A tale of a old city

Kathmandu city

Circa Winter 2017.

Dear diary,
I cannot contain the excitement of boarding that cheap economy class ticket back home, to the Kathmandu city with whom I always had a hate-love-hate relationship. The then city where the gods dwelled themselves, now is hounded by the stray dogs during the night and filthy politicians and their minions during the day. The city built on the foundation of history and culture and now rotten from inside with ever increasing population and pollution. Yada yada…

The dairy part was a bit overstretched, however, rest was one of the thought chains which bounced off my brain wall. Whenever I think of Kathmandu- as a valley in whole- I remember the glorious palace complexes- yes all three of them, the temples at every nook and corner, the stupas at almost every hills and knoll and the magnificent Swoyambhu looking silently upon us, bestowing peace and love. And as my brain starts scanning the rest of the valley, I remember the infamous “tukucha” of Kathmandu, equally polluted and cramped alleys of Thamel, Bhotahity, and Ason. The pros and cons of the Kathmandu wax and wane my excitement level, every time. However, it was a few days more after which I found myself physically amidst the forest of the concrete in Kathmandu.

The homely feel starts once you land at Abu Dhabi Airport, YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEAK ANYTHING ELSE FROM NEPALI, be it on the security, or the duty-free shop, or the restroom or at the restaurant. We are everywhere, literally, at least in that airport. Anywhoo, the good vibes didn’t last long as I decided to walk to the restroom to change, bad idea. The smell was the reminder that you’re traveling to south Asia, I’m pretty sure that the gates around were specifically for the planes leaving for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, because there were no air-bridge like for the planes leaving for Europe or America. Anyways, daunted I decided not to change and boarded the final plane leaving for Nepal. It was fun seeing people returning from a middle eastern country -putting it in the least offensive way– gulping every single bottle of wine/whiskey available in the plane. I guess they were thirsty. I got to learn why the airlines’ staff hate us so much.The stewards were literally sweating off their foreheads, while service whiskeys and wines of various kinds. Then their disgusts would burst out on the return flight, victimizing another bunch of Nepalese, and the vicious circle would continue forever.

So we landed. I had read thousands of times about the pathetic condition of our only international airport, and I was only hoping that all of those were wrong. I was talking with my to-be-bride about it, comparing how gross Abu-dhabi airport itself was; broken plasters at the corners, unfinished paints at the end of the walls, covered with the rich draperies and the carpets, with series of expensive branded shops and upscale eateries. For a cursory look, you might be amazed by how well maintained and neat the airport was, but as soon as you start unveiling the hidden work underneath, everything would go back to being sand. An empire built on the money and sweat from cheap labour without and historic importance, that was my conclusion for the middle eastern airports I’ve traveled so far. So, back to the thought about our own airport. And Yes, it didn’t disappoint me, I did not need any airbridge; in fact, it was one of the quickest unboarding from a plane; two door exits were way more helpful than any advanced system in United States. TIA was actually cleaner than few of the airports I visited in United States. The airport was lively, you could feel that it was the best we could have made back in ages when we lacked the technology, manpower, and capital. It looked different, but I don’t think any tourist would be shunned by our airport once they landed. It is what it is, it is Kathmandu, not your fake city built in last 20 years, it’s a freaking history class being served right in front of your eyes through time and space.

The chaos started soon as we left the airport, I wouldn’t complain about the taxi service or anything. It went well, I could see the cloud of dust rolling outside, but, is that any different from the last time I was here? Nope. I was coming back to my roots, I or anyone else do not possess any rights to complain about the situation if we have not initiated anything regarding it.

I was never more satisfied to see the cloud of dust this time. There is a very strong reason for it, until the last day of 2014, the cloud of dust in Kathmandu was for no reason. But now, with multiple projects going on which would eventually bring water and wider roads to this place, complaining about dust and dirt would helpless.

On the second day itself, I started riding bikes in Kathmandu, only after heavily covering my face with masks and what not. My trip to Satungal from Koteswor was one of the hardest trips I’ve ever done in my life. 2 meters ahead of me was invisible because of the dust and smoke. But I could see the bridges being built, the roads being widened. Few days after I took a bus to Pokhara, a skeptic about the rumors of traffic congestion at Kalanki, I hoped it would last only a couple of hours. However, it was not the case, the roads could not be any worse, but the traffic was moving and once I reached Thankot, the ride had never been smoother. Do you remember how troublesome it was to cover naubisethankot road just 2 years before? If your memory serves you well, people would get stranded for hours. This time, the concreted,(not blacktopped)roads at the major bottlenecks have solved the issue and I reached Pokhara in one of the finest rides ever.

I would not talk about Pokhara or how beautiful it is, because it makes no sense, 10 times fewer people live in Pokhara than Kathmandu, it is in low altitude making easy for water and sewer service and they have some strict policy of no-plastic-bags already enforced for environmental cleanliness, which can be implemented any time in Kathmandu.

The day I left Kathmandu back for united states, I had a positive feeling about the city. I knew for sure, the next time I’d be here, things would look way different than it currently is. My hope is, after the local body election, the locals will finally have their say how the development of valley should be, and that would be the best because nobody can decorate better their home than themselves.


Bikrant Gautam – MN, US
I currently work as a web application developer along with pursuing my masters degree in computer/information science. Before moving to US, I worked in Nepal as a software engineer and social worker for 4 years.
I am passionate about sports, music, literature and contemporary issue. At leisure time, you’ll find me either learning, playing guitar, writing or sleeping.

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