Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Of Age In Nepal's Festival Season
As part of a Nepalese holiday tradition, YJI reporter Nischal Kharel is fed sweets by his sister Nishma, for a prosperous life.

 By Nischal Kharel
Junior Reporter
POKHARA, Nepal – Every year I used to celebrate the Nepalese festivals of Dashain and Tihar festivals in my own home, but this year took a different turn.
The festivals, which usually fall during the harvest time, are when I get to spend a whole wonderful month with my family in our village of Bayarban in eastern Nepal. My parents, sister and I have fun playing cards, eating delicious foods – we usually sacrifice a goat – and playing on the swings.
Part of the tradition of Tihar, which lasts for three days and is also called the festival of lights, is applying tika. Tika is a mixture of rice, curd and red powder and, applied to the forehead, represents the third eye.
During Tihar, brothers and sisters travel to each other’s homes to honor each other. My father usually travels to his sister’s house. For this holiday, the tika is special – multi-colored and applied through a hole in a leaf.   
I used to receive tika from my parents during Dashain and go to my grandparents’ house, where many family members would gather to celebrate the holiday. There, my sister and I received tika from our family.
Nischal Kharel applies tika to his sister Nishma's forehead.

This year too, Dashain went as usual but Tihar, which we celebrated early this month, was different, because my father gave me an important new role.
He asked me to travel to his sister’s home for Tihar since he wasn’t well enough to make the journey.
“Son, this year I want you to go to your father’s sister’s house to receive a blessings on Tihar,” my father said to me three days before the festival.
He tried to explain.
“As you know, she hasn’t received tika from anyone on Tihar since a decade. And this year, too, I couldn’t go to Pokhara from here terai on bus having the journey of 13 hours. My blood pressure and sugar level is not in balance condition. So you have to go to Pokhara this time.”
I was surprised and shocked to hear that I have to go back to Pokhara before my holidays ended.
As I have been staying there since a year, it won’t be good to leave my aunt’s forehead bare and without tika during the auspicious occasion of Tihar.
I study science in Pokhara in the western part of Nepal, where my aunt lives, as there are no science colleges nearby my hometown.  But she couldn’t go to my house on Tihar because many relatives visit her home during the festival time.
So my father told me to return and my journey to Pokhara was set for two days before Bhaitika, which is an important day of the festival for brothers and sisters.
Then I realized that, with me traveling, my one and only sister would have no one to put tika on if I left her alone at home on Tihar.
So I talked with my parents and sister and arranged to take my sister along with me to Pokhara. She was very happy to hear the news that we would be celebrating Tihar in Pokhara – and making a trip together as well.
Our parents made all the arrangements and bought bus tickets, gifts for his sister and other items. I packed my clothes and books and met up with my friends since I wouldn’t be able to see them after Tihar.
That night, my sister and I left on the bus.
Nischal Kharel and his sister, Nishma, after tika.
I felt proud and grown up. I know I am capable of taking my father’s role and participating for him in his absence.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling unhappy and upset about leaving home without celebrating Tihar, Nepal’s second biggest festival.
The holiday hadn’t ended and I was leaving my parents alone in their home with memories of the Tihar festivals of the past.
With my one and only sister, Nishma, I used to celebrate Tihar peacefully, at our family home. But in Pokhara, I knew there would be many people and relatives there and still more coming to receive tika.
I was feeling quite uncomfortable too, because in my hometown, Nishma and I played Bhailos and Deusis, a custom of going from one house to the next, singing holiday songs, with friends. But they don’t do this in Pokhara.
My sister and I arrived at Pokhara early the next morning and went to my aunt’s home, where we spent an enjoyable day eating meat and bread called rotis and playing cards.
Later, we went with our cousins to enjoy the evening in Lakeside, which is the tourist area of Pokhara and filled with restaurants and hotels. We spent about four hours watching Bhailos and other dancing programs organized for Tihar.
Besides all that, the houses in Pokhara are decorated with lights, which surprised me and made me happy. As my home is in a village, I’d never seen such amazing decorations.
Finally, the holiday felt great.
Though I had lingering sadness that I couldn’t celebrate Tihar at home, I felt grown up and proud of the responsibility my father had given me and the trust he had in me.

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