A Happy Dashain?

Well, will it be? The question remains. The Himalayan Times shares vignettes of how the common man is going to mark this great festival in this time of crisis

Travel travails

Going home for Dashain is a journey the majority of Nepalis embark on every year, and getting the tickets on the bus for one’s destination is difficult. But the fuel shortage has worsened the situation and as always it is the common man who suffers the most in such situations.

Prakash Pakhrin was waiting at the Mahalaxmisthan Chowk since 2:00 pm for the bus, but one hour had passed by and there was still no sign of it. “I was told to reach here by 2:00 pm, but it’s been an hour since I have been waiting,” he said. It was the same with Ranju Rai, who was travelling with her mother-in-law and son.

For both Pakhrin and Rai it was not easy to get the tickets. If Pakhrin got the tickets after three days of trying, for Rai it was five days. They are thankful to get the tickets, but finding a direct route ticket was not possible. Pakhrin is going to Dharan but will have to take another vehicle from Itahari; Rai, who is going to Morang, will get off at Sunsari. “We will have to manage on our own from there. Let’s see what happens,” said Rai.

“It was very difficult to get the ticket. I have been trying to get ticket since three days and finally got one for Dharan. But couldn’t get a direct route ticket. Now I will have to get down in Itahari and will take another vehicle from there. I am hoping the journey will be fine.”

The journey will not be easy, but there is no option. “The truth is if we don’t go now there is shortage of everything and it is difficult. I stay in a hostel here and going home for me means being able to manage firewood or something regardless of the shortage,” shared Pakhrin.

Every time 23-year-old Nirmala Ghimire called home in Rampur, Uayapur her mother never missed to ask, “Will you be able to come home for Dashain?” The bandh in Tarai has scared her mother as she thinks “I might get hurt on my way”, Ghimire expressed at a ticket counter

in Koteshwor.

Ignoring her mother’s advice “that I should celebrate Dashain with my relatives here than taking the risk of travelling”, she was all ready to set off towards her destination on October 15, and Ghimire fortunately had managed to get a good seat too! How did she get lucky? “It was not that easy — I had been contacting the ticket counter regularly to get a direct bus to Rampur for the last three weeks. I would call the counter every alternate day,” she said.

In the earlier years, the booking of bus tickets on long routes during Dashain would open one month prior to the festival. People would secure their required number of tickets easily.

However, the bandh and the fuel shortage specifically, disturbed this practice. “It is not sure whether we can get the diesel or not,” said Mahendra Karki, a bus driver ready to begin his journey to Kakadvitta. While pointing to his bus (that had replaced all the glasses with plastic sheets as those had been broken when protestors had attacked it with stones in Tarai districts), he added, “We take the passengers with so much risk, but then there is not enough diesel.”

As such when they reach their destination from Kathmandu and get diesel “if lucky”, they call the ticket counter in Kathmandu that they are ready to return. “Only then do we sell tickets to our passengers as it is confirmed that we will be getting a bus for that day,” informed Raju Acharya, a ticket seller at Koteshwor.

Nonetheless, if the buses do not manage to get diesel or reach destinations on time, then passengers like Ghimire suffer. “Actually I had requested them for a ticket of October 16, but they suddenly called me on the afternoon of October 15 to come to the counter as there would be no buses for the next few days. I had not arranged anything, but still packed a few of my clothes and hurried to the counter,” Ghimire said quite happily though the bus will take her only till Gaighat. “I will have to take another bus from there to reach Rampur as I could not get a ticket for a direct bus”.

Prem Rai, who also could not get a “bus ticket” for the same destination even after searching for nearly a week chose to travel by a Tata Sumo. “But they tried to charge me more than double the regular fare,” said Rai, who was at the Citizen Help Desk, set up by Traffic Police at Koteshwor chowk to complain about the problem. This is not the first time Rai is going home. “In previous years too they charged us more during Dashain but not this much — asking us to pay double is totally unfair,” Rai expressed his dissatisfaction, though admitted, “If I am unable to bargain or solve the problem, I think I will pay the money because I have my wife and a small son and I need to take them home comfortably.”

Crisp and kada

The cost of a khasi and boka per kilogram is Rs 450 and Rs 420 respectively in the market. Supplying goats are people like Kancha Lama, 40, from Kavre who is a regular provider to the bazaar. He brings five to 10 goats on a daily basis.

During Dashain, people like Dol Bahadur Tangley, 52, come to Kathmandu to sell domesticated goats for the festival only. “Paying a higher bus fare” and “making sure that vehicles are running” in the time of fuel crisis, he came to the Capital on October 15 with five goats (khasi and boka) from Sinhdhuli. He had sold one so far.

Dashain is incomplete without delicious dishes of goat meat. People can’t do with one or two kilograms of meat. This brings people to Khasi Bazaar to buy whole goats to feed their families and friends.

Strolling around at the bazaar to buy goats for Dashain and understanding the prices were Krishna Basnet and Mukesh Rajbhandari from Baghbazaar.

“The whole tradition of buying a goat and sacrificing it, consuming at home and sharing is the fun part of the festival. This is for children as well as for others. You will have to follow the tradition as others are doing the same,” Basnet said for buying a goat while for Rajbhandari, “It is all about own choices but mine is for children’s enjoyment.”