Moving ahead in life
All because of love
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Home they bring the little doll, a bundle of joy immense swaddled and cuddled up in the car-seat (without which hospital authorities would not hand you over the baby) waiting whole morning to be welcomed by the drizzle auspicious many like us believe so. Parents usher in the little goddess home. We welcome them with traditional 'mangal ghat' at the doorway and offer prayer for their well-being like done back home. New-born in the hospital gets a tag around the wrist as identity with identical band for mother as well. She already had one computer printed while getting admitted and also the person accompanying her gets one. Girl Shresta is the name hospital gave to the new born for this purpose. Of the other two bands one with QR code on her right leg is for the hospital records while the other on the left security tag - anyone trying to take the baby out of the room it starts giving beep sound as alarm to alert all there. Soon thereafter the baby gets the name mother had in mind ever since she came across the word while reading books she loves to. She started with typical Newar names with quite fascinating ones like Rajmati, Lahana, Lasata, Palpasa, Hisila, Nugah, Khusi, etc. she also looked for Hindu/i names even besides many other choices but the decision ultimately arrived at was to match their life here. As for her own name, even today people ask whether the name Rachna (her grandfather gave) she got it first or the other way round after the much loved bookshop Rachna Books. Raman loves it best to leave unanswered to make his friends perplexed as ever before. Very much like the riddle "whether egg came first or the hen" though many believe it being named after her. Like her brother, she too is fond of reading right from thumb-sucking childhood and in the first opportunity gets cuddled in her room with a book to read. After reaching the target of 40 books in the previous year, she had 50 this time but it was something different though. Her own life story - preparing for the bundle of joy - best was to look forward the untold to unfold. Four months through the expectant mother could know that she was rearing up inside her body the baby girl dreamt of since long - not without much hurdle of/or the ordeal life brings in. For us it was a dream come true in the real sense!
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During the Book Preview of 'The Newars World~Wide Connecting the dots : Sikkim' held at Rachna, Ganesh had mentioned that in 150 years of the advent of the Newars in Sikkim, our third generation not yet through and very much amongst us unlike many who have reached twice or more the figure of their offspring within this period. While "the normal or average time between two such generations of a species: about 35 years for humans", our pace tells the story otherwise. We are slow breeders but proud to be so lucky as for ourselves many of us may not live that age to make our progeny that lucky enough. This we could easily attribute for our children getting married late and taking their own time even to procreate in spite of the fast pace with which life advances. Further, equally disturbing is the growing trend of one child pattern of nuclear family that has made the call from the concerned to have at least two children to cope with challenges the state facing. This leaves many perplexed of those with more than one wife helping breed more. When young it was quite disturbing to find family with kids more than half a dozen - some added trying for a son while mine was opposite to see cousins trying for a daughter. How would they rear them all up at a time when things were not supposed to be quite easy. Coming this far, I find most of them well-settled with many if their next generation crossing the shores to find them here in the US and elsewhere as well. More the merrier as they all prove those believing small is beautiful all wrong. Delay breeds in contempt many raising eyebrows doubting the capability to procreate even. There are those trying their best with options available and all fertility facilities to seek help. Yet couples are deprived of a child to add number to the population clock. So, motherhood is blissful supreme that makes many like me to be proud of to be thus fortunate enough convincing yet once again, better late than never as we all know!
Another thing to quiz many of young minds until their marriage and begetting offspring would certainly be doubting oneself if he/she possess the power to procreate and have a child of their own. To prove oneself being potent could always make one have a child earliest but for this too one has to tie the marital knot as per accepted norm of the society. Worst comes worst, there is always the option to adopt a child. We have a case being blessed so, after years of such a wise step to be proud of coming thus far. A couple who lost their young school-going sons in a natural calamity could bring back the joy by reverting the surgery she had undergone before. Some babies are born premature for various health reasons but they too survive the initial struggle inside the incubator - not less than a miracle of the modern medical science - to come through and bring joy not only to the parents but entire family.Surrogacy is another method couple resort to for cases extreme and hopeful rush back home to avail the same considering the huge expenditure involved here. Life is beautiful to those who believe and appreciate. Unfortunate are those stories to hear of the sad loss due to negligence at the time of birth to leave all the dream shattered.
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Those were the days when it was not expected to dream about the baby before birth. "Nani paunu kahile kahile, kokro bunnu ahile" roughly equalizing to the maxim "cart before the horse." So in good old days, we did not talk and think much about the baby's swaddle as old cotton sari or soft muslin cloth in home would serve the purpose immediately and flannel sheets and other essentials were purchased later. 'Thangna' used to be norm of the day decorating the clothesline in the sun that indicated new arrival in the family to the neighbourhood. Diapers and wipes taking over to make life easy and convenient that helped save cleaning mess and washing clothes every time. This baby arrived home with everything needed planned and purchased all in advance understanding well that there would be hardly any time left to think about anything else than the baby and the baby alone!
New born was not exposed much as the baby was kept aside the convalescing mother at least till the purification period and Nauran usually of 5 days for baby girl or 6 days for baby boy . Customarily, some perform this rite on 10th day or even on 11th day while some even on 4th day. Such function is, however, not done on Monday and Wednesday. If it is first child born in the family, Nauran is done by some on 4th day itself. In earlier days, soon after the delivery mother and baby were made to sit in the straw-mat. These days birth taking place in hospital, there is no such practice but some hay is put beneath the pillow symbolically. Both mother and baby are given bath and body massage by grandma twice a day right from the birth till 10th day purification. They are warmed by burning dried barks of sugarcane. Deities are worshipped and prasad/offering is kept at 12 different places of the house including the main entrance and rest of the sweets are distributed among the children. Thereafter, both father and mother are made to sit together when the baby is handed over to them. This is followed by the ritual of giving them Sagan. A feast is held to celebrate the occasion with close relatives invited.
We had this purification ritual on tenth day, a Sunday. New parents with the baby seated on the floor with twelve lighted diyas around, puja performed solemnly with 'sukunda' and 'kalash' praying for their well-being. Tika as our blessings to the new parents with garments given for the baby. Thereafter, Phupu was seated and baby given by father. She too gets a gift to mark the happy occasion. Before the lunch was served, customary auspicious Khen Sagan comprising of an egg, bara, fish, dry-meat, some lintels, ginger and garlic pieces, curd and wine was given first to new parents and to all present thereafter to celebrate the occasion. A new family life is thus augured and as we enter their home welcome note aptly announcing - All because two people fell in love! ~~~
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 (*asterisk for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest "The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots : Sikkim" is available at Rachna Books.