“For most part it was a busy farm work day. During peak plantation seasons, we worked for twelve hours everyday. Looking after cattle, ploughing the fields, weeding the crops, and maintaining proper irrigation are some usual tasks. I also had to preside over rituals according to Nepali Hindu customs, whenever people called me for. Being a priest in the village, I had to skip some of my chores in the farm to perform unavoidable rituals in case of death or birth. Often, I walked a whole day to go for such a ritual performance when people of Galechhu or Gwong villages in the hinterlands of Gelephu, asked me to do so. Mostly, we grew rice paddies. Besides, dryland crops like corn (maize), wheat and buckwheat grew abundantly. In those days wage-laborers were available to work on farm or construction sites. Cattle rearing was another chief source of income for villagers in Surey block. People had cattle ranches in the forest outside the village, but I did not have so. Fodder trees were abundant in my own farm land. So, I did not have to go forest for lopping and felling fodder trees. Going to market in Gelephu consumed the whole day even in taking motor vehicles. Very rarely we went to Indian bazaars like Bogain to fetch special goods not readily available in Gelephu. Harvesting season starting October used to bring other busy days, until the whole rice paddies got collected, thrashed and the hay stacked for storage. Some lean days off from farm work would be spent in cardamom orchards. It took a pretty good labor force to get the cardamom plucked and dried in large vats. Cardamom fetched a good income for many of us who own tracts of orchards. Days were not so bad for me until the trouble began with the government in 1990. I had everything for my basic living. And, most of us were self- sufficient.”
Hari Lal Dahal, 77, is originally from Surey village in Gelephu Bhutan, and based in Louisville, KY at the time when this story was compiled.
Story and photo compilation by Buddha Mani Dhakal for BNS