Wednesday, 30 September 2009

1st October Miscellany

We've had a fairly quiet few days in Kathmandu, mainly wandering around and seeing parts of Kathmandu we wanted to revisit, or new parts we hadn't seen before.

We've also seen our brother, BP. BP is our Bhai Tika brother who adopted us about three years ago and who, like any other big brother, is concerned about our welfare and makes sure we are alright when we are here. We sent him an email to say we'd arrived, and the next morning he turned up at the Guest House we're staying in and took us to breakfast at his house. So we got to see his wife, Tara, again too and we had a pleasant hour or so sitting in the garden drinking tea and chatting. They're building an apartment block in the grounds of their house for paid guests, the profits from which will go towards a big school a charity they are involved with is building in Nagarkot. Anyway, we've been invited back for Bhai Tika itself, which is a ceremony to honour brothers and will this year be on October 19th. So more about that then (if I manage to make it there).

The guest house we're staying in has a little library, and I've been reading a book which contains articles about women in Nepal. Their general status is that of a second class citizen, even if they are successful in their own right, and I was thinking about this in terms of the Nepali women I have met. Apart from BP's wife Tara, who has a doctorate and studied in America, there are very few adult Nepali women I have met whose names I know; I only know them as "belonging" to a man (Semanta's wife etc). So although I have met Semanta's wife several times, I don't know her name (and shame on me that I haven't asked). The point that I'm trying to make very badly is that women in Nepal are generally known in relation to some man or other - so they are some man's daughter or some man's sister or some man's wife.

So how difficult it must be for women when their identity is removed (in a way) by the death of their husband. We went to Pushpatinath yesterday (picture attached) which is the cremation ground just outside Kathmandu. This isn't as gruesome as it sounds and Nepalis generally take this part of life as matter of factly as they do the rest of life. It is a time when they honour the person who has died, and their ceremonies very much reflect this. Normally I have found it quite a restful place to be, but yesterday one of the deceased was obviously a man in his 4os or maybe early 50s and his wife was performing the rituals surrounding his cremation. One of those rituals involves removing the glass bangles that were put on when she was married, and once the ceremony was over she would remove the red clothes she is allowed to wear as a married women and put on white widows clothes. It set me thinking about how hard it must be for her because not only has her husband died, but she has had to put off her married identity. There are a lot of articles written about the status of widows in society in Nepal, which I won't go into here, but I can say that generally unless they have someone to keep an eye out for them they don't have an easy time of it. I'm sure there are articles on the internet about it, so if you want to know any more about widows in Nepal (or India) do take the time to look.

Anyway, on to brighter things. Today we have been to Boudhilikantha (which I can't spell) where there's a sleeping Buddha. I couldn't take a picture of it as you aren't allowed to, but the picture shows the temple complex it's in, which is the usual mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism happily mixed together.

Then it was coffee time, so back to Kathmandu to one of our favourite coffee houses. Where I have to say I definitely felt technologically disadvantaged. As it's a Wi-Fi cafe everyone there except us had laptops and were busy surfing away. There were a couple of Korean travellers next to us, one of whom was looking at bikes on Amazon, and the other was looking at light fittings. You do have to ask yourself what is the point of travelling thousands of miles to visit a place if you're going to sit in an internet cafe and do exactly the same sorts of things that you can do on your computer back home. Perhaps I'm maligning them and they do go out and do other things and experience the country, but you have to wonder don't you?
Anyway, I reckon it's lunchtime now, so I'm off. I'll write more soon.
Lots of love,
Vivienne xxx

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