Coming from a Newar household, and that too living in Ason and Thahiti, people were quick to express their surprise when they would hear me speaking in Nepali fluently (not to be confused with Nepal Bhasa).
“How is a young Newar girl like you able to speak Nepali so fluently?” they would ask.
There was a reason for that. My aunt had married a Brahmin who was the medical in-charge of a health facility operated by the British Embassy in Kabilas, Nuwakot. An inter caste marriage at the time was unacceptable – however, both had fallen in love with each other and had decided to marry. They used to live separately in Ason, and I would visit them often.
Therefore, while visiting their household, I picked up the language. There was also a reason why I would love visiting their house. A family of three, the meals that would be prepared in my aunt’s home was delicious, unlike my own house where meals would be prepared for a large household, and would not taste as good.
Winter in Kabilas, Nuwakot:
One day my mother suggested I should spend that year’s winters in Kabilas, Nuwakot – with my uncle and aunt. My mother suggested so because Kathmandu winters would be unbearably cold. Kabilas which was at a lower altitude than Kathmandu would be relatively warmer.
I, saddened by the fact that I could not play with my friends during the winters tried to resist going to Kabilas. However, I had already developed a cough, and my mother was adamant it would get worse if I did not go away for the winters.
There was no other option for me but to head to a warmer climate.
My days in Kabilas were different than of those in Kathmandu – I received an opportunity to experience the lives of the hilly people. The weather too was pleasant. The locals, surprised at seeing a young Newar girl from the city in their village, would ask a ton of questions. While most days I wouldn’t mind answering to them, some days I would run out of patience and run to the fields to play. I was after all, a little girl.
After returning from Kabilas, I was shocked to learn that a few friends of mine had been married. That however was the norm at the time. I even tried to reach out to a few married friends of mine, offering to teach them what I would learn, however, for newly married daughter-in-laws, something like that was out of question.
A background into Nepal’s political environment at the time:
At the time of my birth, Nepal was ruled by the Ranas, and no one probably even dared to dream of democracy in the kingdom. People would deem it wiser to be in the good books of the Ranas, than in their bad books.
At the time, Chandra Shumsher was the Prime Minister (Shree Teen Maharaja) of Nepal, and signage such as “Long live the Shree Teen Maharaja” was a common sight. People who would work for the Ranas, or had any sort of affiliation with them, would enjoy a special status in society.
Internationally, it hadn’t been long since the First World War had ended. As I grew up, Hitler would rise into power, however not many Nepalis including myself were privy to such information. Nepal remained cut off from the international world for the longest period of time.
Born on an auspicious Tuesday, the priests had suggested naming me Mangala Devi. The priests also foretold my parents that the stars suggested that I would do something extraordinary in my lifetime.
At a time when daughters weren’t considered a blessing as like a son, the priests’ words must have provided a form of assurance to my family, I assume.
Nevertheless, this is how my childhood was spent – up to 15 years of age.