“American life, Nepali knife and Japanese wife are the best”, quipped this guy who called himself Rasta-man, well it’s another story that his Japanese betrothed had left him for another man. He had neck-long hair and a gleaming smile as if to say, “I possess the wisdom of the ages”. And all this was going on while we were precariously perched on top of this bus heading for Changu Narayan temple.
The adventure began with an hour long wait for the bus. I was determined to force myself in. No sooner had the 28 seater arrived than I rushed towards the door. I found myself amidst women and old men. I was quick to realise that macho-men were queuing up at the back to get on the roof of the rickety tin machine. What the heck....I joined them!
There were about 15 acrobats, including me, on top of the bus. Someone had laid down a bicycle, a sack of husk and two empty chicken coops. And there we all were on these things balancing ourselves on every turn and bump of the narrow, dusty, village road. The view was a mix of brick kilns, houses, mustard fields, trees and terrace farms. I remember ducking numerous times to avoid stray electric wires, bamboo stems and other non-fatal foliage. Of course, my ears were filled with the epiphanic speech of Rasta-man. Had I been struck dead at the time, I would have clearly made it to heaven.
Changu Narayan temple was built in the 5th century and has intrinsic wooden carvings of hindu Gods, demi-gods and mythical creatures. The trail to the shrine passed through Changu village and was lined with art-shops which sold wares ranging from Pashmina fabric to tantric yak-bone amulets. Tibetan thanka paintings have been assimilated into the nepali crafts and art world. Workshops of wooden masks and curios blended well with kiosks selling metal souvenirs.
My return journey to Bhaktapur was not even half as eventful as my previous bus-trip. I got a boring window seat.....
Bhaktapur, like Changu Narayan, is also a UNESCO world heritage site. It has a mesmerizing medieval aura to it. The whole town has red brick finish to the exterior of most of its buildings. The buildings, mainly temples have been adorned with some finest wooden and terracotta carvings on the windows and doorways. Every nook and corner is packed with history and religion.
As I walked through the Durbar square- I felt like a time traveler who had gone back to the enigmatic era when faith was enough to build a city. After all, Bhaktapur means "City of devotees". It was nearly dusk when I sauntered to the Taumadhi tole-which has the five-storeyed Nyatapola temple. Evening prayers were in full fervour in the nearby temples. Bells, drums and chants lulled me into a trance as I sat on some temple steps.
It was dark when the prayers were over. Town's nightlife had just ended .I looked upto the starry-sky and thought, “Wish I had accepted Rasta-man's invitation for rice beer.”