Maha Shivaratri

I remember how my host family explained Maha Shivaratri to me a year ago when I was living in Gaidankot.

I asked how they would celebrate, and they just shook her hand, grimaced, and non-verbally said, We don’t. With a wild gesture.

It’s a gesture that might mean ‘drunk’ or ‘alcoholic’ in the United States. Basically, the hand is extended vertically and shaken, suggesting the negative. I pressed my host mother for more answers. She said, The children come out and they ask for money, Money, money, money, money!

She then imitated a small child by hunching her shoulders and sticking out her hand as if she was begging for money, saying, Dena! Dena! Dena! One rupees! One rupees!

While amusing, the tone of her voice suggested that she’d smacked a kid or two. Apparently the kids go out into the streets and stop cars and motorcycles and ask for money. Many celebrate at Shiva temples by smoking pot or ingesting marijuana ice cream until the wee hours of the morning.

Currently I’m in Narayanghat. It’s become typical that my quick overnights here turn into weekend visits. I had planned on catching a bus to Birganj in the late morning, especially since my days of teaching are more than numbered.

I’ve got a week left of regular teaching left before the school year ends. After that, it’s vacation time in India. All in all, I’ll be in Birganj for around two and half months (if even that long) before I come back to the States. I just bought my ticket this past week in Kathmandu.

Yet I’m in Narayanghat for Maha Shivaratri, walking the streets and sending emails. I remembered what my host mother told me about the kids stopping the buses. On the way to get breakfast, I passed three impromptu tolls with kids ready to get their one rupees (sic).

Across the busiest road in Nepal, young kids stretched lengths of cable across in attempts to slow vehicles so the driver could be heckled, or just to violently dismounted whomever doesn’t pay the toll.

A day long with stops to pay road-barring children didn’t appeal to me, especially considering that I had to pass three just on my way to get a muffin. Bus trips can be brutal, especially when the batteries in your Walkman are low.

So I’ll be heading back to Birganj tomorrow (Sunday). The following Saturday I’ll be back in Narayanghat for another quick overnighter on my way to Bhairahawa to do some teaching demonstrations for the new group on Tuesday.

Or maybe Wednesday with my luck.