I was nearly there at the pinnacle of the world. 8,848 meters seemed some inches away. It was quite an achievement. I could finally smile with the snow eaten lips. No, they didn’t hurt but gave me the impression of a true achiever. As I reached the apex of the globe, the first word I yelled was ‘EVEREST.’ Yes, Mt. Everest. I did it when the rest of the world doubted in me. Hell yeah, I was on cloud nine and it felt exceptional. I closed my eyes in unimpeachable satisfaction. All I heard was my best song (you raise me up) playing in the background. ‘You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains’, was what one of the lines said which was very exact there. That was quite a moment. I opened my eyes.
‘Gosh!’ I screamed. I was in bed and that very song was set by me as an alarm on my iPod. Aw! My dreams shattered into pieces in just a jiffy. I sneered at myself.
‘5:00 AM, time to jog ’, I suggested my inner me. Within fifteen minutes I was all ready to dance down the muddy lanes of Kathmandu. Wearing the black tracksuit, I observed myself in the mirror. Ignoring the pimples at my cheek, I rated myself. In the meanwhile, the reflection on the mirror was smiling. (Well, positivity does the trick so easily, doesn’t it?)
Jabbing the earphone in my both ears connected to the iPod at the other end, I lurched towards the park. My pair of Nike shoes produced a hop hop sound every time I landed on them. In no time, my lungs started to swell and I felt like the world was going to culminate. I remembered my dream where I scaled the highest cliff of the earth. I laughed. ‘Mount Everest, huh?’ I asked myself. With this stamina, I would climb the Everest when pigs could fly.
I must have covered halfway to the park when the 30 minutes long Tibetan music came to an end in my iPod. Next Tibetan music started when I crossed the holy temple of Lord Shiva at my left. The rain overnight had made the paths muddy and I could also see a number of small water pools in between the concrete roads of Kathmandu. ‘Development’, I threw a sarcastic smile and continued to jog as the crows flew. The music in my iPod was still at its best where the Tibetan people were hymning ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’ in a mellifluous tone. It sure was soothing.
‘Pathetic’, I squeezed my nose when I reached the bridge of holy river Bagmati which flowed at the heart of Kathmandu. And possibly each passer had the same reaction unless he was hit by the common cold. In a great velocity, I left behind the river where green water flowed. Was that even water? Was that even a river? I pondered. I would have called it ‘drainage’.
Despite the negatives, Kathmandu is not an ugly city at all. The city has a rich history of nearly 2000 years and enjoys a cosmopolitan culture as Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other religious believers also live here. The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal surrounded by four major mountains, namely: Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Nepali is the common language of the city, though many speak the Nepal Bhasa Newari as it is the center of the Newar (meaning: citizens of Nepal) people and culture. English and Hindi are understood by all of the educated population of the city. Besides, a significant number of the population speaks any of the foreign languages like French, German, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean and so on.
The literacy rate is 98% in the city which is pretty impressive compared to the 53.7% of the whole country. The other integral part of the Kathmandu is its cultural heritage. UNESCO has recognized all the monuments of Kathmandu valley as “Kathmandu valley- UNESCO World Heritage Site” making it one of the hottest tourist destinations of the world. Furthermore, the history of Kathmandu dates back to the ancient times. Archaeological explorations indicate that Kathmandu is one of the oldest towns and is traced to the period between 167 BC and 1 AD. ‘Only the unplanned urbanization ruined my city’, I assumed as I jogged closer to the Park I was heading for. By then, other two older joggers were following me to the same destination but they were on the merry conversation of mocking the politicians of Nepal. Well, to be honest, our politicians deserved a nice kick at their butts.
‘Only these selfish, egocentric politicians robbed the charm of this Nation, this city’, one of them said. I silently backed his line.
Kathmandu is the lovely city named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kasthamandap. In Sanskrit, Kastha (काष्ठ) is “wood” and Mandap (मंडप/मण्डप) is “covered shelter.” This unique temple, also known as Maru Sthal, was built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The entire structure contains no iron nails or supports and is made entirely from wood. Legend has it that the timber used for this two-story pagoda was obtained from a single tree. Kathmandu is sometimes also called ‘Kantipur’ “कान्तिपुर“. “Kanti” is an alternate name of the Goddess Lakshmi, and “pur” means the place where such a goddess resides. Thus, the name Kantipur demonstrates the ancient belief that it is the place where Lakshmi dwells. No wonder why people were angered when the city with that sort of history and charm was under the weather. “This place could have been heaven, had the politicians introduced some wonderful plans’’, another man behind me made no bones about saying that.
It took me two Tibetan songs each of 30 minutes each to reach the park. As usual, the park was packed with youths to olds. Youths believed in physical exercise like pushups, pull ups, stretching and so on while olds were more to meditation and yoga stuff. Every morning a particular group of olds forced a laughter which they called ‘laughter therapy’. Even though without the certain reason, they forced themselves to laugh by throwing their hands upward each time following the loud laughter they made. Sometimes the laughter seemed so unnatural and irritating that I imagined them as a herd of goats bleating together. Having said that, I couldn’t deny that the laughter surely did the trick in their aging life.
As habitual I headed towards the corner of the park to relish some serenity with nature. To my amazement, there was already somebody else doing the yoga stuff, unlike other days.
‘Beautiful’, I whispered and kept gaping at her.
What did I see was a striking girl of early 20s who was lost in her world of yoga. Her eyes were closed and who would have missed this golden chance to stare at an angelic charm from head to the toe? I kept gawking.
Her stretching, her slow breaths, her lovely ponytailed hair, perfect figure and a charismatic face had already lured me. Her grey colored T-shirt embraced her tightly from neck to the waist. What a lucky shirt, I said to myself. And the black trousers ran down to the knees. She bowed down unaware of the fact that I was staring her. I could notice the butterfly (tattoo) right at the back of the neck under the ponytail. I didn’t know when I started smiling.
“Excuse me”, she caught me smiling after she opened her eyes like a bolt from the blue. ‘May I help you?’ she asked.
I smiled more. Well, she didn’t know that she already had helped me to grin and enjoy this morning.
‘This is my place’ I told hurriedly. (My place? I cursed myself for saying that. Seriously, my place? What was I thinking?)
‘I thought this park was public’, she shot back.
Well, I was amazed by the response. I realized that I should really roll out the red carpet to impress her. It did not seem an easy task to be the cat’s whisker in her eyes.
‘I mean I usually sit here. And nobody seats here except me. I am almost alone in this part. No one really seats at this corner. So I was amazed to see you here.’ I corrected myself and tried hard to act decently.
She smiled. Now that was a real dilemma. (A girl’s smile is always confusing. It’s really hard to derive something from the smile of an unknown girl.)
‘Then, you can be here’, she said softly. ‘I haven’t occupied the whole realm.’