Our flight to America was scheduled for a Monday night, but finding a day to leave the house in Kaski was a problem. Generally speaking, Saturdays and Tuesdays are inauspicious days to leave one’s house for a long journey (although on Tuesdays, you can get away with it, but ideally you shouldn’t stay at the house you are going to). Plus, Aamaa has a special restriction on Mondays that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone: she is so much a part of her house, so rarely leaves it, that Mondays are off limits too when it comes to locking the door and saying goodbye. That left us with Sunday morning they day before our flight from Kathmandu as the only viable date for departure. And then it turned out that was ahmse ko chatujasi, a monthly position of the sun that is inauspicious for leaving one’s house. Sunday was a non-starter.
The solution we came to was that Aamaa would put her packed bag outside the house in the early hours of Saturday morning, before it was fully Saturday.
I arrived back from Cambodia on Friday evening with Pascal in tow, and found the corn cut down. We did all the usual things – making dinner, playing with Amrit and Narayan from next door, chatting with neighbors passing through. Aamaa set to arranging things in a small shoulder bag. Two saris, two blouses and a petticoat to wear with them, and the two new kurta salwaars we had had made. What else should she bring? The bag looked disconcertingly empty. I show up in Nepal with two large duffel bags every time and most of my wardrobe lives here. What do I usually have in there? Can that give us any clues as to what Aamaa should add to her bag?
A sweater for the plane, I suggest. It is cold in the plane.
Mostly Aamaa was concerned with what items we would bring to Didi in Pokhara tomorrow. An enormous cucumber the size of a cricket bat. A bottle of heavy ghee (and a collection of smaller bottles for Bishnu, Mom and Dad, Ricky’s family, and me.). Aamaa’s CDMA telephone needs fixing, and besides, someone might call it while we are in America – we were to leave the telephone with Didi. Most of Aamaa’s bag was filled with things to be left in Pokhara.
“Laura, set your alarm for 3am.”
“I set it.”
The evening wore on, our last evening, the one where normally my bags sit threateningly zipped and ready, signaling the splitting of our worlds. Instead we just fell asleep, wondering what is going happen next.
“Did you set the alarm?”
“I set it.”
We drifted off. My dreams wove in and out, waiting for the alarm. Finally I opened my eyes. It was 4am.
“Aamaa, wake up.”
“The alarm didn’t go off. It’s 4am, go quick.”
Aamaa took her hand bag and hung it outside in the shed. The phone and other belongings were allowed to finish the night in the house, but the clothes she would travel in needed to leave before daylight betrayed them.
I drifted off again, the feeling of uncharted territory hanging softly in the pre-dawn.