In September 2008, I asked Mr. C Brahma, the owner of Hotel Himalaya at Chapaiguri in Assam how much his hotel would earn a day from the Bhutanese travellers. Then, I was working as a news reporter with the Bhutan Observer.
|Hotel Himalaya in Assam|
He responded to me gracefully, “It ranges from season to season. In the peak season - winter and spring - my hotel earns over one lakh rupees and in the off season it’s about seventy thousand rupees.”
For your information, that was the income of his hotel in just one day.
He stated that over 700 to 1,000 Bhutanese travelers stop at his hotel to have food every day. The hotel was then a temporary makeshift house made of bamboo walls, plastic roof, and mud floor with some basic furniture.
A couple of weeks ago, after 10 years, when I was travelling from Samdrupjongkhar to Gelephu, I stopped at the hotel for lunch. Oh goodness, I couldn't believe my eyes! Now, the hotel has been transformed into an eight-storey tall modern building with glassy windows, enormous restaurant with beautiful furniture, and many more staff. I observed that thousands of commuters from Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Panbang, Nanglam, Samdrup jongkhar, and Daipham stop at the hotel, which he has been running for the last 22 years.
This time I didn't ask Mr. C Brahma how much he earns a day or how much he has earned so far. The travellers eating at his place speak. The growth of his hotel speaks. The improvement in his service speaks.
However, the secret to his success that I’ve discovered is not food provided at the hotel but it’s something else. Driving along the National Highway 31C of Assam is always risky, life-threatening. Often the Bhutanese travellers are harassed, cheated, and beaten by the natives on the highway for different reasons. Some had even lost their vehicles and other belongings.
But once the commuters arrive at the hotel, they feel comfortable, protected. Fluent in Dzongkha, Sharchopkha and Lhotsham, I found the hotel staff are hospitable and helpful. When any troubled Bhutanese travellers come to Mr. Brahma for help, he always renders his service to them. He sorts out their problem and also guides them.
In fact, that’s how Mr. Brahma has become so special amongst the Bhutanese commuters. And that’s how he has won the hearts of the Bhutanese travellers. He is the savior, protector!