The Letter K

teaSitting in the middle seat of the car is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s the best seat if you want to listen to what everybody has
to say. Payam’s eyes are set on the road ahead. Azadeh has her head turned around from the front passenger seat. Matilda and Alanna, to my left and right, are talking about the flies (dead and alive) back at the school house we have just left. It is to do with the winter and the cow dung from farms around, Matilda argues, while Alanna has her own scientific theory of a dead decaying body of something in the attic.

As we pass through farms on the road back to Borås, the familiar smell of dung fills the car, even through it’s closed windows. I think of bajai and the cow shed back in Taji. The last time I talked to ama, she said that bajai would go ahead and plant crops this year too…maize, rice and probably, millet too. She’s 83. We’ve been trying to convince her to move to Kathmandu and live an easier life. But she won’t listen.

I wonder how it would feel to visit her in the village now, without baje around. Without him taking his afternoon nap on the tiny mud porch – his blue Nokia mobile and Panasonic radio by his side. His muffler wrapped around his head and the fluorescent pink towel around his waist. Coughing sporadically in his sleep.

Baje went away peacefully in January.

The car is moving through rows of endless fir trees. If we had been leaving Kathmandu Valley, instead of Kalv, we would have been winding down the hills to Naubise. We would have been taking in the dust of the highway and hoping that we wouldn’t fall off the edge as the car swerved around the corners.

I glance at my nails. They still carry traces of mud from the digging I did at the school. Azadeh filmed me as I shoved the tiny spade into the moss and tore it up to spell out M-A-Y-B-E.

“It feels so violent,” I said to her. She smiled back and shook her head. Two guys walked past the school, eyeing us suspiciously. One digging, the other filming. We exchanged one word.

“Hej”.

“Hej”.

I thought of bajai then too. As I dug.

Of bajai’s hands.
The leathery wrinkles collected at her joints.
The coarseness of her palms.
The funny crookedness of her fingers tips….

The huge blue and white signs along the road distract me and I lose my train of thought. I start a new one.

I go back to trace the events of the weekend. Azadeh and I talking about our reasons of being here at Valand. Agreeing and disagreeing, but listening to each other. We missed Maria. Payam doing most of the dishes after our meals. Alanna hurrying up and down the house to film the flies. She was discovering new things by the hour. Matilda going on long walks in the area. She brought back an old leaf for me from one of her walks.

“Sunlight is the only magic we have,” I remember her saying, as we ate outside in the sun.

I agree.

It was the sunlight in Panter Rummet that had drawn me in, in our previous and second group visit to Kalv. Sometime in mid-March. A Saturday morning. I had settled on a chair in the middle of the room to untie the knots of the strings I had found in our brief walk from Kalvsjögården to the school that morning. But the cooking from the night before had left me exhausted and in the little time I had to myself, I felt more disconnected to the place.

Places, cities, towns, squares, roads, alleys, puddles, bricks.

Kathmandu.
I always go back to Kathmandu.
K for Kathmandu. K for Kalv.
And I am the oscillating K.

I connected to patterns instead. To the metal grids hanging on the ceiling of the room. To the squares of the cork board. To the shifting shadows of the window blinds. To the green nets hanging off of the goal posts. The color took me back to scaffolding nets in Kathmandu, where tall ugly buildings are crawling up to the surface. Creating eclipses. Swallowing everything slowly.

That night when we got back from Kalv, Azadeh wrote to us, “Sometimes, life is too heavy.” I had replied:

‘i feel that way too. that sometimes, life is too heavy. like i am carrying boulders on my shoulders and i am trying hard not to trip or fall or sprain my ankle again.

but what is this weight i feel, in front of those who work at brick kilns, those who fill their dokos with sand, rocks and stones, those who toil in the heat, cold and wind. what is this weight in front of those who live on a daily wage, who beg on the streets, who sleep in the corners of dark alleys.

what is this weight that i cannot even put on a scale and yet, i claim that it is too heavy?’

I replay my own words in my head as we near Borås. I realize I am eternally confused.

Early this morning, I sat swinging in the garden, staring at the goal post. In a spontaneous move, I jumped off the swing, removed the net and dragged it into Panter Rummet and hung it from the grids above. I loved it but as the day waned, I didn’t. For some reason, my action felt violent again.

Now in my middle seat, I think of taking the net back to the goal post the next time I am in Kalv. It belongs there. I will go to the field instead. I will serve tea in the middle of the field, I tell myself and feel pleased. There were even cups in the closet that looked similar to those in Kathmandu.

I must make tea.

bajai – grandmother

baje –  grandfather

ama – mother

summer ends

and so the summer ends where it started out for me this year – in Gothenburg, with temperatures lowering everyday. i wonder how this winter will pass. but i’ll leave that thought there for now.

summer 2014 was spent in two beautiful places. one planned and the other unplanned. i was home in katmandu for a month in july. i’d planned to come home but the trip went by so fast. you can hardly get anything done in four weeks in kathmandu…not that i had anything particular to do, besides visiting bajai in lamjung. it was crazy. that trip. we actually got a jeep ride on a Mustang and had to walk only 2.5 or 3 hours to our village. the last time we went…we had walked for almost a day. when we were kids, we had to walk almost 1.5 days. the roads have been finally dug till Taji but it will take many more years before it becomes black topped. but hopefully, electricity will come sooner. we heard that a hospital was being built in the area too, which is great.

