Tomorrow is Indra Jatra and Basantapur is filled with new energy today. It looks clean with its fresh white washed walls. Hastily done, nonetheless, it looks pretty. Basantapur has always been pretty to me – there is a sense of tranquility in the air around the antique palaces and temples.
It is always crowded, I know and noisy and not quite clean. Even so…It is difficult to explain the feeling of sipping some hot tea on a hot afternoon, staring at the flock of pigeons that poop all over the white walls.
But today, there was a cool breeze in the square. While I waited for my tea, the man with his camouflage hat looked up at me from where he was sitting. “Coffee,” he smiled, as he opened a small sachet of nescafe and sprinkled its contents into his plastic cup of tea. He is the man who wears a different hat every single day.
The didi at the tea shop tells me that they use around 100 packets of milk each day. They won’t open tomorrow because it will be too crowded during the Jatra.
The Kumari’s house looks different with its newly painted black windows. It’s all so picturesque as the bright red frills, hanging from the tiled roofs, billow in the breeze.
There are men at work – doing last minute repairs and finishing on the chariot that will carry the virgin goddess tomorrow. The chariot’s outer body is made from wood, but underneath the support is of cold iron.
I sit down on a platform, next to the chained poles banning vehicles into the square, and observe the scene around me, like I always do. A woman with her nanglo pasal is next to me. Between the two of us sits a man holding his cell phone in his hand. He plays a hindi song, the volume set at max – Awaaz do humko….
I absentmindedly scribble a few words in my notebook. I didn’t realize, until a few minutes later, that a little boy holding a cup of tea had been looking over my shoulder, trying to read what I was writing.
“K hereko bhai,” I turn around and look at him. He giggles and goes away. I am slightly embarrassed myself. I hope he didn’t read any of it.
A policeman looks at me with my notebook, so I quickly put it away. He probably thinks that I am a tourist. I’ve had the guards in the area run up to me several times to check for a ticket. “Sorry bahini. Tapai kasto korean jasto dekhnuhuncha,” they apologize. I’ve been stopped at Patan Durbar Square and at Pashupati as well. But that doesn’t really bother me. Sometimes, I like to pass as a tourist. :-)
And so that was my hour spent at Basantapur. Talking pictures of the same palace and laughing at the ‘Preserve Monuments’ board. They forgot the ‘d’ and squeezed it in later. A few tourists mill around the map at the entrance of the square. There will probably get even more lost if they consult it.
And so, I walk past the stretch where the night marketers are about to set up their stalls. Anand, the kid that sits drawing at Sundhara is still drawing. He leaves at 5 usually. I don’t stop to talk to him, but I see that he is using the oil pastels I gave him. The people around him are as inquisitive as ever. And the smell from the mobile toilet across does not bother them at all.