Mid autumn and my mind has gone walkabout. I sit on a tree bench in solitude and stare at the river beach. Glimpses of my childhood memories in Nepal flash through like a bolt of lightning: school, house, people, temples, henna, monsoon, and the picturesque Himalayas which were visible from our house. Its memories are so sweet that I catch myself smiling to myself. Magic and mysticism is how I describe Nepal. Magic and mysticism is how I saw Nepal.
Nepal is a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi religious country. For a relatively small country, Nepal has a diverse landscape, ranging from the humid Terai plains in the south to the mountainous Himalayas in the north, which makes it a major tourist destination. Hinduism is practiced by a huge majority of the people, but the country also has a strong Buddhist tradition; Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama is located in the Terai, one of the three regions of Nepal.
My nomadic lifestyle as a child left a big mark on myself. Living in four different continents impacted on my view of the world, leaving me with a vast experience to draw upon.
I always saw my family as nomads moving from one place to the other, switching in and out of countries like a gypsy in search for a new adventure. Each country opened a blank new page in the book, each place espousing a new memory, a new story waiting to be written. I grew up in four different places: Sydney, Kathmandu, Cairo, and Jeddah, all places which had its own little story to be sung.
The weather starts to take a turn and little rain drops drizzle down. I begin to make my way back home in hope of escaping the rain. As I walk I reminisce the monsoon season, how the rain used to be thick and heavy that it would leave one drenched in minutes.
When it rains when I am in the wilderness, the memory of hiking up the mountains in Nepal comes back. I remember the time when we came face to face with death and danger while hiking the mountains. While we were up the weather took a turn and rain started pouring down followed by lightning and thunder. A mudslide soon followed we are lucky enough to escape safely before it swept us away.
In our household we had a nanny, along with three other servants who took care of the house. Our nanny was called Jum’a which interestingly is the Arabic word for Friday. However, Jum’a wasn’t an Arab nor a Muslim but a Hindu as the majority of country were.
Jum’a and I had a close relationship, she would entertain me with Hindu fables, while (I as a curious child) asked questions like “why do you have dot on your forehead?” and other questions adults now would deem rude or too personal to ask, yet I was always in search for answers and clarity.
One day I vividly remember Jum’a slipping up to tell me that her husband physically abused her, she would say: “I can’t do this or my husband will beat me!” That was my first introduction to the concept of domestic violence yet I was foreign to the term itself.
From then on as I child naively felt it was my duty to make things better for her, so her husband would be nice to her when she got back home. I remember asking her what type of food she liked (which was spicy) and I would ravage the fridge to give her sachets of spicy sauces along with food that I would offer her to take home which she so politely accepted. In my naïve head as a little girl, if I she came back home with food her husband would be happy, therefore less abusive.
Yet despite being poor, despite having less money than the average person, Jum’a in turn would buy me little gifts and leave it on my bedside table as a surprise when I got back from school. One day she took me with her to the markets to buy some groceries and she said “pick anything you would like for yourself!” Clutching her hand tightly, scanning my eyes around the market, my eyes fell upon a beautiful green parrot. She bought that parrot for me as a present.
I fondly remember what we kids called “Balloon day”. Balloon day was the celebration of the festival Holi (festival of colours, and joy). To celebrate one would get sprayed with either dyed water or water in balloons. On that day my brothers and I would wait in the balcony for the servants to come in and we would throw water balloons vice versa. We would all end up being wet with water and colours. It was such a fun day! I looked forward to it everytime.
One day as school trip we went to visit the Swayambhunath Temple also known as the Monkey Temple (due to having holy monkeys living there). The temple is very distinctive by the eyes on the base of the dome which looks in four different directions. According to the Buddhist tradition the dome represents the entire world and when a person wakes from the bonds of the world the person reaches a state of enlightenment. I remember saying hello to Buddhist monks in the temple along with the holy monkeys. This as a child deeply fascinated me. I wondered what the monks did everyday in the temple and how did they spend their life.
Despite being two years old when I arrived in Nepal and left when I was six, it is funny I can still remember glimpses of my childhood there. Its memories forever craved in my brain which I fondly reflect upon from time to time. I love the Indian food because of my exposure to it as a child. One day, I will go back and re-visit the people and the places that made Nepal so special.