Currently in Nepal, those who are Hindu, are celebrating the festival of Tihar (similar to Diwalli in India). This was written last year, when I was in Nepal, after my first visit to a village, which just happened to occur during this festival.
I had been invited to the office on the first day of the holidays, to be there while my coworkers worshiped Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. They lit candles, strung colourful flowers above doorways and left offerings for the goddess, bringing her into the office and their homes (in the evening). While at the office, my co-workers cousins arrived. After a few minutes of conversation, and applying tika, they invited me to spend the holidays with them, in their village about an hour drive away. I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what I would be eating, I didn’t know if the water was safe for me to drink, I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t know if anyone spoke English… I was more than a little nervous. But, eventually, I decided to go, knowing I would regret it if I didn’t.
So, that afternoon we got in the milk truck and headed off to the village. I had been warned about the roads, but as they slowly deteriorated, often looking more like a trail than a road, I was afraid. Sometimes it was just better to close my eyes. It felt like eternity, but was probably about an hour or so later, we arrived. The first thing I noticed was that it was quiet, and the air was clean. There was none of the noise and dust from Chapagaon or pollution from Kathmandu.
I was taken to their home, where they asked me to sit and brought me tea. I was overwhelmed by the truck ride, and was trying to process what was around me. The wood burning stove in the corner, the mats on the floor, the Nepali being spoken around me… and in the back of my mind, I was thinking about the house I walked by minutes before… the crumbled corner patched with stones and tin sheets – remnants of the earthquake a year and a half before. It got dark quickly after we arrived, and candles were lit. This was still “Laxmi Puja” and the goddess is worshiped with a clean home, red mud and many lights to welcome her into the house. There were lights, music, dancing and more introductions to family members. Then it was time for bed.
The next morning, as soon as I stepped outside, I felt eyes on me. There were a lot of questions of who are you? where are you from? and why are you here? I guess foreigners aren’t in the village often. There was food, tea, visits from other family members, more food, more tea and more family. After a while everything started to blend together.
The last day of Tihar was Bhai Tika (Brothers Day), where sisters apply a 7 colour tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure a long life and thank them. Brothers then apply tika to their sisters and they exchange gifts. I was invited to watch this ceremony, and then to participate. I was simply told “my brother is your brother”. Just like that, I became family.
My Nepali was very limited at that time, and I could not find the words to thank my new family for inviting me into their home for the holiday. This is a time to be with family, but they welcomed me, a complete stranger, as though I was someone they had known for years. There was no hesitation. I still don’t have the words to express how grateful I am for this.
This week I am holding those memories close, wishing I could be back in Nepal, and thinking of the wonderful family that treated me as one of their own, despite all of our differences.
My Nepali family, you are in my heart and thoughts every day ❤