A Wedding (Part 1/4): The Proposal

(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!

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Personal Achievements in 2074

Some months ago I had decided that at the end of the year 2074 B.S., I would make a list of some of the achievements I can boast upon. I discovered 8 points.

1. Edited and Published a College Journal

Publication of the Journal

On Falgun 2073, just before the end of the academic session, Prof. Dr Tara Nidhi Bhattarai had announced that the final year had to publish a scientific journal. I had been nominated the Editor-in-chief of the journal unanimously by my friends. I had added four friends and had completed the Editorial Board.

The real job began in 2074. After a week since the end of our final exams, I called for the articles via our Facebook group. By the end of the month, we had very few articles. I had to ask for them again with a stricter deadline.

The Editorial Board initially received 15-16 articles. We worked with what we had and then making sure that very few percentages of students had submitted, we asked again.

The other board members got extremely busy. I took the help of Grammarly to edit the grammar and spelling. It took more than a month to compile all the 29 articles. Then we had to prepare cover pages, and print the file out. We published Geology, Vol. 8 just before the Dashain. I was the happiest man that day because I had spent almost 5 months of my year for the

2. Photoshop Basics and Inkscape

The tools of Adobe Photoshop always scared me. Because of that, I could never go through its basics even though it was installed on my computer for years.

This year, a fortnight before the publication of the Geoworld Journal, I decided to learn GIS on my own. I downloaded QGIS and completed a tutorial I obtained at a website. After that, when I looked at Photoshop, it did not become as challenging as it used to be.

I learnt to select, crop, change image size, resolution, use brush, paint and so on. I never completed other tutorials on QGIS (must learn it completely by the end of 2075), but I learnt how to manipulate images and now I am able to use another application Inkscape to produce vector images. My current Gravatar is one of my earliest works on Inkscape.

3. Got the Bachelor’s Degree

A day before the publication of Geoworld, the results of the final year was published. And obviously, I got the Bachelor’s Degree. I took the certificates much later. I was happy but not as much as I wanted to be because I am not earning anything.

4. Gardening

In the month of Bhadau, I was writing a chapter for a novel. The garden in the setting was beautiful. Small trees lined it and beautiful flowers bloomed. As soon as I wrote that scene, I went up to our terrace and saw plants basking. The soil had dried and the plants did not look good. That day onwards, I made a routine of watering them every evening. It soon turned into a habit and now, whenever I don’t have to water them, I feel like I have missed something.

My parents, too, are happy that I have been at least watering plants every day. That their terrace garden is not dried up.

5. Learnt to ride two-wheelers

I had a fear of riding bikes. I still do. But I had to overcome my fear after Tihar (in November) to learn to ride motorbikes. It was extremely difficult and tiring in the first week. I was just catching up in the second week when the course ended. Nevertheless, I could ride a scooter. Riding a two-wheeler requires your mind working in several directions at a time. To bring balance to a vehicle that is clearly imbalanced was a difficult achievement.

6. Learnt a lot about life from a little kitten

Just at the end of the first week of my motorbike training, I found two kittens crying inside a drum under the stairs. The mother left the kittens and we adopted them. One month later, the male was taken by the mother. We see them running sometimes on the terraces of our neighbours.

The female, however, refused to go with the mother cat and stayed with us. She was growing well and just as we thought everything was fine, she went downstairs and got caught by dogs.

Her life and the grief she gave me at death made me understand that nature and life were cruel. I also learnt a great deal about cats and other animals, their behaviours and the problems they face because of us.

7. Tribhuvan University (TU)

The day I went the Office of the Controller of the Examinations (OCE) was the day I stepped into the TU premises for the first time. It was quite depressing because of the unmanaged system and earthquake-affected buildings.

However, when I entered the Tribhuvan University Campus area, I felt a magical calmness in the surrounding. It was so influential that I forgot the chaos of the world outside.

Last week, I got admitted for the M.Sc. The classes will begin from the second week of the New Year.

8. Quora

Quora happened to me all through the year 2074. In Baishakh, after the final exams, I got back to the website because of some of my friend’s posts on Facebook. I realized that I had answered a few questions in the past and they were still generating some views. So, I got excited and began answering questions on Geology and Nepal.

On the second week of March, I was provided a “Top Writer 2018” badge. I have about 300 followers and my answers don’t have much views compared to so many popular users but obtaining the badge felt great. I reserved the celebration for New Year, though!

