Nepali National Pastime
Let me tell you a bit about the most popular sport in Nepal: mito cha, mito chaina. I encountered this game during my first visit to Sundrawoti, when we stayed by and ate at houses throughout the village. It goes something like this: the host fills his guest’s plate with a heaping pile of dal bhat, much higher than a human being could possibly ever hope to eat. Which is actually OK, because to Nepalis ‘guest is god’ and must be treated with the utmost deference.
Of course, in Nepal, just about everything is god – tonight, I learned Nepalis won’t blow out candles because ‘fire is god’ – including the rice that the guest-god is expected to eat, and in order to treat rice with the appropriate amount of respect, it must be consumed entirely. So, the moment a guest so much as hesitates to take his next bite Let the game begin.
Mito chaina. It is not tasty. Mito cha. It is tasty, you must reply. Mito chaina, is the inevitable response. Mito chai, is the inevitable retort. Mito chaina, is the inevitable rejoinder. Mito cha, is the inevitable reassurance. Mito chaina, is the inevitable riposte. Mito cha, is the inevitable squelch. As you can see, even Microsoft Word’s Thesaurus eventually tires of this game, to say nothing of the obligatory participants.
Though I first encountered mito cha, mito chaina almost exactly three months ago, I wasn’t moved to write about it because it has been quite extensively covered elsewhere. Now is the time. You see, though the game refers primarily to the tastiness – and reputed untastiness – of food, I have recently encountered a slight variation in the rules. Nepalis love to have their pictures taken, and of course, love even more when they can see the picture afterwards. And when they do, an inevitable game develops: Ramro photo, ramro manche chaina. Good photo, not good person. Ramro manche, good person, one must assure them in turn. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I will let you imagine that the game continues much as its original incarnation.
On Tuesday, six year-old Monisa came home from school hungry, and as both of her parents were busy working, went inside to fix herself a snack. Tragically lacking a toaster oven to make nachos, she emerged after about half an hour with a bowl of boiled half-mashed potatoes, which she proceeded to share with her ten year-old brother, Tekraj. As I took a picture of the two enjoying their khaja, Dan Bahadur dai piped up from behind me, Ramro ketaketi chaina, not good children.
Not wishing to be dragged into a debate with their father over the worthiness of his children, I ignored protocol (Ramro ketaketi cha) and instead simply asked, Kina? Why? Dheray khane, he told me, They eat a lot.
You should have thought about that, buddy.