Archive for the ‘children’ Category

What to do in Kathmandu: 10th Asian Documentary Film Festival on now!

in children, documentaries, Film South Asia 2015, Nepal, Uncategorized, What to do in Kathmandu

film south asia 2015

Today I was invited to attend the opening of Film South Asia 2015, a South Asian documentary Film Festival that is held every two years. As we all took our seats in the cozy theater, there was an announcement, “In the likely event of a tremor, there are two emergency exits there, and there.” This was greeted by a wave of laughter; I’m not sure if “in the unlikely event” was meant to be humorous or not, but this morning at 10 am there was a 5.3 tremor here in Kathmandu, the first one I’ve personally felt in a while, and I’m sure it was on everyone’s mind. While it wasn’t that strong, it seemed quite long. More about it here.

The documentary screened at the opening was Drawing the Tiger, directed by Ramyata Limbu, Amy Benson and Scott Squire, and filmed here in Nepal over a period of seven years. The film follows a young girl from Ramechhap District who comes to Kathmandu to pursue her education, and the ripple effect this action has on her entire family. I am glad I didn’t know much more than that when I sat down, as the film was a beautiful and moving experience, including an emotional sucker-punch I was not expecting, perhaps extra difficult for me as I also have the Humla girls I’m helping to educate so it hit really close to home. If you have a chance to see this film, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough: it’s a simple, honest piece and a great sample of ‘show, don’t tell.’ Even documentaries sometimes get carried away in trying to make a point via omnipresent narrator or other methods, but despite the subject matter, this film did nothing of the sort. The only people you heard from were each of the family members involved, and the result was touching, honest, and surprisingly revealing. More about the film at its website here, though be warned that it also tells quite a bit about the story that I was glad I didn’t know ahead of time.

The festival continues for three full days: tomorrow, Friday November 20th, Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22cond. It’s being held at Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, in Lalitpur, with between 8 to 15 documentaries of various lengths being screened on each of the three days. Each film costs just 50 rs. to attend, and are from all over the region–Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and of course, Nepal. The screenings begin around 10 am each day and continue to 5 or 6. For details of which films are shown on which days, you can check out their website,; unfortunately I had a hard time accessing the site and if you do too, you can click on the high-res picture I took of my programme below to embiggen it and see what the choices and timings are. This is a really great chance to see some of the best recent documentaries from this part of the world and I recommend that if you’re in Kathmandu you take full advantage of it!

And with the fuel crisis and shortages unfortunately still in full swing, the organizers have added a special festival motto: “Walk, bike or take a public bus to the Doc Fest!”



About the name-day event

in children, Food, Kathmandu, Newari Food, Newars

For the curious, here are a few more details about the photos in the last post, which I took on December 29th, when invited to the name-day ceremony for the new baby girl of a Newari family who are good friends of mine.

This event is held on the 9th day after a baby’s birth. While I can’t claim to understand all the nuances of the day, the simple explanation is that it is a religious ceremony performed by a Brahmin priest where the baby receives its auspicious religious name. This is not what the baby will actually be called, nor even her legal name, but is nonetheless a very important part of culture and society. You can see the name written in Sanskrit on the pipal leaf.

Also involved was lots of incense and ritual offerings of banana leaf bowls filled with flowers, rice, fruit and other foods, each laden with symbol and meaning.

At the end of it all, delicious celebratory Newari food. A young member of the family really, really wanted one of my peas!

Fun and Food at a Newari Pasni

in children, Food, Nepal, Newari Food, Newars


Today I attended the pasni ceremony of the daughter¬†of a family I’ve been friends with for years now. Pasni¬† commemorates the first time a child is fed solid food–in this case, rice. It’s traditionally done for girls at 5 months of age and boys at 6 months. It begins with a visit to a local temple for a traditional blessing; when we arrived, the baby had just returned from this. We joined the family in the large bedroom; the baby on the double bed where her mother and grandmother sat, us with the rest of the family, on mats all around the room.

“What’s her name?”

“We haven’t decided yet,” answered her mother, to laughter from the room. She told us they’re currently using a nickname that rhymes with the names of two other female cousins.

The baby’s aunt began giving the traditional gifts, each one passed to the baby on a tray in turn (and removed by her mother): baby clothes, paper money, an orange. Similar gifts were given to other senior female relatives: a sari, bills, the orange. Jewelry was also put on the baby: a tiny golden ring which had been bought a size too small–again, everyone enjoys the humour–and a gold necklace and thick silver anklets.

Then, one by one, everyone puts a vermillion and rice tika on the baby, and then feed her a substance that resembled rice pudding; instead of a spoon, a solid gold coin is used to do this. She’s calm and zen, considering strangers are among those smearing her forehead and stuffing food in her mouth–for the first time, too!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the whole affair is how warm and casual everyone is. There’s no sense of formality, of pretension; an ritual that goes back hundreds of years is underway, and while believed vital to the baby’s future, it’s performed with smiles, reminders, humour. And lots of camera flashes.

The ceremony is over sooner than expected, and as this is a Newari family, we are treated to a full spread of local eats. Newaris are the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, traditionally the caste of merchants and business people. Their culture, language, and food is completely unique within Nepal.

And their food is delicious.

Usually when I attend functions or visit friends’ homes, there are one or two dishes that are outstanding; at this meal, everything was:

An egg boiled, then fried was the first serving, with slabs of marinated meat and a bara, a small savory pancake; then another plate of more meat, soya beans, lightly spiced; a fantastic fresh cucumber and daikon pickle, both fried potatoes and yoghurt-turmeric spiced potatoes, a chicken curry. This yoghurt potato dish is from a small town in Gulmi, the ancestral home of this family; visiting their village is the only place I’ve ever eaten it. Now, the family makes it wherever they are. All of these dishes were bound together with beaten rice, commonly enjoyed with food at community functions.

This was taken before the yoghurt spiced potatoes and chicken curry arrived; I was too busy tucking in by then!

This was taken before the yoghurt spiced potatoes and chicken curry arrived; I was too busy tucking in by then!

Raxsi, bara, meat and boiled then fried egg.

Raxsi, bara, meat and boiled then fried egg.

This was all washed down with small cups of raxsi, a local clear alcohol of unknown and varying strength were poured for us from the fine spout of a traditional brass jug, served with the first course, and throughout, long after we’d been sated.

When I asked if it was homemade, the reply was uniquely Nepali: “Yes, it’s homemade, but by somebody else!”

Resting after all the exertion.

Resting after all the exertion.