COVID-19 and Our Festivals

29 Jestha 2077, Surakshya Poudel. Paused world in today’s date due to COVID-19 is a reality which is impacting every lives in earth and making world contained in their houses like never before. We had days when social medias and other folks were trying to promote socialization racing with the rise in digitalization and then COVID-19 popped up with a new theme of social distancing, a measure of social service. With a good impact in controlling the spread of the infection, lock-down have reflected new perspectives and is molding us in many ways. For a culturally rich Nepal where numbers of festivals are coming in row this year, lockdown will certainly add a new way of looking to our traditional and social values of celebrating festivals. Lock-down may give us a new sense of celebrating festival wisely with families and a memory for lifetime that festivals be a means of religious and cultural expression rather a materialistic means of a social competition.

This is the war against a virus and until all aspects of society comes together, the war cannot be won. It’s a challenge to communities were social values and tradition are respected and strictly followed and also an opportunity to resonate how civilized ones respond, where people preserve their culture and protect their nation. Celebration of Bisket Jatra, matatirtha ausi, gave us a glimpse how the following festivals may look like. We had virtual conversations with families far away and offered prayers to our people in frontline in Buddha Jayanti. The festivals taught us a new way of celebrating or practices with dignity and sense of humanity. It paved a way to think that before being related to any religion or background we are human and a responsible citizen of the planet. Why not continue the same sense of joy in every events in future?

Millions of Muslim people worldwide celebrated Ramadan with culmination of all the fasting coming with feast of Eid ul –fitr. My conversation with my friend who have been celebrating Eid with full joy, meeting relatives, long table dinner with many delicacies every year, shared that they did not feel too festive this year as it was more of homely affair only but had a new experience of good vibes. I wished “Eid Mubarak” as I do every year but this year my friend was himself working for quarantine management for COVID-19 so, could not give much time for the preparation of the festive. In reply to my wish he added #staysafe. I got to know from him that the prepared Eid menu Biryani, Kebabs, Sevaiyan, Sheer Korma by his mom went in parcel to his all other volunteer friends who are round the clock working in quarantine and others in the quarantine unit. What a selfless, dedicated and pure form of celebrating the holy festival. The festival was surely not as every year to he and his family but yes, he addressed that it gave them a sense of inner peace and satisfaction. Lets’ realize with this that we can do things as beautiful as celebration this year by contributing to humanity, respecting your religion and being thoughtful to your national Safety and Security.
Our festivals, red colored Teej, gatherings of Janai poornima, huge crowd of Krishna Janmasthami and hours long stand up in Pashupatinath on shrawan may be questionable this year as many researchers say that the wave of COVID-19 will last few years from now. But do we need to fear the threat in festivals and its religious values? of course not. If the festive are carved with beauty of religion, the tradition will glow till eternity but the pseudo tradition that our communities have been nurturing in name of festivals with social degradation will surely have a good fall. This year, the diseases is forcing us to realize that culture lies in every corner of home, long life of husband may not be knitted in the thread of showing jewelries rather in establishing love and peace at home, its letting us rethink that months long celebration with your fellow female was just a reunion in name of a purely set tradition and eating healthy protein diet was a social form of religious celebration at Janai poornima. The wrong interpretation of festivals has not just been a wrong direction to upcoming generation but also creating a social havoc where the low and middle income family struggles to fit in so called better societies. May be this year we get to feel the true essence of festivals that our ancestors have set long ago.

This year, make the Prayers louder to support world to get over the diseases soon. While the angels at frontline are risking themselves for a better future lets’ we staying at home offer a space of solidarity to bring a change in thought process and cleanse the practice of social degradation in name of festivals. Lets’ count on scaling down what wrong we were doing while practicing our own culture and unfold the core meaning of each festivals.

Many scientists’ community and researches claim that the world pollution meter is lowest in decades, had there been any research in celebrating festivals and cultural practices now, surely some changes would have been noticed. But until that, why not have self-reflection on what could be changed for a better society. If we Nepalese can fight for nation in all the way, then let’s also speak up to minimize the unwanted, provoking, unnecessary and irrational behavior that is been rising in name of celebrating festivals. This effort will surely leave a positive impact in preserving our root culture and tradition. Being in home for months long now with family has made us realize what our day to day life and busy schedule before lockdown have taken away from us. So with all the learnings, it’s time to be more thoughtful how we come back as a nation after lockdown. It’s not just breath taking economic fall that country need to bounce back post lock down, it’s also our collective internalizations that each individual need to work on to make a better society and nation tomorrow. It’s an opportunity to shape our traditional values carved in festivals so that we could give our upcoming generation the age old way of enjoying festivals with pure flavor of their motherland.
( Poudel is a nurse and a public health personnel working as a humanitarian worker )

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