When I had taken up this house here, the landlady had forewarned, ‘Don’t be late in the nights.’ I was a bit apprehensive but didn’t want to let go off a good house in an upmarket locality for this small reason. Later, I realised she needn’t have warned. Kathmandu follows a different day-cycle to Delhi.
It believes in ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ dictum. By nine the roads are nearly empty, and by ten the dogs are howling. In addition, I didn’t really make any off-line friends here. So I never did break her rule except on a few occasions when I have colleagues from India visiting.
Now there is a curfew imposed from eleven in the night to four in the dawn. (I won’t get into details as I am not interested in writing about political situation of a country that is not my own; a ‘google news’ search will help you for sure). It does not matter per se. Even when I go to my favorite bar I am usually in much before that hour. But somehow the psychological impact seems to be there. It’s just that hypothetical fear what if I get delayed and am not able to reach home in time! So, past week evenings have been spent at home, browsing or chatting or reading and listening music. Well, not really writing much.
If you are wondering let me assure Kathmandu does have a night life, but not in the style of Bombay or Delhi. There are clubs and a few discos. And the more abundant ‘dance bars’. I have mentioned Belly Dance Bar previously. Compared to erstwhile Mumbai bars, this one was considerably old-fashioned. Since then, I have visited Show Palace on Darbar Marg. Reportedly some top actresses also dance there, though I have not verified the facts. Even though the entrance is seedy, the restaurant is anything but that. There is no skin-show, no lewd gestures and no sleaze. In the mid-nineties, for a small duration, there was a trend in Delhi marriages to have this stage set up with strobe lights and some girl coming and dancing in awkward steps. Show Palace kind of resembles that. Male and female dancers are in equal proportion, and they sway to both Nepalese and Hindi songs. For the affluent, there are clubs – more upmarket and definitely high-end in cost.
Thamel is another night-out place. Known for its economical accommodation providing facilities, it is a favorite haunt for back-packers and budget-tourists, though I cannot vouch for the shops being really inexpensive. At any given point of time, this is where one can find maximum tourists collectively. Even shops are largely selling quaint artifacts, cassettes/CDs or handy trekking outfits/gears; or they are money exchange/transfer outlets.
The entire criss-cross is dotted with myriad multi-cuisine restaurants and bars ranging from American to Thai to Indian to Italian to Mexican foods (the last two win in numbers). Again, the look and feel is definitely more seventies/eighties decade than what we find in, say,Connaught Place in Delhi ! Most music played is old hits – English or Latino. Several ‘sandwich delis’ are also found, but ‘sandwich’ here means a ‘subway’ kind of longish-bun. A few ‘lounge bars’ are also available. The area obviously doesn’t cater much to Indians; even the cassette shops stack few Hindi audio/video. Titles like ‘Little Buddha’ or ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ are more prominently displayed, which gives idea who the target audience is!
Thamel always wears a festive look – bright and vibrant. I like the place, to generally roam around and absorb its throbbing energy.