|| My life! My rules!
“Is there a banda tomorrow?” That’s the question that’s on my mind as I go to bed. “Is there a banda today?” is the question that’s still lingering on my mind as I wake up. As soon as I open my eyes, I start straining my ears to hear the whiz of bikes and the honks of cars to figure out if it’s a banda or not. Then I rush upstairs to the terrace to scan the roads for signs of cars and bikes. In other words, a sign of some normalcy in life. It’s so silly that it’s annoying!
It’s funny how bandas have started to rule my days, forcing me to plan my work according to its effectiveness. By succumbing to the bandas like this, it feels like I’ve handed over what’s left of my dignity to the riot makers. Banda isn’t a solution to the problems the nation is facing but a violation of freedom.
If someone agrees to join the protest voluntarily, then that’s alright. But for those who don’t agree to comply, they should be given the freedom to carry on with what they want.
The main issue for me is to walk miles to and from work in the scorching heat. Don’t get me wrong, I love to walk. But walking early in the morning in the gentle breeze, listening to the birds chirp, and in the cool evenings, enjoying the glimmering lights is entirely different from walking when the sun is determined to see that I don’t make it to office the way I left home.
The larger issue of unrest and uncertainty in the country is so overshadowed by the petty issues I have that my main concern isn’t what chaos there’ll be if the Constitution is not drafted on time but how much sun-burnt I’ll be, or how many pairs of shoes will get ruined if this situation continues.
I don’t see how calling a strike and burning vehicles on the streets will make any impact on a government that just doesn’t seem to care about what happens outside the walls of their so called meeting room. I wonder why the banda organizers don’t understand this and continue to torture the public with their ludicrous strategies. They claim to be fighting for the common citizens’ rights by torturing those very people.
I was appalled when I saw kids letting the air out of cycle tyres and doing so with a sense of much accomplishment. I was even more horrified when they started throwing stones at bikes that tried to zoom past. When I was their age, my acts of rebellion were not doing homework on time, watching cartoons, or playing hide and seek for hours. And even then I can’t say I’ve shaped out okay, so I wonder what these kids will turn out to be like.
These thoughts, the sun, the acts of vandalism by banda enforcers, and my own submissiveness make me angry and sad at the same time. There might be nothing I can do to stop this insanity but I won’t succumb to the pressures of another strike when and if there is one. I’ve had enough!
I wake up suddenly in the middle of the night to a very strong stench of sewage. The smell is so nauseating it gives me a feeling that a big crowd of people are dumping their loads just outside the room. I wait for the foul odor to pass. I cover my face with the blanket and even try to hold my breath for a while. But none works. When the stink does not leave the air, I sit up and look for air freshener, which of course, I fail to spot past midnight.
“What is this?” I had screamed in horror when I had first experienced the bad smell a few nights ago.
“Oh don’t worry. It’s just a blow of wind from the nearby Bagmati or Tukucha. It’ll pass in a while,” my cousin sleeping beside me had then replied in a very sleepy, dismissing voice. That very night, however, the wind was not being very kind, and the crazy odor was breaching into my sleep.
Since past week, I’ve been living on the banks of Tukucha River, literally. At the border of Tripureshwor and Thapathali, across the lane from Kal Mochan Temple, I reserve fond memories for my cousin’s place.
The terrace was a perfect place to witness the sunset and breathe in the evening air. Back then, the blowing wind only brought sounds from across the bridge and it used to be beautiful. Now the house is towered by big concrete structures from both sides. The rooms are struggling for sunlight. The bars in the windows have been raised up to the third floor, iron gates precede the main gate for safety issues.
Moreover, there is no more lingering on the terrace after dinner for the air isn’t light enough to blow your hair but so dense with the Tukucha’s fate that steals your goodnight sleep. The odor chases you no matter where you go. You can always escape the revulsion by spraying some air freshener but it is always temporary.
I remember my parents’ reticence in building a house on a plot at Kupondole many years back, foreseeing similar consequences. I think it was a very wise decision. But on a second thought, the decision was like the air freshener solution—only temporary.
We can always wash our hands off the main problem and find secondary alternatives, like we’ve always been doing. And most of the times, we don’t take these as our problems at all. I might forget this as soon as I shift back to my home, my cousins have already adjusted to the foul smell and most of you would only recognize the fate of these unfortunate rivers in the city only when you pass through their bridges.
