Notes from RatnaparkOn a recent Saturday noon, I was sauntering silently in Ratnapark, weaving through the crowd. Walking aimlessly around this part of the town has been my favourite pastime for quite some time now—for a guy like me, who studies in Trichandra and shares a dingy rented room with a friend, it is a kind of cost-effective solution for entertainment.
On a recent Saturday noon, I was sauntering silently in Ratnapark, weaving through the crowd. Walking aimlessly around this part of the town has been my favourite pastime for quite some time now—for a guy like me, who studies in Trichandra and shares a dingy rented room with a friend, it is a kind of cost-effective solution for entertainment. Fifty bucks for bus and another fifty for a half-plate of laxative mo:mo. And that, really, is all. It suffices for a day out in Ratnapark. What do I get in return? Well, having been a quiet admirer of Einstein since childhood, I will offer one of his most famous quotes in answer. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” So instead of staying at room and reading books, I love to hang out. I am full of imagination when I think about the lives of people I come across in Ratnapark. That’s the only logical answer I can offer in order to justify my aimless wanderings in Ratnapark.
Black, white, wheat-coloured, ugly, average, beautiful, soft voiced, crow voiced, small, medium, large sized, and as everyone knows, girls who look like boys and boys who look like girls—a broad range of people from varying ethnicity, cast, culture and places around Nepal can be seen walking around Ratnapark. I don’t need a Martin Scorsese film for taste of drama and action; I get enough of it in Ratnapark—sometimes while looking at people fighting for prices of T- shirts at flyovers and footpaths or at the packed buses with people fighting for spots.
Advertisement is at its hackneyed glory at Ratnapark—with the annoyingly repetitive speakers promoting second-rate products, street vendors demonstrating the water-proofness of watches, blind people singing lok dohori or people with disabilities begging for money and sympathy. But I, like most of the people at Ratnapark, never buy anything nor offer money for free. What I do when I am here is I try to imagine the course of life of the people, their mundane routine, their aspirations. May be it’s for fun, or for inspiration, I am not sure of the reason, but I enjoy judging people by their look and countenance.
On this particular Saturday, when my observant eyes were running flippantly across the crowd, they suddenly stuck at a person who looked like he was in his early thirties. He was wearing a tattered suit and black shoes that had turned white with dust. He had a slender figure topped with a tiny head, the front patch of it bald. The sight interested me. Nearby the bus stop, he was into a conversation with a conductor, who was disinterested and dismissive. I approached them and I knew he was asking for a free ride since he had no money. The conversation soon heated up, with the guy persisting. Few people soon gathered, seemingly as jury of the momentary court for justice or for nothing. And I waited, baited, happy that my thirst for drama was about to be quenched.
The guy started, “What do you think of me? You think I am a beggar? How dare you think that! I just asked for a ride and you think that I’m not worth it. You are wrong, absolutely wrong!” I was waiting for what he was going to say to provide proof of his worth. The crowd was confused and the conductor looked annoyed and went away. But the guy continued. “You people respect suited-booted guys, you are fools. If I have tried I would have achieved success that you fools worship. Money, politics, power, is that what you worship? Oh yes! That’s it. You worship politicians. If I had stopped focusing on studies and exams and instead focused into hooligan-student politics I would have had a lucrative political career or a lucrative recommended job. But I was a fool, I chose studies and I’m here. I would have risen to political power in any party. I would have risen in Nepali Congress by selling B.P’s goodwill and using blood-borne congresses, blind-devotees of over-hyped B.P’s socialism. I would have risen in Yemale by selling Madan Bhandari’s janabaad. I would have risen to power in Maobadi by selling Mao’s philosophy. I would have risen to power in Madhesi/Janajati parties by selling the prejudice of skin colour, cast, speech, culture and ethnicity. I would have risen to power in Raprapa by selling a religion. Using thugs, dons, blind supporting students, using silence of middle class intelligent people, using money from elite people, I would have risen to power in any political party and earned money and respect from fools like you.”
The guy was still shouting though the crowd had dispersed. He was still keeping up at his contradictory monologue and I was the only audience, observing him from a distance. After a few minutes he walked away. I too left the spot and picked a bus to return to my room. On the way, my thoughts returned back to that guy. His monologues evinced mental illness. But indirectly, his speech gave me a vague idea to gaining power, money and respect. So I started thinking of joining student politics but remembered the all too frequent occurrences of gang fights among student organisations and quickly pushed that idea aside. I thought of pursuing politics at my village in Tanahun but remembered that I was from a middle class family which lacked any political connections. Then I thought of doing politics of colour, cast, ethnity and speech but again remembered that I was from a Brahmin family. Then I gave up the idea of getting rich and powerful through politics. Operating gangs and becoming a don was beyond my reach.
I stepped outside the bus and started walking towards my room. I thought, even though I won’t be able to earn lots of money and power, I would accomplish these if I follow a different path. There was sense of relief in me for a moment but I was tensed when I realised that I was thinking exactly as that guy and chills struck me when I visualised that guy as my future self. I was thoughtless and just walked and walked towards my room where I would pursue my life like other middle-class people, helping politician cum businessmen cum gang leader with my silence towards corruption, crimes, injustice and blind-belief going on around me. There really was nothing to be done.