Any place that anyone spends a greater part of their impressionable, and formative years in, is bound to play the role of the potter: cutting, moulding, shaping. I would say I was cut and moulded in Kathmandu, and have since then been in the continuous process of being shaped everyday.
While I was raw, I was a new sponge. Absorbing everything from my academic lessons, to the life that happens outside of one’s home and school. From 2000 onwards, I have had an amazing set of people in my life: from punk-rockers, rockers [the distinction is significant by the way], artists, rebels with/without causes, wonderful daughters/sons, teachers who were friends first, and just really well-rounded people.
Also in Nepal, I first learnt of the so-called Bhutanese refugees, and accidentally became friends with one of them, much to my mother, and her father’s dismay. I learnt diplomacy at an early age by being a Bhutanese in Nepal. I also understood bias and prejudice, and what it means to be on their wrong side.
I lived through the Royal Massacre of the Shah dynasty, and the gradual erosion of a pulsating Thamel. It is an experience to be at the helm of a tragedy, when rumour and truth are interchangeable, and when new kings can be stoned. An experience when my favourite Biology teacher shaves his head and takes to the street to mourn, and protest the loss of the younger Prince, Niranjan, his former classmate; and see him being roughed-up by the guardians of law, in blue.
Here I am in 2011. On the surface, nothing has changed. Dig deeper and you see the discontent and the cracks. A friend of mine said, “It’s anarchy, that is what it is here [Nepal], we cannot be like you, Bhutanese, disciplined and law-abiding”. [I do have my reservations about the latter part of the sentence, it’s hers anyway, not mine:)]. Just the fact that only three of my schoolmates from Nepal remain here, now, says it all. I studied in two schools and had many friends, and everyone is abroad, with no plans of coming back. Ever. It’s sad.
When I think of Nepal, I think of the colour Red, Freak street, the Kumaris, the Gorkhas, Thamel, the very stylish girls and boys, and of course the sizzlers from Nanglo’s. It’s a mix of the serious and the superficial. A mix of dreams and reality. Of the past and the present hanging suspended, over nothing.
In the wake of the recent Japanese earthquake, Kathmandu also reminds me of an empty egg-shell. There is no groundwater left; an earthquake of such a magnitude will swallow everything that struggles to remain afloat in this once Hindu kingdom that I also once called home.