You visit any garment shop in Thimphu or elsewhere, I am sure you can find beautifully woven half-kiras neatly piled on the shelves which is usually known as “Meche Kira” (because the clothes are woven by Bodo women of Assam).
A few years ago, the Bhutanese women usually stocked their wardrobe with kiras woven by the women from the eastern Bhutan. But now, with the change in people’s outlook, the Bhutanese women have started stocking their wardrobe with half kiras and Meche kiras are the most popular among them. It is much cheaper and one can have variety of choice from colours to print and patterns. Even preferred the kiras woven by the fellow Bhutanese women then but now after two years of being here, I have started my collection of Meche kiras and the collection gets better every passing month.
When I first went across the border with a friend to witness the Bodo women in action, I was left speechless. The huge looms hanging in the temporary shade beside the dusty footpath and the women tapping their feet and pulling the huge handle of the looms in the heat was something quite unimaginable. When we walked inside their hut, we had to bend to avoid bumping our head on the roof. After looking around for some time we went to meet the lady ( I call her Didi now) with whom we placed some order.
Ever since my first visit to the place, I am obliged to visit the place time and again because my friends and relatives living in distant places want to expand their collection in their wardrobe. And I find myself driving the dusty road across the border at least three times a month to place order to their ever increasing demands. I have to walk for about five minutes off the road to get to the Bodo hamlet where we find the women at work.
The weavers are usually women from rural community from the neighbouring district and they work for the proprietor on wages. A weaver is paid about Nu.200 to 1200 per piece and most often a kira takes about three to six days to complete depending on the pattern and the material used while a gho takes more than a week on average. So the weavers are paid according to their effort. The lodging is provided free of cost but the weavers have to manage their meals from the wages. Thus at the end of the month, they have just enough to survive. The proprietor makes a profit of about Nu, 200 to 600 for every cloth sold which is just adequate to keep their hearth burning.
Making a mental calculation, it doesn’t surprise me to see the prizes of those clothes go sky-high because it changes lots of hands before it finally lands in some shops in the town. Yet the popularity of the Meche kiras is increasing despite the skyrocket prizes and I find myself on the road across the border more often. :D