Dashain, Seniors And Family

Prem Khatry

The main part of the Dasain, 2074 has come to an end and the remaining part, especially reserved for the ‘Teeka’ (rice mark on the forehead with cereal grain sprouts substituting flower) for the late comers remains in the ritual calendar. For those sons living far, homecoming on time is not always feasible so there is this grace period.
Now a large number of Nepalis are either in the western countries or in other alien nations sweating for their economy and welfare. Only few would make effort to travel home to join family for the festival. Many are now celebrating the festival in their new world giving a taste of Nepali culture to the host countries. This time even video calls with Teeka on the laptops were seen. Technology has given families this facility to stay united on occasion like the dashain with their loved ones abroad. People were happy on both ends. Back in 1960s and 70s, it was almost impossible to have phone connection, say from the US, with the family in Nepal. Time has changed.

Social Aspect
The social aspect of the popular festival is strong and meaningful. In today’s busy world, people keep traveling. Many Nepali youths remain engaged the farm, factories and offices in far off nations. Only few of them find leave to come home to forget the pains back at their work spots and enjoy leisure time with their family members. Thousands of such workers come with heavy pockets to help Nepali economy. They are doing so for number of years now.
What the government has in its agenda to acknowledge their contribution is a matter of guess. Thousands of them would be happy and satisfied if the government representatives such as the embassies would find out the pinching problems faced the workers in places like the Gulf and Malaysia and do the needful. The news are often full of stories where the workers are cheated by the middlemen, or the employers are forcing them to sign the new work contract that runs counter with the original one signed in Nepal. The government could help them get over their illegal and inhuman terms in jail. You name the nature of blames thrust upon them, you have them. Many unfounded blames have made the country’s name worse.
There are literally hundreds of Nepali youths suffering from such allegations and not finding way out to fight them or come home clean. Compared to what they make and how they support our economy, their pains and sufferings are no less significant requiring quick action using proper legal channels. For their family, friends and relatives, Dashain 2074 remained one more year to ‘kill’ their hopes to be united with their families and suffer in crowded cells. They wouldn’t know what to expect for the next festival. This is most unfortunate on both ends and only the governments can find settlements to such pathetic issues.
What would be the Dasain like in the families in Nepal when half or a quarter of the family is abroad, be it in the hot desert of the Gulf or the forest in Malaysia? The festival has lost its charm for those where families are divided between Nepal or/and the chosen destination of the younger generation. Parents and grandparents find it tough to celebrate the occasion with full attention and undistracted mind. After all, traditionally such festivals are celebrated and enjoyed mostly by the younger members under the guidance of the elderly generation.
As said, in the upper middle class residing in cities the younger generation is missing and leaves the elderly back home. In such a situation, there is less shopping, less cooking and much less festive mood and more loneliness, more silence and more distraction. Gradually, the Dashain culture loses its attraction and commitment when members are divided or scattered. This is the current reality in many homes and families.
How do the isolated seniors in general celebrate the Dashain, then? October one is the ‘ The Day was observed internationally. Nepali media also carried some glimpses of activities on the occasion. Nepal has 2.7 million seniors (aged 60+ years) according to the latest count. It is found that the government has not been able to manage the skill and capacity and engage this generation creatively. In fact, now 60 years is not something to be concerned much about their health and welfare. The government could make plan to utilize their skill and experience for the development of the nation. But this has not happened as yet.
What could be the methodology to do so? In an interview, Dwarika Gautam, a senior citizen himself, outlined few tips such as: a) conducting a survey to assess the situation of the senior citizens, b) mapping their location and developing a roster listing people’s skill and capacity in various fields, and c) making plans to use their skills and capacity in relevant areas of their expertize. Nothing better could be spoken or written than what Gautam has outlined in this respect at this time.
Some individuals and institutions are also worried that the lonely and unproductive life of such a large percentage of capable senior citizen. Bhagawan Karki, a resident of Gothatar, Bhaktapur, is one such enthusiast involved in a project to provide a fully furnished and multifaceted living situation to the needy seniors. According to Karki, his facility would work on a research-based project to provide the capable residents opportunity to serve the nation from different capacities. He would, for example, assess the situation of the seniors of the project area, bring them in one living facility, contact client agencies for consultancy type jobs for the elderly and help them stay active and alert while living in a commune.

‘Dashain of work’
Finally, if physically and mentally active and capable seniors are engaged in local development projects and issues, there will always be ‘Dashain of work’ for them to live longer and happier. The village/city and provincial governments must pay attention to the need of the senior residents of their territory and make their life productive and free from tension arising from loneliness and an insecure future.

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