I am a strong believer in singing to learn. I believe that singing embeds material in your mind in a way that you can’t even comprehend. Anytime I am learning anything new, I try to sing it. I still know all the presidents of the US in chronological order thanks to a song I learned in the 11th grade to pass my AP American History exam. If it wasn’t for singing, my Nepali and Hindi pronunciation wouldn’t be nearly as decent as it is.
I’ve had native speakers of Nepali, Hindi, Mandarin, French, and Spanish tell me that my sing pronunciation sound so much more authentic (less American) than they would have presupposed. It helps that part of my job is singing songs from other cultures so I am working on loosening that tongue. Today I accidentally found a great resource for learning Nepali songs: http://lyricsofnepalisong.blogspot.com/ and I am sharing it with you for your joy. Some of the songs listed were already in my iTunes library. Happy singing!
According to this article more and more people are feeling that it is safe enough to “come out” in Nepal. The movement seems to be much stronger in Kathmandu which is listed as liberal in the article. I like how they article addresses the legal protections that are coming about in Nepal, but I feel that there may be a limitation on what the government can protect. I’ve read articles that say that women are free to inherent in Nepal now, but many families still stick to tradition and only leave inheritance to males. The woman they talk about most in the article seems blessed that her family supports her “third gender” and I am surprised and proud of Nepal for being more progressive than the United States in allowing marriage to be between two people and not a man and a woman at the US does. Here is a link to the story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bibek-bhandari/nepal-lgbti-rights-movement_b_1694277.html
I had once typed the explanation of the symbols in my welcoming gift for Shiva’s parents and wordpress did not keep the text. So here we go again *crosses fingers*.
The dish is actually a “Seder plate” used in Jewish Passover celebrations. I selected it because until Shiva’s father, his family was known for their dish making skills. Of course their specialty was centered in brass and not ceramic. I chose the symbols in part due to religious reasons, but definitely confused the family when I presented only a handful of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism and a set of lotus blossoms that seemed to not fit in. As much as it may have seemed a discontinuous work of art, the family welcomed it and Shiva’s mother explained that she couldn’t bear to eat off it and intended to hang it in their home back in Kathmandu. I told her she was welcome to do what she wished, but that I had chosen paints that were safe for eating. I was delighted to hear that they ate breakfast off of this plate the very next morning.
Either used for decoration or for eating, the meaning of the symbols remain the same. The flowers around the rim are Rhododendrons, the Nepali national flower. In the center, a Dharma wheel. Surrounding the Dharma wheel are three of the Eight Auspicious signs. One is a conch shell a sign of Buddha and the Brahmin caste. It is a right turning conch, considered especially rare and represents the movement of the stars, moon, and sun. Also, a white conch swirling to the right can make a sound calling for Dharma to awaken beings out of ignorance. Cuts of this shell are sometimes called “Shiva shells” although the conch is typically a symbol that represents Vishnu. I wear a Shiva shell that Shiva gave me to me a year and a half ago, it seemed like a significant symbol in our life. Another symbol is the endless knot. Also present in the cloth given to Shiva’s parents in their parting, the endless knot represents the interconnection of everything. When included as a gift it is thought to be a bringer of righteous karma. The two fish are at the top in yellow and are difficult to see. This is somewhat a part of myself that I integrated into the artwork. I am a Pisces and represented by two fish. I did not use the traditional Piscean symbol of two fish swimming in opposite directions, but used the Auspicious symbol to represent no fear. At the time that I made this dish, Shiva’s family was not certain of how they would accept or not accept me into their family. I was told that they were especially fearful of gossip and slander. I hoped to embed this gift with a sense of fearlessness. The remaining symbols are all different representations of the lotus. The blue lotus representing wisdom and knowledge. Shiva’s father’s birthday often coincides with a goddess of wisdom and both of his parents have really encouraged Shiva to seek a wise path. The red lotus represents love and compassion, something I had hoped they could appreciate that Shiva and I share. The white lotus represents purity, both spiritual and mental.
I was unable to share the entire meaning with his parents as they were so excited with their gifts, I barely had a chance to explain them. I was delighted to learn that the very next meal they ate after receiving this gift was eaten on this plate. I couldn’t be more thrilled about how the gifts were received.
This photo is of the parting gift I presented to Shiva’s parents at our meeting. His mother stroked it over and over and proclaimed, “I am going to show everyone what Shiva’s friend has made for us. What is cropped out of this photo is the very identifying last name that I wrote in Devanagri at the top. As I explained to Shiva’s parents, this is a blessing art. My great-grandmother used to make them and there are still some hanging in her home after her passing. She typically used a family’s coat of arms. I know that Shiva’s family has a mandala, but it is my understanding that it is erased every year and I didn’t know how to get a copy of one, even if I had wanted to. So I just created my own blessing image for them. The tree represents their family tree. The roots are almost hidden by the water. I explained that the blessing hopes for their family tree to be nourished with the best and in the center of the nourishing river is Dharma, which I also hope is good for the family. Within the leaves is the sign of infinity, hoping for a continuous life for the tree. Within the trunk is the eternal knot. This symbol present in both Shiva’s religion and my Celtic background is to represent the intertwined nature we share and also another prayer for eternal strength of the family tree.
Next time, I will use wool threads as Shiva’s mother seemed disappointed that the threads were made of cotton. Also, I hope that by the time I can give them another gift, my Devanagri has improved as a made a minor and amusing spelling mistake with regard to their last name. Of course, as parents will praise a youngster for invented spelling, so Shiva’s parents praised me for my self-taught Nepali writing.
This is a small example of a couple of letters I embroidered.