In Nepali culture, special ceremonies called pujas are held to give a name to a newly born child, for the child’s first haircut, for a wedding, a person’s 84th birthday, and for the passing of a relative. Last year I was invited to attend a puja to memorialize the death of a beloved aunt of my adopted Nepali family, which was held on the one year anniversary of her passing. This year I witnessed the other end of the spectrum when I attended the Bibaha Puja (marriage ceremony) for my Bahini’s (little sister’s) nephew.
We left Pokhara as the sun was rising, destined for Bahini’s home village of Lekhnath, about an hour down the road. By the time we arrived at the home of the groom’s parents, festivities were in full swing. A traditional band of musicians squatted on the ground, horns bellowing and drums booming, as guests made their way to the backyard, where the groom was seated on a chair. He was dressed in the traditional white daura suruwal, a specially woven outfit made out of dhaka fabric, with a regular suit coat jacket on top. On his head he wore a topi, the national hat of Nepal, and around his neck hung an elaborately woven necklace of Dubo grass. This grass necklace, known as a Dubo ko Malla, symbolizes an everlasting relationship because Dubo grass will grow without roots.
Using a provided tray of colored powders and rice, each family member placed a tika on the forehead of the groom and then accepted a gift from the father of the groom. Meanwhile, women were running around, shoving plates of food in everyone’s hands. I wasn’t very hungry but I picked at the selroti fried rice rings and tooth-breakingly hard, overly sweet rice balls that are traditionally served at a wedding and was later glad I had. The plan had been for me to stay at the groom’s house all day with Bahini, but somehow I got swept up in the crowd and ended up on one of the buses that were bound for Chitwan, home of the bride and location of the wedding ceremony. Continue reading
From the moment I arrived in Scotland I was fascinated by kilts. My assumption that they were an ethnic costume worn only for historic reenactments or cultural shows could not have been more wrong. Ordinary men walked about the streets of Edinburgh in full kilt regalia and members of the Scottish Guard wear kilts. At Edinburgh Castle, tourists queued for a chance to have their photos taken with the cute young guards outfitted in elaborate, medal-pinned uniforms. I stepped to the side and posed with a cute older guard, telling him I wanted my photo taken with someone who, like me, had a bit of gray in his hair. He grinned from ear-to-ear.
My Scottish friends, Dorothy and Ricky, had already treated me to tours around Edinburgh and the Scottish Midlands but promised the best was yet to come. They had been invited to a wedding that just happened to fall during my visit and had asked and obtained permission for me to attend. We drove through the luscious green countryside to the hamlet of Blair Atholl and pulled onto a long driveway, at the end of which loomed Blair Castle, an imposing white, turreted citadel.
We quickly joined the reception underway in the Great Hall, where antlers from generations of hunters were mounted up to the ceiling. Beneath watchful eyes on portraits of Blair ancestors that lined the rich, wood-paneled walls, Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) dancing was soon underway. A Gaelic word for a casual party with music, dancing and entertainment, Ceilidh is the term Continue reading