Welcoming the Monsoon

Kathmandu has been wet this year. It rained throughout April and May only to be called pre-Monsoon by Meteorologists. Monsoon has just arrived and they say it will rain as much as it should.

On Sunday morning, the typical Monsoon clouds poured–the soft drizzle that comes down without much noise. It was fun walking in the rain with an umbrella over my head.

The rain stopped before I reached college. I put the umbrella in the corridor for drying, complained with my friends how it rained and ruined every morning, and attended my classes.

Later that day, I realized I lost my umbrella. It was a new one my Mom had bought less than a fortnight ago. She murmured about how careless I had been. She had the right to be angry. What would I do without a good umbrella this Monsoon? All I could do was say, “Let it be. If it’s gone, we won’t get it back lamenting.

I had lost it. But where?

“It was in the corridor,” you might say but I didn’t tell you that I had folded it as we went away to a canteen for lunch. I remembered taking the umbrella there but could not remember carrying it back. If the canteen owner had found it, it would be safe. If somebody else had found it, it would be gone.

Thankfully, I got the umbrella from the owner. She had kept it! I was speechless because I had not thought I would get the umbrella again. She brought me to senses by asking for a “Thank you”. (I was about to thank her anyway!) So, I thanked her.

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A Wedding: The Feast of Love

I am thrifty. I think thirty times (ok, that was an exaggeration to relate thrifty and thirty) a lot before I spend a hundred rupees. When my expenditure increases, I get worried. Therefore, I say to my parents often, “My wedding will sure be expensive for sure. How can we cut expenses?”

“By not including alcohol in your feast,” Dad says.

I like the idea for I am a teetotaller but I offer a radical solution. “Let’s not have the feast at all.”

“Don’t say that,” Mom disagrees. “We have attended weddings of hundreds of couples. We can’t exclude them.”

I shut my mouth and start thinking the solution. The thriftiest solution would be a temple wedding and no party hence. But my parents disagree to that. Society has an more important role in helping me and my parents the mode of the feast.

Society criticizes someone who does not conduct a feast. Some complaints are:
“Falana* did not call us in his wedding.” (*Falano is a word used to indicate someone without mentioning their names. Falana is masculine. Falani is feminine.)
“Falani bosated her son earns crores. She did not give a party on his wedding!”
“Can’t they spend a little of what they earn to feed their neighbours?”

But people complain everytime. They make a fuss if they are not called. The invited ones complain about the variety and quality of the food. If you don’t include alcoholic beverages, they say, “That was like a Pooja, not a wedding Bhoj.” If somebody pukes because of excessive drinking, others holler about the inclusion of “hard” drinks. You can’t satisfy everybody.

But there might be more to to the feast. Jantis plus the relatives, neighbours and friends who could not attend the main ceremony are yet to celebrate the union of the two families. The groom and his family invites them before the actual ceremony on a feast called the Preetibhoj. The compound word is derived by combining Preeti (love) and Bhoj (feast). An English term “Reception” has become popular but I like the translation of Preetibhoj, “Feast of Love”, more.

The Feast of Love is the first formal gathering for the couple. Where a guy and a girl walking together in the street can be a taboo, the Bhoj helps people identity the groom and the bride as a couple.

Dowry, huge feasts and high expense make me feel that appeasement of the society is more important than the real status of the community. So, people fall in debt to try making others happy, who unfortunately are never going to be satisfied.

***

The Feast of Love of my neighbours is held at a party palace not too far from my home. Therefore, there won’t be much problem when we return. My family goes with many of other neighbours. Once we reach the party palace at about six in the evening, one aunty says, “People around here must be happy. Music and feast everyday!”

We have an excellent proverb: “गुण पनि धेरै खायो भने तितो हुन्छ ।” (Translation: If you eat too much sugar, it gets better.) Too much music and partying is hated by the people of the surrounding. They shut their doors and windows, shut their ears and mutter curses! Some curses come up on Twitter. Most get welled-up.

Another aunty says what I had in mind. We enter the one storeyed, zinc plate covered party “palace” which has been divided into two sections. A second wedding feast is taking place on the other side. The feast has begun, people are clicking photos with the bride and the groom, eating, drinking, dancing and are everywhere!

