The scene was set: the pleasant lakeside city of Pokhara, Nepal during Tihar, the Festival of Lights. Nevermind that the electricity was out for the fourth time that day and what was to have been the focus of the entire celebration, namely the lights, had been reduced to the dim glow of one fluorescent bulb, powered by a noisy generator, and several dozen murky candles.
The rather sparse crowd milled about impatiently as Deepsha jiggled the guitar’s power cord yet again, his frustration mounting. But, as any experienced Nepali musician knows, having power running to your electric instruments is more a nice surprise than something to be expected or counted on. He knew that ultimately it was his high and enthusiastic voice that would carry the day. What was a lack of digital amplification compared with overcoming a pronounced lisp to become one of Western Pokhara’s top 7 performers between the ages of 21 and 25? Not bloody much! Hadn’t he just last night drawn hysterically polite clapping from the crowd at the Busy Bee bar (yet again) rocking out his signature finale,
“Eem just a dweeeeeemer……a dweeeemer…een dweems wee know wee can kwai!”
But not tonight. Tonight was Deepawali, the biggest of the the five day Tihar celebration. No, this called for something different, something special. All great musicians have the ability to read the crowd, to sense what they want even before they know themselves. Deepsha gazed out over the fidgety crowd, some in small groups likely discussing his epic performance last night, others repeatedly checking their watches obviously disappointed about the fast approaching 11 pm noise curfew. In timely fashion, however, the power cut back in just as a tourist couple, looking polite and shyly Canadian, threaded their way through the crowd uneasily, looking strangely put out, stopping to ask people why the stage was set up right outside their hotel. What a question! They don’t realize how lucky they are to be able to see us perform right under their window…
Regardless, this was clearly no ordinary crowd, these fanatics deserved a final set that would shock and confuse, one that would send them ambling home hardly able to believe what they had just witnessed. Deepsha knew just the thing – a powerful, yet touching, medley of James Blunt’s “Beautiful” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of”. Harsh but melodic, violently political but still sweet, and not too many ‘r’s. Plus, he already knew quite a few of the words.
Seti gazed up at the brilliant white stupa, the focus of their whole plan, and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly to calm his ragged nerves. He glanced at his three sisters and they shared a brief nod while he absently scratched his armpit. He forced himself to relax, the plan was solid, and all the pieces were in place. They were finished with the climb and Pokhara’s famous Japanese-built Word Peace Pagoda shone brightly in front of them. The heavy black Kodak was loaded with a 24-exposure film and hung from his neck like a magnificent brick of proof. It had taken his yak-hair scarf and three dried piles of mule dung to acquire it from the miserly old rice farmer three villages back, but it was the key and he knew that if everything worked out as he hoped this loud and indestructible piece of Reagan-era machinery , one of the technological wonders of 1982, would be well worth its weight in mule shit.
His youngest sister fidgeted as she clung to the plastic bag of extra clothes, and he decided it was time. He gestured toward the pagoda’s gleaming white steps and, just like that, the wheels were in motion. They would have just 24 items of evidence, maybe 25 or 26 if luck was on their side, showing them obediently posing in front of the famous monument in a variety of group configurations, always after a change of clothes, the girls partially hiding behind a statue of one of Nepal’s illustrious heroes, hastily swapping outfits like the irresistably bolemic sex kittens on the runways of Paris and Milan. The arrival of an amused-looking Western couple, trying unsuccessfully to pretend they weren’t watching, provided an opportunity to have some full group shots taken, the man looking confused as he clumsily handled the giant Bullseye, the woman stifling her laughter with difficulty.
Soon, though, it would all be over, the photos would be developed and they would be safely back home in their mountain village able to convincingly prove their story that they had spent the entire four days camped atop a hill on Phewa Lake’s Western shore contemplating tranquility and world peace rather than wandering aimlessly around Pokhara harrassing tourists, wolfing down fried pastries and spitting.
