Category Archives: Festivals

“Changa” Flying in Photos

P returned home safely on Thursday, just in time for Tihar. Sampson and I are very happy to have him back.

He also brought home the camera, so now I can share some photos from our trip. This will hopefully inspire me to finish the half dozen posts I have partially written about the rest of our journey.

When I wrote the posts Vijaya Dashami, Now Go Fly a Kite and Changa Chet! some readers asked for photos… so I wanted to share a few:

Our first day of kite flying (Vijaya Dashami post)

Starting out...

Getting a feel of the wind

A sharp tug surges the kite upwards...

A happy man and his "changa"... even though he is dodging the laundry to fly ;)

From Day 2 (“Changa Chet” post)

Another day, another kite...

The "moves"

Thumbs up can only mean one thing... "chheeeeeeeet!"

Another day:

P and his cousin ready another kite...

Battling changas

P's kite flutters over the neighorhood

His cousin takes the helm...

Flying at sunset...

Kukur Puja 2011

Previous Kukur Pujas: photos from 2010, from 2009

Kukur Puja is one of my favorite Nepali festivals. It is part of the Tihar cluster of events including Kag Puja (crow puja, yesterday), Kukur Puja (dog puja, today), Laxmi Puja and Gai Puja (puja for prosperity and for cow, tomorrow), Thursday is a series of pujas I’m not as familiar with (Goru Puja, Gobhardan Puja, Maha Puja and Nepal Sambat as explained by NepaliAustralian), and lastly Bhai Tikka (brother puja, Friday). In our household we usually only celebrate Kukur and Laxmi puja and Bhai Tikka.

One reason I love Kukur Puja is because I am a big “dog person.” Luckily P is too, or we would probably have a big problem!

My dad had a black lab named Jack when he married my mom and we had him until I was in fourth grade. I always remember him as an older dog, reserved and calm, and he never minded when my sisters and I would bug him, or lay all over him. Even though he was around when I was a kid, he wasn’t really my dog, he was always my dad’s.

When I was seven years old I started begging my parents for a dog of my own. I whined and pleaded in a way only a seven year old could. I remember that Christmas there was an article in the local newspaper where “Santa” was responding to a young girl named “Joleen” who was asking for a pet for Christmas, giving her a checklist of things she had to agree to do before she would be ready to have a pet. My parents told me that Santa was actually writing to me, and had accidently misspelled my name, and I cut that article out of the paper and carried it around with me, showing it to all my relatives that Christmas and explaining—“I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”

A week or two after Christmas my dad found an advertisement in the newspaper for cocker spaniel puppies, and he took me to the kennel to check them out. There were little black and white puppies scurrying here and there. One of them tried to eat my shoelaces, and I fell in love. I brought him home and named him Blackie (he was all black with a white stripe down his neck).

Blackie was my constant companion until I left home. We used to go trudging through the backwoods together, covered in mud; sledding down the hill in our back yard together, little chunks of snow and ice matting in his curly hair; he even went on jogs with me as a high school cross country runner, although I’m sure mid-summer 6 mile runs were not his favorite. We dressed him up in baby clothes and diapers (my youngest sister was born the same year as Blackie), brought him along on long family trips in the car, and nursed him back to health when he was attacked by a two ferocious dogs that lived down the street.

Having a dog when you are really young probably helps someone to grow up with a soft spot for dogs, and to not be afraid of them. Various people I know tell me that they are scared of dogs, sometimes because they were once bitten or attacked by one. I was also attacked by a dog once—my friend who agreed to take me to the big “eighth grade dance” had two big dogs behind an invisible fence, and my school friend and I rode our bikes over to his house not knowing the dogs were out. As we started walking up the drive way the dogs charged at us, and my friend had the sense to step backwards behind the invisible fence but I didn’t, and instead put my arms up to protect my face. One of the dogs latched on to my left elbow and started biting, leaving a nasty bruise/puncture wound. I had to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot, but luckily no stiches. And in true 8th grade fashion, I had a dress with no sleeves at the dance so I could show off my battle scars to everyone all night. But luckily I  had a lot of positive exposure to dogs as a baby and small kid, which preempted me from developing any major fears.

