Dashain is not a very exciting festival. For us without Nepali families that is. While the majority of the country is feasting on goat and raksi, well deserved after a perhaps harrowing bus journey to their village home, what are the rest of us doing? Many expats head off trekking at this time as most international offices are closed. Others, like me, enjoy the peace and quiet of a Kathmandu sans traffic. Finding one of the few restaurants open is part of the enjoyment, as is walking everywhere as little public transport is available. And walking around town at this time is pleasant; taking us back to an earlier time when there were less motorbikes and cars on the roads. Thankfully there is a good sprinkling of large hotels in town now. So no need to go hungry if you don’t want to cook at home!
If I look back, there was a time when you couldn’t even get bread during the Dashain period, never mind finding a coffee shop open! But now, I must admit, I spent a couple of nights propping up the bar in a 5-star hotel. I also saw that the food delivery people were fully occupied as local tastes have changed over the years too. But I’m sure the most fun was still had by those sitting round reminiscing and playing cards with their family in the countryside.
And no one needed to rush back to town as this year we got an extended public holiday with the arrival of the President of a neighbouring country. We also got a good sprinkling of potted plants, freshly painted railings, and a reduction in the tangle of electric wires we all know and love.
So now that Dashain is done and dusted we can look forward to other festivals, traditional and non-traditional, events, markets and parties right through to the middle of December. When many expats will be heading out of the country to their own villages around the world.
By the time you read this Jazzmandu will be underway. Long established, this is a major event on the music calendar of Kathmandu. A newcomer to the festival scene, following close on the heels of Jazzmandu, is ‘Seashells on the Mountains’. This festival will feature music from art pop and experimental rock to indie singer songwriters and everything in between. With food and market stalls, I’m excited about this two-day event.
With these music events under our belt we can then turn to the Festival of Lights. Tihar is the one Hindu festival I really enjoy. I can hang my own strands of marigolds around the house, light lamps and welcome Laxmi. Since my local family is Tibetan Buddhist they don’t do any of these things but the children just love to come with me to the Garden of Dreams to light the lamps there, play on the Ping and generally soak up the atmosphere. Followed by a now traditional feast of pizza and ice cream across the road!
November seems a little quieter on the festival front; but of course there is time to organise a few things between now and then! Then we are hurled straight into a round of Christmas bazaars, lunches and concerts which take place at the beginning of December. Everyone can enjoy these events—from children working on Santa’s shopping list, to parents enjoying a glass of mulled-wine. Then, for those who prefer something perhaps a little more stimulating, the Kathmandu International Film Festival (KIMFF) joins the celebrations around the middle of December.
Phew! Did I say ‘done and dusted’? No way! The festivities in Kathmandu have just begun!