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: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu #3

1993: 2003

1993

Rushing to college, every morning Monday through Friday, walking fast towards the slightly moving bus at Patan Dhoka. The closer I get, the faster it moves. Finally the conductor makes this unique bang at the door and sends signal to the driver to stop.
I get on the bus, no signs of seat so I stand holding on to the top metal bar with approximately six inches of gap with people next to me.I try my best not to be sandwiched between the crowd during the stop-motion jerk. Somehow the conductor manages to slither through the crowd. I hear the clickety-clack noise coming from the coins. The conductor’s hand is full of coins and ticket. He is moving his hand in a unique way to produce that noise which is a signal to pay the fare.

I tell him, ‘Not right now, let me find a seat or I will pay you when I get off.’

2003

On my way to my first job, Mundelein Bus stop, Chicago, IL. I get to the bus stop 10 minutes early, the bus arrives with the display of routes in the front. Automatic door opens, I get on the bus with no struggle. After climbing two steps, I exchange greetings with the driver while I slide a dollar bill into the machine next to the driver’s seat.
Then in an air conditioned bus, I see the privileged handicapped seating. I walked little further and get a seat near the window. I admire the view outside while I hear the automatic announcement of next stop.

Memories went flooding back 10 years, Oh where is the clickety- clack music and the Big Bang signal on the door? Where is that stop-motion jerk that alerted me from being sandwiched? Oh it’s only in my memories now. My stop arrives and I pull the string above my seat which signals the driver to stop. I get off the bus.

What a transition of transportation!

-Sarana Shrestha Parajuli


एकजना आमाले भन्नु भयो- “बाबु, यस्तो च्यातेको पाइन्ट किन लगा’को?”

अनि खलासी दाईको गुनासो- “मैले यो च्यातेको पाइन्ट लाउँदा ट्यापे भन्छन्,यहि पाइन्ट केटीले लायो भने हट भन्छन्। केटा हुन नि सार्‍है गार्‍हो छ।”

-Rojina Shrestha


Bhada Vs. Bhada

A curious little girl along with her father got inside the bus. They sat behind me. Her innocence stole my heart. She became a reason for my smile. Her fascination towards the things happening around left me dumbstruck. She gazed around and bombarded her farther with questions. She sang all the rhymes her teacher had taught her. Her mother tried hard to make her daughter stop talking, to keep her little girl from being the center of attention. But the girl didn’t fail to clear all her doubts.

As their stop arrived the conductor asked her farther for money ‘Bhada’(bus fare).

She immediately said, ‘Baba bhada ta kotha ma huncha yo dai lae kina mangi ra ko?

As they got down her farther answered her question and handed over the bus fare. The little girl proved to be different from all of us inside. She ignited enthusiasm to keep learning.

-Sefali Agrawal


Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s 31st May and the last chapters for 30 Minutes of Traveling (for now of course!) has arrived. Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude towards everyone who read, followed and put their time to write and share their travel stories. 

I hope you enjoyed reading, reflected your good and bad times on the road inside the people packed buses. May be you got lucky with the window seat, may be you offered your seat for the elderly, and may be sometimes felt like the tuna inside the sandwich! 

They are but memories now, once the moment goes by, even after a fraction of time. 

Till then keep traveling, keep living, keep giving, keep writing, keep sharing the stories ignited inside the flames of your hearts!

Alfa

30 Minutes of Traveling: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu #2

Variety of People

It is really amazing that we rarely observe the people we travel with.  I often look at the passengers boarding the bus. Most of the people I notice are in a hurry. Sometimes their faces vividly show their inner tension.

I notice many, while a few draw my attention.

A woman in her 60s is screaming at the young man to leave the “mahila seat” for her, but the young man wouldn’t go down without a fight. There is a Grand Pa who is kind and tries to converse with every inside the bus, a few teenage girls who are self-conscious about their looks and the dress.

Bus rides on the same route can be boring so I always try to get the window seat so I can enjoy the view and watch the people on the road. As I look out of the window I see a young man who is speeding his bike, not bothered about anything coming his way.

I enjoy the laughter of school kids the most. Their faces are the brightest.

-Sushaili Pradhan


A Day to Day Chaotic Beauty

It is 9:00 AM on a Monday morning as I stand at the bus stop waiting for Annapurna Tempo to go to college. Annapurna is the only tempo that gets me to college without the need to change vehicle in between. It usually arrives at an interval of 15 to 20 minutes. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and get myself ready for the day. It has been 10 minutes already that I have been standing, waiting, tired of the assignments due last evening.

I look around the place and I see ‘busy bees’ humming all over the place. Everyone has somewhere to reach, something to do and everyone is in a hurry. A bunch of people are waiting for vehicles to reach their destinations. Most of them are middle aged women chattering and laughing among themselves. I wish I knew what they laughed about.  An almost full tempo arrived; people stopped talking and began the ‘struggle for the seat’. They do not care about who might be watching, they do not mind if they step over someone’s foot and they do not even bother to apologize. More people are cramming themselves inside the small tempo. The scenario is displeasing.

Amidst the crowd I notice a boy of about five or six. I see something pink in his hand; I guess it is a set of fancy erasers. He is curiously observing his possession. A man is holding his hand, probably his father. With the look on his face, I assume his mind is occupied by bills to be paid, his salary date, school fees, monthly expenses, his pending tasks at office, his wife at home, and such or maybe not. What is troubling him? He has not left hand of his son all this time, but he is not looking at him either.

It is 9:20 AM and there is no sign of the Annapurna tempo. I take a tempo to Gaushala and from there I will have to take another bus to college. The struggle for the day begins for me as well.

-Riju Joshi


The Nepali Way

There’s the right way, the wrong way and the Nepali way. The slang/jargon “chalxa nepal maa” is so famous that it almost seems like we are growing into it. Most of the times it’s not about what’s right, but what’s acceptable.

On my way back sometime during May 14 in Jamal I could see a taxi and a tourist in a cycle. The cycle was on the left lane and the taxi had to take side. Without turning on the signal light, the person driving the taxi waved his hand out of the window and started cornering himself. The cycle was speeding in and the tourist started shouting “hey hey hey ” but alas he didn’t know the Nepali way and it was already far too late to stop the taxi. The tourist had to force brake his cycle.

I think he knew there was no talking through this (maybe this was something he had learned by now), so he just rolled his eyes and moved along.

-Aakriti Thakali


What can I say but utter two little words ‘Thank You’ to everyone who stopped by, read and also shared their stories. Stories on the streets have a different taste to them. Sometimes they shown us the irony of our culture, other times remind us of the beauty in life, other time they just happen like a state of time. 

This May let met take you through the streets of Kathmandu through this little project. 

Read more of 30 Minutes of Traveling:

Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu

That Piece of Metal

Three Rupees

Alfa

 

 

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