the great walls of housing I

Greenery is taking kathmandu by storm. It’s not the trees but the large green scaffold nets that wrap the high-rise apartment buildings in our neighborhoods.

I go up to the terrace of my house. The only patch of greenery I can see, besides the hills surrounding the valley, is around Swayambhu. From the roof of our office in Sundhara, the view is a total chaos of concrete. I extend my hands in front of me. From where I stand, the people up on the tower of dharahara are smaller than my fingers. What must be running through their minds? Was it worth the money to climb up this high only to look down at a vast sea of buildings, buildings and more buildings.

The little areas of green, declared as ‘community forests’ at Tokha and Chobar are scanty.

At Tokha, an old woman brings her herd of lambs to graze in the ‘forest’ every day.

Hamro sabai thiyo jagga, Bishnumati wari pari. Sabai bechidiyau. Plotting gardai chan ahile ta. Mero char chori chan. K garne, chora nai chaina.

I listen to her story and but have no words of consolation to offer. I just keep nodding my head for I feel guilty. I have paid a couple of thousand rupees to come and learn driving in a clearing of the very community forest.

The driving schools compete for the field which is often used for football matches by the school nearby. Grass does not grow on it anymore. The instructors bring out their bamboo sticks and iron stands to pitch into the barren ground. And as we rookies try to wheel the car in and out of the ‘trial’, the children from the school look out of the pane-less windows. Loud hip-hop music blasts from a near by Cd/Dvd pasal. A film crew comes in with weird props and scrambles around for a good spot.

I sit on a rock and look far into the distant. Limestone mines have cut deeply into the hills. I think of Goya’s painting ‘Saturn devouring his son’. Saturn, in Greek mythology, eats his own children at birth for fear that they will overthrow him.

Hariyo ban, Nepal ko dhan. Who are we kidding?

A short walk upwards from the community forest, to where the crowded micros stop, leads to a pond. It has no water. A tap next to it is waiting to quench its thirst before it can pour water into the empty jars and gagris that line up in a curving S. At a point, the black-topped roads end. We try to drive up the muddy and rocky road but the driving school’s old school Maruti 800, with bad brakes and shaky gear box, can’t even handle a slope of 10 degrees.

We take another route downwards, past the forest. Interspersed with one or two concrete houses, the area is a village turning into any other part of central Kathmandu – where only the facades of houses are decorated with patterns and painted with gaudy pastel colors. It is a strange ride, past the farms that are slowly being overturned into housing plots. Stone walls demarcating areas puncture the landscape.

But the shock of it all, only comes when we reach a gigantic clearing….

to be contd.

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One thought on “the great walls of housing I

  1. Pingback: we’re being plotted out (the great walls of housing II) « with love, from ktm

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