Nepalese Notebook: September 8th, 2014

September 8th, 2014


Chitwan: the Nepalese Terai, the land of the Tharu.  These are the lowlands of the Himalaya, a vast jungle filled with rhinos, tigers, and crocodiles, interspersed with the irrigated fields of the natives.  From Kathmandu it is a 5 hours bus ride along narrow and sometimes precipitous roads in which the drivers take every advantage of passing one another regardless of blind curves or the stories of overturned buses only days before.  And yet the driving is not reckless; for when you see your driver passing another bus without any hope of gauging a head-on collision, you are able to find in his unshakeability a small comfort, knowing that the danger he has put you in, he may now save you from, as he swerves back with amazing dexterity only seconds before another bus would have brought upon your ruin.
This is only one of the shocks though; the city of Kathmandu itself holds more than one could ever imagine; danger becomes no more than an inability to understand, which with all its questions and befuddled stares is gracefully accepted, though you walk past a pile of children sleeping on top of one another in the street, or catch a glimpse of a family cooking rice in a shack not big enough to stand up in.  In all of it, there is another perception involved: for some it is all dirt and poverty, for others it is freedom from an accepted standard, but for as much pity as one could have, there are as many looks of indifference and even smiles, until you realize that the only difference is the one you have created in your head.  Here, the Buddhist temples are a place for all religions and the believers in those religions come to worship at these temples; but now I remember the smell of burning juniper and the greasy black smoke of lighted candles as you walk across the threshold and find a holy man with a bowl of flowers and a dish of orange paint.

Douglas Thornton


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