The Graduates

Dalli Maya sat on the handrails of a steel parapet which provided enclosure to the café. The café was on a cul-de-sac with alleys wrung in all directions. She wore a red ribbon around her braids as rings of her hair shone colorfully in the languid September sun.

Goloman assuming a meek countenance produced smoke ringlets which slowly drifted and grew as it moved towards an emaciated cat and suddenly garlanding the fascinated creature made it purr gently and in wonder.

Dalli passing the blunt to Goloman coughed, laughed and unveiled her plans happily and readily. It had been a week since they had graduated from the university and they felt like king and queen of the world. They had passed the dreariness of university with a sense of self-righteousness and languor. Now with a step into the unknown and another into the past, they found the company of each other more exciting and it gave them tranquility and confidence.

They were in the summer of their lives and they were young, carefree, loving and not cynical enough. They spoke with each other with their eyes, smiling, pondering and embracing the moment of time which would never return even though it was filled in love, friendship and innocence. Suddenly, they had admitted each other into their confidence and shared their hidden thoughts, desires and outlaid brilliant plans for future.

In the eternal day they became nutty professor with penchant for feet. An evil environmentalist lawyer. A real estate mogul in love with hooker. A gigolo. A pimp. A millionaire coder who promoted peace among worlds. An assassin politician who pursued rapists. A filmmaker with hot troupes. In the sublime moment of happiness, they were engulfed in incoherent and rash conversations leading to raillery, jokes and denunciations of all sorts, clanking their steel voices in clashes of inane excitement, furor and nonchalance; and when an unrestraint feverishness led them astray their joviality ended up in such a passionate sequence of kisses, which like a storm that gradually engendered a violent spiral of libidinal desires and carnal appetites for which they were readily thrown out of the café.

This full time fun suddenly changed in matter of months.

Dalli Maya’s happiness knew no limits when her father having been elected the new mayor of municipality obtained for his daughter the position of social mobilizer in office. She spent her days fooling around the municipal building chatting with all sorts of people with all sorts of bearings. In the meantime, she was enamored with Goloman having lost her hymen to his whimsical and youthful tenderness. Both were occupied in an ecstasy of lust, friendship and uncommitted courtship. Dalli Maya upon her wont of regularly reflecting on life found the affair most soothing to her nerves.

It was just as she had imagined life. A job that appealed for her lack of ambition and a man who didn’t want anything to do with her after sex. A life so sluggish that it could only be possible in Kathmandu. She felt reborn as the dull enthusiasm of university life was left behind. There will now be no homework or examinations. She didn’t have to bonk classes or perceive the piercing scrutiny of teachers. She would no more be upset in the labeling of bhaalu by her classmates. She could now breathe properly in the new dreariness of adult life.

It was stirring and undemanding. She would make a couple of runs to the ward meetings, pretending to note down concerns. She reported these concerns to the supervisor, a third class gazetted officer. He had a fleshy and sad nose. He would continue to nod comatosely till she ceased addressing him and then sighing like a smacked child he would reply in an undertone, ‘Okay. Dhanyabad’ leaving Dalli Maya to join her party of gossipers and idlers in municipal canteen where she would laze and fritter away office hours.

Goloman wrapped up his assignment and texted Dalli Maya to meet her at Hotel Chalise where he had booked a room for evening. He was interning at a nongovernmental, human rights organization. He was to write a brief in English on the case of Ganga Maya Adhikari, a woman in hunger strike for her teenage son killed during the Maoist Insurgency. He felt disgust and indignant for the case where the poor widow had to endure the death of her husband during the course of such hunger strike. He thought that the case was a sham. A political game of hide and seek. A never-ending search for justice that would never meet its end. A political bargain. A ruin of an innocent family. A public platform for civil society organizations to bring in dollars. And most appallingly, a symbol of transitional justice.

By the time he reached the scene of romantic delight, he inured the perjury, injustice and dark politics of the case. Crafting his way through an almost asphyxiation of a microbus ride, sandy streets, cappuccino colored potholes, ugly concrete houses made from ringgit labor and sparse Gulhomar trees, he completely forgot the day spent in smothering empathy and helpless agony.