But as for now, as the stench from Tukucha is waking me up every night from my sleep, I feel like being haunted. And unlike for the mythical ghosts that need Agarbattis to pacify them, I sleep beside a big can of air-freshener. But do they pacify the raged Tukucha, I wonder!
Wider lanes and more open eyes
Where I come from – the ancient city of Patan – narrow alleys, or as we call them ‘gullis,’ snake in and out throughout the cityscape. Picture a maze with winding curves instead of sharp corners.
Where I am now – in Norman, Oklahoma, USA – wide lanes surround me everywhere and have held me in awe. Add to that the open green spaces and neatly stacked buildings, it’s like I’m walking through a city of legos.
I’ve been here for four days now, living the “Amrikan” life. Like someone wittily wished me on Twitter before I left Nepal, I’m currently enjoying the summer and the “reliable water and electricity” supply out here.
In the four flights we took to get to the US, I got a window seat only in the last one when we flew from Chicago to Oklahoma. So even though my eyelids were fluttering out of exhaustion after almost 36 hours of flights and transits, I couldn’t keep myself from peering out the window.
Aerial views are always fascinating, and what I saw on the flight was nothing like I had ever seen before: wide open spaces with lines –which seemed like roads, I’m not sure – dividing them into numerous rectangular patches with impressive precision.
“You’ll be surprised by how organized everything is out there,” I remember my editor telling me about the US. Now I’m getting to understand what he meant by or maybe interpreting “organized” my way.
Once we were out on the street with one of our mentors driving us to our apartments, I had almost forgotten about my weariness and lack of sleep. My eyes were now wide open, soaking in every passing scene. There weren’t many interesting structures on the route we took, or maybe it was already too dark to see anything clearly. And as I was in the front seat looking at the road signs slip by, the first thing that really struck me was the width of the road ahead of me, beside me, behind me – everywhere. And man, were they wide!
Of course, we have main roads back home that are like six lanes, four lanes and (mostly) two lanes. But seeing them paired up here with open spaces around, along with good pavements, gives it an entirely different feel.
I like it. It feels like I’m freer, more willing to take long walks and less paranoid of vehicles coming at me to squash me.
But all this still feels too weird. Maybe I’m just not used to it. Like I’m still not used to so many things here – how it’s so bright even after 8:30 pm; how even when it’s broad daylight, my body tells me it’s your time to sleep; all the extra cheese in everything; unlimited refills of Coke; and the WalMartians; and even the 24/7 running water and electricity.
Yes, it’s been good out here. I’ve been received really well by amazingly friendly people. But there’s no denying it, either, that, as I write this, still almost entirely awake at 1 am US time, I miss home, dal bhat tarkari, and though not the noisy main roads, I do miss walking the mazy gullis of Patan.
Oh! The places you will go!
One thing that fascinates me the most is traveling. The joy that it can bring is just unrivaled. There’s nothing like packing your bags and get lost from whatever that’s happening around for a while.
There’s always some kind of charm that every place carries. Then again, there’s nothing like learning from traveling as the kind of exposure that you get is huge. But it’s easier said than done. It isn’t so easy to just pack everything and leave. Moreover, I think that we don’t have that much of traveling culture in our country.
Also coming from one of the developing nations, you don’t have the benefits of traveling in an economical way because of our low currency value.
But whatever, I always make travel plans and stick to it as much as I can because, after all, it just depends on your ardor and willingness. My first travel outside of the country was when I was in my eighth grade. Since I was just in school, I was soaring high with all the excitement of leaving the country. The whole idea of being on your own was also adding more to the thrill.
After that amazing experience with the bunch of my school buddies back then, there was no looking back for me.
Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures are something which you can’t do while staying at your own place. There’s that joy of hearing stories from local people, looking at their lifestyles, the kinds of passion they follow, and all.
It was just a few months back that I traveled for the longest time. For almost two months, I was all on my own exploring new cities and culture.
It was one of the most amazing experiences ever, since I got to see the completely other side of the world in person, and the memories I have of those experiences will ever be cherished. After all those experiences, the wanderlust in me grew even more.
It was my father who gave me the book, Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss. This book always inspires me and every time I read it, I feel like I really have so many places on my wish list to visit. Until then, I just can’t wait to pack my bags again and disappear from this city for a while.
||FROM THE DESK
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