- Thursday, 3 July 2014

Drayang: A Secret Little World in Bhutan

“Excuse me, sir, do you know any Drayang around here ?”, I asked a shopkeeper. It was already an hour since me & my partner had been looking for Tashi Tagay Drayang in Thimphu, capital city of the Kingdom of Bhutan. We got mislead a couple of times before getting a definite reply from an old man, “You are standing right under it. Go upstairs on second floor from the backside”. We looked up, surprised, to not find any signboard, but complied.

Drayangs are small budget bars in Bhutan, probably just one or two in number in whole town, uniquely characterised with traditional dance and song performances.

We found our way up through the residential building and led ourselves through an open blue door into a big hall, decorated with Bhutanese artworks, artificial flowers and paper lamps. Within seconds, we forgot that we were technically inside someone's house. The place looked like a regular watering hole, with a brightly lit stage in the front.

We ordered our beer and settled down. Soon Bhutanese music started playing in the background and some really pretty young girls appeared on stage in their traditional attire of wrap around ankle length skirts with full sleeve collared shirts. They started dancing, which can, at best, be described as simple sway of waist in either direction and tapping feet.

The bar started getting filled, and soon we noticed, a couple of performers were hovering around us, competing with each other for our attention. They all had a notebook in their hand, so we could make an entry there along with some tip and make a 'request' for performance.

Slowly we got chatting with these girls and realised, most of them were coming from remote mountains of Bhutan where schooling and managing livelihood is very difficult. They pointed us towards a young blind couple seated in one corner who were singers. We couldn't help but request a song performance from them. And what melodious voice they both had !

After almost three hours and having had enough of music, dance and stories from lives of perfect strangers, we decide to leave after saying goodbyes.

As soon as we reached the main street of our familiar world with shops, neon lights and traffic, it suddenly struck me, how did I end up in a Drayang? It seemed like a closely guarded secret of Bhutan. A place either completely ignored or lost to anonymity.

For my complete story on Bhutan, please follow this link.
Richa Gupta

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