He laid on the monochrome bedsheet and lit a fag. Uniformly drawing deep breaths, he scrolled through Instagram feed liking photos of his friends, cousins and strangers.

Hiking. Hashtags. Beards. Beer. Selfies. Self-Proclaimed Celebrities. Ubiquitous love emojis.

The room reeked of rainwater, unemptied ashtray and semi-gloss enamel. The attached bathroom wafted in smell of urine and lavender scented Odonil.

After a subtle and coded knock, the door hinges produced a protracted squeaky sound. Dalli Maya appeared all smiles. It was the last day of the month and she had received her first salary. Twenty-four thousand seven hundred and fifty rupees. Her happiness knew no bounds and the first thing she did was buy an expensive, ultra-thin, dotted condom pack for Goloman. She giggled at the mischief which seemed to turn him on. They made instant love, skipping tender caresses followed by kisses and foreplay which usually lasted at least half an hour. This sudden violence lasted almost a full minute.

‘I have to be home by seven’ Goloman mentioned nonchalantly. Then almost irate at the thought of guests at home, he added brusquely, ‘There’s a Shradha supper.

‘It’s almost winter and its dark so early. My mother phones me based on the darkness in the sky’ she lamented, looking through the aluminum mosquito nets of the windows.

Goloman looked pensively at Dalli Maya. Her bony spine disappeared somewhere along a soft bulge of her derriere. Four dark brown moles besotted her cervices. There were some more on her arms. A couple of dark ringlets extended to her nape. It appeared brittle and looked as if it could break easily off from her body with only a few sensual kisses. He felt a small nausea building in his chest. Her body was his edifice and he worshipped it. For an atheist a naked human body offers some degree of faith in the omnipotent.

‘Why can’t our ancestors leave us alone?’ Goloman murmured gaping at her body. She turned around gently. Her dark nipples seemed to greet him somberly. He had a broad smile building on her unsurprised countenance. Her teeth evinced cigarette stains on the fore. She shrugged spiritedly and with a lopsided grin, questioning his obsession with culture and dogmas. An inkling of such cultural transgression and he just cannot leave it alone, she thought. It had been dragging for a while now, unabated and now unrestrained and now it seemed to her that it would never stop.

‘Why can’t you just show up, smile, make small talks and be calm about it?’ Dalli Maya asked, suppressing her exasperation.

‘How can I? My relatives are such great people. They talk nonsense. They are full of concessions and wits which is just a droll and nothing more. I would say mildly amusing but I won’t give much credit either. That’s all they seem to care about, commentators and judges of our society. They talk like they can develop our country in a day’ Goloman replied.

He could hear them chortling with their jeers and repartees.

‘Boo, boo, baaa’ she made funny faces trying to distract him from unwise thoughts.

Dalli Maya didn’t know when she had fallen for Goloman. It wasn’t either love at first sight nor did they gradually allure each other. They never fell in love. They grew into one. Perhaps out of necessity, like siblings or couples who espouse through arrange marriage. Dalli Maya didn’t see a future with him but she perceived that he was certainly monogamous.

Goloman lay prostrate with his hirsute limbs. She thought it appeared thick and delicious. She wanted to make love one more time before she left for home. The strawberry flavored rubber united with sweetness of sex sweat unified their thoughts, anguish and cheers as the dark blue hues of the evening caroused with laughter of bugs, mosquitoes and frogs.

Nirmala !

If I were a priest, I’d pray to the gods
For they seem only to listen to men
Who banter and applaud
Cheap nudity.
Manly gusto.
Tore up labia.
Bloodied justice.

I lament! I lament-
Birth. Caste. Boobs. Country
I am –
In mercy from wedding makers
In anguish from son seekers
In between dicks and dishes
Under duress, naked esteem.

If I were a priest, I’d pray to the gods
To give birth to men
Who love strangers as much as they love themselves.

