My carnival night out

Published On: April 28, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Babu Ram Neupane

It is heartening that most Nepali Americans are doing their part in keeping the American economy vibrant by contributing to the booze industry

Every society rewards people who are sociable, outspoken, and outgoing. I had already realized that being an introvert was less of a virtue (if not vice) while I was still in high school. Therefore, I took a pledge to transform myself into an extrovert. I took up a couple of adventures toward the same goal.   

I decided to spend a night away from home as a prerequisite to being more sociable and practical. I convinced my parents so that I could go on a night out on the day of Baishakh Poornima (Buddha Poornima) as a carnival would be held in a meadow perched atop a hill by a ‘deurali’ (pass), in an adjoining village. The place was often too cold but I dared to face it for the sake of being more sociable. One of my closest friends had promised me some pleasurable “hopey dopey” moments if I joined him there.   

Ms Sarah Palin, the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket during the 2008 elections used the words “hopey dopey” sarcastically to mock the young (and white) Americans for rallying around the then Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, whose campaign was built around the theme of “hope”. They ultimately materialized the “dopey” moment by electing him as the first black president of America.

Hopey and dopey are derived from hope and dope words respectively. Dope refers to taking illegal drugs. “Similarity between ‘dope’ and ‘dopamine’ is a coincidence”, declare the editors of Merriam Webster Inc. Dopamine is a ‘feel-good-hormone’ (in the brain) that makes a person feel “euphoria, bliss, motivation and concentration”, according to  Metaphorically dopey means attempting to achieve the unattainable.

Back to the carnival, witnessing the crested roosters and innocent pigeon hatchlings being beheaded at the altar of the temple in the middle of the carnival ground was baffling and painful to me. Even to this day I don’t get why some people choose to desecrate the very doctrine of non-killing that the Buddha (the awakened one) propounded on his anniversary (Buddha Jayanti). I love the tradition of freeing pigeons at the temples. My moral compunction still chases me now for stealing the hatchlings of “dhobi” (white-browed wagtail) birds from their nests while I was a boy. 

By the nightfall, the whole carnival ground was reeking of smell of food and local liquor. The strongest smell was that of meat. It is ironical that the word carnival itself means “carne levare” (farewell to meat) in Latin but none of the carnivals I have visited have been free of meat. It is probably the most consumed item along with the local liquor. Unfortunately, I had lost all the money in games and gambling. I hadn’t even tasted my favorite ‘jalebi’ (funnel cakes) and donuts. I looked “before and after and pined” for acquaintances to borrow some money to buy some food but in vain. I was left high and dry. I ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ in the crowd and loitered like a loafer. I was broke, sleepy, hungry and dehydrated.

Most of the people whom I knew were drunk. The teacher, who taught me moral science during my middle school years and also happened to be from so-called upper caste (Brahmin), was waltzing around under the influence of  ‘bijuli pani’ (local liquor).

Now after three decades, I have observed that descendents of Brahmin and Chhetri clans have the lowest abstinence rate among the members of Nepal diaspora in the US among those whom I have met. Interestingly, some with ‘purohit’ (priestly) lineage have proudly proclaimed to me that they have never run dry owing to the proximity of their homes to grocery stores, where alcoholic beverage aisle has 20 times more choices than the milk aisle and is the most swiftly replenished one. Cosmic curiosity to breach the mores is deeply ingrained among people across cultures, communities and continents.

It is heartening to know that most Nepali Americans are doing their part in keeping the American economy vibrant by contributing to the booze industry. I pray they are fine with their mind and body. However, I leave that to the doctors in America, who handle the residents of a country which has the most obese population on the earth.   

Just past midnight, my friend appeared as a bolt from the blue. I followed him like a meek cat as the chances of getting food were real now. Instead, he escorted me to a large group and gestured toward a girl at the fag end. He also suggested that I should use her shawl to protect myself from the cold wind and also take a nap in her lap if I needed more warmth. And lo, he disappeared in a millisecond. I guessed that carnival provided opportunity to quench carnal thirst if you belong to certain social circles.

I could hear my heart into my head. I didn’t have courage to initiate conversation with an anonymous girl, who was flirting with a boy at that moment whom I didn’t know. I also lacked any compelling carnal desire for an amorous encounter, if that is what my friend had anticipated. I knew what his “hopey dopey” moments meant. I fled the scene even before anyone in the group realized I was there.  

Hunger had overridden puberty in my case. I was looking for donut but I was being offered dopamine. I didn’t know if being sociable meant undermining the call of stomach and stressing the need of the organ just beneath it. I found out that my friend was a great socialite. A boy of few words in the classroom proved to be a big man of actions in the real world. I suddenly got jealous of him. My academic accomplishment was no match for his practical dexterity.   

The lessons learnt during the night out were enough to prevent me from venturing out again for the other night outs. Frankly, I neither had enough financial resources nor any compelling carnal urge to do go on a spending spree.   

I was a young adult when I set out for a second night out to a carnival. Many black he-goats and birds were being slaughtered by the pond as a gratitude to the goddess, who had fulfilled their wishes. The weirdest part of the carnival was that people were shouting out their wishes aloud to make the deaf goddess hear them encircling the pond and a tiny temple. The punks from the cities were promising to offer big he-goats if their wishes of falling in love with certain beautiful girls, whose names they shouted out, were fulfilled. I was trying to utter (shouting was beyond my imagination as that would be embarrassing for me)  my wish of being the university topper (I was a bachelor  level student at a Tribhuvan University affiliate campus then) but it was hardly audible to my ears let alone others and the deaf goddess. 

I found out I had passed in second division as usual when the results were published. The deity hadn’t granted me my wishes. My second night out was also a total waste. I never ventured out to another night out to a carnival again.


The author loves to write on contemporary issues

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