This trip happened during Dasain festival last October therefore the sights of pings (swings) of different types- linge, rote and jaanto. It was my second trip to Bandipur village that is located just above the highway that connects Pokhara with Kathmandu. Many find it beautiful but I have no such conclusive opinion about Bandipur. I thought new concrete buildings had damaged the authenticity of the village that still had some nice-looking traditional houses. A Bhaktapur Darbar Square-style ban on traffic on the main thoroughfare felt like a sensible thing to do. On a clear day the village offered a beautiful view of the Himalayas.
A day after Maghi there were no signs on colors in Rukumkot village. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see young boys and girls in Rukumkot hitting each other below the knees by stinging nettle. Dozens of boys and girls had gathered around the Village Development Committee building in the afternoon. Most of them held bunches of sisnu wrapped by pieces of paper or plastic to save their hands from sting.
Elderly people, mostly women, watched the teenagers play the game of sisnu. It was, like the game of colors in Holi, primarily a game between girls and boys– girls trying to attack boys and vice versa. The rule was that you couldn’t hit above the knees. I learned from the elders that the sisnu festival was a tradition in the village. Actually some women were surprised that I didn’t know about it. One of the girls hit me and an elderly woman, showing much sympathy, suggested me to massage my calves with ghee in the evening.
I saw that people in some villages of Rukum and Rolpa celebrated the Maghi festival like the way many in other parts of Nepal celebrate the Holi festival- by smearing their faces in colored powders. (See here how people of Thabang village celebrated.) A day after Maghi, after my return from Thabang, at Khabang Bagar a girl put abir (dye) on my forehead and jamara (barley sprouts) on my ear.
This post contains related links to the articles that have been mentioned or referred to in my article published in today’s Hello Shukrabar, (त्यो दसैमा) the youth supplement of Kantipur.
In the polyandry culture the older brother is the head of the family. He is also the official father of the kids even if their biological father is his brother. For example, in the citizenship, the ‘father’ of the shared wife’s children is the older brother. House and land are registered in his name. Kami Nawa, Chairman, Ward No. 6., of the VDC said: “The mother decides which children belongs to which husbands if the brothers wanted to separate.”
A question related to this made the otherwise cool Sherpeni, Rishe who was had decorated her hair with a jasmine flower, somewhat agitated. “We are living now in harmony, there is no necessity of separation,” she said curtly. पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्
I was in Dadeldhura on the day of Tika this Dashain. The small bazaar on the hill was closed as people were busy celebrating the festival. I had to spend my Tika day on the hill because I was stuck there. The road was empty. I waited for a day for the buses to ply so that I could move to the next destination. To kill time and my curiosity about the way people celebrate Dashain I wandered around the the almost deserted bazaar. A few people, with tika on their forehead and jamara clipped to their ears, were walking on the street. I presumed that they were moving towards their relatives’ homes. Some men wore beautiful garlands of jamara. That was a new sight to me. We don’t do that in the east. Later a friend of mine in Dadeldhura told me that only so called tallo jaat (lower caste) people, especially damai wear jamara garlands on the Tika day. I am not sure if that’s the truth but it was definitely a new sight to me. I liked the idea. I thought about large families. They need to grow a lot of jamara to get enough garlands for each member of the family.
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Every year the hilly Nepal and Kathmandu Valley celebrate Holi (Fagu Purnima) a day before the rest of the country and India do the same. This year it was Holi-Day in Kathmandu and Holi-Eve in India when these photos were taken in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi on 28 Feb. There’s a tradition in JNU that requires students to organize a program called Chaat Sammelan (चाट सम्मेलन, chat conference, literally) on the eve of Holi with a lot of fanfare. The program involves a brightly lit stage, horse, asses, speakers dressed in fancy outfits, an energetic crowd, a great amount of sense of humor and infinite energy to laugh. Students come out on the streets to join a noisy procession that originates from Tapti Hostel at 9 pm. Led by a man, apparently the president of chaat sammelan, holding a briefcase with “Chaat Budget 2010” written on it, who is seated on the horseback, the procession stops by a couple of other hostels before finally halting at a ground where an enthusiastic crowd is waiting them in front of a stage.