Your Father Needs a Cow in the Afterlife

1

The rickshaw screeches to a stop by the blue wooden doors of the shop, not even tall as its proprietor, having to duck every time you take the doors. It’s a series of doors, sturdy wooden planks that open like a Chinese folding fan, metal hinges needing oil in the cold. Opening the doors in a series of grumbles while its clacks lets fluorescent lights pour into the dirt street and the rear end of the rickshaw. Dumping a squeezed cigarette pack with ‘555’ on its side while brushing his shoes on a rubber mat on the doorstep, he enters his shop. It was also home of late.

The rickshaw driver looks through the open doors at the shop. He sees a sleeping shop. Done with all its labors the harmonium shop lies in chaos, at least for the rickshaw driver. He sees the gentleman coming back, cash in hand. He takes it graciously, the green notes crispy in hand.

Pulling out of the dirt, he pushes and jumps onto the pedals, the road is empty now, and he is in a hurry. He shoots through the streets that take him to the middle of the city. Now they have made the road go around the ground, in a circle to the dark statues of the persons long past. He didn’t mind he had to go all the way around that new road, paying homage to kings, generals, tyrants he never knew. He didn’t mind that the way took him longer, under the gates of the dead heroes of things long past. He whistles through cold winds of a sleeping city nestling in the warm embraces of stillness.

Doors to the harmonium shop closes. There is a sharp note of a harmonium key when it shut, maybe not. The front of the shop is crowded with unfinished pieces with jut out wires like bones of an unfinished being on the table of creation; wood scraps and dust lie on the floor, bile and excrements. Through a small cream-colored door in the back, a darker and even narrower space exists. All the junk on the shop floor was meant to be here, in the storage. Now there is just a bed.

“Anything happened today?” She asked every day. Every day like this, seven months. He said nothing.

They knew. He pulls, presses a switch hanging itself on a spiral blue wire. A smaller fluorescent light up reflecting down from tin with badly printed logos and rust spots where nails hammered through wood and metal was what remained of his life. Dropping off his coat on a hook behind the door, he pulled his belt and took a breath.

“It isn’t easy hunting a ghost.”

The love of his life looked up at him with pained eyes. “Did you ask her?”

“Look…”

“Did you?”

“Yes.”

“What did she say?”

“………. “, she bows her head at that.

2

“She knew about my father and the curse the moment she laid her eyes on me.” She looks up at that with hopes in her eyes. Her sharp chin sharpened when happy. It was excited and hopeful. The small face dwarfed by golden moons in her ears broke his heart.

“There is a man by Pikal lake. Apparently, he is friends with ghosts of priests.”

“Tomorrow?” He sighs, exhausted.

“Need to go by the temple and the market to get some offerings for him first. Come on, that is tomorrow. Let’s eat now.”

The radio is silent as they eat. It is past midnight and people at the radio sleep, to start early prayers in morning. “I can see him, child! He stands Tall Powerful! I see his frowning face! He rages!”

Well, that sounded like the Red Pundit he knew.

He was kneeling, hopeful with marigolds clutched between his hand, held before and above his head, bowed before powerful visage of the ancient shaman. Throwing half a handful of red rice over the pattern of a mud floor, the near-nude, red lined shaman shakes around in a trance. He listened, in hope.

“He sees you, child! He wants to tear you apart and feast on your blood. He curses, even in death! The lords of death ride him, disturbed in the mortal world, the tranquil beings of eternity.”

Now Bikal prostrated on his knees. His forehead is on the brown floor, and he screams his pleas and begs the ghost of the holy Brahmin. He seeks removal of the curse. He seeks redemption for his family, put out before it started.

“Forgive and bless my house oh father! Lift this curse, we are thy own blood.”

“Death! Destruction! Annihalation of Everything!” The shaman was trembling, no rhythm to his trance now, just a leaf in mercy of tempest.

“Father! Forgive me, our family, remember the face of our mother and lift this curse.”

The storm slowed, winds died, and everything came to a silent stop. The Pikal shaman had aged a decade in the last hour. The white-haired man pushed against the floor to the wall and lay there, eyes closed.