नारीवाद: एक दृष्टिकोण

रावणले अपहरण गरेकी सीतालाई उनको राजा र प्रजाले अपनाएनन् । जीवनका अन्तिम क्षणसम्म वनवासी भइन् । तिनै सीताका “पति” रामले छलले बालीलाई मारेपछी तारालाई “जो तिम्रो पति थिएन, त्यसका लागि शोक गर्नुपर्दैन” भनिदिए । रावणको ध्यान भङ्ग गर्ने मन्दोदरीलाई नङ्ग्याए, अफसोच गरेनन् । कुमारी आमा कुन्तीले आफ्नै छोरोलाई पराइजस्तो व्यवहार भएको सहनपर्‍यो । एक दिन उनका पाँच भाइ छोराले भने, “हेर्नुस् त आमा, हामीले के ल्यायौँ” । उनले नहेरेरै भनिन्, “बाँडेर लिनू” । अर्जुनले स्वयंवर गरेर आएकी राजकुमारी द्रौपदीलाई मान्छेसम्म गनेनन् पाण्डवहरूले । कौरवले पनि रानी द्रौपदीलाई “वेश्या” भने । जुवामा थापे पाण्डवले, हुर्मत लिए कौरवले । विश्वयुद्धको तत्कालीन कारण बन्यो त्यही, जसमा कुरु वंश झन्डै विनाश भयो ।

पुराण/इतिहास/मिथकमा थुप्रै उदाहरण पाइन्छ नारीका दु:खका । हामीले बर्सेनि पढ्ने “स्वस्थानी व्रतकथा”मा सतीदेवीलाई नारायणले छल गरेर जोगी रूपधारी महादेवको हातमा सुम्पिदिन्छन् । कसैको चित्त बुझ्दैन तर “मेरो कर्मले यस्तै पारिल्यायो, के गर्ने” भन्दै सतीदेवी जान्छिन् । सतीदेवीका आमाबाबु भने तिनै छली नारायणलाई पुज्छ्न्, छोरीज्वाइँलाई हेला गरेर । सतीदेवी यज्ञको आगोमा होमिन्छिन् । तिनै देवीलाई देखाएर हज्जारौं वर्ष चल्छ पतिको लाशसँग जिउँदै जल्ने सतीप्रथा ।

“कर्म”को खेल दोहोरिन्छ गोमाको जीवनीमा पटकपटक । भाग्यवादको चङ्गुलमा अझैसम्म नारीहरू पिल्सिएका छन् । पतिव्रता वृन्दाको पति जालन्धर “पार्वतीलाई छल गर्न जान्छु” भन्छ । वृन्दाले पतिलाई त्यति प्रेम गर्दागर्दै पनि जालन्धर बाहिर चाहार्छ । उता नारायण पनि वृन्दालाई छल्न पुग्छन् उसैगरी । नारायणकी पत्नी लक्ष्मीको त नाम पनि आउँदैन । पुराणहरूमा “राक्षस” हुन् वा “भगवान्”, कुनै पुरुषबाट कुनै नारी सुरक्षित छैनन् ।

पुराण र कथाहरूको माध्यमबाट हाम्रो पुरुष अवचेतनमा नै नारीलाई हेप्नुपर्छ र नारी भोग्या मात्रै हो भन्ने पारिएको छ । त्यस्तै, नारी अवचेतनमा पुरुषको “दास” बन्नुपर्छ भन्ने कुरा बसेको छ । नारीवादी चेतनाले अवचेतनका यसप्रकारका गलत कुराका विरुद्धमा बोल्नु पर्छ भन्ने मान्यता संसारभर नै छ । पुरुषको शोषकवादी सोच ढाल्नु नारीवादको मूल उद्देश्य हुनुपर्छ । बोक्सीका नाममा सताइएका, दाइजोका लागि यातना दिइएका, मानव तस्करीमा परेका र यौनिक सन्तुष्टिका माध्यम बनाइएका वास्तविक पीडितहरूको न्याय नै नारीवादको ध्येय हुनुपर्छ ।

