People preparing for low-key festivals amidst COVID-19 risk
Kathmandu : The festival season has already arrived and the greatest festival, Dashain, has begun. At normal times, there would be much fervour and gaiety among the people during this season. But that is not so this time due to the risk of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Khema Sharma’s house at Baghmara, Tikapur Municipality-4, would have been decorated, daubed with red and white clay to welcome the Dashain festival. This time, Khema says she is not much enthusiastic to celebrate the festival.
“Time is all-powerful. We have to follow the time and situation. In the present situation, there is fear of coronavirus infection everywhere,” Sharma explained about her lack of enthusiasm during the festival.
She said her family and neighbours plan to celebrate the festival in a low-key manner this time by adopting health safety measures. “We will perform the rituals associated with the festival indoors. We will do away with slaughtering goat, visiting family members and relatives to receive ‘tika’ and ‘jamara’ this time,” she said, adding that health safety rather than festivity was the most important consideration during the present time of pandemic.
Like at Sharma’s house, there is no enthusiasm and festival fervour in her village as in the past years. There would be an air of festival in the entire settlement before a week since the start of the 10-day Dashain festival. People would be busy painting their houses, cleaning the surroundings, managing all the things needed for the festival and shopping, in the past. And the festival mood would have been highlighted by the singing and dancing that would be organised in the evenings, a regular part of the festivities.
Bir Bahadur Magar of Bipatpur, Tikapur-1, reminiscences: “The whole village would be in festive mood during Dashain. All those people who had gone to outside districts and abroad would return home. However, this year, even the people who returned home months before Dashain due to the lockdown have left the village for India and other destination for work and earning a living, after running out of money.”
Aarati BK of Rajbara, Bhajani Municipality, also agrees that there is not much enthusiasm in celebrating the festival in her area as well. “There used to be a lot of fervour and gaiety during Dashain. This is lacking this year. All people are in fear of contracting coronavirus. People have even stopped talking to their neighbours,” she described the general mood in the settlement. She is also not going to her maternal home for receiving tika and jamara in this Dashain.
Especially, the Tharu settlements would be agog with activities during the Dashain. These days, the Tharu settlements are also quiet and without the festival activities. There would be a lot of ethnic dances and singing, and drama and skits would be organised in the Tharu settlements in the past and people from neighbouring areas would flock to see these. But this year, there is no such activity.
“The Tharu people would perform the Sakhiya, Badka, Mungrauha, and Jhumra among other ethnic dances with singing. There are no such dances in Tharu settlements this year for fear of coronavirus,” Rajaram Chaudhari of Tikapur said.
There is less movement of people and activities even in the towns. The lockdown has reduced the economic activities to a large extent. “There was lockdown for many months. People do not have enough money for shopping and celebrating the festivals. They do not have work. These are the reasons why there is no festival mood among the people,” said Kamala Rawal of Tikapur.
Kalpana Khadka, senior nurse at Tikapur Hospital, suggests it is better not to celebrate the festivals with assemblage of large number of people and increasing the risk of infection as health safety is the most important thing during the present time of pandemic.