My first weekend back from a big week in Australia, I was really looking forward to a few days packed with ex-patness. What better way than to start Friday afternoon with round of karaoke at the place next toe Mike's Breakfast, you say? Well yes. The plan was to follow that up with a nice brunch on Saturday at somewhere outrageously expensive, hit the Hash, and then kick on the to the Scottish night of dancing that Becci politely invited me along to.
Remembering that I was determined to get a little bit more involved with my work colleagues, who had so far been immune to my approaches for a Friday afternoon drink, I invited Nhukesh - the one most likely to say yes - along to karaoke. Unsure what he had signed himself up for, he was appropriately nervous. I think its safe to say that he had a whale of a time. He might not have been an expect at most of the English songs we were singing, but he was the most unbelievable backup dancer we could have ever hoped for.
As happens with most activities in Nepal with less than 24 hours notice on that Friday night, Nhukesh asked me if I could go to his house on Saturday to see his village's festival. The celebrations were scheduled from about 2pm - midnight. Horribly aware of the clash this proposed not only to my addiction to Hash, but the massively anticipated Scottish dancing night (with the guarantee of a nip of whiskey at the door) I found myself in a little dilemma. While in Australia, I confessed my concerns that I wasn't really getting into the culture all that much, with the exception of Bhai Tika day. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I needed exercise more than a nip of whiskey and I piked on poor Becci and my other Scottish friends (who I am sure had a marvelous time without me destroying everything in my path on the dance floor).
I went to the Hash (which was out the arse end of nowhere) and then called Nhukesh (pretty exhausted) to find out where I had to go for this festival. He came to pick me up from Jawalakhel and took me to the Municipality of Kiritipur (about 10km away) where his village of Nagoun is located. He took me on a tour of the village and then to his parents' house where we sat down to eat a very special Newari meal.
Said meal consisted of:
- something that resembled pig fat that was white and jelly textured, I was assured that it was boiled buffalo meat (called Tarkha), specifically prepared for the evening. It tasted pretty much like what you would expect when you see something that resembles pig fat with the texture of white jelly flopping around on your plate
- a red coloured version of the above - "careful Rob-ji, this one is spicy" - and spicy it was - let me assure you
- beaten rice (this was my saviour) - pretty much a found of chiplike chunks of rice
- curried soy beans (another saviour)
- curried pickles - there was nothing particularly alarming about these - except that Nhukesh said - I don't think your stomach will handle that - its very hard to enjoy a particular food item if you are already having images of lonely hours on the family dunny
I was able to wash it all down with 3 different concoctions:
- rice beer (Thoa [in Newari] or Jaad [in Nepali])
- rice wine (Rakshi - good old Rakshi - imagine the heaviest wine you have ever drunk - now double it - that's about half as strong as this stuff)
- red rice beer (Yhamu-Thoa - stronger than the Rakshi this had a hint of that red flavour [you know, like the thing that makes strawberry ice cream taste like strawberry ice cream even though we all know its not strawberries, or red cordial - that kind of thing])
I listened in on the conversations but unfortunately I couldn't follow any of it, and was extremely frustrated for about 10 minutes, wondering why on earth I had spent any money at all on Nepali lessons. It was about that point that Nhukesh pointed out that they were speaking Newari - their ethnic dialect.
From there we went out on the town to see the villagers massing outside a house. Soon enough, their brought out an idol of the god Bal Kumari (Kumari is the word for a female virgin apparently). They loaded the little guy up in a shoulder mounted chariot, and we were led by 4 trumpets, 4 drums too many sets of cymbals and the chariot down the main street towards the temple on the other side of town that was to be Bal Kumari's home for the night. People came out of their homes to give offerings, one lady even had what looked to be a bottle of cough syrup on her offering plate. In her defence, it has been getting really cold, and Bal is going to have to hang out in a temple exposed to the elements all night. The journey was only about 200m, but with many drunk men and all the women and children with their offerings - it was slow going. Nhukesh and his friend Sunil cranked up the dancing again and there are a few photos of me getting into it as well.
At a few point I thought that some people were objecting to the movement of the chariot, because they kept pushing the guys carrying it backwards. After questioning Nhukesh on the point however it turns out that they were all just playing. Is very special to get a chance to carry the chariot, so many people jostle and push each other for fun, and if you happen to fall over or let go of the chariot, then someone will take over your place. You have to be tough!!!!
I'm not sure why we moved Bal Kumari, but it was a hell of a ride.
[photos to come - when Nhukesh remembers to bring his camera to work]