The delay started from the clouds. An announcement blared across the aircraft and I heard a sigh of people in unison. I pulled out one earphone and asked the fellow Nepali passenger from US, “ke bhanyo bharkharai” and she replied, “theyre going to fly us around for one hour”. Harey! Who knew that Visit Nepal started before you touch down with this aerial tour of the country that one did not sign up for. As the Airbus A320 lowered and we could identify the unorganised mess of Kathmandu from above, we were all relieved and happy that we were approaching our destination. Hurrah, we landed – only to be stuck on the taxiway for 30 minutes in stationary position. I did not envy the air steward who had to run up and down the aisle, urging passengers to take their seat in her fragile voice. I don’t think I’ve been on a flight to Kathmandu where the aircraft was on hold and I often heard the expression “hami chadheko plane ta ghumako ghumai thiyo” and till this day, I am not sure how my brain processes things but I plucked up the courage to ask, “ani plane ma basera ghumda ringatta chaldaina”. I’ve met concerned looks. I know my answer now, you don’t get dizzy on the plane.
The chaos continued at the glorious Tribhuvan International Airport. I was rushing to get past immigration when I heard a mature British lady ask her partner, “do you think this happened after the earthquake?”. I quickly butted in, “that part of the airport is under construction and you’ll quickly see that there are quite a few areas that wear the same look in the city”. I walked past them and directed them to join the queue for tourists arriving without a visa. I pray that they have a pleasant experience of Nepal. #VisitNepal2020 dont forget. The number, 2 Million tourists in one year wont happen by itself.
Fast-forward to 3PM, I found myself in the company of Bibek and Stella at Himalayan Java in Battisputali. The members of US Embassy Youth Councils project Acceptance recently came on my Facebook newsfeed and I was fascinated by their work on LGBTIQ awareness and education. While the meet lacked in structure, it came across like an interview as I quizzed them on the response they had received till date, how it feels to be working on a project that is so close to Bibek and for Stella, learning about a group of people so closely and being warmly welcomed by the LGBTIQ community. Meeting these young adults was incredibly inspiring and just the perfect way to start my Nepal trip. While the purpose that brings me back to my birth country is for the Himalayan Travel Mart 2019, I always squeeze time to build new networks and seize opportunities to hear from different people.
As I left the polished coffee house at Battisputali, I walked the uneven footpaths of the city and wondered how little I knew of the area. Battis-Putali, 32 Butterflies, I wonder how the area got its name. The sun was at its peak, I enjoyed every minute of it and also seeing the beautiful Nepali guys and girls hurrying with their Saturday. I do think Nepali people are visually beautiful and it’s always so interesting to sit down and just people watch… a Nepali face is truly something that’s hard to define. I think it’s impossible. We are so diverse.
Walking through Thamel brings a different type of energy. It makes me feel alive. The buzz, the tacky signboards littered left, right and centre and then I end up at KC’s, it’s primarily the same staff, same level of service and food and feels – still – around the hustle and bustle. There have been many days where I’ve sat at KC’s with a Khukuri Rum and coke and just watched people for a good few hours. As I had already ticked off jhol momo after landing in the city, I had chicken sizzler. Before I came to Nepal, I had never heard or had chicken sizzler. The entire food is just so attention seeking. The amount of noise, smoke and attention that the dish creates is simply entertaining.
Following KC’s was my routine visit to Pink Tiffanys opened by Meghna Lama and friends. The bar lounge is for everyone but largely its a space where LGBTIQs feel at home. I had mentioned to very few people that I would be in the city and the company for the evening was Angel and Anmol, both transgirls and Reason, a young gay guy. I was meeting Anmol and Reason for the very first time and like the afternoon, I started asking their stories of self discovery, how their parents reacted or what they worry about if they decide to come out one day. Its a privilege for the many young LGBTIQs to have a space like Pink Tiffany where they can come and meet others like themselves. Hearing the story of Anmol was very inspiring. The young people that I have met and met at Pink Tiffany, are so sure of themselves, aware of their surroundings and seem to own who they are. Not every person has a sad coming out story either and that’s incredibly important to understand. Some have been supported by their parents from an early age. In the words of Anmol, it was her parents who helped her come out.
Among the many hopes, I hope these young folks continue their action and be more curious about the space they occupy in society. We have so many LGBTIQs in different sectors and some occupy influential positions at their respective work organisations, I hope the young folks who need support and guidance with their projects are linked with other LGBTIQs who may be able to provide advice, experience and who knows, even funding and so on. While we work to educate people about LGBTIQs, we must not forget that its collaboration that often speeds things up. We cant remain exclusive to LGBTIQs only but also work with people who are outside of the LGBTIQ spectrum. We must have a diverse range of sexualities and have allies that will continue to be our voice and do what we do when we cannot.
On a lighter note, the first day in the city ended up with me and a friend joined by the fabulous translady Sophie Sunuwar at the LOD Club in Thamel. Sophie is a make-up artist and a lady who oozes much confidence and sex appeal. We all need a little bit of that Sophie confidence.