Nanda Bahadur Shahi, 53, of Sinja, Jumla inspects his Daura Suruwal as his 4-year-old grandson Joban, clad in ‘modern’ outfits looks on. All pics by Wagle
SINJA (Jumla)- The residents of this beautiful village have worn daura suruwal for decades. But hello, this traditional Nepali outfit covers only the bodies of the older generation, and young people have no respect for it. Once the capital of a country called Jumla, where it is believed the Nepali language and daura suruwal originated, Sinja is witnessing a dying out of this costume.
“Jamana badaliyo. Kura chhuttai huna atyo, luga chhuttai huna atyo” [The time has changed. So has the language and clothing], 84-year-old Jair Bitalu, the oldest person in Hat Sija village says. “I don’t know what’s happening these days. They say mummy for aama and diddi for ba.” Youngsters listening to the conversation erupt in laughter and one of them quickly corrects Bitalu.
Jair Bitalu, 84, the oldest in Sinja, and his great grand son. Bitalu is the sole owner of Daura Suruwal in traditional Thetuwa cloth in the village, locals said.
Nanda Bahadur Shahi with his grandson Joban
“It’s not diddi, it’s daddy.” Not heeding the boy, the old man continues: “We didn’t leave; now it’s up to these people [to save the dress and language.]” Clad in cotton daura suruwal, Bitalu had returned home in the evening from the jungle where he had gone to graze cattle. He wore the daura suruwal for the interview and photo-op. He couldn’t locate his docha, [traditional shoes], but locals said that he is the only owner of such clothes in the village.
As villages get exposed to the rest of Nepali society and youngsters’ access to the market increases, daura suruwal is on the verge of extinction.
Those who have attended schools and colleges in the cities and experienced urban life prefer shirts, pants and jeans. Nepalgunj and Surkhet are the nearest cities for this region and there, many locals here said, wearing daura suruwal invites teasing and bullying. Many said, they haven’t worn the attire and probably never will.
“People in the plains call us Jumli and pakhe (uncivilized) if we wear such clothes,” said 20 year old Ganesh Shahi. His friend Tek Hamal (who said he removed his middle name ‘Bahadur’ from the citizenship certificate and mark sheets) added: “I wore it when I didn’t know what I was wearing. But I only recently learned about fashion. Now that vehicles have started coming to Jumla, we will never wear daura suruwal.” After a pause he added: “Why hide, I feel ashamed even to walk with my father and grandfather [in the cities] if they are wearing daura suruwal.”
Jair Bitalu with neighbor Krishna Bikram Acharya, 27. When Acharya said “daura-suruwal is very difficult to take off while with the t-shirt it is very easy”, Bitalu instantly countered: “[T-shirt’s] very difficult to take off, bending your head and putting your hands up.”
Wagle interviews Jair Bitalu Pic by Krishna Bikram Acharya
When reminded that the Prime Minister and influential leaders and bureaucrats in the capital wear daura suruwal daily, a young adult responded: “Who can tease the powerful? But I can’t even imagine going to college and the market in daura Suruwal. Whenever we accidentally use our local slang, people in the plains think we don’t know how to speak Nepali.”
Thanks to the decade long conflict, the number of those discarding daura suruwal has shot up. “We left the village in 2054 BS and returned in 2063,” Karna Jung Hamal, a Nepali Congress activist who was displaced from the village and resided in Nepalgunj and other parts of the country said.
“We saw new things, wore new things. There is no question of fashion not entering the village.” Another adult, clad in jeans, said girls don’t even look at those who wear daura suruwal.
Bhakta Bahadur Buda, 61, and his son (of Gargyangkot VDC) at Jumla airport. The younger Buda said daura suruwal is expensive compared to what he was wearing. When we did the math, he proved to be right. He was wearing clothes worth about Rs. one thousand while his father’s outfit cost about 5 thousands.
Bhakta Bahadur Buda and his son
Even so, a large number of people clad in daura suruwal could be seen in Mugu, Jumla and Kalikot districts, a scene that’s rare in other parts of Nepal. Middle aged men and many youngsters who haven’t visited the bazaar that often or haven’t attended high school still wear daura, suruwal and coat. “We old people are habituated to daura,” said 53-year-old Nanda Bahadur Shahi who was holding his 4-year-old grandson Joban, clad in a jumper and trousers. “I haven’t ever worn shirt and pants. In trousers, it’s very difficult to sit. We have to work in the field and shirt-pants are unsuitable for that.” For him, daura provides double protection, whereas it’s very easy for the wind to enter inside the chest with a shirt on. But with a coat over the daura, one feels more warmth, he added. “Life is inside the chest,” he said. “If that becomes cold, a man can’t survive.”
The debate also covers which attire is easy-wear. Twenty-seven-year-old Krishna Bikram Acharya feels “daura-suruwal is very difficult to take off while with the t-shirt it is very easy.”
The old man, pointing at a t-shirt, instantly protests, “That’s very difficult to take off, bending your head and putting your hands up.” Then pointing to his daura, he says, “You pull its string and off it comes, it’s as easy as that.”