15 May, 2010

Surgadar Temple the disappointment

Once everything was perfect we started off to the temple area.  CM had told me that I won’t be allowed in one area since I was a foreigner –as I understand it’s an old ‘tradition’ because ‘foreigners’ eat beef so they are not allowed in.  Every religion has its rules in regards to who can and can’t enter or participate, so I didn’t think that was such a big deal.

I was not prepared for the overwhelming sadness that hit me when I was actually told that I could not even go to the outside area.  Maybe it would have been different if I couldn't enter a building, but to stand there as I watched the others move about giving their blessings to different temples was more that I could bear.  Again, a complete and overwhelming sadness overtook me and I struggled time and again to hold back the tears.  I would turn and pace the edge of the area looking at the little flower garden as monks stared at me; which only make me sadder.  I kept thinking that this makes no sense (as many religious 'rules/traditions' don't).  This wasn't a religious discrimination though, it was downright racial discrimination.  I was not allowed in because of my religion, but because of the color of my skin.  I could have been the most devout light skinned Hindu around and not allowed in, but a Catholic beef eating Indian or Nepali was welcomed with open arms.

I realized the sadness was not selfish as “I want to go in and can’t” instead it was because this was the first time that the color of my skin disallowed me from entering somewhere.  A huge inner realization/awareness was born.  I guess I cried for racial discrimination, for the feeling that it brought about in me knowing that this discrimination will be rare for me, but for others, they experience such feelings every day.  I wiped my eyes with my scarf (once again realizing how handy those beautiful flowing cloths are) and waited…

The ladies appeared to the final blessing place and I couldn’t watch them long.  I turned and didn’t even care that 2 adult monks and 3 small boy monks were staring at me.  I stared right back!  I wanted someone to see how their ‘rules’ are hurtful; that people with light skin want to offer their blessings and in turn be blessed just like darker skinned people do.

Nirmala came over to me holding the little silver tray filled with beautiful colors.  I asked her to bless me please, and she gave me a 3 colored tika on my forehead.  She then said “you are my daughter now” which is a wonderful compliment for a Nepali woman to say –it’s like saying; you are ‘one of us’ or ‘I accept you’.  I felt much better and we went and sat down waiting for the others to come out.  We regrouped and then walked to another area; where low and behold, I again ‘could not enter’ the gated place.  I thought, “I cannot endure this again!” and wanted to shout, “hey, but I’m her daughter!” but of course I didn’t and this time held back the tears as I heard bells ringing and people singing inside. 

A man was sent by CM to ‘keep me company’ but I didn’t want his company; I wanted to be alone.  Sigh…knowing that CM was only thinking of me, I talked to the man for awhile.  When he glanced inside as the bells rang, I said, “please go inside, I am fine here” and he hurried inside.  The sacrifice the man was going to make for my sake (not partaking with the others) made me feel better and realize that like so many times the ‘people’ aren’t the problem, it’s the archaic ‘rules’ that are blindly followed because it’s easier than changing them.

When my companions emerged, we went to finally have some food.  It was almost 1 and I was starving!  When we sat down, I was told by some guy that food would be served, but it was vegetarian.  I looked at him blankly and instead of saying "No!  Really???" (in a sarcastic tone)  I said, “I am a vegetarian and I don’t even eat chicken or fish” –as here, vegetarian seems to mean you only don’t eat beef.   When the waiter commented that “oh you don’t use a spoon” I again blankly said “no, I eat with my hands”.  By that time, I was just tired of being stared at (the only light skinned person in the whole place); tired of being judged; and actually just plain tired! 

After lunch and a couple of photos we headed back down the mountain to the waiting vehicle and started the seemingly never ending journey back home. 

I  was able to lighten my mood quite a bit as I watched everyone’s heads bobbing as they tried to catch some zzzz’s.  I would burst out a laugh as one would jerk awake only to nod off again.  After tiring of that I resorted to staring out the window as the wonderful countryside passed us by.

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