I close my eyes and travel back 55 years to the Dashain in my maternal grandparents’ house in Majhgaon, Assam
Now that Dashain is over, here I am contemplating: What was so special about it? Why does Kathmandu’s population dwindle this time of the year? Why do people visit one relative after another for tika blessings? Actually, I never thought of it that way before.
Through the years Dashain came and went like clockwork. We all sprouted jamara, prepared tika for Vijayadashami blessing but never sat down to find logic behind Dashain blessings.
After some thinking I came to a conclusion that we celebrate Dashain to meet respected relatives and get their blessings and of course listen to their memories. Yes, we still adhere to that culture but I see cracks already. Just as families are becoming nuclear, people have started opting out of big Dashain celebrations with family and friends and instead going on vacations outside Nepal. All this makes me nostalgic of those times long ago.
I close my eyes and travel back 55 years to the Dashain in my maternal grandparents’ house in Majhgaon, Assam. We usually got there around Biswakarma puja and stayed till end of Tihar. As soon as we got down the only train that passed through the village the villagers consisting of all our close relatives felt the first spark of Dashain. For them when Kanchhi’s (because she was the youngest) family came, Dashain came. Most of the elder members in the village were ‘mamas and maijus’ for me, and their children, either brothers or sisters.
The fun part of Dashain was that all the girls got dakshina after tika and the boys did not.
So after finishing tika at home, we would go around for blessings and of course get dakshina. All that money came in handy when we sat down and played cards later. The boys were older than my cousin and me so they would ask us to come play cards with them. Of course we did not know how to play cards, and each year they would teach us to play ‘jootpatti’ and soon we would forget again. One thing that puzzled me was the different relations that existed within the village.
As a child I would always think about Dashain and become confused. So eventually I stopped thinking and enjoyed the fun part of visiting relatives for tika and listening to anecdotes from each mama. They always had something especial to talk about: incidents involving either my mother or jiba (jiba being a political figure at the time had quite a history). Some would recall instances involving jiba and some would talk about the grandeur of past Dashain in Majhgaon and were missing it badly.
All those instances and narrations and anecdotes lent rich character to the place that we fondly called Behali and at the same time gave us the insight to the good hearts of the people and their simplicity. Now I think about it, I remember all the details heard from those relatives with fondness. Those are part of an almost forgotten history.
That was when I realized the importance of Dashain. It turned out to be the time when people bask in past events, retell them for the sake of younger generations. The eyewitness recounting of events we would often read in history books. That is what we get from having older members in the family. Age does bring wisdom, which we often fail to understand. I know most of you are saying, ‘but they don’t understand. They are pesky, they intrude in everything, and there is no privacy when they are around. They are demanding,’ etc, etc, etc. Then again we acted the same way when we were little. They did not get irritated and leave us at an orphanage. So to understand this situation, let us step in their shoes first. Trust me, we too will get there in no time.
Old family members are the assets of the family, the pillars of continuity and experience.
This is where the value of Dashain comes; in building good relationships, caring and providing security to them. Listening to them talk about the past is a whole new ball game. Now after so many years, they can afford to tell the truth about so many things they hid from us when we were small. What we considered as their stubborn nature had more than we gave credit to, concealed information that they thought would hinder our academic, mental and emotional development. Often listening to past incidents and secretes bring tears to our eyes. Sharing of memories brings joy to these folks and makes relations with our parents stronger.
Each time my mother-in-law tells me of the difficult times she had spent my respect for her grows. The numerous times I sit and listen to my father, I look at him with a different angle each time. Sharing information with older people for me is a pleasure that I will cherish for a long time. Not all are fortunate to still have their parents around, but those who do need to value them. What we take for granted is not something some others have at their disposal.
I know you are thinking, why this attitude in my writing this time around? Well let me blame it on age and of course the festive season. I am thinking, now is my time to give back the love and care they gave us. Had they been as irritated as we usually get when they ask the same questions multiple times, I wonder where we would be now. When I hear of people taking their parents to the ‘briddha ashram’ I remember the Japanese story of a person taking his father on customary trip to the mountains to die. This person’s son asks him to bring back the ‘doko’ carefully. When asked why, the little boy responds, ‘I will need it to take you to the mountains a few years later.’
Finally, this year’s Dashain was pretty special for me, with tons of people coming for blessings from both my father and my mother-in-law. I have to admit, festivals usually bring feelings in my heart that I cannot name. I often wonder what we are teaching our children about relationship between Dashain and our near and dear ones. Since we are role models for our children, we have to remember that what goes around comes around.
They will see and imitate us. As children we thought our parents were the whole world to us. No harm done, if we still consider them as part of our world and make a point to celebrate many more Dashains with them. Now that is not so difficult to understand, is it?
The author is an educationist and author of several children’s books