Off the shores 11
Memory gathering Moments
Being with the Birgunj Family
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
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Trying to start a new page with a clean slate to write something new but my thoughts take me to the latest story to share. It does not leave me alone but with memory gathering moments getting back to the Festival mode to recapitulate and share the mood in which we just celebrated Tihar or Swanti Nakha: at a home away from home in Sikkim in Chester Springs Pennsylvania. Seen since my childhood days that it is the women folks in the family everywhere to make the Festival possible for us to enjoy while they bear the brunt, sweat all the while for days together. A series of shopping and toiling back home in the kitchen turning out best fare possible to make the Festival most enjoyable in the recent years to take quite a toll on the health but the zeal and enthusiasm kept the spirit up. Me too trying to make my stay the best and most enjoying sharing time with relatives, the strength of my life to get the four pillars to stand on. I count on them along with my own and the Rhenock family in Sikkim with Kumhal Tole Birgunj and Tengal Tole Kathmandu in Nepal to complete the picture. When I stop for a moment to think what they have meant for me all these years here in this world to take me so far yet never ever away for a moment, one way or the other, knowingly or unknowingly being influence to the kind I have turned out to be. Our Facebook friend Jayshree recently shared a beautiful quote, No family is perfect, we argue, we fight. We even stop talking to each other at times, but in the end family is family. The love will always be there. Share if you agree! Many agree to this oft-read quote, some absolutely and Mitra Daju to comment, Yes it is life n like this only. I share here to further corroborate this opinion from my experience with bright side up always to look high above so that dark shadow fall behind below.
Dividing time between the choices, it was nice that we could enjoy the best being together and those who missed it were the loser but they too might have had their share fair enough to celebrate the festival in the manner best possible. Achyut as planned reached here well in time that morning and after lunch we left for Lanham Maryland to reach his place by 3pm welcomed by a glass of chilled beer. Hall next to the place of worship had already been arranged for the Mha Puja with carpets spread on the floor. Only people had to come and join to start the celebration. It was not until 6.30 that some activity seemed to have gained momentum to make me think that it would take hours to start and stretch to last beyond midnight. It was Sneata Buhari to start the show by making mandap for the Mha Puja and going by traditional way it would have taken at least an hour to make around thirty of them. Not this time and she had procured one from Edison NJ the stencil that was widely shared on Facebook showing making mandap so easy by dusting colour powder to make bright design of your choice on the floor. It was in a jiffy and all done just in minutes to further take the preparations arranging it with offerings like candle, essence sticks and fruit bits topping it with hazel nut amiss water, oil, flower and walnut symbolic of longevity to signify this day while worshipping your Self on Mha Puja. Renu Bhauju helped by Asha Buhari arranged plates full of fruits, sweets and a garland shining not of usual Saipatri/marigold. What we found best was not of the details amiss than the spirit of the occasion significant being together to celebrate and enjoy. Some more invitees came and brought along more to share that Ome Dai added them to the plates already laid on the floor in front of the mandap. From the initial 18 heads the number swelled to 29 and space available utilized best by the two ladies Deepadi and Renu Bhauju with the onus to perform the Mha Puja, their mandap was drawn paired to that of their respective hubbies, Keshavdai and Ome Dai. Aren was telling me that there was always some difference of opinion as regards the manner the Mha Puja to be performed. It was but natural to have such a difference as the ladies came from different parts Deepadi wished her knowledge gained in Sikkim was the correct one while others held something different to be the correct procedure to follow. It is obvious for this very reason centurion Satya Mohan Joshi did not forget to write in his book Mha Puja emphasizing that there was no strict rules to follow and, therefore, better to adopt and follow whichever manner in practice and the way suited the best. Jwala was of the opinion that for the sagan, khen/egg should always be on right hand and aila/wine on the left while the usual practice it should be on the left for womenfolk. No reason to disagree but to observe the Mha Puja solemnly amid noises natural in such a crowd. There was no need to break the walnut at the doorstep signifying the end of evil that make devotees to bite off the citrus fruit given. I was just enjoying the function thoroughly throughout most seeing them doing the way they loved. Sweeping off of the mandap at the end marked the closing of the ceremony by pouring water chanting the hymn Laxmi Dya Dunhay Beejhan, Yamaraj Pinhay Beejhan (welcoming in the Goddess of Wealth while requesting the God of Death to keep out) that my Buba used to invariably reminds us while celebrating Mha Puja and Kija Puja / Bhai Tika back home in Sikkim since our childhood days. We have a rich custom of expressing thanks by giving in gratitude some money in the shape of Dakshina. I proposed it and Achyut readily took out an envelope each for Deepadi and Renu Bhauju but Ome Dai kept watching enjoying the mood at