[प्रस्तुत लेख मोहन मैनालीद्वारा अनुदित आकाशमुखी संग्रहको जर्ज बर्नाड शअको स्वन्त्रता शीर्षकको निबन्धमा आधारित छ ।]
आफूलाई मन लागेका कुरा बिना कुनै रोकटोक गर्न पाउनुलाई हामी स्वतन्त्र भएको मान्दछौँ । तर स्वतन्त्रताका पनि सीमा हुन्छन् । समाज र कानूनले बर्जित गरेका क्रियाकलाप गर्न हामीलाई छुट छैन । त्यस्ता क्रियाकलाप गरेमा सामाजिक बहिष्करण देखि कानूनी कारबाहीसम्म हुन सक्छ । यसर्थ मानिस पूर्ण रूपमा स्वतन्त्र छैन ।
रुसो भन्छन्, “मानिस स्वतन्त्र जन्मिन्छ तर सर्वत्र बाँधिएको हुन्छ ।” जन्मसिद्ध स्वतन्त्रताको हकमाथि राज्यले अङ्कुश लगाउँछ भन्ने आशय उनी व्यक्त गर्छन् । जर्ज बर्नाड शअ “स्वतन्त्रता” शीर्षकको निबन्ध वाचन गर्ने क्रममा भन्छन्, “प्रकृतिले पनि मानिसलाई बाँधेको छ” । दैनिक क्रियाकलाप जस्तै सुत्ने, उठ्ने, दिसापिसाब गर्ने, खाना खाने लगायतका कुराहरूलाई प्रकृतिले नियन्त्रण गरेको हुन्छ । तर यस्ता गर्नै पर्ने अत्यावश्यक क्रियाकलापलाई हामी बोझ ठान्दैनौँ, उनी भन्छन्, किनकी प्रकृतिको नियन्त्रणले गर्दा नै जीवन सम्भव छ ।
मानिसले मानिसलाई गर्ने नियन्त्रण चैं हामीलाई बोझिलो लाग्छ । केही महीनाअघि लेखेको What’s the Point? कथामा वाचक (म पात्र) नोकरी (जब) गर्न मन गर्दैन । ऊ भन्छ, “नोकरी अभिशाप हो । यसले मानिसलाई पैसा र रोजगारदाताको दास बनाउँछ । पैसाकै लागि तपाईं काम गर्नुहुन्छ । बोसले पैसा दिन छाड्यो भने तपाईं काम नै छाडिदिनुहुन्छ । नोकरीले तपाईंको स्वतन्त्रता खोस्छ ।”
यो नितान्त व्यक्तिगत अनुभवबाट प्रेरित भएर लेखेको कुरा थियो । शअको निबन्धमा लगभग यस्तै तर अझ कडा शब्दमा रोजगारदाताप्रती रोष छ:
“तपाईंको रोजगारदाताले कपाल यसरी काट् भन्न सक्छ । यस्तो रङको, यस्तो खालक लुगा लगा भन्न सक्छ र यति बेलादेखी यति बेलासम्म काम गर् भन्न सक्छ । उसको आदेश टेर्नुभएन भने उसले जुनसुकै बेला पनि तपाईंलाई सडकमा पुर्याइदिन सक्छ . . . छोटकरीमा, राजनीतिक तानाशाहले तपाईंलाई जति नियन्त्रण गर्न सक्छ, रोजगारीदाताले त्योभन्दा बढी नियन्त्रण गर्न सक्छ ।”
राजनीतिक स्वतन्त्रताको सन्दर्भमा जर्ज बर्नाड शअ भन्छन्,
सरकारहरूले नागरिकमाथि दासता थोपर्छन् र त्यसलाई स्वतन्त्रता भन्छन् । सरकारहरूले मालिकको लालचलाई निश्चित सीमाभित्र राखेर नागरिकको दासताको हदलाई भने नियन्त्रण गर्छन् । मानिसलाई आफ्नो सम्पत्तिका रूपमा बेचबिखन गर्न पाउने दासप्रथा ज्यालामजदूरी प्रथाभन्दा महँगो भएपछि उनीहरूले दासप्रथा उन्मूलन गरे । यसले गर्दा कुन मालिकको कुन काम गर्ने भन्ने छनोट गर्न कामदार स्वतन्त्र भए । यसलाई उनीहरूले स्वतन्त्रताको विजय भनी जयगान गाए । जति स्वतन्त्र भए पनि कामदार त बेघरबार नै हुन्छन् ।
त्यस्तै चुनावका विषयमा उनी भन्छन् :
. . . उनीहरू कामदारलाई चुनावमा भोट हाल्ने अधिकार दिन्छन्, हरेक पाँच वर्ष जस्तोमा आमचुनाव हुने व्यवस्था मिलाउँछन् । चुनावमा धनी दुई जना उम्मेदवारले तपाईंसँग भोट माग्छन् । तपाईले यी दुई धनीमध्ये जसलाई पनि छान्ने स्वतन्त्रता पाउनुभएको हुन्छ । हो, तपाईंले यस्तो कुराको छनोट गर्न पाउनुहुन्छ, जसले तपाईलाई पहिलेभन्दा अलिकति पनि बढी स्वतन्त्र बनाउँदैन किनभने यसो गर्दा तपाईंको कामको बोझ कत्ति पनि घट्दैन । अनि समाचारपत्रले तपाईलाई के कुरामा विश्वास दिलाउँछन् भने तपाईंको मतले निर्वाचनको परिणाम निर्धारण गयो । यति हुनेबित्तिकै तपाईं प्रजातान्त्रिक मुलुकको स्वतन्त्र नागरिक हुनुभयो । छक्क लाग्छ, तपाई कति मूर्ख हुनुहुन्छ भने यस्तो कुरा पत्याइहाल्नुहुन्छ ।
