In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.
– Carl Jung
In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you.
– Deepak Chopra
Chaos is chaos no matter how you experience it. You either adapt or die.
– Pat Bunyard
KATMANDU NEPAL, 6pm, 1 Oct: Questions I want answered: is Kathmandu dirty; what of the cows, democracy, the upcoming election “maybe”, food, feelings for the King; how do they view Dipendra who killed his royal family? And what about this time zone and an extra 15 minutes? So many questions and so little time. All depends upon my listening, seeing, and interpreting. Then it is all me – my suppositions and feelings about this chaos where I find myself.
I arrived early into Kathmandu but in the dark. Surprising so many lights as I approached Tribhuvan’s scandalous pot-holed runway. Long approach but stop-on-a-dime landing for a short runway. Educational signage as I inched my way to a Visa: Never under foreign domination, 48 airports, highest peak and shortest man, 8 of worlds highest peaks…. Met my driver among the masses and drove through a warren of very poor streets to Backyard Hotel. Streets dark and no people until near hotel where I see equal parts Nepalese and soldiers/police. Few street lights – an eerie darkness to it all.
Asking same questions to everyone wanting to talk. Tourist industry means lots of English. And tourism is their lifeblood as Nepal produces nothing else. I have already heard the royal massacre described as “murder” and “accident.” Present day King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev lives here in Kathmandu. When asked about Nov. elections, response is usually “Maybe.” Lots of “corruption” here. My driver earns 7000 NRupees ($70) a month, better than most people; feels happy to raise his two children on this. Hustle for a living and prolific black market. Friendly people but buyer and tourist beware. I am in Nepal.
When do they sleep? I turned off my light at 1am to sounds of mama working in her rooftop kitchen and her young child still babbling away. Damn roosters crowing by 6 am. Electricity went off at 7 am. I am in Nepal.
Breakfast on roof top with view of Kathmandu, mountains, and all the neighbor rooftop gardens. No rain! Rainy season over yesterday? After wonderful Aloo (potato mix) and yogurt and apples, exchange of $ and much talk (they love to talk and see if they can accommodate in some way), I am off to Palace Museum (closed today) and tranquil Garden of Dreams, the private garden of Kaiser Shamsher Rana. (If you weren’t a Shah the current royal family, you wanted to be a Rana, early royals, Prime Ministers and general powerhouse family). Unfortunately a Shah couldn’t marry a Rana so the Shah flipped out, massacred his family, and pretty much ended the 230+ years of royal dynasty. Or so some say.
I walked the harrowing streets to Ason Tole, jammed with vegetable and spice vendors selling everything from yak tails to coconuts. It’s the busiest square in the city. And to survive this walk is quite an accomplishment. Nepalese own horns and motorbikes, both of which are used in profusion and as a statement of character. The traffic is a frantic cacophony of commerce and life. If that isn’t enough, they drive on the right. Pedestrians and dogs beware. From all directions, high speed projectiles, the occasional cow, crowds, feet and arms in danger, horns beeping, (ingenious use of plastic bottles as bicycle horns) – a systematic threat to life and limb. I am in Nepal.
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square was where the city’s kings were once crowned, and from where they ruled (durbar means palace). The square remains the traditional heart of old Kathmandu and a spectacular showcase of traditional architecture. I spent hours wandering around watching the world go by; it’s a wonderful way to get a feel for the city’s culture. Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the inner palace complex, was originally founded during the 4th to 8th centuries AD but, as it stands today, most of it was constructed by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century. Sadhus, merchants, worshippers, hoards and more crowd the squares.
With admission to the museum, I wander the maze of rooms and trace the lives of Kings Tribhuvan, Mahendra and Birendra. Understandably, little is said about the last, King Dependra who shot and killed most of the royal family in 2001. When comatose Dependra died, his uncle Gyanendra became king. He hangs around, perhaps waiting for Nepalese to sicken of the corruption and failure of the present government. From the looks of it, Gyanendra might have a job awaiting in his future.
All this meandering warrants a beer. Ended up on Freak Street, the epicenter of the Hippie trail from early 1960’s to late 70’s. During that time the main attraction was the government-run hashish shops. Today, all Kathmandu appears to be a “trip.” As for me,I found the Firefly. A delicious bowl of cashew chicken and two Everest beers and I end a perfect day. Now if I can make it back to the Backyard without being run over by a motorbike all will be good. Streets, to me, are total chaos. Electricity is still out, except one bulb, so people learn to live in semi-darkness, like an endless LA brown-out. I am in Nepal.