I was nearly there at the pinnacle of the world. 8,848 meters seemed some inches away. It was quite an achievement. I could finally smile with the snow eaten lips. No they didn’t hurt but gave me the impression of a true achiever. As I reached the apex of the globe, the first word I yelled was ‘EVEREST.’ Yes, Mt. Everest. I did it when the rest of the world doubted in me. Hell yeah, I was on cloud nine and it felt exceptional. I closed my eyes in unimpeachable satisfaction. All I heard was my best song (you raise me up) playing in the background. ‘You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains’, was what one of the lines said which was very exact there. That was quite a moment. I opened my eyes.
‘Gosh!’ I screamed. I was in bed and that very song was set by me as an alarm in my iPod. Aw! My dreams shattered in pieces in just a jiffy. I sneered at myself.
‘5:00 AM, time to jog my friend’, I suggested my inner me. Within fifteen minutes I was all ready to dance down the muddy lanes of Kathmandu. Dressed in a black track suit, I observed myself at the mirror. ‘You look good, sir.’ Ignoring the pimples at my cheek, I rated myself. In the meanwhile, the reflection on the mirror was smiling. (Well, positivity does the trick so easily, doesn’t it?)
Jabbing the earphone in my both ears connected to the iPod at the other end, I lurched towards the park. My pair of Nike shoes produced a hop-hop sound every time I landed on them. In no time, my lungs started to swell and I felt like the world was going to culminate. I remembered my dream where I scaled the highest cliff of the earth. I laughed. ‘Mount Everest, huh?’ I asked to myself. With this stamina, I would climb the Everest when pigs could fly.
I must have covered halfway to the park when the 30 minutes long Tibetan music came to an end in my iPod. Next Tibetan music started when I crossed the holy temple of Lord Shiva at my left. The rain overnight had made the paths muddy and I could also see a number of small water pools in between the concrete roads of Kathmandu. ‘Wow! Development’, I threw a sarcastic smile and continued to jog as the crows fly. The music in my iPod was still at its best where the Tibetan people were hymning ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’ in a mellifluous tone. It sure was soothing.
‘Pathetic’, I squeezed my nose when I reached the bridge of holy river Bagmati which flowed at the heart of Kathmandu. And possibly each passer had the same reaction unless he was hit by the common cold. In a great velocity, I left behind the river where green water flowed. Was that even water? Was that even a river? I pondered. I would have called it ‘drainage’.
Despite the negatives, Kathmandu is not an ugly city at all. The city has rich history of nearly 2000 years and enjoys a cosmopolitan culture as Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other religious believers also live here. The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal surrounded by four major mountains, namely: Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri. Nepali is the common language of the city, though many speak the Nepal Bhasa Newari as it is the center of the Newar (meaning: citizens of Nepal) people and culture. English and Hindi are understood by all of the educated population of the city. Besides, a significant number of the population speaks any of the foreign languages like: French, German, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean and so on. The literacy rate is 98% in the city which is pretty impressive compared to the 53.7% of the whole country. The other integral part of the Kathmandu is its cultural heritage. UNESCO has recognized all the monuments of Kathmandu valley as “Kathmandu valley- UNESCO World heritage Site” making it one of the hottest tourist destinations of the world. Furthermore, the history of Kathmandu dates back to the ancient times. Archaeological explorations indicate that Kathmandu is one of the oldest towns and is traced to the period between 167 BC and 1 AD.
‘Only the unplanned urbanization ruined my city’, I assumed as I jogged closer to the Park I was heading for. By then, other two older joggers were following me to the same destination but they were on the merry conversation of mocking the politicians of Nepal. Well to be honest, our politicians deserved a nice kick at their butts.
‘Only these selfish, egocentric politicians robbed the charm of this Nation, this city’, one of them said. I silently backed his line.
Kathmandu is the lovely city named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kasthamandap. In Sanskrit, Kastha (काष्ठ) is "wood" and Mandap (मंडप/मण्डप) is "covered shelter." This unique temple, also known as Maru Sthal, was built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The entire structure contains no iron nails or supports and is made entirely from wood. Legend has it that the timber used for this two-story pagoda was obtained from a single tree. Kathmandu is sometimes also called ‘Kantipur’ "कान्तिपुर". "Kanti" is an alternate name of the Goddess Lakshmi, and "pur" means the place where such a goddess resides. Thus, the name Kantipur demonstrates the ancient belief that it is the place where Lakshmi dwells. No wonder why people were angered when the city with that sort of history and charm was under the weather. “This place could have been heaven, had the politicians introduced some wonderful plans’’, another man behind me made no bones about saying that.
