This week on 13th May, Satya Mohan Joshi celebrated his 100th Birthday in his hometown Patan. He is well-known for his work on Nepali culture, history and literature. As a tribute to this legendary man, I am posting one of the interviews from my thesis research which I had done with him in 2010 along with my friend and her father. The interview was done in Nepal Bhasa (terms italicized in the transcript).
THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW BELOW:
Place: Residence near Patan Durbar Square
Name: Satya Mohan Joshi
Profession: writer and cultural expert
Age: 91 (NOW 100 – 2019)
Interviewers(I): Sujen Man Maharjan -SM and Silu Shrestha -SS (accompanied by archeologist Late Sukra Sagar Shrestha – SK)
Transcription started: 9/26/2011 1:03 PM
The study was described and consent was taken off-record.
Key Informant (KI): in my time, let’s say, during that period, parents arranged the marriages. I have 3 sons, they choose the partners for themselves. It is different now.
There was an interview in a television with Padma Ratna Tuladhar. I don’t remember which channel it was, NTV or… he was just laughing when he was asked one question. It happened he also had got married when he was a child. His parents did not provide him a room after marriage, they thought he was still small and did not need one. Gradually, he grew up. It had been 2/3 years but he was not been given a room. He could not fight for it or say anything to his family about it. He was laughing hard in the interview. He said after the room was given, the marriage went on very smoothly. Without privacy, they could not express love inappropriately. So, it takes time, it takes 3-4 years. The same thing happened to me as well. She is from nearby (Patan). I am telling you about the social context at that time.
I (SM): Am also recording alright.
KI: first listen. At that time, without marrying elder brother, the sister could not be married. Not only that, it would be easier if both of their marriages are done at one time. Chha pa lapte jya sirekigu. That was very important. Finishing both son’s and daughter’s marriage throwing a single party. The cost would be saved by half. My father would face problem to marry my sister without marrying me too. chha pa lapte chakemagu. So, they started looking a bride for me and they found one. I am telling you a real thing. I was also reaching of age to get married. But I had not seen my would-be wife. I heard from my friends that she was not suitable for me. They used to call me Mohan. “She does not suit Mohan”. I had not seen her at all. Her house was behind Krishna temple but how could I go to see her. Then, I said to my parents that I would not marry, I want to finish my studies first. But the main concern was economic. He asked, “How I could manage money for your marriage later? Chha pa lapte jya sireke ma.”
The next audio record file…
My father called for help of senior relatives to convince me to get married. They expressed concerns for my sister. I still said that I would not marry. Then at last, my father threatened that he would leave the house if I did not agree. He got very angry. He complained, “My reputation is gone now, after I had arranged everything and everybody has known about it.” Still I did not show interest because of what I had heard about her. I had a feeling she was not suitable for me. My father came again and said you get married with her for now. if you don’t like her then, get married with another one later on. For him the main thing was ‘Chha pa lapte jya sirekigu’. Then I got married. We were not in speaking terms. I was not satisfied with that girl. I had heard about her. Another thing, if the girl and boy are older and if the girl already had menstruation ‘thi majigu joo sa’, they would get the room easily. Her baraa was not done. She was 13 but had not yet had periods, so, getting the room was out of question. Another thing was that I did not get the private room because at that time, my house was being renovated so, I shared the common living space. 2 years passed by. She came to the house and lived with us, she did all the works but we did not speak much. I did not like her. She was friendly with my sister.
Her sister few months older to her also had been married at the same time. She had a child but we did not. her baraa had not been performed.
SK: Could a girl be married without doing baraa?
KI: Yes. She was married by her family.
She went to her house for baraa. There are 2 things related to it. If she had her first menstruation in my house then, her baraa would have been done here. But by chance she had it in her home so, it was done there. After her baraa, my father was compelled to provide us with a room. Only then, we got the room. Even after her first menstruation, it was not very regular. Her sister on the other hand already had a baby. So, there was a pressure on us to have a child. The matchmaker came and expressed concern about it. I was studying at that time, her sister’s husband was not.