Children are running. No parents can control them. Forming suitable groups, they go here and there. They sometimes knock upon elders, sometimes upon waitiers and sometimes break glasses spiling cold drinks to the floor. While the owner is earning, the workers are burning!

In almost every wedding I have attended, I get to see unhappy faces of the waiters and helpers. While the host and the guest are enjoying, they are in grief that they have to work.
It’s natural to be sad that you can enjoy, it’s human to be jealous. Even anger can be justified because of the activities of people and their children. The food might be good, the drink might be excellent, the music may be loud, but the owners and managers have failed in making their employees smile.

Had they been in the West, their Party Palaces may not run for long with unhappy workers. Because we only care about the food and the behaviour of the owner(s), they’re still doing good. However, in long run, they must pay attention to keep their employees happy. They must sort out the problems.

But still I feel bad for people who are sad. Will they ever be happy?

***

The food items that are used as starters are good but heavy. They fill my stomach even before I reach the dining hall for the main course. I don’t feel like eating but I’m attracted by chicken and fish, which I don’t usually get to eat at home.

I make my stomach believe that it can accommodate more. I take about half an hour before I eat everything except a few bones. Will my stomach digest it? I doubt. So, I decide to boost digestion by chewing up antacid tablets as soon as I reach home.
I get a remedy in the form of yogurt. It’s cold but refreshing. My stomach already feels better.

Meanwhile, people take more than they require and leave food on their tables. Just as at bride’s during the wedding ceremony, a lot of food fills the trash. My parents taught me never to throw food. Maybe their parents did not teach them, maybe they forgot or maybe they chose not to follow their parents’ advice.

***

The dance never attracts me. I shy away from the crowd listening to songs now dominated by Nepali over Hindi. “We now have a lot of “party” songs,” my sister says.

They are not Western-style Bollywood party songs, they are Nepali folk style party songs. (Sometimes, they are remixed, which I don’t like.) I agree with my sister and we make a list of songs that are being played. We can count them on our fingers but it’s okay to have something than to have nothing.

The bride and the groom, their parents and relatives, neighbours and friends all dance together. I wish everyone stayed as happy as they are. I also wish they didn’t need a stimulant (alcohol) to make them happy.

At 9 o’clock, the music stops, the party palace prepares to close and we all prepare to leave. Kathmandu has no night life except at a few places. I sleeps after ten. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. As a tourist city, it’s bad but as we are a bunch of free and happy people who must sleep in time, I think it’s okay. We don’t want to be zombies!

The Pressure of Growing Up

About a couple of months ago, I was watching an Indian kids’ dance reality show with my parents. My sister is a fan of the show and I too liked it. Until that evening.

A pair of girls came up to dance–a competitor and her mentor. The dance was a fusion of classical and acrobatics. The performance was beautiful and magical already. Then came a moment that made it ugly to me.

The little girl hung on to a rope attached to her mentor by her neck. It looked so dangerous that even the judges looked scared. The child kept smiling, though.

“Was such a life-threatening step necessary?” I asked my sister. She did not know what to say.

“It was not,” was my verdict. The show acknowledged that it was dangerous but did not warn the mentor to put a child on such a risk again. Even if she was warned, it was not televised.

Are we watching a circus in the name of a TV reality show? I asked myself.

When a circus puts children in danger for “entertainment”, we usually feel bad. There are several organizations working to rescue them from the illegal, perilous, and underpaying circuses.

The TV show is similar to the circus in putting the children in peril for entertainment. They may claim it is safer, but the children are swung on harnesses, rings and trailers with very little visible protection beneath them. Days of training against the fear of falling, and yet they smile. Everything they feel is overcome by the appraisal of talent and the way they handled the performance with maturity.

Maturity comes with training and experience. When a child becomes matured at an early age, she understands discipline, as well as responsibility. Being matured, however, is not the same as growing up into an adult. Some adults never mature.

But children participating in reality shows are not only expected to be matured, they are also expected to act like adults. It’s cringey when a five year kid dances on adult-oriented songs like Sheila ki jawaani, Munni badnaam Hui, and so on. It’s even more frustrating when you see how the kid became a helping hand to her poor family changed the economy and lifestyle forever. Parents living off on the income of a child less than sixteen years old! Isn’t it child labour?

