There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Notes from Nepal

By Deepak Adhikari
Kathmandu, Nepal

On a recent sun-soaked Saturday afternoon, I found myself dragging my motorcycle on an almost empty road in Thamel, a tourist bazaar in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Unlike Friday nights, when Thamel bustles with pulsating discotheques and dance bars, Saturday afternoon was utterly desolate. Even the roads of Durbarmarg and Kantipath, in downtown Kathmandu, were nearly empty with only a handful of vehicles plying. I arrived at the parking lot, my eyes automatically searching for the black and vermilion colored-bike. It was there, lonely among a few cars that had been parked overnight. I was glad that the bike was there, alright. I paid the parking boy Rs. 50 and headed to Chhetrapati via erstwhile Freak Street, the hippie haven of 1970s and 80s. I was told I will find a repair shop there.

I must interject here to talk about the nature of my predicament: All hell had broken loose the previous evening when the 10-month-old motor-cycle, for the first time, suffered a puncture. I was there to cover a lounge and spa whose slogan read, ‘An oasis in the heart of Thamel’, and I couldn’t help but notice the irony. By the time we were done with the interview, it was already nine in the night. The boy at the parking lot said there was no way I would find a mechanic. I was left with only one option: leave the bike at the parking lot overnight.

I shuddered. I thought about the several cases of motorcycle thefts in the capital, where ever-vigilant thieves didn’t choose between the brands or the colors and stole whatever two-wheelers they could find. I recalled some of my colleagues recounting their experience of losing their vehicles, a must for anyone these days in
Kathmandu’s trafficked jammed road.

As I was locking my motorcycle, I realized the investments a biker must make for the safety of his vehicle: Helmet locks, wheel locks, handle locks. The list is endless.

But back to my current status; back to wheeling the bike along a lonely stretch of road. While I was doing so, I thought of what had been missing in the city lately: helping hands. I had convinced myself that the flip side of the ever-growing metropolis was indifference.

How wrong I was! As I negotiated the narrow, grimy streets towards Chhetrapati with honking rickshaws, bikes and cabs, people voluntarily directed me to a repair shop. I shouted to a man resting on his rickshaw. He instructed me to take a right turn. I approached
Juddhodaya Public School, one of the oldest schools in Nepal, and also once my exam centre. But it wasn’t the right time to bask on bygone days. Here I was, the man with a mission and a destination.

I’d forgotten to take into account one thing, however: it was Saturday,
Nepal’s weekend holiday when big cities like Kathmandu turns into a ghost town with eerie silence. Hauling the awkwardly oblong motorcycle on an abandoned street, I must have cut a forlorn figure. But to my delight and surprise, there were folks to guide me. One after another, they came to my help and led me through Kathmandu’s labyrinth. A man pointed out a row of closed shutters where, according to him, there was a repair shop. The owner must have been enjoying his hard-earned weekly off, I supposed. Another local man assured me there were some shops on the way ahead. Finally, after encountering three closed mechanics, I ran into a shoemaker at Paknajol who pointed out a ‘bicycle on hire’ signboard. Some events take you to unusual places.

I felt exhilarated when the slim young man at the bicycle shop told me he’ll try his best. I watched him work as he executed his deft skills to repairing the punctured tyre. Half an hour and Rs. 35 later, I thanked him profusely and left, thrilled at getting to ride my prized possession at last.

But the helping hands didn’t just stop at that. Another night after the afternoon, while I was returning home on the outskirts of Kathmandu, my bike skidded on the slippery Koteshwar road. As I was picking it up and strengthening myself, I heard a voice: Be careful fella! I turned towards the source of the voice. Under the dim street lights, I found that it was a fellow biker. His was less a scolding and more a caveat. Take that for brotherly love!

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