एकाबिहानै एउटा समाचारमा आँखा पर्यो । मनमा चस्स बिझायो । स्वर सम्राट नारायण गोपालको घर सङ्कटमा रहेछ । समाचारमा लेखिएको रहेछ–देवकोटाको घर पुनःनिर्माण हुन लागे पनि स्वर सम्राट नारायण गोपालको घर वेवास्तामा परेको छ । देवकोटाको घर पनि संरक्षण गरिएको चैं हैन । पूरै भत्काएर गरिएको पुनःनिर्माण हो । नयाँ बनाइएको घरमा पुरानो जत्तिको महत्व नहोला । वास्तवमा, हामीले सम्मान गर्दै आएका साहित्यकार र कलाकारका अमूल्य सम्पत्तिको रक्षा हामीले गर्नै सकेका छैनौँ ।
हामी साहित्य र कलालाई सम्मान गर्नै जान्दैनौँ । प्राचीन र मध्यकालीन कलाकार (मूर्तिकार, चित्रकार, वास्तुकलाविद्, साहित्यकार) हरू को सूची हामीसँग छैन । एकजना अरनिको प्रसिद्ध छन् मूर्तिकला र वास्तुकलामा, त्यो पनि चीन गएर सम्मानित भएकाले । सानै उमेरमा चीन जाने टोलीको नेतृत्व गर्ने अरनिकोले नेपालमा सिर्जना गरेका कलाहरू केके हुन् ? अरनिकोको वास्तविक नाम र ठेगानाका बारेमा पनि अझै अन्जान छु । अध्ययन भएको होला तर कुनै पाठ्यक्रममा पढ्ने मौका पाएको छैन । विदेशमा ख्याति नपाएसम्म आजपनि राज्यले चिन्दैन । परम्परा किन छोड्नु, हैन ?
मल्लकालका केही साहित्य र साहित्यकारका नाम सामान्य ज्ञानका किताबमा भेटिन्छ । त्यसबेलाका राजाहरू नै साहित्यकार ! पढ्ने लेख्ने राजाहरू मात्रै भएर हो कि ? जसले लेखेपनि ती महत्त्वपूर्ण ग्रन्थहरू र तिनमा के छ्न् भन्ने कुरा विद्यालयदेखि नै पढाइनु पर्ने हो । तर पाठ्यक्रम निर्माण गर्नेहरू आफ्ना कमसल लेखहरू पाठ्यक्रममा राख्न तत्पर छन् ।
आधुनिक नेपालमा (पहिले पर्वते या खसकुरा भनिने) नेपालीलाई केन्द्रविन्दुमा राखियो । सुवानन्द दासले लेखेको “पृथ्वीनारायण” काव्य नेपालीको पहिलो साहित्य भनेर घोकेको छु तर त्यसमा ठ्याक्कै के छ थाहा छैन । मोतीराम भट्टले नभेटेका भए भानुभक्त आचार्यलाई कतै गुमनाम हुने थिए । महत्त्व दिइएको भाषाका साहित्य पनि संरक्षित छैनन् । नेपाल भाषा, मैथिली, अवधी, तामाङ, किराँती लगायतका भाषा र जनजातिका साहित्य संरक्षण हुने कुरै भएन ।
सरकार त उदासीन भयो भयो, हाम्रा केही साहित्यकारहरू क्रान्तिकारी बन्ने नाममा इतिहासको संरक्षण नगरे पनि हुन्छ भन्ने विचार राख्छ्न् । देवकोटाको घर भत्काइएको विषयमा एकजना “लेखक”ले त्यो घर जोगाइयोस् या भत्काइयोस् मतलब भएन भन्ने आशयको ट्विट गरेपछि एउटा लेख नै लेखेको थिएँ । नारायण गोपालको घरको संरक्षण गर्ने विषयमा पनि उनको विचार जान्न मन लागेको छ ।
Humans have no limit to their desires. Fulfill one, another is ready to knock your door. Sometimes, the desires inspire humans to do great things but most of the times, the crowds of desires take you to a deep dark ditch, from which it is impossible to come out.
Vishwamitra’s tales are all over Hindu scriptures. He appears not only in Ved and Puran (Shruti and Smriti) but also in Ramayan and Mahabharat (Kavya and Itihas). Born Vishwarath in the royalty of Kanyakubja, was initially mentored by Dattatreya, the avatar of Lord Shiva. As a king, he desires to become the Universal Monarch, the ruler of all the World. But a battle with Vashistha changes everything.
Vishwarath, happy and proud of his victories, one day appears at Vashistha’s ashram. The king and his soldiers are hungry and tired. However, the sage easily provides adequate food for the huge army. Vishwarath wants to know how. Vashistha shows him Nandini, the divine cow who can provide any wish.
Vishwarath wants the cow for himself despite Vashistha’s warning that Nandini has free will and will only go with Vishwarath if she wants to go. Enraged, he wants to capture the cow but with her powers, she created an army to destroy the king’s army.
Despite his loss, the king wishes to teach divine beings a lesson. He gains Daivi astras (divine weapons) through yagya and goes to attack Vashistha. The son of Brahma absorbs everything with a Brahmadanda (a stick).
Enraged, Vishwarath gives his kingdom to his sons and starts a tap. One day, while meditating, he discovers Gayatri Mantra, the beej (seed) mantra of creation. Vishwarath becomes Vishwamitra.
His discovery shakes Swarga. Indra sends Menaka, an apsara to disrupt his penance. Although, Vishwamitra falls for her beauty, when he realizes he had been tricked, he leaves her. Menaka goes back leaving their daughter Shakuntala to the ashram of another Rishi, Kanva.
Vishwamitra continues his Yogic practices, gains siddhi and reaches the level of Brahma when he creates a universe for Trishanku. Trishanku had been cursed by Vashistha’s son Shakra for wanting to go to heaven with his human body. Vishwamitra did what was forbidden but also gained the title of Maharishi from Brahma for the feat he accomplished.
But the desire of revenge against Vashistha does not die. He gets involved in a act that kills Shakra. Vashistha, while sad that his son died, is glad that Vishwamitra’s act has actually helped improve his clan morally. Vishwamitra, who had desired to kill Vashistha, comes to know that the Brahma Putra had actually guided him in his spiritual journey. He realizes that his journey was not to be the king of the world, but its friend, Vishwa Mitra.
The tale of Vishwamitra shows that humans can push their limits to any extent. They can even equal the Brahma. But the biggest achievement is to act on the benefit of the world. With great power, indeed comes great responsibilities.
