Living in the west with values of the east

This article was published in DREAMS online magazine on 3rd October 2013.

dreams

When I was living in Nepal, I used to be annoyed and irritated by Nepali culture, tradition and values from time to time. Sometimes, I wished that I could run away from all that and live my life the way I wanted. And my wish was fulfilled when I left Nepal to come to Australia.

Having lived outside the country for more than decade now, I know how wrong my thoughts were. These days, I miss our culture, tradition, rituals and values that I used to ignore before. Not only do I miss it, I actually want to be a part of it and hope to pass it on to my kids and grand-kids one day, like my mother and grandmother did.

The festive season of Dashain and Tihar is here, and it is one of my favourite times of the year. This festive time has helped me connect with Nepal, Nepali culture and tradition. Before, I used to wish things could be as good in Australia as in Nepal, but that was just wishful thinking. So instead of being sad and depressed, this time I decided that we would celebrate the festivals with whatever we could.

With the motto, “If the mountain will not come to M, then M must go to the mountain”, we bring Nepali style Dashain and Tihar to Sydney. For the last few years, I have been having a lot of fun in Nepali festivals here.

For Dashain, I plant Jamara during Ghatasthapana, and it is ready for Tika day. During Asthami, Nawami and Dashami, we plan a Newari bhoj to mark the days.

Last year we had Kuchi Bhwey, a Newari bhoj consisting of Baji/Chiura(beaten/flattened rice), Chicken curry, Spinach, Methi kerau (fenugreek and peas), Thulo kerau (big peas), Golbheda achar (tomato pickle), Butan(meat fry), Aloo tama(potatoes with bamboo shoots), and Methi(fenugreek) salad on Asthami.

On Nawami, we followed the tradition and performed a worship of our car. Later we had Samay Baji, a Newari dish consisting of Baji/Chiura(beaten/flattened rice) , Haku Mushya (black soyabean), Chhwela (smoked meat), Puka-la (spicy roasted meat), Aalu achar (cold potato salad ), Bhuti (boiled beans with spices), Khyen (boiled egg), Panchkwa (bamboo shoot, potato, beans mixed curry), Wo or Bara (shallow fried pancakes made of black lentil), Lava-palu (ginger and garlic), Achar (pickle), Wauncha (green vegetables) and Aayla (Newari liquor).

On Vijaya Dashmi, we normally take a day off from work so we can have fun with our loved ones. It is always fun to be blessed by elders with red Tika and Jamara. Following Tika, there are a few days where we get invited for tika, and this normally concludes the celebration of Dashain.

After a few weeks, we celebrate Tihar in full swing as well. I know people overseas normally celebrate only Bhai Tika but I didn’t want to miss out on the other days. So I perform Kag Tihar, Kukkur Tihar, Laxmi Puja and Mha Puja as well.

I haven’t seen many crows around in Sydney, so I decided to print a photo of a crow to perform my puja with. I know it sounds a bit silly, but it helps me to celebrate the festival. I did the same during Kukur Puja, printed the photo of a dog that my parents have in Nepal. If you ever feel like celebrating Tihar in full swing, you may want to follow my ideas.

I love Laxmi Puja as it make me feel happy and there is so much to do. We start the evening by lighting fairy lights and candles. Then I perform Laxmi Puja to the best to my knowledge. I normally print out the Mandap and Laxmi’s footsteps so I can perform the puja. Living overseas, we have to make do with whatever we can rather than missing out in the belief that we can’t do it.

Following Laxmi Puja, we performed Mha Puja with my brother, cousins, and friends. Mha Puja is such a great way to come together and have fun in our Newar culture. For this puja too we used printed mandaps, which made it easy for us to set up the puja. Like in Nepal, we have Shagun (a traditional plate typically consisting of a boiled egg, smoked fish, a “bara”, haku chhoila”  and “aila”, which ends with “dhau”) and bless our body for good health.

And finally, there is the Bhai Tika, which is always a big deal for me. I have two brothers on whom I perform the Puja, and I wanted to make sure it is a great celebration. I and my cousin even learned how to make Sel Roti, so our celebration is a lot like Nepal’s. I prepare for Bhai Tika weeks in advance, making masala (pack of dry fruits & nuts) and buying fruits, snacks and clothes. I prepare Shagun on the day and bake cakes for puja as well. I am always happy to see my brothers enjoying the day with me, and blessing me with happiness and gifts.

Not only celebrating Dashain and Tihar, but we try to do whatever we can to be in touch with Nepalese tradition and culture. Recently, my nephew had his 6th birthday, and it was celebrated with yomari (a newari delicacy made of external covering of rice-flour and an inner content of treacle) mala like in Nepal. One of my nephews was born here in Australia, so we did his chatti and nwaran (naming ceremony) according to Hindu rituals. We celebrate Teej every year wearing red and eating yummy Nepalese cuisine. And whenever possible, we go to Nepal to celebrate milestones like marriage and pasni. We had a traditional Newari wedding which went for over a week, and my nephew had his pasni in Nepal with our relatives and friends.

Even though I don’t have kids of my own right now, I know that they are affected by many thing in life, but their strongest main values are learned from their parents, society and surrounding environment. I know that even in Nepal, with globalisation we are losing some of our traditional values fast, while we adopt easily imitable aspects of western culture. Nepal has a unique blend of culture and customs, and people travel millions of miles to learn and observe these in Nepal. It will be a shame for our kids not to know their own customs, traditions, and rituals.

I hope my effort in bringing our eastern culture to the west will help my kids and their kids to learn more about Nepal, Nepali culture, traditions, rituals and values, so that they know their root and can be proud of it. I have been away from Nepal for a long time, but I still cherish the values that I have learned, and I hope one day, our next generation will do the same.

Happy Dashain and Tihar to all readers. No matter where you are, enjoy it in full swing!!!!

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15 responses to “Living in the west with values of the east

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I think it is beautiful that you keep your traditions. I achingly would love to see Nepal, stand on that soil, see the people. I’m glad you have a life here, & keep your traditions.

  2. Just a thought, but… seems we each make our traditions, interpreting them through a filter that is slightly different from any other, evolving with time. You embrace some from Nepal, you mould them to your circumstance now, creating something new and vibrant in its own way.

  3. I some times wonder why there’s so much variation in the way people celebrate Dashain across Nepal – India !!!

  4. I have always loved Nepali festivals and still enjoy it very much..Since moving here, I havent done anything full fledged but tika and tihar is always celebrated,..eating at Nepali restaurants and visiting families/friends. Its one of those things I am proud of – its a beautiful tradition.

  5. Happy Dashain and Tihar didi! 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on hadassaab.

  7. Happy Dashain and Tihar to you too…Enjoy..

  8. Ur opinion needs utmost respect M. And ur kids will be proud of you that you’ve preserved all our traditions in here in ur blog. 🙂

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