By Erica Buist

Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World’s Death Festivals

Thursday, 23 August 2018

It’s not pronounced ‘nipple’

Probably didn’t need to tell you that; none of you are Donald Trump, after all.

Hello from Nepal, is what I’m trying to say. 

I'm writing to you from the attic room of a 200-year-old Newari house in the Kathmandu Valley. I’m here for Gai Jatra, my second death festival: it’s a procession of people who’ve lost someone this year, led by a cow. If a cow isn’t available, “a boy dressed as a cow will do”. I have not ascertained how the schedules of the local cows are looking, so fingers crossed they’re busy. The point of the day is to make everyone laugh, because if you’re too miserable after the death of a loved one their spirit can’t move on, and being a ghost is the absolute pits. By the sounds of it this festival will be everything I’ve been looking for, and I hope to parlay it into a delightful chapter for you all.

Yesterday I went for a stroll around Patan, a little suburb just across the river from Kathmandu, and got chatting to a guy called Sandy. He turned out to be a local tour guide, and today took me on a tour of Patan. He gave me an abundance of info with gorgeous, colourful details, including stories of the Gai Jatras of his youth. He used to go home with kilos of sweets (everyone gives participants little offerings to make them happy during the festival, like trick or treating without the tricks – which I think we can all agree is much better than being annually mugged for sugar by tiny bastards). He also took me through the moment in 2015 when the earthquake hit, how he had to impolitely drag an English tourist who, in his confusion, was hell bent on running TOWARDS the toppling temples

Anyway, I’m signing off now. As always, do please bully your family, friends and enemies into pledging. Do it by the time I leave on Tuesday and there may be a pashmina in it for you. x

Photo: taken today in Patan, Kathmandu. Supposedly, evil spirits can't pass iron, so people nail iron to their front door to ward them off

Back to project page
Share on social

Top rewards

98 pledges


A copy of the eBook.
Buy now