Nepali Times
Just singing, dancing in the rain.


On one of my earliest visits to Nepal I walked across the border. I came with a Hungarian artist who lived in India, her companion a French artist-adventurer, a Nepali male dancer friend and a small dog of no particular breed.

Together we were visiting places where Gautama the Buddha had lived and preached and died. We ended the pilgrimage where we should in fact have begun it- in Lumbini. The lady artist had insisted that we travel humbly and cheaply like true pilgrims. So we carried nothing but our paints and a change of clothes which consisted of little else than a kurta, a lungi and a pair of slippers. Even the slippers were a recent acquisition as we had begun the journey barefooted.

The monsoon was expected to thud down on Kathmandu any day: the Indian plains had been scorching and still, as they are just before the monsoons. I like to think we were the first hippies who hit Nepal. Sans hash we looked the part, so that even Boris Lissanevitch was briefly hesitant to take us in. There were few rooms at The Royal Hotel and its growing reputa-tion had to be protected. Boris suggested in our interest, and I suspect his own, that we share a single room which turned out to be one quarter of the original 'Number One'. Gone were the cherubs and the blue ceiling. Gone too the wallpaper and, alas, the great loo.

We'd once again arrived in time for Yak Tails and we sat being eyed rather suspiciously by the other guests through a long evening and the first real dinner we had had in weeks. Even Boris tired when Elizabeth, the Hungarian artist, kept urging us to have one more before going to bed well after midnight. She herself didn't drink. At last Boris had the bar closed and more or less ordered us to bed.
When we got to the door of our room we understood Elizabeth's reluctance to retire. She stood outside and said piteously, "I have never done this before." Which was remarkable considering we had shared train compartments, rest houses and space under trees together for at least a month. But psychology was at work. A bedroom was a bedroom was a bedroom, and those four beds placed rather close together did suggest orgy. Elizabeth overcame remorse by taking a quick dash for her bed and bundling in under blankets, clothes and all.

We were soon asleep. At some ungodly hour we were wakened by the most frightful din. The skies over Kath-mandu were exploding. The monsoon had arrived. But where was Elizabeth? It was the Nepali dancer who saw her first and shouted, "God, she's gone mad."

There in the courtyard with apparently nothing on was a figure dancing in the pouring rain. Continuous purple lightning made her seem strobe lit, so that flash, flash, flash there was Elizabeth leaping, gyrating and spreadeagled against the night. For a while she ignored our entreaties to come in and then all of a sudden was inside splashing cold rain on us all. Her French companion's loud complaints were literally drowned by a bucket of freezing water brought from the loo by Elizabeth and emptied over him.

Kathmandu does strange things to people the way Shangri-la did to the old, the young and to those in love.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)