Morning route

Walking through the streets of Kathmandu is always an adventure. All your senses are engaged. The conglomeration of smells was something I noticed first — freshly cooked rice, exhaust from a motorbike zooming by, a whiff of curry, the occasional stench of trash, and some other indistinguishable contents.

Every morning I walk down a slightly winding, paved road to the office. As I walk out from my place next to the zoo, I pass by the local tea shop. Mostly middle-aged men sipping their small glasses of masala cheeya, sometimes with a side of sel roti and aloo dum. Sometimes I recognize the locals at the shop while they’re sitting and watching the neighborhood activity. I wonder if they recognize me.

I cross the street but never at once, since I probably average a total of 2 stops before I get to the other side. It’s an easy game of dodging the light morning traffic. On this side, I pass by the several fruit vendors. Wire mesh containers attached to their bikes, filled with apples and oranges. November is orange season — yay! Down the road, I pass by the auto repair shop, several hole-in-the-wall food shops, and little marts selling snacks and eggs.

Further down, the shops and homes that line the streets become more community-oriented. There are some didis popping out from one inlet and walking down the road, only to disappear into another inlet. Several children playing about, but staying close to their family’s little shop. A toddler strutting down the street with a bag of groceries that is half his size. There is a long brick complex made up of adjacent rooms. Each tiny room has a door that opens to the street. Wooden doors painted in a light green, worn with age. A glimpse of the local shoe cobbler sitting in his shop, a didi making sel roti and stacking the finished ones on a small chair covered in newspaper, the shrill voices from a Hindi soap opera playing on a small television. There is a certain intimacy of the neighborhood that I cherish, and somehow I feel part of it even just walking down the street.

The street dogs are my favorite part of my morning route. Most of the time they’re lying around, or trotting down and across the streets with their tongues flapping. I always pass by the same dogs — the two black dogs that stay by the trash-ridden sidewalk near the auto repair shop. And then there’s the golden mutt that is always lying on the sidewalk in front of a small home. Sometimes I look into his eyes and I notice they’re bloodshot. I worry if the dog is sick and in pain. Then some days I see the same dog, but he’s up and about, or barking at an intruding dog. It’s always a surprise to see him up, and it makes me really happy. Maybe 8AM is still too early for him. And then the other day I witnessed a dog scooting across the street. Gave me a good chuckle. But poor guy probably has tapeworms.