(I was inspired to write this article after finishing Vineeth Aggarwal’s Vishwamitra.)
(गणतान्त्रिक नेपालमा “सरकार” शब्द भद्दा लाग्छ । “सरकार” शब्द प्रयोग गरिरहँदा म आफूलाई भुईंमा बसेर गद्दीमा गमक्क परेर बसेको शासकको निगाह बक्स गरिरहेको कल्पना गर्छु । तर शासन संयन्त्रको लागि यो जत्तिको अर्को संबोधन छैन किनकी “सरकार” को चाकर नगरे सम्म जनताले जीवनका आधारभूत आवश्यकता पूरा गर्न सक्दैनन् । त्यसैले त्यही शब्दले सम्बोधन गर्न बाध्य छु ।)
२०७७ जेठमा नेपालको नयाँ नक्सा पारित भयो । भारतसँग विवाद रहेको कालपानी क्षेत्र लाई समेटेर नक्सा बनाए पनि त्यहाँको वस्तु स्थिति बारे बुझ्न सरकार तयार भएको देखिँदैन । साझा कथाले यूट्युबमा राखेको भिडियो हेरे पछि सरकारप्रति रिस उठेको छ ।
कालापानी भू-भाग हाम्रो हो भन्ने कुरा भूगोलको आधारमा त गलत छैन तर त्यहाँ राज्यको अनुभूति खै त ? ज्यान हत्केलामा राखेर छाङरू सम्म पुगेको साझा कथाको रिपोर्टिङको पहिलो भागमा नै त्यहाँ मात्र होइन, विवाद नभएको ठाउँमा पनि राज्यको उपस्थिति शून्य देखिन्छ । पारि भारतमा दुई लेनका सडक छन्, बस्तीहरू मा आधारभूत सुविधा छन् , लगातार सुरक्षा गस्ती छ । बाटो निर्माण चलिरहेकै छ । यता पट्टि नेपालमा डरलाग्दा ठाडा भीर छन्, पहिरो छ । सुरक्षाकर्मीको नाम निशान छैन । ठूला मान्छे आएको बेला मात्रै ड्युटी चल्छ । सीमाना जस्तो संवेदनशील क्षेत्रमा समेत कोही सैनिक प्रहरी र प्रशासन नहुनुले हामीलाई देशका साँध सीमाको कुनै मतलब छैन भन्ने देखाउँदैन र ?
सीमालाई गम्भीरताका साथ नलिएको त आफ्नै आँखाले देखेकै हुँ सिन्धुपाल्चोकको तातोपानीमा । मितेरी पुल अगाडि साइन बोर्ड छ जसमा लेखिएको छ ‘यहाँ फोटो / भिडियो खिच्न मनाही छ ।’ सँगै एउटा सानो पोस्ट छ जहाँ हरबखत एक जना सुरक्षाकर्मी हुनैपर्छ तर छैनन् । पारि चिनियाँहरू पहरा दिएर बसिरहेका छन छन् । फोटो खिच्न मनाही भने पनि ‘उताको नखिच्नु यतापट्टीको खिच्दा हुन्छ’ भनेर यता बाट अनुमति पाइयो । सुरक्षाकर्मीहरू चैं गफ चुट्नमा व्यस्त थिए । पारिबाट कोही आयो भने पनि यता थाहा पाउने स्थिति छैन तर पारिका सुरक्षाकर्मी हाम्रा एकएक गतिविधि ध्यान दिएर हेर्छन् ।
त्यो भन्दा पनि अप्ठ्यारो अवस्था साझा कथाले बनाएको वृत्तचित्रमा देखिन्छ । सरकार, हामीले यहाँ नक्सा पास गरायौँ, खुशीयाली मनायौँ । तर आफ्नो स्वामित्वको, त्यसमाथि विवादित क्षेत्रमा सेना किन नपठाएको ? यत्तिका वर्ष उता बाटो बनिरहँदा किन चुप बसेको ? ‘मलाई कसैले रिपोर्टिङ गरेनन्’ भनेर प्रधानमन्त्रीले भनिसक्दा पनि रिपोर्टिङ गर्ने संयन्त्र स्थापना गर्न अझै पनि ढिलासुस्ती किन ? सरकार, अझै कति लाचार बन्ने ? नेपालको जमिनमा बसेका तर नेपालको सरकारले काहिल्यै नहेरेका त्यहाँका नागरिकले अपराध बोध किन गर्नु पर्ने ? बस्नु अपराध आफ्नो जमिनमा विवाद निम्त्याइ सकेपछि समाधानको पहल किन गर्न नसकेको ?
देशको कुनाकुनामा राज्यको उपस्थिति भए मात्रै देश बलियो र समृद्ध हुन्छ । नक्सा पास त संघीय संसदबाट भयो तर त्यही संघीय संसद्को लोगोले नयाँ नक्सा र जनभावना प्रति कटाक्ष गरेजस्तो लाग्छ । कालापानी क्षेत्रको समस्या समाधान नभएसम्म नक्सामा मात्रै राखेर गमक्क पर्न छुट छैन सरकार ! नक्सा सुरुवात मात्रे हो । यो पर्याप्त छैन । छिमेकीलाई बलमिच्याइँ गर्न नदिन हाम्रा संयन्त्र अझै लागेका छैनन् । केटाकेटी खेले जस्तो गरेर सीमा विवाद समाप्त हुँदैन । सरकार ! नक्सा मात्रै निकालेर हुन्छ ? झन्नै ६० वर्ष भो राज्यको उपस्थिति त्यहाँ नभएको । अझै कति ढिलाइ गर्ने हो ?