The speakers go to the microphone and try to entertain the crowd with humorous and sarcastic speeches. That’s a very challenging job. The members of the audience start booing and hooting as soon as they sense that the speaker is faltering. Then the speaker has to either leave the microphone volunteer or a group of volunteers remove him. They either carry him back to his seat or throw him to the crowd. I didn’t remain on the venue until the program ended but I was told that the one who remains on the stage for the longest period is declared the chaat samrat (चाट सम्राट, chat emperor).
Next day is the day of colors in the University as it is with many parts of India. No lunch is served at the hostel mess on Holi-Day. The breakfast is served with unlimited glasses of bhang (भाङ). Last year I brought a 2-litter Sprite bottle-ful of Bhang from the mess to my home hoping to finish that in a day or two. In reality, I couldn’t touch the bottle for several days. A friend comes at my apartment and he is horrified to see the bottle. “This thing is about to burst,” said he and cautiously opened the lid. Then I realized why Uncle Mehra, my landlord, had told me a few days ago that he had never seen a Sprite bottle of that size. The bottle had swollen almost to the breaking point. I had Uncle Mehra saying that that was a 2-litter bottle and perhaps they don’t sell that in Jangpura.
Apart from the consumption of bhang in large quantity, Holi in India is celebrated like we do in Nepal. Bollywood has popularized and energized the festival in India with variety of songs but on the negative side the culture- of hitting passers by with lola (water-filled balloons)- is also becoming a part of celebrations. I could see boys throwing lolas at girls and other passersby days before the Holi-day. Holi-ganism has threatened to take good part of the festival away in Nepal. I could sense same is happening in India, at least in Delhi. About five hundred Holi-gans were arrested in Kathmandu. On Holi-day I went around Delhi to see how were celebrating the festival. What I saw was not entirely different from what I have seen in Kathmandu. Roads were almost empty which is a rare in Delhi. The only days when I see a thin traffic on Delhi roads are on India’s Independence Day and Republic Day. It was so easy and fun to drive around in Delhi on Holi-day. Policemen were deployed all over the city in large numbers to control possible holi-ganism. But the thick police presence made me feel that India was voting or doing something very important. I don’t recall seeing policemen on a small roundabout near my house in the past year but on the Holi-day this year I saw some policemen standing by. (Last year on Holi-day, I spent most of my time in JNU and didn’t go around the city.)
Here are more photos: पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्
“How was it?” asked my friend Deepak when he knew from me that I was back in Delhi from attending two days of Jaipur Literature Festival.
Here’s what I replied: It was good. Very few books were to be seen as it wasn’t a book festival but literature. Writers talked about not just their books but issues that their books or books in general address. And there were/are several other sessions that were/are not directly related to literature but then when writers are panelists to discuss on topics like “in a tough neighborhood” they also became some what sahityik.
The literary aura was palpable as I hopped from one session to another. “Dickens was an intensely good person,” said one speaker in Baithak hall while another speaker in another hall was talking about plays of India. “We used to say Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India,” he said.
In yet another session I heard a biographer explaining why her book was what it came out to be: “Describing each of his films would make a 300-page book but that wouldn’t have brought the real ‘he’.”
There’s was commercial stall of a book shop at a corner of Diggi Palace Hotel compound that sold books of different kinds, mainly those related to the festival. I like the idea of putting up a table filled with ‘books related to today’s sessions’ there. I heard one writer, a journalist, telling participants to go to the stall and buy his book, if they wanted. Another writer managed to make organizers announce on the mike that she was available for signing her book at the aforementioned stall.