When a three year child comes to my home and dances and sings “Didi ko magani bhaisakyo merai paalo chha”*, it looks and sounds cute but have we not unconsciously placed on her mind that she should be wed soon after her sister marries.

Children insist on listening to a popular song because we play those for them. We never care whether they are suitable for them or not.

About six months ago, one boy, four years old, came my home with his mom. They live in my neighborhood but very rarely come to us. As soon as he was in, he asked his mom her phone and ran a video. He read the lyrics of Shape of You and sang along. I had not heard the song before. I watched the lyrical video. One line caught my attention, I’m in love with your body.

Body? I asked the singer in my mind. Not “you” but “your body”! So you’ll leave her once she loses the shape.

I wanted the kid to turn that song off immediately. I disturbed him. “Do you know what this song means?”

I knew he did not understand. He looked at me, smiled ignorantly and shook his head. He did not stop, though. I did not have power to stop him. And now some girls are learning to dancing on the song. [Facepalm!]

Children all over the world are now undergoing the pressure of growing up. Recently, a twelve year girl won an extremely popular American TV reality show. In one episode, she made her puppet flirt with a male judge. People found it cute. A twelve year old, albeit indirectly, flirts with an adult and we find it cute. What sort of world are we living in?

I don’t know how many people think the way I am thinking. I don’t know if I am over-thinking. I don’t know if the things I am thinking are problems for all. But if there are problems, they must be resolved, and I am yet to discover an effective solution.


Footnote:

* A line of a popular Nepali song that translates to: “My sister is already engaged, it’s my turn now.”

How Many New Years are Celebrated in Your Country?

The 2018th year of Gregorian Calendar has begun today. As most of the world was preparing to celebrate New Year, I was busy counting the number of New Years celebrated in Nepal. I remember 7 of them.

Bikram Samvat New Year: Bikram Samvat is the official Solar Calendar of Nepal. Baishakh 1st (Mid-April) is the first day of the Bikram Calendar. This day is also known as Mesh Sankranti, the first day the sun reaches the Mesh Rashi or the Aries constellation.

Nepal Samvat: It is the official Lunar Calendar of Nepal, at least in papers because the adoption has taken a long time. There is an interesting legend behind the calendar. In the year 941 B.S., a merchant named Sankhadhar Sakhwa obtained gold from the Bagmati River and helped the citizens of Nepal pay the debts of the king. Marking this freedom, the king issued a new calendar the Nepal Samvat. 

The first day of the Nepal Samvat is Kartik Shukla Pratipada, the first day of waxing phase in the month of the Kartik (October-November). This day is also the fourth day of Tihar. Newas, the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley celebrate the Nepal Samvat New Year (Nhu: Daya) with much pomp and show in the day. In the evening, they do Mha: Pooja, in which each individual worships their Self or the Soul.

Tamu Lhosar: Tamu Lhosar is celebrated as the New Year of the Gurungs, the indigenous people mainly in the Gandaki region. Tamu Lhosar falls on 15th of Poush (December 29-30) every year. 

More info: http://www.weallnepali.com/nepali-festivals/tamu-losar

Gregorian New Year: This New Year is celebrated in majority of countries and in Nepal as well. It falls on Poush 17-18 of the Bikram Calendar. It’s been used along with the Bikram Calendar for long but is the only one New Year in which the Government does not issue a public holiday.

Maghi: This day is also known as Maghe or Makar Sankranti, the day in which the Sun reaches the Capricorn. Maghi is the New Year of the Tharus, the indigenous people of the Terai region.

More info: http://www.weallnepali.com/nepali-festivals/maghe-sankranti

Sonam Lhosar: This is the New Year of the Tamangs, the indigenous people of the Central Nepal Himalaya. This Lhosar coincides with the Chinese New Year.

Gyalbo Lhosar: This is the New Year of the Sherpas, the indigenous people of the Eastern Nepal Himalaya known for mountain climbing.

More info: http://www.weallnepali.com/nepali-festivals/gyalpo-lhosar

Who teaches her?

