All eggs in one Bangchung( basket)!!
I have fond memories of Bhutan, where I was stationed in the early nineties. Bhutan is a landlocked country in the eastern fringe of the Himalayas. It is a spectacularly beautiful country with hills, valleys, small rivulets and mountain streams and some glorious snow capped mountains. More beautiful than the natural bounty are perhaps the people who make this lovely country.
The people are simple and honest and intricately linked to the nature. It was only in 1999 that internet and mobile telephony started making inroads into the land. The people are rugged and fond of sports – basketball and archery being the main passion. They are fond of Hindi movies. This is the only country which has adopted the “global happiness index” as a measure of its economic development and very rightly it is rated as the happiest Asian and the eight happiest country in the world!!
I was part of a team which provided medical care to the locals as part of a goodwill process. There would be serpentine queues of the residents lined up with varying ailments. They were extremely grateful for the medicare provided in that far flung and remote corner of Bhutan. They would smile appreciatively and beam with happiness on being dispensed with the medicines after a medical consultation. It was a social visit and a convenient meeting point and often they would be in animated discussion about something or the other soaking in the sun on the hospital lawns. Many of them became friends and would encourage my fledgling efforts at trying to converse with them in Dzonkha, the local language. They would come on mule-back or walk miles to reach the facility.
At the end of my first day, my medical assistant asked me to come to the dispensary. I was amazed, surprised and touched to see scores of small beautifully woven small bamboo baskets with intricate geometric designs. Each one capable of being closed with a lid- the local Bhutanese Tupperware-the hand woven Bangchung. Each one containing one to two fresh eggs. They wanted to show their gratitude and this was their gift to me. The Bangchung is used by them to store dry meat, Yak cheese and also serves as a plate for eating rice and used on the move.
I collected several of the Bangchung . Refusing them was not an option-the local interpreter made that very clear. I gifted them to many friends and relatives-they make very attractive decorative pieces. I was not much of an egg -eater and the eggs found their way to the homes of my colleagues in the station. Many of them did not buy eggs as long as I was around – such was the generosity of the Bhutanese. It was a different thing that whenever I visited my colleagues, their wives would serve me egg dishes of all shapes and sizes-it was assumed I am very fond of eggs and hence I was collecting them, quite literally, by the baskets!!