When I was a little boy playing in the dusty playground in my village our favorite game was 'Going to Tibet' where I being one of the strongest get to be tradesman. There would be a few friends with me carrying loads of scraps because they were my horses. Rest of the boys will be either play Chinese army or Tibetan andos (meaning guerrilla force). These two forces would ambush on my caravan, while I would have to escape their territory to earn my fortune and win my freedom- and to prove myself as the strong among village boys.
This game of 'Going to Tibet' was inspired by true stories, where our traders tell us the stories of how they escaped the horse-eating Chinese army to illusive andos.
For a northern Bhutanese 'Going to Tibet' is the way of living, struggle for survival and a business that runs down the bloodline. My father crossed those mountains so many times, but his life ran shorter than his ambition and had to leave us in the hands of fate. His son was only a year old when he breath his last, he didn't wait for me to pass his secret maps. Perhaps he must have passed them through his genes but I went to school to draw my own map.
Every other neighbor goes to Tibet, though we lost our last family tradesman. Bhutanese had their first pinch of salt from across those mountains. From what used to be self-sustaining business, it grew in large scale trade and big merchants in Thimphu rely on our people for their business. Every household in Bhutan would either have a flask or a blanket that came on the horseback from across those mountains.
The trade was marked illegal in modern times and traders started hiding from their third hunters-Bhutanese army along the border. It became a risky business but what else could our people do in the place where only wheat grew? But never in my entire life have I seen media covering the story of this black business across the mountain, and what Kuensel reported on 18th September about the four traders arrested in Bumthang surprised me. What does it mean after all these years? Is it the impact of new relation with China? I don't see a reason beyond Chinese factor and I am already worried if the factor is going to affect the whole mountains. How black is this black business that keeps so many families warm along those cold mountains?