Most Nepalis will greet the country’s biggest festival that kicks off on Saturday, October 17, with a strange feeling. We have largely been holed up in our homes for well over eight months—and there is no respite in sight. True, the lockdown has been lifted. But that does not mean much when you are constantly reminded of the potentially deadly enemy by the ubiquitous masks and sanitizer bottles wherever you go. The whole family effectively quarantined for months, it’s also no holiday-time.
If this was the end of the pandemic, perhaps half of us would immediately leave the country. People are dying for novelty of a foreign place and culture after the stultifying conformity they have had to endure for most of 2020. (Oh, what a dastardly year.) Those who can’t afford foreign holidays would leave for Nepal’s favored labor destinations to kick-start their migrant-worker careers. But, as things are, most of us won’t be venturing anywhere far.
Whether or not you mark it as a religious festival, Dashain has always been tantamount to fun. Visiting your ancestral home, eating and drinking, playing cards, bonding with loved ones—it’s the time you forget individual woes and take part in collective celebration. This year, things are different. Many have abandoned all celebration plans. Others are not venturing beyond their homes. Some say they will put ‘e-tika’.
And where’s the money to buy new clothes and appliances? Forget Dashain bonus, most working Nepalis are getting only a fraction of their salary, if at all. Hundreds of thousands have been laid off. Indeed, what is there to celebrate? And how can you celebrate when your friends and relatives are constantly falling sick and even dying from the pandemic?
But we human beings are strange. For the next fortnight, many of us will try to forget we are in the middle of a raging pandemic. We will pretend Durga Mata will look after our health and wellbeing. And we will eat and drink like there is no tomorrow, if only to drown our sorrow. APEX has absolutely no problem with your personal celebration. Just make sure your actions don’t harm others. Stay home. Stay safe. Wait for a better tomorrow. It will come.