"Hey Hitesh, Why don’t you write about this?” Mr. Gurung came barging in the room, beads of sweat trickling down his face, seemingly exhausted. “About what?” I asked. “Windows sound”, he replied, making me feel the heat had got the better of him. He looked angry. The only logical conclusion I could draw was something drastic must have happened very recently to make an otherwise cool and calm person behave like this.
It took more than a little while for him to settle down and quickly scan his inbox. Then he turned to me and asked me in which part of the world do people charge an astronomical amount for parking your vehicle and then paint the wall with ‘At your own risk’.
Being a no brainer, I smiled mouthing my reply—‘Kathmandu’. While there are many countries where they may have parking charges that are even ten times higher, nowhere else do they charge you for parking your car but refuse to take any responsibility for it.
What followed thereafter was a discussion on a series of incidents we had encountered while parking our vehicles. The first complaint happened to be common one—the difficulty of finding parking space. The discussion became more intense when we started touching upon the modus operandi of the entire process. Barring a few places, one just cannot make out whether it is a parking place or not. The only clue could be a neat array of vehicles. If there’s someone to assist you in this process, you can heave a sigh of relief for finally having managed to find the right place.
You finally perch your vehicle with half a foot of space on either side and somehow manage to squeeze yourself out of it. Till then, you have no clue how much the parking fee is. All you are concerned about then is managing your time. And you even end up feeling lucky and blessed to have found a ‘safe’ parking spot!
Once you are back to your car and ready to leave the parking space, often your spontaneous reaction is of anger to see the parking attendant emerge from nowhere. Barring in a few places, these parking attendants usually make an appearance only when you are able to take your vehicle out, not really being there to help you park or maneuver while taking it out. Already enraged by not getting any kind of assistance while taking out your vehicle from such a cramped space, the amount of parking fee demanded—much beyond your imagination—annoys you even further. It’s almost like you consider yourself lucky, once again, if the quoted price is less than twenty rupees, but then that’s hardly the case. It ranges from anywhere between fifty to hundred rupees, as the calculation is mostly on a per hour basis. Though livid, you allow better sense to prevail, battling with a nauseating feeling of being a coward. But you realize you are helpless and curse your haplessness.
On rare occasions, you might muster the courage to ask for the parking ticket and more often than not, the attendant says he has run out of them. Even if you are lucky enough to get a ticket, you have no way to validate its authenticity. All you see is the price in big, bold letters. You just angrily call this a daylight robbery under your breath and make a silent exit. You also leave with a feeling of defeat of the kind you would probably never experience elsewhere.
Anarchy in this country continues to prevail. And ironically, while we rejoice—yes rejoice is the word—about some recent decisions that have forced out political bigwigs who ruled the country almost as if it were their fiefdom, these kind of day light robberies continue to be part of our lives.
We keep hearing and reading about how certain government organizations have been plagued by vultures. You try entering a government office and almost instantly you feel like a piece of meat with vultures hovering all around you and yet, the practice of rampant corruption and bullying doesn’t seem to catch the attention of any authority till now—just like the police tends to overlook the activities of parking attendants.
By now Gurung, whose anger had been triggered by his new SUV getting visibly scratched in a parking lot, seemed to have calmed down and even laughed about this ironical situation. Both of us had shared our experiences and that made us see the funny side of things. As they say, sharing helps. Parking woes suddenly seem to have become the most appropriate symbolic representation of the way we live our lives in modern day Nepal—bear the brunt of injustice silently, and grumble or laugh it off inside the comfort of closed doors.