Teej for Me

Tomorrow,August 31st, is Hindu festival of Teej. Nepali women celebrate this day with gusto, fasting and praying for their husband’s longevity. Unmarried ones too take part, asking God for a good husband.

I never understood Teej. My grandmother, a stern lady with no time for flimsy religious drama, never favored the festival, and kind of rejected it after her sons got married. I grew up looking at Teej with suspicion, for me it was part of grand scheme of Nepali patriarchal society to tame and shame women and girls.

Thankfully, my parents never made me feel like an incomplete individual who needs a man to fulfill her life. So I never prayed or fasted during Teej, hoping for a good husband. After I got married, I continued rejecting the propaganda of female subjugation championed by Teej.

But, you know when you are an immigrant/ migrant living amongst foreign culture, you give up the privilege to diss your culture or to argue with your culture. If I completely ban Teej in my home, am I ready to ban other aspects of Nepali culture too that are not in line with my feminist ideals. And if I keep the ban spree, will my daughter end up with no culture at all?

The possibility of my daughter growing up without complete sense of her heritage made me think.

From this year, I am welcoming Teej at my home but this is my kind if Teej. No praying or fasting( momma is an atheist, y’all), but we will dress up in traditional Nepali dress and sing Teej songs and dance a little. We are also going to use this day to reconnect with Nepali community in an around our neighborhood.

My kind of Teej will not tell my daughter that she is less or that she needs a husband to fulfill her. My Teej will honor marriage, but not make the wife a sorry being who needs to beg and pray for her husband’s life and health.

This year, I will celebrate Teej, and not feel bad about doing so.

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Sarah Netanyahu and the Migrant Worker

Israeli Prime Minister’s wife,Sarah Netanyahu, is accused of mistreating Nepali migrant worker hired to take care of her ailing father.

Jerusalem Post has the story here.

The accusation is serious and I hope that it is investigated to the fullest and truth comes out. Migrant workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If this accusation is proven to be true, it will be a shame- a worker abused in the Prime Minister’s home? What kind of labor laws and protection does Israel have?

It is also important to note that Mrs. Netanyahu is not exactly loved by the Israeli media. Here are some examples:

In 2010, she was accused of wrongfully terminating an elderly gardener.

She was also sued by a former housekeeper last year.

Going by these stories and other reports on her, it is easy to judge Sarah Netanyahu as a troublesome employer, a mean person. But the overly negative tone of coverage, even when the accusation against Mrs. Netanyahu has not been
proven, is troubling. How can a reader expect balanced coverage and fair representation when the press seems so vindictive?

I just hope that when Nepali media gets this story, they will look at the whole picture and not rush to judgement.

Update 9/2/2011

The case had turned even more bizarre. Read more here.

The Prime Minister’s Office is seriously out of line. I hope the matter gets resolved quickly and justice is done.

A Diplomat’s Blog

Hira B Thapa is a Nepali diplomat who also served as foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister before retiring in 2009.

His blog is quite interesting, with posts on Japan’s nuclear disaster ,Nepali foreign policy and also commentary on Syria.

Experienced professionals blogging is a welcome opportunity for Nepali readers and Nepal watchers. Unlike stiffness of the print media, blog allows more informal and relaxed communication and also a forum to interact. Chance to pick their brains and gain deeper understanding of how the county functions.

Thapa’s post on Nepal’s ills is an example of his knowledge and understanding. His blog is a study blog and not the one to skim. Chandan Sapkota’s blog is another example of a study blog.

Please do visit, you will not regret.

Celebrating Motiram Bhatta

Today is Kushe Aaushi, Father’s Day according to the Nepali calender.This is also special day for Nepali literature lovers, a day to celebrate poet Motiram Bhatta( his 146th anniversary).

