Khakey capturing the snowball culture


Yeshi Tsheyang Zam is your typical 11-year-old. She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games and basketball in her free time. Her favorite board game is monopoly and she collects different currencies.

However, she already has an achievement to her credit few others her age can boast of: authored a charming little book, “Khakey.”

The book was launched on July 22 at a small ceremony in Babesa, attended by close family and the book team.

Citing the inspiration behind her book, Yeshi Tsheyang Zam said that two years ago, her mother wrote an article for a magazine on Khakey. That was the time she grew curious and asked her mother what Khakey was.

“She told me it was the snow festival celebrated in western Bhutan. I think I processed that information in the form of a story,” said the young author.

Khakey is a custom that originated in western Bhutan and was popular a few generations ago. During the first snow day of a year, children collect snow and make a snowball with a core consisting of ready ingredients of a meal. They try to deliver these snowballs to their neighbor’s houses.

If the neighbor fails to stop the delivery or does not realize that a Khakey has been placed in their house before the child has run away, they owe the child’s family a meal made with the same ingredients as those in the snowball the next day. If the neighbor realizes what is happening or catches the child as they are running away, they smear soot on the child’s face, and the kid’s family then owes them a meal.

“It is a custom that is now so obscure that most members of the generation before Yeshi’s never participated in it,” said Phub Dorji, the book’s editor, who also happens to be the author’s uncle.

Yeshi Tsheyang Zam is currently is working on a novella. She also plans to make Khakey the first of a series of children’s illustrated stories on obscure Bhutanese culture. The sprightly pre-teenager is an avid reader herself; she loves reading fantasy and her favorite author is Chris Colfer.

“I want everyone, the children and the adults of Bhutan to read and write,” she said.

The book carries illustrations by artist Chand Bhattarai, which captures well the essence of a children’s book though “Khakey” can be enjoyed by adults as well. Each copy costs Nu 125.