तर नारीवादमा “र्‍याडिकलिज्म”(Radicalism) हाबी छ। यो नारीवादले पुरुषलाई गलत मात्र देख्छ । नारीले पनि गल्ती गर्छन् भन्ने कुरालाई नजरअन्दाज गरिदिन्छ । शोषकवादी पुरुषको साटोमा शोषकवादी नारी स्थापित हुनुपर्छ भन्ने गलत मान्यता बोक्नु कदापि सही हुन सक्दैन । कानूनी आडमा पुरुषको जीवन तहसनहस पार्ने प्रवृति बढ्दो छ । पैसाका लागि केही नारीहरूले डिभोर्सको सहायता लिएका छन् । कोही प्रेमी या पतिलाई धोका दिँदै एनजीओ (NGO)को आडमा उल्टो पुरुषलाई नै अप्ठ्यारोमा पार्नेको संख्या पनि बढ्दो छ ।

व्यभिचार, धूम्रपान र मध्यपानलाई स्वतन्त्रताको प्रतीक मान्नेहरूको पनि कमी छैन । यी सब गलत हुन् भन्ने जान्दाजान्दै “पुरुषले गर्न हुने, महिलाले किन नहुने ?” भन्ने नारीहरूको कमी छैन अचेल । असल खराबको पहिचान गर्न सक्ने जुन नारीवादी चेतना छ, त्यसलाई र्‍याडिकलिज्मले ध्वस्त पारेको देखिन्छ ।

पीडित र पीडक जुनसुकै लिङ्गका हुनसक्छन् । केही फटाहा पुरुषका कारण सबै पुरुषलाई अनि केही बदमास महिलाका कारण सबै महिलालाई गलत देख्नु राम्रो होइन । तर एकले अर्कालाई शङ्का गर्ने वातावरण छ । शङ्काले लङ्का जलाउँछ भन्ने उखान छ । अर्थात्, जहाँ एकले अर्कालाई विश्वस गर्नै सक्दैन, त्यहाँ साथ र समन्वय कसरी हुन सक्छ ?

आमालाई पहिलो गुरु मानिन्छ भने घरपरिवारलाई पहिलो पाठशाला । नारीलाई नै घरपरिवार र समाजको सूत्रधार मानिन्छ । यद्यपि परिवार र समाजलाई अघि बढाउने काम नारीको मात्रै होइन, पुरुषको पनि हो । नारी र पुरुषको सहकार्यले नै संसार चल्दछ । “नारीपुरुष एकै रथका दुई पाङ्ग्रा हुन्” भनेर त्यसै भनिएको होइन ।

The Pressure of Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Footnote:

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

मौन धारण

शहीदका नाममा मौन धारण गर्न
छातिमा हात राखेर शिर झुकाउँदा
सोच्छु–
जहाँ
क्रान्तिको डरले घरमै बस्नेहरू,
व्यक्तिगत इबीमा फस्नेहरू,
स्वार्थको राजनीतिमा पस्नेहरू,
मरेर जाँदा “शहीद” मानिन्छ,
त्यहाँ शहीदको सम्मान कसरी पो हुन्छ ?

सोच्छु–
क्रान्ति र आन्दोलनका नाममा उदाएका भुइँमान्छेहरू
जब
सत्तामोहमा परेर,
अपराधको बाटो पक्रेर,
स्वाभिमानलाई बिर्सेर,
क्रान्तिको मर्म लत्याएर,
जनलाई घात गरेर
देश बेच्न पनि पछि पर्दैनन्,

धुरुधुरु रुँदा हुन् ती महात्माहरू
जसले
आमाबाबुको काख छाडेर
जीवनसाथीलाई एक्लो पारेर
छोराछोरीलाई सुनौलो सपना बाँढेर
मित्रजनलाई विश्वास गरेर घात नगरी
क्रान्ति सफल पार्न
देशका लागि प्राणको आहुती दिए !

मान !

 न्याय नपाई कोही रोइरहँदा

               न्यायालयको मान रह्यो सायद !

अपराधीहरू खुल्लमखुल्ला हिँडिरहँदा

               न्यायालयको मान बढ्यो सायद !

न्यायकै किनबेच चलिरहँदा

               न्यायालयको इज्जतले आकाश छोयो सायद !

र त,

     न्याय पाउँ भन्नेहरू 

                   न्यायालायमै रोइरहेछ्न् !

     अपराधी समाऊ भन्नेहरू

                     डरले काँपिरहेछ्न् !

      न्यायको किनबेच नगर भन्नेहरू

                     कठघरामा उभ्याइरहेछ्न् !

© सन्दीप्त

How Many New Years are Celebrated in Your Country?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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