A wedding ceremony? An auspicious occasion? Someone very important, a thulo manchhe, coming in the village? Play the panche baja (the five -musical- instruments). That’s still the case in many Nepali villages. These photos are from Dhampus village, north of Pokhara that offers beautiful views of the Annapurna range. When I was there last year around this time, the mountains were hidden in the clouds. Mesmerizing dhoon of panche baja played to welcome some thulo manchhes I was traveling with compensated the lack of great mountain views. I again saw panche baja played in a village in Lamjung earlier this year when to welcome a thulo manchhe.
I saw a group of elderly men relaxing at a sattal in Bhaktapur in a recent afternoon. They were soft-spoken folks who chatted with each other in Newari/Nepal Bhasha. Some smiled occasionally while others maintained an unchanged facial expression for long. Some frequently moved their bodies and adjusted their sitting positions while others didn’t even move their hands for long– especially the man on the left in the front row. They briefly, but separately, looked at me as I was taking this photo (second and third are cropped versions of the first) but, it appeared to me, all of them lost interest in what I was doing as soon as they looked at me. Which was good and what I wanted. I spent at and around the sattal for about two hours observing these men and trying to understand the overall atmosphere around the sattal.
I concluded that these sattals are a great place for people to hangout. They are very essential to most of these people who live in houses that are so closely attached to each other that there’s no space between them and in the neighborhood that doesn’t have public spaces like parks. Kathmandu is a park-less city, a jungle of concrete fortunately surrounded by green hills mostly full of trees.
This one is a very old Newari settlement of Kathmandu valley. These old settlements have sattals like this that serve as major hangout spots for locals. But many new colonies and residential areas that have sprouted in the Vally in the past couple of decades don’t even have these kind of places where people of the neighborhood can come and mingle with each other. A reason why Kathmandu is a very difficult city to live in.
Here’s the first half of the frame:
And the remaining half:
Saw them singing hori songs and dancing in a circle at a private college in Kathmandu today. They don’t use Lola and want to tell the rest of Kathmanduits that holi could be celebrated without lolas!
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This one is for the members of the Constituent Assembly. A board has been put up at the gate of the Constituent Assembly complex in New Baneswar, Kathmandu to remind the CA members the deadline.
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Humans and monkeys struggle for space in the Indian capital
It took me a week and three incidents to identify the culprit. I had kept a bucket of household waste just outside the main entrance of my third-floor apartment so that the collector could take it away. One recent afternoon, the collector knocked on my door to show me something. I was horrified. The waste materials were scattered all over the stairs as if it had been done by a monkey. Or could it be the work of the dog that always sleeps at the main entrance three stories below? I wasn’t sure. But last week, I saw him live in action, playing with my kitchen waste, scattering it all over—like a monkey. The culprit was indeed a monkey.
For the first time in 20 months, I got the taste of living in Delhi. A bad taste it was, but perhaps not so bad compared to what residents of many other neighborhoods in Delhi are experiencing. Monkeys are creating havoc in their daily lives. “We are at their mercy,’’ lamented Rajesh Sehgal, a resident of Mayur Vihar Phase II neighbourhood in east Delhi. Sehgal is also vice president of the area’s Residents Welfare Association. “The number of monkeys in the locality has increased beyond control in the past couple of years,” he told The Times of India last week.
In June, a monkey entered a high security Metro train in Northwest Delhi and delayed the service by 15 minutes. No one was harmed, but members of the Central Industrial Security Force had to intervene to get the monkey out of the train. A cell phone captured the simian’s antics that were fun to watch later on TV, but Metro officials were not amused. “The animal caused a flutter among passengers with everybody running helter-skelter,” NDTV quoted an anonymous Metro official as saying. Continue reading
Palika Bazaar is an underground market in central Delhi that is popular among the people who can’t afford to go to fancy malls and nearby branded outlets in Connaught Place. Above the bustling market is a peaceful and not so well maintained park where shoppers and other people come to take rest. Some play chess and enjoy cuppas while others talk to each other or just try be with themselves. All need a few moments of peace in this crazy city. Continue reading
Nepal has already seen/done some of the things that are happening in India today Some arguments here
Following the latest happenings in Indian politics and society is a kind of déjà vu experience for many Nepali people. The upper house of the Indian parliament last week passed a bill that provides 33 percent reservation for women in the parliament (Lok Sabha) and state assemblies. We already have that in action. The Delhi High Court last year decriminalised gay sex. Our Supreme Court did that at least two years before any court in India acted upon it. And we have at least one openly gay MP in Nepal who appears on the pages of The New York Times and Time. Who in Nepal could believe that an Indian newspaper recently reported the plan of the Delhi Police to hire women in its traffic police department?
