vs The People (Chapter I)

by thekathmandudes

The town of N____ was a small and peculiar place. About seven miles from Kathmandu, the small town was nothing sort of lively or murky. It was peculiar place because nothing significant ever occurred there as the town lived in boredom, and as it was prone to happen, it lived very much in peace.  It was a small town with a bazar where people gathered every evening and like the town, basked in dull apparition of the descending fat old sun. The days trudged their way through the wrecked dreams of the people and the people were old, furrowed and grey. All their children had moved away in the pursuit of a modern life or to say, the western life, and only the middle aged and their old gaping fathers and grumpy mothers existed in this limbo. The bazar was the only place holding the people from insanity and the tediousness of life, as people amassed in the tea shops and taverns and gratified in each other’s company, amusing themselves, sallying their way through the lassitude of their daily life. The women were indulged in gossips, moping though time, and resenting for their blunt husbands while the men evinced their judgement through drunken brawls. The night usually ended in such a carousel that the boulevards were full of lamentation, remorse, rage, and vomit. But when the day commenced, it was all sluggish and lifeless. Like the town itself suffered from bipolar disorder.

It was a small town, about two hundred brick houses, pitched and slated rooftops, two storied with a mezzanine and mostly hueless or withered. The east nook consisted of wild copses and groves through which a deep muddy road passed and into the city. It was so much covered with mud that people trudged their way and slogged their belongings though this narrow field of bureaucratic misdemeanour in which the town whole heartedly gratified. The culture of silence weighed upon the travellers more than the gratified townsmen as they cursed and resented this filthy predicament unlike the hundreds of pigs wallowing in this festivity of filth. It was nothing extraordinary that all the pigs would come up every noon when the sun would be over the head and the little children, amused and overwhelmed, would join in as their dutiful errand and ramble into the groves, spirited and lively, bonding with some and fuming with others over some petty argument. Ah! Children, how true are they to the world, the only hallow entity of the world.

Mr. Floyd reached this small trivial town of N____, mid June when the monsoon finally relieved their fury over the region. It was  cold,  dripping and the breeze blew bland, just hours after a heavy rainfall. The town was laden with mud and ditches while everyone stayed inside their homes and a deserted swampy road lay ahead of him. He veered from his intention and turned left towards a hotel-inn and treaded towards its narrow doors as the slackening rain grew heavy. As he entered through the door he could smell the peculiar fusion of the floor and old belongings that were kept in the room which usually engulfs a traveller in Nepal. The sordid cotton curtains, the rickety furniture, the riveted gods, the elevated raw meats in rusty grills just above the stove, and the never ending boiling of tea, all combining to reek of this peculiar Nepalese smell inside this dimly lit melancholic room. There was a small archway towards the kitchen from where the innkeeper came and wiped the long chair though not dirty or wet and it was understood that Floyd was to sit there. He sat there and put his belongings on the floor, a mere handbag, and ordered a glass of chhyang. The innkeeper nodded and went inside the kitchen and came instantly with a tainted red jar in one hand and a glass in the other, put the glass in the table which evinced its inner structure, worn out, and poured chhyang into the glass very prudently and slid it towards Floyd.  “Do you need anything ?” asked the innkeeper, Floyd said, “No, thank you. But what’s the matter with him ?”, pointing his head and raising his both eyebrows towards the old man opposite to him, they were sharing the same table.

The man leaning with his arm against the wall sat there morosely and his another hand held a cheap cigarette which hadn’t been smoked for a while as can be assumed with the ashes piling up and suspended through the narrow filter. He was a stout looking man, sullen cheeks, dark circles made a semi arch above his eyes, unkempt dark hair with shades of grey. He was draped in hue of  black and blue striped woollen scarf while the blue old tweed coat made an impression that he was to be some government official. He sat there with his eyes closed and Floyd thought that he must have been crying a little while ago as there was a thin dark line in his cheek.  “Oh! He’s just from around the corner” replied the innkeeper. “Poor old man! bad luck seems to have taken a liking to him, it seems”. “Why,  what’s the matter?” asked Floyd nonchalantly. The old man seemed not to care the stranger’s curiosity, maybe he was deeply engulfed in his own thoughts, ruminating fate. “ One should not test fate it seems, I am a poor man too, sir, but I don’t run around complaining my present, my life, if it’s an innkeepers life I should live then I have no sorrow. Not that I am happy with this petty business but I am not complaining, you know”, said the innkeeper. Floyd seemed to have lost his curiosity but still for the sake of being polite added, “Yes, Yes, we should not complain of our lives if we don’t have a solution else it’s just plain whining, nobody likes whiners”. The innkeeper now standing with a glass of chhyang of his own smiled at Floyd, a broad smile revealing his yellowish teeth. “It wasn’t a long ago this poor soul was a well respected man, sir. A government official at the forestry department, you see…..it’s all fate in the end, if we are to end up in the palace or in the ditch…at least the man has a bed to sleep” drawled the innkeeper, probably already more than tipsy. “You see my dear sir, he was struck by Blitzkrieg , as my old papa would have said, he served in the second great war, and I am proud to be a son of Gurkhali……he was wise,  my papa, he could have had it all, all the pain fate could afford, he was a true man, what are we nowadays! Just mere shadows of our fathers, only more lofty……..”

