Revisiting Kathmandu

I was back in my favouritest country in the world a couple of weeks ago. I visited Kathmandu on a business trip, where I spoke to a couple of audiences and met some of the leading clinicians there, hoping to kick start stem cell therapy in Nepal.
This was the first time that I have been back to the heart of Nepal since I left Pokhara on the last day of 2003.I remember that the mountains had given me a grand farewell; the entire Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Macchapuchare range was visible in grand splendour throughout the entire month of December that year.
This time I was coming to a rain soaked Kathmandu. The rains have been particularly heavy this year I was told. The clouds barely lifted, and even when they did, we could just see the mountains ringing the Kathmandu Valley, the snow ranges remained hidden.
The Airport is just the same as ever, there has not been much renovation or modernization over the past 6 years. It would have been difficult, considering what the nation has been through over the past few years. The smiling faces however were as familiar as ever as I was met by the hotel representative and ushered into a slightly dilapidated bus.
On the way to Hotel Annapurna where I was staying, I was able to take stock of the changes that struck me. The city was dusty, even the incessant rain seemed to have been unable to tackle the dust. There was construction, of a particularly hideous type, very typical of North Indian cities on everywhere. Five story and four story constructions, mostly windowless and stark and unlovely were coming up, probably to house the large numbers of people who have flocked here to escape the lawless countryside.
The Dubar Marg has been divided by into two lanes by a set of plastic road markers. The traffic is horrendous. It is difficult to believe that in 1978 we used to loll over this road and take photographs of the smart young policeman who stood in guard outside the Nayanhitty palace. The palace has of course been converted to a museum, the royals having been expelled from the site of many misdeeds and perhaps many good deeds as well.
One morning I ventured out to check the Tushita Hotel, where we used to stay during our Kathmandu trips. This hotel was on the Kanti Path, very close to the grand building of the Election Commission. It was a home away from home for most of the impecunious teachers of the Manipal College at Pokhara as they offered a special cut rate for accommodation. The staff was very welcoming, the rooms comfortable, and the dining room downstairs had a lovely central stove, and wood fed which kept you as warm as toast even on wintry evenings. The buses to Pokhara left just opposite the road and the bell boy would carry your bags across the street and put you safely on the bus when you left in the early morning.
But alas, Tushita has gone. I was unable even to identify the building. Perhaps it has been demolished and a new building come up in its stead? The entire block was full of shops, internet cafes and a tailor’s shop, but Tushita has gone, leaving not a wrack behind!
The Bir Hospital where I spoke on the invitation of the Vice Chancellor was also unchanged, the steep stairs to the auditorium was the same. A motley audience turned up to hear me speak, but the quality of discussion was as I remembered it, sharp and knowledgeable.
I did not go to Pokhara. Perhaps I should not. I sometimes am afraid to disturb the memories of the golden days we spent there by confronting the reality. It is quite possible that my memories are not truthful I remember a Pokhara that never was. But to myself, many of the students I encounter and to my fellow faculty members, Pokhara during the first half of this decade was a dream land, all the days seemed to be full of sunshine and laughter and parties and excursions.
Kathmandu disappointed, will Pokhara do the same?


y-axis! said…
i love your writing these days. is it you who has become better or me who has turned more receptive? i do not know the answer but i wish i keep reading similar tales in days to come.
I share your feelings on this. I dont know if this is because we remember things the way we would like to, and as time passes and things change, they disappoint us.

Every time I visit Darjeeling (my favoritest), I hear the familiar lament of how crowded it is and how rapidly development is devouring the beauty of the town. After the thinking that your post initiated, I will visit again, but this time without any expectations, maybe as if I were visiting for the first time.

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