A short background on his contribution to Nepali literature and Nepali identity from Wikipedia,

मोतिराम भट्ट नेपाली साहित्यको एउटा युग अर्थात् माध्यमिक कालका प्रवर्तक हुन् । उनी नेपाली साहित्यको माध्यमिक कालका मेरुदण्ड, निर्माता र पथपर्दशक थिए । यिनै मोतिराम भट्टको योगदानका विषयमा बालकृष्ण समले लेखेका छन्- मोतिराम देशको प्रत्येक क्षेत्रमा राष्ट्रियता चाहन्थे, त्यसै बाट देशोन्नति हुन्छ भन्ने उनको धारणा थियो । उनी स्वदेशी खानु, स्वदेशी लाउनु, स्वदेशी व्यवहार गर्नु , स्वदेशी बोल्नु तथा स्वदेशी हेर्नु पर्दछ भन्ने सपना देख्तथे । वास्तवमा उनी एउटा होनहार, ओजस्वी र तपस्वी व्यक्तित्व थिए । उनी नेपाली भाषा, नेपाली साहित्य र नेपाली कलाप्रति गर्व मान्थे । उनको लागि यो नेपाली माटो विश्वसाहित्य थियो। थोरै बाँचेर नेपाली साहित्यमा अत्यन्तै धेरै योगदान पुर्याउने उनी नेपाली साहित्यका प्रेरक व्यक्तित्व, कुशल नायक र होनहार प्रतिभा थिए । साँच्चै उनी नेपालका एउटा कर्म वीर सपूत थिए । उनको मिहिनेत, जा“गर र आराधनाका कारणले उनले एउटा युग नै स्थापित गरिदिए- मोतिराम युग । संवत् १९४० देखि १९७६ सालसम्मको नेपाली साहित्यको एउटा बेग्लै युग कायम गर्ने पौरखी पुरुष नै मोतिराम भट्ट थिए ।

मोतिराम त्यस युगका बौद्धिक नायक थिए, साहित्यिक सङ्ठनात्मक नेता थिए र सांस्कृतिक योद्धा थिए । नेपाली वाङ्मयको उत्थानका लागि मोतिरामले खेलेको भूमिकाले उनी नेपाली भाषा, साहित्य र संस्कृतिका अक्षरअक्षर, शब्दशब्द र भाकाभाका रहेसम्म बाँचिरहनेछन् । [१]

मोतिराम भट्ट नेपाली साहित्याकाशमा भानुभक्त आचार्य पछि आउने सशक्त व्यक्तित्व हुन् । यिनै महान् व्यक्तित्वले नेपाली भाषासाहित्यमा समालोचनाको श्रीगणेश गरे । भट्टले नै संवत् १९४८ मा कवि भानुभक्त आचार्यको जीवनचरित्रलाई नेपाली साहित्यको मन्दिरमा समर्पण गरेर पहिलो आधिकारिक समालोचकमा आफ्नो नाउँ लेखाए । कवि भानुभक्त आचार्यको जीवनचरित्रमा मोतिराम भट्टले प्रभाववादी ढङ्बाट व्याख्यात्मक रूपमा भानुभक्तबारे प्रशंसाको थाक पनि लगाएका छन् । उनले भानुभक्तलाई स्थापित गर्न धेरै जुक्ति ख्याएका थिए । भानुभक्तलाई महान् कवि बनाउन उनले कैयौ फुटकर कविता रच्तै भानुभक्तका नाउँमा पनि समाविष्ट गराएका थिए भनिन्छ । यस कुराको प्रमाण तानासर्माबाट पनि व्यक्त गरिएको छ- आफूले खोजेका कविलाई प्रतिभासम्पन्न तथा सहज कवि थिए भन्ने पार्नलाई नै उनले त्यस जीवनचरित्रमा भानुभक्तले रचेका भनेर जताततै फुटकर सिलोकहरू देखाएका थिए । ती फुटकर सिलोकहरूमध्ये धेरै जसो मोतिराम भट्ट आफैँले रचेका थिए ।”

Here is ghazal and poem by Bhatta (if you can share English translations,please. I have made a clumsy attempt!)

सरकार पो किन चाहियो

दुई आँखिभौँ त तयार छन् तरबार पो किन चाहियो
तिमी आफू मालिक भैगयौ सरकार पो किन चाहियो ॥१॥

Your eyebrows are ready, why the need for a sword
You are my lord, why the need for government.

पहरा कडा छ कटाक्षको हरदम तयार मुहारमा
घर भन्नु भारि महल न हो दरबार पो किन चाहियो ॥२॥

Steep hills of angry smirk ever-present on your face
A house is a comfortable mansion,why the need for a palace?

