Domestic with Dad

This is a re-post of an article that was written by Jiddu Alexander for The original can be found here.

“You go now. With my dad.”
Sudip is my Nepalese friend from Pokhara. He has taken me to visit his family in Chitwan, a major tourist attraction known for the national park. Sudip’s village is actually quite a few kilometers away where no travelers are found. It could be anywhere in the agricultural south of Nepal considering the local scenery. It’s our second trip there and I know most of Sudip’s family quite well by now. I even know the majority of his neighbours on a rather personal level. The only one I don’t really know is his dad. He is hardly ever at home and only speaks about 5 words English. That’s about to change as we are going for a ‘domestic’, a strong national bathtub home-brew also known as raksi. I feel this situation is going to be a tricky one.

We set off, a slow trot. Really slow trot. A motorbike accident has caused him to wobble. He can ride a bicycle well, but walking is difficult.
“Sudip is a good guy.” I thought to compliment his son might be a good way to start our session. He nods. I wander if he had understood what I said. This is not going to be easy, I think. Maybe I should just be silent. We continue our path. I want to be quiet, but the silence is getting awkwardly long. Nepali like singing. I start humming Blackbird by the Beatles, it had been in my head all day. I only know part of the song and pretty quickly I run out of notes. Do I hum the same half again? You fool, why did you have start humming?
He signals to a building. We’ve gone less than 100 meters and passed 3 small farms in this semi agricultural landscape.  The place he pointed out doesn’t look at all like a bar, more like a normal home. We are seated in back room. Other than the bed we sit on there is nothing but rubbish. I imagine it is generally used as a bedroom, but it is turned into a bar for us.
“Bite?” As he demonstrates the internationally understood sign language of bringing food to your mouth.
Two domestic drinks and two small plates of chilly onion. I drink. Tastes the same as last time. I would describe it as a wine that tastes of sourdough bread. I try the onion salad.  That’s spicy. Ooh my, that’s really spicy.
Sudip’s old man is explaining the bar-family who I am. And I start wandering who I really am. A young boy overpowered by a glass of bitter alcohol and set on fire by a simple ‘bite’? Dude, man up! I suggest we take a photo. I don’t know whether to smile or not. He suggests that we drink when the photo is being taken. It’s awkward and the flashes are bright.

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“Yes please.” Wow, omelet would really sort me out now.
We start talking, about Nepal, where I have been and where he is from.
He brings his fingers to his mouth in a v-shape. “Smoke?”
I don’t smoke cigarettes. We’re sitting crossed legged on the rock-hard bed with several plates of food. One light bulb illuminates the room like it is a poker back room. Add a cigar and we could be on a film set. Cigarettes will et a similar scenario. He wants to smoke, but he will not smoke without me.
“Yes please.” What? Oh my god, why did I say yes? I don’t bloody smoke. Aargh.
We smoke. I feel light headed. Non smokers might know the sensation that one very occasional ciggy can cause. Wow. I am extremely aware, but slow. I feel euphoric, in a way. Even picking up my metal cup is a challenge. Whatever you do, just don’t knock t over. I took a sip. Fine. What to chat about now? “So they use millet to make raksi, right?” He doesn’t seem to understand. “Millet.” I point at the domestic. “Millet?”
“Aaaah, millet. Yes.” We continue our disorienting conversation discussing the brewing techniques. This is a very challenging topic for a linguistically impaired duo, but of uttermost importance in this manly environment.
He is on the phone. I really want to munch the omelet and order another one, but that would be inappropriate. I have to perfectly plan to fit the consumption of the drink, the chilly and the omelet together and leave one bite of tasty omelet to finish with.
We talk about his culture, and my university. Luckily Sudip is a science student. He can relate what I do to what his son does. A large bridge has to be build he explains, about a hundred meters long.  He is involved in the management and he just decided that I will be the scientist to design it. Dude, you’re not going to design a bridge, you can’t and that’s very irresponsible.
“Smoke?” He suggests long after the first one had vanished to the ashtray.
“Okay.” Oh, what the f. Why do I do this? We light the second.
The light-headed effect was a lot less strong this time, but still it was there.
I look into my cup, a good two fingers left. I look at him. I don’t think he really wants more, this time he is just being polite in asking.
“No, thanks.” Yes, yes, yes, yes. I said no! Alex, you are a hero.
I knock over the last of my drink. Aaarghh, dude. What’s wrong with you? I notice the drink spilled onto my omelet plate. For once in Nepal I get a non-dry, gooey omelet and I have to soak the goodness in millet alcohol. He does not pay any attention to my clumsy act.
Well at least I finished the drink. It’s my only positive thought as I try to swallow the last of my sloppy eggs. Finally, home time.
Back at home we sit in the front room, nine of us in the dark on two beds and the floor.
“Are you alright Alex?” Saru (Sudip’s sister) asks when she looks at me.
“I’m fine.” No, my stomach is full and fuddled, is what I want to shout. We are eating snacks now and I know a dinner of dal bhat (rice and curry) will be served soon, and it’s served in mountain portions. Will I be that young boy that can’t finish his plate? The mother walks into the room. Her smile fills my heart as she drops her twice-daily announcement. “Rice eating?”
All I can think is. Dude, man up!

I like to give you an real and honest taste of the situations that ‘travelling’ throws at you. Things may sound awkward, uncomfortable and not enjoyable, but that couldn’t be further from the truth (apart from the awkward bit). I love each and every single moment and even more so do I love the people I get to meet. Sudip, his family and everybody in his village (neighbourhood) have been a highlight to my trip. I managed to visit them several times during my Nepal stay and I look forward a lot to seeing them again.

3 thoughts on “Domestic with Dad

  1. Hahaha… Typical! I can just imagine you spilling your last bit of drink on your food…. this is a very funny story.

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