It will take some days for Kathmandu to get over the Dasain hangover,and, by then, the Tihar fever will have taken over. Traffic is reduced on Kathmandu roads, restaurants do less business. In India, however, the opposite is true. Dushera and Diwali are festivals when people spend, spend, spend. They travel, they shop, they eat out and generally let themselves go.
In Delhi and other North Indian cities, thousands swarm to see the burning of Rawan's effigy. In Bengal, Durga Puja is now packaged as a carnival for tourists. The celebrations have a lot of corporate sponsorships available as they exploit the opportunity to keep in contact with the consumer.
While driving through the smaller towns and cities, one observes that the festive zeal has more to do with spending. There is non-stop activity 24 hours with people pouring into the streets. Street vendors do booming business and all shops are open because this is the best time for business. Transport entrepreneurs happily work overtime.
In Nepal, the Dasain-Tihar culture is strong and people do buy new clothes and splurge on a goat or two, but on the whole it is a family festival when people stay indoors. The only thing they spend is time with family and friends and usually on cards. There is little that serves as tourist attraction. Let's take an example: The average Indian or a foreigner would rather go to Kolkata to see the magnificent puja pandals or visit the Mysore palace than come to Nepal and watch buffalos being decapitated.
Consumer evolution is making more and more people eat out and travel more, especially during holidays. In America, the period between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year marks half the average annual family spending. In Hong Kong, the bulk of entertainment spending takes place during the Chinese New Year. It is time we in Nepal started selling and I mean really selling our festivals.
How can we get people to come out of their houses during Tihar and other festivals? How to ensure that the festivity is packaged to suit young spenders, and I am not talking about selling tickets to the Kot to watch animal sacrifices. Could there be exhibitions and events that revolve around historic sites and temples? Tihar melas that combine entertainment with religion? Wouldn't food festivals and carnival-style programs during jatras be feasible?
If Nepali economy is to grow, there has to be more spending. For that, we first need to earn more. And once we have done that, the spending culture during festivals creates more lower middle class entrepreneurs, be it ice cream vendors or balloon sellers. This spreads the wealth around and creates a whole new downstream multiplier. And Dasain-Tihar would mean more than just boomtime for the slaughterhouses.