Everything Marriage · Life in Nepal · Personal

Mourning from a Distance

A few days ago, Ba’s cousin’s wife died. This meant he and Ama had to enter a period of mourning. Death and mourning are observed differently in Nepal and in the Philippines, so I wanted to document this one. This is different from mourning the death of a core family member. I don’t know where the person died, and they haven’t left the house to see relatives or participate in any community event, so I call their observance of her passing “mourning from a distance.”

This meant that Ama couldn’t do puja. I wrote about how most of her day revolves around it, so this is a noticeable change in her daily rituals. She still showers everyday but there’s no rush now so she gets out of bed later. She always changes into a fresh set of clothes so that means there’s a blouse, two or three petticoats, saree, and bath towel to wash every day. Sometimes she does it, most of the time we do it for her. But during this period, we can’t.

Most of the things to do/not to do during holidays and other days of religious observance in Nepal revolve around food. During mourning, Ba and Ama can’t eat meat, eggs, mushroom, eggplant, and dishes with onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and salt. The last five items are staple ingredients in tarkari. Chili is allowed though.

On the day that we found out about the death, we were already well on our way with lunch prep and so I asked Scott if we had to cook again for him. He said no.

Me: Oh, so it starts on the second day?

Scott: No, it starts on the first day, but it’s okay for them to eat regular food for now because it’s a Wednesday.

Me: What is up with Wednesdays?!

Scott: *shoulder shrug*

Note to self: File this under questions that don’t have answers. 

They also could not have milk. So every time we made milk tea, Ama would be lured into the kitchen by the smell. And Ba would crinkle his nose when we give him black tea. They also used to have biscuits with their tea, but as I understood it, they couldn’t have processed food. So they ate fruits instead. Ba struggled a bit with all of these, and he always said he was hungry. After about three days, Mum said we should give them milk because they’re already old. So milk tea was back, and so was the glass of milk in the evenings after dinner. This significantly improved Ba’s mood. On the 10th day (or after the 10th day?), they could eat the usual tarkari again. But not if it’s eggplant. And still no mushrooms. I think it just meant that the spices are allowed again.

There was also something about how they couldn’t eat unless they’ve showered, but I’m pretty sure Ba ignored that one. And then the one who’s preparing the food must shower too, or at least change into fresh clothes. Once things got complicated, I stayed away. My rule of thumb regarding Nepali customs is: When in doubt, stay out of the kitchen.

I think if I can only have on tip about living in Nepal and adjusting to Nepali culture, it’s that. Stay out of the kitchen.


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