By and large, I observed, the festival was not just about selling books but discussing issues that are generally addressed by books and writers- both fiction and nonfiction. That means having brainstorming sessions on issues that concerned societies in general and writers in particular. It was also about sharing experiences behind what we see in the form of ink and pages. Sharing experiences of book writing. It was also about trying to understand between the pages.
Quote of the day:
All writers of fiction should be required by law to go out and do a bit of reporting from time to time, just to remind them how different the real world in front of their eyes is from the invented world behind them’.
That’s Michael Frayn talking about his book Travels With a Typewriter: A Reporter at Large but only after he was asked to do so.
A session titled ‘Language and Identity’ was very interesting. Influence of English on Hindi and the necessity to keep that away from happening was discussed at length by the likes of Gulzar, a poet, and others in the panel including Hindi newspaper Janasatta‘s editor Om Thanvi and diplomat/writer Pavan Varma.) As a reporter working primarily for a Nepali-language daily, I also insert some English words and expressions in my writing when, I feel, I could have done without. But the trend is frightening in Hindi newspapers. As Thanvi pointed out, some Hindi newspapers have headlines with Hindi words as conjunctions only. A lot of English words are arbiterily used when there are Hindi words for the same: even I know Hindi words for such English words that are used in papers like Nava Bharat Times that my newspaper vendor brings every morning. The paper comes from Times of India group, so it might not be a benchmark for journalism but I have seen other Hindi dailies that also use a lot of English words. Thanvi said such anarchy in the language was because many newspapers have no editors or edited by their publishers who want to be successful in the market at the cost of language.
“International hone ka matlav aapne aap ko kho dena nahi,” said Thanvi.
Some of the captivating lectures in the festival were complimented by occasional whining of horses from a nearby stable in the hotel compound.
I attended only second and third days of the festival so I am not sure if I can judge the five-day festival with authority but I felt that it was largely a gathering of English speaking/writing authors and readers. There are many languages spoken in India, not just Hindi and English. I didn’t see writers representing those languages. May be it was because many of the impressive list of sponsors and partners of the festival were British, American, European/International and Indian organizations conducting business in English. Nonetheless it was fun to be in the crowd, to watch people speaking in varieties of tones and clad in diverse styles of clothings.
Click on the photos to read captions in detail
Because of journalistic ethics, source-reporter relationship and embargo on a particular information, I am not writing more about other Shivaratri activities and talks for now. I plan to write more when Ozomatli band leaves Nepal. For now just a photo and (cigar) credit:
Photo by: Wil-Dog Abers of Ozomatli (Bass, marimbula, background vocals)
Cigar courtesy of: Raúl ‘El Bully’ Pacheco of Ozomatli (Guitar, tres, jarana, vocals)
Lighting by: Ulises Bella of Ozomatli (Saxophone, background vocals, requinto jarocho, keyboard, melodica)
[Originally posted in UWB platform]
The recently launched BBC 103 FM in Kathmandu has definitely changed my radio habit. Before I was a TV worm, always pressing the remote control and surfing those 40 something satellite channels available on my cable network. In a normal day, I would be in front of that idiot box until 2 AM. Not anymore. It’s the BBC’s World Service tuned all the time and I am constantly updated on world events. In the mean time, I can do a whole lot of work, like, now, I am writing this blog. It has been a good medium for a global citizen like me who wants to listen news from Africa, music from South America, a drama from Europe etc, etc. When it is 3 PM in London, Kathmandu clocks 20:45, time for the tune Changba ho Changba in BBC’s Nepali Service.
There was an interesting report on yesterday’s broadcast of BBC Nepali. Their far-western Nepal correspondent Umid Bagchand (sorry if I misspelled) had filed a report from Kathmandu about the mood of the capital city and his impression of that. His argument, and its’ very much true, was that unlike remote places like Dadeldhura where people were very much afraid to celebrate any festivals because of the messy security situation, Kathmandu was largely unaffected from what was going on in other parts of the country, and was in a festive mood to celebrate Tihar. पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्