Aso eyed up the fresh group of tourists as they milled about, waiting to embark on a whitewater rafting trip down the Kali Gandaki. Kind of a sorry looking bunch, he thought, although he did make note of a few intriguing possibilities. At least three single girls, and a couple more traveling with duds, probably just guys that latched onto them on the bus or something. Seriously, why doesn’t that Canadian dude get a shave, with that scraggly beard and lank hair (not even a hint of slick Nepali curl in that mess) he made Aso think of a shedding goat or something.Yeah, Aso considered wryly, once she sees him in his spandex kayaking shorts she’ll be ready to deal up. Then, noticing the Swiss girl glancing in his direction with a playful grimace, he casually removed his shirt revealing his hairless and unusually short torso and, with a wink, spit provocatively onto the ground in front of her.
Later, whenever the raft floated along a calm stretch Aso made a point of circling it closely, showing off his full repertoire of one spin and a partial eskimo roll, leering at the female rafters with a knowing smirk, darting in and out like a starving fly over fresh roadkill.
Having successfully laid the groundwork, that evening he was able to shift his plan into its final stages. With camp all set up, dinner finished and the entire group sitting around a rather anemic fire he proceeded to pound cheap Nepali rum like it was a miracle cure for his curiously itchy groin. Showing uncharacteristic discipline he stuck with his system, squeezing into the circle as close as possible to each girl in turn, imploring them to have some rum, sure, go ahead, no really, have some, c’mon, c’mon….c’mon. Toke? Toke? No, really, have some, c’mon, c’mon……..c’mon.
Unfortunately it was not his lucky night, he’d been stuck with a bunch of lesbians…..again, and he had to settle for administering loud yet obviously intelligent and well thought out opinions well into the night on everything from the best rivers to get high on to what nationality of women give the nastiest blowjobs (Dutch, incidentally).
With relatively calm waters ahead and the remnants of last night’s rum still providing a comfortable buzz, the next morning seemed like a good time to down a quick breakfast bottle. Aso proceeded to enjoy himself profusely for the next few hours, the morning rushing past him in his little kayak as he attempted to chain smoke his soon quite damp cigarettes, dunk his fellow kayakers, blow his safety whistle again and again with wonderfully reckless abandon and yell out hilarious expletives randomly and at the top of his lungs. Later, curled up at the front of the the bus, dozing away the last couple hours before Pokhara, Aso smiled lecherously and dreamt of his heaven, of drunken orgies on remote rivers with just him, all his buddies to laugh at his jokes, a barrel of weed and 17 female rugby players from Holland wearing lots of lipstick.
Laynni and I meandered along the path, weaving our way through a small village near the Chobar Gorge, half-heartedly arguing over whether it is better to wear your underwear for several days and have them washed well or to just kind of rinse them every day, when were interrupted by a loud and unexpected noise – “Ppfffffttt!!”. She looked at me in surprise before shaking her head, “Real nice, tootie”. She found my pleased smile confusing, and somewhat distasteful, but what she didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that my bowels were in the midst of a four day hiatus so that, in fact, was one very exciting fart.
Footnotes to Nepal
To summarize, after our trek we spent five days just hanging out in Pokhara, enjoying the warmth, eating regularly, even watching some TV, and, of course, enjoying the warmth. Then a three day rafting trip that featured a handful of exciting rapids, some really cold water, a fun and diverse group of people and some cool camping along the river. Back to Pokhara where I finally gave in and went to a somewhat sleazy-looking young guy for a professional shave and one half of a very amateur head massage before I put a stop to that uncomfortable and creepy added service. A couple more “recovery” days in Pokhara, then we spent a day in the Kathmandu suburb of Patan where, while blindly wandering through the nearby villages on our own random version of an interesting cultural walk, we just happend across at least a thousand people crowded around the rim of a rugged gully. Turns out we had unwittingly stumbled onto the 2008 Asian Mountain Biking Championships. Wow, I mean, what are the chances – we accidentally find the biggest mountain biking event in Nepal and I just happen to own a mountain bike. Pretty frickin’ weird.
From there we scuttled back to Bhaktapur, which you may remember from such hyperboles as “This is my favourite town in the world!” It is quite nice, though, I’ll give her that. So here we sit, typing and counting down the hoursuntil our flight leaves for Thailand, the minutes until the next unscheduled power outage, and the seconds until someone loudly clears their entire chest cavity and spits half their esophagus onto the pavement.
See ya in the Land of Smiles!