The arrival of Dashain is evident not only in the colorful kites popping up against the clear blue skies but also in the energy that seems to fill up locals. I am excited about the holiday season too, but for reasons that are different than the conventional. Have I mentioned why? I am not a Hindu.

 

To be the only non-Hindu in the family and see the people you love immerse themselves in a pool of rituals is extremely painful. One of them has to do with my faith, which is a topic for another day. The other reason is because amidst all the family activity that goes around during the festivals, it is only me who is not a part of it. Although I am a part of the family, I am not a participant in what happens for the better part of the holiday. And at some point I cannot help but feel alone; this is heartbreaking. But it is a choice I made for myself, so I am not in a position to bicker about it. This is my reality and I have learned to accept it.


As far as the things I love about Dashain go, I realize that what I am about to list down is very similar to things that any Dashain celebrating person enjoys too. But that is the thing about the holidays; they bring together family and that really is the best thing about it. It is a time to mend broken bonds and to create great memories. It is not the biggest festival for me, but it is the biggest holiday season for sure. And I try to celebrate it the best way I can –in my own unconventional way.


I vividly remember, crossing off days on the school calendar in anticipation of the Dashain holidays. The clear blue August skies were a welcome sign of the year’s longest holiday creeping in. It still remains an exhilarating feeling. Like my six-year old cousin, to me Dashain is nothing more than the longest break from the everyday. To her it is a break from school, to me it is a break from work -both equally despised but unavoidable.


So while others look forward to puja, rituals, tika and dakshina during Dashain, I look forward to a worthy vacation for myself and some quality time with my family. Every year around this time, I am planning for a vacation away from home. However, I make sure I’m back shortly after the main events of the festival are done. Like I said, to my family, Dashain still holds spiritual value and it is still celebrated in full throttle. I don’t want to get in the way.


Speaking of getting away from home, I have realized over the years that there are hundreds of thousands of people living in Kathmandu. It shows in how barren the streets of the city become during the festival. And I love this bareness that Kathmandu has during this time, no matter how momentary. I love to zip through the roads that on any other day would be impassable. The open streets give a sense of freedom; something worth treasuring.



Then there are the endless gatherings with cousins. The rest of the year has everyone scrambling for enough time to stay till dinner. It’s only during Dashain that everyone has the luxury to laze around, wind down and chat till late. There is no worry of waking up early the next day, or of rushing through chores to reach work on time. There are no assignments to complete and there is nothing too pressing. Time slows down for a few days and so does life. And it is just satisfying to live a rather fast paced life in slow motion for a day or two.


Dashain also encourages one of my favorite hobbies too - eating. My love affair with food comes full circle during the festive period. My mother and I like to try new recipes, play blame games over nasty outcomes and also rejoice in the tasteful victory. Again, this isn’t something that we get the opportunity to do very often and I feel grateful for the week long holidays. It is the small moments that make life complete and I enjoy savoring every bit of it.
This Dashain again, my plans include a week-long vacation away from home. I don’t know yet where I am going, but I will. As for the last few days that remain of the vacation, it will be spent with my family. If you really think of it, this isn’t a bad way to celebrate the longest holiday of the year. The way I see it, it is the only way to it.