उनी थप्छन्, “१० मध्ये ९ मतदाता साधारण कामदार भए पनि उनीहरूमध्ये थोरैलाई मात्र आफ्नै वर्गका मानिसलाई भोट दिऊँ भनेर मनाउन सकिन्छ ।” यसको कारण के हो भने शासक भनेको रवाफिलो, चट्ट परेका लुगा लगाउने र विशेष अदब भएको मान्छे हो भन्ने मानसिकता हो ।
यी हरफहरू पढ्दै गर्दा ८ वर्षअघि आफूले लेखेको “Democracy or Aristodemocracy?” शीर्षकको ब्लग पो याद आयो । त्यसमा लेखेको थिएँ, “लोकतन्त्र भएका देशहरूमा जोकोही उम्मेदवार सजिलै बन्न पाउँछ तर विजेता प्राय: उहीँ हुन्छ, जसले पैसाको खोला बगाउन सक्छ ।”
माथि नै भनियो, मानिसलाई समाज र कानूनको बाँधेको हुन्छ । शअ पनि कानूनले स्वतन्त्रता संकुचित गर्छ भन्छन् अनि थप्छन्,
कानून विवेकसम्मत छन् र तिनलाई निष्पक्ष ढङ्गले लागू गरिएको छ भने तपाईंले कानूनविरुद्ध गुनासो गर्ने कारण हुँदैन किनभने कानूनले सामान्यतया तपाईंमाथि हातपात, डकैती र अराजकता हुन नदिएर तपाईंको स्वतन्त्रताको मात्रा बढाउँछ ।
यहाँ रमाइलो विरोधाभाष छ । कानूनले स्वतन्त्रतालाई सीमित पनि गर्दो रहेछ अनि स्वतन्त्रताको रक्षा पनि गर्दो रहेछ । आफ्नो स्वतन्त्रताको प्रयोग गर्दा अर्काको स्वतन्त्रता हनन हुनुहुँदैन भन्नु पनि त स्वतन्त्रताको सीमितता नै त हो नि, हैन र ?
I watched two South Korean movies this week: Train to Busan (2016) and Silenced (2011). Both of them coincidentally starred Gong Yoo and Yu-mi Jung as the leads. I had heard of Train to Busan as one of the best horror movies showing zombie apocalypse, but it felt like a drama for the most part. Silenced, on the other hand is categorized as drama but it shows the horror of being under-privileged in the society. In this blog, I am presenting short reviews of both the movies.
1. Train to Busan (2016)
In this movie, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) is taking his daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) to her mother from Seoul to Busan during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie virus originates through a leak in a biochemical factory. The virus is spreading on the scales of a pandemic. People are getting crazy and cannibalistic. But the apocalypse is only a set-up to show the horrors of society.
Seok-Woo is a workaholic, who thinks only about himself. Soo-an, the daughter, is polite and selfless. She is the heart and soul of the movie. Her interactions with the other passengers show to her father that one should never be selfish, even in worse of times. However, the world has mean people, too. The acts of one selfish person can jeopardize the lives of other people. The movie also shows that good people can follow bad people out of fear and can make irrational decisions. Thus, this movie is an excellent commentary on the society.
The zombies in this did not scare me but thought that I might act selfishly in times of apocalypse or pandemic scared me. We saw how some selfish people created the global pandemic of COVID-19. Those memories made Train to Busan even more scarier. Is a selfish society more dangerous than a pandemic or apocalypse? Yes, I think it is.
