From Pokhara: A letter to Kathmandu, with love

“I wanna videotape you as you stare with awe at the tall buildings,” says a Kathmanduite friend when I tell him that I’ve have never been to his city.

“Good! The city is more smoke, less air. It is good that you have never been here. There isn’t much to adore about it,” says another.

I am a Pokhreli lassie. Born and raised here. The Phewa’s tributaries flow through my veins.

When I was in grade four, I realised that Kathmandu was “our capital,” I wanted to be there.

It’s not that I didn’t love my town, but I developed a secret love, an affair of sorts, for the elusive city of such bold contradictions.

I used to ask my mom to take me along with her every time she went to Kathmandu, but somehow the plan would always got interrupted, and ultimately it never materialised.

I’d always wanted to stroll through the packed streets of Thamel, along with the relentless plethora of its local pedestrians.

Since I have an astute fetish for books and shops that sell them, perhaps I’d hop from bookshop to bookshop, browsing from one shelf to another. Maybe I would finally find a copy of “East of Eden”, a book I have been looking for all my life.

Or maybe, I’d delightfully come across “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle (sic) Repair.” And with the joy of having discovered these gems, I would have gone pub-hopping and, sat down somewhere to some decent bar band.

It’s not that I didn’t love my town. But I have a secret love, an affair of sorts, for the elusive city that of such bold contradictions.

I want to know how it feels like to fight a monkey that tries to steal something from me on the steep stairs of the Swayambhunath. I want to stand amongs the pigeons, and maybe have a picture taken. I want to visit every religious place the city of temples has on offer, and meet the notorious sadhus that live around the cobbled courtyard of the temples. I would like to get a blessing or two.

I want to be a spectator at the Dashrath stadium, cheering (with raised fists),  rooting for Nepal. I want to be one of the posh, pretty looking youngsters shopping at the malls, probably with a latté, on my hand. I wanna devour the delicious (but not-so-healthy) the street food Kathmandu will cook for me. I want to eat momos everybody, the same ones that my friends brag to me about.

I dream of this city like Kurt Vonnegut dreamed of New York. I would embrace everything that makes this city–the noise, the smoke, the constant chatter of people walking, the art, everything. I want to be inspired like the many writers, poets and artists who call this city their home.

I know that the devastating earthquake robbed the city off of so many things,  I feel sad every time I remember that day. I’ll never be able to race to the top of Dhararaha, but it hardly matters now. Resurrection is always buried on the top-most layer of ruined things, and I believe that this city, and the Dharahar shall rise yet again to the splendor of its past.

I dream of this city like Kurt Vonnegut dreamed of New York. I want to embrace everything that makes this city, the noise, the smoke, the constant chatter of people walking, the art; everything.

My incongruous love for Kathmandu stems from a dream every small town girl has to make it to the big city. That is why it would be easy for me to overlook the flaws the city has. But how am I to know? I’ve never been there.

Maybe I’ll be disappointed when I do come calling.

There’s a line I remember from one of my favourite Woody Allen movies.

“Maria-Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic.”

I am sure that my love for Kathmandu won’t be the same when my wish will be fulfilled.

(Gurung is a student based in Pokhara).


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