So there you have it folks!I was safe and sound, on the ground, repeating over and over “Thank god for terra firma, the more firmer, the less terror”.
What? You have no idea what I’m talking about, you say? Well, why not read Parts 1 – 6 first? I have very generously provided links at the top of this page. Go ahead and read them, I’ll wait.
So there you have it folks! I was safe and sound, on the ground, repeating over and over “Thank god for terra firma, the more firmer, the less terror”. Soon, however, I had to get myself off the nice soft bed and head out into the city to explore it’s streets, it’s sights, it’s sounds, it’s ups and downs for they weren’t a second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in.
I strolled around the stores, looking interestedly at the stranger articles on sale. Brands not available in India, items not available in India. In a little camera shop I bought a point and shoot Vivitar camera, the first camera I’ve ever bought. A real camera that used real film and took real pictures. It would capture many memories of the family and the early years of the second son who was due to arrive less than a year later.
I took myself off to a bakery shop / coffee shop. I opened up the camera box, loaded it with film and crooned over it as I had my coffee and stuffed pastry.
“Excuse me”, the voice was polite and apologetic.
I looked up to see a lady seated at the table next to mine smiling at me with a very sheepish look on her face.
“What do you think”, she asked, “is the right tip I should leave behind?”
We chatted about this for a while, discussing the quality of the coffee and baked goods. Finally, she got up to leave, turned around back to me.
“I just arrived in this city this morning and I was going to walk around to see the sights. Would you like to join me?”
“Sure”, I said, “it would be nice to chat with someone”
We walked around to a line of stores selling colourful shawls. She struggled to understand the sales clerk who spoke only Nepali and she of course spoke English (or American, I found out later). I switched to Hindi to translate on her behalf and finally she managed to buy a shawl.
As we walked away, she was very curious. “What was the language you spoke? How did you know to use it? It wasn’t the same language he was speaking.”
I tried to explain how Hindi and Nepali are very closely related and I figured that the chances of gaining understanding were quite high. As the sun started to fade she asked if I wanted to join her for dinner.
My response was a shrug and “sure, why not? I have nothing else to do”, which amused her.
We sat down and exchanged pleasantries.
“What are you doing here, in Kathmandu?”, she asked.
I told her I was a struggling businessman, and had just landed a very big contract and was thoroughly pleased with myself. I provided some basic details.
She was horrified!
“But that’s a cigarette company!”
“Yes, so they’re cash rich and I’m getting some of that cash!”
“But that’s a cigarette company! Don’t you feel it is morally irresponsible to do business with them?”
This was my first meeting with a social activist and I was nonplussed. I had no way to answer that so I quickly changed the topic.
“So tell me what brought you to Kathmandu, and don’t say ‘ a plane'”, I said.
She was on a holiday and had read about it and decided to come and check it out for herself.
“I had such trouble finding a good hotel! I’ve spent all morning visiting all kinds of hotels and finally found one suitable one.”
I said, “The one I’m at is really good, airconditioning, mini-bar and a nice soft bed. Why don’t you call them to see if they have a room”.
She talked almost through me, “all those hotels had airconditioning, mini-bars and plush beds. I was looking for an authentic hotel. I finally found this little one with no running water. It’s perfect!”
I studiously focused on my chow-mein <I think that’s what I was having, but I can’t be expected to remember everything, now, am I?>
“I’m so glad to be here. Work was getting to be really tiring so this break should really do me good.”
“I’m a lawyer. In New York, Manhattan. It’s all about money there, unfortunately”, she responded to my polite (and curious) query.
The strange juxtaposition of facts and feeling were too deep for the way I felt then and I chose to blink twice rapidly and push the weird feelings down. Dinner done, we strolled out in the street again and chanced upon the casino.
“We must go in and try our luck!”, she brushed aside my weak protestations about not being a gambling man and we went in. She bought two rolls of tokens and handed one to me. “Go ahead, use them up!”
Precisely, two minutes later I had lost them all on the slots. <Yup, I timed it. Everyone’s a critic, sheesh!>
With that done and dusted we walked forth, said goodbye and went on to our respective hotels. I, to my soft bed and the mini-bar and the airconditioning, which I didn’t really need as it was fall, up in the mountains, the Himalayas, where Him – ice and Alaya = abode of, and she to the little hovel with no running water.
I thanked the stars that the guys at S…Tobacco had finally found me and were taking care of me, finally. I slept the sleep of a satisfied businessman who had just won the biggest deal of his young business career.
The next day I was to reach the airport by 9am to catch the flight home, a flight that was just an hour and a half long.
What time do you think I got home? Did I get home? Will there finally be donkeys involved?
Hold your questions, write them down. Check back in when the Final, yes, unbelievable, isn’t it?, Final part of this story is published.
Till then good night.