2. Silenced (2011)
Silenced is based on real events that happened at a school for the hearing-impaired in 2005. I had watched a review (before watching the movie) on the YouTube channel Accented Cinema and had not been able to stop my tears. It took me a couple of weeks to gain courage to watch this movie.
Kang In-ho is a new art teacher at a school for disabled in Mujin. He loves art but cannot pursue his passion his wife died, his daughter is sick. To end his financial problems, he steps into the school thinking it might help his career. But the teachers, including the principal, are repeatedly sexually assaulting students. Despite all odds against him, In-ho decides to fight for justice with the help of an activist Seo Yoo-jin.
The school administration, however, has been bribing the police, education office, and “doing charities”. In-ho and Yoo-jin are helpless against the priviledged criminals. I was expecting them to succeed but the movie shows their failure. For the under-priviledged, the lack of justice is not only a tragedy, it is also a horror.
Nations were built in the past so that everyone could get security and justice. But over time, the fight for justice has been huge struggle for common people, even in prosperous nations. Silenced exposed the flaws in judiciary system of South Korea. The movie became such a strong voice that the existing laws were amended and the culprits were given harsher punishment.
This movie shows how powerful a cinema can be. A movie was able to change the laws of the nation. This is what movies or any art form should strive to do–change the society for good.
Atomic bombings on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima and three days later in Nagasaki are among the cruelest acts humans did. In 2014, when I wrote a blog on the bombings, I had written:
Humans proved that day [the days of bombings] that they could do anything against anyone to gain power.
I had also written:
As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have been recovered as major cities but no crops, no grass has grown yet and it’s unknown until when.
I did not know that a red canna flower (Canna sp.) had bloomed in the rubble some months later giving hope to the survivors. Gingko trees that survived have another story to tell. Look for the links below to know their stories.
Stories of the red canna trees that survived the Hiroshima bombing:
These are amazing stories of survival, rebirth and restoration. Some humans had stooped very low, destroying humans, cities and the nature, with their pride. Some humans had lost hope. Nature challenged their pride. She told them, “Your pride, your wars cannot destroy me.” And gave hope to the victims, “Not everything is destroyed.”
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.
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 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. 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.
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.
एकाबिहानै धरहरा निर्माण सम्बन्धमा लेखिएको एउटा पोस्ट इन्स्टाग्राममा देखियो:
नेपाङ्ग्रेजीमा लेखिएको पोस्टले भन्छ– सरकारले ४.५ अर्बको लगानीमा २२ तले धरहरा बनाउने योजना बनाइरहेको छ ।
यो विषयमा आएका टिप्पणीहरू रोचक छन् । जस्तै:
सारांश: “धरहरा बनाउनुको औचित्य के हो ? त्यसमा लगानी हुने रकम कुनै दीर्घकालीन पार्ने काममा लगाउनु पर्छ ।”
सारांश: “एउटा कलाहीन खाँबोप्रति यति आशक्ती किन ? किन धरहरालाई सांस्कृतिक महत्त्व भएजसरी प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।”
“धरहरालाई जस्ताको त्यस्तै राखेर संग्राहलय बनाउन किन नहुने ?”
यस प्रकारका टिप्पणीहरू टन्नै देखेपछि खुसी हुने कि दु:खी हुने द्विविधामा परेँ । र आश्चर्य पनि लाग्यो–हाम्रो बुद्धि किन ढिलो पलाउँछ ?
धरहरा पुनर्निर्माणको कुरा आजको होइन । यो २०७२ वैशाख १२ मा धरहरा ढलेदेखि नै आएको हो । त्यही बेलादेखि धरहराको चित्र बनाएर “हामी फेरि जाग्नेछौँ” (“We will rise again”) भन्ने युवाहरूको जमात ठूलै थियो । तिनै युवा भन्थे, “धरहराको पुनर्निर्माण प्राथमिकतामा पर्नुपर्छ ।”
धरहरा पुनर्निर्माणको प्राथमिकतामा पर्नुपर्छ भन्ने कुराको विरोध मैले पहिले नै गरेको थिएँ ।
“धरहरा फेरि नबनाेस् भनेर सायद कमैले साेचे हाेलान् । म तिनमा पर्छु जाे धरहराको ठाउँमा स्मारक बनाेस् भन्ने चाहन्छन् । म त अझ भन्छु- धरहराको अवशेषलाई संरक्षण गरियाेस् । नजिकै एउटा ग्यालरीमा धरहराका पुराना फाेटा राखिउन् । त्याे ग्यालरीले सन्देश दिओस्- हामी प्रकृतिलाई जित्न सक्दैनाैं तर प्रकृति सुहाउँदाे परिवर्तन गर्न सक्छाैं ।
मेराे परिकल्पना साकार नहाेला, धरहरा नै बन्ला तर जुन देशका जनता कठ्याङ्ग्रिदाे जाडाेमा भाेकै नाङ्गै मरिरहेका छन्, त्यस्ताे देशमा धरहराजस्ता संरचनाको कुनै अर्थ छ र ? के त्यस्ता संरचनाले ती आहत जनतालाई मलम लगाउन सक्छ ? सक्दैन भने अहिले धरहरा बनाइहाल्नु पर्ने केका लागि ?
