Published in The Nepali Man on 28 February 2015
Friends and cousins in the United States don’t believe me. They don’t understand how, after living that life for so many years, I could possibly have adjusted to Kathmandu.
One way to consider this whole thing is to reflect on the trips I have taken since returning.
Let’s start with January. Cousins from New York were visiting so I jumped at the opportunity and took off to Chitwan. We got lucky with traffic; entered the Terai in no time. I gasped at the lush green fields, the wide straight highways. It had been nine months since my arrival in Nepal but somehow I hadn’t had a chance to go to Chitwan.
It was a quick weekend trip, but we made the most out of it. We sat around a bonfire in Sauraha and drove to Lumbini the following day. The cousins needed to spend a night with their grandmother in Bhairahawa, so I checked in at a hotel nearby.
There was a wedding reception at the Bhairahawa hotel. The lawn was brightly lit and colorful, dotted with different kinds of saris. I sat at the bar indoors and ordered a Blender’s Pride. I chewed chicken drumsticks, watching Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha on Zoom TV. Later that night, sitting on the bed, I browsed through the channels, nursing another glass of Blenders. Luckily, I was able to catch most of Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwani . Towards the end, the wayward hero, after spending many years country-hopping, sobs in front of a parent.
I am tired, he says. I just want to be home.
At that point, in Bhairahawa, I suddenly felt the Blenders rush to my head and my whole being relax and sink into the bed. I broke down in tears, drunk, but somehow, happy.
A few weeks later, I took a bus back to the Terai with a friend. This time it was related to work. But we turned it into a fun trip. I took him to my father’s village in Chitwan. It was Shivaratri. The villagers passed us bhaang-laced halwa and after giggling through mouthfuls, we went off to a faraway field and sat on a perch for a while, enjoying the perfect evening temperature. I thought briefly about February in New York, the bone-chilling cold and the nasty winds. I did not miss that.
In March, a project led me to Pokhara. I was finally able to discover Lakeside’s charm. Sipping coffee, walking along the clean, curvy path by the lake, I was grateful for this getaway from Kathmandu. That weekend, I went on a spontaneous hike to Sarangkot with a colleague and got convinced by him to paraglide our way down.
In April, I spent two weeks in Narayanghat. It was stifling, difficult to spend more than an hour outside. But Hotel Rhino was comfortable enough. We worked all morning and returned to the lobby starving for lunch. I couldn’t restrain myself from second helpings of rice. During the day, there wasn’t much to do. Full, drowsy, I got into a routine of afternoon naps and evening walks to the Narayani river with colleagues.
Things worked out in this way, without too much effort. A mixture of professional commitments and planned trips kept me pleasantly occupied.
As June approached, I realized that it was time to leave the city once more. So I gathered a few friends and made a loop to Tansen via Pokhara and back to Kathmandu through Narayanghat. During the course of five days, we managed to go on a boat ride, stay overnight at an organic farm, hike down to Rani Mahal by the Kali Gandaki, and get back to our homes, exhausted but refreshed.
In July, a friend invited me to Dhaka for Eid. I ate well and bought many gifts.
At the end of September, Pokhara beckoned once more. This time they booked air tickets for us. But I had taken a local flight only once before. The night before departure, anxious and jittery, I couldn’t sleep well. Thankfully, the flight turned out to be easy, although I could barely keep my eyes open all day.
The monsoon was still going strong in Pokhara. It rained most nights. I remember one particular morning, walking gingerly to the Damside hotel’s balcony, and being stunned by Machhapuchhre, its peak jutting out of fresh clouds, Fewa lake green and vast in front of me. All my life, I had been hearing about Nepal’s beauty. This year, I have been able to really see it, walk through it, feel it with my fingers, smell it.
For example, in October, I went on a one-week trek in the Langtang region. I had never done anything like it before. Climbing up endless stairs with a heavy backpack, hoping for a hot shower, braving the chilly nights and frigid mornings, taking the risk, being up there in the mountains. It was all worth it. I had never been so high up before.
Months are rolling by. Days turn into nights and nights into glimmery, private hours of dawn. I mostly keep the ten am hour to myself. I enjoy the lazy afternoon heat.
Now it’s November. I am back in Pokhara to conduct a one week training program. The bus ride from Kathmandu, although tiring, wasn’t so bad. I read through most of it. That evening, after dinner, after goodnights to colleagues, I stepped into the bathroom, hoping for a hot shower. But the water wouldn’t get warm.
I had already come to terms with no Wi-Fi, even though YouTube videos and online interactions with friends were a part of my bedtime routine. I had already signed off a week away from home. It was late. I needed a shower to feel relaxed. But I was unable to do it. So, inside that bathroom, naked and shivering, I screamed.
I screamed at the white tiles, thinking of the hotel manager who had promised Wi-Fi and hot water but hadn’t delivered, leaving me cold and isolated. I let out another long, desperate yell and stepped out onto the balcony for a smoke, trying to calm myself down. To put things in perspective. A part of me knew it wasn’t a big deal. All because of Wifi and hot shower. Look at you, you should be ashamed of yourself, a voice inside berated me. But I couldn’t compose my feelings. I wasn’t able to reason or rise above the situation. I was furious, seething, as if something blatantly unjust had been thrust upon me.
I don’t know what that was really about. Sometimes I just get angry. Sometimes I get really angry at this world.
Certain situations and emotions don’t have logical explanations.