I saw a group of elderly men relaxing at a sattal in Bhaktapur in a recent afternoon. They were soft-spoken folks who chatted with each other in Newari/Nepal Bhasha. Some smiled occasionally while others maintained an unchanged facial expression for long. Some frequently moved their bodies and adjusted their sitting positions while others didn’t even move their hands for long– especially the man on the left in the front row. They briefly, but separately, looked at me as I was taking this photo (second and third are cropped versions of the first) but, it appeared to me, all of them lost interest in what I was doing as soon as they looked at me. Which was good and what I wanted. I spent at and around the sattal for about two hours observing these men and trying to understand the overall atmosphere around the sattal.
I concluded that these sattals are a great place for people to hangout. They are very essential to most of these people who live in houses that are so closely attached to each other that there’s no space between them and in the neighborhood that doesn’t have public spaces like parks. Kathmandu is a park-less city, a jungle of concrete fortunately surrounded by green hills mostly full of trees.
This one is a very old Newari settlement of Kathmandu valley. These old settlements have sattals like this that serve as major hangout spots for locals. But many new colonies and residential areas that have sprouted in the Vally in the past couple of decades don’t even have these kind of places where people of the neighborhood can come and mingle with each other. A reason why Kathmandu is a very difficult city to live in.
Here’s the first half of the frame:
And the remaining half: