Crafting Dreams: Carpenters Find Home Away from Home in Laya

In a tale of ambition and collaboration, Minjur Dorji embarked on a journey to Laya nine years ago, transforming the tranquil valley into his cherished second abode. Hailing from Trashigang, a devoted father of two, Minjur spends a substantial nine months each year in this captivating realm. Initially drawn by his uncle’s footsteps, he was one of the pioneering carpenters from Radhi to tap into the highland’s unique opportunities.

The highlands of Laya are a sanctuary where indigenous inhabitants venture deep into the mountains in pursuit of the prized cordyceps and rare herbs. While native Layaps dedicate their time to this mountainous quest, Minjur and his comrades from Radhi have found their calling in crafting homes. A cohort of 21 friends followed Minjur’s lead, with some even intertwining their destinies with highland families through marriage.

Collaborating in trios comprising carpenters and construction experts, these artisans seamlessly construct two-story homes, reaping substantial earnings exceeding Nu 500,000 per project. With camaraderie as their cornerstone, they jest, dubbing Laya their “Australia,” alluding to the land of opportunity. Amidst the chill, their spirits remain warm, nurtured by the gracious hospitality of house owners who provide sustenance and lodging for months.

Efficiency is their forte; with ready construction materials, they complete around five homes in nine months. Minjur’s story illuminates the transformative power of their labor – the income garnered has facilitated the education of his progeny. He beams with pride as he reveals his children’s collegiate pursuits, a prospect that promises respite from the unforgiving mountain chill, which grows more taxing on his aging frame.

These carpenters are highly coveted, their expertise in perpetual demand. “Even before finishing one project, we’re already booked for the next,” Minjur remarks. Bolstered by substantial cordyceps sales revenue, mountain dwellers often embark on building fresh homes within short spans.

The architectural style exudes tradition, with stone being the key material. When the rice planting season emerges, these artisans momentarily depart for their villages. Radhi is renowned as the “Rice Bowl of the East,” celebrated for its Sorbang rice variant. Acknowledging the importance of agriculture for familial sustenance, the carpenters underscore its significance.

Harvesting an average of 40 kilograms per acre, farmers tend to 1,239 acres of rice fields, requiring 90 days for the meticulous transplantation process. Yet, the rising tide of human-wildlife conflict has compelled locals to explore alternative revenue streams. Some turned to community contract work, though minimal earnings and heightened risks diminished its appeal.

As the once-abundant cordyceps become scarcer with each passing year, Layaps may confront financial challenges in constructing new homes. A contemplative sentiment is shared by Namgay from Lungo, envisioning a future where Layaps might need to self-build due to limited resources. Minjur, however, is resolute in his optimism. He believes in the uniqueness of their craft, highlighting the mastery that time bestows upon it. With a triumphant grin, he signifies that perfection takes patience – a virtue they’re willing to embrace.

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