A Hindu Wedding in Old Kathmandu, brass band, raksi, and mother-in-law


Start off with some puffery:

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of foriegn medical volunteers who come here, but not very many get a newspaper article written about their project. Here is one about me. I am flattered, of course.

Chuba part two:

After conferring with one particular relative about dress sizes, I decided once again to go to Thahithi, the area of Tibetan shops in Old Kathmandu, to find a chuba in a different size. Two trips in two days? Partly justified by a doctor’s appointment at 4 PM, also in Old Kathmandu. If I was going to see this doctor in that neighborhood I might as well chain this errand.

Managed to find the chuba in the size I needed, as the sky darkened. While I was paying for the chuba, torrential rain came and I watched the street fill up with muddy water. Soon this street, a major thoroughfare, had a foot of water in it, and judging by the depth of wheels of rickshaws, I could see it was deeper about fifty meters downstream. Too narrow for a sidewalk but the buildings do have adjoining stoops, so I picked my way along these as if I were a trekker, but then found an impasse. I got out my poncho and waited for the next rickshaw. It wasn’t long til one came, he had the blue rain tarp pulled over the bamboo frame and I piled on.

It’s not as if it was standing water. If I had an inner tube I could have floated along….. The streets had gotten strangely deserted, and I paid this guy 100 nrs for carrying me about 300 yards. At Indra Chowk the rain stopped abruptly and I shook my poncho dry, stuffing it back in the bag…

Doctor’s Appointment

I took a quick taxi to Sundhara, and met the doctor. No, there was nothing wrong with me. The idea was to do some networking. We met in his administrative office, sharing views on nurses in the global workforce, turnover in ICU, the supply and demand, the dowry system as applied to arranged marriage for nurses, and how to deal with Nepali bureaucracy.

The upshot is, let’s all work together, here. It was the kind of meeting I like.

I got a tour of the ICU and the classroom they use in an adjacent building. This place has central ECG monitoring, uses central lines, has a bunch of ventilators, and keeps the ABG machine right in the ICU.

The upshot is, we are negotiating dates for yet another three-day course for nurses, to take place in late July. And why not. Let’s reach out to forty more students!

Now, at the end we get in the car, and I am being given a ride home, Sundhara shares the maze of narrow streets, no straight roads here so you can’t see far ahead, probably some of the oldest street layout in this ancient city since we are nearer the Bagmati River.

And up ahead, a complete traffic jam. A thumping drum line. Oh Yes! I thanked the doctor and jumped out of the car.

A wedding.

This was my second encounter with the Everest Brass Band of Lalitpur. Sixteen guys, all in red jackets except the leader, Sudarshan Pariyar, the clarinet player. I started filming right away, and I could see that we were at the groom’s family’s house; all the women of the household dressed in their sari finery, a tableau formed for a special puja that happens when the new woman joins the household. Very emotional moment in the events of any Nepali wedding, since the bride must now relate to her mother-in-law.

And up comes the vehicle with the wedding couple, as men dance to the rocking brass band.

The next tune was even louder, even better. I noticed that Sudarshan had a wad of money pinned to his jacket, so – I got out a 100 nrs note, and while he was playing, stuck it in his lapel. From my old East European folk dance days I knew this was the way to pay a complement… And then….

And then the groom’s uncle came over and invited me to join them, saying I had honored them all by honoring the musicians they chose, would I please join their dinner?

Not to get all anthropological about it, but this was one of those five-story buildings where the family shares some common rooms, and the whole extended family lives there, each with just a bedroom to themselves. Like Christmas at my Polish Grandmother’s house, year-round.

Well – why not?!?!

Pleasant wonderful chaos and I got some great video of the band. Got the email addresses of people including a contact with the band, and I will let them all know when it is uploaded to YouTube. Had a bit of raksi, talked with one guy who is President of local boxing federation. Spoke Engpali with the guys in the band.

Addendum:  a week later, I returend to the Band’s HQ and got an interview in Nepali with the manager of the band. Want to book them for a wedding? Here is everything you need to know!

Anyway – I left when the band was finished. Got to the main street, as I walked along the sidewalk I could see that successive taxis would slow as the came past, made me think I was being followed by the KGB.

Then to the bus stop at Thapathali and – home. Crossing the bridge I could see that if the Bagmati River goes up another foot or two, the extensive squatter settlement in the flood plain will be flooded.

About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

Experienced nursing educator and problem-solver. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add it with fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. I travel outside of Kathmandu Valley as well. When the recent violence happened, I knew the cities - I had trained people in those locations. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011. Global Health Nursing is not all sweetness and light; not solely milk & honey and happy moms and babies.
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One Response to A Hindu Wedding in Old Kathmandu, brass band, raksi, and mother-in-law

  1. The internet was working at the Guest House, long enough for me to upload some of the video I took. I enjoy brass band music in case you have not guessed…

    and

    these two should get you started. Or just go to YouTube and search for the ‘Joe Niemczura Channel”

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