What really is Dashain without a Dashain hangover? I’m not talking about the inevitable (for some) booze induced headaches but the general state of lethargy after the festival – the quieter streets, the slowly diminishing reserves of left over mutton and sweets, packing all the playing cards, taking stock of our expanded waistlines and the general sense of life, slowly but surely, limping back to normal.
Irrespective of whether you celebrate Dashain or not, this transition tends to affect us all – whether you are returning from a trek, a trip abroad or just visiting your in laws. So, in the spirit of this hangover, I thought I would revisit one of Dashain’s most cherished or dreaded (depending on which side of the fence you happen to be sitting on) customs – blessings.
Technically speaking, this – and not the lure of money – is why we go from house to house eating copious amounts of food and tolerating small talk from relatives you most likely only see once a year. It is really the ‘tika’ and the blessings that combine to make Dashain auspicious. The thing with Dashain blessings though, often read out loud while giving the ‘tika’, is that they are less than subtle. It often serves as a timely and rather public reminder of what you should be doing with your life or at least what others think you should be doing with it. It’s a laundry list of what your relatives and well-wishers think you need in your life – much like most of your wedding presents.
The blessings will essentially focus on two themes – getting your life in order (even if it already is) and the countdown of your biological clock. The first tends to affect almost everyone universally – for students, it’s all about good grades, applying for visas, not giving your parents trouble while for the working professional and businessman/woman, it may well be about promotions, transfers, career progress and greater business success respectively. The focus is on progress, wellbeing, peace and security and all that is well and good.
But it’s really when the theme of the second blessing is allied to someone’s marital status that a little dread starts to creep in. If you are of marriageable age – and that could be anywhere from sixteen to thirty six (apparently, one is beyond redemption past thirty six, especially if you are a woman) – the blessings are all about getting married.
A good proportion of folks may have got the blessings this year – I know my brother did. ‘We hope to be putting tika on two people this time next year’ is a common, if rather annoying, refrain that we hear. If you happen to be already married, there really is only one blessing on the cards – having kids. ‘We hope to be putting tika on three people this time next year’ is another variation of the same blessing. There just is no pleasing some people! Honestly, it makes you wonder if all the mutton in this whole wide world is worth this mental torture.
As if we weren’t hyper aware – or constantly reminded – of our biological clock ticking down at other various times of the year, Dashain tends to really heighten it. If you are the kind of person or couple stalling on a major life decision for financial or other personal reasons, it can very well lead to anxiety. I know of people spending barely five minutes in certain places, exactly to avoid answering awkward questions and queries centered on these different milestones.
When you see people living abroad posting pictures on social media about missing Dashain and being generally miserable about it, you tend to think of them as the lucky ones. Although, that being said, the blessings can still be transmitted via video calling, but it certainly does not come with the same level of awkwardness.
Before anyone gets on their high horse, this apparently salty attitude towards Dashain blessings are all in jest. While the good wishes may not be subtle or discreet, it is all a part of Dashain, whether we tend to like it or not and, unlike our friends, we don’t really get to choose our relatives – or what they say.
We have learned to expect Dashain blessings and most of us can predict with a high degree of accuracy the kind of good fortune we will be…uh blessed with. As a result, we tend to mentally prepare ourselves for what is coming our way similarly to how we physically prepare ourselves to eat unnecessary amounts of food during this time of the year. And you know that feeling when too much of the same kind of food starts to make you uncomfortable after a while? Ditto is the case with the blessings.