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: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu

I was returning home from a program. I was grateful that a friend of mine dropped me midway, after that I took a bus to airport. Most of the seats were vacant. I was happy that I got a seat but equally frightened that I would get late-because the more the vacant seats, the more stops the bus takes to squeeze in people.  Surprisingly, the bus did not stop a lot. I called a friend to check if he was OK, since he had fever. I thought of stopping near by his house and meeting him but it was already 7. I knew I would be late and did not drop by his place.

When I put the phone down I watched the road. It was not dark yet but the vehicles had begun turning their lights on and this got me worried since it would be dark soon. I wondered if I would be able to reach home on time. I also realized if only I had my own scooter I would have been able to meet my friend and reach home on time. But I don’t have one yet.

-Aarju Joshi


Away from the faces I know, I somehow find peace within the chaos among strangers.

-Prajita Gupta


I was in a tempo from Jawalakhel to Kharibot, when I noticed a little girl not agreeing to get in with her mother. We wondered why as we waited for them to get it. Somehow they got in. She was crying but her mother managed to sway her. She pulled out her little orange pin and started playing.

‘Ma aafai lagauchu, yo mero ho,’ she said while the pin always fell off her hand every single time until they got off.

Well, little one really did give quite a stress free ride until she got off. We could not stop ourselves from giving her all the attention. Had a good laugh. Stole my heart.

-Neha Jatiya


A big thank you from the depth of my heart to everyone who wrote, shared, talked about their version of 30 Minutes of Traveling. These days whenever we meet a little portion of our time is spent in talking about our travel stories inside public buses. I didn’t know that a project that struck me (while I was bored and stuck inside a micro bus during a hot humid day sweating badly) would take such fascinating turns. Gratitude! I hope hope hope that this helps to start off writing! (Honestly we all suck at some point or the other! Persistence!) 

More to come! 

This May is all about the stories from the streets of Kathmandu. 

Alfa 

30 Minutes of Traveling: That Piece of Metal

You can’t fly like superman (even with undergarments worn above your clothes!), no not yet. The Star Wars life is still a dream (oh did they have public transport in Star Wars? Eh? I don’t remember!).

I would have taken a tempo if there was one, but I decided to go with the tiny micro, fairly because it is five rupees cheaper to travel in it with my trademark student ID. I hear people even have fake cards made to save the five rupee, may be?

3 PM

Not too many people inside, but I decided to stick to the seat right in front behind the driver’s seat. I caught a girl napping. Fair enough! Given the length of traffic jams. The bus was somewhere on the Jawalakhel road when it slightly skidded off.

‘Reckless,’ I thought instantly.

The back seaters were laughing at the incident which I thought could have equally gone wrong, instead of just being an adrenaline pumper.

A lady shouted from the second row to slow down, but she was cut off. A few more people got in and the vehicle ran off again, almost like a mini roller coaster. I might have landed into a public road version of Formula One.

Formula One would still be safer.

We were inside a video game. The bus was titling right and left, running at top speed avoiding scooters and bikes like they were hurdles in a game.

3.10 PM

We were already approaching the Bagmati bridge. I wished prayed for the traffic to increase. Only then would it slow down from this hunt. Late is definitely preferred over …well (take the trouble of filling in the blanks!).

We were now across the bridge with reduced traffic flow and off we went again. I wondered if an invisible Godzilla who was visible only to the driver was after us, or may be Voldemort decided to grace our day and was coming to get us. Or may be the One Ring was somewhere nearby and driving the person on the seat in front nuts! Not really though.

3.15 PM

Earlier than expected, with a thrill and not a good one. Off we went skidding AGAIN!

It was funny and strange both at the same time to see humans place an entire chunk of life over a small piece of metal and mechanism called breaks. People in love often say that they do not know the possibility of having their hearts crushed (completely!) by their lover. And there we were (still are) placing real breathing lives over a system that doesn’t talk, doesn’t cry and shout! We have backups of VIP documents because we cannot trust the metal (on which I write this story). What about lives? Had the break been a living thing would it have felt the mountain of pressure to work under such sharp precision? If it could talk, it would be flawed. But flawed it is the same. Thankfully it was a metal, just a metal really.

Someone was getting off at Bhadrakali, and swizz we stopped. Thanks to the little piece of metal.

I hope the metal talks, at least when it knows it’s going to go overboard. May be it does. And may be it is not loud enough to make the masters hear. Even more may be because it’s a metal it is expected to be perfect.

3.20

Slowed down a bit (thankfully!) due to a small demonstration, and I could see Sahid Gate. It only meant one thing, I was going to get down SOON! I got down.

Phew!


A big thank you to everyone reading my stories! Very very happy to receive stories of friends and family who have written down and shared their version of ’30 Minutes of Traveling’ which I will be sharing in the next post. 

Til’ then

Alfa

 

30 Minutes of Traveling: Three Rupees

Whenever I do have to get on the micro bus, I try to get on one behind the driver’s seat. I’m not quite the fan of going against the motion, but this uneasiness keeps me from falling asleep, forcing me to look at the number of jammed people inside the vehicle.

The scenery looks different when you are seated inside a public transportation;  the torn seat cover with the foam popping outside from inside, people getting in on every stop (or just anywhere!) and the conductor trying to persuade them about the availability of space.

The bus stopped at Kupondole, just before the Bagmati Bridge. The seats were almost filled, but no one was standing just now. The conductor slid the door open and called on two girls by the road to get in.

Cha didi cha,’ he said. They declined. He tried one more time. They marched ahead.

There were mostly students today inside the bus, with or without their trademark uniforms. A girl of perhaps fifteen was seated in front of me. She stared out of the window conscious of my gaze. I tried to divert my eyes, but her innocence kept my thoughts concentrated over her presence. How beautiful is childhood without the touch of the pompous world. What does she worry about? What are her dreams? Will she conquer the world someday? She gets off somewhere between Jwagal and Pulchowk. And there goes my thought along with her!

A middle aged lady in pink kurta signals that she will be getting off somewhere at Dumkal while she tried to search whatever change that remained in her cream colored bag. She abruptly handed over Rs. 15 to the conductor.

Athara ho didi,’ he said sharply.

The debate for the missing three rupee began. The lady claimed to have always traveled this particular destination on fifteen while the conductor boy was adamant that the price had been hiked. She complained that three is rather an awkward change to carry.

The boy exclaimed that public transportation users were selfish. Here beings classism and antagonism.

If the fare had been Rs. 16 instead of Rs. 18, no one would hand in the extra Rs. 1 that was needed (10+5+1!), he says.

The conversation was heated up by now. Their voices filled the bus, capturing the attention of all inside. She said with mistrust that working class people were cheats. She said this not in words, but merely through her voice. May be they represented the people in and out, and may be it was just a normal conversation of the passing day. She finally got down.

Luckily I got my student ID, but well for how long? Let’s worry about that another day, OK?


This May let me take you through the streets of Kathmandu, and my thoughts that travel along with them. Don’t forget to let me know what you think about these stories. If you have a story, don’t forget to share! 

30 Minutes of Traveling

Alfa