I sit, perched on the edge of the bed luxuriating in this precious moment. Clouds of incense waft up the stairs from a small puja room glowing with red light. Kopila and her girls chat in the kitchen as they cut the saag, mushrooms and garlic for breakfast. A labouring fan punka-punkas overhead. (Surely the Nepali word for fan, punka, is onomatopoaeic!) And I am mindfully savouring these magnificent dry seconds where I still feel fresh after my cold shower and have not started to sweat. I’m giving it a minute. Very soon, I will apply many layers of insect repellent which only make the heat seem more…sticky. (Those who know my medical history know that a Nepali fortune spent on DEET loaded creams of every brand and form-spray, roll on and cream-is money well spent.)
A voice in my head tells me my battery is low. This actually refers to my hearing aids (gotta love these hearing aids that talk eh?) but is true at a more profound level. My battery is a little low. It has been a HUGE time. Busy and hot. To be fair, the first couple of weeks here were cooler than I feared, so it could have been tougher. And although busy, we’ve all been so energised and excited. Yesterday, in the office, we chatted about our surprising energy levels, as we worked, glistening. Well, some of us glistened and some of us just streamed. Those who glistened became alarmed at the capacity of one fair skinned woman to sweat so propitiously but were assured that it was fine and nothing another cup of chiya would not…facilitate.
They asked me why I was not wearing my mala ( in Nepal all married women wear a necklace and it is not appropriate to appear in public without it. And normally I wouldn’t but have no qualms about this in office!) and I replied that I was too hot to wear a necklace. Yes, dear reader, you read that right. Wendy Moore who wore dangly earrings in a blizzard at over 5000m on Thorong La declared it too hot to wear a necklace. Mark the day. And as for the dupatta, the shawl for draping over shoulders, mine is stuffed in my handbag the second I set foot in the office! They keep theirs on!
The day is punctuated by beverages. We all drink water non stop and new Sita (who is in fact older than old Sita but a more recent arrival) plies us with hot beverages. In addition to the four I’ve downed before I get to the office, I am greeted with what used to be peppery, black tea but is now something else. I mentioned that I sometimes drank coffee in Australia and this may be an acknowledgement of that. It is certainly not coffee as one would know it but I drink it grateful mystification, knowing the love and care with which it was prepared. Whatever it is. Sita then makes sure that throughout the day, the fluids lost through sweating are replaced with sugary milky chiya. We are all fine. Happy, busy, sweating and fine. The only impact is that we can’t do the really, really intricate work and don’t get quite so many days wear out of our kurthas.
There is no internet now-a recurring situation-so typing this is a symbol of faith and optimism. Kopila calmly states It will come didi. When it is on, it seems to be a five minutes on, ten minutes off situation and at those times, one is thankful for small mercies. I’m hanging out for that 5 minutes! We (the royal we here refers to Samunnat) have been able to skype with three incredibly significant people for us, Cynthia Tinapple, Ron Lehocky and Paulette Walther. These calls were like reunions of long lost friends even though we’d never laid eyes on Paulette or Ron! Just fabulous.
I attended a marwadi wedding of over 500 hundred with Kopila and Binod one eye popping Monday night. Most of the females in attendance were glittering as well as glistening. Adorned in vibrantly coloured, gold encrusted metres of sari; wearing small chandeliers in their ears. We were united in a sisterhood of sumptuously swathed sweat. We began with finger foods served by watchful dark eyed boys in turbans and cooked by sweating men in red jackets and stiff white chefs’ hats. Thoroughly stuffed, we then helped ourselves to a vast array of vegetarian dishes from clearly labelled steaming silver pots. Helped ourselves in the sense that we said Just a little to the man with the spoon and he then loaded the plate up! A chugging generator meant the party palace was illuminated by a sound and light show that had to be seen and heard to be believed. The bride was in a small room attended by relatives and we could go in, pay our respects and have our photos taken. Mine was a study in contrasts at so many levels. She was young, beautiful, wore a breathtakingly opulent sari and face jewellery and did not appear to sweat.
When the magnificently turbaned bridegroom arrived much later in the night under his brocade umbrella, he was accompanied by his family who were doing their energetic, somewhat frenzied version of a whirling dervish. The traditional cacophonous wedding band announced their arrival and then throbbing drums raised every one’s excitement levels to a frenzy. Fireworks to rival Sydney on NYE appeared in the sky and we dodged the fall out. We had a half hour drive back to Birtamod so did not stay for further ceremonies. But oh boy, what a night.
I have another couple of days here, packed with activities, including a radio and newspaper interview (see my interviewers on the left), and a surprise visitor, before heading back to KTM and eventually to Upper Mustang for a completely different experience. No blogs from there but maybe a quick catch up later? Until then, keep cool.