कति चम्किलो छ हँसाइको हिसिमा किरन पनि दाँतको
मणि मोती नीर जुहार न हो अरु हार पो किन चाहियो ॥३॥

Your luminous smile,brighter still with your whites
Pearls, diamonds and emerald are precious, why the need for a necklace

दिनको पचास त के

दिनको पचास त के हजार पटक् कती समझाउनू
म गरीबको घरमा हरे तिमीले यसोरी नआउनू ।
Every day fifty or thousand times I plead
Please don’t visit this unfortunate’s home

रिसमा थियौ कि खुसी थियौ, म त केही जान्दिनँ के थियौ,
कि यसो थियौ, कि उसो थियौ मनमा कसोरी बुझाउनू ।
You were upset, you were pleased, I don’t know how you were feeling,
It was this, it was that, don’t know how to persuade

नत आ भनूँ, नत जा भनूँ म यसो भनूँ कि उसो भनूँ
तिनीको मिजाज म के भनूँ, कतिसम्म विन्ति चढाउनू ।
Cannot welcome, cannot deny you, don’t know what to say to you
Your temper, what can I say, for how long can I plead.

वय सोह्रको मन साठिको छ र पो गजब छ ति प्यारिको
मुखको खाव छ चन्द्रको, ननिको छ मिस्सि लगाउनू ।
My beloved carries an old heart within a sixteen year old self
Moonlight face but shadow of doubt.

मनसुब पुग्नू परै रहोस् दरसन् पनि छ कठिन जहाँ,
अब बाँचनेछु मता कहाँ तिनीलाई यति सुनाउनू ।
Forget my desires, even to see her is laborious,
Ask her, how can I live on.

तिमि बिर्सि आलत क्यै जनी, मत संझदो छु अझै पनि,
मुख भित्र पान चपाउनू, अलि हाँसि हाँसि हँसाउनू ।
You forgot me, I am holding on to the memories,
Chew the beetle, smile a little and make us smile too

मणि हो भनूँ त न झल्कँने बिजुली भनूँ त न चंकने
आइना भनूँ त न टल्कने उपमा कसोरी जुराउनू ।
Not a diamond, it is dull; not light, it does not sparkle
It is a not a mirror, sans shine; how will I find it’s name

तिमि पर्खि पर्ख भनी भनी कन जानू, फेरि नआउनू,
खपि सक्नु छैन मलाइ ता, तिमिले यसोरि छकाउनू ।
You make me wait, and don’t come back,
Unbearable are your games.

सुन है सबै हरिको हुकुम् म हुकुम् भनूँ कि भनूँ जुलुम्
अघि जो भयो उत भै गयो तर फेरि मोति न लाउनू ।
It is all the Lord’s design, should I call it design or punishment
The past is gone for now, but please do not wear pearls again

For more, please visit these sites dedicated to Nepali poetry and ghazals:

Majheri.com, ShahityaGhar.com, Samakalinsahitya.com

Last updated 10:13 AM EST

Nepal’s New Prime Minister

So, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is Nepal’s new Prime Minister.A quick glance at Nepali bloggers’ reaction:

Pradeep Kumar Singh at Nepali Blogger, ” He is the fourth Prime Minister in last three years since the country has (sic) turned republic. ”

Aakar Post has compiled Twitter reaction to Bhattarai’s victory.

XNepali has a short post on Bhattarai and a photo blog.

It is quite clear that the Dr. has revived hope for a better country. Series of failed experiments had pushed the people to the limit and they were beginning to question the validity of the constituent assembly and also the entire political system.

Bhattarai’s days are not going to be painless. His party has struck up a deal with the Terai based parties to ensure majority in the Constituent Assembly. Failure to fulfill their demands will cripple his administration, possibly take his government down. He will also have to delicately manage Nepal’s minefield of a foreign policy, which is bound to get messier following the Lumbini debacle.

His biggest challenge, though, will be bring back supremacy of law in the country, and his own party may turn out to be the biggest hurdle.

Disabled Children and their Right to Education

Disability- physical or mental, brings out strange reactions in Nepal. Mostly negative, unfortunately.