the other end his son Aren and all to get convinced at last to take out the money from the wallet and me to join them all. They did not accept such offering from Bipin as it was not in their custom to accept money from a Jwain. All were seen taking pictures all the while from their cellphones but it was the group photo of all present on this great gathering in finale to capture the joyous mood every one seen and to cherish the memory forever. The celebration was followed by drinks and feast while Manoj took the opportunity in between to talk home in Kumhal Tole Birgunj others joining him one after another on both the sides. It was nice speaking to his father Madhav Dai, the eldest in the family, when fond memories rolling back to my mind way back of the olden days together since 1961. Sad that Nini was no more (and so was his wife our Janak Devi Bhauju) the strongest force and support to the large family to grow together with bond of love to bind us all together and me here again to be with them to share the joy. As someone shared, Love means that you accept a person with all their failures, stupidities and ugly points - Nonetheless, you see perfection, in imperfection itself. Such is the Power of Love we all love to be in, more so in the bond of love defined as the Family. It was such a bond here too we all gathered for the Mha Puja and by midnight all dispersed as the next day was for back to work and school. A perfect host in Achyut offered me a tall glass of drink – no hard stuff this time but hot milk to cleanse the body and as for mind a long chat together reminiscing events old and recent that lasted for an hour or so before we called it a day finally.
It was a nice sunny morning with beautiful trees shedding leaves yet in colours that I could capture but not those flown away by the wind. If the dry leaves gathered on the ground left uncleaned in time, it not only invited neighbours’ ire but also created much problem otherwise too. Later with snowfall in winter these leaves rot and set in destroying the green lawn and it would be quite expensive getting the lawn service to do anew. So the colours changed to the Fall brings not only the joy but also the toil hard keeping away well before the snow covered up all. With the whole day to spend together, I told him to attend to his clients who have been in touch all throughout but he suggested going out to see around Lanham town keeping all his appointments in bay for the following day. We went to the nearby K&G stores and got some winter garments that needed altering the sleeve length. It was extra $ 20/- per piece and another $5/- each to get done in rush that needed an hour. We thought it best to spend some time while away at Lowe’s and the best thing to get there was take a motorized cart each to look around. Majja garnu parchha, Dai, Achyut said and we did really enjoyed as well. Never on a driving seat not even cycling, I was always a pillion-rider even in school playing Tin-chakkay/three-wheeler made of old ball-bearings down the Girls’ School gate that had my heel badly hurt/bruised one evening as headmistress’ car came in front. After collecting the purchase, we went for lunch to the Teppanyaki Grill & Buffet. It was a buffet unlimited to relish and enjoy not less than any royal feast, I supposed. Before returning home, he did his round of post office and courier to collect his mail and to the bank to replenish the wallet needful with most of the purchases done using card yet some cash needed to keep for some exigencies. He showered his love and affection not only with his hospitality all the while but to load me with gifts aplenty. For me to reciprocate was just a token of my love that many may not consider worth but yet find it all the useful at times when you need most, more so when alone and cannot reach there yourself by itself! So was also the apparatus Achyut got as the birthday gift from sister Jwala who reminded him to bring it along for the Kija Puja / Bhai Tika scheduled for later in the evening at Ome Dai’s place. Yes, it was an accessory to compliment the much loved companion you all have these days that keep you engaged and occupied to yourself even when you come for social get together or someone seated next. So useful a cellphone was been that surprised me to find Ome Dai’s grand kid Aryanka showing tricks taking pictures when we were in the US last time. This time it was a step much ahead to find even the toddler was given your cellphone just to keep him engaged enjoying the cartoons or rhymes from YouTube all by himself. It was so pleasant surprise to see Jwala’s grandson Nirav chanting Om Jai Jagdish Hare and other bhajans all by heart to all the beats complete. She shared with us that the magic was of the cellphone he was given. Otherwise also I found Nirav an intelligent toddler to understand and speak Newar language beside Nepali and English but possible only due to his grandma’s blessings at home.
Readers might be wondering what was the token gift that I could reciprocate with overwhelmed by his love. It was just another stick – so helpful to keep by your side to help you at odd hours of the night even, the simple modest ‘back scratcher’ I myself love o much ever since I came across it years ago while in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was equally useful in stretching the arms holding its ends both hands a foot apart moving up and down repeatedly regularly in the morning Yoga session that helped me keep away with frozen shoulder (and tennis elbow also) encountered around that time.
Next week: Life ordinarily stitches – Little helps much needed
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 while in the US. Some names (* mark those no more), places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org