First time I went to Nepal was 1990. After a truly arduous journey through India, I was ready for the peace, calm and beauty everyone talked to me about in Nepal. I took the bus up to Srinagar, and then to Kathmandu. I never forget the moment I opened up my eyes in the bus after my dozing off for few hours of sleep; bus climbing the conic shaped Himalayas and hundreds shades of green shaping these enormous heights we were climbing. It felt like we were going into some land so taken away from rest of the world, so impossible to reach. When I got to Kathmandu, I felt like I found exactly what I came here for. The calm. The quiet and reserved but kind people of Nepal; beautiful small ‘village’ of Kathmandu with small streets. It was so easy to get around that I rented a bicycle and ventured out into nearby towns. Buildings were two story tall, the temples stood out. The summer of 1990 was also a very strange time, country almost quiet after the turmoil of many protests and demonstrations which turned deadly within the year but the king finally lifting the ban on political parties. At the time Kathmandu was almost the only ‘city’ in the country, rest pretty much small village like towns, and most of country largely with rural populations.
Next time I went to Nepal was 2004. I desperately needed ‘the calm’, and it was the only place I knew which would stop the train in my brain running millions of miles an hour. When I arrived to Kathmandu, the peace has left. The city became a city with multi story apartments and probably grew ten fold in size. I was sitting at the rooftop of my newly built five story hotel and could see the town stretched to the mountains; populated with slums starting at the edges. The leftist front guerrillas and the civil war almost coming to an end and country making a decision to go back to peaceful times. I remember people with guns in their commando outfits coming down on the rural roads walking towards to Kathmandu in most unexpected places; and also trucks full of people waving Maoist flags at the outskirts of the overblown city. The long fought battle left people with so much emotion that they were demonstrating everywhere; but also the rural people tired of the fighting already left for the cities and the huge population explosion with new buildings.
As I read about the temple in Danbar square, built in sixteen hundreds, destroyed this morning; I remember all the many more peaceful cities I cherished in me, and how many of them will be no more lands of tranquillity and beauty, like what we saw in Damascus and Aleppo or Sarajevo. It is not earthquakes or the nature to blame. It is us who create oppression, poverty, forced immigrations, disruption to nature causing power struggles and wars. I am counting and list keeps growing.