It was a full moon night. Houses in the village nearby can be seen silhouetted against the moon lit background. The village looks to have slept long time back, soon after the night has fallen. There were no electricity and people hardly stayed awake for few hours after the darkness.
But, out in the barren field someway away from the village, a group of young men and women, and few boys and girls are in the middle of a work amidst laughter, whispers and occasional bouts of singing. Bizarre it may sound but, sometimes, some households in my village hired helping hands of young men and women during the full moon nights to break clumps of dry soil in preparation for the oncoming wheat sowing.
I didn’t understand then on why people hired helping hands during nights. Now I understand how people must have had their hands full during the day, so that something less serious like breaking down clumps of soil can be done in the low visibility of the moon-lit nights. However, young men and women and even small boys and girls always looked forward excitedly to be working in barren fields during night time. In fact, all the young people (single) in the village will turn up for the task, each holding a long handled wooden mallet. The reason for excitement is all too obvious.
Winter is cold in place like Bumthang even during the day. Night is even colder with temperatures plummeting below freezing point and the gutsy wind that blows in the valley adds to the misery but, when you are young, you always have the gut to ignore the inclement weather. And the prospect of being able to flirt with the beautiful girls of the village under the cover of hazy moonlight with the opportunity provided by the night errand always makes it exciting for young men and women. It can be possible, that some of the matches must have taken shape while attending such errands.
Younger boys and girls who are too naïve to understand true romance are consigned to one side while more matured engineered their plans to be closer to each other where they can share their feelings and hatch naughty plans under whispers and flirt with each other.
Often, the talks in the night are between a pair in hushed tone and the sounds of bursting clumps under the force of mallets are all that can be heard loud and clear. But sometimes someone in the group starts talking loud so that rests of the members hears him. Even though, someone demands attention from the rest, there would be nothing serious to talk about but, share some raunchy jokes, that triggers bouts of laughter in the group. Sometimes, the young people sing in unison and sometimes, young men and women contest in the rendition of ballad (Tzangmo).
Tzangmo is sung in such a way that, after the first group or individual rendered four lines, the other group responses with another four lines that is basically a reply to what the first group implied through their rendition. On occasion like this, young men on one side will face off with women on the other. These kinds of rendition contest are known to go on till the wee hours of mornings. If the first one sings something sweet, the respondent tries to make it even sweeter and likewise, if one group sings something with unsavory connotation, the other will try to make it even nastier but, this normally ends with reconciliatory note. I admired at the reputation of some people who are known to be a great repository of Tzangmos.
It was funny too that, although blisters may begin forming in their palms, there is no lacking in will to go on hammering the last sizeable clumps. Perhaps, the excitement of working side by side with the girls and boys of one’s liking may have enabled their hearts to pump lot of adrenalin into their muscles that, holding high, long handled wooden mallet and bringing them strongly on clumps of soil with thuds just comes spontaneously and effortlessly. As nights wear on,excitement among the young ones fade. Their eyes become bleary and they wish to run back home and snuggle under blankets but, the older ones remain oblivious to their plight blinded by their adrenalin rush.
This often goes on into the wee hours of the morning depending on the sizes of fields. In the end, all walk back to the house which hired those hands. The relative darkness offers privacy from prying eyes and most would be walking either hand in hand or side by side nudging each other’s shoulders flirtatiously. But, that is it. After a mug of steaming buttered tea and some snacks, boys will leave for their homes and girls will sleep in the host’s home until the next morning.
That was how it used to be then. Now, wheat and potato fields are giving way to mushrooming of hotels, resorts and other commercial ventures. I am sure people no longer need to hire helping hands and young men and women also no longer need to go to break clumps for a chance to flirt any more.
May 19, 2015 11:55 PM