I: social pressure
KI: so, only after 2 years, the problem was solved. Padma Ratna also faced the same problem. He was in trouble because the parents did not provide him with a room. He said he was in problem due to lack of privacy. But I was not concerned about it. The psychological pressure built up when her sister had a child and my in-laws were worried about us not having one. I was also worried now because my wife could elope with another man (after not having child with me). For me, it was the matter of social reputation, people would talk Satya Mohan’s wife eloped. My parents’ reputation would also be gone. I did not have much opportunity to develop relationship with her, we barely got chance to talk. But it would not be good to leave her I thought. She could have left me after seeing her sister having a baby. My reputation would be gone if she left, kala penaooma dhai. After that, we had to adjust ourselves and love developed between us. There was no question of not loving her. Her family used to invite me during pujas and festivals but I did not go alone, I always took a friend with me. I had a paju (uncle) who would accompany me.
I: a friend is taken during the dila ja doo chakigu (formal ceremony of welcoming son-in-law in the bride’s family)
KI: when he would not be there, I took other friend with me. She did the pujas and sat on barta praying for a child. After that, I also thought about her. She is so religious and doing it for us. After having a room, slowly everything became all right. It was like that in my case.
I (SK): one of my friends shared his experience of early marriage and made us laugh. He was 8 and she was 7. They did not know they were husband and wife. She used to go to sleep with his mother and wet the bed and her clothes. He said bihaa bhaney kun chara ko naam ho thahai thiyena (Nepali). Laughing
KI: it is different in my case. I was concerned that she would leave me and elope after her sister had a child. I was very afraid.
There was a practice called Sishi teygu. According to Newar culture, without marrying the daughters off, the bride cannot be welcomed in home. So, she had to stay somewhere else for 4 days. Only after my daughter was sent off from here, she was let in. that is called sishi teygu.
SK: you may not know this. In the past, the parents fix the marriage and the boy does not even get to see the girl beforehand. The parents bring the bride and only at the time of honkigu, the boy sees the girl. It is like the parents are giving girl as a gift to him.
I: how about mha kenigu?
KI: at our times, there was no such practice of mha kenigu. The parents decided everything.
I: how it come then?
KI: the practice developed later. These days it is not possible without mha kenigu. But the parents decided themselves before. The relatives went to see the girl, they called it mha showonegu. The girl is prepared by her relatives, make up and all that is done. I also did not see her and I got the negative reporting from others. In fact, she was shorter than me. Even at 14 she was still shorty whereas I had a height. It was not completely false but it had a psychological impact upon me. I was seeing the beautiful girls, I had a thought why could not they select the beautiful one for me? That’s why I got defensive of myself and tried not to get married. I said please, marry the sister only. I was forced socially to marry against my will. Only later on, after completing all the rituals and everything, it was about ethical matter to me to treat her unfairly. I thought she might feel hurt if I misbehaved with her; it was a matter of dharma- morality. There were no cases of divorce at that time.
SK: uray te gway litabigu chalan du
KI: among shresthas, we also have such practice but before marriage (like during the period of engagement). Ya, gway lita ka, mema bhamcha swoya biha wagu ka. It happened like that in one of my own cases. We wanted to marry one of our sons to the girl Bhaktapur, but other people warned us. Gway la kala tara ko jat pi nhi, jyapu ta sara. Some people try to interfere like that.
I: you said earlier after she sat on ma apsa chwonegu, I started to have feelings of love for her.
