9. Contentment: Arag in Bhutan

 On a shady hillslope in Trashigang, I chanced on this lovely man mid-morning, who appeared from afar to be asleep.  As I climbed the mountain path closer to where he lay, I heard him singing. He smiled beatifically and asked in Hindi “Did you know the Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachhan?”.  Not personally. “Would you like to share my  Arag?” he asked in a conspiratorial whisper, upon which he produced what looked like a medicine bottle half full of a milky liquid. I replied that it was too early for me, bid him “happy days” waved and walked ahead. When I looked back he was still waving cheerfully. His crinkled smile lighting up his eyes was etched in my memory. This is contentment I thought.

Arag is not commercially sold in Bhutan. It is an unregulated traditional home brew made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat, either fermented or distilled. The taste, I am told differs from region to region and from one household to another.

The bit that I am most impressed with, is that Arag is also produced for religious purposes and the special 20% brew is served up on auspicious days in Eastern Bhutan.  Wonder if my new friend had attended a religious occasion!


Original:  Oil on canvas ;8 x 10″  (203 x 254 mm) ; framed

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