It took me two Tibetan songs each of 30 minutes each to reach the park. As usual the park was packed with youths to olds. Youths believed in physical exercise like pushups, pull ups, stretching and so on while olds were more to meditation and yoga stuffs. Every morning a particular group of olds forced a laughter which they called ‘laughter therapy’. Even though without the certain reason, they forced themselves to laugh by throwing their hands upward each time following the loud laughter they made. Sometimes the laughter seemed so unnatural and irritating that I imagined them as a herd of goats bleating together. Having said that, I couldn’t deny that the laughter surely did the trick in their ageing life.
As habitual I headed towards the corner of the park to relish some serenity with the nature. To my amazement, there was already somebody else doing the yoga stuff unlike other days.
‘Beautiful’, I whispered and kept gaping at her.
What did I see was a striking girl of early 20s who was lost in her world of yoga. Her eyes were closed and who would have missed this golden chance to stare an angelic charm from head to the toe? I kept gawking.
Her stretching, her slow breathes, her lovely pony tailed hair, perfect figure and a charismatic face had already lured me. Her grey colored T-shirt embraced her tightly from neck to the waist. What a lucky shirt, I said to myself. And the black trousers ran down to the knees. She bowed down unaware of the fact that I was staring her. I could notice the butterfly (tattoo) right at the back of the neck under the pony tail. I didn’t know when I started smiling.
“Excuse me”, she caught me smiling after she opened her eyes like a bolt from the blue. ‘May I help you?’ she asked.
I smiled more. Well, she didn’t know that she already had helped me to grin and enjoy this morning.
‘This is my place’ I told hurriedly. (My place? I cursed myself for saying that. Seriously, my place? What was I thinking?)
‘I thought this park was public’, she shot back.
Well I was amazed by the response. I realized that I should really roll out the red carpet to impress her. It did not seem an easy task to be the cat’s whisker in her eyes.
‘I mean I usually sit here. And nobody seats here except me. I am almost alone in this part. No one really seats at this corner. So I was amazed to see you here.’ I corrected myself and tried hard to act decent.
She smiled. Now that was a real dilemma. (A girl’s smile is always confusing. It’s really hard to derive something from the smile of an unknown girl.)
‘Then, you can be here’, she said softly. ‘I haven’t occupied the whole realm.’
What?? An invitation to join her? Seriously. Her? I was dazzled. A beautiful girl in the public park invites you to join her. Who wants to say no?
I nodded and seated some meters away from her mat. But I could not stop myself from ogling her. Big eyes, perfect lips, slender body and magnificent smile. Earnestly I, in no time, made her the mother of my children in no time in my imagination. But damn it! Why the hell did the reality seem as stressful as the typical Nepali movie?
I wanted to make the first move. But I didn’t want to have a go with a full-steam ahead. So I checked my breath. I was not convinced. I checked again. Not bad but not great though. I cursed myself for not brushing my teeth in a good manner earlier this morning. If only I didn’t expend my time on that stupid facebook status, I would have had a great breath here and a confidence to win her heart within a flick of hand. Why did Mark Zuckerberg create that stupid facebook? I waste my precious time there just to update the stupid imaginary romantic statuses with a motive to attract the girls of my age and get more ‘likes’ and ‘comments’.
‘And here is the wonderful girl I’ve ever seen and I don’t smell good. Great!’ I thought to myself, disappointed.
I was muddled. Should I initiate the conversation? Should I not? The only thing I was sure of was my condition. I was clean bowled by her charm.
‘Are you new to this town? I have never seen you before.’ I asked as if I knew every girl of the town. Nevertheless, I managed to start the conversation and I was proud of my guts.
She didn’t reply that soon. And she didn’t throw a look towards me either. My heart started to pound. I thought I was too hasty or I reckoned that was not the best way to start the conversation. Her facial expression was not great either. But she remained quiet. Was that the lull before the storm? I feared.
Broking the silence, she managed to speak, ’yah! I am.’ She replied with a faint smile making me feel better.
‘I bet you have not visited this town then.’ I started to get better. ‘You know I’m free whole day’
She gave me a surprised look but she could not avert herself from stretching the corner of her lips. I felt heaven guessing what would come after. So I continued, ‘well then, we’ll meet outside the park at?’ I paused to make her say the time.
