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Dashain: Then and now

Cilla Khatry

Cilla Khatry

Dashain: Then and now

Life is what you make of it, argues Pinky Gurung, president of the Blue Diamond Society. Everybody needs and deserves a break and Dashain provides the perfect excuse for it

Time brings many changes and while that is mostly good and perhaps the only way forward, you wish some things would remain the same. Dashain seems to evoke that sentiment. Most people ApEx spoke to confessed that there was a time when Dashain was highly anticipated and while it’s still a fun festival, the vibe just isn’t the same. The unanimous opinion was that our memories of Dashain are far more heartwarming than how we celebrate the festival these days.

Ujjal Rayamajhi, food technologist, says Dashain is the only time he gets to go on a mini-vacation with his family so it’s more of an opportunity to rest, recharge, and reconnect than anything else. This time, he is planning a trip to Sauraha, Chitwan before the holidays are over and he has to get back to the daily grind. However, Dashain had a different appeal when he was growing up. He fondly remembers all the fun he used to have during Dashain as a child and says he misses that.

“Dashain holidays were all about meeting cousins, playing games, and eating a lot of meat,” he says. While he still does that, he laments the charm is lost and that he partakes in the rituals more out of a sense of responsibility than for enjoyment. Kiran Shrestha, of Action Waste Pvt. Ltd, says as you age, bogged down by chores and work, you are always occupied with one thing or the other. You are unable to unwind and appreciate the little things, which is why Dashain, and other festivals too, lose their appeal. When he thinks back to his school days, he recalls relishing the festive feel and being really happy during this time.

“There used to be kite-flying competitions in my neighborhood and I used to wait for a kite to fall so that I could run after it,” he says. He also recalls sitting on his sister’s lap on the large swings built especially for Dashain as he used to be too scared to get on them alone. Dashain brings back fond memories and though things might have changed, he wishes to indulge in the activities he did when he was child once more. But this is going to be a working Dashain for Shrestha as his company wants to make the most of the holiday season to clean up their localities after the recent waste-management fiasco. Responsibilities take precedence as you get older, he says.

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But life is what you make of it, argues Pinky Gurung, president of the Blue Diamond Society. Everybody needs and deserves a break and Dashain provides the perfect excuse for it. Gurung loves the Dashain ambience—it makes her happy and hopeful. Everything about this time of the year—the melodious music (mangal dhun), the breezy weather, and the busy markets with festive sales—is just so soothing, she says. “I feel people are a lot more amicable and respectful towards one another during this season.”

She feels there’s a lot to be joyful about and it’s not that difficult to get into the festive spirit when you are surrounded by it. But Dashain today definitely isn’t like Dashain before; it hasn’t been for a while, she adds. Earlier, festivals were generally a rather communal affair, especially in villages where people came together to celebrate special events. Theater artist Deepmala Pariyar recalls Dashain in her village in Hetauda during her childhood days. She says the festival used to be fun and eventful. Regular life was suspended for a few days and you could do anything you wished. Dashain chores felt like fun park activities, she says.

Preparations for the festival, adds Pariyar, used to start a month before tika day. The focus would be on decorating homes with bright colors. There used to be an undeclared competition of sorts to see which house was decked up in the prettiest way possible. The artist remembers it as a time everything seemed at its very best, with people’s mood matching the merry environment.

“I used to look forward to my parents coming home for Dashain. They would bring me new clothes. It’s a tradition I still give continuity to, even though I buy new clothes round the year. I get clothes for my nephews now during Dashain,” she says. This, is her way of holding on to little things that spark joy.

Though people might not indulge in the same activities that they once did, they definitely look forward to the family gatherings that Dashain has always been about. Meenashi Pokhrel, counseling psychologist, says Dashain brings people together. “We get to meet all those who we have not met for a long time,” she says. Pokhrel, who is getting married this Dashain, has always looked forward to the festival as a time to bond with her cousins and relatives.

Gurung of BDS feels Dashain provides the perfect opportunity to make up for past mistakes and let go of grudges and discords. “Everything is so resplendent that you just can’t stay upset. Also, our memories of Dashain that we shared with our loved ones make it easy for us to let go of the past and begin anew,” she concludes.