बिहान कलेज जान समयमै निस्कन खोजे पनि कहिले के मा कहिले के मा अल्मलिन्छु । हतार गर्दै निस्कन्छु । आफूलाई चाहिने चीजबीज छुट्छन् । ‘छुटे छुटुन् है !’ भन्दै पुग्छु गाडी चढ्न । गाडी चढ्ने कुनै निश्चित बिसौनी छैन । भित्री सडकमा न ट्राफिक चाप न त गस्ती । जहाँ गाडी भेट्यो त्यहीँ हात दियो, गाडी रोकिन्छ तर यति हतारमा हुन्छ कि पाइला राख्न नपाउँदै हिँडिसक्छ । लड्दैपड्दै सीट सम्म पुग्छु । बसमा तै बिसेक, माइक्रोबसमा त कहिलेकाहीँ बस्ने ठाउँसम्म हुन्न । कोच्चिन्छु । गन्तव्यसम्म पुग्न हतार छ ।
मैले मात्रै हतार गरेर भएन । चालक दलका दुई सदस्यलाई आराम छ । अघि म चढ्दा हुइँकाउने चालक दाजु अहिले कछुवाको चालमा अघि बढाउनुहुन्छ । “मान्छे नै छैन,” सहचालक भन्नुहुन्छ । म चाहिँ घडी हेर्छु अनि आत्तिन्छु । ढिला हुन लागिसक्यो ।
गाडीले वेग लिएपछि दङ्ग पर्छु । अचानक घ्याच्च ब्रेक लाग्छ । अगाडि हुत्तिन्छु । धन्न नाकको डाँडी भाँचिएन । “के गरी चलाको हौ ?” यात्रुहरू आक्रोशित हुन्छन् । “पचासी आइसक्यो” सहचालकको आवाज सुनिन्छ । पछाडिको गाडीले उछिन्यो भने पेसेन्जर पाइन्न । चालक दललाई हतार भयो अहिले चाहिँ । यात्रु चढाउने र ओराल्ने काम तीव्र गतिमा हुन्छ । वेग बढेको गाडी कतै जाकिने हो कि कसैलाई ठोकिदिने हो कि, सातो जान्छ ।
टुँडिखेल पूर्वको पुरानो बसपार्क नयाँ बनाउन हटाएपछि खुल्लामञ्चमा पुग्यो । केही महिनापछि भृकुटीमण्डपमा माइक्रोबस र अधिकांश गाडी रोक्न प्रतिबन्ध लाग्यो । अचम्मको कुरा चाहिँ के भने ती स्टपका प्रतीक्षालयमा प्रतिबन्धको केही दिनअघि मात्रै नयाँ रङ्ग लगाइएको थियो । अब जमलदेखि सुन्धाराका बीचमा कतै गाडी रोक्न पाइन्न । तर हामी यात्रुलाई नीतिनियमले कहाँ बाँध्छ र ? घण्टाघर ओर्लिनुपर्नेलाई जमलमा ओर्लिन हुन्न । अरू बेला ‘नियमसियम बाल’ भन्ने चालकदल सकेसम्म जमलमा नै ओर्लिदियोस् भन्छ । तर ढिट यात्रुका सामुन्ने प्रायः लाचार हुन्छ अनि झारिदिन्छ जहाँ यात्रु चाहन्छ । यस्तो दृश्य वागबजारको आकाशे पुल, भृकुटीमण्डप अगाडिको प्रतीक्षालय र शहीदगेटमा सधैँजसो बिहानपख देखिन्छ । दिउँसो ट्राफिक प्रहरीले बढी निगरानी गर्ने हुनाले यात्रुलाई गाली गर्दै र यात्रुको गाली सुन्दै भए पनि जमल र सुन्धारामा नै गाडी रोक्छ चालकदल ।
“कति हतार हो हामीलाई ?” आफैँलाई प्रश्न गर्छु । ज्यानलाई हत्केलामा राखेर, असुरक्षित तरिकाले बाटो काटेर, ट्राफिक नियमको पालाना नगरी हामी छिटो ठाउँमा पुग्ने नाममा यो के गर्दैछौँ ? यस्तो बेतुकको हतारो केका लागि ?
हामीलाई हामीले खोजेको ठाउँमै गाडी आइदिनुपर्ने, जहाँ भन्यो त्यहीँ ओरालिदिनुपर्ने, ट्राफिक प्रहरीको लागि मात्रै नियम पालना गरिदिनुपर्ने, आदि इत्यादि समस्याको मूल जरो अनुशासनको कमी हो । सरकारले सबै ठाउँमा एकै किसिमको नियम लागू गराउन नसक्नुमा सरकारको कमजोरी त छँदै छ, कतै न कतै हामी आम जनता पनि त्यस्तो कमजोरीका कारक हौँ । ट्राफिक नियमका सामान्य काइदा पालना गर्न नसक्ने हामी नेपालीहरू अरू नियमकानून पनि लत्याउँदै उन्मुक्त साँढेझैँ हिँडेका छौँ । यस्तो हिँडाईले हामी विकास र समृद्धिको गन्तव्यमा पुगौँला ? म त सम्भावना ज्यादै कम देख्छु ।
हतारिनु र हतासिनु कमजोर मनस्थितिको उपज हो । हामीभन्दा पछि स्थापना भएका देशहरू अगाडि बढेको देख्दा हामी छ्ट्पटिन्छौँ । उनीहरूले समातेको बाटो पहिल्याउन खोज्छौँ । तर तिनका योजना हामीले लागू गर्न सक्दैनौँ । उनीहरूका र हाम्रा चुनौती र अवसर नै फरक छन् । स्काइस्क्रेपरहरू उनीहरूका समृद्धिका प्रतीक हुन् भनेर हामी पनि समृद्ध देखिने हतारमा त्यस्तै गगनचुम्बी भवन बनाउन थाल्छौँ । यस्तो देखावटी अनि योजनाविहीन प्रतिस्पर्धाले कतै हामीलाई भड्खालोमा जाक्ने त होइन ?
अनुशासन बिना कुनै योजनाको सफल कार्यान्वयन हुनै सक्दैन । जसरी पनि अघि बढ्ने नाममा सोचविचारै नगरी बाटो खन्दा पहिरो खस्ने सम्भावना बढ्छ । त्यस्तै अरूलाई उछिन्न खोज्दा हाम्रा मूल्यमान्यता परिवर्तन भएका छन् । जो धनी देखियो उसलाई सम्मान गर्ने समाज अनि संभ्रान्त बन्न हतार गर्नेहरूका कारण भ्रष्टाचारको चक्रव्यूहमा हामी फसेका छौँ । आफूलाई अनुशासित राख्ने मानिसहरू कागको हुलमा बकुल्ला बन्ने अवस्था रहेसम्म हामी हत्पतको काम लत्पत गरिरहने छौँ ।
बिहान ६-७ बजेबाट नै टियूतिर हिँड्छु । घरबाट कीर्तिपुर पुग्न दुईवटा गाडी चढ्नुपर्छ । २६ वा २७ नम्बरका गाडी शहीदगेट/सुन्धारा पुग्छ्न् । पुरानो बसपार्क (जुन नयाँ बन्ने तर्खरमा छ र खुलामञ्चमा सरेको छ) बाट कीर्तिपुर जाने २१ नम्बरको गाडी चल्छन् । ती गाडी शहीदगेटमा रोकिन्छन् केहीबेर । अहिले त्यहीँबाट २१ नम्बरे गाडी चढ्छु । पोहोर खुला मञ्चबाट चढ्थेँ । भाग्यले साथ दियो भने घरबाट हिँडेको ४५ मिनेटमा नै भूगर्भशास्त्र केन्द्रीय विभाग पुग्छु । नत्र बिहानको समयमा प्राय: एक घन्टा लाग्छ । दिउँसो र साँझ भने डेढदुई घन्टा सामान्य हो । किनकी अध्ययन गर्न चाहनेलाई सहज होस् भनेर छात्रावासमा वास दिन सक्दैन मेरो विश्वविद्यालय ।
टियू गेटले पहिले सबैलाई स्वागत गर्थ्यो । अचेल आफ्नै गाडी र बाइक भएका वा तिनीसँग आउनेलाई मात्र गर्छ । सार्वजनिक यातायात चढ्नेलाई ल्याब स्कुल देखि उता नयाँ बाटो बनेको छ । टियूले पुरानो बाटो बिग्रेको भनी नयाँ बाटोबाट चलाउन लगायो भनी गाडी चलाउनेहरू भन्थे । तर कीर्तिपुरबाट आउँदा थोरै भए पनि गाडी चलेकै हुन्छ्न् । पुरानो बाटो पनि बनेको छैन । त्रिविले वर्गभेद त गरेको होइन ? कहिलेकाहीँ सोच्छु । होइन होला जस्तो लाग्छ । तर हो कि ? … (आ.. जेसुकै होस् !)
