Shamans can cure illness!

In “The Social Symbolism of Healing in Nepal,” Stacy Leigh Pigg mentions that there are local healers in Nepalese communities known as phukne manchhe. They are believed to be able to take away ghosts, evil eyes, spirits, and shades, which sabotage people and cause sickness. He also mentions that there are some ritual specialists, dhami or dhami-jhankri, in eastern Nepal. They become possessed by spirits and are able to find out causes of sickness or any kind of suffering. They make protective amulets, in which people believe doubtlessly and feel themselves secured (23). This is absolutely true. I too have an experience of visiting a shaman for the sake of my uncle’s health.  

 

Five years before, my uncle felt so sick that even doctors had no expectation of his livelihood. He was made to return home so that he could spend his last days with the family. However, we decided to take him to a dhami. Therefore, I, along with my aunt, took my uncle to a shaman in a neighboring village early morning next day as there would be a ridiculously long line of people seeking cure for illnesses. When I was staying there, I could see the shaman moving a broom up and down of patients’ bodies and murmuring some mantras. Every time he would say that the sickness was either because of evil eyes or because of ghosts, and he would make the patients drink special water, jal, and carry an amulet to their bodies. The same process was repeated with my uncle too, and the shaman told us that the sickness was because of an evil eye. He advised us to do different pujas in the name of various Gods and Goddesses, and we felt obliged to do so just for the sake of my uncle’s health. I was feeling so ridiculous doing this and that. However, my uncle began to feel better after couple of weeks. We were so happy to see him walking independently but of course slowly. Nevertheless, I did not allow him to discontinue his medication. Thus, shamans have divine power, and have capacity to heal up some sorts of illnesses – particularly illnesses related to divine power.

 

That time, I drew a deduction that medicines cure body illness, and shamans cure spiritual illnesses. Therefore, the combination doctors and shamans foster human health.

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The Blue Flag – A Tangible Symbol of the Dalits

As Vasant Moon mentions in “Growing Up Untouchable in India,” Wamanrao Godbole did a very praiseworthy and exemplary job by making a flag – a tangible representation of the Dalits. The flag was the integrated symbol of the Scheduled Caste Federation and the Samata Sainik Dal. It is said that a tangible symbol adds one’s passion and devotion up for respective issues, events, and people’s rapport. For example, substantial gifts foster relationship between two friends. When there is an exchange of presents between friends, they try their best to save the gifts from being destroyed or lost. They feel very close bond between them as the presents symbolize their devotion to maintain their friendship.

 

Previously, the Dalits were struggling for their right and equality, but they did not have any concrete idol representing them. Nevertheless, they were dedicated to their goal of achieving right and equality. In addition to that devotion, the flag supplemented more stamina among the Dalits for the struggle. The flag prompted them feel pride on being Dalits and dedicate their lives for the protection and existence of the flag. As the flag was a common symbol representing the entire Dalits, a feeling of unity and strength grew among them. Moreover, then popular poets wrote songs about the blue flag with incredible motivation and dedication. They wrote that the Dalits were even ready to sacrifice their lives – flow rivers of their blood for the sustainability of the flag.

 

Furthermore, keeping the flag in front of them, the Dalits used to pay respect and loyalty to the flag. Usually, Bhanudas Varade sang the flag song in a very charismatic voice. The song was an assemblage of all the feelings and aspirations the Dalits had for the flag and themselves. Some of the feelings expressed in the song are: “You are our beloved flag of liberty. You are a source of inspiration for us and for our struggle. You are the one which remind us about our past miserable suppressed lives, thereby urging us to fight for our freedom and independent lives under the leadership of our valiant leaders. We are ready to give our lives up for your existence.”

 

Thus, the flag supplemented the Dalits’ endeavor for freedom and equality.

A Little Help – A Turning Point

In Growing up Untouchables in India, Vasant Moon writes, “Even a little help can transform life so much.” To support this argument, he mentions a story of his grandfather’s friend, Gopal Phuljhele’s children. After the demise of Phuljhele, his family had to overcome with economic downfall, so it became very difficult for his children to continue their education. In fact, they were expelled from school due to overdue fee. Therefore, Vasant Moon, with the help of Changdev Vasnik, helped those children readmitted to their school. Unfortunately, Phuljhele’s younger son, Chagan, died at an early age because of cancer. Nevertheless, Phuljhele’s daughter, Lila, continued her education and became a doctor. Thus, it seems like Moon helped Lila in a trifle circumstance, but it became the turning point of her life.

