Our Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun was at Pokhara on 18th March this year when he inaugurated a three day Second Pork Festival in the city. Hopefully this will further encourage the raising of pigs in this country. Such efforts can be taken as part of a movement to stimulate tourism, especially following the downturn after the devastating earthquake of 25th April 2015 and the over 400 aftershocks that we have had to date. The flattening of the homes in Western Nepal especially at Barpak, affected greatly the various Home Stay Schemes that were providing great service. It must be noted too that the 7th Potato Festival was due to be held at Hemja in the second week of April. The holding of it caused much concern for the locals charged the governmental authorities for supplying them rotten seeds. Considering the fact that it is in Pokhara that the Rice Planting Festival has been held annually for a number of years, one must congratulate our Nepali entrepreneurs for their ingenuity. Such efforts are the backbone for the development for agriculture and tourism in this country.
This brought to my mind the various agricultural festivals or melas held in different parts of the world. The first and foremost of course is the Oktober Fest held at Munich for the beer drinkers, which has rightly held the attention of the world. Now that there are a number of beer factories in Nepal, we should be able to hold a similar event here. Talking about German festivals, I was somewhat surprised to see a programme highlighting the ‘Sauerkraut Festival’ in Germany where the fare is only preparations make from lettuce! This brings to one’s mind the La Tomatina festival held since 1946 at the small town of Bunol in Spain. It has now become customary, from 1980, for the town Council to organise the event on the last Wednesday of August (our mid Bhadra) so that people celebrate and enjoy by pelting tomatoes at each other! After such strenuous exercise, there must surely be excessive eating and drinking.
In Nepal too we have similar days in our culture where the eating of particular foods may be propagated more as tourist attractions in local hospitality programmes. There is the Dahi – Chiura in mid Asar, followed by the Kheer day of mid Shrawan and the Chaku, Til Laddoos, Tarul and Ghiu of Maghe Sankranti. Of course the khichadi can go along as a dish during the cold month of Magh.
Newari Culture, being all pervasive in Kathmandu Valley has its days of eating. Yomori, being based on chaku is touted to step up one’s metabolism and keep one warm during the cold month of Magh. Then comes the raw meat cooked by massage of the hand and known as kachila as a typical Newari cuisine. Another delicacy is chawayla or meat that has been cooked by the gently heat emanating from ignited straws, which then gives it a flavour of its own. Preparations that are in categories of their own are of course the Sapu Micha and the Nhepu Fry which are the fried marrow or brain of goats. Last but not least and accompanying all this comes the local brew, either plain or fortified with pan flavour, of which one can never have enough even as one voices – ‘Gatta, Gatta.’
A time of revelry in Nepal is the festival of Fagu with the splashing of multiple colours. At the end of the day one relaxes with the various mithais or sweets, malpuas and sometimes in some places also with a dash of bhang to liven up the celebrations. This event is popularly known as the Holi Hungama. Of course we Nepalis are not averse to celebrate also the Bashes of Valentine’s Day, Christmas and New Years i.e. the Foren one plus our Baisakhi, and the four Losars. It the midst of such celebrations it is not surprising that our Government in its wisdom has on two occasions announced a holiday for Losar after the event had passed! The last word however is that these celebrations are all for a good cause to help the Tourism Industry in Nepal to stand on its own feet from the tottering condition that it is in at present! To top it all comes of course Shivaratri every year when all can pay homage to Lord Shiva. To get in the regular mood for this there will also be the supply of hashish in the regular chillum! However the custom of giving rango to the Bakkhu has been stopped on humanitarian grounds. In lieu of this of course there is the performance of the Lakhe and Hellincha for twelve months of the year.
Recently the French Ambassador espoused the cause of the Gout de France to be celebrated in a number of restaurants all over the world at a particular juncture. It may be noted that the different starred Hotels of Kathmandu have in the past been having Indian, Thai, Mongolian, Arabic Nights and providing cuisine from the different countries to satisfy the taste buds of the Nepali gastronome. .
Whilst it is natural that Dal-Bhat is the most common cuisine in Nepal there are also the exotics of Gundruk or sinki as fermented vegetables. An epicurean wish of mine is to take rice in the manner it is taken in Haggis or within a sheep’s stomach. I know it was provided at one of the Five Star Hotels of Kathmandu but I heard about it only after the festivities were over.
Finally a word of thanks must however be expressed to the Turkish Airlines for showing International soccer player Drogba enjoying delicious Nepali Mo-mos on its flight. Cheers.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd