Kathmandu: An Education In Humanity

Categories:Adventures, Kathmandu, Nepal
Vagabond Tim
Many readers have asked me things like why in the hell would I go to Kathmandu, with comments about it being a third world city full of packs of wild dogs and all sorts of livestock wandering the streets, it smells of garbage and urine, the power only works twelve hours a day in two six hour chunks, and all sorts of other things that add to the idea that Kathmandu is terrible. But the fact is that Kathmandu is an amazing place.

Yes there are packs of dogs roaming the streets, they are well fed, quite friendly, and keep the monkeys at bay.
Yes my morning walk for coffee goes over a stone bridge through what amounts to a landfill.
Yes a few people and places smell somewhat dodgy.

But…

I blame the large percentage of Hindus for many of the things that make Kathmandu wonderful. As a brief bit of information the Hindus are big on karma and reincarnation, so in theory I could die and become a dog, or pigeon, or monkey etc. As a direct result of this belief they feed and care for these animals to whatever extent they can, the animals in turn are domesticated in a sort of communal way.

The dogs largely stay out of the way of traffic and simply lounge around the streets during the day, only occasionally rising to go and eat food left for them.

The pigeons gather outside the temples where corn is thrown and really have no reason to follow a person around hoping for crumbs.

The monkeys are adorable in the way they follow you around hoping for fruit to be thrown to them, but they aren’t overly insistent.

As for the power issue, there is a timetable available so one can fairly easily plan around it, I for one enjoy napping, wandering the streets, or feeding pigeons when the power goes out.

The hot water in my room occasionally fails, but that isn’t the world suddenly coming to an end.

I have a policy that if no one was hurt by my actions then it doesn’t really matter if a law was broken, especially when driving. Drivers in Kathmandu seem to have collectively embraced that same philosophy, leading to an arguably terrifying situation where one lane becomes three for a few moments as people pass one another wherever and whenever possible, but taking a more distant view of the situation it really is not as much of a problem as one might expect.

All arguments against the preconceptions of Kathmandu aside, the city is full of some of the nicest and most honest people I have ever met. Take for example my cab driver KB, I recently lost my phone in his cab, this is a phone worth several weeks wages at least, he drove to my hotel and returned it, refusing a reward of even 100 rupees (approx 1$) for his trouble. He will drive me across town to a temple and wait around for an hour or two without complaint and without charging me more than the fare itself, despite my objections. To him it is a matter of loyalty. I call him every time I want to go anywhere and he in turn takes great pains to make my life easier.

The owners of the hotel I am staying in donate their time and as much as they can afford to the orphanages and schools surrounding our hotel, when some previous guest donated 10,000 rupees (100$ USD) to their charity they organized a massive blood typing event for the kids, while typing may not seem important to most of us it can save someones life in an accident. The event will most likely cost around the entire donation, but because kids hate needles they are adding food and games to the days festivities in an effort to make it fun for them. I will be taking pictures of the entire event for the hotel website.

There are a few beggars in the streets along the more touristy places, one I have named chapati man as he doesn’t speak any English and just holds his hand out saying chapati, which is sort of like bread, so I assume he is attempting to assure me of the intended use for the money, or perhaps he has gone entirely mad and is offering me invisible bread, its hard to know for certain.

One of the cafes I frequent has a large number of disabled and otherwise oddball employees. Some are deaf, a few are little people and so on, the fact is that they may not be entirely as capable of everything as other people, but they do their jobs well and are quite friendly to boot. It might seem odd given our north American perception that without threats of prison and an army to back it up people might in fact not be discriminatory given the chance, absurd even that human decency could exist without the force of law, and yet it does.

In a place were people routinely sleep without food or heat, lack shelter and security, and live without power they donate their time and what little they have to the lowliest and most needy around them. They remain honest and cheerful, to paraphrase the great Doctor Suess “It came with out ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! For all that they do not have, all the whos down in whoville sang just the same.”

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It is impossible to miss the fact that life in Nepal is a fair bit more arduous than in the western world


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Yes as some readers have guessed the streets are full of dogs, monkeys, and chickens (sorry no pictures of all three at once)


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A casual disregard for personal safety combined with a fairly enthusiastic attitude makes Kathmandu among the most interesting places on earth


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The notable absence of laws and etiquette makes driving terrifying in ways I have never before encountered


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On the left is Mr. Lama, he and his wife own the hotel and are local philanthropists, on the right is Sunny a former history teacher and current concierge extraordinaire


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KB is a solid contender for best cab driver on the planet, and one of the nicest people I have ever met


 

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