I was never sure if I would end up at Swayambhunath
Alone, until the conference ended
And friends I had made at Katmandu
From across South East Asia
Apologized, for they had to return to their respective nights.
We had planned some sightseeing together.
But the traffic jams could take a few hours
Out of your lives in this city.
The ride up the hillock, all the way to Swayambhu alone
Was pleasing, for the cab driver told me stories of old times,
Of how Gundruk is prepared and way back when
Sikkim, Kumaon and Garhwal were Nepal.
Amid the flying flags of all faded colours
Under an overcast sky
I stood listening to the Buddhist prayers
As monks in two, separate floors
Sat singing; over the horizon was Kathmandu,
Overlooking the grey hills and a grey girl’s hair
Moving like the sound of the chants.
We spoke of how old the temple is
And how the earthquake fractured it over the years,
Her childhood, Lama friends (who she was waiting for)
And how she would get irritated
To hear them say that they were praying
Every time she would call.
The sun was about to set
And the hills we could see had now almost turned black
And the monkeys kept running through the balcony railing
That we were leaning onto, moving back occasionally,
To watch out, keep us safe.
We spoke of Buddhism, Caste and Communism
Hinduism, Nepal, India,
Politics, Life and jobs,
Jazzmandu, Prachanda and Oli;
Nepali cigarettes and cafes in Thamel.
“You have a good life”, she said, as her phone rang
“We will meet again”, I said.
But we forgot to ask our names.