Oh Kathmandu's a wonderful place, come steaming heat or drenching rain, there's no doubt about that. Despite the socio-political turbulence with all the dynamism of a quagmire, it's comforting to live in the heart of the beast, jostling for space with family, friends, and all manner of strangers.
Lately, though, the Valley's horizons have seemed confining. Meeting people coming and going beyond these green ramparts, as they seem to be doing all the time, I can't help but feel sometimes that I'm running around in circles, chasing my own tail. Surely interactions with the outside world cannot be sated with cursory headlines and electronic correspondence.
This desire for new experiences is not something that can be quelled for long by a walk through the mountains, or a pilgrimage to western climes to punctuate what is essentially more of the same afterwards. Travel is therapeutic most of the time, but can be oddly akin to what it negates. Being in no place can be as unsatisfying as being in one place.
In Nepal, I've lived at length in Nayabajar, Maitidevi, Gyaneshwor, Maharajgunj, Budhanilkantha, Dhapasi, Mangal Bajar, Sanepa and Kupondole. These are vastly contrasting neighbourhoods, each with their own constellations of society and commerce to provide one with different perspectives on this ancient place. But they are all facets of the Kathmandu Valley. One is still yoked to the same larger polity, that of the capital of Nepal, meaning one is necessarily beholden to certain provincialisms that are unique to Nepal's metropolitans. Travel cleaves through some of these certainities, but for how long and to what degree?
Kathmandu, for all its distortions, offers a combination of amenities that is not available elsewhere in the country. It's no wonder so many Phoreners, Netas, and Government Employees have made their home here. But many of the Kathmandu Valley's modern-day attractions exist only because of these species of Sapiens. If a thousand Phoreners or Netas fanned across the towns of the Tarai, would not their residents respond by furnishing them with the lifestyles that they have become accustomed to?
Three years ago, I moved out of the comfort zone of home sweet home by crossing the river and taking up residence in a series of flats. The idea of moving away from a larger comfort zone and settling in another community within the country is intriguing, but also unsettling. Dharan, Pokhara, Janakpur, or the Limi Valley? I lament the dearth of out-of-Valley narratives I've come across to fuel this imagining, but recommendations are welcome.