In the op-ed section of yesterday’s Kantipur, one of the writers sarcastically mentions that it will only be a matter of time before we begin hearing our children and grandchildren asking us what phapar and dhindo really mean. Or that they will be interested to visit the museum that houses a detailed history of the exotic staple foods that were found in Nepal. I am talking about foods that will not be common in the home itself, let alone question its availability in the restaurants or cafes. It is a scenario that very few of us can question to take form. But at the same time, it is necessary to learn and ask ourselves the question: How will the next four or five generations hence display the unique characteristics that makes them Nepali?
Look, I may be a little skeptical about the scenario, but it is something that has bugged me ever since. What if we decide to include pizza and mo:mo as the only foods to devour when we are sitting for 13 days kriya? What if we switched to eating burger and hot dogs instead of chaku and sakarkhanda in Maghe Sankranti? What if we slashed the tradition of cultivating paddy and instead adopted marijuana to plant in Asar 15? Wouldn’t these incidents put the unique celebrations and the historical significance of our festivals at stake? Won’t they restrict our culture only to coins and postage stamps?
|Remembered this dish, right?|
There is no doubt that after Nepal got exposed to the outside world, the western culture slowly started to influence its revered traditions. These days, the influence is so great that we hardly notice the gentlemen in Daura Suruwal outfits at major functions. The parties and even the marriage ceremonies are taking place with only the suits guys hanging around. I guess most of us even feel awkward to wear our national dress in important occasions. That is why we hardly find a pair of Daura Suruwal neatly arranged in our closet.
Moreover, the epic Panchebaja that used to be integrated in the marriage ceremony as part of the Jayanti can no longer be enjoyed these days. All we have are the cacophonous chants from the horn-looking instruments (the ones that closely resemble India’s) that are in par with a resemblance with the unique Panchebaja. And, these horns sing nothing but hindi or english songs. Hardly any classical Nepali song gets its chance to entertain the guests.
There is a reason that I am saying these stuffs. The changes are taking place very slowly. But we fail to acknowledge that the effects it will have in the near future are imminent and possibly dangerous to national identity. Some decades into the future, we cannot rule out the chances of watching madani only at the national museums and at the same time, get in a state of shock when a three-year old fella comes running to us and asks what the purpose of madaani had been in the past. We don’t even have to think about these incidents taking place in the future. It is hard to believe that it has already been taking place. I am having a feeling that even you don’t know what madaani truly is right now.
We are so accustomed to using the western technologies that we are left dumbfounded when our grannies bring out unheard nepali names. Names like gagri and jal, that were important back in their time but which have lost their charm these days. We are grown in such a culture that the Nepali words in the course books can only be revealed by the Nepali teachers and not by the English teachers. I am not blaming non-nepali teachers for failing to make us understand words that get frequent attention in the national newspapers but I am trying to question the fact that they are obliged to know the meaning to most of the Nepali words. Even I should get a hold of the meanings of such words and make a toddler understand it; in Nepali way.
There can come a time when Nepali language is spoken only by a chosen few and the languages of the indigenous people is circumscribed only in the history tapes. Nepali language losing its identity may be a long way to go but the paucity of unique nepali dishes and the smart traditional clothes taking place may only be a few decades away. We should develop a high sense of awareness among us if we are to witness the rich knowledge of culture echoing in the minds of the next generations and practicing them in a daily basis.
Only time will tell if bringing the western culture by the Nepali diaspora was the right choice. And if it wasn’t the right one, let us not regret our passive involvement to creating a rich culture conscious community.