The Imprints of a Soul

(Part 3) Rebirth
Give me your hand,
The child whispered to me.
I’ll take you somewhere
Alive and free.
It was in those hands,
I saw the fate
Of awakening.
In those shimmering eyes,
I saw the life
that was calling.
A longing
to be.
Another chance,
you may call it.
The day it all began.

 

(Part 4) The End of the Beginning
I remember.
I remember the tears
behind the veil.
The cries
Of scales
Digging into my pink flesh.
The vultures arriving.
Talons and decay.
Nothing left.
‘One last breath,
I beg you.’
She cried.
And as she opened her eyes,
the madness died.
The vermillion pools of
Scarlet red.
Another stranger
she thought
was dead.
He said to her,
‘Believe in me
when the candle flickers,
behind the iron gate.’
‘Don’t let it fade away.’
‘Just wait.

The future is now

 

— Ashesh Maharjan
http://amaharjan.wordpress.com/ 

I’m not surprised, not at all. I knew all along that this day would come. I knew it right away, back in 2008. Well, I know it’s easy to boast about your ability to predict the future when the future is ‘now’ and nobody is really going to know if you really predicted it right. But it doesn’t matter at all, since it’s too late and nothing can be done. You have no choice but to walk all the way to your office, a few miles from here, and your home is a few miles in the opposite direction. This place, in Maitighar, used to be a busy traffic island. Now it’s a park. We come here to ease our poor legs, since they have been working all morning. I live in Lagankhel and work at the Bir Hospital in Sundhara and it’s a tough day.

Anyway, it’s 2048 A.D. and Kathmandu is a dark, cold city. It can hardly be called a city as there are no automobiles running on the street anymore, just a few ambulances pass by now and then. Ambulances don’t scream as they used to, because the road is all theirs now. We had a few of these things around till 2015, some distinctly rich could put up to ride till then. But the unfortunate ones wouldn’t tolerate them. I heard they flipped those cars and burnt them. Still, we see a few aeroplanes, since they are fueled elsewhere. But, aeroplanes are of not much use to us since there are only a few fortunate ones who can afford to get the hell out. Load shedding schedules were modified every six months or so, all the while lengthening the dark hours, till it stabilized about a decade ago. Since then we have had three hours of electricity a day, three days a week.

Television and music systems are no longer a part of daily life. The crime rate has gone up. People have been shifting from one alternative resource to other since. The owners of candle businesses, those with manual industries, and the few with land have become the wealthiest ones in our society. But they are no less anxious than you or I. They have their own aches to ease when it comes to transportation and efficiency. People have changed professions. Most of them are turning toward agriculture since people in the city are short of food and it’s quite impossible to transport food from elsewhere without fuel.

I used to believe that everything happens for good. Now I don’t. Since I work in a hospital, I’d observed some brighter sides of the crisis. Less people suffered from respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, congestion and a host of other different diseases pollution would bring. But that was only during the few years that followed the crisis. After a few more years, people poured in once again. A massive number of malnourished people came to us. With the abated food supply everything had started to become more expensive. The poor were the first to suffer miserably. People who studied at night in the candle light suffered all different kinds of defects in vision. Myopia, hypermetropia, purblindness to name a few. Every now and then we heard that an international agency had arrived to deliver aid, but it never happened. Or maybe the donation was never large enough to be noticed. Or maybe we had expected too much. Or it could be the same old story of dirty politics. Politicians- they never seem to back off. Not even in these desperate circumstances when we seem to be going backward.

When I was young, back in 2008, we had lots of vehicles around. Anyone older than their mid forties should be able to recall the dreamy scene back then when Ratnapark was just a few minutes drive from Lagankhel. Now, it’s a two hour walk on a day like today and an hour and a half when I’m in a hurry. Legs are the kings of the street, bicycles too. I wish I hadn’t damaged my old bicycle after I had my motorcycle. I guess I shall buy a new one soon. It’s hard to believe I once had a motorbike. I see it every day in my garage, but I miss riding it. It had only been a few years of luxury. I was a kid back then with a thirst for speed and risk. I was amazed by the way bikes could make you feel the rush of the air. Then, we ran out of fuel. And it was never the same again.

I keep telling myself not to be nostalgic, but I can’t seem to help it. Not a day goes by with the thought that kid in me is long gone. This old man is all there’s left. I got to live with that. And hope. Hope is a good thing, probably the best of things. Yes, I hope that someday the dust covered piece of metal in my garage is going to come alive once again. And I’m going to feel the same rush of air, with the rays of crisp sun on my shoulder. Well, I know it seems unlikely. But not impossible, or is it?

 

Snowman

Kathmandu – the busiest city in Nepal, where people from all walks of life face a hectic day to day schedule.  Filled with restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and cinema halls, this city has been the center point for many people from different corners of the country. Different people have different ideas on establishing themselves in this city. And on this course, one man, Mr. Ram Pd. Manandhar, came up with an idea of opening a small cafe in Jhochen in 1965. With ideas from his colleagues, he decided to name it ‘The Snowman Cafe’.  It has been a popular cafe in the city ever since.

