a haven for men
When my girlfriend mentioned that Nepal is a heaven for men, she was commenting on the deeply entrenched patriarchal values. They do hurt women. She had no idea how deep it was, and that it was so bad that some men actually consider it a kind of paradise. Well, I experienced it first hand, mostly because of this Nepali song. The myth about it is that if you sing to a girl, she automatically falls in love with you, or, whoever hears you singing it will offer you a bride. 🙂 It’s a myth. Urban legend.
The lyrics go like this, “Maya ke hola/socheko/timi nai/ho mero/behuli” (What is the meaning of love/I am thinking/that you will be/my/bride) Here is the song on YouTube.
My Nepali language teacher, a twenty-four-year-old Newari beauty, taught me to sing it. She giggled in a flirty mischief throughout the lesson, and I could not understand why. She refused to tell me, but she made me sing it to her so often and at that time I thought she was only trying to be a good teacher
watch my love poem about a lovesick man
A month later, I spent two weeks in a village in Dulikel, a lovely place with great views of the Himalayas. I lived with a Tamang family—and wasn’t it quite an experience! They had four beautiful daughters. The eldest, whose job it was to look after me, cook my snacks, and wash my clothes, was sadly already married. The others were all below fourteen. But I became friends with the youngest, a cheeky eight-year-old who loved to wear flowers on her hair. (Call her Susma)
One afternoon, she asked me to sing for her a song from my country. I couldn’t think of any, so I sang this magic song. But no sooner had I started than she fled from the room, crying. I was surprised. I wondered what I had done wrong. Maybe my voice was too horrible.
That evening, as we ate supper in the warmth of the kitchen, her mother asked me what song I sang to her daughter. I became defensive. I said something about not knowing any Ugandan songs, but the mother cut me short. She said, “It’s okay, you can take her with you to Uganda.” Now, at this time, I did not understand what she was talking about. I could not say no, for that would be considered rude, so I said, “She has to finish her university education first.” This being twelve years away, the mother understood it was a no. And then she said, “Sushma is still too young. I don’t know why she is thinking of marriage.”
learning the song
Nobody said anything after this, and I did not either, for I was totally confused at this time. I had read somewhere about child marriages in Hinduism, in a ritual called ‘kanyadan’, which means gift of a virgin. Apparently, parents whose daughters lose their virginity before marriage go to hell (or something like that) so the parents are eager to give away their children as early as possible. But I also knew child marriage was a thing of the past. This conversation was so disturbing. I quickly started talking about a dead dog I had seen earlier, and luckily, they all fell into this topic with a vigor.
Sushma avoided me since then. Luckily, I left the village after two days, so it was easy for us to avoid each other. I bought her a storybook as a gift. I hope she enjoyed it.
The day before I left, there was a function in the village, a meeting of the savings and credit association that everyone belonged to. They invited me to attend, and like any such function in Nepal, there was a lot of singing and dancing. You might have thought it was a party, not a business meeting. Everyone encouraged me to sing, and I stupidly, eagerly, sang the magic song, ‘Maya ke hola’.
A sudden silence descended upon the villagers. They stared at me as if I was a goat that had started to sing. I thought they would start crying and run away like Susma, but they did not.
A few hours later, as I sat in one of the tea shops, chatting with a bunch of men, trying not to breathe for cigarette smoke hung thick in the air, an old man came in and offered me his daughter. The surprise of the offer nearly knocked me off the chair. You might have thought he was offering me a glass of tea.
“I’m not looking for a bride,” I said.
And he got very angry. “If you are not looking for a bride, why did you sing that song?”
Apparently, he had organized a “bride viewing ceremony,” for me to look at his daughter that evening, and he wasn’t pleased that I had turned him down.”When you sing that song, it means you are looking for a bride. I honored your plea. I am offering you a bride. Why do you refuse? Is my daughter ugly?”
I tried to argue that I did not know the meaning of the song. “I learnt it during my language lessons.”
One of the men asked me; “The person who taught you that song, was it a woman?” I said yes, and he said, “She wanted you to marry her. Didn’t she?” Oh yes she had. The first woman to ever ask me to marry her. I did write a bit about it sometime last year, here.
I was in a fix. I did not know how to get myself out of it. Here was an old man offering me his daughter as a gift, and he was greatly offended that I turned him down. “I have to go to the toilet,” I said. I abandoned my tea on the table and hurried out, but the old man followed me, talking rapidly in his anger. I did not understand what he was saying, but it was something about his daughter and other relatives waiting for me.
He did not stop talking all the while I was inside the toilet. He stood out there, yelling at the toilet door, alternately praising his daughter and scolding me for turning down his gift. Ten minutes of this passed, and I was wondering how I would get out of the toilet when my dai, Susma’s father, rescued me. The two men argued briefly, but the old man gave in and went away, still quarreling about the ungrateful habsi (black man).
I sang that song three months later, to a pretty Tharu girl. She said yes before I finished singing it, and she was the first Nepali beauty I kissed!
So don’t be surprised when you hear it in my documentary, Untouchable Love. I had to make it the soundtrack. :-))
Follow me on YouTube.com/dilstories to watch my films.