Nicole Farkouh

Nicole Farkouh (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Nicole graduated from Smith College with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. She also has a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans. Nicole’s professional background is in education. She has worked as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, mainly with middle school students with special needs. She is also a certified community mediator and has studied a complementary model of mediation based on Non-Violent Communication. She has studied abroad in India, lived and taught in Mexico. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master of Public Policy degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After her fellowship, Nicole wrote: "More than anything, this summer I received a new level of understanding /appreciation for the complexity involved in “development” and “human rights” work…. Particularly being a foreign body trying to work in a new culture."



TEEJ – FESTIVAL OF WOMEN

02 Oct

Fall is festival season in Nepal, and things have definitely begun to kick into high gear. One of the first major celebrations of the season is “Teej” – a festival for women. This festival is overtly about and for women – for weeks I could hear women talking about their preparations. Teej involves eating rich foods the night before, fasting all day (w/o even drinking water), getting dressed in red from head to toe (including bangles and necklaces), and gathering with women friends at homes or at temples to sing and dance. Most women don’t have to work on that day – inside or outside the home. Overall it is a time of merriment, joy, and sisterhood.

Though the day is centered on women, the underlying religious significance of the ceremony is about men. The praying and singing and fasting is done mostly to Shiva (one of the main Hindu gods) to protect the lives of the males in your family – and particularly your husband. Women who are married perform their rituals to ensure a long and happy life for (and with) their husband. Those who are unmarried perform the same rituals as a way to ask Shiva to help them find a good mate. After the sun goes down married women break their fast by having their husband feed them their first mouthful of food. Tradition also has it that before eating women wash their husbands’ feet, and drink a bit of the foot-bath water that was used – but all of the men and women I discussed this with blatantly refuse to follow that tradition because they believe it is demoralizing.

A SAGE HANGING AROUND THE TEMPLE DRESSED AS SHIVA (BUT NOT GETTING MUCH ATTENTION FROM ANYONE EXCEPT FOREIGNERS)

My friend Sanjita, who along with her brother, owns a knitting shop in Thamel (the tourist section of town) had been begging me for weeks to spend Teej with her. So, I met her at her shop around noon and we went upstairs to the store room to change. Sanjita was married 6 months ago and consequently had several gorgeous red saris. I felt really awkward at first wrapping (and wrapping) myself in the sari she wore for her wedding ceremony but after a little assurance from her I decided to simply enjoy the luxury of a pure chiffon and hand-sequined sari.

SANJITA AND ME

Once dressed we headed to Pashupathi-nath, the most famous temple in Kathmandu to join throngs of women swathed in red. Lines of red dotted with umbrellas shielding the sun zig-zagged through the streets outside the temple compound as women queued to visit the main shrine. We decided to forego the hours-long wait, skipped doing a puja in front of Shiva’s statue, and instead worked our way into the back of the temple compound to visit some of the smaller temples and simply enjoy the crowd. And what a crowd it was!

A PORTION OF THE CROWD BEHIND PASHUPATHI’S MAIN TEMPLE

I’m not sure if it was the elation of the day or simply the fasting induced light-headedness – but I don’t recall ever seeing such a spirited gathering before. We quickly become engulfed in a red sea of clapping, laughing, singing, and dancing women. They were everywhere… in courtyards, under tents, and in the temples. They seemed to have bottomless energy and enthusiasm. And they were truly gorgeous. Perhaps many of them were praying for the good health and longevity of their husbands, but more than anything, it seemed like Teej was just an excuse for women of all ages to cast their duties aside for the day, get decked out, and have a plain ‘ole good time!

WOMEN SINGING AND DANCING

Posted By Nicole Farkouh

Posted Oct 2nd, 2014

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