Come winter and it’s not only Assam but the entire country that is set to miss the ‘warmth’ of the Tibetans.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a toll on almost everything, has also put a stop to the annual trek of Tibetan exiles in India to other parts of the country to sell their colourful woollens.

The Tibetans who fled Tibet along with the Dalai Lama and others who later followed were settled by the Indian government in different settlements including Mundgod in Hooghly district of West Bengal, Dharamshala, Kullu Manali, Karnataka, Delhi, Mandvi district, Dehradun and some other scattered places.

Bagsingh Siring Nima, who leads the group to Jorhat, told this correspondent from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh that the IndoTibetans this year would not make the journey to sell their wares to 80 per cent of the places due to the pandemic.

In Assam, the four sites in Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Silchar where they set up stalls for four months beginning  October end to January would this year wear a deserted look.

Bagsingh leads the group of Indo Tibetans who come to Jorhat and set up their stalls at a site located near the historic Bisturam Barooah Hall.

The variety and garments, shawls, jackets, sweaters, gloves, mufflers and more temptingly displayed beckon one and all to pick up something new, warm and affordable for the forthcoming season from what is popularly known as the Bhutia market.

“This winter we will all face penury. A disaster stares at us. We set up these temporary markets in 200 places across India. This time we have taken a decision not to go anywhere except Red Fort, Delhi and Jaipur, Rajasthan where we put up the maximum number of stalls, 600 and 500 respectively, ” he said.

Bagsing further said that a few among them had hand-knit some sweaters, mufflers and mittens.

“Picking up woollen garments from Ludhiana’s hosieries was also out of the question as our people are scared to invest and the hosieries too are scarce in stocks, having suffered losses in production due to the series of lockdowns, ” he said.

Bagsingh’s two children, a daughter and son are both COVID warriors working in different hospitals as nurses. Some have children who will take care of them during the coming lean months but most will suffer as in these four months we almost earn for the whole year, ” he said.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com