As Trashigang prepares to welcome the return of its annual tshechu back in the courtyard of the 359-year-old dzong after four years today, the town is bustling in excitement.

For more than a month, the dzongkhag’s monastic body has been preparing for the annual event that celebrates Guru Rinpoche’s extraordinary life.

Along with the sacred masked dances, other cultural programmes have been rehearsed.

For the people in the villages, the four-day event calls for a moment to come together and celebrate after months of labour in the fields. For others, it is a holiday and time to have some fun.

Amidst these celebrations and a merry time, it is also time for shopkeepers to do a brisk business.

Vendors from Thimphu, Paro, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, Phuentsholing, Wangdue and Trashiyangtse have gathered in the dzongkhag to sell their items.

“Tshechu is a good business time. If we manage to do a business worth Nu 100,000, we can make a minimum profit of about Nu 70,000,” said Karma Yangden, a businesswoman from Samdrupjongkhar.

However, the 37-year-old vendor did not receive a space to set up a stall this time. She along with some 18 other vendors did not get a space at the archery range where mini stalls are pitched for business during the tshechu.

“It is disappointing when you are asked to go back after travelling for almost a day to reach here,” she said. “There are people who come from places further than me and even they didn’t get a plot.”

Another vendor from Trashiyangtse, Tenzin Wangda, said that the organisers were biased as they gave preference to the local businessmen during the distribution of the space.

“We come from far places with goods worth more than Nu 0.6 million and when we reach here, they say we cannot set up stalls due to lack of space,” he said. “They should, in fact, give preference to people coming from far since they don’t have a place to do business.”

Every year the dzongkhag administration and the sports association allows interested vendors to pitch their stalls at the archery range below the bus station.

Until last year, the dzongkhag sports association (DSA) tendered out space and allowed interested bidders to organise the stalls at the archery range.

Trashigang DSA’s treasurer, Karma Choeda, said that in order to conduct the distributions more transparently, the association carried out the distributions on its own this year. “Following complaints from people, we decided to do the distributions ourselves this time,” he said. “We wanted to give everyone an equal and fair opportunity.”

However, he said that given the limited number of space not everyone could get a space to pitch their stalls. A total of 42 plots were divided at the archery range. Some 60 people turned up to get a space.

Karma Choeda said that the association this year reduced the charges per plot and made the distribution fair by drawing lots. “The local vendors were given preference because they are the ones who contribute taxes to the thromde’s activities every year.”

The charge per plot was reduced from Nu 6,000 to Nu 5,000 for five days this year. The treasurer said that Nu 500 would be refunded if the respective stall operators cleaned their areas at the end of the event.

“Garbage is a big problem after such events. We have a difficult time cleaning the area because, from our experience, no one bothers to take care of their garbage once the programme is over,” said Karma Choeda.

It was learned that the amount collected from the stalls went to the sports association to run its annual events and clear other expenses of the DSA.

On an average, the electricity charge at the archery range was about Nu 3,500 monthly. “We also pay an equal charge for light at the multi-sports facility and pay Nu 5,000 as salary to the caretaker of the hall,” said Karma Choeda. “We do not have a separate budget to run all these expenses so we made do with what we collect from here.”

Younten Tshedup  | Trashigang