Isolation

I have included some strips of the manga Koe no Katachi by Yoshitoki Ooima in this blog. Please read the strips from right to left.

When I watched Koe no Katachi aka A Silent Voice/The Shape of Voice, watched several video essays on it on YouTube, and later read the manga, I could relate the most to Shouya Ishida’s character. I was not a bully but I used to be nasty at times. However, the similarity lies in the ways he isolates himself. That took me back to my own school days.

I grew up pretty fast during my childhood, psychologically as well as physically. The problems of my home changed me from a carefree, outgoing boy into a worrying introvert. I spent my childhood trying to maintain good grades under the expectations of my parents and teachers. I hit puberty faster than most of my classmates, and that made me feel distant from the rest. Until I was 12, I had a few best friends, but none of them stayed long. I believed that I could have only one best friend, but that best friend was never permanent. After 6th Grade, I could not even tell who my best friend was. I had imaginary friends since I was 8. I spent most of my adolescence with them.

Koe no Katachi took me to those days and made me think: Why didn’t I have no friends then? My house was in the end of a small goreto beside a stream now turned into sewer. I never brought anyone home. I never went to anyone’s. I was scared I might get lost if I went anywhere other than my home and school. At the age of 3 or 4, I had actually lost at Ason. Had the Lamini Aama, who lives in our neighbourhood not found me, I don’t know what would happen to the proud Ankit/Sandeept that is today. But these were all secondary. The primary reason was my pride.

As long as I remember, I have always been proud. I was proud of my good-looks. I was proud of my high-pitched voice. I was proud of my memory. I was proud of my hard-work. I was proud of my timeliness. I was proud of my ability to speak well in public.

The first blow to my pride came in the form of the crooked tooth that somehow changed my good-looks. The second blow was the change in my voice-pitch. The pride of my memory ‘poofed’ when I realized that my brain could not remember everything and that the memories were ever changing. My pride of timeliness, hard-work and my ability to speak up facts from memory got kicked away once again in March when I did my worst presentation ever. But I still did not let go of my pride.

With pride, I had cultivated ego, and I enclosed myself within its walls. This wall has stayed ever since I realized I was different from my classmates, and that I could not easily mix with them. I had several problems. I could not stand them shouting out obscenities, I could not stand them fighting for petty things, I could not stand them taking my note-books, I could not stand them talking about ‘Street Fighter’, I could not stand them joining social media, I could not stand their aggression. In short, I could not stand the adolescents being adolescents. My “matured outlook” was actually my ego. I grew it in such a way that I did not frankly talk to anyone. I pushed them and have always tried pushing other friends and people away from me. I shoved some of them so hard that I have never had life-long friends.

In Koe no Katachi, the anime, Shouya Ishida shuts his ears, and crosses out everyone. That’s who I was, and still am. While my classmates had fun in the class, enjoying the never-returning times of their lives, I ignored their voices, canceled them out and concentrated on books. I used to be in the classroom, but I used to be aloof from whatever they did. Whatever they did, I thought, was nonsense. What I did, always right.

Looking back, I was never sad that I did not have much good memories with my childhood friends. I had my biggest lesson on large-group friendship when I was in my Bachelor’s. That was the time I enjoyed with my friends the most. But back in my head, I still had a doubt like Ishida has at the midway in his character arc, “Is this what friends are like? Am I allowed to be in their friendship, and to be happy?”

By now, I have again been hit by a realization. Even the largest groups of friends dissemble at some point of time. People who used to spill out all secrets, get along with awkward smiles when they meet after a long time. The dimensions of friendship changes with time and it’s natural. Nobody remains the same. I am, however jealous of some of my friends who can keep more than one best-friend in their life and respect each one of them. I am jealous that they can maintain the same dynamics that they created in their childhood. They are the polar opposites of someone like me, one who believes that there can only be one best-friend, and loses even that best-friend eventually.

Koe no Katachi, the anime, shook the walls of my ego; the manga cracked it further. As I dug deeper into my psyche, I realized that I could have been more accepting. I could have enjoyed a bit of “the trifles” of my friends. I could have a bigger heart and accepted many best-friends in my life. I could have been proud of the fact that I valued friendship over my own pride-generated ego. I apologize to you all, my friends, that I could never see anything beyond my ego. That I never tried to understand you; that I did not try to accept you, not even once.

