A Chance Encounter in London and Some Brave Bald Heads

I was walking aimlessly on Whitehall (road that separates blocks of important British government offices) heading towards Northumberland Avenue. I spotted a young man who was standing on the pavement underneath a huge building on my left and smoking. I felt like I recognized him. Turned out that I had met him recently in Kathmandu. Taken aback by this chance encounter, he concluded: “The world is small.” I agreed. (This jamkabhet reminded me of this article that enjoyed reading and translated into Nepali for readers of Kantipur.)

I had been warned of the London cold before I arrived here. Despite all the warnings and my mental preparation, I found the chill a bit more harsh and unexpected. At one point, I started shivering. I was wearing clothes that would have produced a Thames of sweats from my body in Kathmandu. Not in London. I needed to be warm. So I entered into an eatery that sold fruits and sandwiches. I bought what I wanted and as I approached the pay counter I realized that ‘eating inside’ was slightly costlier than taking food away. The charge for warmth. I chose to pay the premium.

Talking about the cold, what surprised me was the sight of some men walking with their bald heads exposed. Some women were wearing skirts. But a lot of other men and women were wearing a lot of clothes (thick jackets, overcoats, huge mufflers and gloves). But those baldheaded men and skirt-wearing women helped me understand why some of my British friends never find Kathmandu weather cold enough to wear warm clothes. They (and other Westerners in general) wear only shirts and shorts while I and other Nepalis bundle ourselves into endless layers of warm clothes and still complain how cold Kathmandu had become. Today’s walk around the city of Westminster also made me understand why a British friend of mine, while having lunch on a sunny January day in a restaurant in Kathmandu, said that he felt like calling his friends back in UK right at that moment to describe about the 20 degrees Celsius “warm and excellent” weather of the Nepali capital.

A few days back when a close friend of mine saw photos of British toddlers in Kathmandu, their heads uncovered in January cold, her the comment was: Hamro Nepali ko bachha lai ta luga ma gutumutu napare chisole marchhan vanthanchhan babuaama. Hera yi kuireka bachha lai, jado nai vako chhaina!

Nice observation! That explains why Goras feel less cold in Kathmandu then average Gorkhes like me. They are born and brought up in a much colder environment than many Nepalis are. Bachhai dekhi London (or other parts of the UK) ko chiso khana thalepachi k jado hos Kathmandu ko ghamailo winter ma.

By the way, another sight that almost got me a mild heart attack today was that of people drinking chilled Coca-Cola out in the cold. (On my part, I went for a bottle of ‘this water’, advertised as ‘a juice drink blended with pure squeezed juices and spring water’.)

I have experienced and written about unbearable heat of Delhi in summer. I feel London in winter is exactly the opposite. These are the places that consume a lot of energy- to keep houses and shops cool or warm. When you see this there is no way you can forget the 12-hour long power cuts of Kathmandu.