Day 89 – Location: Karmidanda Village, Langtang Region; Nepal
In the morning we made some more butter. Later, Jhabraj called from school and asked me if I could go to today’s wedding in the village to take photos for the family. Happy for the invitation, I went along with Januka. The house turned out to be the one I’d visited on the first day in the village, where the woman had been recovering from being hit by a tree. At the end of the path leading to the house were two flower pots on either side with a piece of string between them creating a barrier. No-one would step over this, instead inching around the flower pots.
A man I knew who has the look of a Nepali-Italian Mafioso greeted me and thanked me for coming. Bizarrely there was a double bed sitting out in the yard, with a collection of food, jugs and tika dyes. Soon the guests began to arrive. An oil lamp was placed below the string barrier and then it was broken as the first arrival, the groom’s father passed through it, greeted by a host of girls in traditional ornate dress. Guests filed into the yard, some receiving tikas at the flower pot gate. The groom, a mild faced man around 30 years old received a tika from the bride’s father.
A row of girls in the yard had lined up to offer wrapped presents to the brides father, who gave them all tikas. The whole wedding turned out to be a tika frenzy! The groom stood looking nervous and barely managed a smile for my photos.
He was led to a chair in front of the assembled food and tika ingredients. The bride came out of the house, although she’s only 19 she looked about 25 and was wearing a red and golden dress with a red veil. She fixed a second garland of grass around the groom’s neck, bashing him accidently in her haste much to the amusement of the packed yard. Then the groom put a grass gardland on her, put a ring on her finger and then fastened a flashy gold watch to her wrist. They gave each other tikas.
The groom sat down and the bride’s father gave him another tika (see what I mean about tika frenzy), then stood and said a prayer under instruction from the priest. You wouldn’t know he was a priest by looking at him, a young chap wearing a puffy Adidas jacket and the traditional Nepali hat. He carried a prayer book and read out lines for the groom’s father to repeat. After more tikas a coconut was produced, blessed and given to the groom. Then milk and holy water was poured into his hand. The bride’s mother repeated this.
Now the bride, her sister, the groom and his father sat on the double bed and members of the family, friends and neighbours came forward one by one to give the bride and groom tikas and blessed their feet, which involved putting dye on them and pressing their head against the foot. The first was the bride’s grandmother, cursed with the common Nepali affliction of being permanently bent double.
During this someone waved from the crowd, Sophie had been let off school early to come and watch the wedding. Januka amused us by attaching a branch of leaves to her head to keep off the sun! There were more tika givings by the bride and groom to the relatives and then presents were brought forward to the couple, from the shape many seemed to be jugs and urns. Jhabraj arrived from school to watch.
When I returned with a fresh camera battery the bride and groom separated to receive tikas and money from the rest of the congregation. Meanwhile the food started to appear. Leaf plates were handed out to the family not taking part in the ceremony and pots full of curries, rice, beans, vegetables and more were brought out to serve the guests. Me and Sophie had politely declined an offer for food but in typical Nepali fashion ten minutes later we were handed full plates and expected to eat! It was pretty good, especially the salted soya beans and pumpkin curry. We stuffed ourselves to bursting as another round of guests began to eat. Insistent women bearing pots of food forced top-ups upon us until we had to mime our stomachs exploding!
People started to leave and Jhabraj and Januka had vanished so we assumed the ceremony was over. We headed back to the house and chilled for the rest of the afternoon. Januka and Jhabraj arrived later and told us that the celebration wasn’t over and was still continuing over there. We could hear music pumping out over big speakers from the wedding house. Jhabraj told us about the background of the bride and groom. It was an arranged marriage. The groom was from a nearby village but now lives in Kathmandu. He is 30 years old and was looking for a virgin wife from his local area. His family knew the bride’s family in Karmidanda and they offered their daughter in marriage. For the bride’s family it’s a great deal (if you ignore the morals of arranged marriage) – the groom is rich, earning a great salary as he is a bodyguard for high-end clients. Normally the bride’s family would have to pay a dowry (marriage payment), but with the deal they didn’t need to pay anything. Even the marriage had been completely subsidized by the groom’s employers. The double bed in the yard was a gift to the couple from the bride’s family. They’d hired a truck which would ferry the couple, the bed and the other gifts back to Kathmandu that evening. Sophie asked what would happen to the bride now. At only 19 she was still in school but Jhabraj expected that would stop and become a housewife. Gone would be any dreams for a career or her own pursuits but she would be safe for money for the rest of
her life assuming her new husband kept in work, plus they could easily support a family. In the evening I played cards with Awijit.
Would you like to stay in Karmidanda village with the Neupane family? Read on…
If you are thinking of visiting Nepal and would like to do a homestay with Jhabraj’s family and see his village, or you need an experienced trekking or private tour guide, Jhabraj is very happy to accommodate you. He can do tours anywhere around Nepal and for trekking, he is very experienced and a safe, responsible guide, having guided on all the major Nepali treks multiple times as a guide (including the popular Everest, Annapurna and Langtang treks). It is also possible to do some spectacular trekking in the Langtang area from his village area so you could always combine a homestay with a trek. Jhabraj charges very reasonable prices, he speaks good English, and you couldn’t meet a friendlier, more interesting and hospitable guy! Your enjoyment, satisfaction and safety are his primary concerns. Money that Jhabraj earns from visitors and clients goes towards the higher education of his children, which is extremely expensive for a village family. If you want to hear more, please contact me via this website and I will put you in touch with him. Highly recommended!
Would you like to help Jhabraj’s village community of Karmidanda? Read on…
Like many outlying villages in Nepal, the village Karmidanda is extremely poor and the community has many serious problems as a result. Almost all the families here are in a lot of debt, living on the breadline on the meagre earnings they can eke out – most are farmers. Other avenues of work are simply not available up here and most families cannot afford to put their children into higher education to improve the cycle. Public welfare does not really exist in Nepal and the area only has one health clinic staffed by volunteers and supplied by charity. If a villager requires hospitisation the villagers have to pool together to get enough money to pay for an ambulance to take the patient 5 hours to Kathmandu and also pay the expensive hospital treatment fees, if they can afford it. The village school was built thanks to charitable efforts but staff wages are low, equipment and resources are always scarce and there are not enough teachers for the number of students. These are just some of the problems that the community has – yet despite the difficulties the community spirit is amazing here, people help each other, they have a smile on their face and they are welcoming and friendly. If you think that you can help with donations, volunteering (including English teaching at the school) or charitable projects, please get in touch. Jhabraj has many contacts and can direct you to the right people so you know your money or resources are going directly to the local community and no share is going into anyone elses’ pocket. Some charitable efforts have also been started by foreign visitors who have visited Jhabraj and decided to help the community of Karmidanda – please check out the following websites: (links coming soon!)