Blooming dogwood

True friends

True friends

If you go to Thimphu’s Clock Tower Square these days, you’ll find the dogwood (phetse shing in Dzongkha) there in full bloom. In the midst of what is fast becoming a concrete jungle, the dogwood trees, though there are only three left, provide refreshing refuge.

The Clock Tower Square, before it was extensively renovated in 2004, used to have many more trees. Maple and dogwood were some of the trees that Friends of the Square, a group of volunteers, planted along with bamboo, azalea and marigold to convert an unkempt, dirty square to a well organized garden with proper footpaths and benches that we could actually sit on.

Friends of the Square consisted of Karma Wangdi (Asha Karma from VAST), Dorji Yangki (architect), Karma Wangchuk (landscape architect) and Art Martin (a Dutch expatriate). These four volunteers, all of them concerned residents who decided to do something about a public problem, mobilized labour, money and their own resources to, as one of them puts it, “reorganize the square”. And the friends did a pretty good job.

In 2004 the government decided to renovate the square. So Asha Karma went to the city planners and requested them to incorporate the existing trees in their new designs. And to make use of the trees – to save them – which by then, with constant care over more than four years, had begun to add real beauty to the square. The planners agreed.

But when the construction started, Asha Karma was horrified to see the builders indiscriminately tearing down everything. So he stood in the square, everyday, to make sure that the builders would not destroy any more of his trees. Damage, however, had already been done: the square lost most of the dogwood and all the maple trees.

So if you go to the Clock Tower Square one of these days, take the time to enjoy the dogwood, a very Bhutanese tree. There are in full bloom. Thanks to their friends.