TWELVE BUMPY HOURS. 4:30 in the morning: shower, chai and porrito. 5:30 a.m.: I drove the six kilometres to Tari Bazar in the tuk-tuk of a neighbour I had met the day before. 6 hours: I jumped off the tricycle just in time to get on a passing minibus. 6:45 a.m.: the same situation occurred in the town of Narayanghat, where I immediately took another minibus.
9:45: I arrived in Pokhara and stopped a taxi: “To the Immigration Office”. 10:00: I crossed the gate at the same time as the four officials who were processing the visas. 10:15 a.m.: I paid the exaggerated sum of four dollars for each day of extension until May 29 (Damn capitalist Maoists!). 10:30 a.m. I returned to the bazaar in the same taxi. 10:45: chai and bidi. 11 am: I left for Narayanghat in another minibus, where I arrived four hours later. With two other similar vehicles, I repeated in reverse the morning route passing by Tari Bazar. 4:30pm: End of that entertaining race with the satisfaction of having obtained my visa.
It is worth adding that, knowing that I would be sharing the space on the buses with a lot of people, I had bought one of those masks that are more expensive every day and that are supposed to protect against the coronavirus. When I put it on I discovered that it was Asian-sized and not suitable for a nosy Semitic like me. Then I laughed, remembering the day I visited my friend Mr. Jackal in his homeland of Assam and he took me for a ride on his Enfield motorcycle: he gave me a helmet that had been made in China and, when I closed the visor, I saw that there was not enough room for my big nose. Ha!
The next day I started typing with the feeling of starting a new period of my life. Umm, you don’t have to be a visionary, do you, because in the next three months there are going to be events that are going to change everything.
THE GALACTIC TAVERN
Once upon a time, at the door of my favorite dive bar, I stopped in astonishment to see that practically all of the customers were women. Moreover, it looked like a representation of the United Nations because there were women of different races and nationalities. I shyly walked among them, wondering if they would send me away as soon as I got my tape recorder out. Luckily, when I arrived at the bar, I found an old friend who introduced me, saying that, because I was a man, I was not a bad guy, and the others agreed to tell me some anecdote of their life.
The first to do so was a redheaded Russian woman in her forties, who was very large: “At the beginning of the 20th century, the great-grandfather of a friend of mine did business with the Caliph of Damascus, who gave him part of his harem, exactly twelve concubines. But when he returned to Russia with that spectacular baggage, the Tsar forced him to keep only one, which would be the great-grandmother of my friend”.
The next to speak was a Nepalese woman of a similar age to the Russian: “I work as a cook at a luxury resort inside Chitwan National Park. During the last monsoons there were terrible floods that left us isolated when we had eighty western guests and little food in the pantry. To make matters worse, they could not bring us food by helicopter because the resort is in a tree-covered area where it is not possible to land. There were disputes and even some attempted mutinies as if we were in a boat lost in the middle of the ocean. Also as if we were shipwrecked, we had to ration the food. The one who pulled us out of the quagmire and turned that incident into a party was a boy who helped me in the kitchen and who, in his village by the Rapti River, was very fond of fishing. It had not occurred to us that under those waters around us there might be fish, many fish, which everyone, whether guests or employees of the resort, would fish with improvised rods and nets. Imagination to power”.
A slant-eyed Nepalese girl in her early twenties, smoking an aromatic little cigarette, amazed us by telling us: “I work in the Kathmandu police force and recently we were ordered to burn eighty kilos of an excellent cost that they had requisitioned from a mushroom. When we saw that pile of little packages that were going to go up in smoke, the ten of us who took part in the operation looked at each other and each one of us took some with us.
Now a young Indian woman took the floor: “My grandfather made bidis for a living which he then sold in the bazaar. He bought the tobacco in bulk, but to get the leaves he would go into the jungle and pick them from the tree he preferred. First he dried them, then he put them in water and cut them into the right shape and size. After rolling up a hundred bidis, she would put them together and tie them with string and, to finish, toast their heads by placing them for a moment on a hot metal plate” The next one to approach the bus was a smiling Italian woman who asked me
“Are you more embarrassed to fart if you’re among women than other men?”
Although I didn’t have to respond, as did the audience with a general laugh, I thought she was right, and that human beings have what you might call sexual shame. However, the Italian woman still had another curious question for me: “And don’t you think it’s a shame that the screens, which were very erotic furniture, have been discontinued?
Then I approached a Welsh woman whose weathered appearance made me guess that she was an experienced traveller. Although she confirmed that she was and that she had set foot on every continent, she did not tell me about her adventures, but about other travellers, of whom she said they deserved a tribute: “Jeanne Baret, who was French, was the first woman to go around the world. She did so between 1766 and 1769 accompanying the botanist Dr. Philibert Commercon on a French Navy ship. At that time it was strictly forbidden for women to be present on those ships, but she, disguising herself as a man, managed to go unnoticed among one hundred and sixteen sailors. She was unmasked and forced to land on Mauritius, when she had already sailed six oceans and discovered seventy new species of plants.
The Welsh woman took a good swig of her beer and continued to tell me about other intrepid heroines: “Amelia B. Edwards was an English writer, born in 1831 and died in 1892, who travelled around the Middle East and Egypt, and said: “Fatigue means nothing to me and danger has nothing to do with me. I am not afraid of anything. Another untamed traveler was Rosita Forbes. She was also English and lived between 1890 and 1967; she said: “When looking for a beginning for me as a person I find it sailing on a cargo ship between Massava and Suez”. Finally, let me introduce you to the American writer and traveler Martha Gellhorn, born in Missouri in 1908 and who died in London in 1998, who said: “I only have to go to another country, another sky, another language, another landscape, to know that life is worth living”.
SEE WHAT I THINK.
When I was young I felt ashamed of Franco’s Spain (fucking banana republic!), and now I feel ashamed of the Earth and its leaders.
And that’s all for today, my dear nincompoops. Bom Bom.
The Cosmic Chronicle, by Nando Baba