Beautiful Kathmandu in Abstract

Features Issue 74 Jul, 2010
Text by Moheindu Amiran Chemjong / Photo: Kishor Kayastha

Wherever you go in Kathmandu you en- counter the people’s detailed analysis of the political realities that have set in the country. There’s one more thing you cannot escape. So, get rid of the conventional, open up your minds and devour the inevitable, the inescapable, the forbiddingly marvelous—the beauty and colors of this mystical old capital, Kathmandu!

Yes, the country is in the midst of a transition and the brunt of the war is evident, but on closer observation you will find flamboyant hues of Nepal all around: in puddles, along the avenues, on the road side trees, in the hills and along the dusty lanes. Then there are doors—temple doors, house doors, doors along the numerous gallis, doors most lyrical! The colors and drawings of chalk, tika, and sometimes even of loud pure synthetic paint bear a mysterious appeal, an unmistakable aesthetic sense of beauty and a hint of the spiritual inclination of Nepalese souls, as if the arts and the angles are for the passersby to decipher and enjoy

As you walk along you cannot help but marvel at the exquisite façades of the life in Kathmandu. There’s rush, there’s divine tranquility, there’s laughter, there’s doubt, there’s the agony of everyday living in a Third World country, but in the labyrinths of these guises you’ll find the tender strokes of multiple colors and beauty that stop you in your tracks, on the pavements, in restaurants, in pubs, in hotels and on the streets.

 The temple floors and the enigmatic monuments that stand proud and tall seem to be touched, as if by a miraculous wand, so that in spite of the troubles in town, the doctrines of beauty still hold true, the fountains of hope still burn bright and there is a massive explosion of beauty on the old gorges, woods, hills and shops. The valley still echoes to the melodious sounds of nationalism and unity. Amidst the traffic jams and the crowds, the sounds and rhythms of sweet trepidation still play, and if you just open your eyes you can sense and touch the delicate droplets of compassion and benevolence, of Kathmandu. Feelings, too, exhibit a curative, overwhelming spirit of allure, the kind of allure that creates and re-creates nature. Buildings old and ancient, as well as the new and the modern, all sail by the morning suns and ride by the nighttime moons; but in unison they continue to spread the richly ornamented embellishment by these daily ceremonies.

 Along the sidewalks, the number of potholes may be catastrophic, and driving is a mighty challenge, but if you stop a minute, you’ll see in them some exotic reflections, writings on water bearing the froth of the intensity of grand souls, of the Nepalese people, bright tones of this wonder called Life. You will have to believe me that these tiny streams of heavenly make-believe are a photographic idyll and the chaos on the roads—of litter, of vehicles, of street dogs—all contribute to the lively echoes of Nepalese life in Kathmandu.

 If you tune up that sensitive antenna in your soul, or if you listen to that nerve in your heart (the one that is infatuated with gorgeous infusions of color like the deer in the forest), you might also see innumerous shades of dazzling shadows in the evening suns. Then, buying and selling, bargaining and almost screaming, dictate on this holy land. In Kathmandu, the spiritual hub, there’s a vicious cycle of attempting, pushing, failing, rising up, going ahead in daily life, which is even more luminous as temple bells peel and the eloquence of the medieval shines out in butter lamp lighted colors.

 If beauty and colors marry, a lethal concoction arises! That concoction is equivalent to the layers of professions and personalities found amongst the dwellers of Kathmandu. Oh, what charm when even those personas don attire to console their hearts with gentle love, when Nepal is climbing the ladder of peace and development. Maybe it’s because of the almost musical colors of Nepal that there is a birth of new seasons, and new lives are germinated and harvested each day break and, hence, this excess of beauty brilliance.

 The birds of the Gods continue to spread fragrances of seasons, wafting one away to the land where the delicate tinges of souls dance to the angelic wonder of Kathmandu in such a blissful manner that confusion, trouble and doubts disappear. Instead the woes of the country’s dilemma sleep and in their sleep they are transformed into ballads of glory, adagios of happiness, allegros of sheer joy! As mountain tops reveal the hues of severe magnificence, those hues are captured by Kishor’s lenses. Yes, there’s beauty to shatter our brains, colors to charge our hearts with love, lust and wonder, to anchor our hearts to our innermost desires. Such is the power of the abstract understanding of beautiful Kathmandu. Enjoy, if you will, but if you suffer from extreme poetry blame it on Kishor, an artist beyond words!

The author of this essay, Moheindu Chemjong, may be contacted at