Will I be able to break the walls of ego? I don’t know. Even after the blow it got, it still stands. I have come to a realization that only I can break it. The wall, however, is many-layered and has made my personality. Breaking that wall means that I will have to change my personality to some extent. But am I ready for that alteration? Am I ready to face my demons? Am I ready to move out of my comfort zone? I don’t know. But I am inspired by Ishida when he says in the manga: “There is some things you just can’t change. …I think it’s the time you spend trying to change. …That’s more important.”

I want, my friends, not to push you away; I want to understand you, your perspectives; I want to be more accepting of you; I want to be no more jealous of you; and I want infinite joy whenever I interact with you.

Memories

I have lost hundreds of photos and documents due to hard drive crashes and memory card failures. Crashes are inevitable. Electronic devices can fail anytime without any symptom. I backup some of my important data online but I don’t backup everything. Over years, hard drives turn into parts of my own memories, and they even represent my personality. I feel I lose myself every time a crash occurs. Sudden crashes have hurt me at least five times now, the recent one occurring on February 14, and I have not been able to recover everything yet.

Our brain captures our sensory perceptions and makes memories. The brain also erases the ones that are less significant. It is so spontaneous that we don’t care how the construction and deconstruction of memories occur. I have come to realize that when we actively interact with the environment, we make sharper memories compared to times when we are passive. Undivided attention helps produces better memories than when my mind is divided. My memory becomes the weakest during the times I have to multi-task. As I am writing this, my mind is trying to run quickly, but it is also interrupted by the talks of my sister and mother, and the loud TV. I am trying to understand what they are talking about but my mind processes only bits and pieces. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be able to remember anything of this evening except that I was typing something on my laptop.

This lack of proper memory construction a frightening situation for me. It was not always this way. I used to do home-works while watching TV in the past. My brain might not be as effective as it was 10-12 years ago; I don’t know. I might not have been able to grasp information from different senses at the same time. I can’t say for sure. Did my brain change the way it worked as I grew into an adult? I can’t say for sure. What I know for sure is that the volume of information my brain has to process is huge, and it has tired. All the things from trivial to complex calculations have affected it for a few years. The fatigue has lingered for a long time as I have not been able to give it a proper rest.

Unrested mind is unstable. It fears more, lacks confidence, and kills enthusiasm. It has so much to do but does not want to do anything. Moments of laughter decrease as worry grips every thought. Such a mind does not make good memories. It takes one deeper into abyss. Images of Riley from the movie “Inside Out” run in my mind as I write these lines. Sometimes, I see myself in her place, trying to keep myself happy against all conditions and making myself sadder as time passes.

The TV is making me listen to Yog Gurus who are focusing on happiness and Pranayam (breathing techniques) that help in the removal of all thoughts. After that, they say, we can enforce happy thoughts. I have not tried them yet, but as I look the paragraph above I become doubtful. Are we composed only of happy thought? We definitely are not. We are made up of several different kinds of emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on that have roles in defining our personalities. And as the movie “Inside Out” showed, these feelings are ingrained in our memories.

Do memories make us human? Do they drive humanity? As long as I know, we learn a lot of things from the individual experiences of our parents, teachers, friends, and our own. We also have collective memories in the forms of communities, societies, rituals, libraries of books, and archives of different forms of media. Humanity relies on these things so that we don’t have to start from the beginning of the civilization. Humans are in a sort of relay race where the older generation passes the baton of memories to the younger generation can continue from what they have. A new generation always more privileged. Look at the progress in technology, for example.

Progress in technology means that we are relying more and more on it to keep our memories. Will a time come when the machines understand the meanings of our memories? That they will empathise with us? We are already astonished by the answers given by Siri and Sofia, aren’t we? Will they be more human than we ever are? “Blade Runner 2049”, the sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” movie triggered the question within me. Both the movies focus on memories implanted in factory-made humans; the sequel on the memories of automated programs as well. I don’t have the answers to the questions but the possibility of the machines becoming more intelligent or more human could be possible. For now, I am happy with the machines helping me put a part of me into them. It’s a risk as they may crash any time and I might lose those bits of my memories again. It’s okay because, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”[1]


[1] Quote from Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in Blade Runner (1982)

The Deserted Landscape

Down below is a river valley that widens in the southwest as it mixes with the Sunkoshi. This terrace is fertile, as evident from the cultivated farms. Less than 50 metres higher, where we stand, there is a different scenario. The soil is red, hard, and clayey. Trees, here are rare. Bushes are scanty and prickly. Cacti have reached heights of more than 3 metres.

