still migrate down south to the warmer climes during winter and head up north when spring returns. Although less in number today, pack animals are still the important mode of transport for the community’s strong and weather-beaten residents. In a few years down the line, pickup trucks and expensive cars will replace the pack animals. That is when Laya will be compelled to look inward. The process of change is difficult. Complexities have a way to hit hard in the end.

The road will bring tourism to the community. With advent of tourism will follow many other developments to support the demands of the booming industry. At the highlanders’ meeting in the capital last year, representatives made it clear that amenities like better schools and health facilities were what they needed. These are the signs of change in our villages.

Laya could be one of the fastest growing communities in Bhutan in a decade’s time. Already, the people of Laya have extended their shopping destinations. They travel as far down as Phuentsholing today to restock their supplies for the hard winter.

The challenges we will face as the results of development will not be easy to deal with. As more and more of our rural communities change, we will struggle to retain the essence of unique cultures and traditions that define our communities. Perhaps by then we will have realised that culture preservation as we understand today has complex nuances and begun looking at the modern needs of our changing society.

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