On Sunday 9th February the headmaster of Bhupu Sanik, Nirmal Soti, took us to his wife’s nephews Upanayanam which is a Hindu boy’s coming of age ceremony. We walked to Bhupu at half 7 to pick up Nirmal and then went to the bus stop which was right outside our house! The microbus to Damauli where we were going to change was half an hour late picking us up so while we were waiting Nirmal explained that we had to buy a gift for the boy. We chose a t-shirt from the nearest shop and the bus arrived soon after. About 10 minutes after we stopped in Dumre, the bus pulled over and most of the passengers got off. We had no idea why until Olivia got out and declared that one of the wheels was smoking. It took about half an hour to change the tyre which Sam is convinced was a useless thing to do as he thinks the problem was with the axle and brakes. We did however get back on the bus and we arrived safely in Damauli having missed our connecting bus due to the delays. It was only an hour’s wait for the next bus though so we had chiya and bread and the most amazing peanut biscuits I have every tasted while Nirmal bought himself a new cap. The public bus to Kaski was very full and we had to drive across a river to get there which made us wonder how people get around during the monsoon season. It took us about 5 hours to get to the villages from Besisahar (if not longer, I wasn’t paying too much attention).
We got off the bus early to take a shortcut down to the village of Syastri where Rosmilla (Nirmal’s wife) was born and raised. Half way down the steep walk I absentmindedly turned around, lost my footing and ended up falling down the hill. I managed to grab the root of a plant but I got dirt in every item of clothing that I was wearing and a very large scratch on my back! The walk to the house where the ceremony was taking place was long and tiring in the heat and we arrived sweaty, tired and very hungry. We had unfortunately missed most of the actually ceremony due to the bus delays but we still managed to give the boy his gift and in return we were each given a tikka and 20 rupees. We then ate curry, rice pudding and lots of roti (a circular bread that is made from rice flour and water and fried). We then walked down to Rosmilla’s parents’ house to have a rest. Olivia and Freya went straight to sleep and Sam and I played with Niros (Nirmal and Rosmilla’s son) and his cousins. We learnt to play Bomb Blast which is basically just throwing a ball of elastic bands at each other. I asked Nirmal if I could help to milk the buffalo but he said no as I was unfamiliar to the buffalo and he was worried they may kick me. I then chatted to their relatives while Rosmilla and her mother prepared dinner. I offered to help but I was politely declined. Dinner was delicious as usual and the rice was even nicer with a little bit of freshly boiled buffalo milk on it. After dinner, I warmed up by the fire with Rosmilla’s Dad inside their shed. Calling it a shed is actually quite rude as it is much more advanced than a shed. It is basically an outhouse where they boil water and cook but is much nicer than any garden shed in the UK. We then all headed back up the hill in a torch lit procession to join in with the dancing. We danced and sang for about 2 hours and were absolutely knackered by the time we went home. We all shared one bedroom at Rosmilla’s parents’ house. Freya and I shared the double bed, Sam and Olivia shared a single bed and Nirmal and his family slept on the floor. We even had a kitten in the room and watching Nirmal try to catch it was highly entertaining! Sam was feeling very sick though and was up most of the night.
On Monday we woke up at 5.45am when Nirmal shouted “Oh my god, it is quarter to six.” I guess 5.45am is a lie in for someone who is normally up just after 4am! We had tea and biscuits before we said goodbye to Rosmilla’s parents and headed off to the village of Karaputar where Nirmal is from. The walk took about 40 minutes and on the way we stopped at the only Hindu temple to meet Nirmal’s father who was the priest. We then continued walking to Nirmal’s 2nd eldest brother’s house where we given yet more sweet and milky chiya and where we made ghee!! Ghee is a bit like butter and is made from the curd of buffalo milk. The process is rather industrious and I can now see why Nepali women have such strong arms! We then walked to his eldest brother’s house to see his bhauju (sister-in-law) that I had been talking to the night before. Nirmal’s parents’ house was just behind and Rosmilla was there already preparing lunch. Sam went to sleep as he was still feeling really ill and Freya lay down to rest her ankle which we thought was sprained although we now know that she actually tore the ligament when she twisted it whilst running. Whilst they were resting, Olivia and I went on a short walk with Nirmal and Niros along the river. The views are so stunning I could live there forever. On a side note, it is a tradition in Nepal to name your children using the parent’s names i.e. Niros came around from the ‘Nir’ of Nirmal and the ‘Ros’ of Rosmilla. We arrived back just in time for ‘lunch’ at 10am. Rosmilla was using hollow bamboo as bellows which released an unbelievable amount of smoke! After lunch we walked back towards the bazaar of the village to catch the bus back home.
The public bus to Damauli was very uneventful except for some soldiers who surrounded the bus whilst they were doing an exercise. The bus from Damauli to Besisahar however was most eventful in comparison. Sam put his bag down in the isle to free up some space as he was still feeling really ill. In his tired state he thought nothing of a man who said “You sleep, I’ll look after your bag”. Unfortunately this man had seen Sam check his bag for his iPhone. About an hour away from Besisahar Sam realised that both his iPhone and Nepali phone had gone. We searched the whole bus when we got into Besisahar but we know that they were stolen as the man picked up the phone, drunk, when Nirmal called that evening and refused to give it back. It definitely but a dampener on an otherwise amazing trip!
The main thing I learnt on this trip was the real importance of family. Even when people are not directly related they called each other ‘Didi’ – sister or ‘Dai’ – brother. Nirmal’s brothers and their families now look after his parent’s as they can no longer do everything they need to i.e. milk the buffalo. Nirmal mentioned to me that his family feels very close to me and that I adapted to their culture so well that I left a good impression with them and I was so humbled. I really enjoyed my time in their villages and would go back in a heartbeat and was so happy that they enjoyed my company too!
We are heading off to Pokhara tomorrow for a week for half term. We definitely need the break as we are all shattered. I’ll update this when I’m back.
Lots of love,