Culture and Changing Times
One day I was returning with two full buckets of water in my hands. I heard someone call my name. As I looked sideway, I saw an old woman, far elder than I have ever seen. With keen eyes, she gestured me to come up. Then only did I recognize that she was my grandmother. But she had changed a lot. She looked old. Her strong muscles had given away. Her long hairs were uncombed and all over her shoulder and face. Even with all the clothes she put on, she looked skinny. Once a beautiful face was now nothing but lines of skins.
I bowed to her and took a sit close to her: “How are you?” Her voice was just a muffle. “I’m fine, how about you? I found out that she had been sick for more than a week or so. Her feet were swollen and she was having continuous fever. As I looked closer, I saw her thin limb, shrinkage chest. There was not much left of her. Her health really was deteriorating.
When I asked if she had consulted the doctors or had taken any medicine, she replied “I have been taking some medicines for some time but it doesn’t help me much. But this is not why I called you. She smiled distinctly: “Look, son, our village is not the same anymore. The fields, the way we work, the people, the clothes we wear, their behavior are changing at a slow pace. It is good in some way but all things are not meant to change. There are things we have, that are best preserved; things that are so close to life itself. My only concern now is that I might die without sharing them.”
She continued, “Although these days people are so concerned about change, a day will come when people will look back. You see, I am very old now. I can feel the death in my bones. I will not have a peaceful death if I die without sharing them. So if you have time, come here tomorrow and we can talk.
I could not believe we were having this conversation. We had just met and her main concern was nothing but all about preserving the culture.
“Of course I will come here tomorrow”, I replied. At noon, I took a pen and a copy and went to my grandmother’s home. She was, as usual, on the roof taking sun bath and looking after the grains that were basked under the sun. Her gaze was far away, staring at something I would probably not find out. She blinked her eyes as she heard my footsteps.
“I thought you wouldn’t come,” she said. Why would you even think that? I replied. Because many of them didn’t, she replied shortly, as if she did not want to remember the past days.
“Come sit here. I am happy that you come. Now let get straight to the point,” she started the conversation. Without delay, I was busy writing. Then, at that instant, I realized that my grandmother looked different. She did not even look sick anymore. There were sparks in her eyes every time she speaks. Her voice was strong and full of enthusiasm. She would even move her arms rhythmically and energetically. I felt so grateful to be with my beloved grandmother, to be listening and writing down.
My grandmother passed away after a month of my return to Kathmandu.
I figured out later what my grandmother really wanted to teach me. Of course, things changes according to time and we should accept that. There are things that are not relevant and we should let them go. But there are things that are so connected with the way we live, the way we grow up and the way we relate to one another. There are things that make us feel at home, the way we deeply relate to. These things need some deeper insight before making some changes. And, the bigger challenge is to transform these cultures so that they remain harmonious with the society we live in, without losing their essence. That is exactly what she wanted to deliver, a message of caution in these changing times. Afterall, how can we grow up if we forget our roots, huh?
~ Dhirendra Buddha Chhetri