We were going to head to another town in the valley, but we decided to stay in the city and soak up the celebrations that were already starting for 'The Festival' as everyone has been calling it here. 'The festival' is the Tihar Festival that is celebrated for five days in Nepal; this year in November. I read a really great explanation about the celebrations in Nepal, here, if you're interested.) Diwali, or as signs have read 'Deepawali' in town, coincides with the Newari (Nepali minority group) New Year as well. The town is covered in lights and it feels a little like Christmas feels back home. Only, without the commercialism, or maybe there is a certain level of commercialism here, it's just not as obvious as things like 'Black Friday' back home. Regardless, there is an air of festivity that we haven't felt in our travels yet. It's really quite lovely to be a part of, even as a bit of an observer.
Diwali is also known as 'the festival of lights' because little clay pots (like the ones in the pictures I took in Bhaktapur) are filled with oil and kept lit throughout the night, in addition to cleaning the house to make Lakshmi feel welcome. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. A friend of mine told me Diwali is best celebrated by wearing new clothes, lighting candles in your home, and enjoying time with your family. I chuckled at her directions. At least I could wear my new scarf, that counts, right?
In the morning, our guest-house owner apologized for the noise outside. (Not that we noticed it being any louder than it is normally) He explained that everyone was cleaning their houses for the festival. As we walked around, the entire city was cleaning. Water was being sloshed out on doorsteps, sponges were taken to garage doors, and garbage on the street was swept up and out of the way. How fabulous is that? A holiday to clean your house and fill it with light? I love it. And then you get to make a beautiful rangoli outside of your house to welcome Hindu dieties, or simply, to bring good luck.
I told Andrew I want to celebrate Diwali from now on. "Oh yea, you're going to celebrate Diwali with all of the Indians in Alexandria?" He asked. "Yes." I responded, wondering if there are any practicing Hindus in my hometown. "I don't mean Native American Indians." He teased. "I. KNOW." I responded, and then told him he was not welcome to my Diwali celebration next year.
Dogs and Cows alike had marigold necklaces and tikka powder on their foreheads. When we reached Durbar Square, one woman fed the cow and then touched its forehead and then bowed before it. She laughed afterwards in that "Oh cow, what are you doing with all of that red tikka on yourself?" But I can't be entirely sure that's what she was chuckling about.
We went back to our favorite Momo (dumplings) restaurant and then walked around admiring all of the rangolis and watching all of the children go from shop to shop singing and dancing and even beating on a drum for money. Like a much louder version of "trick or treat" that may last for all five days of the festival. I was in love with Diwali until I reached into my backpack for my polaroid camera to take a picture to give to a little girl next to her rangoli… and it wasn't there.
I knew this was going to happen sooner or later… My friends and I all unintentionally took turns getting pick-pocketed in Prague, my wallet was lifted the first weekend back in America after my last long-term travel jaunt, and one of my students in Korea stole my John Deere tractor keychain when I left my keys behind in a classroom. Getting my polaroid camera taken after seventy full days without a problem is probably pretty good odds, especially considering what kind of technology we're carrying around. I'm still bummed about it though. It has been SO FUN surprising strangers by printing out a picture for them to keep. Just this morning, I snapped a little girl's picture after her mom encouraged her to wave to me. When I walked away, the mother was showing other vegetable vendors the picture and had the biggest smile on her face.
I came home frustrated with myself for getting so comfortable and not being more aware. Andrew hugged me, went back out to ask the restaurant if it had slipped out by accident, and came back with some Haribo treats to make me feel better. I have around twenty packs of z-ink paper with me that I figure I may as well hold onto. You know, just in case I rack up enough Thank You points, or see the same camera for sale in a fancy mall in the UAE, or maybe when we make it to England? OR If you're not sure what to get me for Christmas, a replacement Polaroid would be lovely.