What is the Festival Season
The only preparation visible, besides the monks practising dances for the Thimphu tshechu, is the space reserved by shopkeepers and vendors along Norzin lam. The road will be closed for traffic and, for three days, it will be an open market.
Sales thrive as shopkeepers use the space to clear their old stock at cheaper prices, and tshechu goers and shoppers take advantage of the so called “sale”. But there is trouble waiting. It was quite a scene yesterday, as would be vendors and shopkeepers rushed for the best spots. Some were even about to exchange blows.
The thromde had awarded, as early as the first week of September, the space for interested people after paying Nu 1,500. What is not clear is who will be awarded which spot. It is not clear and shopkeepers are expecting a huge rush on the last day.
The open shops and the food stalls have been an integral part of the Thimphu tshechu for some time now. With a lack of entertainment during the holidays, it is a crowd puller.
The three-day Thimphu tshechu is an auspicious occasion for residents of the capital and villagers nearby. It is a long break for people not attending the tshechu to relax and spend some time with their family.
What we can do with is better entertainment during the holidays. After the government banned fetes, which turned out to be more gambling than entertainment, we are not seeing any entertainment during the long break. Sometimes, when the tshechu falls on weekdays, officer goers in the capital almost get a weeklong break.
If the public initiative is not a healthy one, the government or civil societies are not forthcoming with anything better. The long break could be meaningfully utilised if we have healthier entertainments, like art, book or film festivals. Bhutanese love fun and eating. A food festival is also a good idea. Open-air theatre, even if it is rudimentary, could entertain crowds.
The concept of going to a tshechu, for most, is a few hours at Tendrelthang and many hours roaming the streets. For the youth, there are no healthy activities to channel their energy during the long break. That’s why crime rates are usually high during holidays.
Then there is the issue of hygiene and sanitation. Every public gathering is accompanied by large volumes of garbage left for the thromde cleaners. We need proper garbage disposable sites and toilets.
Even as permits are being issued to food vendors, it is appropriate to guide them on safety and hygiene. The odd food stalls thrive during every public gathering and, if left unchecked, safety would be compromised. We cannot separate other activities from religious festivals, what we can do is organise them properly.