and today, i am returning from a two week summer school in Lithuania! this was an opportunity that came by so surprisingly and i am very happy that i could be a part of it. basically, it was an erasmus intensive program hosted by Nida Art Colony in Nida, Lithuania. to say the least, it was an intense program but it was worth all the studying, reading and discussing. let’s say that i feel a tad bit more smarter after this. hahahaha…and yes, the place is soo soo beautiful. the beach, the sand dunes, the woods, the water – i loved everything about nida…except for the part when we had to wait for so long to get on the ferry to get to nida. now this amazing little town is on the curonian spit and is surrounded by baltic sea on one side and a lagoon on the other side. and the view from the dunes is just breathtaking. still need to fish out my photographs. i think i took more than 600 during this trip alone.

pictures in the next post!

new chapter

i’m moving out. moving to another room in another part of göteborg.

it feels weird knowing that this is where i had started out as a stranger in/to this city. i have lived here with this peculiar painting for the last ten months. personally, i would have never chosen to hang it on my wall. but since it was already in the room, it became a part of my life. i don’t know why, but i never removed it and instead, i left it hanging (quite aptly) in front of my table. and so i often sat in front of it and stared at it wondering what the painter had thought while making it…the colors, the different kinds of flowers (quite impossibly) growing out (assuming the boot was not a vase) of a worn out laceless boot. the grass growing sparingly in an otherwise dry area….hmmmm….questions questions questions in my mind. then i’d move on to something else less distracting. but for some time i’d honestly forgotten that the painting was there…until today, when i’d finished packing and was looking around to see if i had missed anything. and there it was on the wall, telling me that it wasn’t going anywhere.

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so here i am, packing my life in boxes again. even though i know i have to move or leave eventually, i never learn to not hoard and buy stuff i don’t really need. it’s always the same. you arrive with one suitcase and when you leave, you have a mountain of things you never realized you had amassed over the months.

but here’s to a new room, to new memories and to a new chapter in göteborg.

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out in the streets here i just talked a young guy about Röda Korset or Red Cross in Sweden. i’ve seen many of them around the city in red jackets, red caps, carrying red files and trying to get a hold of pedestrians who are heading in their own directions. i always evaded them by saying ‘nej, tack’ or ‘sorry, i don’t have time’. but today i stopped to talk to one of them and now i know what each one of them is saying to people in the streets.

i forgot his name. the guy i talked to, but he tried to convince me about becoming a monthly gift giver (monetary gift) to red cross so that they can help people in south sudan, syria, ethopia or north korea…to name a few countries he spelled out. he said that there were many disasters unreported and people need help in healthcare, clean drinking water, proper sanitation…..you get the picture.

i agree that one needs to stop and think about people who have such difficult lives and to realize how lucky one is. how lucky i am and privileged in many ways. there’s enough problems in nepal itself that one doesn’t think about on a daily basis….

he was trying to make me pledge 50 sek a month which is equivalent to 718 nepali rupees or 7.45 us dollars. it is not a big amount he kept saying, adding that he understood that i was a student. they would automatically cut the amount from my bank account and i won’t even have to think about it…. ‘if i care, yes i would take out time to donate money and not simply forget about it,’ i argued with him…and then he said, well..you know there are people who don’t want to think about it.

ahh…. i don’t spend 50 sek here like it’s nothing because i don’t have a free flowing budget that allows me to spend blindly. but that is not the point…i don’t know, i feel uncomfortable with donating money…esp. when i don’t have a choice where and how it is spent.

and that’s that. don’t really know what the point of this post is. but i thought i’d write it down since i came straight to school, after leaving the guy standing in the street to find another passerby willing to listen to him.

Today, as I was stepping out of the Academy’s building, I came across a candle and flowers in the lobby. They weren’t there when I had come in, in the morning. And a book open with condolence messages. I had never spoken to this person, even though I knew he was a teacher here. I had never been in his class and yet, I always remembered him smiling as he walked across the halls and steps.

It always feels numbing to know about someone’s death – be it close or far. Since I got here in Gothenburg last September, three people in the Academy where I study have passed away. At home, my baje and a little boy my family knew passed away.

Summer is here in the city. But even after all this waiting, I don’t feel particularly elated. Maybe it’s because it isn’t really hot as Kathmandu, which defines my standard of a summer! I mean, it’s hot for people here. But for me, I still have to carry a jacket in my bag. Then there’s the sun that sets after 10 pm and rises around 4 am! And I have a feeling that by the time my body adjusts to this crazy schedule, winter will have started rolling in. hah!

I wish I would do productive things instead of watching mindless CSI tv series online. Classes are over and it’s been tough to motivate myself to be productive. I go to the park to read but I instantly feel sleepy under the tree’s shade and soft breeze. I get distracted by the guided tours on the boats. I am tempted to buy a bag of chips and munch it all down. I have to consciously buy oranges instead. This is the first time I have lived on my own and I’ve realized how little things matter everyday. In Kathmandu, I never went grocery shopping – I mean tarkari shopping to be precise. haha. So the food choices I make on my own here are not quite healthy. I think the only vegetable I eat regularly are mushrooms…hahaha…does that even count?

I am a bit lazy sometimes.

I came across these plants in the park yesterday. I think it is the right moment to use the word ‘flabbergasted’ here. hahaha So I was ‘flabbergasted’ to see how precisely they were arranged inside fake gigantic metal ‘flowers’. I thought it was insane! Then I began to wonder, if I had ever seen these plants growing in their natural habitats. NO, of course not. I wish I could seen them in the middle of somewhere, growing wherever they’d wanted to be. This whole artificial arrangement made me feel really uneasy. Like they were being confined into this ridiculous shape of a flower! I mean, can’t you just let them be?????

an afterthought: maybe it’s because i don’t like artificial plants. i really really don’t. and this basically is the worst I’ve ever seen.

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