After Blackie had to be put to sleep while I was studying abroad in France my freshman year of college, I didn’t have a dog for many years—obviously you couldn’t have one in a dorm room, and when P and I graduated our first few apartment buildings wouldn’t allow pets either. Finally P wore out our second to last landlord, and we were given permission for a “small, quiet, well behaved dog.”

I did a petfinder.com search for cocker spaniels (since that is what I had as a kid, and felt confident I could properly take care of one, “I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”). I was particularly partial to black dogs, since I had two growing up. Sampson came up on the search results at a rescue in New Hampshire (although they said he is “part cocker spaniel, part retriever” people tell us he looks like all sorts of things, but the key word “cocker spaniel” brought him to us). He was cute, and black, with a white stripe on his neck–like Blackie!—and he was a rescued stray from the streets of Puerto Rico—an intercultural dog! Perfect!

So P and I put in the application, begged our landlord some more, and two and a half years ago Sampson joined our household. Now he is a spoiled little mutt, because P and I nearly treat him like he’s our real baby. He gets momo snacks from P when momos are on the menu, and egg yokes when I’m making waffles, and he already tried a piece of yak cheese when I returned from Nepal.

And every year on Kukur Puja he gets a special tikka, a flower garland made just for him, a new toy, a tasty packet of new treats, and special treatment all day.

So if you have a little pup in your life, feel free to give him some extra love today!

Sampson is the king of sad eyes, even with his happy, easy life in the AmericaNepali household!

Khasi Bazaar

In the US we have turkey for Thanksgiving, and some people have ham for Christmas, but in Nepal when it’s time for Dashain only one kind of meat will do—khasi ko masu—goat meat.

In preparation for the main day of Dashain, called Dashami—tikka day– P, his dad, his dad’s friend (“Uncle”), and I went to the Khasi Bazaar [Goat Market]. The market consisted of the sidewalk on both sides of the road filled with roped up tarp tents and lines of goats tied to strings and posts. A second part of the market was down a small alleyway where goat pens where stuffed with goats. Small weighing stations consisting of a metal cage for the goat, counter balanced by a platform and heavy metal weights were scattered throughout the market so customers could buy their animal by the kilo.

Before we got into a taxi to go to the market I asked P’s dad what kind of goat we were looking for. “About 30-35 kilos, long legs, not too fat, brown in color, because brown goats are nice to look at.” We found goats of all sizes and colors—black, white, spotted, brown. Daddy at first seemed displeased. He said that these goats were from the Terai [plains of Nepal bordering India], he could tell because of their long ears, and they seemed to be too fat. “Not good,” he said, “We don’t eat the fat.”

We circled around the market for a while, and finally settled on a goat that they had spotted earlier. It was a darker brown goat with even darker brown, almost black, streaks, and small horns. The goat was untied from its post and Uncle picked it up to test its weight. Then the goat was ushered into one of the metal cages for an official weigh in. P’s dad haggled the price, and the goat was ours.

I took its rope and gently led it out of the market saying, “Aao khasi, aao.”[come goat, come]. I wanted the goat treated nicely since it only had a few more hours left of its life. We found a taxi and opened the back hatch and loaded the goat in the back so that it was standing behind the back seat and on top of the spare tire. There was just enough space in the back section of the taxi for the goat, almost like the space was designed for goat travel. P’s dad, myself and P sat in front of the goat on our way home. I pet its head to make it feel more relaxed.

When we got home the goat was unloaded and brought to the back of the house to eat some grass. P and I pulled up clumps from the ground and put our hands up to the goat’s mouth and he happily chewed. After a few minutes P’s dad lead the goat inside the house and two people—P’s dad pulling the string from the front and “Uncle” swatting at the goat from the back—led the goat upstairs to the roof.

The goat was tied in the corner and Mamu give it leaves from the cauliflower she was cleaning for Dashain meals, and we gave it a large pan of water. It bleated a few times then settled down in the shade.

Khasi is thakai.” J Phupu said [goat is tired].

When I pass the goat on the way up to the second roof top (above the kitchen) where P is flying some changa [kites] I feed the goat some more cauli leaves.

