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: 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