From my own turf - 7
Connecting with Life
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
It was a wonderful stay during our Sojourn Nepal 2016 to connect with our friends/well-wishers old and new and relatives old and young. Some of our relatives well past the age of celebrating it for the third time in one’s life while for some it was their parents’ marriage we attended years ago to cherish the memory all these years. Some we met probably for the first time and one of them to invite to her daughter’s wedding later this year with the tagline we coined for our new book The Newars World~Wide – connecting the dots : Sikkim!
Age is, in fact, something very personal that goes well how well you take it. Some say old age is the term for the people who are ten years older than you. It should be reason good enough to put you well-tuned with the age as you advance in your life post retirement past your life you lived to cherish old memories unbound ruminating in the golden years. Dusk of life to return the life you lived in different stages uphill and downhill all through.
Five years is quite a short period if I think of it having lost some of my relatives in Nepal whom we met last time but were no more this time. Deo Shanker Lall Shrestha alias Madan Kaka for us was the person when we visited on our return from the Sojourn USA 2010 on Yomari Punhi NS 1132 at Kupondole. He was so hopeful of life to tell us that he would live 100 years but we lost him at 97 years of age six months ago due to old age. We met Kaki staying at her fourth son’s family near Patan Dhoka with the help of their eldest son Vijay Dai, the only person to contact with the family. Indira Kaki, 92, could recognize when asked to her left ear who we were, whose son and wherefrom. Bedridden after a fall in bathroom Kaki is helped by two caretakers besides her youngest unmarried daughter Shobha to look after.
We visit first the eldest lady in our Rhenock Family Bajai Yamuna Maya whenever she is in Kathmandu as we make it a point to visit the protective Lord Pashupatinath, where her residence is nearby outside just facing the temple. She had recently returned from Australia after a year’s sojourn with her son Uday now settled there after his retirement. Here she had to attend her great granddaughter’s marriage (Reshu’s daughter) like the one we too had joined to celebrate Shiela Sanima’s daughter Suchitra’s wedding last time in December 2014. She too at 92 little hard of hearing otherwise, she is quite active to take out from her collection some mala and a piece of sandal wood with blessings from the Lord. She tells us that for past two-three days she had been expecting someone to visit her and glad that we were there.
Another elderly of the same age i.e. 92 years we met this time was Thuli Nini (Jawahar), who lost her husband industrialist/businessman Indra Bhakta Shrestha a year ago. They together had a long marital bliss for over eight decades as she was married at a young age of 14 years to see as a couple life full of struggle to reach thus far. Eldest son is well settled since long in the US while the younger Ravi Bhakta a former minister, was in the PM Oli’s Team to visit China recently. She was in the best shape and health ever cheerful to meet us in the new apartment of the posh multi-storied residential building. Her daughters were also there to connect with us and share the joy of knowing about our Book Launch Nepal coming all the way from Sikkim. We had a copy of The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim for Thuli Nini and Family to enjoy being with us. I do not know whether this book meets the need of the departed soul as he used to tell me to write some book on the Newars that would be a good gift or souvenir for the visitors take home as there was none after The Newars by Gopal Singh Nepali for his doctoral thesis way back in 1956 from The Bombay University. Its reprint was out after 50 years last year showing how useful the book still was for those who wanted to know about the people, their life, customs and tradition half a century ago. To take them further, ours was some sort of an effort in this direction to give the picture world-wide, connecting the dots from this part of the Himalayas. If someone asked me what the world was for me, it is the love and affection we received whenever we were in the neighbouring Nepal or far away in the US of America to be with the people of our clan to celebrate festivals together, the Newars do the best and are best known to enjoy Bhoye, i.e. feasting together. By the way, there is a new town in Kathmandu to see near Thamel that was possible out of the famous street of Jyatha. Binam too was surprised to see it as rightly to be commonly renamed as China Town. To stand out along the street is the newly started Jheegu Newah Bhoye Restaurant that caters to the gastromic delights of the foodie, if you are - a gourmet interested and looking for the authentic Newah food preparations at the best. Indra Bhakta Shrestha used to meet us in his office at Indra-Jawahar Bhavan near Durbar Marg whenever we were in the city and give us copies of useful books on the Newah Culture and Civilization by eminent writers for distribution as a gift from their Indra-Jawahar Sahyog Guthi. The first and the best was the Mha Puja by Dr. Satya Mohan Joshi in Nepali/Khye Bhasha as well as Nepal Bhasha some twenty years ago. We had sent the Nepal Bhasha version out to Guthi Australia in 2010 when they needed one to know more about to follow and practice. That year Karuna Guthi had compiled a video showing the way we celebrated Mha Puja in Piscataway New Jersey in the US, Tengal Tole of Kathmandu in Nepal and Gangtok Sikkim in India that was shared not only with the Guthi Australia but world-wide posted on the YouTube. It can still be viewed there if one is interested. Thus given by them last was Forever Incomplete, a biography on the legendary Ganesh Man Singh but could not have one for our Jai Smriti Shodh Granthalaya as the donor was no more amidst us and difficult even after I mentioned it to their eldest daughter Indira when we met there.
Another relative hale and hearty at 92 to meet this time was Shambhu Bhenaju last met some ten years ago as he was back from Texas staying there for eight years with his elder son Suchitra settled down at San Antonio. His younger son Sudeep was in Kathmandu transferred to Tribhuvan University at Kirtipur from SrI Thakur Ram College in Birgunj. We lost Chandika Didi that made him to move far away to the US making way for Sudeep to pursue his dream PhD course in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. We had visited Sudeep staying in the Mahanadi Hostel with Buhari Deepa taking care of their son Sudin get education in a primary school. Shambhu Bhenaju was quick to go through and narrate from my new book how he happened to meet Janakavi Durga Lal Shrestha visiting there to attend a grand-daughter’s wedding. Durga Lal wrote a poem on him and posted on Facebook he recollected while I remembered a collection of his poems Ali Ali Texas with English translation and CD Raja Shakya gave me during last visit. I had mentioned of the poet and how I met him in the opening chapter of The Newars Connecting the Dots Sikkim while planning our first-ever pioneering work Newa: Varna, Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya in 1995 that led Shambhu Bhenaju to connect with us thus. I share here a poem by Durga Lal titled Mero Ghar / My Home
Mero ghar! Ho ma timibaat Oh my home! Away from you
Yati Vishal chhu Taadha I am far and far away
Tar Taadhole pardo rai’chh But the distance makes
Mayako rang Gaadha Love more pungent
Dekhchhu ma bihan ghaansharuma In the mornings
Taltal kalilo dhup I see dew shining in the grass
Herda herdia khuldachh tyasma As I stare inside the dew
Jhalala timro roop I see You
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names, quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org