Tomorrow the goat will be cut up for Dashami meat, some going to Uncle, some going to P’s relatives, and the rest eaten for the holidays. Daddy said in the morning he would take the goat to the butcher to be killed, cleaned and to have the larger sections of the goat separated (head, thighs, mid-section, etc), but that he was going to Uncle’s house to get a khukuri knife so that they could cut up the larger sections from the butcher into smaller sections.

“You will see, tomorrow.” He said.

Changa Chet!

This afternoon the sun was high and warm, with just enough breeze to get a kite into the air. In preparation P and I wound the nice Lucknow string around P’s old wide wooden spool and took another kite up to the roof.

P quickly got his kite up into the air, and soon it was soaring high above the neighborhood. Half a dozen other kites were also up in the air, mostly too far away from us to “fight.”

“When I was a kid there were hundreds.” P said, bating the other kites to try and come after him. He spotted a black kite struggling a few houses away. “Maybe I should go after that one.”

“What if it is a little baby flying the kite?” I asked.

“There’s no mercy.” He said, again smiling, but steered his kite away and over towards a light blue/gray kite launched from another roof not too far away. As the blue/gray kite climbed higher, it made its way closer to P’s. The kites circled each other several times, dancing in the sky.

“When you cut the string of another’s kite you are supposed to yell ‘changa chet!’ which means ‘kite is cut!’” P explained.

He pulled up and tugged hard on the kite and his string ran straight into the other kite with a force that visibly shook the blue/gray kite, even from such a distance. P’s spool started to pull and the string began unraveling rapidly.

“I guess we have to see who wins the fight.”

He pulled and then loosened, pulled and then loosened, and then the blue/gray kite started fluttering down out of the sky.

“CHETTTT!” P yelled to the teenager holding the kite-less string on the high cement roof a few houses away, “My first win in ten years!”

P looked around for another kite to fight but the others were too far off. “Do you always have to fight them?” I asked.

“What’s the point of flying if you don’t have the competition?” he answered. This type of kite flying was quite different then the few kites I tried to fly as a kid in the park, the point was just to get the kite up in the sky and watch it float in the breeze. There wasn’t really any technique or skill involved, like this kite flying. Every time P let me hold the wooden spool I’d again get the kite in a dreaded death spiral. I was content just to watch and cheer.

A few little kids had watched the kite fight and started to chant, “Baba Che, dhago chod.”

“What does that mean?”

“This kite design is called Baba Che. The kids are calling out to us, ‘Baba Che, release more strings!’ They want us to fight someone so they can get the kite that falls.”

We let it fly for a while more, then P reeled in his kite, alive to fight another day.

Vijaya Dashami, Now Go Fly a Kite!

Today is the first day of the fifteen day holiday Dashain, one of the largest festivals of the year. It’s the day that jamara is planted, and when kids take fragile paper kites to the roof.

After Mamu’s morning puja in the prayer room at the top of the house she planted the family jamara seeds. She had explained last night that one of their neighbor’s used to work at the palace and would bring jamara back from the king, so for many years the family didn’t grow any, but they started again last year.

It has been busy in the house, with many people coming and going. Daddy has been busy handing out packets of invitations for visitors to take back to their section of the city and distribute out to people P’s family knows. Although the household is buzzing with activity, P and I have felt relatively lazy. We have been sitting around, chatting with visitors, sitting on the roof and watching all the activity in the neighborhood, and helping Daddy call and contact guests. This morning I helped Mamu chop onions, mushrooms and tomatoes for the noon time meal.

There has been a lot of rain, at least for a little while each day, but this morning was sunny and warm, while looking out the window P spotted several kites flying, and with a boyish enthusiasm declared that he wanted to fly kites as well. He started searching the house for spools of string and thin paper kites to take to the roof.

I remember a few years ago someone left a copy of The Kite Runner at our house, and P picked it up. He’s not usually a reader, I’ve teased him that he’s been reading the same Jarrod Diamond book for five years, but this book he quickly got into, putting it down every now and then to reminisce about flying kites in his own youth, fighting kites with neighborhood children from the roofs of other houses. Once the book transitioned from the main character living as a boy in Afghanistan and making and flying kites with his friend, to a young man living in America, P quickly lost interest and tossed it aside. He never did finished it.