 

The similar event took place in my life too. Actually, I even today do not understand if it was my good fortune to have an encounter with Mr. Madhav Lal Maharjan, a selflessly benevolent social worker. Actually, I met him in an Interschool Oratory Competition entitled “Child Labor and My Role to Alleviate it,” in which I secured second position. I guess my encounter with him has become a turning point in my life.

 

Since I met Mr. Maharjan, he has been the one who supported and fostered me to live an independent life. For example, he was the one who informed me about Asian University for Women. I am much impressed by his ideology of making me independent. He just told the name of the organization, PAHAL, in Nepal having an affiliation with AUW. However, he did not tell me where the organization was and how to get there. He just told me the name and told me to find it out by myself by the evening of that day. First of all, I did not have any idea how to find the address; I asked my some elders, but they had no idea. Later, I thought of surfing it in the Internet, and finally I got the address and went to PAHAL for some inquiries.

 

Hence, only because he gave me information about this university, I came to know about it and became a student. After coming here, I feel like I am independent like a bird in the sky away from any control. In brief, Mr. Maharjan’s single information brought a drastic change in my life.

Good and Bad differs with context

As Edward T. Hall states in the selection, “The Anthropology of Manners,” that good manners in one circumstance may be bad in another condition. It depends on the place and the kind of people you are dealing with. He illustrates it very vividly telling an incident of an Arab diplomat. When the ambassador attends a feast in the United States, he refuses the first time what he was offered in the meal, but later he is not offered the dish. Therefore, he feels so hungry that he asks a friend to go get eating stuffs. He did so because in an Arab country, refusing the offered dish for several times is a crucial part of manners; however in the United States, once you refuse the proffered dish, you are not offered again. Here Hall clearly suggests us that we should be very wary about our manners and demeanors when we are in new places and new situations.

 

The similar differences can be noticed among people in the same country also. In Nepal, respecting other people is one of the most important manners. If someone kicks another person even unintentionally, the former person is regarded to be very disdainful. Therefore, he or she either bows or touches the person and again touches his or her forehead to show apology and respect. However, the trend of this form of showing respect also varies from community to community. For instance, In Newari societies, whoever kicks another person should touch that person and again touch their forehead to show respect. There is not any age factor or gender factor that we have to follow. However, in Brahman communities, the trend is totally different. According to their belief, elder ones should not bow to younger ones, and men should not bow to women. Therefore, the elderly people and men do not follow the trend even if they kick another person. To a surprise, they even kick other people intentionally thinking they are superior. However, women and younger children are bound to follow the tradition. Hence, if a Brahman person has to deal with a Newar person, they have to know and acknowledge each other’s tradition to have a good rapport with one another.

Napanchmi

Vasant Moon, in Growing
up Untouchables in India
, talks about the festival of snakes or Nagpanchmi
as he reminisces about his childhood celebrating the festival. According to
him, it is celebrated by every house, and the commemoration starts with the
sweeping and the sprinkling of fresh and pure water everywhere. People prepare
various kinds of typical dishes, like muthe,
chapattis, and pahile or khis
; however, people do not eat food cooked in
oil at mealtimes. Moreover, children enjoy the festival by playing games like
competition to get lemons or coconuts thrown at certain distance. Furthermore,
they also entertain themselves by seeing magic shows, which are mainly
affiliated to snakes.

Nagpanchmi may be very unfamiliar to many friends in
my class as they do not belong to Hindu families, so I hope you will get a bit
of ideas from this blog entry in addition to what Moon has written in his
autobiography. A majority of people are Hindus in Nepal, so a significant
number of people celebrate Nagpanchmi, which lies mainly on the month of
August. It is believed that serpents are very perilous and poisonous animals,
and if people worship them, they will never get bitten by snakes. Moreover,
people also believe that serpents are sources of water. Since more than 70% of
the total Nepalese population work in farms, they need water. Therefore, they
worship snakes for water. Besides, Purans say that the entire earth is lifted
by a serpent named Shesh Nag on his head, and Lord Vishnu sits on the coil of
the serpent. Hence, people worship Nags in regard to Lord Vishnu also.

Like Moon has described in the autobiography, in
Nepal also, the celebration of Nagpanchmi begins with the sweeping and the
sprinkling of pure water everywhere in houses, and people prepare and eat
various special dishes like samay bazi,
bara, chhwela, and chhyala. Nevertheless, other parts of
celebration do not match with what Moon has described. In Nepal, people put
serpents’ pictures above the main entrance door of their houses and worship them
by offering cow’s milk; rice grains, flowers, and other oblations. Cow’s milk
is an indispensable item to worship the Nags. Moreover, there are holy ponds
named Nagpokhari at Naxal, Taudaha pokhari at Kirtipur, and Naagdaha at
Dhapakhel, where people take bath and worship the snake god.