I am astounded every time I look at her. She moves with grace and agility, plays with the table tennis ball as she should play with a mouse (and like a pro footballer), and jumps like an athlete. She grabs a piece of rag and drags it around. She smells the ground and discovers every corner of the house. She covers up her liquid and solid excreta. When she is hungry, she looks up, her eyebrows narrow, and cries, “Myau Myau”. Except during such hunger and times she’s irritated, this little tabby kitten understands the instructions we give her. Who teaches her to do all these things she does?

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Billy on the stack of chairs

I met her first the first time in November with her twin. Their mother had left them after keeping them in a drum under the stairs. They were crying. We waited for their mother’s return but that cat did not return. We kept them in a box and started feeding them with milk in a bottle. The nutrition in the dairy milk we get is non-existent. The twins survived but were malnourished. We named them Lily and Billy.

Even when they were malnourished, Billy was the smarter among the two. She had figured out how to jump out of the box, how to play with her sibling and how to irritate her. Life was going on pretty good for them until two weeks later when their mother came back with two other kittens. Would she recognize and accept Lily and Billy and take them away? We thought it would be good if she did and at that, we made the mistake we should never have.

We showed the cat Lily and Billy on our roof. They were smaller than the other kittens she had brought but she seemed to recognize them from their scent. She wanted to take Billy first but the kitten was too stubborn and reluctant. She did not let the cat carry her. Lily too resisted but she was not as smart as her twin. The cat caught her scruff and took her away.

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Lily and Billy the day before they were separated

The mother cat came back again. We decided to give up Billy as well. We did not know whether Lily-Billy could survive. Even if they died, it would be nice if they died together, we thought. After an effort of more than half an hour, the cat took Billy away. A little farther, she could not carry Billy. She was still struggling to get away. The cat tried her best to take her away but when she could not, left her. Billy cried alone on that balcony for more than an hour in front of our sight before we decided we would now adopt her as long as she wants to stay with us.

Meanwhile, the cat took away the fourth kitten and never returned for the kitten. She came back a few times to steal milk and we haven’t seen her for more than a fortnight now.

Now Billy is with us on her own. And she has learnt everything her instinct allows her. When she was with her twin, we thought they learnt together but even when this tabby is alone, she has learnt everything on her own. Who teaches her? I tried to know the answer. I discussed with my parents and my sister.

Does Nature teach her? How, though? Could Billy’s genes have carried her natural instincts and behaviours? Does the DNA carry all the things she needs for survival?

It’s strange to note that humans have very few individual survival instincts. We are not as agile as the cat, we don’t have the physical strength they have. We don’t even cover up our excreta as a natural instinct. It’s a learned social behaviour. Why does a cat have more survival instincts and more unique natural behaviours than a human? Aren’t we vain in saying that we are the smartest or the most intelligent creature on the planet? I have seen the kitten picking up our language before we picked up hers. How are we the only sapient beings? And finally, I came to the question that has intrigued people for ages: why are we here thriving (not just surviving) against all odds?

Humans are physically weak. We don’t have strong legs like that of the felines and canines. We don’t have strong teeth and claws to hunt. We don’t have a thick hide to protect us from cold. We don’t even have furs. The only strength we have is our large head (more than 2 kgs), which is also an evolutionary liability.

Yet, it is in our head the brain lies and it has the ability to analyze the world like no other creature in the world. We are the only creatures that can understand the secret of this world and that of the universe. Only we can alter our natural instinct of fear to compassion.

Are we really thriving to understand the real secrets of our lives, how we originated and to care for the lives around us, to coexist with every living being in harmony? Eastern philosophers and poets of my own country have answered “Yes” to the question.

But is there any force or energy that compels us to survive, to contemplate and to understand? Why is the Nature the way it is? Why is the cat the way she is? What is the source of the chaotic order that rules the Earth? I have come to believe in the existence of that energy that has created this chaotic order. I have now come to believe this energy is the God–the Creator, the Caretaker and the Destroyer.

In these two months, the cats have taught me a lot of things about life and the way we behave and feel. And we can’t always control everything that happens. We make mistakes we can’t amend. We don’t know what happened to Lily but Billy continues to grow and to impress. She is here in my house with a purpose–to teach me about other living beings, including humans.

