I read/heard somewhere that the vocabulary in a language is indicative of what a culture values or gives importance to, I believe it. Perhaps the most common example is of Eskimos and “snow” – they have 12 (I think) words for it. Snow. In English there’s one, (and perhaps a few that are derivatives like “slush”). In Nepali, we have one word for snow (huew), and even then, it’s the same word for ice as well. I’ve noticed, however, that Nepali has enough words for family members to fill out a mini-dictionary. This is an observation I have made over the years primarily when speaking of my relatives to non-Nepali speakers.
Nepali lacks general terminology for family. There is no one-word translation for “siblings”, nor is there a word for “cousin” or “aunt” or “uncle”…. A point that might seem contradictory to what I just stated. Instead, we have several words for “uncle”, one that will tell you if the uncle is my mother’s younger brother, her older brother, my father’s older brother or his younger brother. The same goes for aunts. Each word tells you not only who they are in relation to me but the words, “mama” “kaka” “boda” “paju”, all draw a verbal family tree that shows you where our blood meets.
Although my roots lie in a culture that gives family utmost importance, it has been 8 years since my mother, father, sister, and I have been able to spend Christmas together and 17 years since we’ve all lived under the same room for more than just the holidays. For the first time in nearly a decade, my sister and I were home to help my mother prepare for the upcoming season. Together we dusted old ornaments, together we ironed Christmas tablecloths and together we prepared the house to indicate the joy of Jesus’ birth. While doing this, my mother paused and said, “You know, a few years ago, we had a huge Christmas party and when there was 125 people at the house, I left to be alone to cry because my family wasn’t complete.”
Family. Bonds that intertwine like DNA, blood that runs the truest crimson, – this year, we are together in time for the red, green, white, stars and santas of Christmas, and I must say, I am thrilled.
I stand corrected, apparently I was confused between Hindi and Nepali and “huin” is snow while “baraf” is ice. My bad. Also… some say that “the mountain people” might have more words for “snow” in Nepali seeing as it’s a bigger part of their life. I need to start taking Nepali classes 😀