She remained soundless giving me a mini-heart attack. I waited for her reply eyeing every move of her. Her lump of hair slid down the head and tickled her front part of the neck. Subsequently, she moved it back hooking it behind the ears. She turned to me. Finally, I was relieved.
‘I hardly know you and this place. What makes you think I’ll happily go out with you for a lunch?’ She queried.
‘Oh! So you want to have lunch with me? Okay, that’s cool with me’, I smiled and waited the reaction.
‘Excuse me! When did I mention that?’ She quick fired.
‘Just now,’ I sounded cheeky. ‘I told you that I was free all day. I never told you the lunch stuff.’ (Well who would have missed this chance of showing how clever you are? Certainly not me)
She chuckled making me more lured to her.
‘Is that a yes?’ I raised my eyebrow.
‘Not that easy’, she managed to give another stroke to my heart.
‘First I should know my guide’s name,’ she winked at me. And that came straight as a bullet and pierced my heart.
‘How much will be the wage of the guide?’ I grinned. ‘Akash is an expensive guide, you know.’ I indirectly introduced myself. After the brief introduction of both of us, we departed with a vow to meet later at the day.
Arati and I agreed to meet outside the same park at 2 PM. And I was already at the place before half an hour. To my amazement, the same polluted Kathmandu seemed much beautiful than before. Well that proves ‘beauty is feeling good.’
After departing with Arati earlier on, I took half an hour longer than usual to bath; I brushed twice, and smiled thousand times by looking at the mirror. (One charming girl can rock you, there is no doubt). I had my breakfast real slow but still the clock seemed stuck. ‘Why does the time move slow when you are going to meet a gorgeous girl?’ I thought and logged onto the facebook. Unlike other days, I ignored all the notifications and straightly went on to update the status.
‘I am impatient. Wanna live that moment real soon’, I posted. Within a moment, my best friend left a comment ‘Good Luck Pal’ as if he knew what I was craving for. I neglected his comment and signed off. After checking thrice in the mirror, I set the foot out of the home and I reached the Park half an hour earlier.
The first time I saw Arati, I thought that there was not a dog’s chance to go out with her. But how wrong was I. I actually was waiting for her to lunch together. Though I knew I had to wait her till the cows come home, I was ecstatic to experience the sweet pain of waiting someone very special. I was little nervous so I thought of chilling out by thinking her smile. I closed my eyes.
‘Hello Akash!’, A very sweet voice called my name. I turned around and my jaw became wide open. Arati looked super gorgeous in one shoulder light yellow dress. She wore attractive earpieces which kissed her neck. She had let her hair loose, absolutely untied unlike morning, letting them embrace her from back. And most importantly, she wore a smile. The smile so natural that outcasted all the make-ups. She looked pretty.
‘Am I late?’ She asked raising her eyebrows.
‘Better late than never’, I grinned. ‘You look lovely, by the way.’
‘By the way, huh?’ She intentionally contracted her face.
‘Uh-huh’, I replied in short, stopping myself very hard as I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked. I just wanted to see her reaction.
‘You lie too bad’, she pinched me in my arm.
I beamed. I felt the sweet pain as that was the first contact that she made with my body. Well, not the exact kind of contact I’d yearned for but that was not too bad to start with. I’d love hundred pinches than no contact at all.
‘So where is my guide taking me today?’ she showed some concerns.
‘Any special place you want to visit, madam?’ I tried to impress her.
‘I’d like to eat first. I am really hungry’ came the reply.
‘Is there any Chinese restaurant around? I love Chinese,’ she revealed her taste.
‘Chinese?’ I thought to myself. ‘Chinese cuisine in Nepal costs an arm and a leg. Plus, it is not exactly a date to pay all by myself. I even don’t know if she is single or not. I would pay the bill happily but I’ll surely regret it later if she turns out to be in a relationship. That would be a formal robbing by her. What about a GTPS (Going together Paying Separate)? Well that won’t impress her either. Ah! What a situation, trapped either ways.’ I thought.
Okay I admit I asked her out; so literally, I got to pay the bill. But come on……
‘Any problem?’ She broke the silence forcing me to shut my imaginations.
‘No, let’s go. I will take you to the good place.’