माथिका प्रश्नहरू बाँकी रहुन्जेल धरहरा फेरि बन्नु सायद हाम्राे लागि अभिशाप नै हुनेछ । सभ्यता र संस्कार खाेक्रा अाडम्बर हुनेछन् । हामी इतिहासमा मानवीय संवेदना नभएका मानिसका रूपमा चिनिने छाैँ । हाम्राे संस्कृतिको धरहरा भत्किने छ, जति नै अग्लाे संरचना बने पनि ।”
Corruption prevails and we watch. Someone among us cheats us and we let it go. We lose common sense while giving priority to emotions over artificial structures. More than twenty lakh rupees have been raised on the fund for reconstruction of Dharahara. A new tower will be built that will resemble nothing with the past. It will fall some day. We will fall some day. Our descendants will cry looking at it. They too will lose their common sense as we have done. Another structure would rise. The cycle would go on.
सारांश: “नयाँ धरहरा नयाँ स्वरूपमा बन्नेछ । यसको निर्माणमा हुने भ्रष्टाचार आँखा चिम्लेर स्वीकार्नेछौँ । त्यो ढल्नेछ अनि हाम्रा सन्तती रुनेछन् । फेरि बनाउनेछन् त्यस्तै संरचना । फेरि ढल्नेछ ।”
नयाँ स्वरूपमा धरहरा बन्छ भनेर सरकारले पहिले नै भनेको हो । अर्थात्, यो पुनर्निर्माण होइन, नवनिर्माण हो । सर्वसाधारणले धरहराप्रति जुन लगाव देखाए, सरकारले त्यसैलाई क्यास गर्न खोजेको होला । तर सरकार असंवेदनशील किन ? नाफामुखी किन ? धनीमनीको मात्रै किन ?
सोचौँ त, २२ तले टावर बनाउने साढे ४ अर्ब रूपैयाँले कति भुकम्प, बाढी र पहिरोले पीडितलाई राहत दिन सकिन्छ ? कति विद्युत् र सिँचाइ परियोजना बन्छ्न् ? कति स्तरीय बाटाघाटा बन्छन् ?
हुन त हामी जस्तो, नेतृत्व पनि त्यस्तै हुने हो । अनि भ्रष्टाचारी कर्मचारी प्रशासन र फटाहा (लुटाहा) व्यापारी भएपछि जनतालाई नचाहिने कुरामा खर्च हुन्छ नै । पहिले नै “धरहरालाई म्युजियम बना सरकार, अर्को चाहिँदैन” भन्या भए तिनलाई पोस्नै पर्ने थिएन ।
Kathmandu has been wet this year. It rained throughout April and May only to be called pre-Monsoon by Meteorologists. Monsoon has just arrived and they say it will rain as much as it should.
On Sunday morning, the typical Monsoon clouds poured–the soft drizzle that comes down without much noise. It was fun walking in the rain with an umbrella over my head.
The rain stopped before I reached college. I put the umbrella in the corridor for drying, complained with my friends how it rained and ruined every morning, and attended my classes.
Later that day, I realized I lost my umbrella. It was a new one my Mom had bought less than a fortnight ago. She murmured about how careless I had been. She had the right to be angry. What would I do without a good umbrella this Monsoon? All I could do was say, “Let it be. If it’s gone, we won’t get it back lamenting.
I had lost it. But where?
“It was in the corridor,” you might say but I didn’t tell you that I had folded it as we went away to a canteen for lunch. I remembered taking the umbrella there but could not remember carrying it back. If the canteen owner had found it, it would be safe. If somebody else had found it, it would be gone.
Thankfully, I got the umbrella from the owner. She had kept it! I was speechless because I had not thought I would get the umbrella again. She brought me to senses by asking for a “Thank you”. (I was about to thank her anyway!) So, I thanked her.
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 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!
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 ।