Today, my Nepali friend’s beat me to the caroling site. I was greeted by Niran—Sunil’s older brother—holding Angel, who is happy enough to leave her uncle and come to my arms despite his protests. The boy who had whacked the lady’s nose the night before greets me with an energetic “Jaimashee, Tori didi!” He then turns to his friend, says something quickly in Nepali, and turns to me with, “hai, Tori didi?” When I don't respond immediately, he adds, “…in the car, last night?” I laugh. “Hajur,” I agree. I'm not entirely sure what part of last night’s car ride he is referring to, but I figure it must have been some part he considered good, so “hajur” was an appropriate reply.
Anita didi, Angel’s mother, looks at me worriedly. “Tori, do you not want to dance on Christmas anymore?”
“Of course I want to dance on Christmas,” I reply.
“Then why aren’t you practicing at home?”
“But I am.” I tell her, in simple Nepali, that I practiced this morning in front of the large mirror at the hostel. My hostel mate had emerged from her room just as I finished. Anita smiles, reassured. Sunil takes the opportunity to whisk Angel out of my arms over my shoulder, leaving my arms cold halfway through my story.
“Where are you friends today?” Sunil asks. “Did we make them angry last night with all our teasing?”
“No,” I laugh. “Just confused.”
Sunil was amused by this, as I knew he would be.
“They went to Chitwan today; they’ll be back on Thursday,” I explain.
As soon as it gets dark, we begin singing. There isn't much room for dancing, but Sangita didi clears some space, and Samuel tries to organize people where “dancers” are on one side and “singers” are on the other (I move to the “singer’s” side). We start off with bhajan 51: [Our] salvation and our saviour, Jesus is born, Jesus is born. Bhajans 49, 42, 35 and 480 are all sung as in previous nights, but then someone calls out “Let’s sing ‘ding tang tang, play the madal!’”
“Which bhajan number is that?”
“I don’t think it’s in the hymnal.”
“Have we sung it before?”
“Of course we have! I don’t think we sang it last year though…”
“Well, we all know the words, let’s just sing it!”
“Does anyone remember the melody?”
“Where’s Radhe? He knows it!”
“Radhe is not here, I haven't’ seen him.”
“Oh, I found it! Its bhajan number 528!”
Amos dai decides we’ll just wing it. Ashish doesn’t know the guitar chords though, so Sunil is instructed to start it with the madal.
Ding tang tang, Ding tang tang, play the madal!
Ah ha lau hai, look, in Bethlehem's stable
Hai, Jesus the king is born, look hai, look lai, look!
While Amos apparently knows the melody, he is drowned out by everyone attempting to follow him or making up their own melodies, and the poor guy behind me must be tone deaf because he’s been singing everyone song to a drone.
After Amos dai shares the meaning of Christmas, someone calls out “one more song!”
“Oh, look Radhe is here! Let’s sing bhajan 528 again!”
“Tori, this is the last song, you HAVE to dance!” Sangita didi pulls me away from the singers while another lady relieves me of my purse. While the madal rhythm starts out fine, the melody is as broken as before. “Hey, where are the words? I can’t hear the words!” Sangita didi calls out. This implies that she can’t dance, because she doesn’t know what story is being told. She just laughs and begins to move to the rhythm of the madal. I try to imitate her, but the young fellow to my left was a bit distracting with his big arm movements that I try to avoid making contact with.
Soon, plates of chura, meat, stir-fried greens, curried potatoes and a potent radish achar are passed around. Since there is limited seating, many of us stand to eat. Pratima, Kumar’s 14-year-old daughter, and I are able to find a seat on a mat close to the fire. Sunil seats himself comfortably beside us. “I’m bored,” he tells me in English, “you’re friends aren’t here; no one to tease.” He then turns to Pratima. “We had a really good time last night,” he told her in Nepali. “Where were you?”
“I didn’t get out of school till 5:30.”
“What? Why so late? You couldn’t remember anything you learned, and they made you stay later?”
Brothers…they never know when to stop. I wished for a moment that Pratima wasn’t so kindly natured and would smack him just once. I probably should have smacked him for her, but I didn’t think of this till later.
Pratima and I go to wash our hands, and Sunil follows suite soon after. She hands him the bottle of water. He washes his hands, then takes a drink. Someone nearby says something he finds amusing, and he laughs, gagging on the water. “Laughing and drinking don’t mix,” I tell him. Thinking he is done, I hold out the cap to the bottle. He blurts out a word I don't recognize, but seems to be an imperative of some sort. He pauses, then says, “um, that was Newar for ‘wait’”. Living with a family of Newars for most of his life, he would inevitably pick up phrases and words that he now sprinkles in with his Nepali.
I walk home with Niran, Sunil, Arun, and some guy whose name I haven’t learned yet. The new guy was telling something hilarious to Niran, and Niran turned to me. “Tori didi, did you ride in the vehicle last night?”
“On the way home I did.”
Sunil fills me in. “This guy rode to the house in the vehicle,” he says in English, “and he said someone gassed, and it smelled really bad for a long time.” He starts laughing.