The Golden Fish of Rukha
‘I was born and raised in Samthang. I had to travel here frequently for work where I eventually met my wife and settled 35 years ago. I went to school till the third grade at Tsirang. After leaving school, I worked at DagaPela Road Construction for 3 years. Then my family decided to settle at Samthang and I started to contribute to the local government office. From 2003 I was the Gup for three years before the current Local Government System was established. My journey started with my role as an Information Relayer for three years, a Tshogpa for three years, and Mang-aup for three years. The role of the Gup was enriching with both administrative as well as judicial tasks of settling disputes regarding land, water supply, and personal grievances.
Tarayana Foundation did not roll out the housing improvement program when I was the Gup but a few researchers visited to do some background studies on the village’s plight which entailed water scarcity, housing, lack of skilled labor, and human-wildlife conflict. The majority of the community members voiced out their need for housing intervention, which I was skeptical of as I have never seen donors and development organizations providing housing intervention.
I am famous for my NyaDoSem – Arched Smoked Fish. I was able to focus on producing the Smoked Fish because of the housing and water improvement from the Foundation. With support from the Dzongkhag Agriculture Office, I started to work full-time to produce them. Since my childhood days, I was keen on fishing.
During my local government stint, I had to stop my interest. I used to fish at the river but for sustainability purposes, I decided to pursue Aquaculture and build a fish pond near my home. I attended a training workshop at Gyelephug in 2010 and learned about the various types of fish.
From the types of fish such as Common Carp, Grass Carp, Catla, and Rohu, I raise and breed Grass Carp to make the traditional Smoked Fish. I also learned about the optimum level of pond turbidity for the survival of the fish. I did not attend any formal training regarding the production of Smoked Fish as I grew up making these since I was a little boy. I was told Nya Do Sem has been a part of our culture for a long ago as a customary gift from the village of Adap for the Wangdue Dzongpen. The Smoked Fish is believed to have medicinal properties as it is produced and preserved in a sterile environment. Its name derives from the traditional process of pressing the fish between two stones upon a flame. Now we use CGI sheets and the production takes about 5 days. I have been participating in the Tarayana Exhibition for over 7 years and showcased my Smoked Fish.
I have been able to sell at least 70 Smoked Fish in those 7 years. I will go again this year. I am planning to take over 100 Smoked Fish this year. I started selling the fish at Nu. 500 per piece and now I’m selling them at Nu. 900. With the Foundation’s support, I have been able to sell and market my product. To consume the Smoked Fish, we need to wash the fish with saltwater until all the smoke and soot are washed. I recommend the Smoked Fish in a curry. I am very fond of the officials and officers of the Tarayana Foundation, assisting them with settling disputes and providing guidance and feedback regarding ongoing and future projects. The people of Rukha can earn, and live comfortably and happily all thanks to Her Majesty.’