Day 75 – Location: Kathmandu; Nepal
Today was the final day of the Tihar festival,Bhai Tika – a day when sisters give their brothers a tikka to give them long life and thank them for their protection. After breakfast I waited for Ashman. He’d invited me to his house nearby to become an honourary brother for the ceremony, a kind gesture. We walked towards the monkey temple down the backstreets, arriving at a modern Nepali house. Upstairs we waited in Ashman’s large shared bedroom for the others to arrive. The interior was quite a modern affair and looked pretty western, definitely the highest living standard I’d seen in my visits to family homes. They even had a PC which I’d never seen in a Nepali house. Ashman’s elder brother arrived who shares the room. He’s 26 (Ashman is 22) and also works as a waiter in a nearby hotel. Then his cousin, her husband and three little girls joined us. His cousin was arranging a huge mountain of food onto silver trays.
After they’d made preparations for the ceremony more people arrived, an older man and his wife (I think he was their uncle), another female cousin, and Ashman’s younger brother. It gets confusing because in Nepal they also call their cousins “brothers” and “sisters”!
The “brothers”, ( the uncle, me, Ashman and his two brothers) were sat arranged eldest to youngest in a line, on two sides of a square because there wasn’t enough room for us. We had to sit cross-legged, a bit of a problem for me as I have no flexibility and long legs! I even got told off for not sitting properly but I explained it was physically impossible for me. One of the girl cousins, under direction from her mother, took a brass jug of water with grass coming out of the spout, and went in circuits around us dribbling water on the ground. This is holy water or oil and she was making a protective barrier for us, a ritual called Puja. Then she had a cup of holy water and a bunch of long grass which she dipped into the water and “painted” over the drip barrier she’d made.
Next she came along and dripped holy water on our heads, coming around again to comb the water into our hair. Now a silver tikka tray was produced filled with the brightly coloured powders I’d seen on sale in the streets. The cousin and her sister took it in turns to dab a line of coloured spots with cotton buds vertically on our forehead, held in place by a gluey paste. Inevitably some coloured powder was going onto our clothes or our faces causing some amusement amongst everyone, it wasn’t a stone-hearted affair.
Now it was the brothers turn to give the sisters a tikka. They came along the line and we each put a coloured spot on their foreheads until they were finished. A tray of orange marigold petals was brought and the cousins sprinkled them over us. Finally we were each given a big malla – a garland of marigolds around our necks, plus a smaller garland of dried purple flowers for the two eldest, me and the uncle.
It was eating time. Each of the brothers were given a small tray with baked fish and eggs, which were pretty tasty. I was already quite full from breakfast. After that the big silver trays heaped with food were brought forth. There was one tray for each of us! My eyes boggled at the amount of food, even with my notorious appetite there was no way I could even scrape the surface of this. They were stacked with round sweet roti donuts, apples, bananas, a box of nuts and chocolate, and little cakes/sweets similar to Indian ones. As we picked away at this feast even more food was produced – one of the cousins had big pots full of curried chicken, potatoes, chick peas and prawn crackers. I tried a bit of everything, the chicken being especially tasty. I was offered beer and whiskey, I asked to try the whiskey and was given a large glass! I said it’s too much but was waved off and so had a pretty tipsy lunch!
My stomach was fit to burst and I couldn’t eat any more. After finishing we each gave the female cousins some small money, another part of the ceremony. I thanked my guests and we left. Ashman was heading to another part of town to see another sister. I walked back to Freak Street and then headed out to Thamel where I took my broken camera zoom lens and broken waterproof camera to the repair shop. I spent the afternoon working on the blog at a café, and in the evening went to Yak restaurant again to meet the Dutch girls I’d met the previous night. We were soon joined randomly by some Aussies they’d met when trekking and we had a pretty chilled evening eating and drinking there. The girls weren’t up for another big night as they had to pack their bags, so I wished them well and toddled off home.