“Your father,” the shaman spoke with eyes shut, “will not be dissuaded. His anger is too strong to be dismissed, his righteousness too stubborn for forgiveness. This curse is non-trivial.”

There is a way out still.

“We have to do a Calming ritual on Monday. The shaman says it’ll take the whole day and night of fasting. This is one of those big ones. Great sacrifice will be necessary. I’ll get a goat tomorrow, why don’t you get started on the fire?”

“Think this’ll work?”

“Yes. There is something about the man. I think we will know for once and all. This is the last stop. Then we stop trying.”

He didn’t know that before he spoke. That act of speaking persuaded him to make his mind, his own voice that seemed distant did reasoning for him. No more, this was last. She looked up at him, her eyes welling up, she buried her face against his shoulders.

3

The rickshaw hurtles through the wide road on the northern corner of town. A newly expanded area and you can still see the sharp edges of gravel and tar on the side of road. There are few houses around, sure to change in a year, this city is fattening up. Undisturbed by pedestrians or stupidly maneuvering tin cans of town, the man enjoys the wind against his face. Beneath his feet the old metal and wood contraption is gliding, no burden under its bamboo shed. In the great straight road, there’s a single and subtle bend that takes you around dense bamboo bush keeping to your left. Keeping on the bend, bushes hastily retreat to give way to a small fork on a stream that goes under the road. It’s hard to notice, and most people usually don’t. High yellowing grass.

A small corner just off the road and by the stream, full of coals that never looked more than a few hours old. They never were. It could be mistaken as a ghat, a place of pyres if not for the fact that no one on that lonely road had ever seen a lit pyre there. It was because they only went through that road during day. It was no secret that the ghat by bend lit brightly every night. People didn’t know about it, but it was no secret.

For the rickshaw man, whose work and riders took him to every corner in the city, from European mansions of the blood rich to disgusting sacks he dragged drunk customers home to, this place was not unfamiliar.

Tonight, as he hurtles towards hills at the end of the road where a two beams tall mud house with a cowshed lies. His wife used to work in the city, when they first came here. That was years ago and now she lived at home, taking care of their six children, two goats and a horde of angry chickens. Kids were expensive, he wished someone had told him that. Not like his days, he had nine other siblings and his parents did fine.

The bonfire didn’t surprise him. What did was loud wailing coming from a figure by the ground near the burning pyre. He didn’t notice, the pyre seemed a bit different today, a bit bigger lacking a bit browner and darker shade of death. The fire was huge still there was a hunger for more wood.

4

He slowed. He had stopped by here before and had talked with the creepy priest handful of times. When his eyes got used to the glare of the pyre he could make out a woman lying on the ground. She had that familiar swooning fit that only comes with death of love. He was focusing much on the woman, the man took him by surprise.

He has a familiar look. He raised his hand showing, reflecting white palms of his hand seeing a startled look on his face.

“Sorry to surprise you like that, friend.”

The rickshaw driver said nothing, he looked around, sweeping his gaze from man to pyre and woman and back to man. No priest present and there are usually no visitors in this ghat. The people they burn here don’t have visitors. The rickshaw man dismissed his slight unease, he had nothing on him after all.

When the man didn’t reply to his greeting, the stranger ventured, “Not a good hour for conversation, eh? Do you drive this route often?” He pointed to the Rickshaw.

“I live at the end of the highway over there.”

“Well that’s a long way to go, isn’t it? Please take some of this offering with you. It was my father-in-law’s funeral today.”

It was an unusual place and time for a cremation, but the rickshaw man didn’t feel right to comment. You don’t refuse food at a funeral; the dead eat what you eat.

“I thank you. Sacred things are always welcome. Where is the priest and everyone?”

The stranger invited him towards the pyre with a gesture while he answered, “Oh you know the priests nowadays, interested only in coins in the offering, not even the grain. Read a half-assed hymn and excused himself with something about another funeral and slipped out. We are strangers to this city, …my father-in-law suffered an accident while we were here.”

The men stood a respectful distance from the burning pyre. The woman was a bit silent now, her throat raw lungs empty of any air. He looked intently at her with pity. To lose your father in a city…..

