Two Stories

As a school going kid I was very bashful and quiet. My early days of schooling was spent in a very small school. I became even more shy when I transferred to a bigger school. I would find it so big that I would get lost on my way to class from the rest room. If I sauntered into the wrong corridor I’d have to say that I was a new student and I did not remember where I was going.

I would often leave the main ground of the school 10 minutes earlier after the lunch break in case I got lost and had trouble getting back. After 4 years, each minute detail would be imprinted in my mind but before those years were over, a million things would pass. 

Memory is a tricky thing, they say. We can distort and recreate memory of events that never happened. It’s not very reliable. Yet, a wave of memory hit me after almost a decade of leaving my school which I’d like to remember. The memory cue might have been a chat with two other friends who went to the same school, but none of us knew the other existed back then.

Back to the shy kid that I was.  I don’t know how I kept myself from bursting into tears the first few weeks of new school. I must have though, silently wanted to run away. Being the new kid is interesting in some way. All eyes on you. Everyone else is new too, so my eyes must have fallen into a huge state of confusion. The second thing we often asked each other after our names were our grades which is rather funny now that I think about it.

I was a major laggard in extra curricular activities. I had no clue what I could do apart from memorizing passages from books and finishing all my homework before I got home so that I could play Mario or stare at the TV with animax playing on it. I wasn’t good at art, music was okay, sports was a nightmare, and forget about public speaking. 

Whenever teachers came in to get in names for the inter school or inter house competition I raised my hand, in an alternate universe billions of light years away. I wanted to raise my hand in the universe I lived, but I lacked the courage to do so. It was all inside my head.

Fast forward to a few years later, I don’t remember when or how, one day a news about a story writing competition arrived. The visions are a little blurred, was it a teacher who suggested my name or did I finally muster the courage to raise my hand, I don’t recall. But I found myself as one of the participants from my school.

For a moment it felt cool. Back then it was a big deal. Imagine what would happen if I won, I kept telling myself. My name would be called at the morning assembly and I would walk out of the hustling mass of students wearing maroon and white to get my certificate. What a splendid sight it would be!

I think I heard one of the teachers telling me to write a story sample. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had no idea what the organizers were looking for, but I wrote and wrote some more in royal blue ink. I continue to write in royal blue ink even today, and I still can’t seem to figure out who wants what.

I must say the story back then was a carbon copy of the Barbie movies I had been accustomed to. I had grown to admire the stories in the series. I found it magical. I thought I was creating magic.

For some unknown reason I always felt nervous walking into the staff room of teachers. But on this occasion I had to find the teacher who had asked me to write the story. I climbed many flights of stairs to reach the top floor and in my squeaky little voice I said, “May I come in Sir.”

To my dismay, the teacher I was looking for was not there. There was somebody else though. Normally, my mouth would have run dry and the words would have died out half way through my lungs, but I had to tell who I was looking for.

I had already written two stories, I told the teacher there. I was a participant for the story writing competition. Not much was said. The teacher asked me my name and I slowly exited the room. I walked down the stairs, feeling a little miserable with each step.

I never heard from the teacher I was intending to speak that day and I never enquired about it ever again. May be I should have gone back the next day, or the next week. In my over excitement I had written two stories that did not make much sense. There was no prize. There were only Two Stories. 

While I sure felt miserable that time, I do not remember feeling really sad about not being able to participate. I had two stories, and my friends loved it. We would go on to talk about it for many years. They would say I would write a story, I would write it. My best friend even told me that she’d publish it if I didn’t. Guess as children we love to believe in big things!

Perhaps I’ll find the two stories hiding in my bookshelf someday or they could be completely lost now, thrown away or burnt down. But they were the reason I managed to have a brief conversation without falling apart of nervousness. They were the reason I wrote in excitement, they were the reason I thought I could create magic. My friends believed in me. And that was cool. That is cool.

And I thank everyone who read the carbon copy of the Barbie stories I wrote to the ones who read writings I publish on my little blog every now and then; my little cousins who tell me I should become a writer when I grow up.

Thank you for joining me in this journey. And a new destination awaits!

Alfa

 

The Joy of Art

Put these tears into words

And you shall be invincible.

Summon your most prized valorous knight,

Summon your inner most demons,

The untold characters jumping inside your head.

Lead them through their journeys,

While you go through your own voyage.

Weave your secret dreams, and cut them,

Because that is the only way you may learn.

Art is not just about reality,

It goes beyond any realm any creature

Has ever seen,

Only those who have been there

Have known its joy.

 

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: 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

 

30 Minutes of Traveling: Three Rupees

Whenever I do have to get on the micro bus, I try to get on one behind the driver’s seat. I’m not quite the fan of going against the motion, but this uneasiness keeps me from falling asleep, forcing me to look at the number of jammed people inside the vehicle.

The scenery looks different when you are seated inside a public transportation;  the torn seat cover with the foam popping outside from inside, people getting in on every stop (or just anywhere!) and the conductor trying to persuade them about the availability of space.

The bus stopped at Kupondole, just before the Bagmati Bridge. The seats were almost filled, but no one was standing just now. The conductor slid the door open and called on two girls by the road to get in.

Cha didi cha,’ he said. They declined. He tried one more time. They marched ahead.

There were mostly students today inside the bus, with or without their trademark uniforms. A girl of perhaps fifteen was seated in front of me. She stared out of the window conscious of my gaze. I tried to divert my eyes, but her innocence kept my thoughts concentrated over her presence. How beautiful is childhood without the touch of the pompous world. What does she worry about? What are her dreams? Will she conquer the world someday? She gets off somewhere between Jwagal and Pulchowk. And there goes my thought along with her!

A middle aged lady in pink kurta signals that she will be getting off somewhere at Dumkal while she tried to search whatever change that remained in her cream colored bag. She abruptly handed over Rs. 15 to the conductor.

Athara ho didi,’ he said sharply.

The debate for the missing three rupee began. The lady claimed to have always traveled this particular destination on fifteen while the conductor boy was adamant that the price had been hiked. She complained that three is rather an awkward change to carry.

The boy exclaimed that public transportation users were selfish. Here beings classism and antagonism.

If the fare had been Rs. 16 instead of Rs. 18, no one would hand in the extra Rs. 1 that was needed (10+5+1!), he says.

The conversation was heated up by now. Their voices filled the bus, capturing the attention of all inside. She said with mistrust that working class people were cheats. She said this not in words, but merely through her voice. May be they represented the people in and out, and may be it was just a normal conversation of the passing day. She finally got down.

Luckily I got my student ID, but well for how long? Let’s worry about that another day, OK?


This May let me take you through the streets of Kathmandu, and my thoughts that travel along with them. Don’t forget to let me know what you think about these stories. If you have a story, don’t forget to share! 

30 Minutes of Traveling

Alfa