“It wasn’t a long ago this man right here, poor man, he was robbed……..robbed of his dignity, his right to stand up and act respectfully, at least masquerade such an act. But here is a man, my dear sir who has been robbed of what a man most desires…….a man may desire a beautiful wife, he may desire plump little children, small house to live in, a Ford or a Chevy, he may be obsessed about drinking exquisite whiskey or wine, he may even desire to keep a mistress for some fun, harmless, until one gets caught……but sir, you have to admit, no man desires more than being able to masquerade about his dignity”. The innkeeper stopped for some more chhyang, poured in carelessly and drank that fill in a hearty big gulp. He began, “…..so sir, this man obviously desiring…….but but sir”, he drawled and lit a cigarette for himself then began again, “ This man obviously yearning for respect made a common mistake that a man makes, that is to let one’s impulse loose, this may dear sir, was his mistake and that has now cost him one hundred and eighty one rupees in my humble tavern, ha-ha-ha-ha roared in the innkeeper. It was an allusion to the old man who apparently began to raise himself but faltered here and now. So, Mr. Floyd, after raising his chin and assuming a slight grin also raised his elbow for the old man to hold on to while the man tweaking and trudging, his trousers protruding, carelessly rummaged his pockets for the money and threw out a bundle of crumbled up hundreds and walked out through the narrow door. “Umm…..he seems generous today”, chimed in the innkeeper, apparently happy from his earnings for the time.

Mr. Floyd began to feel drowsy now and he wanted to put an end to the innkeepers gibberish rumblings for, he wanted to be left alone at least for a while. “So, this old man, what struck him you said, eh?” Mr. Floyd asked, sluggishly. The innkeeper was busy ironing the wrinkled notes and seemed not to care what Floyd was interrogating about. He drew out a thick book form the bottom drawer of the cupboard, indiscriminately  opened the book and slid in the crumpled up hundreds. He was very meticulous in doing this that the way he pressed the both ends of the book after sliding each hundred into the book was almost with the same prudence and force. A kind of discretion was in his ways now and he nimbly stepped towards Floyd lit another inexpensive cigarette and began “Not long ago, the old man was a well respected officer of the forestry department. You know the kind, simple folk, simple ways desiring nothing much from his work but convenience, a hard worker in his own ranks yet timid and susceptible to the flaws of bureaucracy. I heard it was more than thirty years of service sir, that the old chap had done to for the forest around these hills, a undemanding soul certainly……..”. Floyd chimed in the innkeeper for another refill and he unhesitatingly brought a full jar of chhyang in the same tainted red jar. Discreetly poured the glass and continued, “………you see sir, the poor chap was living an ordinary life, peacefully in his home with his lovely wife and a son, who had been sent to a boarding school in the city when he was a child and later was able to acquire a job at a private firm, life couldn’t be more flawless, I’d like to add”.  Then the innkeeper began to talk about the boy, how he was, is character and flaws, how he’d risen up to the occasion one day and had bequeathed large sum of money to an old woman stranded by her children and how, one time he, in a drunken carousel had nearly broken another man’s neck with his beefy, sturdy hands. The innkeeper went on and on about the boy instead. He was drunk now and there was no stopping to his rumblings and annoying little tittle-tattles. No thought escapes from the mind of the drunk, like myriad of notions in a speck of light through a mindless thoroughfare, stirring, glistening, vibrant, blissful yet no direction home.