The lively woods that fashioned a life

Shazob Karma Wangchuk, the title is self explanatory that the person is creator of many things wood or wood-based.
All he needs is the baow (deformed part of a certain tree).With his exceptional skills, he transforms the rough shapeless baow into an attractive dhapa (traditional wooden bowl) within few minutes.
For Karma Wangchuk who is a well known Dhapa maker in Lhuentse, his title is more than justified and the specimens he produced and the ones he continues to fashion are all exquisite proof and authentic credentials for the title acquired through years with the trade.
The Dhapa maker had no clue as to where a trade employed only as a meager means to livelihood would take him when he chose the line of work in 2005.
The trade even in Karma’s early days didn’t prove to be thankless for it proved was an alternative source of income to his family.
A rickety bamboo structure houses his enterprise which comprises a single facet motor powered by electricity. But within the confinement of the run-down establishment are the many dozens of the finest quality of the traditional wooden plates which takes shape with a roar of the motor engine.
A skill passed down from father to son, Karma is most thankful to his father and teacher.
The deformation of trees such as Aakshing, Guliser and Serkaling which are found in Pimi and Jang area under Lhuentse Dzongkhag serves as the raw materials for his enterprise. Such diseased trees are what he looks for as raw materials.
For any other person, such a deformation on the tree is of no use. Many would not even give it a second glance. But for a dhapa maker, it is a trophy in the forests.
After obtaining the valid license from Department of Forests and Park Services, raw material collections are done in 11th, 12th and 1st months of the Bhutanese calendar. The ‘deformation’ hanging by the trees are removed and transported home.
The 5th, 6th and 7th month of the Bhutanese calendar, are the busiest of the year for Karma and a good overnight work is almost an everyday deal for him and his engine inside the bamboo hut.
The collected materials are soaked in water for at least 3 months which are then let to dry for the same period of time. Only then are the woods ready for transformation into other similar products.
The price of the products ranges from Nu 300 to Nu 800 dependent on the size and overall quality of the finished products. The products are sold to a broker, one Mr. Ngawangla at Trashiyangtse.
Karma Wangchuk said that he earns Nu 45,000 and sometimes even more in a year through sale of the products minus an annual expenditure of approximate sum of Nu 15, 000.
Such earnings every once in a while proves a blessing for him and his family of 14 which includes six sons and a same number of daughters.
The difficulties Karma faces in the course of his work is generally to-do with access to the permits for collection of raw materials. According to him, it is one government procedures with the biggest bottleneck.
“The permits have to be availed from the Department in Thimphu only,” says Shazob Karma Wangchuk adding that obtaining permits wiles away a major chunk of his earning.
In a heartfelt suggestion obviously generated as a result of painful days and hours of wait at government offices, Karma said, “It would be a great boon for people like us if the issuance of permits for such category is devolved at least to the level of Chief Forestry Office”.
Nevertheless, Karma has decided to commit his life to the trade.
Over the years his respect for the trade has only grown and he speaks highly of his enterprise especially in the backdrop of ever dwindling practice of traditional Dhapa making in the country.
Karma said he is happy he will be helpful to keep the Country’s tradition alive.
The raw materials in the forests are however on thew decline every year. Karma says that every collection season, he has to walk further and further.

About Tanden Zangmo

2 comments

  1. The difficulties Karma faces in the course of his work is generally to-do with access to the permits for collection of raw materials. According to him, it is one government procedures with the biggest bottleneck.

    hah ahah ahah ahah ahaha my government i feel sad

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