They said it will get better with time. They lied. It’s been three years since I first had a book event and I’m still a bundle of nerves. The trembling fingers, shaking knees, the whole shebang starts from the moment I read an invitation.
It only worsens when the event is bigger, farther because then you have the unique opportunity to disappoint more people than usual. So when the guys at Nepal Literature Festival mailed I wished I hadn’t read the mail. But then again, there’s a part of me that wants to do these events, talk to fellow writers, and readers, let off some steam, gossip. So like every time I accepted the invitation and didn’t regret it the least bit.
I spent a week in Nepal – Pokhra and Kathmandu – and it was amazing. Pokhra is quaint and breathtakingly beautiful, right out of a writer’s fantasy, or a coder’s fantasy because why not. The essence of places like these slowly flows into your body, slows down your metabolism, and makes you say you could live here for the rest of your life. In that moment, you truly believe it. But then hotel bills don’t pay themselves and you have to leave with a promise that you would come back, stay a bit longer, learn the language, know the guy who sold your trinkets, visit a local’s home, eat their food and be a bit like them.
Kathmandu, littered with temples and stupas, is more urgent and bustling, a daze of heat, dust, smoke and incense. It gets to you after a while and you’re constantly thinking of how many hours would you have to keep as buffer on the day you fly out. The famous Pashupati temple was a revelation though. I consider myself an uncomfortable mix of an atheist and God-fearing man, but places like Pashupati get to me. A huge temple spread across acres, filled with devotees to the brim, and yet such silence, such calm. Of course everyone is on their best behavior because God’s watching, up-close. The main sanctum of the temple allows only people who are born-Hindus. It sounded discriminatory but I know how it can give a feeling of belonging to some, or a lot of people. Inside, there were two gold plated life-sized statues of two kings genuflecting in front of an idol. Pure narcissism. Hadn’t they heard of filters? Another statue nearby was of a Hindu demon in a small, dark, terrifying claustrophobic temple. I could empathize with those who had been scared in that statue’s name. If tectonic plates and seismic studies weren’t a thing, I would have believed that the epicenter was that little temple. Right next to the sanctum was crematorium and the din of screams echoed across. Calm, cold screams. All that death, the fear, the belief, the goodness, the faith, the devotion humbles you.
P.S. – Typed on my phone. Please excuse the brevity and the errors.