Nepali American Friendship Association celebrates Dashai
Recognizing scholars, keeping values,  and looking ahead for a brighter future

by Heidi M. Pascual

      “Together we can make a difference,” was the theme of the 2008
Dashain celebration hosted by the Nepali American Friendhip
Association (NAPA)at Monona Community Center on October 11. Amid
the frenzy of the forthcoming presidential election at the time and the
problems of the economy (that continue to the present), local Nepalis
led by Krishna Sijapati were cool and hopeful that the New Year will be
much better than the last as it ushers a new president and a new
direction for the U.S.
     The community gathered to celebrate a religious tradition in Nepal
and many parts of India — Dashai — the triumph of good versus evil. It
is called different names depending on one’s location — Nepal, India,
or Bhutan — but  the basic belief is the same. “God meditated for nine
days and created the goddess Durga,” NAFA Assn. President Krishna
Sijapati explained in a brief interview with Asian Wisconzine. “We
worship Durga every day for nine days, because she killed the demon
(Mahishasur) on the ninth day.” Sijapati added that the 10th day is
regarded as the Victory Day, and family members celebrate together
this occasion with much fanfare. In commemoration of this victory and
in recognition of the Nepali community’s success and positive
contributions in America, NAFA awarded three Nepali students
scholarship at the events: Shreejana Acharya, a pre-nursing student at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is also a mother of two and
works part-time as a pre-school teacher; Asmita Batajoo, a pre-
pharmacy student at the University of Minnesota, is involved with
various school organizations and volunteers for the “America Reads”
program; and Sneha Shrestha, a pre-medical student at UW-Madison,
is a volunteer at Meriter Hospital and other organizations. The guest
speaker, Wis. State Sen. Mark Miller, at the outset, talked about
America as the land of immigrants and then focused on the meaning
of the Declaration of Independece with respect to people’s rights. :
“The first humans in this land immigrated from the Asian land mass,”
Miller reminded his audience. “The second wave of immigration
began with the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Central
America, followed shortly by the first immigrants to North America in
Jamestown in Plymouth Rock.” He said that a gathering such as this
reminded him of his wife’s family’s culture and country (his wife’s
parents immigrated from Japan.) Miller described the impact of the U.
S. on the world as it wasfounded on the ideals of the Declaration of
Independence, that all men are created equal and endowed with
inalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happines. “The idea
that all men are created euqal and the economic promise of a rich
frontier where man can succeed through the fruits of his own labor
was an inspiration to the world,” Miller continued, “ drawing to America
the bravest and the most enterprising people from all corners. As a
country, we in America has benefited and prospered from the diversity
and industry brought by successive waves of immigration.”  Local
Nepalis in the audience, who have chosen Wisconsin as their new
home, were visibly pleased with what they heard. They applauded and
thanked Miller profusely. Miller then helped Dr. Gautam Vajracharya
hand over scholarship awards to recipients.
      The cultural program then followed, featuring the Mayalu Band, a
children’s skit, and dances by Shreya Dahal, Yeshashwi Chhetri and
Pallav Regmi. Sam Ranabhat also entertained.
(Clockwise from top left) NAFA President Krishna Sijapati welcomes attendees;
Megha Poude leads the prayers; Sen. Miller congratulates NAFA scholar Seha
Shrestha;(l-r) Nirmala Paneru, Sarsotu Khadka; Sharada Poudel;Kamala Dahal;
Naresh Shrestha and Manoj Kanskar sing traditional songs; skit, “The Little Red
Hen,” played by Divya VanPietersom, and the farm animals played by Dev
VanPietersom. Pallav Rimal,and Safrika Bhattarai; (l-r) Yeshashwi Chhetri and
Shreya Dahl performs another American modern dance; Seha Shrestha; Shreya
Dahl performs a solo;. Kamala Silwal, Arati Shrestha; Sen Mark Miller.