The emergence and spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan in China to progress to a pandemic has created ‘lockdowns’ in many countries of the world. There is now a bid to stop the congregation of large numbers of people in particular sites – football, baseball games and even motor races have even been postponed and re-scheduled. Australia and New Zealand played a cricket ODI in an empty stadium. This is the drastic game changer in our lives.
This brought to my mind that Fagu /Holi this year was a very quiet affair in Nepal. The wedding season which ended on the last day of Fagun 2076 BS was perhaps also toned down too because of the COVID-19 situation and became a thankful respite to many harassed parents. The suggestions that participants at any public gatherings should be applied in Nepal too, as in many parts of the world. Such directives may lead to more compact gatherings in the future.
We Nepalis have over the years become ‘copy cats’ of our Southern neighbour in that we adopt too easily the vogues of that land that we see on the film screens or read about in the papers. Even the Swayamber which existed from ancient times in India was introduced into the Nepali marriage format of certain sections of Nepali society in the post 1950 era. Now the ‘Mehdi’ and ‘Sangeet‘ are becoming additions too, leading to cost problems of weddings which are becoming more and more astronomical and heavy burdens to parents. In an effort in “Keeping up with the Neighbours” weddings are becoming extravagant affairs – almost spectacles. Of course the weddings of offspring of rich businessmen or the progeny of politicians or of film stars themselves, especially in India are spectacles which cannot be emulated by the common, ordinary folk. Unfortunately, the custom of ‘dahedge’ or dowry exists almost rampantly in Southern Nepal although much efforts has been made to do away or even to lessen it. Even the presentation of bouquets at the dinner generally tend to be a hindrance and the tendency is to write ‘No jinse saaman or phool’. One suggestion is that the flowers from the invited guests should be sent to the house of the bride or groom, a day or two prior to the wedding so that these could be utilised for decorating the venue! This intention could be conveyed at the time that one is expressing as to whether one is attending.
In Western societies it is more usual to have a more compact wedding with a limited number guests who are relatives or friends of the two persons getting married. Following the wedding they attend a lunch and drink ‘toasts’ to the couple before showering shredded paper or confetti prior to dispatching them on their honeymoon!
During the reign of late King Birendra an Act had been passed in Nepal with a view to bring about social change. There were restrictions on the number of guests plus the giving of innumerable items to the bride. Then PM Marich Man Singh tried to enforce the legislation but could not do so. The attempt, though very far-sighted and admirable failed because of opposition to it took a political flavour. Guests limitation to 25/50 and the exchange of Rs. 1/- in the ‘Samdhini Bhet’ was opposed by many. The idea to lessen costs and bring about changes was not taken kindly and the populace at large resorted to inviting the permitted guests at different locations or even on different days. The time for change had not come yet!
The ‘Tadak – Bhadak’ of present day weddings, with massive imbibing of food and drinks in party palaces has reached a crescendo from which the parents – more so the girl’s side or party have to cater for and bear,
How much simpler would it be to conduct the whole process at a temple with the boy and the girl just garlanding each other, with the priest or pujari bestowing his blessings on the couple with both families of the couple and the limited invitees going on to have a reasonable if not sumptuous meal at an appointed place or even restaurant or a ‘Restro’ as it is generally termed in Nepal. The usual Nepali custom of ‘Mukh Herne’ can even be done there and the wedding formalities completed in a jiffy.
Even more acceptable by our society was the eloping or ‘Bhagaera Lanee’, equivalent to running off to Gretna Green in the UK or to Reno in the US. There would usually be much gossip and perhaps some angry words exchanged in the immediate aftermath. In course of time, generally after the birth of a grandchild all would be forgiven and the couple get family thereafter!
What must be remembered is that our Nepali society was and is in fact very liberal in marriage customs and the progeny of a lady who has even, to put it literally ‘Poila gone’ was entitled to inheritance from the father’s side. It is time now to look at our ancient mores and customs and continue to practice them rather than to follow the showy and extravagant practices of the present day. One hopes that the present advocated practise of limited gatherings because of the COVID-19 will become a permanent feature of family practices to make them more economical and bearable by the parents.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd