By Nirman Ojha
The COVID-19 pandemic has been very frustrating as it has impacted our life at personal, professional and societal levels. How are we going to celebrate Dashain and other great festivals in the middle of this pandemic? I am sending my best wishes to you all, from the vantage of my academic life around MIMS College.
Our academic operations highly impacted
Like every other business, the College operations have been impacted extremely. Amidst the Pandemic, we had started online methods for teaching and learning and we were quick to start online classes once the Pandemic hit us. This shift to online learning helped immensely the teachers and students. However, the pandemic impact has been so huge that we had difficulty in smoothly running the online operations.
As you all are aware of the time that has gone by and is going due to the lockdown, many of the families in Nepal, inside Kathmandu and outside, have been stuck in their houses. This pandemic, and the lockdown imposed as a solution, have severely impacted the lives of the students, young minds, and also the elders. It has also affected the parents as they had to cope up with the crisis, managing shocks at the family, while trying to keep children mentally healthy. I am sure you all have experienced the magnitude of the impact this pandemic and lockdown have had on the society.
Doing what we can
Keeping this dire scenario in mind, NIMS College is radically rethinking the way we engage with our students, parents, and the wider community. We strive to create a window of opportunity for our community, to open up the path where we are able to connect with relatives, friends, the community, while still keeping ourselves physically apart to avoid possible spread of the virus. We are intimately aware of the fact that this lockdown has almost stopped the movement, travel, and social interaction which have created a stir in almost all human minds.
In order to ease some pressure, and to reach out to the students, their families, and other actors of the society, we will have activities that will go beyond the curriculum and that will take place outside of the classroom (virtual or real). While doing so, we are also cultivating talent, celebrating life, and preserving culture at the same time. We will do things that are different and reposition our college for future.
Flying kites and relieving the stress
The history of flying kites relates to the Chinese culture, initiating it as a symbol of prayer for the departed soul. It entered Nepal with the same essence as the pilgrimage tourism flourished Nepalese soil with Tibetans inflow.
Nepalese have been flying kites from an early stage of history, remarking the traditions, culture and rituals in order to appease the lords, so they may bless the lands with good harvest and agreeable weather. The change in season of celebrating Dashain from Basanta Ritu (Spring) to Sharad Ritu (Fall) also recognizes the valuable tradition of kite flying as it were used as a message conveyer to Lord Indra from stopping the downpour of rain during the Barsha Ritu (monsoon).
Flying kites during the Sharad ritu in Kathmandu also has a very interesting story. As the Barsha ritu ends, the afternoon westerly winds starts to blow exactly when Dashain sets in. This yester year tradition was to fly kites every season possible but as the kite flyers increased, they used manjha (special string armored with ground glass and an easily maneuvered lattai to reel in and out faster) in their thread which entangled with the birds and ruffled their feathers and suffered cuts. A delegation of birds met the king then and demanded to stop the tradition. The then king and the birds reached a deal to only fly kites during the Sharad ritu and the treaty is known as the Treaty of Kathmandu in the ancient stories.
Flying kites also have healthy, aesthetic and economic importance as it has been a bread and butter for many Nepalese family for last eight or more decades. The varieties of kites come in colored paper, mostly using Nepali paper, was very popular among the crowd which is in a verge of vanishing from the markets. With the vanishing culture of using Nepali paper for kite making, there are limited hands who can make it but lack in preservations, the hands have lost their dexterity. The kite making and selling business have been continued for generations but the charm keeps declining per year. The reason behind the decline is a major gap in transfer of knowledge between the two generations; one to lack the delivery of the importance of the tradition to the followers and secondly, the acceptance by the younger ones of their culture. Dev Kumar Khadgi, a kite seller for 48 years in Maitidevi says it’s really sad that youths are oblivious to the tradition. “There is no play and no game. People have started forgetting to appreciate the colors of tradition”.
We have been flying Kites with deeper sense of meaning and connectivity which can be seen in our habit of flying kites during Dashain. Kite flying brings prosperity and good fortune to the family, and welcoming the forces of good and piety. It is an established norm that flying kites is a ritual to contacting and honoring the ancestors. It is believed the souls of people and animals that die on earth find a way towards heaven when one flies kites. Social scholars have stated the kites join the sky with the earth, something which no other objects in the world can do.
In this distressing condition caused by the pandemic, we urge people to celebrate upcoming Dashain with some positivity and freshness. It will help in getting connected with the family in much deeper sense and would help in inaugurating the friendly behavior to our outer world. It will also help in communicating with ourselves. Events and activities like this have always been providing positive vibes and is a key to bring a smile in order to preserve the societal harmony. It is also very essential to understand the importance of maintaining social distancing for performing the activities. Parents and elders understanding the emotions of the younger ones would help in establishing a better, healthy and friendly atmosphere while juniors and young ones playing can rejuvenate the elders. We would like to request our fellow citizens to fly kites from your homes, not coming to streets, or from your farm land in villages. We also request you to take care of the children while flying kites.
Happy Dashain and Tihar to the Nepalese around the world.
Mr Ojha is a Faculty of NIMS College. He can be reached at: [email protected]