It may sound very absurd to many people, but it is
one of the most important festivals in Hinduism.

Ethnic Discrimination in Nepal

In the autobiography Vasti or Growing up Untouchables in India, by Vasant Moon, he vividly portrays a peculiar discrimination between the Dalits and the Brahmans. Moon has created this literary work with an obvious imagery that intrigue our minds and hearts when we read the novel. Since the similar kinds of trends exist in some societies in Nepal, I could clearly speculate what was going on in the Mahar community, how the life styles of Mahars were, what sort of deprivation and suppression they had to overcome, and how they struggled for their rights and finally achieved them.

In Nepal, there exists an ethnical hierarchical system. The most predominant ethnic groups are Brahmans, Chhetris, and Newars. Among them, Brahman is supposed to be the “most privileged” ethnic group, thereafter Chhetris followed by Newars. Newars are called indigenous groups. In the past, Brahmans were usually involved in religious activities like reciting Vedas, worshipping Gods and Goddesses, whereas Chhetris were mostly engaged in political sectors. On the contrary, Newars were very active in trade and business and were the predominant inhabitants of the capital city, Kathmandu.

Still now, in some remote parts of Nepal, Chettris and Newars are not allowed to worship in the temples where Brahmans perform their religious rituals. They cannot use the same water taps as Brahmans do not eat and drink anything touched by Newars and Chhetris. Besides, inter-ethnic marriage is strictly prohibited. For example, if a Newar girl gets married to a Brahman boy, she gets a standard of a servant in the house and never can practice her own right. In some of the extreme cases, girls may be beaten to death.

It would be very surprising for some people that within Brahmans also, there are “Upadhya Brahman” and “Jaisi Brahman.” “Upadhya Brahmans” are accordingly superior to “Jaisi Brahmans.” If an Upadhya Brahman boy gets married to a Jaisi Brahman girl or vice versa, the caste of the Upadhya Brahman drop to Jaisi Brahman, then they cannot experience the rights like high respects in temples, which they used to practice before. The similar is the case with Chhetris and Brahmans.

I wonder why people discriminate among themselves. We all are humans. We all live under the same roof of the open sky and have red blood. Therefore, I do not get any sense in the trend of discrimination among human beings, thus it should be eradicated.

Dilemma

Like the persona in the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, I too have once faced a great perplexity. In the poem, the speaker stands on a fork in a road being confused which path to take. He takes his time to decide as he knows it is highly unlikely to return to the initial point. Finally, he chooses the latter one, which seems to be rarely used. This is what I did to overcome my dilemma.
After I accomplished my secondary level education, all I wanted was a full scholarship for my higher secondary education. I tried in three colleges including St. Xavier’s College. However, I could not get into St. Xavier’s College. Nevertheless, I succeeded in getting full scholarship in two of the remaining colleges, which put me in a dilemma. One college was in my hometown, and the other, in another district of my country. I was bewildered which one to choose as both the colleges are well renowned.
Firstly, I thought of choosing the college near to my home, that is, Bernhardt College, because it was convenient for me to go to from my home, and also I could stay with my family. Moreover, some of my friends were also planning to join that college. Furthermore, I thought that people from various parts of the country came to the capital city for their education, so I might seem to be absurd if I went to another district from the capital city for my education. Therefore, I had already made my mind up to join Bernhardt College.
However, as the time of enrollment came nearer, I again thought deeply about the issue so that I do not have to regret in the future. Eventually, I made a decision that is just the opposite of the former one – I decided to join Notre Dame Higher Secondary School. While I was thinking, I do not know why I happened to think that I should have an experience of being away from my family. Besides, I thought that as it is an internationally recognized college, it would be easier for my higher education and for my career. Hence, I decided to choose a very uncommon alternative, which a very few people choose. Thus, I gained an experience of staying in a hostel for a couple of years. Now, I am very happy that I chose the right high school.

The Mid-autumn Festival

Amy Tan portrays the third greatest festival of the Chinese people in “The Moon Lady,” as a single separate chapter in The Joy Luck Club. Therefore, her approach clearly implies how important the Moon festival is for the Chinese people. Before I researched for my essay (that we have recently done), I was thinking that Tan has created the story of the Moon Lady by herself to make the novel more intricate and convincing. However, after research, I got to know that the Chinese people really commemorate the Mid-autumn festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar with profuse excitement and extravagance like we celebrate Bijaya Dashami in Nepal.

Moreover, I enjoyed reading the small drama in the chapter in which some people pretend to be the Moon Lady, whereas some pretend to be her husband Hou Yi. Firstly, I was thinking that they created the play making the main character the Moon Lady just because of the Festival, but I had thought that from where the concept came. During my research, I read detailed information about the festival, and knew that the story in the drama is one of the most popular legends about the existence of the Moon Lady.

