Expat Magazine

Living With Brahmin Grandparents

By Hanna
These seem easy to remember!

These seem easy to remember!

M’s family are bahun, of the brahmin caste, this means that in the history of Nepal his family originates from priests and teachers. Much like India, the caste system rules over Nepal and creeps into every day life. This is more so with the older generations as the younger generations are starting to care less about caste.

M’s grandparents live in the house and out of courtesy the rest of his family follow how they are used to living. Some of the rules do not effect me too much like washing the right hand in particular before and after entering the kitchen. However, some of the rules are quite a shock to my system. In the house if women are menstruating they are not allowed in the kitchen and if they want to eat then they can eat downstairs or sit on a stool in the doorway. Also, if one of the grandparents was to walk into a room then that women would have to walk out so as not to be in the same room.

Similarly, for strict brahmins they cannot eat any food that is prepared or touched by others outside of the caste. They can only eat food from other brahmins. Technically speaking a ‘foreign’ person is of a very low caste even an untouchable – the lowest of the low. Which has got me out of doing anything in the kitchen so far! In the same way, a strict brahmin does not eat food in front of others and it is a great privilege if you are invited for a meal with them.

With all the rules and and customs that come from living with brahmins my head is spinning constantly as i’m remembering which hand to take tea with and when to make myself scarce. Although I do not agree with everything I am quite happy in adopting this as his grandparents are very old. It is wrong to expect them to think any differently than a century ago in which they were born into. One of my biggest fears when arriving in Nepal would be how they would find me as a white english girl living in their house let alone M’s girlfriend.

When I met his grandparents they seemed very sweet although I did not have a clue what M was telling them. From what he later told me I am not sure whether they know I am not Nepali or what I am really doing in the house apart from being M’s friend from England.

On the first night I stayed in Nepal, as I previously mentioned, M and his sister had swapped rooms to allow me and his sister to have the bigger space. However, in the morning I was filled in by M that his grandad had come downstairs and woken up mamu and baba trying to call together a family meeting. M’s grandad was angry that M had brought his ‘wife’ home and that we were both sleeping together upstairs in his bedroom without being properly wed. His grandad was so angry that he wanted to kick M out of his family house and tell him that he needed to find somewhere else for him and his ‘wife’.

Luckily, as M was downstairs he was able to talk to his grandad and sort the situation out by explaining that in fact his sister and I were upstairs and moreover I was a family friend from England not his wife. It was quite a shock to hear first thing in the morning and we decided that we would all swap rooms again and M would go back upstairs on his own.

Since the first night, it has been a lot better with his grandparents. M asked his grandmum whether she would mind if I was to be in the kitchen if sbe were eating and she said it was fine as she can tell as I have a bahun face. Although I have not been able to help in the kitchen yet I hope that I can slowly start helping to cook. But it is quite relaxing not having to cook for myself anymore but I have been kept busy with other jobs.

I am thankful for his grandparents being comfortable having me around the house regardless of their caste or their beliefs. They have been as accommodating as they can be. Although for some it may still seem very strict with the rules, we have Nepali brahmin friends who cannot even prepare their grandparents food. I am just thankful that everything is going well but I am still trying hard to adjust.

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