Kathmandu by Vikram Seth
The lesson Kathmandu is a description of the two famous temples of that city. One is the Pashupatinath Temple. The other is the Baudhnath Stupa, the Buddhist shrine of Kathmandu.
At Pashupatinath temple a sign proclaims ‘Entrance for the Hindus only’. There is much crowd and utter confusion. All sorts of animals roam around the grounds. People push each other to make their way to the Lord.
A group of Westerners claims itself to be Hindus and ask for permission to come in, but the policeman at the gate is not convinced. Monkeys can be seen fighting.
The holy Bagmati flows by the side of the temple. It has washerwomen on its banks. There is also a small shrine on the river bank. It seems that half of the shrine is immersed in the river and half out of it. The people believe that the whole shrine will come out of the temple one day. Then the goddess inside will escape and the period of ‘Kaliyug’ will be over.
At the Baudhnath Stupa, there is a sense of stillness. There is a road running around the temple. Small shops of Tibetan immigrants stand on its outer edge. There is no crowd here.
Kathmandu is a crowded place. There are deities in the busiest streets which are crowded with fruit sellers, flute sellers, hawkers of postcards, etc. The shops sell western cosmetics, film rolls and chocolates. The author indulges himself here mindlessly. Then, he decides to go back home. He buys his ticket and comes back to his hotel.
In a corner of the square near the hotel, a flute seller catches his attention. His carefree style pleases him. It reminds him of the commonality of all mankind.
There is no culture that does not have its flute. The deep ‘bansuri’ is of Hindustani classical music. The flutes of South America are clear and breathy. The Chinese ones are high pitched. The music of the flutes is universal. The author is affected by the phrases on the ‘bansuri’.