I took her to the best Chinese Restaurant in the town. But to my amazement, the same Kathmandu seemed the best place on the earth when she was with me. The two well-dressed Chinese girls on the either side of the door bowed their heads joining their hands just to welcome us. There was no point on focusing their position as they were fully dressed from neck to the ankle. But I joined my hands and replied to their gestures. Arati smiled and I was wowed.
We selected the place with a road-view near the window. The window had no gorgeous scenes to offer than an irritating view of the packed road of Kathmandu. As we perched there, a Chinese guy with less hair in his face than a bald man’s head appeared with a menu and grinned two meters away from us. To be honest, he was hardly 25 and looked more handsome than me too (I got to admit it, unwantedly.) But who cared? I was the one with the stunning girl, not him.
‘You order’, I pushed the menu towards Arati. ‘I am not usual to these Chinese items.’
Perhaps she was stunned by my statement but she nodded and glanced the items listed in the menu. The Chinese waiter seemed ready to jot down the items. He waited with his pen’s cap open.
‘Two Orange juices. Fresh ones. Two Apple Dumplings with vanilla ice-cream and two Chinese noodles.’ She gave the order and that Chinese guy finally gave some privacy to us.
‘Dumpling?’ I asked back.
‘I bet you know dumpling. You have tasted it before. They are called Mo:Mo: here.’ She clarified.
‘Oh momo? I love it.’ I said to comfy her.
‘But you see, Apple Dumpling is special and can be eaten with ice-cream. I so much adore it.’ She licked her lips in imagination of ice-cream as she told about the apple dumpling. I got to admit that she looked sexy when she did that.
‘But God! Why do these girls adore chocolates and ice-creams so much? Sometimes I wonder if humans could marry ‘things’, most of the girls would probably marry chocolates or ice-creams. Nevertheless, that also reveals the weak part of the girls. Whenever we (boys) have to make them happy, we, without a second thought, can buy them a packet of chocolates or liters of ice-cream. That’s one of the easiest ways to get pinched in the cheeks or hugged tight.’ I said to myself.
‘Hmm, I think I should just observe you and even offer my apple dumpling to you because girls look prettier when they eat ice-cream.’ I flirted.
She giggled and bit her lips. I bet she looked the best at that very moment.
By then we were already having the cool sips of orange juice that the waiter brought when we were on the middle of the conversation. I, time and again, glanced at her and wished that she was single. She, in the meanwhile, played with her hair rubbernecking at the ugly streets. I noticed there was no ring on her fingers and I punched the air in delight on my imagination.
‘Here’s your Apple Dumpling with Vanilla ice-cream’, the young Chinese grinned.
‘Thank You’, she said smiling at him. (I could die infinite times just for the sake of that smile)
An apple dumpling was nothing but a pastry filled with apple, cinnamon and raisins mostly eaten with ice cream or in milk. Apples were peeled and cored, placed on a portion of dough, then filled with cinnamon and sugar. Then the dough was folded over the apples and the dumplings were baked until tender.
She was already in her favorite dumpling. She seemed to be enjoying that like she had missed it for ages. So I too took the spoon and had a go at it.
‘Akash?’ she called my name real sweet. (I realized how sweet your name sounds when the lovely girl calls you with all her tenderness) ‘Are you single?’
I nearly dropped my plate in quite amazement. I was surprised and stared at her with big eyes. The thing I couldn’t ask her was asked by her with ease. ‘Is this girl forward? Or is there any hidden power in that apple dumpling?’ I wondered. Heavens! I should have bitten the very dumpling first; I thought and remained quiet not blinking my eyes.
‘Akash? Akash? Where is your mind?’ She poked me. ‘Did you have to wait long?’ I am sorry, I am a bit late.’ She said to me.
‘What?’ I was startled. I was in front of the gate of that very Park where we met earlier. And all I did was dream of her. I glanced at my digital watch, 14:10 was the time and literally she was late to arrive. Mathematically, she was10 minutes late and my dream lasted for 40 minutes. I felt shy when I supposed what people have thought about me? ‘A new gate keeper of the park in good dress?’ I cursed myself for being a dreamer.
‘No. Not at all. Just in time’, I made her feel cozy and forced a smile though I was fucked up inside.
‘So sweet’, she smirked in the same typical girly way which I adored. This proved I was head over heels in love with her.
‘Let’s go then’ she pulled me and I followed her as if I were the new face of the town and she was my guide.