How would you feel if you had to celebrate a particular event important for your community far away from home? You would care or not at all?
As I reached the Tribhuvan International Airport, a painful internal monologue followed me all the way through the lead-up to Europe, into the waiting room and on to the plane. It took a lot of self-control to not leap off the corridor and run back to Kathmandu. I even imagined myself taking a parachute from my backpack so that I could land with nonchalance on one of the city’s rooftops. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the stridency of internal noise I had tolerated just switched off. I accepted the fact that this year I was not going to spend the festive season with my friends in Nepal.
Festivals are an important part of the South Asian culture and are usually celebrated with fervour. From my office in Brussels, I will not see kites all over the sky. Singing my heart out with old Nepali classics such as “Dashain Aayo”, or a rather more raucous song down the pub is not on the agenda. If there is one positive thing about all this, is that I will not lose half of my salary playing cards like a shameless gambling addict.
As I plunged into nostalgia I started wondering: what about all those people living far away from their families and friends? How do they feel on these special occasions? To answer these questions I decided to carry out a little survey with the help of a friend, Avishek Ghalay. We contacted several Nepalese scattered all over the world to see if the festival-madness goes beyond national borders.
Anupa Magar who lives in the U.S. says “it sucks”. That’s definitely a straight-forward way of putting it. “You don’t even know when it’s coming. Even if the Nepalese students gather and celebrate, it’s still not the same. Being away from home turned out to be more difficult than expected, and it gets even harder during festive seasons. It’s been almost two months and I want to go back home already!,” she went on explaining.
This feeling of ‘missing something’ is also shared by Sanjok Raj Onta who has recently moved to “the land down under”. He believes that external conditions deeply affected his way of perceiving things. “Mentally we know it’s a festive season but physically we are not into it, because the scenario here [in Australia] is different.” Rebika Pradhan who studies in the Philippines has also been enveloped by a heavy wave of nostalgia. “I’m sad to be away from my family,” she explains. For Jenish Giri who works in Saudi Arabia the problem is cultural. “We can’t really celebrate our festivals in this country because people here are very strict. Generally we meet among friends but we party without alcohol. We just talk about our past and how we used to celebrate in Nepal”.
Sujuta Shresta who lives in Italy now, has loosened her ties with Nepal. “The festive season was magical when I was a kid but as I grew up and moved to Europe it kind of lost its charm. Of course I would like my family to be here with me but I do not particularly want to go back to Nepal,” she said. What about you; how would you feel if you had to spend a festive season away from home?
Sanjog Manandhar is a photojournalist at Kantipur Publications.