….त म त्यो साँझ घर फर्किरहेको थिएँ, गाडी बिछट्टै प्याक थियो। एउटा स्टपमा मानिसहरू ओर्लिंदै थिए, छतबाट पनि एक तन्नेरी झर्दैथियो। छतमै पनि भीड भएकाले ऊ भर्याङबाट होइन बीचैबाट ओर्लिंदै थियो। कसोकसो उसको खुट्टो झ्यालमै नअडिएर झ्यालसँगैको सिटमा बसेका एकजना अधबैंसेको मुखमा जोतिन पुग्यो। ‘थुइक्क,’ ती अधबैंसेले चुक अमिलो आएझैं अनुहार पार्दै मुखमा छिरेको हिलो निकाल्न खोजे। तिनले हतारमै सर्टको बाहुलाले ओठ र मैले देखें, जिब्रो पनि पुछ्न खोजे। बाहुलामा खैरो–कालो धब्बा बस्यो तर तिनको मुखबाट हिलो सबै गएन। तिनी ओ हेनरीको कुनै अतिव्यंग्यात्मक कथाको एउटा पीडित पात्रजस्तै थिए। विडम्बना उनको मुखमा जुत्ता पुर्याउने युवकलाई ती अधबैंसेको हबिगतको पत्तोसम्म थिएन। ऊ आफैं संघर्ष गर्दै जसोतसो छतबाट झरेर अँध्यारोमा घरतिर लम्किसकेको थियो। पाँच मिनेट पछि पनि ती अधबैंसे जिब्रो निकाल्दै, ओठ चलाउँदै, मुख पूरै बिगार्दै झयालबाहिर थुक्दै थिए। तिनको अनुहार म प्रस्ट पढ्न सक्थें– तिनी सिटमा बसेर गरेको यात्राप्रति खुबै पश्चाताप गरिरहेका छन्।
(कान्तिपुर कोसेली 2008/08/23)
I wrote that article four years ago. The situation hasn’t changed a bit. Two days ago an impromptu afternoon strike in Kathmandu (and elsewhere in Nepal) forced people to commute in the same pathetic condition that I describe in the article. In all these years we have seen tall promises made (and never fulfilled), new men heading one government after another (and delivering nothing but disappointment). Things remain same. Buses continue to be crowded and dangerously unsafe to travel for women (and men). This city lacks infrastructures that make a city a city. In fact I don’t feel comfortable to call Kathmandu a city. It’s a mess as portrayed in the article above.
When you have lived in a mess for most of your life, the sight of anything that is functional and working makes you amazed. But one doesn’t have to be a citizen of a third world country and its capital city to notice the excellent infrastructure of the city that has hosted Olympics three times. So if I say here that London has everything and most of those things are in order that statement will be totally influenced by my experience with Kathmandu. With such statements, I’ll be unknowingly comparing Kathmandu with London which is not the point of this entry.
When I told a British friend about this entry he looked at me as if, of all the great things in London with architecture being on top of the list, I found nothing but buses to blog about. But I think small things that are not noticed or taken for granted by those who have them fascinate you the most if you don’t have such things.
I feel no shame in saying that people of Kathmandu live in deprivation and chaos (unless you are very rich. I am not). If I were to participate in a survey that asked what infrastructure facility that you want in Kathmandu the most, I would tick at the ‘public transportation system’ option without thinking for a second.
It is with this background and reality I decided to devout a separate entry to the public bus system of London.
Back in 2009 when I was reporting from New Delhi I had heard that a group Nepali officials had gone there to study the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system in Delhi (where exclusive lanes are allocated for public buses on certain sections of roads). Again, a small thing but I was surprised to see that in buses of Mumbai passengers entered through rear gates and exited through front doors of the buses. And in Bangkok I was surprised to see women conductors collecting fares from passengers (first photo here). Can’t imagine women doing that work here in Kathmandu. Not because they can’t but because Nepali public transportation system as a workplace is very unfriendly to women.
The night bus service in Kathmandu is a good start but we need much more than just a few buses plying on a very limited route up until midnight.
Next: Pubs and Ale of London