Some see it as a curse, result of past life’s sin,and there are some who say it’s how the fate decided- divine injustice. Very few see them as equals, human beings with feelings and rights- just bit different.

This attitude on disability has meant a severely restricted life for those affected. The country lacks infrastructure to support and nurture the disabled, there are limited education and employment opportunities, and rights of the disabled are not prioritized.

Children suffer the most. Reports of disabled children locked up in a room by patents, chained to a shed, are distressingly common. Jhamak Kumari, the brilliant author, also suffered because of her disability. As a child, she was neglected by her family, harassed by neighbors and no effort was made to educate her.

Denying disabled children education is perhaps the greatest injustice against them. Human Rights Watch has more on Nepal’s failure in making sure that disabled children have access to education and learning support.

Jhamak Kumari, Taslima Nasreen and Insufferable Idiocy

Earlier this week,Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen found herself in the middle of controversy after tweeting,

“@taslimanasreen: My Nepali friends,I missed my flight to go to Kathmandu today.I forgot to bring my passport as I didn’t consider Nepal a foreign country!”

She was supposed to attend International Literature Festival in Kathmandu but could not make it last minute because of a missed flight. The tweet was meant to explain her absence, instead it exposed some pretty vile people and their ugly definition of national pride.

Seconds later, Nasreen- a controversial but respected feminist and religious outsider, was bombarded with messages from Nepali tweepals. She was accused of attacking Nepal’s pride, believing that the country is part of India and being a pin head.

The over blown reaction reminded some, who cared to think before going into manic rage, of the Hrithik Roshan episode. After rumors floated around that the Bollywood actor allegedly made disparaging remarks about Nepal, the country- especially Kathmandu, turned into a play ground for xenophobia and violent protests. Couple of people died after the police tried to calm the situation by using tear gas.

Nepal felt so threatened by a mere statement, that may have never been made, that the people were out on the streets, ready to defend the country’s honor and sacrifice innocent lives.

This is level of paranoia and idiocy that some in Nepal embrace when it comes to “national pride”. There is no room for rational debate, no room for truth. Just blind hate and suspicion.

So, with Dr. Nasreen’s tweet, that manic pride was out again, this time on cyberspace. The streets were quite but the hate directed against her and the supposed ” people like her” were no less violent or ugly.

Why are we, Nepalis, so irrational and overly sensitive to what people say or think about us? Is our nationalism so weak and frail that we need constant validation from foreigners? Ok, let’s assume that Taslima Nasreen indeed doesn’t know about Nepal(which I doubt) is that so bad that we forget our culture of honoring our guests and insult them with crass language?

I mean are we so petty that we are ready to kick our culture- source of pride and identity, to defend our “honor”? What is there left to defend then?

Perhaps we are a petty bunch. As the Nasreen scandal was unfolding online, author Jhamak Kumari Ghimire( no relations to yours truly) was awarded Nepal’s most prestigious literary prize-Madan Puraskar.

Ghimire is severely disabled and writes with her feet. She is a picture of human courage, quite dignity and positive energy. A harsh childhood filled with discrimination and negativity from society and her own family did not diminish her humanity and her passion. Today, she is one of THE brightest stars of contemporary Nepali literature and thought. Jhamak is a Nepal’s honor and pride.

And yet, on her brightest day, her compatriots online chose to attack an invited guest, instead of taking time to honor her contribution to the country.

This is our national pride, this is our honor. We choose to get absolutely vile and attack people for their remarks but have no time to honor our real heroes. Our idiocy and our hollow nationalism!

It is then no surprise that for decades we are living off selling Buddha, our mountains and our heritage. Because we have made no contribution to elevate the country’s pride and name. It is nature or our forefathers who are still keeping the Nepali pride alive.

Shame on us!

I recommend following posts for more specifics on the controversy and a different perspective,

Aakar Post (Nepali) :हाम्रो खोक्रो राष्ट्रियता http://t.co/joF1gTv

Ushaft : What Taslima Nasreen thinks does not matter http://t.co/atn3EAw

Gaurab Poudel: Blame it on the Rain http://rantbin.wordpress.com/

Updated 11:28 AM EST

Updated 4:39 PM EST