Cow Festival in Bhaktapur

Squeezing through the crowded streets in Bhaktapur over the weekend, we witnessed dancers in parades during a Gai Jatra "Cow" festival to celebrate the life of loved ones who died last year.

The photographer falls behind as usual, so my hand’s immediately taken and I’m pulled into the chaos. As I hold my lens to the sky to shield it from flailing arms, I get caught up in the beat of the drum, a constant wave carrying my mind into the music.

Clicking away, I stop. I realize I’m alone. But then I look up and see my group waiting by a corner shop, so I head for them, squeezing through the crowd, so enamoured by the performance I’m unnoticed.

As we reach the durbar square, I notice hundreds of people standing along the steps, on top of each other. Vendors with cotton candy, ice cream and other sweets make their rounds. And the parade has now come back through, but now we’re in the middle of three different parade routes.

It’s chaos.

I hold my lens to the sky. Take a breath and plunge it into the crowd, cocked and ready. Click!

I compose with my eye, wait for moments and look around, capturing candids of strangers.

 From left, Kalpana and Samita.

From left, Kalpana and Samita.

After an hour, we made our way out from the chaos and to get Indian ice cream: Kulfi.

 Festival selfie: From left, me, Kalpana, Sara (back), Samita (front), Ashmita.

Festival selfie: From left, me, Kalpana, Sara (back), Samita (front), Ashmita.

I held onto the back of my friend as we led each other out in a single file. Making it my priority to protect my camera at all cost, I didn’t notice it at first. But I felt it again. Someone touched me.

My backside was being squeezed and in close quarters I couldn’t do anything. I could barely keep myself from falling forward as I tried pushing past people to move away. I searched the crowd and no one’s eyes met mine. During my time in Nepal, I’ve never not had curious eyes on me and in this moment I couldn’t find a single person to own up to it.

No one should ever be touched in that way. I felt so weird about it afterwards. Maybe I wore the wrong clothing? I wore baggy cargo pants. It just doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. 

This can happen anywhere in the world, but this happens to be my only experience with physically harassment, but it should never happen, anywhere. Should it? 

Educate your friends, your kids, you colleagues. 

I am someone's daughter, someone's sister, and someone's friend. I mean something to someone.

Don't stare. Instead, say hello. Wave. And don't ever touch me. I wouldn't never touch you. Ever.

- B