Day 1: Kathmandu

The trip starts off on a high note, with free upgrades to business class. I can see each of us disconnecting from “real life”… finishing the last cell phone call, sending the last message, worrying the last worry about the lives we are suspending for 2 weeks. I am traveling Delhi – Kathmandu with two of the group – Manisha (MShah) and Shiva (we will call her Kanaks for reasons that will become obvious by and by).

In a convenient coincidence, the fourth of the group, Nitya, who is lovingly known to us as the bloody american, also arrived from California at around the same time as we reached Kathmandu. She walks in coolly without her checked in bag – the airline misplaced her luggage – and she seems pretty unaffected by it. We can wing it, is her attitude, and we did wing it, and how! How she improvised in the meanwhile with her clothes is something I’ll leave for her to say or not as she chooses :). Hugs and introductions over, we are taken to the Royal Singi Hotel by Shagun, the fellow designated to meet and greet.

We meet our tour guide, Shishir, who is to spend the most part of the next two weeks with us. Poors, he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. MShah, that was an interesting bit in your notes about Shishir’s good looks – you guys ribbed him a lot about becoming a Bollywood star – yeah, he does have a nice smile.

Leetle bit giggling and hysteria already started, and is a precursor of our time together. It’s raining quite heavily, but we are in high spirits and we set off to see the town. Durbar Square. All cameras out, clicking all over the place.. In retrospect, I don’t like those pictures I took of Kathmandu. Leisurely ramble through the narrow, wet streets. Still drizzling. We have masala tea standing outside a cozy little tea shop. Even the bloody american has tea on the roadside :).

One small incident over a half-mad looking Gujju boy on the street, whom I befriend, and whom MShah takes an instant dislike to. We argue well and call him and each other some names. Spirited women, what to do.

We walk in and out of shops desultorily. In one such ambling, MShah left her wallet with passport, money and tickets behind.. and we discover the loss only a couple of hours later, when she wants to buy a sleeping bag for the trip. First the lost luggage, now this. We have many arguments about who should go to look for the wallet – MShah insisting that she alone will go, and we all insisting on staying together. She’s narrowed down the shop where she could have left it, and the shopkeeper says he does have it. We are all thrilled at this honesty (a good number of dollars in it), and most relieved. At the end of the day, she gets her wallet back – with some crazy back and forth in a taxi to the shop keeper’s house.

We walk around Tahmel, “the” place to be in Kathmandu. It does have a very charming air about it – touristy, but charming. We are tourists, dammit! We stumble into the New Orleans restaurant – another charming little place with an inside courtyard, and huge silver oaks around it. The atmosphere is one of celebration – of finding MShah’s wallet. She insists on paying for the meal, which we have in full style.

We go to bed happy – but do we sleep? No.. Nitya and I seem to have so much to catch up on, that before we realize it, it is 4 am…

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