Sometimes life is typical
(Kathmandu, early october 2011)
When I started traveling, I decided I would be lacto-vegetarian and abstain from drinking alcohol. And I had been doing pretty well, until Raju invited me to have lunch at his. Raju is a great guy. A friend of a friend, who immediately treated me as if we had known each others for years. After an hour walk to the far North of the city to meet him and another hour spent on the phone, trying to figure out where the meeting place was - Raju speaks a mix of French and English, with a strong Nepalese accent - I finally get greated with a loud namaste and a big hug. It’s not noon yet but he is already quite tipsy, as he has been celebrating Dashain - the biggest festival in Nepal - since early in the morning. Then follows a long walk through narrow streets in suburban Kathmandu, crossing bridges and walking along fluorescent green paddy fields. Raju is proudly walking in front of me and waving at neighbours and acquaintances as they greet us along the way. Hardly any tourist would venture in this area and the presence of a white creatures creates an aura of prestige around my host.
“My maison” he finally says with a smile. A two-storied washed out pink building. Not bad, I think. But as we walk up the stairs I realize that all they have is one room to live in, as they are renting out the others to pay back their mortgage. A bed, a sofa, a coffee table and a shelve, that’s it. “My wife go get the manger. Elle cooks at the magasin, pas de kitchen.”
Of course they have already eaten and I have the honor to be scrutinized throughout the whole meal by the family and a few neighbours who have just joined to enjoy the sight of a Westerner eating curried buffalo and dhal bhat. I do not want to offend my hosts and slowly start eating, remembering the carcasses laying all day long in the open air, covered with flies, and dreading I am going to get sick
“Want to try special drink from my village? Très bon!”. Before I have time to say no he pours a huge amount in my glass. “Santé” he says with a joyful smile. Too late… We cheer and I start sipping my drink, remembering what they say about never drinking home-made brewed alcohol as it is often mixed with water. If I survive this, I will certainly be immune to all diseases during the rest of my trip.
Then Raju shows me some pictures… His treks, his foreign friends, his village, his parents. I am started to get a bit bored when comes one of a young child with a cheeky smile, running after a ball. “My second kid. He died. Dashain festival in my village. He ran on the road. Big bus came. He did not see. 5 years ago. He would be 13 now.” I feel a lump in my throat. “Sometimes life is typical. Sometimes we don’t choose. Sometimes I am very sad. Triste. But I am okay. I put photos of him in the house to remember. After with my wife we decided to have another child, otherwise it’s too sad. Otherwise we can’t live.” The atmosphere is heavy with emotion and I feel tears coming to my eyes. True. Sometimes we don’t choose. Sometimes life holds dreadful surprises for us. I cannot imagine how painful it must be to loose a child, to see it crushed by a bus right in front of your eyes. And how hard it must be to keep on living and raising your other child. How lonely Raju’s family must feel every year when the whole country celebrates Dashain, a festival that only reminds them of their child and brother’s death. But one has no choice, no matter how acute the pain is, life has to go on. “Happy Dashain. It’s festival time. We must celebrate.”
Later as I am walking back to my guesthouse, something comes back to my mind. What did he mean by “typical”? I have heard Raju saying this word several times over the last few days and never really understood what he meant. And all in a sudden it all made sense. “Difficult” is what he meant. Yes dear Raju, sometimes life is difficult…What a soft way to put things and what a lesson of courage you have just taught me.