One of the highlights of my time in Ilam was the chance to experience the Hindu ceremony ‘puja’. This ritual involves praying to various gods for the future health and prosperity of the family, I was lucky enough to be invited to several of these events...
Here we are at one of the neighbour's houses - the grandfather is chanting certain mantras and making offerings to the Gods. They were special occasions in which many village members would get together. I received a tika and a bracelet which I wore until I got back home, a reminder of a certain place and time.
Samyog and his friends were having a great time...
Sel roti - a sweet Nepali bread, was offered with some masala tea (spiced)
This lady wanted a picture of herself with the only tourist in town, I think she'd been on the local wine. I felt like a VIP as everyone snapped photos on their phones...
“Come, Mr Neil”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“We are going to find a chicken” replied Deepak - Subash had invited us to his place for dinner.
After a wander around some of the nearby houses we came across a friendly family who were willing to sell us one of their chickens. They weighed it and then sold it to us for around 500 rupees (£4). Deepak, Subash and I then headed back to Subash’s house where we met his brother who introduced himself as a butcher.
I put two and two together and asked if I could watch the inevitable as I was interested to see the process. He pulled up a stool for me, gave the chicken a whack, took the feathers off, washed it and cut it up, all just outside the back door. Sitting there witnessing these scenes I've never felt further away from home - Tesco home delivery felt like a distant dream.
He took his work inside then threw almost everything into the frying pan, bones and all. It tasted very good when served up with Dhaal Bhaat but all I could see in my mind was the image of the chicken clucking away under Subash's arm just moments before.
We had a nice evening with Subash and his family and I was left with his comforting assurance;
“My brother is a very gentle man”.
Me, Subash and Deepak in Ilam
I was introduced to the popular dish momo in Kathmandu and was hooked ever since. They are a kind of dumpling eaten in Tibet, Nepal and some parts of India containing either meat or vegetables and are often accompanied by a spicy sauce. I had buffalo momo in Kathmandu but converted to the vegetarian version in Ilam (this decision coincided with my first trip to Fikkal market).
Eating momo in a cafe in Fikkal
Momo at Dipa and Dikshya's (sisters)