He barely saw the khukri coming towards him from left with a blurry vision, but it was too late then. Although he could feel the gush and wetness all round his left side, he didn’t feel any pain while the stranger grabbed him by his waistcoat, on his blind and dead side and dragged-threw him into the fire, back first.

Surely the stranger didn’t mean it this way, but the rickshaw man was conscious; a few moments away from the birth of pain in his mind, facing two burning figures in front. The stranger’s eyes were wide, afraid, yellow and horrified. He could look them both in their eyes while he died. He knew who she was crying for.

 

Nine Years as a Call Center Agent

It was back in the year 2009, I chanced to read a book which I would later be thankful for influencing my life in a way which that it helped me grow into an audacious and strong-willed person that I feel I am today. Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at the Call Center, a profound masterpiece would later encourage me to become a part of call center industry in Nepal and would also set a benchmark for my professional conduct.   

As a sixteen-year-old teenager, now free and directionless, thrust directly and unprepared from a decade of hostel life at Budhanilkantha School (BNKS), I was now seeking for job opportunities. In school, everyone was equal but now the financial disparity between me and most of my batch mates were real and wide. To survive in Kathmandu, I had to fight against all odds set before me and in the meantime, discover myself.

As fate would have it, I chanced to stumble upon a temporary job opening at a Call Center. I had but little clue that I would work and hone my professional skills as a call center agent for a long time to come. Another decade long journey ensued (in this field) and my journey so far has been exciting, adventurous and filled with of setbacks and comebacks. At this point of time in life, I am proud to say that I am now working as a Freelance Sales Consultant at my own home-based office, registered as NEXT WEB LLC. at United States of America. The memories that have been created through this long and arduous journey will stay with me forever.

Prior to landing my first job as a Junior Sales Executive at Uniweb Technologies, I had to go through weeks of extensive training at Kumaripati, Lalitpur. Based in Kathmandu, Uniweb Technologies was one of the most thriving Call Center at that time. A two week call center sales training would cost me twenty-five hundred rupees; but to my dismay, I had but mere seven rupees in coins in my pocket. I nervously borrowed five hundred rupees from a close friend of my brother and fifteen hundred rupees from an aunt. I was still short of five hundred rupees. But as luck would have it, the owner of Uniweb Technologies chanced to be a maternal uncle of a BNKS junior. He amicably waived the remaining fee.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: No matter how diligent and honest one may be, knowing people was important too, for chances to good luck grew.

During the entire course of this Sales Training I would walk for about three hours from Gongabu to Kumaripati and again walk back the same route in a day. For the next two weeks, I kept the momentum and never missed a class walking for almost six hours a day. I sat for my first job interview after the training with a company called Web Link Solutions. I was in desperate need of this job, for I had managed to pay back all my previously borrowed loans and was again back to clinking the same seven rupees in coins. I didn’t get the job. I was told by the company that I lacked good English language skills. It was probably for the first time in my life that I realized how miserable one feels when one doesn’t get what one needs in life so much. I grew dejected and thought that I will return to my village in Dolpa. I called my mother with the intention of telling her that I longed for home. She replied bravely and tenderly that she will pray for my next interview, if I ever landed one. I started preparing unambitiously and with scant hopes for any such interviews.

About a week later, to my surprise, the same company which had facilitated sales training called me up for an interview. I sat for four decisive hours for the interview along with twenty other potential Sales Agent candidates. I thought that the interview was average. I didn’t mention anything noteworthy. But again, I was lucky. I must add, apart from Chetan Bhagat’s book, I am very grateful in life to a certain movie, The Reader (2008) which I had watched the same week just before the interview. The interviewer, Santa Sir asked all of us in a group discussion session, to brief about the latest movie we had watched. Among all twenty candidates, I was the only individual to have even watched a movie that was released the same year let alone having watched the newest movie. Most of them merely babbled about renowned movies like The Terminator, Titanic and, Jurassic Park.

