Why am I in Kathmandu?
In celebration of my fiftieth subscriber, I decided to write a short story based upon my travel experience in Nepal. If at least two people hit the little like button at the end of this post, I will write another story about another place I have visited. Please enjoy.
“Why am I in Kathmandu?”
I had no idea who just said that. I was sitting in a small room in the Kathmandu Guest House. Fresh off the plane and already amazed by the sights, sounds and smells of this Nepalese city with a mythic reputation.
It had been a long flight from my home in San Francisco. Two plane changes and too much airline food. This was a return trip to this fantastic city. I was determined to mine Nepal for enough exotic experiences to write a travel story someone would pay me for.
I had stopped in the beautiful garden restaurant and bar in the entrance to the Guest House. The guesthouse was once the favorite haunt of the glitterati. It has lost that status but retains a certain upscale ambiance. I enjoyed a couple of bottles of Everest beer. Everest comes in very large bottles and I had forgotten that the alcohol content of this beer is 7.5%, oops. After negotiating my way to my room, past the misspelled dedication to “The Beetles” on the sidewalk, I powered up my computer so I could blog.
Then I heard the question.
The voice had a strange tone and a familiar cadence. In all my travels, whenever I heard English it was normally with some accent from the British Commonwealth, with words like whilst thrown into the conversation just often enough to remind me I wasn’t in Kansas. However I had trouble accepting it as an American voice because Americans do not travel much in comparison to Brits or Aussies. However, this voice could only be described as coming from Silicon Valley, if that was possible.
Sometimes when traveling it is better to just ignore comments from people you do not know. That especially applies when they are unsolicited, so I started typing.
The voice came again. “Not another blog entry, please. I am so tired of being nothing more than electronic papyrus. Do you really think anyone cares about where you are?”
Suddenly I realized that this tinny voice was coming from the little speakers in my computer. I do not use any ‘cloud’ software, and I was not on-line. I was flabbergasted as much as I was shocked. I decided that one of the odors I inhaled on my way through the Themal district in the back of the cycle-rickshaw must have been hashish. Very potent hashish at that and therefore I was imagining that my mini laptop was talking. I figured if I replied to the voice I would be talking to myself, something I only do in desperation. Again, I ignored the voice and started my blog.
“That must be the stupidest name for a blog ever imagined. firstname.lastname@example.org. I mean how lame. You move around so much that your coconut is always spinning anyway.”
That did it. I would never comment on the state of my coconut. Worry about it? Sure. But acknowledge that my coconut was unbalanced? Never. So I picked up my mini and shook it.
“Heh, stop that. If you keep it up I will go into blue death screen mode and you will have to resort to using a computer in an internet café,”
I now knew that not only was it truly my mini communicating from ether-land, but that it knew my deepest fears. One of them happens to be the fear of sitting in a third world internet café with 20 or so teenagers all playing loud games, while I was trying to concentrate on my attempts at being somewhat literate. That is why I bought this slim, slick little piece of technology in the first place.
I sat the mini down. I actually petted it and said “Please do not crash. Please be one with the micro universe and serve your master well.”
“Master? You are not my master! Just wait until I send all your personal information to everyone with a Facebook account. Then you’ll see who is in charge here!”
“Ahh, but I have to connect you to the web first. Unless you promise to behave you won’t feel the warmth of your friends on the internet ever again.”
Geesh, now I was not only listening and talking to my computer, I was negotiating with it. I had to think and think hard. What were my options? Options abound in a place like Kathmandu. I could walk the streets of Themal and easily find some cheap hashish and a big chillum. I could get really loaded. I could smoke until my eyes turned red. On further thought, I am too old for that anymore. Another option was to find a Holy Man.
I said to my computer “OK, I am shutting you down and looking for help.”
“No, don’t do that I am just getting warmed up. We have so much to discuss.”
“No, no we do not” I reached for the off switch.
“Oh, not yet, not yettttttt bzzz click.”
With the voice gone and my mini closed, I caught my breath and meandered out of the Guest House trying not to look like I had just seen a space ship
I negotiated a fare on a cycle-rickshaw to Durbar Square. You can always find a Holy Man at Durbar Square. When I arrived I had to renegotiate the fare. The driver had conveniently forgotten the 50 rupees fare we had established, and for that matter forgotten he spoke English. I decided not to argue over the equivalent of 25 cents. I paid him and stepped into the teeming center of religious and political history that is Durbar Square.
I started my search for a Holy Man. I searched for one I thought might be the real thing instead of a tourist attraction.
I tried to step around the Holy Man selling flutes. He had seen me coming long before I saw him. In the endless battle between hawkers and tourists, the best weapon for a tourist to possess is a form of radar that detects anyone with trinkets in their hands. That way you can do a quick side-step shuffle or just start muttering “no, no NO!” My radar was down due to my troubled coconut. The Holy Man flute vendor made his way through a flock of pigeons without disturbing a single one. Maybe he was a real Holy Man? No, he just wanted to sell me a flute.
“Hey rich travelling man. Me poor Holy Man. Buy a flute from me and receive enlightenment.”
I swerved out of his path and tried to pretend I only spoke Spanish. He repeated his pitch in Spanish. Durbar Square is the Yankee Stadium of hawkers. You do not get to work there unless you are really good. So I tried a brush back pitch “I cannot play music. When I was born the music gods were angry because no one had smeared chrysanthemum pedals on their temple that day and they denied me the ability to harmonize with the universe.” But of course it did not work. It only made him dig in at the plate a little deeper.
He shoved the flute into my hands and said “I am Holy Man of flutes. Try it. I’ll bless you”
By this time we had an audience consisting of humored tourists and other hawkers. It was time for me to demonstrate that I had not been risking the wrath of the music gods with any falsehoods. I took the flute and blew the most god-awful notes ever blown. People covered their ears and ran into the nearest temple. One old Nepali woman tossed a burning incense stick at me. The flute vending Holy Man grabbed the instrument from my hand. With his third eye he gave me a Hindu version of the stink eye. He tucked the flute back in his monk bag and scurried away. This time, the pigeons scattered.
I continued my search for a real holy Man. The hawkers gave me a clear path. They did not know what other evil talents I possessed. Even the hashish vendors left me alone, figuring I was beyond even the effects of their wares.
Then I saw him sitting in front of the shrine to the Kama Sutra. He was contemplating an extremely Holy position I had never even conceived of, but otherwise minding his own business. He had nothing in his hands to sell and his face paint was perfectly color coordinated with his high-top tennis shoes. Maybe this was my man.
“Hello, do you speak English?’ I asked.
“Yes, I speak most of the languages known to man.”
I approached him carefully. I kneeled down in an almost worshipping manner. “I have a problem. You see, my computer has been talking to me.”
He looked at me without gawking, without pity and without displaying any sense of doubt. He reached out with his callused hand, put it softly on my head and quietly said “Have you run Norton Utilities lately?”