बिस्तारै बगिरहेको प्रमाण देखिने, धुँजाधुँजा परेका बाटाहरू अनि तरहतरहका संरचनाले टियूमा स्वागत गर्छन् । नयाँ बाटोबाट ओर्लिँदा सबैभन्दा पहिले देखिन्छ आँखा अस्पताल जुन विश्वविद्यालय अन्तर्गतको भएपनी उपचार सोचेजस्तो सस्तो छैन । अर्को छेउमा देखिन्छन् पुरुष छात्रावास । सबै अटाउँदैनन् यी छात्रावासमा । एक वर्ष पढिसकेपछि बल्ल “सिट” पाइन्छ । त्यसमा पनि होडबाजी र राजनीति चल्छ ।
अलि पर आउँछ जनबोलीको तीनकुने । रङ उडिसकेको बोर्डमा लेखिएको छ “TU Coronation Ground” (अङ्ग्रेजीमै) । त्यहाँ कसैको मूर्ति छ, जुन देख्न मलाई एक वर्षै लाग्यो होला । त्यो मूर्ति पहिलो उपकुलपति सुवर्ण समशेरको हो कि जस्तो लाग्छ । ठ्याक्कै याद छैन । किनकी त्यो “चौर” घेरिएको छ पर्खालले अनि भित्र ढाकेका छन् अग्ला घाँसहरूले ।
पिच उप्केको छ ठाउँठाउँमा, पानी पर्दा खोला बग्छ । यस्तो गर्नुपर्थ्यो, उस्तो गर्नुपर्थ्यो भन्ने प्रशस्त मानिस भेला हुने यो विश्वविद्यालयका संरचना पनि छक्क पर्दा हुन् । भन्दा हुन्, “गफ हाँक्न छोडेर एउटा मात्रै काम ठीकसँग गरेर देखाओ त !”
असार २५ गते त्रिभुवन विश्वविद्यालयले साठीऔं त्रिवि दिवस मनायो । उपकुलपतिको नयाँ भवन उद्घाटन गर्न कुलपति (प्रधानमन्त्री) जाँदा जुन कन्तविजोग त्रिविले देखायो, त्यसले लज्जाबोध भयो । त्योभन्दा लाजमर्दा काण्डहरू– गोल्ड मेडलको किनबेच, परीक्षाफलमा गरिएका अनियमितता, आर्थिक अनियमितता, जग्गा बाँडफाँड आदिले कहिलेकाहीँ त सोच्न बाध्य बनाउँछ, ‘उच्च शिक्षाको लागि त्रिवि रोजेर गलत त गरिनँ ।’
२०१३ सालतिर देशभित्रै विश्वविद्यालयको खाँचो महसुस गरेर तत्कालीन शिक्षामन्त्री लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटाको भिजनलाई तत्कालीन राजा महेन्द्रले साथ दिएका थिए । विश्वविद्यालयका लागि ठूलो ठाउँ लिएर अध्ययन अनुसन्धान गर्ने उद्देश्यले कीर्तिपुरमा जग्गा अधिग्रहण गरी त्रिविको स्थापना गरिएको थियो । त्यस यता कीर्तिपुर क्षेत्र शिक्षाको पर्याय बनेको छ । यद्यपि यो जग्गा विवाद बेलाबेलामा आइरहन्छ, जातीयताको रङ्ग घोलेर ।
पाइलापाइलामा गरिने राजनीति, दम्भी अजासुहरू अनि मनपरी गर्न उद्दत कर्मचारीतन्त्रले त्रिभुवन विश्वविद्यालय कति थेग्ला ? शिक्षा क्षेत्रको आमूल परिवर्तनका लागि टीयूको संरचना र कार्यपद्दती नै परिवर्तन गर्नुपर्ने देखिन्छ ।
Battle Royale has a simple concept: 42 students are abducted to an island, provided with weapons and made to fight each other. What would they do? Some would fear for their lives and attack first. Some would form allies (and later betray). Some would go on a rampage, while some would seek for peace. Koshun Takami plays at these possibilities and delivers the details of the battle at an unimaginable level. Here I discuss some of the themes I discovered in Battle Royale.
Authority, trust and rebellion
The novel is set in the fascist regime of the Republic of Greater East Asia (RGEA) in 1997. The country is basically Japan in an alternate timeline. However, from the details in the plot, I could sense that the Republic of Greater East Asia also included China.
I wonder how the fascism originated in the Republic. Could it be the Chinese communist influence, or could it be the World War II Japan? The latter feels more likely. During the Second World War, Japan was an imperialistic force that had sided with Germany. Japan even invaded China until they were sent back the PLA led by Mao. In the alternate timeline, Japan might have won both the wars and established an authoritarian rule. But we do not know.
Here is a conversation that makes it difficult to know the country’s history.
Noriko interrupted him, ‘Seventy-five years ago?’ Hugging her knees under her pleated skirt, Noriko tilted her head with a puzzled look on her face.
Noriko then looked over at Shuya. Shuya nodded and then looked back at Shogo. ‘I heard something about how the history they teach us is a big lie and that the current Dictator is hardly the 325th Dictator. In fact, he’s only supposed to be the twelfth one, right?’
