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.

Flavors of Failure

I looked at my first story submission rejection email. And I smiled. And I rejoiced. And I am totally sane.

So much of the world is a perception that has been filled in our heads, first by the society and then by our experiences. There are subjects we think we can feel or expect to feel because we have been told about them. And while these descriptions are often true, the way we truly feel is something only we can uncover.

“You’ll never know unless you have your own kids.” “You’ll never know till you start earning.”

We are often reminded. Because it is an experience reserved only for us.

And there are many experiences we never have, all of them we cannot have. We operate solely under the circumstances of bounded rationality. We suffice most of the time. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Human lives are about sufficing, that is what makes it every bit interesting.

Then what about failure? What about the volcanic outcry of pain that precedes failure? Or so we are told.

If we evaluated failure as a concept, as a word that simply means not being able to attain a goal and isolate all emotional feelings, who is to say it will be bitter? May be you’d find it sweeter? or salty? or 132 other adjectives that strike your head- positive, negative and neutral.

I had failed. And I am surprised it did not bring me down, like it normally should have. I could have been distracted in the middle of an examination or a pile of spammed mail that had almost eaten up a rather important one. There could have been 302 other variables that jumped and played inside my head. But I have isolated much of these extraneous elements to realize that I was actually delighted to fail in that moment.

When little children fall down and hurt themselves, right before they begin to cry from the burning pain inside, our elders pounce in and say “you’ll be taller now”. A wound on my leg meant I’d grow taller, a leg ache meant I’d be one inch closer to the stars.

Of course none of us grew in direct proportion to all these folklores, but it kept us from crying and falling apart so many times. Falling flat on the ground did not need to hurt, it could mean something good. We saw for the first time that what we felt at the moment necessarily did not need to hold the same results, and vice versa.

Then why have we come to dread failure as a monster bought to life right from the frankenstein movie? Why haven’t we told ourselves, that it could be something very different from what we’re feeling?

Stephen King failed. And he cherished his rejections. The day when his novel Carrie credited his bank accounts with $200,000, he was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room receiving the phone call that would change his life, at least financially. But he was always a writer at heart, nothing changes that, not his early rejections, neither the $200 short short stories he wrote to breakeven or the millions that followed. It was his book, On Writing, that challenged me to look at writing and failure rather differently. Combined with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I’d just discovered paradise.

If you’ve just tasted a hot pepper and can’t seem to handle it, run for the sweets! If you’ve hit rejection, run towards improvement and learning. It is the taste of the final delicacy that lingers on your tastebuds.

These are all a set of concepts that run down our heads, and yet when it boils down to failure we see of it as something much beyond the parameters of a simple concept. We’ve been told it hurts, we’ve been directed to fear and punishing ourselves. Certainly, feel the emotions, but don’t let them eat you up.

We’ve always been told, it’s bitter, perhaps it is time to discover our own unique flavors.

This is the first flavor I have discovered with my conscious mind, that failure can be more than bitter images and hurtful emotions. I am convinced there are more to come. I’d like to cherish my writing rejection, by simply writing more. There’s nothing more appropriate to do.

Now, a rejected but ever hopeful writer,

Alfa


Photograph of the sky of Kamalanagar, Sindhuli, captured from the bus park as a bunch of balloons from a near by street vendor flew right across.

The Sphere: A Perspective

The circle is a beautiful geometrical figure. No edges. Smooth.

Expand it, give it a volume. One of many things it may become is a sphere.

The planets are sphere, so are the stars that we sing about at nights. Our world is a sphere; a circular figure expanded to include life.

Life is a sphere. We reside inside a sphere. Sometimes its easy to get lost inside of it, other times we’d just walk out of it into the vast vacuum of the universe, filled with matters of all kinds, discovered and undiscovered.

You could be happy inside the sphere. Who says there’s nothing inside of it. From the minute grain of sand to the vast endless blue waters. Your body is a sphere, my body is a sphere. Our boundaries make us a sphere.

If you’d like to stay inside the sphere, like sometimes I do, stay in it. Perhaps, you like the secure feeling of the walls, like I do. If you want to break the walls apart, like I do one piece at a time, cross them over. If you’d be happy, be happy.

It’s all in the eye. While I have come to believe that the eye is one of the most deceiving organs we know that makes us forget about the grey matter inside the cranium, and the beating instrument placed inside the ribs, but aren’t the eyes also a gateway to a person’s soul? Perhaps its deceiving nature has to do with the fact that it should not be easy to break into a person’s soul with so much ease.

It’s all in the eye. The sphere whose shadows I have failed to shade.

I’ve sometimes thought it is in the hands of the artist to be able to draw the fine lines of a person’s face or the shadows of the mighty mountains, breathing life through a perspective, through the wand of a paintbrush or a broken pencil.

Take the sphere I’ve drawn.

I do not know how to draw but I am always awestruck by the magnificence of the ones who portray reality and beyond through sheets of paper, meticulously using their hands. If I were to enter an art class, I’d be that outgrown kid who doesn’t understand shades, but then again who’s not a kid. And finally one fine day, I decided to be that kid, again.

One fine day.

To be a novice, to not know the technicalities, to pester a friend to help you, to stare hungrily at your peers’ work (as if they were a cream doughnut!). To look at an object like never before. I often said, I cannot draw a potato, and turns out I am not wrong. Potato! You’re a challenge.

It’s all in the eye, the magic, the deception or any other adjective you’d like to name it. To be able to see the darker shades, the brighter ones, the shining ones, like a story in progress. To depict reality and how it acts, to fuse imagination. It is all in the eye.

To be somehow able to predict the future by feeling the texture of the paper in front of you, with nothing but sheer practice. That is how I learnt to see an artist, as I tried to be a kid again, through a sphere and its shades.

While some draw its fine shadows, I am lost in the vast perspective of a round object. 


Thanks to Subina Shrestha for helping me draw The Sphere. 

A Starry-eyed Writer,

Alfa