The story is lost

Published On: March 18, 2017 12:15 AM NPT By: Devendra Gautam

I try to jot down my thoughts but fail as periodic bursts of laughter keep disrupting my thinking
A late and lazy Saturday morning at a high-end Lalitpur restaurant. 

Sitting by the window-side with my cranium facing the sun to trigger some thinking, I am waiting for my chicken pizza, thinking about the world in general and nothing in particular, though aware that I am here in search of a perfect ambience to write something meaningful.

I am once again reminded that even a quiet corner is unavailable in this chaotic city as a tourist guide lands straight from the restaurant’s revolving staircase next to my seat, chatting and laughing with a bunch of tourists. Reading her beaming face, I guess she has caught some big fish—and is intent on ruining my rumination. The chatty guide keeps talking while the tourists listen obediently to her, mesmerized. 

I try to jot down my thoughts, but fail as periodic bursts of laughter keep disrupting my thinking.

Knowing that it is an exercise in futility in this chaotic environment, I give up this thinking thing and focus instead on the table talk, hoping that a new, interesting plot will present itself before my food. Icing on the cake it will be, a real Saturday treat.  

The talk is acidic. It does not center on our beautiful hills and majestic eight-thousanders—even windows of this restaurant offer a great view of verdant hills in the distance, but you need to have, besides eyes, art at heart and mind to cherish this beauty—pristine lakes and fast-flowing rivers, our archaeological heritages that are a matter of pride for human civilization, on our proud history as a never-colonized nation, on our Buddha, Shiva and Parvati, Janak and Janaki. On the contrary, it dwells on the ‘Nepalis’ and their ‘uncouth, uncivilized’ ways. 

Most of us, the civilized, sophisticated woman goes, do not know how to behave in modern settings—at parties, on flights and in public places—and the tourists nod in full agreement. Most of us create a scene in these settings, the Neanderthals that we are. I wonder if all this is the guide’s desperate bid to promote the country as a pristine, never-before-seen destination and earn some fast bucks at the cost of national humiliation.  

As the tourist-guide conservation ceases to end, I get irritated, look out the window and start counting vehicles passing per minute in a last-ditch bid to kill time. I twiddle my thumbs, rack my brains for some useful thought and give up the urge to bang my head against the table with much difficulty.

Seconds take minutes to pass and minutes take hours to arrive. I imagine growing a beard where birds can make their nest. Their chirps will surely help restore calm and help me remain sane in chaotic settings like this, right? How about reading a novel? 

Not a bad idea, but I forgot to bring one. I chant some mantra that is supposed to make me calm, but to no avail. I try to doze off, but in vain. I run my eyes across the walls to see if there are some good paintings that I could focus on, only to find a hound barking right above me. That’s worse than the guide! 

I turn to the window again, only to notice an eyesore below: Power and telephone cables stretched across, obscuring the otherwise tolerable view of a not-so-crowded Saturday road and beyond. Weird! Our planners surely need to take lessons on city planning from the lady at the next table.  

After what seems to be eons, I get my food and realize that some Nepali musician is trying his level best to drown out the noise coming from the neighborhood and offer me some respite. I salute the musician’s effort and pity him at the same time: Even celestial musicians serving at Lord Indra’s heavens would not be able to bring peace in this maddening setting. How dare the restaurateur play the music, folk music at that, when the symphony orchestra is in progress on the table next to mine? The restaurateur deserves some exemplary punishment for this offence. 

Eat, eat, eat and leave this place, my inner self orders me and I oblige, only to find that the tasty pizza has become tasteless and food is not what my body seeks at present. But I finish the pizza somehow with a gulp of coffee. As I am about to leave, I hear the lady say she is ashamed to be a Nepali, given the uncouth ways of her people. The tourists nod with smiles as I leave with an overbearing headache and get quickly lost in a labyrinth of gullies full of all sorts of vehicles, goats, dogs and humans in a mad rush to outpace each other. 

The story is lost in the fish-market environment and so am I.

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