Even in fighting, or compromising for that matter, we seem to be ahead of our Indian comrades. They are talking about possible talks between the state and the Maoist rebels. One side is asking for a halt to the violence, the other is demanding an end to the armed operation against them. One side has proposed the names of mediators while the other side has mutely frowned upon that move. The press here is also reporting an alleged rift in the top Maoist leadership. We reported about all these things a long time ago. We have lived through offers of talks, several rounds of talks, their breaking, rifts in the leadership and all. We have been there, done that.
But, seriously, our politics may be in great need of proper management, society seems to have moved progressively ahead perhaps without us being aware about it because of pressing economic and political problems. The credit goes partly to the Maoist movement that aimed at dismantling the feudal structure of society and partly to democracy that opened up Nepali society in 1990. We have waged more fights and gained more in terms of rights and awareness than any other society in the region. Continue reading
LIFE IS a Journey. I have been to the far east and the far west regions of Nepal but have not crossed more than a kilometer of its international boundaries yet. Reporting is my profession. I get some opportunities to travel on assignment.
I still remember my October 2001 Kimathanka trip that also included visit to some easily accessible parts of eastern Nepal. It took me 6 days (of walking) to reach Kimathanka from Khadbaari, the district headquarter of Sankhuwasawa. This is one of the toughest trails and remotest destinations I have ever walked and reached. Shyam Prasad Niraula, a Khadbaari-based reporter with Kantipur, and a local guy named Chandra, who helped me by carrying my baggage, accompanied me in all those ‘difficult’ 10 days.
On our way to the village that borders China, we saw amazing landscapes and hardships of Nepali rural life. We experienced local lifestyle and talked with members of a unique polyandry family. Read about that journey here along with the story of a polyandry family of Kimathanka.
Neighbors and nearby villagers have started making fun of men who share their wife.
By Dinesh WAGLE
KIMATHANKA: It was beyond their imagination. The fathers could not have imagined doing what their son did. The oldest son of two fathers and a mother married two girls. The first marriage was already fixed as per the Nawa (a Sherpa cast) tradition of Kimathanka when both prospective bride and groom were kids. After a few years bride entered the groom’s house and gave birth to a daughter.
But Dawa, son of two brothers Chhindum Nawa, 38, and Rinjin Nawa, 35, and their shared wife Rishe Chyawa, fell in love with another girl. Dawa surely didn’t want to live like his fathers by sharing his wife with his brothers. Therefore, at the age of 20, Dawa fled to Kathmandu with his beloved. It takes 6 days of walk and a-day-long bus ride to reach the capital city from Kimathanka.
According to the information provided by his shocked fathers and mother who live in Kimathanka village of Sankhuwasabha district, Dawa “now works for a trekking agency in Kathmandu.” After her husband left her, the co-wife (first wife of Dawa) left the house as well. Now she lives in her natal home in the same village with their her 3-year-old daughter, the token of her relationship with Dawa that didn’t last long. (But Dawa’s first wife is still very loved in by his parents. They said: “We love her very much but what could the poor girl possibly do when her husband abandons her for another woman?”)
The polyandry tradition in Kimathanka and Ridak, the northern remote villages bordering China, is gradually vanishing. Dawa is not the first person from the same family to go against the age old tradition. Chhiring, 50, Dawa’s uncle (eldest brother his fathers) has married two wives. Chhiring has two sons and a daughter from his first wife, and two sons and two daughters from the second. According to Chhindum and Rinjin, their brother was “separated from the family when we were around 7 years old.” The trios themselves had two fathers.
It’s not unusual in Nepali society to see a man marrying two or even three wives. The infighting between/among sautas (multiple wives of a man) is pervasive in the society. Brothers too fight while dividing their parental property during separation. But, look at Chhindum and Rinjin- the two brothers who have been sharing a wife in Rishe Chyawa. You could feel that they are not just sharing a wife but also sharing their bodies, their hearts. They even share a pipe while drink Tongwa (home made alcohol). When I was in their home to have a cup of Yak milk on October 18th, both brothers were drinking Tongwa from the same pipe as their wife sat nearby. On her lap was an infant. Other five children were around their mother. Between them was the hearth.
