30 Minutes of Traveling: The Longer Route Home

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What is the feeling between sadness and happiness called? On a balancing scale when you stand right in between of the two, not moving an inch to the left or the right. It’s like an empty feeling of odd satisfaction creeping inside, and you place yourself at the center of the cosmos, in full control.

I get down of the broken tempo which stopped after a few minutes. Its broken, the driver announced. For some unknown reasons I was ready to stay there, watching the passengers get down, one after another. I get off eventually. As I walk back, a few drops of rain hits the ground, filling the air with the smell of wet earth.

I take the longer route home.

It was suddenly cold. I was dressed for snow. But it doesn’t snow in Kathmandu. May be it is a good thing, or else we’d freeze during our sleep without heating. You can’t have the snow without the cold, or can you?

I am still warm and fuzzy with my big oversized jacket so I get onto another tempo, almost half empty but just perfect to place my belongings on the seat.

The abstract thought takes over my mind again. It is getting colder. Two young girls in front of me are shivering. But they are young, and the cold doesn’t bother them much. The air flow is almost perfect, enough to carry the smell of rain. I am still warm, and the ride seems magical, the roads seem different.

The first rain of winter that brings me the smell of wet earth. The feeling of absolute void comes back again, while I think of the hot chocolate I will make in the evening as I continue traveling into Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo. I think of the greetings I need to email.

January 2 is still new year. 364 days ahead is still new year.

But there is a screen dividing these two line of thoughts. The absolute void exists in its own while everything else is playing by its side, unaffected of each other.

I still think it is the weather.

30 Minutes of Traveling: The Shoemaker Under The Big Purple Umbrella

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There’s a shoemaker by the road, who sits under a big purple umbrella. I take my broken shoes to him, when I want to prolong their life. His set of tools captures my mind. They are his arsenals. He pastes thin layers of shoe shaped tyres over the outer sole of my shoe.

His sturdy hands are smudged with shoe polish, dendrite and dust. But they are artistic, indeed. They repair things.

If they created new ones instead of repairing broken ones, what would they be called? Hands of the designer. If they made strange looking designs what would they become? Labels flashing all over glossy magazines. But they are just a pair of hands, of a shoemaker under the big purple umbrella.

He always brushes the dust off my shoes that I take. He doesn’t have to. But he does. The pair of hands that repair things we do not know how to. Does he know that?


What’s 30 Minutes of Traveling? It’s a lot of things. A writing prompt, a journal, a reflection point. Something I want to write about the streets of the tiny little city I live in. 

30 Minutes of Traveling: The Man With The Black Goggles

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The dust has become an indispensable ingredient of the road. I hear it is more horrifying on the other edge. A scarf over the head, a big mask covering half the face will do for now. It has worked for years down this route.

I was far ahead of the rush hour, so there was no need to hurry for the tempo. It would be waiting under the brazing sun. I get in and take the first seat on the right. There’s leg space beneath. Suddenly a man with big black goggles gets in. His hands confusingly ramble around the legs of those seated. He carries a folded stick. He takes the corner diagonally opposite to where I am seated.

The tempo gains momentum and we head out, back home. The traffic’s moderate so there’s no stopping in between.

Yeta ko bazar pani Ratna park ko jastai rahecha,” the man says when the vehicle reached by the side of Lagankhel. He seems to be enjoying the sound of the place, unique to its origin while comparing it to the other bazaar at the other side of the city.

“Hmm,” “Uh..” the other passengers inside show their agreement.

A few meters ahead, the man searches for something inside his pocket. He pulls out a few notes.

Yo pachas ko note ho?” he asks to the person seated in front of him showing the note in his hand.

“Ho,” the other replies nodding.

Yo bish ko ho?” he asks again holding another note.

“Ho,” the other replies nodding, again.

The man puts the fifty rupee note back into his pocket and holds the twenty in his hand. He holds his head high every time he talks. He doesn’t struggle. He doesn’t hide.

I get down. The tempo moves ahead, so do the people inside it.


This December, let me take you through the streets of Kathmandu one more time through my everyday travel routes which last for about 30 Minutes. If you look at the dust settling over the surface of the window you’re seated next to, you’ll find a story. If you look at the children dressed in school uniforms, you’ll find a story. If you close your eyes and listen to the horns of the big vehicles, you’ll find a story there too. What are we but the stories we tell each other.

30 Minutes of Traveling: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu #3

1993: 2003

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Rushing to college, every morning Monday through Friday, walking fast towards the slightly moving bus at Patan Dhoka. The closer I get, the faster it moves. Finally the conductor makes this unique bang at the door and sends signal to the driver to stop.
I get on the bus, no signs of seat so I stand holding on to the top metal bar with approximately six inches of gap with people next to me.I try my best not to be sandwiched between the crowd during the stop-motion jerk. Somehow the conductor manages to slither through the crowd. I hear the clickety-clack noise coming from the coins. The conductor’s hand is full of coins and ticket. He is moving his hand in a unique way to produce that noise which is a signal to pay the fare.

I tell him, ‘Not right now, let me find a seat or I will pay you when I get off.’

2003

On my way to my first job, Mundelein Bus stop, Chicago, IL. I get to the bus stop 10 minutes early, the bus arrives with the display of routes in the front. Automatic door opens, I get on the bus with no struggle. After climbing two steps, I exchange greetings with the driver while I slide a dollar bill into the machine next to the driver’s seat.
Then in an air conditioned bus, I see the privileged handicapped seating. I walked little further and get a seat near the window. I admire the view outside while I hear the automatic announcement of next stop.

Memories went flooding back 10 years, Oh where is the clickety- clack music and the Big Bang signal on the door? Where is that stop-motion jerk that alerted me from being sandwiched? Oh it’s only in my memories now. My stop arrives and I pull the string above my seat which signals the driver to stop. I get off the bus.

What a transition of transportation!

-Sarana Shrestha Parajuli


एकजना आमाले भन्नु भयो- “बाबु, यस्तो च्यातेको पाइन्ट किन लगा’को?”

अनि खलासी दाईको गुनासो- “मैले यो च्यातेको पाइन्ट लाउँदा ट्यापे भन्छन्,यहि पाइन्ट केटीले लायो भने हट भन्छन्। केटा हुन नि सार्‍है गार्‍हो छ।”

-Rojina Shrestha


Bhada Vs. Bhada

A curious little girl along with her father got inside the bus. They sat behind me. Her innocence stole my heart. She became a reason for my smile. Her fascination towards the things happening around left me dumbstruck. She gazed around and bombarded her farther with questions. She sang all the rhymes her teacher had taught her. Her mother tried hard to make her daughter stop talking, to keep her little girl from being the center of attention. But the girl didn’t fail to clear all her doubts.

As their stop arrived the conductor asked her farther for money ‘Bhada’(bus fare).

She immediately said, ‘Baba bhada ta kotha ma huncha yo dai lae kina mangi ra ko?

As they got down her farther answered her question and handed over the bus fare. The little girl proved to be different from all of us inside. She ignited enthusiasm to keep learning.

-Sefali Agrawal


Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s 31st May and the last chapters for 30 Minutes of Traveling (for now of course!) has arrived. Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude towards everyone who read, followed and put their time to write and share their travel stories. 

I hope you enjoyed reading, reflected your good and bad times on the road inside the people packed buses. May be you got lucky with the window seat, may be you offered your seat for the elderly, and may be sometimes felt like the tuna inside the sandwich! 

They are but memories now, once the moment goes by, even after a fraction of time. 

Till then keep traveling, keep living, keep giving, keep writing, keep sharing the stories ignited inside the flames of your hearts!

Alfa