“O’ my! What else is he going to pull out of there?” one curious blond delegate was said to have whispered to the other, their necks constantly turning to check-out the portly Bhutanese representative.
Layers of bound documents and files came out of the Bhutanese pouch (hemchu) that piled on the table, including a cassette tape recorder and a pen case.
That was sometime in late ‘70s at an international convention.
Well who knows, that probably might have inspired Mr Bean to do that scene where he reaches for his coat pocket, pulls out several pens and places them on the table as he waits for the examination to begin.
Oft referred to as the world’s biggest pouch, the gho Bhutanese men’s garb, was a functional gear.
The pouch goes in around the front right side of the belly and ends up in the inside left of the inner layer. The entire top, waist up, neck down, of the gho makes up this legendary pouch.
Traditionally, in the pouch went main essentials like salt, tealeaves and a few butter cubes all wrapped in small pieces of separate cloths. Bhutanese men were required to travel long distances on foot from one village to another, one district to another, one end of the country to another for trade, to deliver collected taxes and convey official messages.
On long distance travels, no restaurants, or lodges along the narrow trails that passed through dense woods, over high passes and along banks of meandering rivers. People often spent nights under open skies as they still do today in many remote parts of the country. Calculated rations with pots and pans would be saddled on a horse, or two.
Other things the hemchu had to have were a miniature pouch in which went a ball of thread, sewing needles and patches of cloths. Travelling on foot often meant, for those that could afford, wearing away of traditional shoes made of leather sole and patched cloth-top. They had to be sewn if they gave way on the journey. Maneuvering through dense forest, people often tore their gho, which required patching.
What else? Well a journey also calls for some munchies. The great pouch always had space for a cloth case that held areca leaves, betel nuts and some lime, a compelling combo that made friends along the way.
A little wooden cup and a white cloth piece were also required, just in case residents, or campers along the way offered tea and wine, and should fortune favour, food. The chances of coming across formidable foes was just as likely. The indispensible dagger was thrust in the end, secured by the belt (kera).
Today, however, all of these essentials of the time have been shaken off men’s pouches. They have been replaced by, commonly, wallets, mobile phones and car keys.
Not much evolution at the bottom, skirt-like, half. Not good for much really, but serves as good vents.