Little did Mr.Ram Pd. Manandhar know that this idea would later be one of the most popular junctions for young people in Kathmandu.  Since it was started in the mid 60’s, the cafe has been very popular amongst hippies, informs Raju Manandhar (son of Ram Pd. Manandhar).  Snowman provides its customers with cakes, pies and coffee – treats that have been popular since the day it was established.  When inquiring about where the cakes are made, Raju says ‘We bake everything here, everything is homemade and everybody seems to enjoy them this way.’  Rightly so, Snowman’s has been able to entice everybody with their delicious desserts from their very first visit. They offer their customers black forest, cheese cake, apple pie and arguably the world’s best chocolate cake at very affordable prices. Not always busy, Snowman provides customers with a very comfortable ambiance too.  The different paintings adorning the walls were made by foreigners who visited the café over the years. Another note worthy element is the music. Without being too genre-specific, Snowman always provides its customers with groovy music. You can hear artists ranging from Tracy Chapman to Mr.Big on their stereo, soothing and comforting to anybody at anytime.

Yes, there are cafes in Kathmandu with similar features, but Snowman has its own unique comfort. So much so, that even on one’s first visit, one might feel that they’ve been there already. There is nothing fancy about where it is located and how it is decorated. It just feels homely. I personally have visited this place more than a dozen times and I can assure anyone that there are no other cafes in Kathmandu as comfortable as this one. Better yet, you don’t have to be rich to go there. Good service for a good price is what you get. Considered a cool place to hangout, Snowman’s two floors are often packed with youngsters both before and after school.

With more than four decades of service, Snowman has been through its fair share of struggles. Having conquered all obstacles, Snowman has rightfully earned its place as one of the best cafes in Kathmandu, and indeed in the world.

 

 

An Afternoon with Shambhu Pd. Poudyal, Director of Nabil Bank

It was a bright sunny day when Shambhu Prasad Poudyal, the Director of Nabil Bank, walks into the coffee shop at 2:30pm, his grey tuxedo appearing suave and sophisticated, as usual, for the interview. Calm and collected, he settles down, orders a cappuccino.  As we start our conversation, I notice that with spots of grey hair and fine lines on his face, he gives the impression of a wise, no nonsense kind of a person.  And why shouldn’t he be? He has been a respectable figure in the banking industry for almost 35 years.

Beginning the interview by discussing his family, I was told that Mr. Shambhu was born the second child in a family of three sons. When he was 4 years old, his mother passed away. Growing up, he shares fond memories of his father, who he claims to be his best friend and his inspiration. And now that he’s the father of two young adults himself, he feels he shares similar chemistry with his children.

Nabil Bank is known to be the first joint venture bank of Nepal.  Running in its twenty sixth year, it has become one of the most successful commercial banks earning the good trust of its customers and providing quality service.  Since he was elected the public director in 1986, Mr. Shambhu has been working with the bank close to its inception. He had been working assiduously in the banking sector even before Nabil. Starting his career at the Nepal Ratra Bank in 1982, he has worked with regulating institutions like Rastra Beema Sansthan in leading positions. He was also appointed the national advisor of national insurance committee by the Ministry of Finance.

Although he has worked with other corporations, a glance at his career path is telling that most of his years were spent in the banking sector.  ‘Monetary institutes that are accountable to public’s interest need more sincere and honest people. That’s what enticed me to banking, initially,’ he explains. ‘In my younger years, more than anything, I knew I was a sincere and honest person and that I wanted to be in a position where I could represent the public, and make sure that their hard earned money was taken care of astutely.’ Headstrong on accountability and incisive, he shares that the perk of banking is born from the professional working environment it facilitates, and being able to deliver service at the right time.

We all know that these days, banks have become one of the most sought after workplaces for youth. He believes this is because of the lucrative salary range that they provide to their employees. ‘You compare the salary, and grooming opportunities given in banks to their employees with any other sector and you’ll see that banks will always be on top.’ Not just that, he believes it is also because banks now are equipped with many modern technologies in tune with the advanced world, which helps young minds flourish more than in most other institutions. It is only natural for the young and talented crème of the crop to be attracted to this sector.

But his message to those interested in joining banking sector is that ‘Just the idea of working in a bank is not enough make sure you are able to represent it!  You can always learn and augment your knowledge, and skill. But always remember that hard work and sincerity is the key to becoming a good banker.’

Digressing to other things, we begin discussing his youthful years. Shambu smiles, sips his cappuccino and goes on, ‘When people look at my profile, they might assume that I was very serious, career oriented person, but I was very different from that.’ He then shared his love for sports, and lightened up the serious tone. He retold his stories of teen years playing soccer with friends, leading youth clubs and, with pride in his eyes, reclaims that his club was the first to introduce snooker in Nepal. As he spoke more of his achievements and involvements, including being member of the Red Cross Society and the mountaineering club, I couldn’t help but wonder how he must have been a leader and a role model even to people of his generation in his wonder years.

And now, after many years, he is still regarded as an inspiration by many in our generation. Upon asking him what message he has for today’s youth, he says ‘Youth are the power of the nation. For me, youth are not to be called youth because of their age but because of their stamina and their strength to stand up against the system to correct it. We didn’t have the exposure like you do and now that you have the technology and liberal minds at your disposal make sure you utilize that for the better. We were confined to studies, but now you have many more creative outlets to hone your abilities and potential. You have the time and people to support you.’

‘Kaam garna ko lagi janne hoina, janna ko lagi kaam garna parcha!’