Shuya glanced at Noriko’s surprised face, but when he heard Shogo’s next statement, ‘Well, even that might not be true,’ he raised his brow.
‘What do you mean?’
Shogo smiled and said, ‘There is no Dictator. He doesn’t exist. He’s just made up. That’s what I heard.’
‘That can’t be…’ Noriko said hoarsely, ‘but we see him on the news…and on New Year’s he makes an appearance in front of everyone at his palace…’
‘Right.’ Shogo grinned. ‘But who is this ‘everyone at the palace’? Have you ever met someone who was actually there? What if they were actors too, just like the Dictator?’
Battle Royale (Chapter 31)
Though the history is dubious, it is clear that the government wants control over its citizens. Battle Royale Programme (aka Battle Experiment No. 68 or the Programme) is a form of control. The abducted children are forced to fight and one of them stands out as the winner. These children fear (and/or mistrust) each other. In the situation, they forget the good times they had together. Some examples are:
Yoshio Akamatsu is the first to be grabbed by fear. He kills a girl from a safe spot and attacks Shuya Nanahara.
Yuko Sakaki sees Nanahara “kill” Tatsumichi Oki and out of fear, tries to poison him. Her action causes a shootout in the Light House (the most intense scene in both the book and the movie), and five girls kill each other. She herself commits suicide.
Kayoko Kotohiki attacks Hiroki Sugimura thinking he is going to kill her. Hiroki’s only mission, however is to search her, protect her (if possible) and to confess his love for her. (This is one of those scenes which is better than in the book than in the movie.)
What about the parents and guardians of the students who are abducted for the “Experiment”? They get informed about it. Some protest. They are killed or tortured by the government. Shogo’s father was killed when he was the participant of the previous Programme. Kinpatsu Sakamochi (Programme Supervisor) raped Anno, Nanahara’s caretaker. And the others accept their fate of having to lose a child. Noriko Nakagawa’s parents are said to be alive at the end of the story.
Any resistance against the Programme or the government is crushed. Mr. Hayashida (the teacher) is killed when he resists to cooperate with Sakamochi. Shinji Mimura’s uncle is said to have died in an accident but Shinji believes that he was murdered by the government for being rebellious.
Also, the Programme is equal to all. The participant could be the son of a bureaucrat or an aristocrat or may be an orphan. None of it matter. No one is spared. The moment between Kyoichi Motobuchi, the class representative and Kinpatsu Sakamochi makes this concept clear.
Some of his classmates might have been hoping that Kyoichi would provide some adequate rational form of protest. Kill the friends you were hanging out with yesterday? It was impossible. Someone’s making a mistake here. Hey rep, can you take care of this one for us?
“’M-my father is a director of environmental affairs in the prefectural government. How could the class I’m in be selected for th-the Program?…’
Due to his shaking, his tense voice sounded even more wound up than usual.
The man who called himself Sakamochi grinned and shook his head, his long hair swinging in the air. ‘Let’s see. You’re Kyoichi Motobuchi, right?
‘You must know what equality means. Listen up. All people are born equal. Your father’s job in the prefectural government doesn’t entitle you to special privileges. You are no different. Listen up, everybody. You all have your own distinct personal backgrounds. Of course some of you come from rich families, some from poor families. But circumstances beyond your control like that shouldn’t determine who you are. You must all realize what you’re worth on your own. So Kyoichi, let’s not delude ourselves that you’re somehow special—because you’re not!’”
Battle Royale, Chapter 3
But the characters do not stop thinking about the rebellion. Shinji wants to avenge his uncle and tries hacking into their Programme computer which is in a school. When he fails, he makes an explosive to blast off the school. He fails again.
Shinji might have also been successful if he had tried to look for more allies but he does not seem to trust people. His uncle had told:
‘It’s best not to trust groups and movements. They’re not very reliable.’
He even kills a friend, Keita Iijima when he feels that he would leak his plan of blowing up the school.
The conversation between Shogo Kawada, Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa provide insight into whether the rebellion would be successful. Shogo, who seems to know a lot, believes that people wouldn’t resist the government and a revolution for freedom may never occur. Their prosperity had made people oblivious to freedom. They believed in what the government believed: “controlled freedom is necessary for prosperity”. (Personally, I too feel this is true but I believe in soft control, unlike that of the RGEA.)
Even though Shogo has personal grudge against the government, he begins a rebellion by saving two people from the Programme and hijacking a military boat. Nanahara and Nakagawa are in the run in the book and the movie. Battle Royle 2 is the movie (I haven’t watched yet) in which the government has declared them as terrorists.
Kindness and Love
The novel has a lot of moments in which one character says to another: “You’re kind.”
Shinji Minura helps Noriko Nakagawa during the briefing by Kinpatsu Sakamochi, when the bullet ricocheting through Yotitoki Kuninobu hits her leg. Shuya Nanahara helps Noriko after they are sent to the “battlefield”. Shogo Kawada helps both of them. And though Hiroki Sugimura cannot help as he would like to, he has also been described as kind. Hiroki is also the tragic hero, who dies at the hands of his beloved.
On the opposite spectrum are Kazuo Kiriyama and Mitsuko Souma. While Mitsuko’s backstory makes one sympathetic towards her, one can’t even sympathize at Kiriyama’s death. His apathy makes him a one dimensional character—one who is perfect and wants to win the battle. However, he does not succeed. Had he succeeded, kindness and love would have lost. Rebellion would have lost. Battle Royale would have ended in a darker note, with a loss of hope.
Sakura Ogawa and Kazhuhiko Yamamoto are among the first to die. I felt their suicide was a symbol of lost love. Mitsuko Souma is one of the girls who has involved in prostitution even before her puberty. The book says she was gang-raped, the movie shows her mother forcing her into prostitution. The way she acts during the battle was also the result of lost love. Hiroki’s loss is also an instance of love losing to fear.
So the one way to make love victorious was to save Noriko and Shuya. Shogo, who himself is a tragic hero from the previous battle, helps them. He had been their savior and their guide. It was extremely tragic that he died. Had he survived, it would have been a wonderful journey for the three.
Mutual Respect among teachers and students
The theme of mutual respect is not prominent in the book. The movie is different in this respect. The whole Battle Royale Programme stems from a law (BR Act) to control the rebellious youth. The school students frequently bunk Kitano’s classes and attacks him with a knife in the corridor. When Kitano enters later as the Programme Supervisor, he seems to be taking a revenge.
