As we crested the mountains edging the valley before beginning our descent, I was struck by something I had not seen before – twinkling lights from small gatherings of houses that mushroomed into the increasing brightness of the usually shrouded Kathmandu ‘burbs. My camera could not do it justice. I bet the pilots breathe a little easier in the cockpit, now having so many visible reference points in the dark to guide them to a safe landing. Who knew loadshedding really is a thing of the past!
My re-entry to Nepal actually started in Colombo with a gentle ‘Namaste’ from the cabin crew while I was boarding the plane. Nepalis have a unique way of saying Namaste, it’s the cadence with which they sing it: Nam-ass-they where the ‘Nam’ is at a low note, the ‘ass’ is at a higher note and the ‘they’ is a note in between and elongated. You may think I am daft but when I hear it said this way, it just screams of comfort and home.
The crew were the same crew on the inaugural KTM-CMB flight on October 1, 2016 and they actually remembered me, as I did them. In fact they all feature on the promotional brochure for Himalaya Airlines so it is hard to miss them. I don’t know of any other airline who uses the real crew in their promotional material. Oh, I tell a lie. HeliTours, the folks who fly from the military base in Colombo to the military base in Trincomalee and Jaffna, also use their staff in the promo material.
On arrival to Kathmandu, the Immigration Officer also remembered me from a few months back … it’s the haircut I think. And I was only one of five non-Nepali on the flight. I got my tourist visa easily. My bag came out in a jiffy and I was the second person through customs, getting a pre-paid taxi to Sacred Valley Hotel in Thamel – my second home when I need to overnight in Kathmandu. Nabin, the owner and whom I have known for years, was waiting at the hotel gate for me, welcoming me with a big smile.
Do you know, it feels really really good to be back in Nepal.
My visit is a short one but it is for a very special reason. My young friends Nikita and Binay whom I have known for a number of years now are getting married! So exciting to have been a part of their courtship all those years ago when I first worked at SIRC in 2013 and where both Nikita and Binay (not forgetting Rozina), joined me as SIRC’s first MBA business interns. I have not once regretted the day they came into my life.
Their wedding is a five-event Newar celebration in Bhaktapur so I will have plenty of opportunity to catch up with our mutual friend Anu, Katrina and Cathy who are travelling from Northern Ireland especially for the wedding, as well as many others from SIRC who are also wedding guests.
Tomorrow is the first event – Supari – the formal acceptance of the relationship usually 4 days before the actual wedding day. On this day, the groom stays behind but his family bring multiple gifts including betel nuts, fruits and jewelry for the bride-to-be. The Sahit paper is also finalized. It’s important as it determines the most auspicious date for the wedding, based on the bride & groom’s dates and times of birth. Once the puja ceremony is complete, the guests are provided with lots and lots of food by the bride’s family and the party begins. Pity I won’t see Binay tomorrow – the groom is not allowed to attend Supari!
I’ll be hopping the local bus to Bhaktapur early in the morning which should give me enough time to change into whichever outfit Sangeeta thinks I should wear before the 1pm start. I left three outfits at the Kayastha family home for safekeeping before I left for Sri Lanka last October. Sangeeta helped me choose them: an emerald green sari richly beaded in gold, a fuchsia pink sari with understated gold threading and a royal blue umbrella kurta with silver bling-trim. It will be one of these three outfits I will wear today – being mother of the bride, Sangeeta will make sure I’m dressed correctly for Supari!
From Colombo I brought with me a Sri Lankan silk batik kaftan as well as a beautiful maroon bead-encrusted sari on loan from my work friend Firasa. It’s stunning.
Yes, you read right. I am embracing all things bling for once in my life! Can’t wait. With the style at this wedding, I had to step up my game.
In between all of these wedding events over the next 10 days, I’ll pop out to SIRC to visit everyone at Spinal Centre and will also travel to Banepa to say hi to Lok, Krishna Maya and Rina. I’ll be spending the day with Mingmar Sherpa and family in Kapan. Momos with Nicol is also on the list, and Momos and Beers in Boudha with Amira who has returned from the Middle East to Nepal to take part in a week-long Free Wheelchair Distribution & Clinic at SIRC with Walkabout Foundation. A full social calendar to be sure. I hope to have dinner with Esha one night if her calendar frees up a little.
A busy time ahead, it will be full of fun and laughter I have no doubt. And sure, I can always catch up on sleep when I get back to Colombo.
Did I not tell you already? It’s good to be back in Nepal!