Life and Culture of Nepal
‘It’s a great time to be in Nepal, a Nation with a future that could be the envy of the world in five to ten years’
“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam”…I grew up in Chicago where Swift & Co. had a stock yard full of cattle waiting to be slaughtered. I conjured up visions of saving those caged animals by stealthily releasing them to roam the city at night. I always thought that would be cool, but here I am in Pokhara, Nepal, a city of half a million and buffalo do roam all around town, true! Not just any buffalo but huge water buffalo, and more, cows wander here too, and chickens, ducks goats, and dogs. This is a land where you will find yourself looking eye to eye on the highway with a buffalo, and they command the right of way. Buffalo are free to graze where ever they want and Cows are considered sacred and are protected. And here you will experience monsoon rains that come on with roaring teeth rattling thunder and lightning that reverberate and flash for a long time as they travel and echo through the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas! Electricity is not a given, it can go off any time during what is called “load sharing” moment, which is to say the country presently cannot supply enough electricity to power the nation all day long so there are several times, actually seeming at random, when the power is shut down. This is soon to change but at present it is a fact that can be most frustrating to any Westerner visiting or living here.
Here women do men’s work wearing beautiful full length Sarris and attractive embroidered blouses and make up (always eye catching red lipstick) alongside men wearing shabby work clothes. They carry heavy loads of bricks and sand in bamboo baskets fastened to head bands. And here you will find those same beautiful young ladies shopping, dining, and dancing in their finest dress, modest, impeccable, alluring, with bracelets and brochettes in pure deep yellow gold and also sparkly plastic and gold bangles of myriad colors and designs. Yet spitting is common by women and men. When the urge happens spit flies usually but not always discretely and not apologetically.
Music of Nepal is uplifting, romantic, and most often danceable, loud or mellow, with various percussion instruments and amazing bamboo flute ranging from seductive to silly and entertaining.
This nation is said to be one of the poorest yet this is trickery here. More than 40% of the men and approximately 10 % of women seek and find lucrative jobs in foreign lands, mostly in the Middle East, USA, Australia and UK. They may work abroad for five to ten years, sending money home and at the same time saving large sums of money. Then they return and build beautiful two and there story stone and mortar high quality, amazing masonry and stunning architecture, They buy and wear expensive, tailored clothing and outfit their homes with high quality furnishings, kitchenware and electronics. Then they often set up mom and pop type businesses or develop an art to enjoy and supplement their income. It’s a proud, quality minded, quite formal, polite and style conscious culture. You will be hard pressed to find any second hand clothing shops here. Most Nepalese would be ashamed of wearing hand me downs or used clothing.
Not to say there are not many very poor and low cast people who never have the opportunity to travel abroad because of prejudice, lack of funds and education. It’s the familiar story of stratified classes of ultra rich, high and large middle class people and a large destitute poor class. The population on the whole consists of agrarian and unskilled manual laborers. But that is changing now with the slowly rising middle class who are managing to take advantage of the multiple private education opportunities subsidized by NGOs and foreign charitable foundations.
The country is having a rebirth since a crippling civil war of ten years ended in 2006, during which over 20,000 people died or were “disappeared”. Then there was the earthquake in 2015 that took the life of 8 thousand people and decimated housing for thousands. The monarchy ended in a bloody massacre and opened the way for decentralizing the power structure. The nation had its first open election in 20 years less than a year ago. After many years of instability the new government is trying to bring about a transition to stability and economic revival. Vastly needed infrastructure is happening with the generous help of its powerful and advanced lucrative neighbor nations, India and China. It’s a country that recently approved a new constitution and calls its government the Nepal Communist Party. Rather than following any established form of communism it has its own unique Nepali form of communism. In my opinion it appears to be in its early stage of formulating a federation, which is socialist/democratic.
Economically there is a rush to catch up and create a formative world class standard of living championed by a robust young population of entrepreneurs who are skilled in the technology world. There are more specialty schools and career training facilities per square mile here than any place on earth, I believe. Billboards and signage declaring the best programs for capacity building, career and higher education promotions crowd each other out posting in layers on walls, utility poles, and in competitive newspaper ads. They are in your face everywhere. Construction is in full speed with new and remodeling of buildings happening at a fever pitch. New roads, railways and hydroelectric projects and international airports are underway or in the planning stage.
Gold is the national standard of exchange and perceived wealth. People hoard gold, not currency, money or stocks and other monetary investments. They are almost antiquated in their pursuit of hoarding actual gold either secretly or in bank deposits. Its seems so ironic that in a so-called struggling , poor third world country people adorn themselves with pure gold rings, nose rings, bracelets, necklaces and all sorts of adornments in pure gold. A bride to be simply must display a gold necklace and gold ring to be taken seriously and her fiancé to be worthy of her hand. Even the poorest of people struggle with great sacrifice to achieve proper recognition. Also the practice of dowry is still quite popular and expected among the more traditional families.