Kathmandu… this city is everything. The people, the vehicles, the buildings are as diverse as it is possible on earth. All kinds of different houses are thrown together like huge piles of dices, only broken by the buzzing roads. There is no order, every dice shows the number it got by chance. The million different cultures are reflected in the clothes, the walls, roofs and terraces. And in the middle of the city, along the filthy river, are the slums. Stinking to the sky… with limping dogs, cows and woman alike searching through the piles of garbage. And in the background… expensive buildings in the colors of the sun or modern glass and steel.
Yet there is one connection no one can escape, the dust… the smog. It lays on everything, creeps into your lungs and makes the sky look gray, even though the sun is burning relentlessly down on your skin.
Between the nice houses with a million terraces and provisional barracks and the shops with no doors, bumpy dirt roads curl through the city. When pointing out the nice houses and bad roads the simple answer is ‘corruption’. Every investment that comes from the government passes a lot of pockets before it reaches its destination, with the result that many projects are never carried out.
The street picture is divers and colorful and always back-grounded by the constant honking of all kinds of vehicles. It is like a constant ‘hallo’ ‘hallo’ ‘hallo’. You honk when you drive around a corner. You honk when you turn. You honk when you go straight. You always honk. You can see the most incredible vehicles packed with a thousand people (the bus assistants waving out of the windows in case you haven’t noticed them by honking), a million motorbikes, cows…all moving to…well…no rules at all. There are no street signs or marking whatsoever, everyone simply drives there, where he finds space.
Achyuts’ again simple explanation on how this works, “you make the rules”. You simply cross the road when you think you waited long enough (while honking heavily) and simply make the others stop for you. Simple! It doesn’t make it less scary that he doesn’t stop talking about me riding the bike myself soon…when I mention that it is less the bike I worry about then the traffic, he says, “ah, you’ll be perfect”. Sure…