There is little that meets the eye, literally, in Kathmandu today. Whenever I am in a vehicle, I find myself craning my neck high out of the window, to take a look at the city. When I am walking, I step into potholes and puddles trying to count the stories of the new bank, around the corner.
My mother suddenly gasped last night while we were watching television, “Kanchan, everything is going vertical these days. Vertical buildings, vertical farming! And in future India and China are going to become the largest economies.”
And Nepal, yes i.e. WE will still be stuck between the two nations – all our rivers will probably be on permanent loan to India, if not dry, and the same Chinese products will inundate all the ‘too expensive to buy’ malls, our government will still be voting on the Nth prime minister.
Four years abroad and I felt like I couldn’t recognize it anymore. I had changed. But while I was gone, Kathmandu had changed too. As clichéd as it may sound, there is truth in the statement ”change is the only thing that is constant.”
Every alternate building is now a mall or a bank or a dance bar. (forget the beauty parlors, they are in the uncountable category)
Kathmandu Mall, UWTC, Sherpa Mall, City Center, People’s Plaza…KIST Bank, Kumari Bank, Machchapuchhre Bank, Sunrise Bank, Global Bank, Laxmi Bank, Bank of Kathmandu…and let me not mention names of dance bars with posters from Aishwarya Rai to Angelina Jolie.
I think my favorite innovative name is ‘Titanic Dance Bar’ at Jamal. They have a huge flex of Kate Winslate and Leonardo DiCaprio – the famous shot at the end of the ship, their arms stretched out…c’mom that does not require any further explanation. And right around the corner is KFC. I have vowed to never enter that place where they serve chicken ‘imported’ from Brazil. Nepali chickens don’t meet the standard level of fatness and juiciness.
NOTE: We’re absolutely ashamed to have failed to meet the requirement. You see, dozens of people still die of diarrhea each year. Maybe, chickens will be on our priority list, a century from now.
A walk through Thamel, now, is an array of dance bars, with semi-nude flexes of women, pointing directions to weird underground places; restaurants (old & new), with live music bands singing the same old songs…CCR’s Bad Moon Rising , Pearl Jam’s Last Kiss, Alanis Morissette’s Ironic, Cranberries, The Beatles, Lobo, Collective Soul, Sixpence None the Richer…In short, you can still keep knocking on heaven’s door while puffing to some berry flavored shisha that really has no point to it, but you do it anyways.
And competing with the live music bands are the ‘original’ music and DVD stores (i just say that because i can get the same DVD for 35 rupees at khasa bazaar and it’ll cost me 150 at thamel because it comes with a ‘batta’) with amps and speakers that will blast you out of your system. You won’t hear yourself talk when walking through Thamel, past 7 pm, so stop yelling into your friends’ ears with the same old question, “So, where do you want to go?”
My friends and I go to the ‘PYALACE’ in Freak Street…it really isn’t one. We like to call it that for various reasons. It’s a whole another story.
And everything so life goes on in the Kantipuri Nagari…the city of ‘you ain’t got nothing, if you can’t show it’. The concrete facades within are postered with metal sheets of blues, yellows and reds and filled with thermacole and tinted glass panes.
But the beggars are still there and as guilty as you may feel for being better off, you won’t stop to give your spare change. Street children lying stoned from sniffing dendrite; the porters who rush through the busy streets of wholesalers in New Road; salespersons trying to rip you off by selling pens for Rs 60, which costs half the price at a stationary; the old white bearded men of pote bazaar who will call out to you, “Didi, ke chahiyo? Hernus na”, while their hands keep moving across the tiny beads; clobbers who don’t have time to mend your shoe that just tore in the middle of the rain, because they are busy playing cards . The guys on ugly modified bikes, that make your ass stick up in the air, and guys with modified silencers in their ‘Maruti Suzukis’. Girls with long straightened fake ‘korean-style’ wigs, girls in high heels trying to walk around pot holes in New Road.
I am forced to crane my neck wherever I go. There is just so much to see nowadays – vertically and horizontally.