We see living abroad as having a lot of pros, but each time the festive season rolls around, we sigh a breath of relief, relief of being together with our loved ones. There are a few, however, who cannot say the same. Isha Upadhyay talked to a few people living abroad to find out how they celebrate Dashain and what they miss the most during this time of the year.
I left Nepal when I was 16. I haven’t celebrated Dashain with my family in Nepal for 15 years now. It’s hard for me to even remember what Dashain back home was like. But I miss meeting everyone and the Dashain dakshina. We took big jeeps and drove to my mama ghar in Chitwan for Dashian. Those trips were always so much fun. I used to get new clothes for Dashain. It was something I looked forward to. But now, I know things will not be the same even if I go back since most of my cousins are abroad and the ones back home like to travel during the holidays.
This Dashain, however, my parents are here and we are celebrating it properly. My dad is planting the jamara and doing all the rituals. My cousins are flying in from Maryland, California and Chicago, and my brother too is trying to make it for the tika day. After tika we are planning to go apple picking. I’m looking forward to having a big family affair so far away from home.
This is my first Dashain away from home and I know I will miss my mum’s cooking and watching my dad flying kites the most. They say there is no food like the food your mum makes and I agree with that. I will miss messing about with my brother and going to my relatives for tika, purely (not) for the money of course. The holiday feel that comes with the empty roads of Kathmandu is another thing that I will miss. Getting a head start on that winter fat and eating till you feel like you’re going to burst if you have another bite is another feeling I will miss. Dashain is exciting for more reasons than the food, the money and the empty roads though. The highlight of it was also getting uncut and constant supply of electricity.
This Dashain, there is a Nepali Students association in my college that is organizing a event full of homely food like mutton and aloo ko achar. I’m looking forward to it, hoping that the food will be good but I’m apprehensive about it too knowing that it will tear a hole in my pocket.
When the festive season rolls around, the first people I remember and miss are my family members. We have a large scattered family and try as I might, I cannot remember the last time all of us celebrated Dashain together. It has been more than 15 years at the very least. The first few years away were the hardest but I have sadly gotten used to being away and celebrating the holidays with the few family members I have here. I’m blessed enough to have a few of my extended family members here and Dashain here is also celebrated extravagantly. “Taas khelne and khasi katne” are still very much a part of my Dashain here.
But of courese it can’t compare to Dashain back home. There is something in that festive atmosphere that just lifts you up and rejuvenates the soul. You can just smell the joy and happiness in people who are out and about, busy in the hustle bustle of the last minute shopping of the season. I miss seeing kids with red tikas on their forehead, counting (and comparing) the amount of money they gathered and being happy that school is out and that they get to go to countless relatives houses and gather even more dakshina while eating all the amazing food.
It’s my first Dashain away from home and I already have that nostalgic feeling. Not being with my family, knowing that this year I don’t have to complain about the tika on my forehead and how I will get allergies, not getting to meet all the relatives and guiltlessly gorging on wonderful food and being away from the festive mood of the nation certainly feel unreal. I don’t think it has fully hit me yet that I’m so far away from home.
However, there are many Nepalis students in my university and we will have some sort of Dashain celebration here, though it will never be the same as what we have back home. We will have a big get together where we will all dress up in traditional attires and cook all the yummy home food, play cards with festive music in the background, dance and try to enjoy as much as possible to help fill the hole in our hearts. We are even planning to invite our foreign friends and introduce them to our culture and our heritage. The rest of the year goes by pretty easily, but it gets hard during the festive season especially with everyone uploading tons of Dashain pictures on Facebook and Instagram.
Dashain has always been a big deal to us Nepalis people. It is our biggest festival after all! No matter where we are we can still smell the sweet smell of Dashain in the air. These festive days take me back to the time where melodious Dashain tune would pour out of my neighbors’ window; my mother working hastily in the kitchen making lots and lots of food and my father running around trying to capture every moment. I long for those days to come back.
Here in a distant country with only few people in the name of friends, I hardly celebrate Dashain. I used to stay with Nepali people for a few years and we used to make momos and play cards to celebrate the festival, but now that I live with Australians, I’m not sure I will be celebrating it. In fact, I will be working the whole week so this time the festival will fly by me like any other day.
However, I somehow find that I don’t mind this too much. Not because I have become westernized and don’t bother about my culture but because I feel that the distance has strengthened the bond between my family members. My brother is in the States, I’m in Australia and my parents are in Nepal. Maybe it’s the distance but I’m just realizing it now that I love my family more with every passing day. Isn’t that what Dashain is all about, anyways?
With Dashain being such a family occasion, the thing I will miss most about not being home will be the family get-togethers. It is really nice to have everyone in the family in a relaxed mood and not worried about work the next day. The food, drinks, card games and rituals also help everyone in the family to intermingle with one another. I’m sure my brothers and sisters will send me lots of photos of food to make me jealous.
I’m lucky to have my extended family here in Bangkok and I will probably be celebrating Dashain with them. There are also a few other Nepali students in my university here who will be missing home as much as I will. So I’m sure we will try to make an occasion out of it even though it will be hard to match the feeling of being home. We might even invite our non-Nepali friends over to these gatherings to show them a bit of our culture and the way we have a good time in Nepal.