National Geographic : 1987 Jul
rice grains we draw one sacred circle for each family member, one for me, and one for Yama Raj, king of death, the invisible pres ence whom I wind up seated next to. I must perform certain flame-lit ceremo nies for death as well as for myself then. But the more familiar you are with something, the less fear it holds for you, and by now I've got the message: no death without life. Besides, though the ceremonies go on for hours, they are done Nepalese family style far from hushed. While I'm ritually show ered with nuts, fruits, and petals, so, too, fall wisecracks and kids on my lap. And since we're gods, we eat that way, round upon round, washing it all down with the firecracker rice liquor raksi. By the time I thank my hosts and start through the cleaned-up, still filthy, always magic streets yet again, my head feels as bright as the spar klers raining down from rooftops, and I sing like the temple guthi members bearing along whole shrines on their litters. And I promise myself to write this: Nepal is a land where a host of cultures have met, fused, and continued to thrive. This so called Third World country, facing tough challenges, remains a First World nation of the human spirit, and in the valley at its cen ter, I was made to feel at home. O community and Buddhist worship. Immigrants restoredthe old stupa and built new monasteries around it-a sign of the valley's spiritualvitality.