The Vendors of Kheri

Pema Chezom is another vendor at the stall. She sells only juice, mineral water and doma. “It’s not easy doing such a business when you know that you can be chased away anytime,” she said. A few months ago, officials from the department of trade visited the stall and asked the vendors not to sell the products that were already available in the market in Trashigang.

 

The Vendors of Kheri

It was a sweltering summer day in Trashigang with temperature hovering around 32 degrees Celsius.

Inside a makeshift hut near Kheri junction are two women, Tandin Wangmo and Dechen Dema who are busy preparing selroti and jabebi. Tandin Wangmo, 41, is one of the five roadside vendors in Trashigang.

The stall is a popular joint for travellers looking for a quick bite of street food when they make a brief stop at the junction.

The vendors take turns to sell their products – selroti, jabebi, dumplings (beef and cheese), doma, tea, juice and water. It will be Tandin’s turn to sell at the stall tomorrow. “Because there are five of us, we follow a routine,” she said.

It takes almost an entire day to prepare the products. While Tandin Wangmo is busy preparing selroti in the hut, her husband, a retired soldier, will be making the dumplings at home.

Tandin has two daughters studying in Trashigang Middle Secondary School. She said, “I want to continue the business until my daughters complete their studies.”

“After my husband retired, this has become the only source of income for my family,” said Tandin Wangmo. “We manage somehow.”

Tandin earns around Nu 2,000 a day when there are other vendors at the stall. If she is the only seller, she makes around Nu 4,000 a day. “During the season when there are more travellers we make a little more than usual. But these days because of the road conditions there are not many travellers.”

 

 

Pema Chezom is another vendor at the stall. She sells only juice, mineral water and doma. “It’s not easy doing such a business when you know that you can be chased away anytime,” she said. A few months ago, officials from the department of trade visited the stall and asked the vendors not to sell the products that were already available in the market in Trashigang.

“They told us that there were complaints from shopkeepers that we were selling packaged products like juice and mineral water,” said Pema Chezom. “It might seem illegal but we are selling these products at the request of the customers. When they buy momos from us, they also ask for water and juice.”

She said that since the stall was located some 3km away from the main town, they were not competing with the shopkeepers in town. “Two of my children are studying in a private school. There is no other means to make money.”

At the beginning, a few vendors sold food in town. However, due to issues related to hygiene, sanitation and littering, the authorities intervened. Officials from Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) conduct routine monitoring and inspection.

Nevertheless, small vendors in Kheri are still in demand. Kezang Wangchuk, a lorry driver said that stalls along the highway have benefited drivers and travellers. “It is difficult to get a parking space for heavy vehicles in the town. This is good because we don’t have to go to Trashigang just for a piece of snack.”

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang (This article has been edited for the Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared on Kuensel.


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