Monday, September 23, 2013

On the bus from Bhaktapur

Special Bahktapur yogurt
Saturday afternoon, Bimila and I went to Bhaktapur city. It is the third of the ancient city-states in the Kathmandu valley, but has a quieter feel to it than either Kathmandu or Lalitpur/Patan. I enjoyed going to the temples with Bimila and visiting her cousin's house where I tasted three of her homemade achar (spicy preserves). 

It takes about an hour by bus to get from Bhaktapur back to Bimila's house in Imadol (a neighborhood just south of Lalitpur at the Guarko intersection). We were trying to get home around 6:30, so the sun had set and darkness was descending quickly and busses were less frequent. We finally caught one headed in the right direction, but the seats were already full. I wasn't worried, but Bimila has more experience and knows that the bus would only get more crowded. A lady seated next to where I was standing was getting off, so Bimila had me sit down and she made her way to the back of the bus, where she squeezed into the back bench seat. 

The isle was starting to fill up, but not yet to the point of a press, when a mother with a baby in her arms and a three year old in tow got on and was in the isle next to me. So I got up to give her my seat and made my way to the back where Bimila was. Bimila looked dismayed and asked what happened to my seat. I said (in my broken Nepali), मेरो देसमा बेबी बसनोस "in my country, baby please sit down" and pointed back to the mother and children. Bimila was quite surprised, and said that in Nepal, this is not how people think about bus seats. Then I felt guilty because Bimila insisted that I take her seat. 
Playing with the baby

A few minutes later as the press was starting to build, another mother with a babe in arms ended up in the back of the bus near us, but with her back to me. But before I could do anything, Bimila was chatting up two college age men, who were seated next to me and convinced the two of them to give up their seats for the mother and Bimila. They assented and the whole dynamics became very playful. Everyone made silly faces at the baby and he cooed back and got passed up to the students who had fun playing with him during the ride. I could see that other passengers were interested and watched us and might have wanted to join in. But it was these young men who seemed to enjoy it the most, both of them competing to see which one the baby would look at longer. What could have been another packed, uncomfortable bus ride was a lot of fun.