They were speaking the local Tibetan language. The older brother told the younger: “Brother, drink some Tongwa.” The younger replied: “I am drinking brother, you also drink.” The 41-year-old Sherpeni (wife of a Sherpa, or rather two Sherpas!) who had been getting affection from two husbands was busy feeding her kids. She was giving them Tibetan tea- mixture of salt, ghee and yak milk.
(This family’s 18-year-old second son is a 5th grader in a nearby primary school. His further education is uncertain as there is no high school nearby. The nearest one is 6-days walk away, in Khandbari, the district headquarter. Fourth child Uchhen is 6 years old, a first grader. 13-year-old daughter Chippa doesn’t go to school. “There is no one in the house to work,” told one of her fathers. The 5-year-old Yunchhuk is the 5th child and Pema, the 6th is 3 years old.)
Chhindum hardly understands Nepali language. Rinjin speaks the national language fluently. After cleaning a glass very carefully and putting fresh Yak milk on fire, Rinjin said: “We two brothers are living with the same wife.” Finally he came to the topic I was trying to talk about!
This family has 22 hybrid yaks. The environment of Kimathanka, where snow falls only 3 months a year, is not suitable for the cattles. That is why the brothers take their yaks up on the hills- in the vast terrain of high snowy hills that could be reached from their home after walking for two days. Turn by turn, these brothers take care of the yaks in the shed. It’s time of snow fall in Kimathanka. After bringing down the yaks, both brothers were relaxing by sitting together on the leather of yak and drinking Tongwa in front of their wife.
If you give attentive ear to these brothers you will know that there are certain reasons behind the polyandry tradition in this village. The farming land is precious little, and production is very much less compared to the efforts for cultivating. If all brothers marry different women that will lead to separation of the family. That, in turn, will results in the division of land. That means less food production.
While one brother goes to the hilltop to rear yaks, another lives in home with wife. By that division of labor both yaks and home are taken care of. This makes life somewhat easier also. “You can even be rich living with a shared wife,” Rinjin told as he poured the hot milk in a glass. “Property has to be divided if you live with separate wife. This makes you poor and you cant have enough food to eat.”
Among the total 48 houses of Kimathanka, 15 are polyandry families. But in at least 5 families, men have multiple wives. Kimathanka Village Development Commeete (VDC) Chairman Rijjeen Sherpas’ house could offer a glimpse into the conflicting situation. Chairman’s first son, Kin Sang, and the third, Dawa, are sharing a wife where as second Pasang is happily living with his two wives.
“This is a tradition we have followed for ages,” said Mrs. Rihse in Tibetan. How does she feel about being loved by two husbands. “Who do you love the most?” I asked her. The answer could have been different if I had asked that in the absence of both or one of her husbands. My question made her shy.
“I love both of them equally. And, they also love me very much and equally,” she said.
As she said that both her husbands who were eagerly watching her as if they were kids smiled together. I sipped the yak milk and threw another question to her. “Who do you like more?” There was a quick response from Rishe that made her husbands’ faces shine. “Both men look similar, their faces look similar to me, their habits are similar. I like both of them equally.”
The appearance could be same only if looked from Rishe’s eyes of love. What I saw is the older brother had somewhat whitish complexion, he sported a ponytail that was tied by a red thread. Younger brother looked a bit overweight, sported mustache and had dark complexion.
Thanks to the polyandry tradition the population of Kimathanka has increased by only 10 person in last 10 years. According to the 1992 National Census, the population of Kimathanka was 303. This year’s census reveals the new number as 313. On the basis of population, Kimathanka is the smallest among 4 thousand VDCs of Nepal.
Polyandry is no more a fashionable thing especially outside the village. Residents of neighboring Nepali villages like Chepuwa, Chyamtang and Hatiya laugh at the polyandry husbands. Youths who have seen the world outside Kimathanka village think its shameful to share a wife with brothers. I asked a young boy of polyandry parents about the tradition. “No, I will never do what my parents have been doing. Sharing your wife is a shameful thing.”
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.
“Why do you want to know about this? Who do you think you are to ask such question?”
Probably, she was right. The milk in my glass was already finished.
This article, translated from Nepali, was first published in Nepal Magazine.
Here are photos from my Kimathanka trip