Monday, March 17, 2014

The Night Hunters by Lingi Jamtsho

The Night Hunters by Lingi Jamtsho

Yesterday it was cloudy almost a whole day. The sun hid itself behind the thick cloud far above the sky. Rain would come and go creating a cooling air and made me lazy to go out. I stayed most of my time inside my room. I decided to read the new Bhutanese book that Sithar helped me to buy before coming down to Singapore last month. Thank you Sithar for purposely going down to the bookstore to find my books! :)

I knew about “The Night Hunters” from my Bhutanese friend. The title intrigued me. I’d heard about ‘Night Hunting’ long time ago. For those who’ve never heard about it before, ‘Night Hunting’ is one of the Bhutanese traditional cultures, kind of courtship and romance usually done at night time, practiced mostly in rural Center and Eastern part of Bhutan.

“Young men go out at night to sneak into girls' windows to engage in sexual activities. The prowling can be solo or in groups depending on whether or not the man has a fixed date. It is the rural equivalent of an urban date. If one has talked with the girl in advance then it can be a solo activity but usually it happens after a gathering when friends decide to go prowling for girls. Most boys would have a girl in mind. Although they set out as a group, they disperse gradually as they find a partner.

Traditional two-story buildings make the prowling difficult but the sliding window shutter with only wooden latches from inside makes it easier. Strategies vary from sneaking in the door to climbing up the side of a house to enter a window or even dropping in from the roof. The uniform architecture of Bhutanese houses, with same design of doors and windows also make it easier. The age old tradition has also come up with special tools to undo doors and windows. If the boy successfully infiltrates the dwelling, he still may be rejected by the girl he is pursuing. It takes a lot of persuasion especially for the first time. The prowling may be foiled due to wrong footing, which may wake up the whole family. They intruder may get chased away with hot water splashed on him, or be thrown out of the window. Strict parents chase the intruder or threaten him with marriage or a stick while liberal ones pretend to be asleep even if they know the prowler is around. This more likely if they know the prowler is a suitor they would like to have for their daughter. It is not difficult to guess who the prowler might be in small close-knit villages.

Boys generally attempt to complete the task and make a quick exit if the parents of the girl are in and may stay longer if the girl is alone. It is in some places a custom that a boy discovered in the morning by the parents shall become the husband of the girl, but usually the boy and the girl make sure that the boy exits before the parents get up in the morning. If he oversleeps, they may still find a way to sneak out.

The practice is far more dramatic because this happens under pitch darkness and traditionally the whole family sleep in one large room, which is the kitchen and living room. The prowler must know pretty well where the girl sleeps in order to find the right bed. There are stories of boys getting into the wrong bed and the grannies yelling the boy out or having a good laugh or even quietly enjoying the visit.

The culture of night prowling is fading away due to socio-economic changes. With new metal latches and locks in many houses, it is difficult for young boys now to get into the house. With modern education, modern western form of romance and dating tradition is growing and young people are no keener on this traditional practice but would rather exchange love letters and fix dates. There is also a general misunderstanding among urban elites who have not been through the tradition that prowling for girls is tantamount to sexual harassment and the union resulting from it, to rape. Thus, there are new regulations in place to discourage this practice. Other legal factors include the new paternity law with the penalty of 20% of the income per month until the child is 18 years old for fathering a child.

As most intercourse is consensual, there is small risk of rape. However, a downside of night prowling has been the rampant bastardy. Bastardy and single motherhood were less of a problem in the traditional setting with extended families and grandparents always around to look after the child. However, the growing culture of nuclear families, the requirement for marriage certificates, requirement of a father to register the child as citizen, the increasing practice of western styled wedding culture are leading to an increased stigma for single motherhood. This subsequently is leading to the fall in sex outside wedlock and practices such as prowling for girls.” – Source: 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? So, when I saw the title of the book for the very first time, what appeared on my mind was – the author of this book must have written an interesting story about night hunting. Hehehe… Perhaps, that’s what you would think too, wasn’t it?

Dasho Lingi Jamtsho in his uniform together with Passu, a Bhutanese blogger

“The Night Hunters” contains total of 133 pages and divided into 17 different interesting short stories. The author is Dasho Lingi Jamtsho, a man in his mid-thirties, graduated from Sherubtse College in Kanglung, Bhutan and Jawaharlal Nehru University, majoring in National Defense Academy in Pune, India. Now he is a Major in the Royal Bhutan Army. This is his first book. I think more books will come very soon, right Au? :)

Since he is a Major in the Royal Bhutan Army, he writes some stories related to army in these collections. The rest of it is mixes of love stories and other events happening in Bhutanese’s contexts and lives.

Although each story was written short, it took me some time to read it. Perhaps it was because I wanted to imagine and understand the background and situation of each story written, so that I wouldn’t miss the point that the Author wanted to write and the message that he wanted to convey in that story.

As a foreigner, I had to catch up too with the Bhutanese words that he put into his stories. Luckily, and the good point about this book, he put the English translation of the Dzongkha words, right beside it. So, I didn’t have to get lost with the translation, or turn to the back page each time I wanted to find the meaning of it. Well done, Au!

Like I said, the Author had put in some message through the story so that the readers would learn from it before the real thing or real suffering happened to them in real life. For this, I referred to one of the story, titled – The Wrong Number. What was it regarding to? Find it out yourself and you will understand why I said so.

Some of his story related to the current situation too, where you yourself might encounter it due to the current social media online interaction.

It took me quite some time to finish reading it. Somehow, one story might relate with another as he used same character’s names in few stories, made me thinking, were they really related? Hahaha… Perhaps yes, and perhaps no ba?

Au Lingi told me that some readers complained about the title as they took it in another sense. Hm… let you decide ba after reading it.

You can get this book at the bookstore in Thimphu, Bhutan, costs Ngu 200 only (less than US$3.50 or around S$4.20).

Most importantly, support your fellow writers. They had waited for decades before having courage to publish this book and share their works with all of you. And after finished reading it, share the book with others – friends and family members - so that they can enjoy reading it too.

Happy reading everyone! :)


dumcho wangdi said...

Mam Rima,
For the first time I read the title, I thought the same way with you; that Night Hunters will probably talk about night hunting.
Seems like I have to grab one. hehe

Rima Reyka said...

Yes Dumcho, get one copy for yourself and find out the stories for yourself :) Thank you!

Kipchu Namgyel said...

May be I should also write a book about it.But before that I must create stories of ma own as by my time it was already a history and no more practised haha.You do come up with a lot of interesting things mam.

Rima Reyka said...

Thank you Kipchu! Have a nice day! :)

Subba Shan said...

Hello Rima, i appreciate ur love for our country...n u r much better aware of current happenings than me.. i only knew abt this book through ur blog... i would love to read it too. This book is going to be my next must read.

Rima Reyka said...

Hehehe... Thank you Subba Shan for your kind words ^^ Hope you enjoy reading it! :)

Yeesi7 said...

A cool book indeed. I didn't read the book though.
I am looking forward to reading the book.

Glad to know that you grabbed the book for yourself as well :D

Rima Reyka said...

It's quite a new book Yessi. You can grab a copy when you go back home on holiday and find out more stories in it for your pleasure ^^ Thanks and take care!

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