KI: it means asserting her devotion to her huband. Pati barta dharma. This is one of the last ways to mend relationship with the husband. This ma apsa chwonegu, this practice is not there in other culture. It is indigenous practice. It is practiced at Chobar. Also, here in Hiranya Ganamahabihar. I know closely about it here in Hiranya Ganamahabihar. It is not in practice since the last one or two years. apsa chwonegu, that is a religious practice for women whose marriage is in problems. In some cases, the husband likes the wife but not his parents or it might be the other way round. She is caught in between them. So, for her it is a do-or die situation whether her marriage will survive or it won’t. ma apsa means fasting for a month. What kind of fasting it is? They don’t take the food, only liquids. They bring the water from the river, they first offer it to Lord Buddha and then take it, taking only jal for the survival. There is a space for accommodation there, with the capacity for about 7-8 women. They stay there for a month, every day praying to god and surviving on water. This news spreads all over that particular person’s wife is on ma apsa. It creates the unity. Then, there is ma apsa thawonegu (end fasting). There are dates for it. If the husband goes to receive her, she is taken on a parade all around the city with musical troupe. Even the official people felicitate her by giving her a dress. But on the other hand if the husband does not go to take her, she goes back to her home. Automatically, it becomes a divorce. That is the display of determination of her love. That is the representation of commitment. It is not an easy thing to do that. Going without food for a month, she can possibly die. I have seen it myself, woman is either taken back respectfully to her husband’s house or she goes back to her own home with honor.
SK: I read it somewhere Hudson in UK, in boongay ma aspsa, Siddhi Narsingh Malla had given orders not to let the people below of jyapu caste to sit on that apsa.
KI: it might be, I don’t know.
SK: only people till jyapus should be allowed to sit on this apsa, and people below that caste should not allowed.
KI: yes, it is mostly jyapus who sit on this ma apsa. It is practiced here now, I don’t know how it is at Chobar. It is really about the love affairs. This is unique. Misa ya mija yaa, mija ya misa yaa tara sasa pi majubaju pinta mayo. Ma apsa cho ma bhaw…whether the in-laws should be able to find fault in her character. It creates the social pressure, mostly they go to receive the women. Otherwise, she is free from them. That is about love.
Let me tell you something about Urays. Nepal Pragya Pratisthan academy, Soluchana Manadhar Dhital became the chair. She is an academician.
SK: she has written the books.
KI: they planned to celebrate the sata-barsiki of Chittadhar’s sister Motilaxmi. It had already passed but 1-2 years before but they wanted to do some activity in her name. They did a workshop in the academy. Her personality and life was discussed. She was married at the age of 9. She later came back home and did not return to her husband. I was saying I would not speak in the program but I was requested to give a speech. They talked about her personality, there is a mysterious part to how her marriage relationship was changed. Nobody knows about it here. I have written about it. I am telling it here because it is related to love. I am being brief, I cannot tell everything here. At that time, there was a person called Kanchhya Lama. This story must be about 70-75 years before. Kanchhya lama from Kham province in Tibet came on a pilgrimage to Kathmandu. He took the time of 4 years to reach here because he came by doing the prayers and bowing down and lying. Mha dana wogu.
SK: I have read it somewhere about him.
KI: I have written it. He spread the religion when he reached here. Kun syang lame syalung niudu- there is a book. Kun syang lame syalung niudu- it is his theory of past lives. The ox that you see in Ason may be your father or son in the past life. Or you cannot kill or hurt him, you must respect. It is possible that it could be anybody related to you in the past life. It is his bayantar philosophy. With that philosophy, he spread the religion. His book became so popular that people started flocking to see him and bow on his book. The people had to queue to bow down and people touched on his hand. The bajracharyas are orthodox. Still now they are orthodox, maybe little less tight now. Among urayas, shakya and bajracharys, there got a trend of lama bhaiyaigu pi or bhai mayaipi. For shakyas and urays, the gurus are bajracharyas. The liberal ones came there. 2 factions developed among Bajracharyas. One who bowed to lama and the other who did not bow. Ones who bowed were the liberal and the others (who did not) were conservative. There was a state of demarcation. The conservative said to liberal now, you are different than us, we won’t eat from your hands and we won’t give our daughters to you. It became so extreme that they cut off the links of daughters and daughters-in-laws with their families. The daughters who were in the other camp were not allowed to come in the family and the daughter-in-law was not allowed to visit her family. That was the reason why Motilaxmi was separated from her husband. She did not get to experience love and marital bliss because of that lama.
SK: did Motilaxmi fell in the camp who bowed to the lama?
