Dashain continues to be by far the biggest festival in Nepal, although, with changing times, its meaning and modes of celebration have also changed. Earlier, the festival used to be seen as a time when the whole family came together to share the ups and downs in their lives. Before the momentous recent changes in the country, people bonded to celebrate a significant religious event in ancient Hindu lore, the killing of demon-god Mahisasur at the hands of Goddess Durga. Or so people would tell themselves, even if instead of worshipping Durga, they used the yearly break to gorge on goat meat and swill down Black Label. Despite Dashain’s contested importance, old habits seem to die hard.
The festive atmosphere is such that even our perpetually quarrelling political parties are welcoming their avowed enemies to chiya paan. Although the political temperature has been steadily climbing in the last few weeks, both the governing and opposition parties are likely to take it easy for the next few weeks; if nothing else, to show they understand people’s need for the much-needed respite from their daily chores and an endless barrage of vacuous political speeches. This is the reason a major breakthrough in national polity looks unlikely before the end of the festivities at the end of Tihar. We earnestly hope the break gives our politicians the time to think about the big national issues with cool heads and they can emerge from the holidays with a mindset of meaningful give and take.
Going by huge crowds gathered at the city’s hotspots like New Road and Durbar Marg, jostling to buy everything from jeans pants to do kitchen utensils, the enthusiasm for Dashain among Nepalis doesn’t seem to have dampened one bit. People from all backgrounds seem happy to set aside the country’s grave political concerns for the moment. Children are especially keen as this is the time of year they expect their parents to deck them in new (and expensive) apparel. This added burden on the purses of middle- and low-income families is poignantly captured in the Nepali saying, Yo Dashain haina, dasha ho (‘This is not Dashain, but a curse’). Indeed, this Dashain will bore deep holes into their pockets.
According to Nepal Rastra Bank, the year-on-year inflation as measured by the consumer price index climbed to a backbreaking 11.2 percent in mid-September, as opposed to 8.5 percent in the corresponding period last year. The government’s initiative to cap the maximum retail price of basic commodities ahead of the festivities has had little effect. News of tainted meat being sold on the eve of Dashain must have made many connoisseurs of non-veg a little queasy. For those who can afford to spend big, they won’t let these quibbles get in the way of their celebratory mood. For those who cannot, Dashain will be a more modest affair, even a dasha for many. We hope soon enough, all Nepalis will be able to celebrate as one as the task of the country’s transformation into a more progressive and equal society nears completion. In this festive spirit, we would like to wish all our readers a very Happy Dashain