Nepal | July 16, 2020

A Happy Dashain?

The Himalayan Times
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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

Photo: THT

Photo: THT

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

Photo: THT

Photo: THT

Crisp new currency notes are an integral part of Dashain. But getting new notes is not that easy. One needs to line up in long serpentine queues under the scorching sun to get an exchange. And the frustration of people were evident on the afternoon of October 16 at the gates of Nepal Rastra Bank, Thapathali. Angry some of them were hooting and banging on the gates as they weren’t being able to enter the bank premises. “They should have provided us old notes. That too would work,” shouted one from the crowd.

“It is not like normal times. There are difficulties reaching here as there is very less vehicular movement. The bank should have distributed the new notes till 3:00 pm and not just shut the counters because it’s a Friday,” opined Mohan Basnet, 35, a resident of Bhainsepati.

People put tika and give dakshina during Dashain and people usually give new notes as dakshina. As commercial banks do not provide this service, there is no alternative for the public than depend on the Central Bank. This is the reason why a long queue is seen around Thapathali during Dashain. “The commercial bank where I have opened my account does not give us such a service and this is why I must stand in line as notes of smaller denominations are much in need during the festival,” shared Dev Kumari Rai, 56, of Narayantaar.

Photo: THT

Photo: THT

The problem of exchange would be addressed if people started collecting notes in advance. But we are used to work at the last moment. “We need such notes only when we are in the need. This is why there is no point in collecting it prior, and we, the general Nepalis, do not earn much to save for future,” added Rai.

However, there are street vendors making a business in and areas around Ratnapark sitting with fresh crisp currency notes of different values. The notes can be exchanged easily if one is willing to pay more money. “I usually sell them in 100 kada 5 that costs Rs 500 for 100 notes of Rs 100 and similar for other valued notes,” added one street vendor at Mahankal who wished to remain unnamed. However, the amount they charge for exchange depends on time and value of money. The vendors can be seen sitting on roadsides with bundles of new notes. On the condition of anonymity, one of the vendors shared, “We are charging a few from customers as we too need to stay in line the whole night. I was selling them at 100 kada 10 during the day and as it is evening I am selling them at 100 kada 5.”

Tika Bahadur Shrestha, 33, a resident of Mahankal, was happy to get the new notes from the vendor. “It is difficult to exchange notes from banks and getting them from vendors is easy as there is no need to stay in line and wait for hours.”

Goats for Dashain?

Photo: THT

Photo: THT

The entrance to Khasi Bazaar in Tukucha was busy. People kept coming in and out. And some of them were dragging goats by ropes around the animals’ necks. At the heart of the bazaar, it was another vibrant scene where uncountable goats — buck (boka), kid (patho) and wether (khasi) — occupied the space. Many were stuffed in sheds while others were tied outside. And the people present at the venue were engaged in their own works. Some were feeding the goats, some weighing the goats while were some taking goats from one place to another, some selling their goats to customers.

“Goats are coming in for Dashain and more are coming in from different parts of the country which will be enough for this Dashain. About 50,000 to 70,000 will easily be available in Kathmandu Valley,” said Uttam Khadge, President of Tukucha Kashi Bazaar adding, “If there aren’t any transportation and fuel problem, we will have more goats coming in.”

As per him, the goat business for Dashain started from October 15 which was the third day of Dashain. With a few people coming in to buy goats for Dashain in the initial days, the bazaar is expected to get really busy two days prior to Phulpati.

Due to the loss people suffered in the earthquake and problems due to the blockade, he pointed out that “business might slow down this time but the supply of the goats won’t go down”.

Unlike previous Dashain, the venue has not seen much business and enthusiasm yet. One of the goat sellers at the bazaar Hari Shurkheti shared, “It is just getting started. There is no petrol and gas, who will worry about khasi and boka? And so people haven’t come to buy goats for Dashain nor has enough supply come. But there is time yet.”

Photo: THT

Photo: THT

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.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 18, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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