Saturday, July 25, 2015

So again, what's in a name?

My village, Pam in Trashigang, according to one version of the story, was founded by my paternal great grandfather, Tashi Tshering, who built a house that still stands today. The house was referred to as Tsogoen Phai (loosely translated as the Manor -Noble Family). Over time, the name received further alteration and is now locally called Tsoram Phai. The house is now inherited by my distant uncles and cousins. 

In front of Tsogoen Phai in Pam (before the village disappears)
Tashi Tshering came from Kurtoe Sukbee after he was appointed as Trashigang Nyerchen and when he retired he built a house and called the place Pam, which in Kurtoep means "temporary village". In time, people from Rangshikhar also used the area above Pam (called Tabteng) as pasture for their cattle. In time some also settled there and intermarriages took place between the two hamlets. So everyone in Pam today trace their origins to the Tsogoen Phai or to Rangshikhar. I am related to both, as my paternal grandfather, Memay Jigme, came from Tabteng while paternal grandmother, Abi Sonam, was the youngest daughter of nyerchen Tashi Tshering.

Although my family has not inherited the ancestral house, we have retained the family’s traditional responsibility of conducting an annual ceremony in the main temple of Trashigang Dzong. The community of Pam on the other hand, since time immemorial, makes annual offerings to the local deity of Trashigang Dzong, Garab Wangchuk, before every plantation season.

This is the story of my village. The story will, however, soon become history with the recent decision by the government to absorb Pam into Trashigang Thromde (township). The move will not only change the physical landscape of the village. It will erase the history, alter the traditions, kill the culture and create endless familial disharmony.

As a final nail in the coffin, two new names have been given to the village, Pam-Maed and Pam-Toed, which are historically incorrect and linguistically insane. For, Pam, as I have mentioned above is neither a Dzongkha word nor a Sharchop phrase but is derived from Kurtoep. Hence, one cannot add a Dzongkha word to a Kurtoep name.

So again, What's in a name? Well, you don’t just change a name of a place. You eventually throw away your history. You lose your past and ultimately you will lose your character - as an individual, as a community and as a nation.

It seems, though, these things really don’t matter much to people nowadays, except to some rural nostalgic like me.

(Pam-Maed is actually called Pam Lham Phra. Lham Phra means "below the footpath" because the traditional mule track between Upper and Lower Trashigang used to cut right through the village)