My home-economics teacher was an average lady. Fitting the expected look of a typical Nepali middle-aged woman, clad in her sari, hands folding atop her slightly bulging belly, she’d walk across and through the many lanes formed by the aligned desks, in our class-room.
Home-economics; a subject which many schools now have chosen to opt out of was however a compulsory subject for us back then. And although, I fared pretty bad at those “petticoat and blouse” stitching projects in my 9th and 10th grade, it makes me happy to know that I at least successfully acquired the many skills such as knitting, embroidering and even back-stitching, which my late grandma used to remark as machine-like work; I totally loved the subject and the teachers who taught it, year after year.
Back in school, more than the hard-core digits and mechanical formulas, I related more to philosophies, day-to-day concepts and beautiful stories. And stories she used to narrate aplenty. So, after hourly classes of perplexing theorems and mysterious chemistry (for me), her laid-back home-economics class was the one I looked forward to everyday.
Of the many invaluable lessons and advices she imparted on us, although unknowingly and as perhaps a part of a random chatter, one is a phrase I have heeded since long, “One is not to have any opinion regarding somebody else’s culture, caste or religion, or a disagreement or discontentment is bound to follow” she used to say. And over the years I have to come to realize it to be true.
Only today, after professionally writing for almost eight years now (I started when I was 17, just incase you think am too old), today, right here is my first ever attempt to write anything about religion. I know am walking on shaky trails and indeed treading on it carefully.
At a former work-place, my colleague named “Laxmi” argued up a storm with me as to how Jesus Christ is thee ONLY god who is real and the one who matters. She made me feel bad about how I didn’t go to church regularly. And I went in my head, “my god your name is Laxmi. Named after a Hindu deity. How can you be so rigid in your Christian beliefs more so than me, a third generation catholic?” And after several minutes, I finally gave up and “make-believe” gave in, just to calm her down.
People often times look quite surprised when I tell them that the cross shaped pendant I wear is not out of fashion but because I am really a catholic.
|Getting ready for .. erm.. i forgot what event, but there's my cross right there, shining away ;-)|
And the info that I have to let out next, like, how I am a 3rd generation catholic, yes I am allowed to visit temples, I don’t eat cow, no my family didn’t take any money to turn into Catholics and hell no! I didn’t choose this religion because I thought it was cool, or Hollywood-ish many might suggest.
Phew! That crucial moment where my “questioner” takes time to decide if he/she will look at me the same way after being hit by my catholic revelation, is quite intense. But they almost instantly take me back as soon as am done uttering my “ I don’t eat cow” sentence, I can tell you that.
Jokes aside and into reality, of the many things I love about Nepal one is the fact how religiously tolerant this country is. We have people following all religions and yet we vigorously celebrate all the festivals like our own.
I am quite researched on this topic, specifically on the South-Asian region and I cant help but feel blessed to have been a part of a country that enjoys relatively greater freedom when it comes to exercising one’s culture and religion.
Now you may be wondering how I suddenly shifted my gears from talking about parties and events to talking all about religion, to which I can tell you with hopes that my mom doesn’t read this piece that the reason I fail to attend my weekly church on Saturdays is perhaps because of my excessive partying on Friday nights.
“Mom, I don’t go to church because God resides right here in my heart” I cutely place my excuse every time. And although, I feel a little guilty when she buys it, I think in my hearts of heart I truly believe in that statement.
News of animal slaughter in the name of god, forceful speeches and actions to convert one’s religion – all seem extremely un-appealing to me and I still don’t get why would people do that. Religion for me is not mindlessly worshipping a deity but being the kindest and the most disciplined version of you, because really, isn’t that what all religions teach us?
|That's my dad adorning me with the Dashain Tika, waiting in line is my brother.|
Religions there are a plenty but the lesson is just one- the biggest religion is indeed the religion of humanity. I feel lucky to have been born to a Catholic mom and Hindu dad. Needless to say, I have been enjoying the best of both worlds since my childhood, earning hoards of money in Dashain and being showered by goodies all through Christmas.
|With my very catholic mama and maiju. Celebrating Dashain because we're Nepali first and Dashain is the most joyous, Nepali festival of all.|
And that’s the thing about being a Nepali. I could still have my head shaved and apply for a Buddhist monastery as a nun, or put on a burkha and enter the muslim community, there will be no voices raised or manslaughter set off like most of our unfortunate neighboring countries might have to face.
And with Dashain just around the corner, I can already feel the excitement rising. A Hindu festival it may be, but I know I speak for a thousand non-Hindu Nepalis that Dashain to us is more like a national festival and that we celebrate it simply because we are Nepalis.
Eed, Budhha Purnima, Christmas or even Valentine’s day, Nepalis sure have learnt to embrace and celebrate with must gusto the wonderful side of all that the many religions brings.
So here’s wishing everybody a delightful festive season. Reconnect with your loved ones, create more beautiful memories for yourselves, celebrate the joyful vibes of Dashain, celebrate life. Have a good one everybody.
|I put tikas to my two elder brothers on Bhai Tika with much gusto and much expectation of earning a lot of money blessings ;-)|
|...and when Christmas comes along, it is celebrated with as much enthusiasm and joy.|
|Check out the localized version of the baby Jesus being born in a Nepali style house. Nothing hollywoodish about it eh! :)|
HAPPY FESTIVITIES FOLKS!!