However, the individual youth might have also been thinking: Why should I respect elders who don’t respect me? The characters have gone through a lot due to the neglect of the adults. Shuya has been an orphan when his father couldn’t bear the pain of poverty. Mitsuko has been pushed to prostitution by her own mother. Yoshitoki Kuninobu and Fumiyo Fujiyoshi are killed by Kitano against the rule and no one punished him, though he talks about following rules.
The second epilogue in the movie (Requiem II) shows the common dream of Noriko and Kitano. Noriko says she had taken the knife that had been used to attack him. He asks, “What am I supposed to say at this moment?” Though Kitano likes Noriko, and Noriko respects him, her statement is surprising. I felt that the complexity of the relation between adults and children is shown in that scene.
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 bitter.) 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!
Birth, wedding and death are the three most important ceremonies in the life of a human. One does not know what happens at birth and what happens after death but they can witness their wedding. While birth is a ceremony of joy and death that of distress, a wedding is an affair that mixes both joy and distress. I’m going to see this just as the bride prepares to arrive at the groom’s house. Before that, I must attend the ceremony with the groom and and his family.
The music of Panche Baja wakes up the neighbourhood. Panche baja is a set of five instruments: Narsingha, Damaha, Tyamko, Sahanai, and Karnal (often replaced by Madal). These instruments are traditionally played by Damai men. Wedding processions are led by these men and are called auspicious. However, they are also called “lower” caste and are “untouchables”. How hypocritic!
Anyway, the Mangal Dhun (auspcious music) has begun the beautiful day. The sun is shining but its not hot. The groom and his parents are in their house making final preparations before the Janta or Bariyat (wedding procession).
Janti (Bariyati), the participants of the Janta (Bariyat), have begun gathering. The number is increasing every minute. Soon, there are around a hundred men, women and children.
The musicians are encouraged. They begin playing some old folk tunes and some Lok dohori (folk song sung by two groups, one of boys and another of girls) tunes. This genre of Nepali music. During the latter part of the decade modernization shot down the folk part and reduced it to Dohori. Folk instruments are now replaced by computers and auto-tuning has been creating robotic voices.
But folk tunes that use folk instruments have become popular again. And these are the tunes the musicians of the wedding procession are playing. The crowd gets excited, gets to its feet and starts dancing.
The groom’s brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and even some neighbours are dancing on the last available piece of land in the neighbourhood. Had it been covered by a house already, the dancers would be on the streets. They are, but no vehicle or pedestrian is disturbed.
The way the Janti is dancing without the groom, I feel they are happier than the groom himself. They seem more excited than the groom. Why? I don’t know. If you analyse happiness, the remainder can not make you happy.
The Janti is tired but the groom has not come out. Questions are increasing: “Where is he? Isn’t this the time for Bariyat Prasthan (the beginning of the procession)? Why are they doing it late?”
Its midweek and not a public holiday. Most of the Janti will have to go to their jobs. They look at their wrist watch and then the people who are still dancing. They look at their wrist watch and then at the groom’s house.
Dad is not worried. “Have you taken a leave?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “You must attend your neighbours weddings. Janti is a proof that the groom’s family is not alone. The bride’s parents will feel secured that the neighborhood will support the groom’s family when they are in trouble and they also feel safe because there is a society that will secure the bride in case the groom’s family tries to hurt her.”
“That’s beautiful!” I exclaim. Before this, I thought wedding procession was just a medium to show off and that it was something that added woes to the bride’s parents. Sure, it increases their expenses but happiness and security are far greater than money.
And if groom and his family beat up the girl and neighbours interfere, they cannot say, “Get out off it. It’s our family matter.” The neighbours have the right to say, “You brought this girl here with promises of happiness in our presence. We are the witnesses of your oaths.”
The priests and the groom’s father put Teeka on each of Janti’s forehead including the musicians. The groom comes out. He is greeted with smiles, laughter and hootings. He then revolves clockwise round a decorated car, hired for the day, thrice. The musicians lead. A column of women carrying Kalash and other items follow. The groom’s car then sets off. The road gets blocked for a quarter of an hour. Other people who are passing by get irritated. Some don’t hesitate to curse!
A bus can easily come to the street but the groom’s family wants us to walk to the Chowk. We don’t mind. Elders say, “A Bariyat without a walk is boring.”
Wedding at the bride’s home or Tole (community) in Kathmandu is rare these days. Party palaces have the catering, ample space and wedding ground. They may be expensive, but are more convenient.
The bride’s family, relatives and neighbours (Ghargaule) greet the Janti. As I am distracted looking at the people, the groom disappers. About fifteen minutes later, I find him seated on a chair with the bride. The bride’s relatives are washing both of their feet. Her parents have done the “Kanyadan”, i.e. they have given their daughter to the groom.
Janti is sent to the “Dining Hall”. They gobble up food quickly. Those who have their office duties rush. Some people have taken, on their plates, more food than they can eat. People waste a lot of food in weddings. It’s beyond my understanding how they don’t know what and how much they want.
Ghargaunle eat next along with the bride and the groom. More food reaches the trash!
The sound of Panche Baja comes up again. Everyone rejoices. The use of Panche Baja in weddings has increased again in recent times. There was a time when playing folk Panche Baja was looked down upon. Band Baja (a Band with European instruments) was considered “modern” and better than the traditional folk music.
The dresses too have changed. I hear an elder saying, “When we were young, wearing Daura Suruwal meant you were going to be teased at. You would be a cartoon because no young people wore it. Time has changed. Young people have begun taking care of their culture again.”
Yes, young people don’t wear Daura Suruwal everyday but we have at least adopted it as a formal wear. I believe the youth of other religions and castes too are now taking care of their culture. I am not sure but I believe this is a result of the socio-political changes in this decade.
While the music has woken up people, the bride and the groom come to the Yagya. There are several rituals before and after the groom puts sindoor (vermillion) on the bride’s head. I don’t remember all. What I notice is that the bride is to the groom’s left in the beginning. At one point, I’m not sure when, the groom lifts the bride and puts her to his right. She will always be at her right in Yagyas since.
In Hindu tradition, before his marriage, a man conducts Yagyas all by himself. He alone makes all the things necessary. He alone pours ghee to the sacrificial fire. It’s the same for the girl. After the first Yagya with his wife, they’ll always perform the Yagya together. Both of them sacrifice their solitude in the fire and unite for life.
We have rituals that can go for hours.
Some people find these useless. I too thought so before I saw American weddings. Christians have short weddings. Father reads something and asks the man’s promise to take care of his wife. If he replies “Yes”, he asks the lady if she will take care of husband. If she too says yes, they become “Man and Wife”. Our Priests too read out something and asks for promises–all in Sanskrit. Most of us do not understand.
When the short wedding ends, bride and the groom play different games, sing and dance. Now, our rituals already have games like tug of war, gambling and so on. I feel its alright.
As the rituals are coming to an end, I see a plethora of emotions. The bride and her parents look sad, the groom and the Janti look happy. The Ghargaule are happy as well as sad. These play of emotions makes the wedding ceremony special.
The bride has lived her life with her parents until that day. After the ceremony ends, she will move to a new place, surrounded by new people. She is full of emotions. Sadness of leaving her parents, joy of ending society’s questions like “Why aren’t you married yet”, fear of not being accepted by her husband and his society. I am not a girl but I can feel her pain.
Parents are the saddest when their children leave them. I know this. I had a kitten. I loved her like a child. When she died, I could not control my emotions. Daughters are more than cats. Daughters are more livelier than sons. They laugh, dance and sing. They help parents in chores more than sons do. They heal their parents’ griefs more effectively than sons can. Without their daughter, her parents will lose the home she had created.
Relatives, neighbours, all cry. They have special bond with the girl. Friends cry seeing their friend in tears.
The groom and his family are happy because she will make a new home, similar to what she had built, in their house. Their happiness does not touch me much and despite being a Janti, I get emotional.
Sadness is not going to stop the custom. She must leave her parents. Before leaving, she cries and along with her cry all her family members, friends, relatives and neighbours. By the time she reaches at groom’s, she does not look too sad. Some brides cry for hours. She does not. The groom and the Janti have done a magic. May the charm stay forever!
(A Wedding is a single essay that I chose to break into 4 parts because of its length. This is the 2nd part. The feature photo was obtained from http://photos.merinews.com)
A pile of furniture items, plus a television arrive the groom’s house. The furniture set includes everything: a double-size bed, a sofa set, a glass table, a dining table, six chairs, the TV drawer, and a beautiful wardrobe. There is a problem. Where are they going to keep everything?
The groom’s house is not that small but renting two other flats have made it smaller. The porters do a good job of bringing the furniture set up to the terrace. They scatter the items all over, one after the other.
Dark clouds are hovering close to the hills. They have not hidden the sun but the cold wind is threatening to bring a downpour. I look at the groom’s house. I don’t see anyone. I find it a little strange. Where are all the people?
A couple of hours have passed. The clouds have darkened. My mom comes home from her work. She is curious. She opens the curtain and looks. “Who piled all those? And where are all the people?”
“Don’t know,” my sister and I say.
“It’s going to rain. If the furniture all get wet, they’ll damage soon.”
I look up again. It’s really strange. There is no hustle and bustle. What’s going on?
“Before my wedding, I’m going to sell everything and empty the house. A part of the expenses will also be covered,” I say, laugh and roll on my bed.
“What are you saying? Why would you do that?” Mom and sister are shocked and then they understand. “To avoid this situation?”
I reply with a nod. Mom starts laughing. I laugh more. Sister stops me.
“What would we do with the double furniture set?” I ask.
“One set for us, one for you and your wife. Don’t you understand?”
“No, I don’t. Why should the bride’s family should give everything to the groom? And why should a groom accept everything he is given? As if he does not have anything. As if they cannot buy anything on their own.”
“This strange new custom is making things difficult for the bride’s parents.”
“Exactly! They are not only sending off their daughter, they are also drowing themselves in debt in their old age. If they’re in their youth, we can expect them to earn again. How will they spend the rest of their life?”
Mom agrees. She understands the problems but can’t solve them. Neither can I, but point out another problem, “The bride’s parents send everything with their daughter so that the couple can easily separate from the family.”
“Yeah, she has everything already. She has every right to use her stuffs. She can also fight when others use her stuffs.”
“Couples also get lazy. They don’t have to work to earn anything. They don’t know the value of the stuffs.”
As I was preaching, I remembered that Mom too had got some furniture and stuffs from her parents. When I said that, Mom said, “But I left them in the home (in Terai). We had only a couple of utensils when we came Kathmandu. We earned everything one after the other. We didn’t expect anything from our parents.”
Will I expect anything from my parents once I get independent? Will bringing stuffs from my wife’s parents damage my self-esteem.
I can’t decide. The bride’s parents love their daughter, obviously. However, back in their mind they have other issues:
“Showing off” is what Mom said “the strange new custom”. A part of our society is always better off. They can afford anything. Another part copies them. They don’t “cut their coat according to the cloth they have”. They borrow money and stuffs. They fall in debt. They show to the society that they are better than that uncle with the biggest house in the community.
I can’t describe the feelings parents go through when they send their daughters to someone else’s home. In rural areas, parents cannot meet their daughter for years. In some places, daughters-in-law have suffered for “not bringing enough dowry”. The groom’s family beat, burn and kill the bride. In urban areas, particularly in Kathmandu, such cases are rare. Daughters can visit their parents whenever they want. And the parents send away stuffs even if the groom opposes. Still, they are scared.
They are scared that their daughter may not get the love and affection she gets with them. They are scared that the mother-in-law and/or sister(s)-in-law may not stay in harmony for long. In their subconscious mind, they have implanted a thought that the bride and the groom may/will have to separate themselves from the family.
“Parents should teach daughters to be independent,” I say. “They should not show that their parents can do everything for them. They should also focus on their family’s integrity. They should not provide their daughters a backup for separation.”
Mom disagrees a little on my last statement. “They are not giving backup for separation. They do it thinking it is the best for their daughter. The bride should also take care of the husband’s parents as her own and she should not boast of what her parents gave. Her excessive pride can cause separation.”
We come to the same conclusion through different routes blaming the bride and her family completely and overlooking the problems that the groom and his parents might bring up. In almost every part of the world, a girl leaves her birth home at marriage. It is etched as one of the most important gender roles. Accommodation in the new home is always difficult. In absence of good facilitation, the bride may feel excluded and the rest of the family might ignore her. Both result in conflict.
Right now, however, we are looking at the dark clouds and the groom’s house again. The wind is howling. Mom decides to help them out. She flashes out amidst the clapping and sparkling clouds.
Wedding expenses have always bothered me. More often in the bride’s side. Groom and his family too have expenses but as my Mom says, “The only real expense is on feeding people. Actually, there is a net profit.”
The party begins the day (in some cases, a week) before the wedding. Usually, the day before the wedding, a Yagya is perfomed. Relatives of the groom, his neighbours and friends come to his home and take the Prasad.
The wedding reception is the occasion where the expenses are maximized. The same people who attend on the Pooja above, come to the reception as well but there is a substantial increase in the number of mouths, main course, desserts and beverages.
The net profit for groom comes with the “precioussss” yellow metal and papers that can be used instead of the metal. Both the bride and the groom receive a good amount of gold from both their parents. They again receive a hefty amount, in Kathmandu, during the reception.
The groom’s house is now covered by beautiful lights, almost as in Tihar. The family is exhilarated. A Laxmi is about to enter the home.
(A Wedding is a single essay that I chose to break down into 4 parts because of its length. This is the 1st part of the essay.)
“Difficult times have come,” Mom expresses her worry after getting an invitation of the wedding of my neighbour. “Brahmin priests have stopped getting Brahmin girls for their sons. I heard … is bringing a Chhetrini!”
“The line between Brahmins and Chhetris is dissolving,” I say.
“Are you planning to bring a lower caste (non-Upadhyaya Brahmin) girl? Do it if you want. Then don’t see my face again!”
The calmness with which she says this baffles me. Dad says, “You shouldn’t be obstinate. Don’t you need your son.”
“I don’t need anybody who don’t respect my thoughts and rituals. A lower caste girl can’t participate in Pooja and can’t get involved in Shraaddha. I don’t want to be hungry after my death.”
“What will you do if you are hungry while you are still alive?”
I had that question too. Mom does not give a straight answer. She has a notion that she does not agree to quit. And no one can change her.
While my Mom warns me not to be in relationship with a girl of “lower caste” or a foreigner, she actually wants me to fall in love with an “upper” Brahmin girl. “How do we choose who we fall in love with?” I ask, the answer to which my parents do not know.
Much later, just as I am writing this essay, I have a revelation, “I can choose someone of a particular caste, religion or nationality to be my girlfriend. I don’t have to randomly fall in love with anyone.”
“How?” You might be asking.
Well, in societies like the one I am in living, there are said and unsaid rules that guide me. I am told repeatedly, even before I understand the dynamics of love, that being in love with a girl out of my caste is bad. Her beauty and character won’t have any effect upon me. I might say she is beautiful but I’ll never have a desire to be with her.
But a beautiful girl of my caste might attract me in no time and without even knowing her enough, I might “fall” in love with her.
A socio-psychological wiring can make me choose the one I have to be in love with.
However, even without such sociological barriers, you can choose who you want to be in a relationship with. You see thousands of beautiful girls everyday but you don’t have to fall for everyone. Neither of the girls may attract you. You have your preferences which determine who is the most suitable for you.
I have not been able to choose to be in a relationship. It’s hard for an introverted guy who questions everything. Even when I am in love with someone, I’ll question myself, “Is this love? Or is it just an infatuation?” millions of times before I accept that I’m in love with her. Then a gazillion times, I’ll ask myself, “Should I tell her? Will she accept me?”
By the time I decide to ask her, she’ll be gone off as someone else’s bride. Even if she does not, I will never have the courage to say, “I love you”–the simplest three letters that carry the biggest weight of a relationship.
Whenever I’ll be in a relationship with a girl of my caste, Mom will be the happiest. No, I’m not saying this. She says it herself. She will not have to worry about match-making which is the most difficult task these days before a wedding.
If you’re not in a relationship, your parents will start looking up girls for you. They make contacts with the families of girls who are the “most suitable” for their sons. Often a third person (Lhami/Lami– match-maker) who knows both sides is involved. After a lot of rejections, in many cases, and sometimes after immediate acceptance, wedding ceremony between a girl and a boy is fixed.
This “type” of wedding known as the “Maagi Bihe (arranged marriage)” is still the most prevalent. The most worrisome of all the weddings is “Bhaagi Bihe (running marriage)” because a couple in love runs away from their families to get married. The family does not accept most of the times. There have been many tragedies because of Bhaagi Bihe.
Another type of wedding is getting popular though. It’s the “love cum arranged marriage”. A couple fall in love, parents accept and then the couple gets married. There may be conditions like the ones set by my Mom but some of intercaste weddings have been accepted by parents.
By now, you have known that my Mom has some rules that I must follow to choose a suitable girl. She is not alone in this matter. She is a typical Brahmin woman who wants to secure her “life” after death. I don’t blame her for her thoughts. I don’t know if I should blame our culture but I think I must accept that most of the Hindus are worried about the “life after death” and another life than the one they are living.
Hindus believe in the existence of Atman that is unfaltering and indestructible. Atman is the source of consciousness or life. It resides on bodies that are alive. Once someone is dead, the Atman leaves him and goes to the Paramatma, the highest consciousness or Bhagawan.
There is a twist though. Atman is not incorruptible. It also carries desire. The Atman that carries desire to remain in the material world (Earth, Heaven, etc.) falls in an endless cycle of births and deaths. However, the Atman that chooses to be with Paramatma does not have to go to the endless cycle. However, it has to come to the material world whenever Paramatma wants.
Confused? It’s indeed confusing. No lecture on Veds and Geeta can clear up the confusion. No dead has come back to life and said what life after death actually is. Is it absolute darkness? Is it brighter than our world? Do we go to Heaven or Hell after our death? Will someone reward us for the good we have done and punish us for our evils? Nobody knows.
But these have been etched in our minds through scriptures and Gurus and priests. We choose not to deny our scriptures and we don’t question our Gurus. That’s why, “life after death” has become more important than the life we are now living.
And I can’t change my Mom’s mind. She has heard stories of Heaven and Hell. She desires to be in Heaven. One wrong move from her son might be consequential in God denying her the paradise she dreams of. Her daughter-in-law must prepare Pinda, the food of the dead, in an annual ceremony known as Shraaddha after her death. If her daughter-in-law cannot be involved in Shraaddha, she believes she will be hungry in Heaven.
When a Brahman gets married to someone of a lower caste or a foreigner, he/she “falls” from her caste. A Upadhyaya Brahman might turn into Jaisi Brahman, Chhetri or Shudra.
I propose a solution, “If I bring a “lower caste” girl as my bride why not elevate her caste instead? If she takes my Gotra (clan based on Rishis) and my surname, why not my caste? Elevate her, get her involved in rituals, propagate culture. You don’t need to worry about your afterlife.”
My parents look at me with a shock. We all know the society does not work that way. But I just hope it worked like that. Nobody would have to worry about anything then.
Meanwhile, my neighbour’s home has just begun buzzing with activity. His brothers, sisters and relatives have come up to help them. His wedding is going to be the one that will be remembered for years to come. Even if we forget, the groom and his bride will not!