postheadericon KUIRE KO KURA: On Remembering Nepal

Last time I wrote a bit about the America that I remembered from a decade or more ago, and Republica reader Kedar Ghimire was kind enough to leave this comment online:

“Would be nice to hear a similar account of Nepal from your point of view... how has it changed, certainly was cleaner I guess...cheers!”

So here is a bit about the change that I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so as an expat living deep within our not-so-fair Valley...

Has anything really changed?

When I first arrived in Nepal, I felt that I had been here before; it was just like the re-occurring dream I had when I was a teen, when I fell to sleep to find that I lived in a valley of crystal beings who lived in crystal towers, where the valley had once been filled with water as clear as diamonds. But about midway thru this heavenly vision of this perfect dream world, something went terribly wrong with everything, and I was soon caught in what seemed to be a nightmarish apocalyptic hell filled with snakes and dragons and yelping wolves.

I remembered that dream as soon as stepped out of the taxi and first walked into Thamel. Only later did I hear of the legend where Shiva splits a lake in two and forms the valley in which we all thrive today. The apocalyptic hell from my teen dream turned out to simply be: toilets with no paper, crap all over the street, and temples filled with all sorts of wondrous and strange animal deities... and the wolves... they were just mutts in need of a home and a decent meal.

I’m convinced now that this teen dream was instead a vision, and that karma or “ka” is what brought me to the Valley. After all, I found that I could not get lost here, no matter how hard I tried or how far I strayed into Kalimati, I could always find my hostel home in Boudha. In addition, I also felt like I had been transported back 20 years or so to my boytown home of Poughkeepsie NY, as faithful readers of this column will recall.

Poughkeepsie NY was 50’s America with mom&pop shops that closed one day a week in respect for the gods. It was an infrastructure in the making yet decaying, with rolling blackouts and limited public services run by a small government trying to do the best they could with what little they had. It was a place where you could get an umbrella repaired and your shoes shined right on the street.

It was a time when disputes were settled by shouting family members in the streets instead of in the hallowed halls of justice filled with ambulance-chasing lawyers with shark-like teeth that were fed $200 per hour to fight a case. It was a place where nothing was perfect, but everyone wanted to be. It was just like Kathmandu in 1991.

So has anything really changed?

Not much that I can report. Different rulers, different billboards, more SUVs and more malls and more trash in the streets, but basically life goes on as it did a decade ago: slowly. Prices are higher and there are more things to buy in the shops, but I suspect some have less money to spare. And the ones that do - flaunt it more. Despite new found democracy, the bandha is still with us and the lights of the city are not. And more or less, we still have less water in our tanks, less petro at our pumps, and the same lazy-faire attitude embodied by ke garne.

So has anything really changed?

I have. I came here to learn how to live more with less, and found that to be very easy to do in Kathmandu – what choice does one have? I came here to find nirvana with Buddha in the garden...still looking for him however. I came here wanting to be happy, and that I am. Perhaps that is Buddha in the garden. I came here searching, only to realize how irrelevant the search really was. In short, I came back home to the place that I had started from. And for that I am forever thankful.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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