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 

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