 According to the legend, once, there were ten suns in the sky, so the Emperor ordered a bowman to destroy nine of the suns. Meanwhile, I was a bit distracted. I was thinking, oh! What would happen if there were really ten suns? I am sure I wouldn’t be here reading about the Moon festival. Even the imagination is making me sweat and shudder, what if I am exposed to ten suns in real life? I would be converted into ash within a fraction of a second. Coming back from the distraction, I continued to read about the topic that after the archer, Hou Yi had done what he was supposed to do; the Emperor bestowed him an immortality pill. Unfortunately, his wife finds the pill and takes it. As a result, she is banished to stay in the moon. Since then the couple have been separated from one another and meet only on the night of the mid-autumn night. Hence, this festival is celebrated to admire the meeting of the couple.

I could just imagine how amazing it would be to meet the husband after a year long departure.

Bitter truth is difficult to express.

In The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Lindo Jong is afraid to reveal about Suyuan’s demise to Jing-mei’s long-lost sisters. Therefore, she presents the issue to the Joy Luck Club and carries out a discussion with Ying Ying and An-mei. They feel very bad when they reminiscence about Suyuan’s sudden death and her everlasting longing for her lost daughters. Finally, they decide to reply the daughters’ letter being Suyuan filling the letter with the fake hope of meeting their mother. However, later, Jing-mei compels Lindo Jong to write letter about the fact though it is bitter so that her half-sisters do not misunderstand her when they meet in Shanghai.

Similar to Lindo Jong and the Joy Luck Club, I too find very difficult to disclose bitter truths to others. For example, when I was in twelfth grade in high school, our first year’s result was out. As I used to stay in hostel, and I did not have internet facility at night, I did not know about the result. Later, my best friend called me to say me, “Congratulations!” I told her to look up for my hostel friends’ results too. I noted all my friends’ results down as she told me, and I was stuck on one of my very close friends’ result. Suddenly, my excitement descended. I told her her secured marks, but I was surprised to see her still in the mood of celebration. Later, I came to know that she had calculated her marks adding the practical marks for Chemistry with the theory marks and had thought that she passed in all the subjects. That was the very awful moment when I had to intrude on her joy. I did not have any idea how to tell her that bitter truth. Later, when we were getting ready to go to school, she came to my room for ironing her skirt, so I thought I had to tell her the truth before she directly got assailed by the reality. Therefore, with a great courage, I told her to subtract her practical mark from her total mark in Chemistry, and then she started crying. I could not help myself, so my eyes too were watery. I felt like I seized her happiness, but she had to overcome with that situation one way or the other.

Indeed, bitter truth is always very difficult to express.

Reality vs. Appearance

I was quite shocked when I read how An-Mei’s mother became concubine of Wu Tsing when I read “Magpies,” one of the chapters in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Previously, I was thinking that she herself had fled away with him as I read about her family members’ feelings towards her. According to them, she was a ghost, of whom An-Mei was forbidden to talk about so that An-Mei forgets her mother forever. They thought that An-Mei’s mother had no respect for her family and her ancestors, and so did I before I read the chapter, “Magpies.”  Thus, I came to know what we see in our daily lives is not always the reality. Behind it hides a bitter truth, which when gets exhibited, the entire story somersaults.

Though An-Mei thinks that Yan Chang, her mother’s personal maid, did not do a good job by telling her the bitter truth about her mother, I reckon it was good that she told An-Mei the truth. Otherwise, she might have the feeling that her mother was a ghost, and she fled away with Wu Tsing on her own wish throughout her life. The question, “Why did she flee away to become a concubine, thereby creating so much hatred in her family members towards her?” always lingers in her mind.  This may hamper more or less in her love towards her mother even though she lived with her mother later.

It was only after Yan Chang told her the truth that An-Mei began to see the Second Wife’s real image and true nature. Previously, she was already trapped in the Second Wife’s trap when the Second Wife gave her a pearly necklace. However, her mother was so furious about that, and she even stepped on the necklace to show An-Mei that it was an artificial necklace. An-Mei had no idea why her mother hated the Second Wife so much. Moreover, if Yan Chang had not told her the reality, An-Mei could have become a victim of her conspiracy. Who knows the Second Wife may end up making An-Mei Wu Tsing’s fifth concubine; there would be an ample chance of this incident to happen. Hence, I think Yan Chang was right to tell An-Mei the veracity.

Indeed, every person has right to know the truth, that may have an intense effect on his or her life.