KI: it must have been like that. Anyway, she had to stay back in her house. It was not the problem between husband and wife, there was not problem of like or dislike. That was the cause. Only later those bajracharyas reunited. It clarified this issue only few days before. See how the society was divided over the lama. Bajaracharyas came to a conclusion that this lama challenged our monopoly over our command in the religion.
Phone ringing…still talking about this topic.
While I was doing research on this topic, I met few other women who shared similar fate. They are old but there is still that feeling of youth ‘lyasi paa’ in them. I talked with them, one who had stayed behind in their homes. I asked about kanchhya lama and took the information from them. I wrote the book on him.
There was an interpreter to tell the story.
Tebahal. They were stopped and requested to listen.
His philosophy matched with him. He immediately called him his guru. He went with his lama. The lama at last decided to go back to kham. He also wanted to go with him but he declined. He said he had the wife back home. He went alone. There were few others along with Nani kaji who became bhichhu and went to ask for bhichhya. Later they were exiled at the time of Chandra shumsher.
I (SS): you said before that the bonding in arranged marriage developed slowly. What could be the reasons for that?
Restarted transcribing 9/29/2011 12:25:04 PM
KI: It is the parents who decide and arrange the marriage. It happens very systematically. Those who have love marriages, everything is done in shortcut. They get married and get the room immediately. In arranged marriage, there are many rituals, sincha phakigu, honkigu, chhayan lwakigu, and so on. everything happens in a systematic order. They don’t know what is love. Their age may be less or even if they have come of age, they may not know about love. Usually, they get married at a younger age. They are given a separate room. Slowly, they get familiar with each other and love goes on developing.
I: is there a difference in bonding in love and arranged marriages?
KI: yes, there are differences. Arranged marriages happen in a systematic and socially accepted manner. Sincha phakogu … I think it is not practiced now.
SK: in arranged marriages, love starts after marriage. If it is not like that these days. When love starts after marriage, it ends in death. What happen in love marriages these days is love starts before marriage and when marriage takes place, it ends. The problem lies there. The social burden comes. They have to do this and that. The freedom that they enjoyed in the love stage gets lost. The freedom is blocked at that time, the trouble starts after that. The destructiveness of love marriages come out of that.
KI: let me tell you something related to psychology. Swonti (Tihar) comes after mohani (Dashain). When the swonti came, my wife was back in her home. My parents did not go to call her back. I got worried. Others’ started to call back their wives but they did not give a thought to it at my home. I could have gone myself but I did not have the courage to do that. She has grown up now. There was psychological pressure on me. I thought I might lose my wife if they did not call her back even on the day of mha: puja. I had started developing feelings of love towards her. I got restless. She did not come. Later in the afternoon she came with mha puja koo. Only after that I felt relieved. It happened that they did not go to call her back because she was supposed to come herself with mha puja koo. Jyapus still have to send it every year.
SK: you did not know that so, you had a problem. Laughing…
I (SS): you said at first you did not like her but slowly you started liking her. At what point, did you feel you started liking her?
KI: she was innocent, we got married at a small age. It would be morally wrong to reject her. Even if I met the girls, it would be wrong to have extra-marital affairs. We had been married by our parents. I also had good contacts with my in-laws. I was concerned what would society say. It started automatically.
I: you talked about dharma and morality, was your behavior guided by moral values?
KI: she did the fasting for me, worshiped moon and gave me Prasad (holy food). Even if we were not on speaking terms till that time, questioning her character was unimaginable.
I: mostly arranged marriage was in practice, how was the love marriages in the past? Was it constrained by social norms?
KI: yes, there were love marriages as well but only about 5%. Now it is very common.
I: in what kind of conditions romantic love developed?
KI: for the ones whose caste matched, there were not much problems. So, if there were caste differences, it was very difficult to get married. They would have hard times in the society. If it is a woman of high caste then, it was ok but the woman of low caste was not acceptable. If she belonged to low caste, she had problem adjusting in the family even if the husband loves her. That’s why women did not elope very often.
