l Tenzin Wangchuk., Paro
It is six in the evening and Paro wears a cold deserted look. Kinley, 21, dons her thick woolen jacket and a sturdy kira. The smile in her face is unmistakable as she slings a bucket of Thuep (rice porridge) in her right hand side and a Bangchung of Doma pani (acera nut) to her left.
She is headed for town with an intention in her mind—to make a few hundred bucks to keep her home fires rolling and, maybe, buy an extra pair of new trendy slippers for her brother.
She looks excited, yet tensed, for she still has to hunt for a spot to sell her merchandise, as one may call. Her hands and feet get numbed in the blistering cold and her ears stiff with the howling icy wind.
She finally makes it to the old taxi parking—far from home, yet a place she held dear to her heart. Probably there were a few like her wanting to eke out a decent livelihood out of Thukpas and Momos.
Placing her bucket full of theup and the bangchung on the icy tarmac she quickly rubs her numb hands and begins to shout: “Thuep, Thuep. Doma, Doma.”
Her chants are slowly answered as a small crowd of passerby, mainly taxi drivers, gather around her, enchanted by the sweet smell of thuep and doma pani.
“One beef thukpa for me and a doma for my friend here,” a cabbie signals as he scans the vicinity for any passenger that might hire him at this time of the hour.
Kinley scoops a luxurious ladle from her bucket and offers it to the middle-aged man, much to her silent excitement. She has scored her first customer for the night.
Kinley’s business is not lucrative, the tedious night job and the cold make the matter worse. Yet, she stands there wearing a smile and chanting that chorus of Thukpa, momo and doma like it were a huge overnight money-spinning business.
“I love your thueb. Pour me one more before I get going,” the cabbie joke, his eyes still inspecting for passersby’s who might want to hire him for a ride.
Like her thueb the crowd slowly thickens as time passes by. And by 11 into the night she has sold around seven cups and twelve bunches, each costing Nu 20, worth of doma pani.
Her thirteen years of schooling and endless hunt in search of jobs lay bare right in front of her eyes—thukpa and doma pani. And they at times, seemed full of flavor in her, otherwise, dull cold life.
As the night fold deep into the somber ghostlike-alleys and whining strays, Kinley rests on a concrete roadside, heaving a sigh of much needed relief, to count her day’s earning. Her empty bucket and bangchung slung neatly beside her weary arms.
“One thousand four hundred and fifty five. Good enough for a new pair of flippers.”
The night suddenly grow warm as she heads for her home, perched on a distant knoll above the village temple, overlooking the Paro Mall below.