A view from Ratmate

Are we walking on a desert?

When I say “desert”, the first image you usually come up is that of arid, sandy land with little to no vegetation, no water, mirages, and camels. You are not wrong. Your mind has what popular culture has engraved in it. The popular culture shows just one picture of desert that is actually a rare phenomenon. Only one of the things that you thought of is common in deserts: scarcity of water.

Does this area lack water?

We survey this area close to Ratmate[1] Bazaar, Sindhuli. The surface has been scoured by running water. These rills imply the relative impermeability of the soil. (We also confirmed the very low permeability by a simple infiltration test). This almost impermeable soil does not allow water to infiltrate (and so the rills form!). Thus, there is no possibility for occurrence of spring or well.

The redness suggested otherwise. We theorized, “Some time back in the past, the area could have been a lake, providing water required for oxidation of iron present in the soil.” Can we find iron here?

On examining the origin of the soil, we find allochthonous granite boulders. These boulders apparently settled here during a landslide event. When we produced “fresh” samples, we saw that the boulders themselves were stained in red. Only one of ten samples was unstained. A little further, we found quartzite, and saw similar scene. The red soil, the granite, and quartzite samples, all had high specific gravity. We could conclude: “The iron comes from both the granite and quartzite. This iron reacted with oxygen and produced haematite, a red and heavy iron oxide.

Later when I searched for the properties of red soil on Google, I found some useful information: 1) The red soil is generally acidic; 2) It is low in nitrogen; 3) It is suitable for rice plantation (because of water holding capacity) and some beans; and 4) The soil is naturally infertile.

The land we studied hosted some bushes, as I have mentioned earlier, but the lack of water, acidic nature of the soil and general infertility helped us conclude: “We were on a desert or were seeing some sort of desertification.”

What can lack of water do to villages? We observed this two days later.

That day, we climbed a peak of about 1400 m in Ramechhap and came down a trail. We had thought it would lead us down safely. But that was not to be.

A small landslide had occurred near the main trail. From there we could see a path that went downhill. As we walked, it suddenly ended into what looked like a same baari[2]. There was nothing but colluvium, but it was definitely cultivated in the past. (We had seen a cultivated baari some 10 metres above). We looked around and saw a heap of stones. This, we assumed, where the house was. After the owners left, people nearby might have demolished the house, taken doors and windows for fuel and heaped up the stones in order to take them later.

As we roamed around in despair looking for the main trail, we found four more similar scenes. This, we concluded, was a nice settlement until something forced them out. In our topographic map (some 26 years old), there are some clusters of houses. This, we concluded, was one of those clusters.

Finally, we found the trail but instead of taking us down, it took us up! Sometime later, it disappeared. On observing, the trail was still there but the grasses had made it invisible and slippery. Helping each other, we went down and finally reached the trail we had used to climb up earlier that day.

A Trail that Vanished

What drove off people from that place? The immediate thought was: landslide. But the slide looked younger than the desertion. Lack of water was another reason we discussed about. In that hill and in most of the hills in that district, there is scarcity of water. But was there another reason?

It did not come to me at that time, but the whole of Ramechhap was important place for the Maoists during the 10 years of civil war in the last decade. Many people in the district undertook the ideology and carried guns in the name of revolution. Some families were involved in entirety. Some families were driven away. Some left to safer places to avoid the war. Did the village we walked through die because of nature or politics? While I feel that the nature pressured the desertion, politics could have also played some role. The definite history, however, cannot be drawn unless we find the people who left the place.


[1] Red-soiled.

[2] a small land usually cultivated for flowers, fruits and vegetables by a single household

हतार

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 ।

टीयू गन्थन

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 ।

A review of the Year 2075

The year 2075 B.S. is coming to an end as I am writing this article. The year has been tough but felt like it fluttered away in no time. Time management has been a big deal throughout the year and it’s stressing me a bit. So, here are the things I would like to remember from 2075.

1. At the University

By the end of 2074, I had already admitted in the Masters’ Degree Programme on Engineering Geology at the Central Department of Geology, Tribhuvan University. The classes began from the 9th of Baishakh and assignments began haunting. That week I was excited and completed them long before the submission deadline. However, as time passed, assignments became more than enough and the excitement died. I still completed them but only because I had to. The trend continued in the Second Semester and I regret doing them for the sake of doing.

