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Carving life out of wood: A story of Dhapa maker


Shadzob Karma Wangchuk at his workplace
Shadzob Karma Wangchuk which his title is self explicit is a well known Dhapa (traditional wooden plate) maker in Lhuentse. He started his business in 2005 as an alternative source of income to his family. The rickety structure of bamboo makeshift, houses his enterprise which comprises of single facet motor run by an electricity. But within the confinement of that dilapidated structure many dozens of finest quality of wooden plate takes shapes with the roar the motor engine. His dhapa making is singly a father-to-son passed skills.

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 when wandering hunting for the raw materials. 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 trunk of the trees are removed and converted to roughly the shape for easy transport home. 

Come 5th, 6th and 7th month of the Bhutanese calendar, he gets busy with his engine inside the bamboo hut. The collected materials are soaked in water for atleast 3 months which are then again let to dry for same period of time. Only then are the woods ready for transformation into
 and other similar products.
 
The price of the products ranges from Nu. 300 to Nu. 800 dictated by the size and overall quality. The products are sold to broker, one Mr. Ngawangla at Trashiyangtse. He revealed that he earns Nu. 45,000 or so in a year through sale of the products minus an annual expenditure of approximate sum of Nu.15,000. Such earning feeds his not so small family of 14 including 6 sons and same number of daughters.

However, not an easy access to the permits for collection of raw materials required for running his enterprise is a biggest bottleneck. “The permits have to be availed from the Department in Thimphu only,” says Shadzob Karma Wangchuk adding that obtaining permits eats away major chunk of his earning. He expressed his suggestion by saying, “It would be a great boon for people like us if the issuance of permits for such category is devoled atleast to the level of Chief Forestry Office.

Whatever may come, he has committed his life in the trade. He speaks high of his enterprise in the backdrop of ever dwindling of such traditional dhapa making in the Country. Parallel to helping feed his family, his trade is also helping keep the Country’s tradition alive.   

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