SK: in the past, one of the reasons for migrating out of Kathmandu was love marriages. They cannot stay here so, they migrate out from here. Let me give you an example. In kritipur, there is one gabaju who brought wife of the low caste. He died in 2026 BS. He was completely out-casted, nobody even touched him. He had to survive by begging. We know about that case. Then, there is another person from kirtipur. The man called Hyamichapa helped Ganesh Man to escape from the prison by cleaning the toilet way. Nobody wrote on him, I wanted to do it. His daughter is still there at Kunti but I could not contact her. As long as Ganesh Man was in there, he committed crimes to go into prison and be with him. He often got severe beatings by the police.
I: what would you say on Newar psychology? How are they culturally different in terms of identity with other persons?
KI: I have already said about my marriage and all that. Derive the answer to this question from there. I said what problems I faced when I was not given a private room. This problem is faced by people in other countries as well like China and… when I visited New Zealand, I noticed similar kind of problem people faced there. They had the love relationships but could not get married due to lack of proper accommodation. Here in Nepal too, when children start growing up. The children face problem of accommodation.
SK: do you know it or not, he is a first Nepalese to visit New Zealand.
I: I am curious about human mind and about Newars perceive it. There are many terms like nuga, bibek, chitta and so on. What do you say about it? It does not have to be just related to love, could be with any human emotion.
KI: one is bodily, sex. Another is maya-daya. They live together and the feelings develop with it. In arranged marriages, they do not hate. The women completely devote themselves to the husbands, they say whether you love or hate me, I will spend my life with you. Men are also morally bound because they have married at a young age. So, they stay together. There are also social norms and values that check the behavior. Another thing is the children. They are very important in binding them together. In my case too, I also got angry at her. Who could control the emotion? Sometimes, I wished I never married her. But again after having the children, I thought about them too. What would they say to me when they grow up? When my sons and daughters come to see me, how would I face them? Others are not aggressive but I have one son who says it to my face directly. For the sake of children too, we had to maintain good relationship. If there were no children, things could have been different. I could have married some other woman. I have 6 children, 3 sons and 3 daughters.
SK: I think one child is not enough. At least 3 are necessary. It is difficult to raise them but I think 3 is the right number. Just one or two children are not enough, the wrong notion is developing. When we were younger, we thought having one child would make a happy family.
KI: look, I have 3 sons and 3 daughters. I have 3 sons but what to do, none of them are with me. See how the situation is developing. If I had at least one son staying with me, it would have been easier for me to run the house. This morning I had go myself and find a worker to help me. If there was one son, he would have helped me. But none of them are with me. One is in UK, the other in Canada and another is in Tahachal. So, it is as if I don’t have any sons. Yes, we need the sons, 2 or 3 but still…what to say?? It is also not possible to keep them with us. They do keep in touch and ask me how I am doing. That’s it.
SK: timing is also important.
I (SM): it is said that Newars are morally bound and their behavior is guided by morality. They have the concept of bibek. What is your take on this?
KI: what to say?
I: Newars are said to be introvert people. We cannot directly express our feelings. Even in our language, we don’t have many terms to talk about our emotions and feelings.
KI: in love affairs, even if Newar women know the words, they will never speak. Arranged married women will never talk about it. I don’t know how it is in other castes. But Newar women stick on their husbands saying ‘syasa sya pae sa pa’. Will other women say like that? When men hear such statements, they have a feeling of love towards them no matter how angry they get. Again, they laugh and get along. They adjust for the sake of dharma, that is called sanskar. In the past, women went on a sati when the husband died. That practice is no longer there. That is about sanskar. They were of submissive nature. They were morally bound. Will the women of today say like that?
I: how does love influence our psychological well-being? What role love plays?
