Musk, sacred fire and ‘Three Cups of Tea’

(November 2nd, 2011)

To attempt to use a map in Kathmandu is not only completely useless, but also highly annoying. You never get on the right street; or at least, I don’t. So I get lost on my way to Thamel supermarket. I reach the bus stop where we arrived yesterday coming from the temple, and I realize I am far, far away, and have no idea which direction to take. Oh, yes, there is one. Going back on the same street I came. I take a riksha: a perfect moment for this one trip I wanted to take, anyway. It’s incredible how they manage to drive in this city. You have to picture cars, bicycles, motorbikes, richas and people going in all directions, all the time. Literally, all directions, all the time. And the horns!! You stop, and you’ve done the biggest mistake possible. It doesn’t matter a car passes you by at a ten centimeters distance, a bike comes from the front and wants to take the space between you and the car, a motorbike has turned the front wheel just an inch in the back of the car, so doesn’t bump into it, there are two women who leave hold of their hands so they take the right and left sides of the same bicycle who’s almost between your feet right now. You simply don’t stop. Nobody does.

Needless to say I am happy with my ride. I just need to buy one more thing before I stop at DHL. Simply picturesque! There is a very small office with a table, a chair and a computer in the back of a shop that sells wool caps; but I am invited upstairs.  A space that looks exactly like a living room: a big leather couch, an armchair, I think there was, a massive wooden desk, but a mechanic, rusted scale. I pack my gifts, I write the transport documents myself and I of course I argue: not because I have argued here as I haven’t argued ever in my life before about the prices, but because the guy gives me the cost one half a kilo up the scale. I will not forget these two shipments I’ve made here, as a customer this time.

Done, happy and so ready for the books store! Of course I only find it after a few turns back and forth and a few small talks with the riksha drivers who all want to give me a ride. I am sure I look lost, and I am a bit tired and anxious to reach the shelves. I can spend hours and hours in a book store, and the books are the only thing I never look in my pocket when I pay for. I LOVE being in a books store, This one is really good. You can find anything you can, and cannot imagine: fiction, autobiographies, history, poetry, philosophy, religion; Nepali and Indian writers you haven’t heard of, Elisabeth Gilbert with hers Eat, Pray Love and Committed , Stephen Covey with his The 7 Habits of Most Effective People, Dalai Lama, of course. Zen, meditation, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam; Tagore and Nitsche, if you wish, and books for children. I buy only seven … but well, five are mines, one is for Pramila, one is for Dipika. They’re spread on my bed right now, on my table … I still have three more I took from Pramila’s library. I am here two months still, and I hope I can read them all.

The scented sticks and the refrigerator magnets for my uncle (ha, I found them!), are the last things I buy. I pay, I take my books and I already smell the coffee I am just about to have on the terrace of the Pilgrims’s restaurant. Hot strong black coffee, milk, hot rice pudding, two cigarettes, a terrace full of flowers and Nepali lunge music sounds, and a bag full of books. Delight.

I don’t care about the time, not yet. This week is still completely mine. Mine to get lost in the noisy streets, mine to absorb the brightest colors I have ever seen and let them change forever the way I dress, mine to sit in the backyard terraces of Kathmandu with a cup of coffee and a plate of Tibetan bread in the late mornings. Mine to remember, to write, to dream, to say thank you, to fall in love.


About Madalina Serban

I love children. I love the sea. I love dancing. I love writing. And I love a man who makes me laugh.


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