Many commuters who pass by Samdrupjongkhar town feel that their journey is incomplete if they didn’t buy at least a piece of burey (raw silk) cloth from the border town of Daranga in Assam.
Known by different names such as Mechey, Kotsirapa, Gudama or Samdrupjongkhar burey, many Bhutanese buy them as an outfit for themselves, while some buy as a gift.
The major buyers are people living in the eastern dzongkhags.
As shoppers enter into the crowded street with small structures mix of concrete and makeshifts, piles of the unique textiles are displayed on the rack.
Perfectly fabricated with traditional Bhutanese designs, all forms of gho and kira such as sethra, marthra, pangtse, hor (patterned) are all available from the border town popularly known as Gudama or Melabazaar, which is around three kilometers away from the border gate.
They also sell other burey items like thread, kabney (orange scarf, burey khamar for gup, lamai kabney and ordinary white kabney), shawl and tegos.
The shopkeepers, who have been interacting with customers from the east, speak fluent Sharchop. They greet people passing by in Sharchop and ask if they want to buy the silk.
Of the 40 shops, there are around six wholesale dealers selling varieties of burey clothes in large varieties. There are few more shops dealing with retail business.
The price of the burey gho and kira ranges from Nu 1800 to 15,000 and the prices for Kabney ranges from Nu 1500 to Nu 4,000 depending on the quality.
Although slightly affected by demonetisation and implementation of GST since last year, the demand for burey items is as consistent and profitable as before.
According to the shopkeepers, their monthly sales ranges from Rupees 50,000 to two million.
Viju, 48, has been selling burey items for the last 35 years.
With around 30 to 50 Bhutanese customers visiting his shop every day, he sells burey items worth Nu 500,000 a month.
He said burey items are his main means of survival. “I’ve started my business with burey items only and I am doing well.”
Another wholesale dealer, Tufan, estimates his monthly sale around Nu 1.5 million (M), although he claims that no concrete record was maintained. “I keep a very small profit margin of Nu 100 to 200 per piece.”
He said his customers are from Thimphu, Bumthang, Paro, and Wangdue, who visit the shop once a month buying cloth worth between Nu 150,000 to 200,000.
According to the vendors, bureys are hand woven by the local weavers of Tamul Puri, about 20 kilometers away from Samdrupjongkhar towards Phuentsholing. They are fabricated on demand with the supply of burey thread bought from Bihar by the vendors.
There are also people who thrive on doing burey business.
Rinchen Wangdi, 48, from Phongmey in Trashigang said he has been doing burey business for over two decades.
He said he buys burey gho, belt, half kira and tego worth Nu 200,000 and sell across the border of Shar and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. “There’s a big rush for the products and you don’t have to worry about not being able to sell it.”
There are others like Sithar Wangmo, 64, from Khabtey in Trashigang, who come to buy burey items every year for her family. “It’s affordable,” she said while looking for burey kira and shawl in a shop.
Tshering Namgyal | Samdrupjongkhar