Every Dashain, Kathmandu empties out. The skies open up to a brief blue as it breathes–no longer choked by dust and smoke. You can hear each metallic shutter of every shop grate down to loud bang at a padlock: closed for the holidays. When you walk down a street, you realise that you can actually be heard moving about this city. Your steps hold a rhythm against the squeals of boys and girls flying kites, killing kites, finding kites, learning the ropes. Suddenly, it feels natural to smile to strangers and they smile back at you.
Or so they say.
Although I visit home every year, I haven’t been back for Dashain for 11 years. This will be my 12th. I have forgotten what the air feels like, what the city sounds like– all I can do is work from memory, which now plays itself in a cliched-repetitive manner. I borrow words from others. I ask my mother to hold the receiver outside our window. None of it works.
But last weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down in front of my computer in my small New York apartment and collecting stories from friends who are expert storytellers and writers. I had the pleasure of reading their words, moulding them, sitting in them, sleeping in them, eating in them.
That weekend, I didn’t get out of my pajamas.
That weekend, I travelled back home to Kathmandu for 48 hours.
I started from Kupondole, went to Jawalakhel, then straight across to Chakrapath, then I took a mini-pilgrimage to Pashupati, cycled to Baneshwar, then to Thamel, hopped on a rickshaw to Basantapur and ended up back in Ason. The marrow of this town.
GalliSallih would not have come to life had it not been for the writers and storytellers who believed in it enough to share parts of them. Make their most forgotten, hidden or sacred memories so public.
Here’s to the writers. Here’s to the stories. Here’s to Kathmandu.
Nepali Times: Dashain Special
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