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Ap Lawa: Bumthang's lime maker
Ap Lawa at work alone
Ap Lawa, 65, cannot speak but he reaches the mouths of many a Bhutanese. He is Bumthang's Tsuni (lime) maker an essential ingredient that goes into making a mouthful of doma.

The 65-year-old man who lives in Dawathang near Kurje Lhakhang gets the limestone to make Tsuni from the middle of a cliff at Tashiling, which is a day's walk from Dawathang.

And he is the only one in the sacred valley that can get the limestone from the cliff. To the Bumthaps it is a mystery how he manages to do so. People say that it could be god's gift to him.

When leaving for Tashiling Ap Lawa packs rations for the stay at Tashiling and carries sacks, ropes and a hammer.

After halting a night in a villager's house in Tashiling he heads for the cliff the next day, which is nearby. He climbs the cliff and keeps breaking the limestone for the entire day. Towards evening he carries it to the villager's house.

Ap Lawa brings back only a small amount of limestone when he returns to Dawathang. Given his age he cannot carry much.

People moving between Tashiling and Dawathang transport the bulk of limestone for him on horses. He pays for the carriage.

At home in a small hut near the Choekor Gup's office, Ap Lawa breaks the lime stones into small pieces and burns them on charcoal made from hard wood which he collects from the forest.

He uses a traditional leather blower known as Boothpa to fan the coal.

When the limestone becomes red, he puts them in cold water and mixes it into a paste. The lime, after it is checked for thickness, is ready for sale.

Ap Lawa sells the tsuni to the locals and shopkeepers in Bumthang for Nu. 25 for a small tin. Sometimes he presents the tsuni to nearby shopkeepers who offers him drinks in return.

According to his neighbours, Ap Lawa has been making tsuni for more then 20 years. He lives alone, he never married, and cooks his meals on a Bukhari given to him by his younger brother. He has a pump kerosene stove but he does not know how to use it.

His neighbour Wangmo, 37, said that he likes electronics like the radio and tape recorder and wants to own one.

When he is working, making Tsuni he refuses any body's help. He prefers to work alone.

Contributed by Nima Wangdi, Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006
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