University has mostly been a frustrating experience. The fees are high but the way we study is not different from what I had experienced at schools and Bachelors’ programme. “It’s like school,” is what I had concluded three months ago. Teachers come and give lectures, we jot them down. But a class is 3 hours long. By the time the class ends, notebooks are filled with incoherent sentences, easily forgettable shorthand, and loads of confusion.

The confusion, as I evaluated a few days back, is because I can’t get through the lessons beforehand. The books are way too technical and the meanings, vague. A lot of terms are defined in similar manner and there is very little time to dissect them. To my own surprise, I have been completely dependent on what my teachers say and I don’t want to revise anything soon because everything felt like heavily into my mind.

Whatever the situation be, it is fun to have people sharing the experience. My 23 friends have been a revelation. You guys are the best thing I got at the university!

You guys make my every day. What else should I say?

2. Poetry and Stories

The frustration wanted to vent out and the best way I discovered was through poems. Short, symbolic and satirical. I had begun to think in poems one time during the first semester. Then I went through the Mahabharat in Nepali and it helped me understand the rhythm in poems.

Though I was writing my frustrations through poetry, it felt insufficient. Also, the environment in the university became hostile to free, direct expression. So, I didn’t write articles, nor did I write anything on my diary. Whatever I am writing here is because I am leaving those things behind. No, I am not going to be frustrated nor sad for not expressing myself.

That’s why, during the second semester, I began writing short stories and continued on my novel. The basic idea was to complete the novel before I complete my four semesters. But I found a plot hole and had to stop. Then I wrote two short stories, one each in English and Nepali. The story in English got into the Top 25 and the latter, I sent to a nation-wise contest. The results will be announced, most probably, within this week.

3. Battle Royale

Before I was writing stories, I got involved in video games FIFA 15 and PUBG (recently banned – will conjure an article on it soon). The game gave me a brilliant idea, which had already become a controversial book and movie some 20 years back. Still, I was awed. I wrote a series of essays on the topic in October-November. Here they are:

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/battle-royale-pubg-the-movie-the-novel/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/battle-royale-themes-in-movies-and-books/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/why-kazuo-kiriyama-did-not-win-the-battle/

4. A Week in Japan

Though the university lacks the infrastructure and teaching methodology I had expected, it still provides opportunities to learn and I was lucky to be selected in the Sakura Science Exchange Programme (Feb 28-March 7) between TU (my university) and Shimane University, Japan. I am grateful to the both the universities for making the programme informative as well as fun.

I have a lot to say on the stuffs related to the tour but I couldn’t because the exams knocked on the day we returned back. I will be sharing my experiences there in due course of time.

5. Cats

So, after the tragedy with the kitten towards the end of 2074, I thought cats would leave us. But one of her siblings found ways into our house, and with his sneaky ways, he has been protecting himself and his another brother. He is not as close the deceased kitten but he has a cute way of asking what he wants. We brought the dead kitten’s cardboard house and so, he has been a happy guest for about six months now.

The grey male cat here helped me understand new things on parental behaviour in cats

Bliss at Sathimure

October 31, 2018.

You have been climbing for three hours. Every pore of your skin is sweating. Your legs are tired. Your head is spinning. You are still conscious of not slipping down the narrow foot trail. There are small round seeds that have fallen off the tress beside the trail. They threaten your existence. The peak is just “there” but you can’t seem to reach it. The peak is just at an elevation of thousand metres, and it takes your breath away. “What if it was Mount Everest?” you ask.

One of your friends, Anish, climbed a five-thousand metre peak last year, above the Everest Base Camp. “It was cold. I felt my fingers would fall off. But once I reached the peak, I forgot all the pain.”

‘This is not even a tenth of the harshness of close to the Everest’, you think. Your spirit lifts up a little. Legs drag you up better than they had a couple of minutes back. But your lungs are not helping. Your low stamina hampers your movement.Luckily, your friends are in your support. They themselves are tired, but they do not lose the hope of reaching the peak. The hope of finding the target village-Sathimure.

***

Your climb began from Mugling—an old hub connecting Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan with three of your friends: Anil, Anish and Ishwor. The town is at the altitude of about 180 m from the mean sea level,well-developed, full of life. Your twenty-eight years old topographic map shows a foot-trail leading to the village in question. The policemen show you a road. It looks easy, but it’s long. ‘How long will you have to walk?’ you discuss with your friends. You and your friends decide to take a foot trail if possible.

