Sunday, July 22, 2012


Chheten Tamang

My sister in Nepal had a traditional wedding. She was promised in marriage to Mingmar, a boy in our village. He was rich and a hard worker who owned lots of land. He was a farmer who grew potatoes, barley, buckwheat, and vegetables. His family had fifty yaks.

My father had 35 yaks. My parents wanted their daughter and their grandchildren to be nearby in their old age. They wanted family members around them, especially when they were too old to take care of themselves.

My parents and the boy’s parents sat on the floor around a fire pit drinking rice beer. At first my sister, Sondin, said “No.” She didn’t like this 24 year old young man. I think she had her own boyfriend. My sister cried, and I was upset because I didn’t like arranged marriages.

Both families agreed on a wedding date which was to be five months later. The man’s family has to buy the dress by custom. It was Korean material, silk Tibetan style chuba. They also had to buy a set of pure gold earrings. They were very heavy.

Both families prepared the food. It was rice, rice buckwheat bread, Tibetan tea, curried potatoes, and fried yak meat. There was no wedding cake, but they had many bottles of raksi which is a distilled rice beer. It is called chang wine. It is not so strong.

My sister wasn’t happy. She couldn’t marry the boy she loved, and she had to marry the guy she didn’t know. She didn’t want to go to bed with him, and she hit him with a spatula. There was no honeymoon, only miserable time.

The unhappiness lasted about a year. Then she began to trust the opinions of her parents and the lamas. All of my relatives in the village approved. After a year she decided to accept my mother’s wishes. My father did not have any say so in the matter. He just watched and herded his yaks.

My sister and her husband now have three children, and they are in a boarding school in Kathmandu. They are planning to build a small hotel for tourists.

My other sister, the youngest, is named Tshering. She objected and married the boy she loved. She did not listen to anybody, especially her mother. Her husband, Pasang, was lazy and drunk and did not provide for my sister and their two boys. In addition to the little money her husband made she depended on relatives for clothing, shelter, and food. She was unhappy, and both of them drank a lot.

My sister had bad headaches, and when I was visiting, I took her to the hospital in Kathmandu. The doctors found that a bone in her back was cracked and begun to rot. The doctors gave her medicines to cure the rot.

Her son, Chimbel, his body began to swell. He had fevers and cried at night. I told my sister to take him to the hospital in Kathmandu. He didn’t get any better so they took him to the holy man, Rinpoche, to seek his blessing. He threw the dice. He told the boy his fortune.

Then he told them to buy white rice flour and water buffalo milk and red tika powder. Then my sister sprinkled them all around the pool of water surrounding the Budhanilkantha (Vishnu lying down). Next she wiped the powder from the Buddha and swathed her son with the powder. The boy stopped crying right away. Her son’s swelling went down. Then they went home, and the boy is fine.

I first met my husband, Wayne, when he was looking for my cousin. He had met my cousin the year before. He had taken photographs of my younger brother and sister, and he was giving them pictures. My brother brought him to our house to meet my mother. We offered him a cup of tea. He gave us his email address, but we didn’t know what to do with it.

He came back many times and asked me to marry him. We went to Katmandhu to get married. It was for love.

Chheten Tamang is a learner at The Literacy Center where Loni Crowe and Dana Prom Smith are her tutors, teaching her to read and write. Although she speaks several languages, she never learned to read and write. Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele as his associate edits GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun and emails at This article appeared in the AZDS 7/21/2012.

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