For the last 13 years, Jordhen has been entertaining guests in her old two-storied traditional house in Bangbangla village in Gongdue Gewog, Mongar. Her work is to feed guests coming to the Gewog, and also provide shelter, if they choose to stay at her house.
Jordhen is the village’s Tosop, a responsibility given by the local government.
Remote Gongdue, a five-day walk from Kurizampa, doesn’t have a hotel or a restaurant, and the tradition of Tosop has ensured that those visiting the Gewog will never go hungry or have to sleep in the woods. A Tosop is a host, who provide meals and shelter to travelers and visitors. Because of the distance and lack of facilities, the Gewog office appoints a Tosop in each of its five Chiwogs.
The Tosop is usually the household nearest to the road, and the guests are mainly civil servants visiting the Gewog and, recently, contractors and private business people.
Jordhen always welcome her guests with a locally brewed alcohol like Ara or Bangchang. The mother of two and a divorcee serves dinner with whatever she has in store and, before 9 pm, the bed is readied. There are no mattresses or pillows, and a thin carpet spread on the wooden floor and cloth filled with maize grain makes the pillow. When the number of guests are few, she spares her blankets.
Breakfast is served very early or late, by arranging cups and plates from the neighbours. The service is free and, if Jordhen is lucky, the guests will leave some money behind as soelra. However, for her service, Jordhen and the other Tosops need not contribute woola (compulsory labour) in the village. Guests give Jordhen soelra ranging from Nu 100 to 250.
“It’s difficult and embarrassing when the number of guests are huge,” Jordhen, who had been the Bangabangla Tosop for 13 years, said. Bangbangla is the first village and many guest are entertained here. “Without any source of cash income, the cash comes handy,” she said.
Each of the five Chiwogs has a Tosop each. The Tosop in Silambi vilage discontinued when the village was connected with a road.
“Sometimes we borrow ration from the neighbors, when the numbers go up, while shortage of blanket is another problem,” said the Tosop of Pam village, Sonam Pelzang, 37. Pam is a day’s walk from Bangbangla. “It’s easier when guests bring sleeping bags,” Sonam Pelzang said, adding that, despite their poor services, guests leave satisfied and happy. “But we had some, who, instead of leaving behind soelra, left abusive remarks.”
A recent visitor to the Gewog, a Mongar Dzongkhag official, said, the service Tosops provided was the best, given the difficulty of the villagers and the distance. “Carrying ration is difficult and we may go hungry if the trend doesn’t exist. We should be grateful to them,” said the official, Rinchen.
The Gongdue Gewog Administrative Officer, Kezang Jigme, said the need of Tosop was felt and identified, based on the size of the house and the proximity to the road.
Meanwhile, the Tosops said the number of guests visiting the place are decreasing, as most chose to travel by Samdrupjong, taking the ongoing Nganglam – Gyelpozhing highway.