Delight in Durbar Square

My first impressions of Kathmandu were nothing to write home about. Scenes of suicidal drivers hysterically tooting loud horns, buffalos crossing the road and open sewars reeking of stale urine did very little to impress me, as I sat speechless in a rattling *tuk-tuk*, swerving its way through the
crowded, chaotic labyrinths of Thamel, Kathmandu.

Once in *Durbar square*, however, where more than fifty imposing temples and monuments stand clustered around a large, pigeon-infested square, I began to feel more at ease and in tune with the way of life here in Kathmandu. I was strolling around the square one morning, trying to deal with the sensory overload that bombarded me. I vividly remember the smells of incense mixed with curry that perfumed the air. Little kids ran around, some carrying babies in slings on their fragile backs, young boys rode rusty bicycles, balancing massive bunches of rotting bananas in every possible available
space, and men looking fresh in white linen kaftans sat lazily watching the world go by. Totally distracted by this scene, I tripped over a stone and fell. Struggling to get up, I suddenly came face to face with this hot and bothered little boy, who was desperately trying to get out of the scorching sun. He had finally found a small patch of shade under a metal structure, and he stood there like a statue, although his little legs were still burning. He was obviously very inappropriately dressed. His top was thick and fleecy, and he desperately needed pants. Licking his dry lips, he seemed parched.

He stared at me curiously, wondering what I was doing. And then he spoke.**

‘*Namaste, Namaste. Sweet, sweet? You have sweet for me?’* I had grown accustomed to this phrase by now, and learned to carry a variety of sweets and other goodies wherever I went. But I had run out. And he looked at me with utter disappointment. And then he reached out with his little hand and grabbed my arm. He led me to a stall. His mother, a youngish- looking woman, was one of hundreds of locals who come to set up shop here every morning, as early as sunrise, displaying their handcrafts on torn sheets in every angle of the square. They sit in the burning sun, desperately trying to sell at least one ceramic pot, beaded necklace, bronze Buddha or wood-carved elephant head. This boy’s mother had a particularly poor selection of beaded jewellery on display. She was a petite woman, wearing a red sari, delicately woven with intricate golden-thread patterns. Probably the only sari she owned. Her hair neatly tied in a bun, she looked elegant. Yet sad. She stared at me with pleading eyes. And I understood. I bought a red and blue necklace. Not that I needed it. I had hundreds. She hugged me. I had made her day. She could now buy her son a plate of rice. And the little boy smiled and ran back to his shady corner.

C Cassano

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