So P dug through the cupboards until he found a spool of thick string and grinned, “this is very good string, from Lucknow.”  He was about to yell out to the man cutting the grass (by hand with a curved sickle knife) to ask if he could run to the market to buy some kites, but Daddy said there were some stacked above the suitcases in the bedroom. P reached up to grab them, and pulled them down, lifting a cloud of dust.

We went up to the roof, and found a spot between the drying laundry. P tied the string to the nicest looking kite and thrust it up into the air. There really wasn’t any wind, but P started pulling and twisting, sticking out his tongue and biting his lip with concentration. When the kite caught some air and lifted, P’s smile spread across his whole face, “I’ve still got it.”

P got the kite fairly high into the sky, and explained we could potentially fight with other kites that we saw floating above several other houses. He asked if I would like to try, and I took hold of the spool. I didn’t have it for more than thirty seconds before the kite started dropping and spinning out of control.

“What did I do wrong?” I asked, as P grabbed the kite back and tried to rescue it from its death spiral. “I tugged and pulled on the string like you did.”

“I guess it takes skill and practice.” P answered, a bit of pride shinning through his voice.

It took him a few moments to wind in the kite and get it under control, just as huge rain drops started to splatter on the roof indicating another shower was on its way.

P pulled in the kite, and I grabbed the others, and we helped to take the laundry in off the line before it was soaked.

Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Saraswati Puja

(This post was accidentally posted yesterday– however, due to time difference P and I were confused. Saraswati puja is today, but happened yesterday in Nepal because they are so many hours ahead of US time.)

I never know exactly when South Asian festivals are happening– until someone tells me or I see posts on Facebook– so I think it’s nice to have reminders sometimes :)

Thus… Happy Saraswati Puja everyone. Since I work at a university, and P and many of our friends are graduate students, as well as quite a few readers, I figured it would be nice to wish you all for the day. May your studies and productivity be fruitful.

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of learning. So it seems appropriate. May she help you when you need inspiration to learn and finish your school work. If you are like me, you probably need this inspiration all the time to help you focus.

Sel Roti SUCCESS!!

To read about the original challenge, click HERE.

Excuse me while I do a little happy dance….

I’m thrilled to report that the sel rotis were a success! Certainly there is a learning curve, and they aren’t perfect, but for a first timer, I think they are impressive and I’m very very happy.

But I have to admit that I was really nervous. I was worried that my confidence would make me look foolish if it didn’t work. Before trying my first sel roti frying I literally took a deep breath and thought, “Yikes! Here goes nothing”… but it worked out perfectly fine!

So my naak is quite thulo today ;) I wanted to show the process in pictures… for the recipe click HERE.

Main ingredient... rice!

Soak the rice over night

Drain rice in the morning

Other ingredients... rice, ghee (I substituted ghee for butter because I was told it would have a better taste), banana, sugar, water, rice flour is pictured and suggested, but I didn't use...

Everything in the blender...

I added ground cardamom seeds to enhance flavor... just a pinch

Fluff batter and then let sit (covered) for 30-60 minutes to "rest"

Make sure the oil is the right temperature... about 350 degrees F

Very first attempt. A little pathetic looking BUT the batter stayed together and it was almost in a circular shape! Not bad for attempt number one!!

First few attempts were... er... not great... there was a bit of a learning curve... my first one crumbled, pictured in top right hand corner :(

Looking better...

Woohoo!!

Team work with AS!

These are a bit on the "too crispy" side, but they taste great!

N's mom helped to make sure the batter was well mixed, she verified the correct consistency.

and AS was certainly the best roti maker in the house...

Right side-- the "learning curve" pile, left side-- "we are starting to get it right" pile

Taking it out of the oil

How the magic happens...

I'm pouring sel batter into the oil

Don't let anyone tell you it's too hard... it CAN be done! It just takes practice :)

Sel rotis turned out so well... I think we are going to try round 2 tomorrow!! Hurray!!