KI: there is a high philosophy related to it. In one of the Upanishads, there is Yagya Bal, pundit from janakpur. He was among the most intelligent in the whole Asia. He had 2 wives, one Maithili and one katiyani. He had no children from Maithili wife but had some children from katiyani. At last, yagya bal took sanyass. (He declared) I have earned enough. I have done everything. He gives up everything and goes on sanyass. He tells it to his wives. The Maithili wife says that she would like come with him. She argues there is a need of somebody who takes care of him. She does not need the property or anything, let it be to other wife and her children. I have married to you since childhood; you are my property and everything. You become sanyass and I become sanyasini. But he declined. I have to go alone. She says I love you so much. Why do you say like that? He argues when did you love me? You did not love me. This is high philosophy. Ok. She questions, did not I love you? No. he answers. She wonders what is happening to him. Has he lost his mind when he is going to take sanyass. We have lived our life together and I have loved you all the time but now, at the end when you are taking sanyass, you say I have not loved you. I don’t understand this. In reality, you have not loved me. Know this. I don’t want to understand this. You are saying what cannot happen. You have never loved me. How could you say this? If you have loved me then, it is for your own sake. That is the main point. You have loved me but for your own sake. Oh ho…I had never imagined you would say this. Then I will give you an example what is love.
He had kept a monkey and its baby. There was a big cage. We have the monkeys. They put the monkeys in the iron cage. Then they make the fire below. It warms them up. I will not explain to you anymore whether you have loved me or not. I will show you an example. Is there any creature who loves the young ones like the monkey. She says no. the story is called Makaya Matina. When the monkey jumps from one tree to another, she still carries its baby. She does not leave its child even for a minute. No creature loves it baby like the monkey. Na ye makaya matina. There are people to help him to do whatever he says. He orders the monkey and its baby to be put into the cage and the fire be burned on the surface. They lock the cage. Makaya matina. The wife looks what is happening there. As the ground heats up, they cannot stay there and she runs upward. As the fire keeps burning, the iron cage gets heated and she goes to the top to hang on. Still she is holding the baby and trying to save it. But there comes a point when she cannot hold on to the cage when it gets too heated, at that time, she throws her baby away. When the baby falls down, the mother comes down and sits on its body. The baby has died but the mother saves her life by sitting on its baby. See now the selfishness of her love. Did not she love the baby for her own sake? She loved for selfishness. Similarly, you also have loved me for your own sake. If she had loved the baby, would she have sat on its body? Is not it? Where did her love go? If anybody says they love, they do it for their selfish purpose. The world is running on selfishness. You came here because you have that selfishness. He gave the example. Have you understood now? He asked. You love me for your own sake. Then, he says now she has understood. Take those monkeys out and save their lives. So, please, don’t say you will come with me being a sanyasini. People love for their own interest. Na yea makaya matina.
I: we have taken a lot of time, still let me ask you a last question. We know Newars are bhagyabadi. We believe things will happen as they are written in our fates. Do you believe in fate? Why are Newars fatalistic?
KI: the woman becomes a widow and she thinks it was written like that in her fate. But actually, to think about scientifically, it is a matter of coincidences. Ko ju wo chima ko hru pa lagu. It is not actually fate which makes things happen. It is more about the matter of coincidences. Juwa oie chhoni bela thayka milejugu jaka kha.
KI: it is like our meeting here. If you did not come, we would not have met. Bhagye napa laku la makhu. But we often hear ‘bhagyea maru, karma yea maru. Chhu yagu’. It is not the matter of fate. A man brings in another wife because she could not bear the children despite their love for each other. She thinks it was written in her fate not to have children or to live with sauta.
I: do you think it is a shortcut kind of thinking to explain the matters which are not easily explainable?
KI: it has been coming traditionally. People cannot leave their traditions easily.
I: do you have any idea of similar research others have undertaken on this topic? Yes, there are a lot of works in literature.
KI: you should take some folklores. If you could give some examples of such love using the folklores, it would be very nice.
I: has anybody done the study before?
KI: I don’t know in psychology.
Telling a story about kala ya leoh sina bhata ma sati wanigu…there are many other local stories. If you take the folklores, you find the originality in them. You will see the reflections of society as it used to be in the past.
I: thank you for your time.
Transcription end: 9/29/2011 3:18:52 PM