About 10 minutes later, two Nepal Police officers, one of the film festival organisers and another man came and shone a flashlight in my face. They told me gently that I had left stuff in the cab.
I quickly checked my bag and didn't find the camera pouch that had quite a big sum of money my friend had just taken out to give to charity, a digital camera, memory card and a couple of credit cards. We rushed out with the police who asked me to describe our belongings and the amount of cash.
Later, talking to the cab driver, we realised that the pouch had fallen out of the bag while we were getting out of the cab. When two men picked it up and started running with it, the cab driver started chasing them. The men ran into Bhirkuti Mandap and because the men outnumbered the cabbie, he ran to the police station and for help. The men dropped the pouch when they realised the police were pursuing them and the cabbie told the police he knew where the rightful owners of the belongings were. That is how they found us.
When the pouch was returned to me I was asked to count the money inside and see if everything was there. Not a rupee missing. The camera, memory card and the two credit cards were all safe. We thanked the cabbie for his kindness, rewarded him for his sincerity. We wanted to do the same with the police but one of the officers looked at me and said, "Madam, why do you want to pay us for doing our job?"
Not only has this incident restored my faith in the police, but it has made me realise that not everyone in Kathmandu is out to rip you off. The city has changed a lot but good things still happen here every day. The political situation may make us feel helpless about the state of the country, but neighbours, friends and strangers have not stopped helping each other. The cabbie didn't have to put his safety at risk and run after the men. The police could have just shrugged and not come looking for us.
We all agree that building a new Nepal is not easy. More urban Nepali, who were perhaps hopeful after the April 2008 elections, are changing their minds because they think that the leaders haven't done much to prove that they are committed to building a better country. It becomes especially impossible to imagine a new Nepal when businesses are forced to shut down, schools are made to close, and a free press is attacked by goons.
However, when people show a little kindness, display integrity, you realise that a New Nepal is possible. You need more civil servants who are selfless, committed to the system and are out there to serve the people. You need more people like the kind cab driver who helped another without any expectation of reward or compensation. You need a population that takes care of each other, believes in not just their own self-interest but in interest of the society as a whole. You need people who are hopeful and believe in the good of others.