You are not hiking. It’s a geological exploration. You measure the rock orientation, wonder at the folds you see and imagine the amount of stress the region might have undergone. You know these rocks tell the history of the evolution of the Himalayas over a million years. These mountains are not as tall as the mighty mountain peaks that are popular as the Himalayas or Great Himalayas. You call them Lesser Himalaya, but reaching its peak is tough. More so, when you realize you have to climb up another two hundred metres and climb down to Kalikhola if you are to make an accurate geological map. But you lack time, and you make a rush.

You realize your stamina has lowered because of eating and sleeping for the last couple of months. You are panting. You take long breaths. Nothing helps. You have not walked a mile and you have felt the heat. You strip off your jacket. Your body balances heat by sweating. You reach a shade. The sweat cools you. After a rest, you don’t want to move. Yet you carry your legs forward. “Return back if you can’t,” your friends suggest. It’s a good advice. One person should not slow the group. Yet your ego gets hurt. You can’t give up before it has begun.

You ask help from the locals. Most of them are girls. Some help, some don’t. It’s a cultural thing. Villagers don’t trust city men. Girls are told to shy away from men in most of the occasions. Male-female interaction is still spied in the cities. Anyway, you find help and catch a foot-trail, width decreasing with each footstep.

You don’t find villages along the trail. One house at an interval of about one-hundred metres climb. They have farms and gardens. You and your friends express desire to reach Kalikhola. The locals say it’s a dangerous path. Three people died some months back. You and your friends are scared. Safety comes before the map. Your teachers did not expect you to go all the way. You give up the thought of completing the track. Had you been allowed to stay for a day at Sathimure, you could have hit the target. But you have restrictions. You decide to reach the village, at least.

A garden somewhere in the route

***

“Look out for the real trail,” Anish calls. Foot-trail has forked. Each time you saw a fork, you made a unanimous decision: “Take the route that goes up.” This time, the up-going trail looks dangerous. Ishwor says the other path goes nowhere. “Are we stuck?” you fear. Anil goes up the dangerous route, reaches the peak and calls out. You follow. The ground is slippery and covered with grass. You don’t know where you are stepping. “Goats would not climb this,” your friends behind you tell. You are attacked by ants.One last step. And you reach the top. You lose yourself for a moment. At that moment, you have become victorious over the mountain. You feel blessed.

A little farther, you see what you had been longing for. Sathimure. A small village. A place where you have found solace in it even from the distance. Bamboos, oranges, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables. A farming village. That’s what you wanted all day.

The village has less than twenty houses—small, all of them painted in blue and red. The people are amicable. Your group wants to buy some oranges. They don’t fix a price. “Give whatever amount you want to give.” These people have hardships. There is some help from the NGOs but the nearest town, Mugling, is miles downhill. There is no good road. They have to buy everything.Yet, they are generous. They don’t take our offer for granted. They believe in emotional relationship, not commercial. They give you noodles. You longed for it but can’t help wonder that noodles have made way into even in a village that small.You eat anyway. The taste reminds you of home.

***

You begin to descent. There was an error in the map. You have decided to correct it. Sitting upon a ground facing north, you look at the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the miniature town of Mugling. You can’t see a human from that height. You feel lost. “Humans might have built civilizations and have dreamt of exploring other planets but we are microscopic in the universe. If a portion of the Earth is this big, how big the Earth is! And it is not even the largest planet.” The extent of universe amazes you. It’s not for the first time, though. The universe has always fascinated you. Geology was one way you thought that would help you understand the universe.

Mugling viewed from Sathimure

The walk downhill takes two hours. The villagers at Sathimure had told it would take about forty-five minutes. “Time is relative,” you begin to understand. They have lived their whole lives going up and down the hill. Their legs have strengths your legs do not. They are faster because they have lived with the mountain. You see school children going up and get a stronger proof.

When the journey ends, you are satisfied. You might not have met all your goals but you made memories. You have learnt something. You have something to tell others. You have stories for your children and grandchildren.

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 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!

A Wedding (Part 3/4): The Ceremony

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.

***

Nepali Panche Baja that also make the Naumati. The combination here is Naumati. Source: Wikimedia

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 (Part 2/4): The Groom’s House

(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:

  1. showing off
  2. daughter’s security

“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.