Who did it?

On Mangsir 18, 2074 (December 4, 2017), three days prior to the second phase of general election, an explosion at Chapali, Kathmandu injured 11 people. One of them was the candidate former Minister of Health Gagan Thapa. He was shown to put on bandages around his forehead but some hours later, he was seen at Reporters’ Club and he spoke for more than an our without showing a trace of injury.

I don’t know if the injury was faked. The mainstream media never said it was faked but there were others who said Gagan Thapa was somehow involved in the explosion and that it was one thing that would fetch him “sympathy” votes. He did win the election. Another rumour that surfaced was that there was involvement of the Left Alliance behind the attack. What we got to hear after the elections was that anti-election group led by Biplov did it.

We all know Gagan Thapa won but what happened to the 10 other people who were hospitalized? They were not in news after the election.

Were those who did the explosion caught and punished? We don’t know. This is really strange. A former Minister is bombed amidst his cadres before the election and ten people are injured. Gagan Thapa should have been burning with rage and should have demanded the arrest of the bombers within twenty-four hours. But no one has been arrested till date.

Who did it–Gagan Thapa, Left Alliance or Biplov Group or somebody else? Where is our police force, intelligence and investigative journalism?

***

On Bhadra 7, 2072 (August 24, 2017), an incident in Tikapur Kailali shook the nation. Seven police officers, one of who was a Tharu, were brutally killed, and a two years old baby was shot. After the incident, hundreds of Tharus were tortured for being involved in the carnage.

Who did it?

The government blamed the Tharus. Resham Chaudhary was accused of being the mastermind behind the killing of the police. But there were rumors that the attackers were highly trained and that they could be a gang or R&AW agents from India. The Tharus blame the police for burning their huts.

For more than two years, Resham Chaudhary is in India. Before he fled, he was a popular media personality. I used to like his Gaijatra albums that were released during the period of censorship. (The king was in power then and the only way to express dissatisfaction was through the comic satires during the festival of Gaijatra.) When he was accused, I could not believe that he could plot for such a heart-wrenching incident. But he fled. He might have his reasons but running away is never a way to say that he is good.

This Mangsir, he came in news again. He was nominated for the elections held in Mangsir 21 (December 7) through his relative. (He is still in India.) Nobody opposed it and he won the election with an overwhelming amount of votes.

The police says Resham Chaudhary a Most Wanted criminal. The fact that Election Commission allowed him to be a candidate says otherwise. Who resgistered his  nomination and why? 

Now that he has won, the Election Commission wants him to come and fetch the certificate of victory. The police says they will catch him. This is not to the first time an accused has won an election. But they have walked among the policemen without a trouble. 

I have a lot of questions: What stops Resham Chaudhary from coming Nepal and claiming victory? Police? If so, will the police arrest him? Will the police let him go after political pressure? Will the victims of the Tikapur incident ever get justice? 

And the biggest of all: Who really is the mastermind behind the incident?

***

References: 

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-12-04/nc-leader-thapa-injured-in-ied-explosion.html

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2015-08-25/8-killed-in-tikapur-clash.html

https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/tikapur-carnage-conspirator-resham-lal-chaudhary-elected-kailali-1/

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-12-19/govt-urged-to-handover-certificate-of-victory-to-resham-chaudhary.html

https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/tikapur-victims-demand-justice-govt/

200th Post: Feeling a Little Lost

I am feeling a little lost since it’s been so long since I wrote a blog post. I am more nervous now than two years ago, when I wrote the first post on this blog. But I think everything will be fine once I hit the Publish button.

I had been planning to write something else but saw from my Dashboard that this was going to be my 200th post. I had been away from blogging for quite a long time (probably the longest since I began my WordPress blog) as well. So, I wanted to reconnect to all of you out there and express a few words of gratitude.

Thank you WordPress for providing this platform. 

Thank you readers, followers, friends and relatives. You all have been a source of inspiration. I don’t know how many will see this post but I want to shout out again: Thank You! Without your support through likes, comments, admirations and encouragements.

Thank You!