Walking Around Kathmandu

I was on a market street somewhere between Thamel and Basantpur, walking towards the Durbar Square in Basantpur, which I was told by the people who gave me directions was at a walking distance, though I was finding the rightness of the expression “walking distance” very questionable with every kilometre I walked. Much as I disliked admitting it, the walk was actually not that bad, though a little outside of my zone of expectations in terms of the distance. There were honking scooters, speeding rickshaws and men, women and children going in every possible direction in the narrow galis or lanes where I was walking, which had double storey houses on both the sides, and small shops at the ground level. The houses had an entrance door opening in the gali, sometimes with some small verandah, where some women and old men were sitting and talking, or just sitting. I thought it uncanny, since I had not seen people just sitting like that, though I let it pass. “Maybe one of their lazy days, or some slow hour of the day”, I thought to myself.

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The Durbar Square came upon me as a surprise, just as I had gotten habituated to the walking and looking around. There stood marvels in carved wood and red brick, scattered in large open spaces, where you could stand and take in the splendour of it all. While I looked on in wonder, I also saw that there were men sitting everywhere in the Durbar Square, in the pastel colored Nepali hats. This was becoming too uncanny to ignore. There were men sitting on benches, in the corridors of the buildings and on the steps leading to the temples. Just as I was ready to dismiss them as “jobless”, I stopped to rethink my perception of people, the given situation and life as such. What is it that makes us so productivity-driven? Why is it that the idea of sitting with one’s own self, alone, without any work and without any thinking felt out of ordinary? Why was it that I was so quick to think that just because some people looked free and without any work, I equated them with being jobless?

I discovered that every place can teach us things that as yet we don’t even know we need to learn. And it is for that reason that we need to travel. Even though we may be cultured and polite on the outside, inside, many a time, we are thinking something that is a polar opposite of what we project to others. So, while I thought I was perfectly at peace with myself, I understood that I really did have the need to constantly do something or talk about something or atleast think about something. I had lost the inability to enjoy and cherish silence inside and outside.

With this pensive mood, I took a cab to the Bouddhanath Stupa, a sacred monument and monastery where Buddhist monks lived and practiced the higher truths of living. As I entered there were pigeons flying all around, and little monks were feeding the pigeons the seeds. They playfully fed the seeds to the pigeons and talked amongst themselves, occasionally laughing and sometimes getting into an intense discussion. A smile came to my lips. The men in the Durbar Square created a question in me, and these little monks were the answer. Do we need to be jobless? No. Do we need to be efficient? Yes. Do we need to work or think or talk all the time? Not at all.

The Bouddhanath Stupa looked different to me seeing it with a silence inside. Only now I really noticed the intensity in Buddha’s eyes which were watching over the world. Only now I relished the serene smell of the incense around the Stupa. The silent space inside, once discovered, doesn’t just make us more relaxed, it makes us be more with where we are, and who we are. It makes us available to the new lands we explore, and makes the exploration a complete experience.

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