September 19, 2016

My Kathmandu Family Returns to Nepal To Celebrate Nivah's "First Feeding"

As I wrote in my last post, my love affair with Nepal -- which started in 2001 -- has generated two sets of relationships that are so close and loving that I think of them as my "Pokhara family" and my "Kathmandu family."

Last time out, I gave an update on the Pokhara family. So today here's:

My Kathmandu Family
This family connection was born in a bookstore in Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist district. All my trips to Nepal -- over a dozen of them -- began and ended with a few days in KTM.

Every day I was there, I'd buy the latest edition of the International Herald Tribune at the same family-owned and operated bookstore.

I got to know the family quite well. The younger son, Nimesh, came to the U.S. to attend Truman University in Kirksville, Missouri. He worked in Ocean City, Md. during his college summers and often spent a few days at my house on his travels back and forth.

After getting his undergraduate degree at Truman, Nimesh enrolled in an MBA/Finance program at American University. AU is within walking distance from my house. So Nihesh stayed here.

He continued to reside here at the house as he began a career at the World Bank in downtown DC, an easy commute from the house.

From Friends to Family
Through these years, Nimesh and I became good friends. But I didn't think of us as family. That relationship began in March, 2012, when Nimesh married Bhawana in a traditional Nepali/Hindu ceremony in Kathmandu.

This was also a traditional marriage, since their parents had made the initial arrangements. But there was a modern twist: both sets of parents encouraged the couple to spend a lot of time getting to know each other. The parents said they wouldn't insist on the marriage if the prospective bride and groom didn't feel it would work.

Bhawana was finishing up her studies in an MBA/Finance program at the University of Wales satellite school outside Mumbai. She and Nimesh spent hours talking on Skype. As this picture shows, the arranged marriage became a love marriage.

Often during those happy festivities, I was treated like a member of Nimesh's family. One of the first things that happens in Hindu weddings is the trip that the groom makes to the wife's home for the "engagement." For upscale weddings in India, the groom often makes this trip riding an elephant.
Nimesh did it in a Mercedes, and I felt very honored when I was asked to ride with him. 

During the ceremonies, his grandfather occasionally held my hand, a display of friendship common among older men, but rarer now among the younger generation.

My Kathmandu Family

I had assumed the newlyweds would want a place of their own once we all returned to the U.S. But the three of us discovered we were very comfortable living together.

I was surprised that Bhawana was like me in cherishing quiet "alone time." So our sharing the house while Nimesh was at work was no problem.

Another surprise: I'm not disturbed by a house full of young people carrying on... as long as they converse in Nepali, a language I don't understand. Their chatter isn't much different to me than the music I listen to on NPR -- a pleasant background sound.

A regular complaint I hear from friends who live in senior residences is that they miss having younger people around. That's not been a problem for me.

The three of us enjoyed a trip to New York City. We worked out a comfortable combination of doing some things together and other things separately. Here we are sharing a lunch at the restaurant overlooking the lake in Central Park:

We've been able to to arrange things in my house -- not a mansion -- to comfortably accommodate guests. For several weeks, we had Nimesh's parents and grandparents staying with us.


Sound the Trumpets! Nivah Arrives
On March 22, 2016, Bhawana gave birth to Nivah at Sibley Hospital.

From left to right: Bhawana, Nivah, Bhawana's mother and father, and Nimesh (with the typical posture of someone snapping a selfie). I'll just repeat what I wrote at the time:
Many cultures and religions have major festivals in the spring. Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday. Hindus in Nepal celebrated Holi on Wednesday. Nivah's birth on Tuesday will be celebrated here every day from now on.
Bhawana's father stayed with us for about a month but had to return to his job in KTM. Bhawana's mother has continued lavishing love on Nivah every day in every way.

Here Nivah, a U.S, citizen at birth, celebrates her first 4th of July:

But she also is and will remain a Nepali. So as her sixth month birthday approaches, she is getting ready to celebrate her "first feeding" in Kathmandu.

The Janko Sarankar
For Newars, the dominant ethnic group in the Kathmandu Valley, this joyful event occurs at the age of five months for girls, and seven months for boys. This is the Newar baby's first feeding of solid food, typically rice cooked with salt.

The ceremony is usually arranged in consultation with a priest or astrologer who selects an auspicious date for the ceremony. The baby is dressed up in new clothes, silver anklets, and a gold cloth hat.

Extended family, friends, and neighbors are invited to attend. I well remember attending the first feeding for Rahil, my Pokhara family's son.

Here's a shot of me holding Rahil dressed in his Janko Sanskara finery:

It looks like I was giving him tika in the photo below. He obviously acquired lots of tika before the photo above was taken.

I'll be checking Facebook this weekend for pictures of Nivah's first feeding, which I believe will happen on Friday.

She probably won't be as frightened by all the hoopla as she seemed to be in the photo below. Looks like she's saying to her dad, the photographer: "You sure he's not going to drop me?"

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