BUILD, BUILDING, BUILT

Building

I would like to tell you that if you visited any of Bhutan’s “touristy” destinations you will be greeted by valleys dotted with quaint homes surrounded by towering mountains and verdant hills (finally got to use the word ‘verdant’) but the truth is most places are now a chaotic mess of gaudy apartment buildings, half-constructed monstrosities of concrete and rebar that are slowly but surely creeping their way up our hills and mountains. Of course, developing infrastructure is a sign of prosperity and the growth of a nation and we DO have rules that forbid such activities in certain protected areas but one cannot help but look at all of these eye sores – for lack of a better term – and wonder if maybe we should slow it down a bit. Or until I strike it big and build my own six-storey residence and live off the exorbitant rent I shall charge the tenants.

If you live in Thimphu or intend to live here or if you’re just visiting then there are a few things one needs to get used to. First, there is always, ALWAYS a construction of some sort or the other happening at any given time. Second, there is no such thing as peace and quiet. You must be prepared to endure the incesant barking of dogs throughout the night as you unsuccessfully try to rest your weary self only to be bombarded with the ear-splitting screech and cacophony of drills, electric saws and the horribly offpitch singing of construction workers during the day. I exaggerate, of course. There are moments of reprieve every now and then, cherish them.

You’re probably wondering why we don’t complain and if enough of us did then maybe there would be rules put in place that would require such work to begin and end at a time which would benefit everyone. We do complain but mostly among ourselves. Most of us would dare not make an issue of such things because we would rather not be seen as a ‘Nyanye Pem’ or a ‘Nyanye Dorji’, simply put, as people who complain a lot. Another reason we do not complain is because we must always stay in the good graces of the ‘Jindas’

In the past, Jindas were patrons who would commission artists for various religious works and that is putting it simply. These days a Jinda is anyone who runs a business, drives a big car or owns a building. I believe you can tell how rich a Jinda is by noting key features in their buildings. I have broken it down into three groups.

The first is the ‘Regular Jinda’. The building or buildings belonging to this group is extremely utilitarian. The number of storeys can vary from one to five. The structures are not too extravagant and usually have small pan shops, grocery stores and fast food restaurants on the ground floors. Most of these structures are also rather old and weather beaten with dark hallways and stairways.

I will lob the two other classes of Jinda, being the ‘Super Jinda’ and the ‘Mega Jinda’ together as both groups technically have the same features in their buildings save for one glaring difference. Both groups own extravagant structures which have no fewer than four storeys. The ground floors of these buildings will usually have shopping marts, Dhaka sales, private parking for tenants and at least one of the floors will be taken up by a “fine dining” restaurant. These buildings will also have large reflective glass windows and lifts, or elevators for you Americans out there.

The only difference between a ‘Super Jinda’ and a ‘Mega Jinda’ is that the lifts in the Mega Jindas’ buildings will actually be operational.

Now, these groups are not set in stone and there is free movement within them. It is possible for a Regular Jinda to become a super or even a mega Jinda if they have the resources or can pay back their loans and in the same vein a super/mega Jinda could easily drop to a regular Jinda should they make bad investments. I use the word ‘drop’ but the truth is most of us would consider ourselves fortunate to fall in any of the groups that I have so meticulously studied and crafted. From the looks of things it seems like the time of the regular Jinda is at an end as more and more old buildings are demolished and replaced with new, shinier structures while our urban areas are perpetually trapped in a feedback loop of a construction site themed heavy metal album. “Come on! Feel the noise” indeed.

Very rarely do you find a building that has not been defaced by doma spit or the white streak of indignation that is the tsuney (lime) thumbed across the wall. It would be simpler and cleaner to spit in the drain or to wipe the tsuney on a piece of paper or tissue but those are the actions of people who are content with their lot in life. When you spit upon the wall of a building it is not merely the evacuating of built up saliva but a challenge to the heaven’s itself. That you will rise up and one day own your very own building which others will spit upon. THAT is what that red and white stain really means. It’s surely not JUST the oral excretions of people with no proper etiquette who lack any human decency or the will to simply dispose of the contents of their mouths in a proper place. A spit and tsuneystained wall is the bane of any building owner and it is far easier to just let people spit on it then actually bother trying to clean it up. There are those who try to deter these miscreants by putting up signs like ‘Do Not Spit’ or ‘No Spitting’ or the naively optimistic “Thank You for Not Spitting’ only to find that the doma devouring deviants have purposely chosen to spit only on the sign.

Perhaps that’s the way to go. Give them a target because a wall that has spit on one specific spot looks much better than a wall that’s got spit all over. However, kindly do avoid spitting anywhere.

Finally, this is a rather old one but why do we still call it a building even after it’s been built?

Kinley Phyntso

He is a freelance writer who enjoys comedy, music and comedic music. Currently racked with existential dread, he also likes long walks and talking people’s ears off.