Being a student of BNKS, I was in habit of watching a movie every Friday and that somehow, uncannily conspired to land me a job in Kathmandu. The interviewer, Santa Sir would also become an important part of my life and career. I got the job. 

I worked at Uniweb for a year. The job started at 8 PM and would end at 5 AM. I gave all I had to this job. It required nine hours of continuous dialing and calling to people on the phone, pitching for sales and pretending to be an American based in U.S.A. We even had a pseudo American names for ourselves. In the first two weeks, I changed my pseudo name four times. I became David, Peter, Ronald, and then Dave, cracking two transfer sales in the first month alone. The first month, known as honeymoon period, is a lenient stretch of time on the contracts of Sales Agents. My Immediate Supervisor and Team Leader, Subash Tamang quickly became my role model. He was a seventeen-year-old Indian-Nepali with unparalleled confidence, attitude, and hunger for sales and numbers. He was my first role model, and I knew that I wanted to be like him and walk in his shoes. Consequentially, I broke the sales record of Uniweb by being in the top of sales chart every month for a year. By the end of fifth month, almost every agent from my batch had left the job and I was the oldest agent already.

I went on to join a startup Call Center called SPARKLEWEBS where I was offered the role of Senior Sales Executive and Supervisor. In addition, owing to my performance at Uniweb, I was also offered a partnership with the apartment-based company. The startup was initiated by Pranish dai, Roshan dai, Bindo dai and Dipesh dai. Pranish dai and Late Roshan dai were colleagues from Uniweb. Joining SPARKLEWEBS turned out to be a right decision for me. I worked enthusiastically and energetically. I learned a great deal of sales techniques. And the added responsibility of a Sales Supervisor helped me grow a lot professionally.

Thereafter, everything changed for good. If it wasn’t for dogged dedication, I doubt I would have made it this far. In the next three years, I worked in two different companies as Sales Supervisor and Sales Team Leader, respectively. By 2013, four years after having left BNKS as a young, anxietic, unprepared, and skeptical individual lacking the wherewithal to survive in Kathmandu, I started as a Freelance Web Consultant and by 2015, I would end up registering my own business in the U.S.A. Today, I am running my own show and I am so damn proud of it.

Most interesting & catchy conversation between Sales Agents and customers I have heard while working at Call Center Web Campaigns:

Conversation One:

Rabbie (Agent) : Sir Can you turn on your computer for me now?
Customer : Sure, what is it you would like to do me now
Rabbie ( Agent ) : Now, can you click on my computer
Customer: Buddy, I am in the USA, How do you expect me to click on your computer from here

Conversation Two:

Bob (Agent): Hello, I would like to talk to Mike ( Customer Name )
Lady on the other end of the line (Customer): Sorry Honey, Mike isn’t in today, I am his mother can I help you with anything?
Bob (Agent) : Hajur Namaste Aunty, Sancahi hunu huncha

Conversation Three:

Customer: I would like to have this advance feature and some other new features integrated in my website
Dave(Agent): Sure, that will cost you additional dollars
Customer: How much extra?
Dave (Agent): $200 at least
Customer: Woe! whay is that so expensive
Dave (Agent): Sir, website is like PAISA FEYKO TAMASHA DEKHO KIND OF STUFF, THE MORE YOU SPEND THE MORE YOU GET.

Lessons I have learned so far: 

  1. You will make a lot of friends.
  2. It can be a long-term career.
  3. You’ll have a lot of fun. That’s very important in work life.
  4. You’ll get chance to enrich your communication and manipulation skills.
  5. You’ll learn to cope up with the dynamics of work pressure and reaching targets.
  6. You sure will be accepting a lot of bullshits, but you’ll learn that, to succeed in life you need to listen more than you speak.

Some Photo Memories I collected along the way in this journey

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Ebooks

Buy E-books from contributing authors of The Kathmandudes. 

  1. Fear and Loathing in Kathmandu, A Confession – Short Story Series 

Publisher : The Kathmandudes

Year: June, 2010

2. Fear and Loathing in Kathmandu, The Moraliste of Bhaktapur, Short Story Series 

Publisher : The Kathmandudes

Year: December, 2017