She looks up at the ceiling and imagines herself smoking. It would have to be a fancy cigarette. A flavored one. Mint, something of that kind. Something that added class to your personality. Or maybe it didn’t . She just thinks it would.
She doesn’t smoke. What smoking did to a girl’s confidence level wasn’t her concern; she simply wished she took a puff now and then. Times like these. A couple in the corner were making out in the table below the staircase. The man behind the counter was staring ahead at nothing. The Beatles sang in the background, a pair left, another entered. She took a deep breath inhaling someone else’s smoke.
Coffee arrives in a steel glass. There is a steel plate below it and a steel spoon beside it. It is the steel that brings her to the place. Not the coffee. The paintings on the walls are equally interesting. The particular wall painting right above her could be based on the Adam, Eve and an apple story. The tree has the curves of a woman. Or maybe it is the woman curves which look like a tree. Whatever it is, the place has a history. Freak Street. She sips her coffee leisurely, inhales someone else’s smoke, pays the bill and leaves. It is a relief to be able to breathe in cigarette-free air once again.
Outside, she stands near the café entrance and observes the buildings around her. Tall and ugly, are were the only adjectives she has for them. The street is freak-free. People free. There are children running a distance. A sleeping stray dog follows. Voices, some more voices, people, some more people and plenty of business. Basantapur Durbar Square spells business. Beyond the arrays of neatly arranged curios she finds a seat in one of the iron benches. One passerby takes notice of her. She notices the rest. Women and men of all ages, shapes, sizes and expressions walk by. A Kuire appears out of the blue. An over enthusiastic photographer. It is written all over his face. He can’t stop pointing his camera to just about anything in sight.
Is he a professional? She wonders. What would he do with those pictures? What is it that interests him? The children with running noses? The children without a running nose? The architecture? Is this place vibrant because of the sounds? The children? Stray dogs? Or just the way things are? ‘Children running’ around always seemed to figure in a Kuire‘s description of a foreign land. But children are meant to run, aren’t they? Run, free and happy all over the place. Fall down and laugh or cry in the shrill voice they have. What is so exceptional about that
That does not mean a local does not see the value of living in a vibrant city. Every local does. A local experiences the similar thrill to that of a foreigner when she is here. It’s just that Nepalis aren’t an expressive bunch…Or maybe we are for the wrong reasons she mused. You don’t jump around excitedly every time you are in Durbar Square because it is your reality. It is not merely a ‘destination’. The Kuire is no more in sight.
Maximum thinking in minimal time she concludes. Picks her bag and heads to Hanuman Dhoka. She has it planned. She will lean on a wooden pillar nearby and watch tiny human beings walk, run, laugh and cry for the rest of the evening. Like it is meant to be….