One of my favorite holidays in Nepal is definitely Tihar. Holi – yeah – it’s fun but I don’t really enjoy running or being splattered with colors and water I don’t know origin of. Dasain – sure, the kites are nice, but I am not much of a goat meat eater so half of the fun is gone right there.
Tihar (or Diwali, or Deepavali) is something else. First of all, let’s talk about sel. Sel is a thin donut-shaped sweet rice flour dough fried in lots of oil. It is so bad for you, but so good. On the day I knew sel was being made at home, I rushed from work already salivating at the mere thought. Pretty quickly I lost count of how many I ate that day. When they get cold you are supposed to reheat them as they become pretty tough. I suggest you do that. I broke my tooth this year on one of the cold ones. Yet, that didn’t stop me from continuing to eat them. Good stuff. Honestly, why don’t people make this more often?
Another reason I love Tihar the most are the lights. There is something so special about the lights all over the house, and small candles lit up. It’s festive, and it reminds me of Christmas. For me, it’s kind of the beginning of the Christmas season, when Tihar comes. Oh the joys of living in an inter-religious marriage!
During several days of Tihar, children go around the neighborhood and sing songs for money. They’re pretty pushy about it too. If you don’t open your gate for them, they throw firecrackers at the house. That incident happened to us last year, but this year we were ready and opened up the gate for all the singing groups that came. I understand zero of the songs they sing, but I was told that they pretty much give blessings to your house, family, and so on and on. So it’s very festive and in some ways religious I suppose. The first group that came to our house consisted of 7-ish boys. They were pretty high-tech. They had a CD player, a speaker, and a microphone, and Mr.B helped them hook everything up. Finally, after an extensive set up, they began their song. They were not very tuned, or actually not good at all, but at least they were trying. I was listening and watching from the top floor window, and later I decided to join Mr.B outside. Once the kids saw me, they were so flustered. They didn’t expect a foreigner. Their Nepali blessings song ended abruptly, and after lots of whispering (“English, English”), they settled on a new song. What seemed to be a leader of the group took the mic, the song was ready to go on the cell phone (CD player stopped working), and two boys were ready to dance. I thought to myself:”This will be good.” And I wasn’t wrong. Well, maybe I was. It wasn’t good in a literal sense, but it did give me and Mr.B laughing material for the evening.
The song started and to my utter shock it was an English rap song going something like: we just wanna smoke weed, we just wanna have fun… The two “dancers” were doing breakdance which included all kinds of stunts, like head spins, and even flips. I was mortified. Mortified because of the lyrics of the song on such a wonderful festive occasion. Mortified because I thought those boys were going to break their limbs or fracture their skulls right in front of our door. The whole performance went on and on and finally I whispered to Mr.B: “I think this is enough.” He stopped them by shoving the money in their hands and had them pack up and leave. I was laughing all along not at the boys, but at their potential thought process: “Oh, a foreigner, she definitely must like rap. Let’s rap and do breakdance for her; she will be impressed for sure.” It was really sweet, yet terribly terrifying at the same time.
Nepal, you never cease to amaze me.