12 February 2013


The art of good conversation is not dead. One simply has to seek it out then let it in. I have had two most delightful ones today already. One with my friend Bhim whilst eating fresh mo mos and drinking Gorkha beer. On a terrace. In Kathmandu. We chatted away as we ate and drank and watched the sun set behind the snow capped Ganesh Himalay mountain. We talked about friends and family and children mostly and we caught up on each other's news.

The view of the Ganesh Himalay was very clear from our vantage. It is more than seven kilometers high. Seven kilometers! Bhim told me this mountain had never - nor would ever be allowed to be climbed. It was too holy. There are a number of mountains in the Himalaya that are also too holy to climb. Getting to the top has always been a western ambition. The mountain people of the Himalaya - from Bhutan to Pakistan and every country in between - have never sought to climb to the peaks of mountains. They don't see the point. I see what they mean.

It got cold quickly on the terrace. 

When the sun went down.

The other conversation was just now over some spiced tea - chai - with two monks. Buddhist monks. This second conversation started in the lobby of the Hotel Himalaya. Both were nice conversations. They were easy. Pleasant. Enlightening. I learnt something and I shared opinions and ideas.

It was like dancing with words.

I arrived in Kathmandu this afternoon. A reminder to self never again to get a visa on arrival. I have always before got one in advance in Singapore. It is easy there. Hand over your passport and in two days you have the stamp. I ran out of time for this trip and so I had to get one on arrival.

At the Tribhuvan International Airport Visa-on-Arrival gate it was bedlam. It was a bureaucratic ballet of mayhem and carnage. It was beautifully Nepalese. Two lines were required and both were long and unruly. There was one to pay and only foreign currency accepted. Then it was back to the end of another line to have a stamp inserted. Then Stamped. Initialed. Stamped again. Then initialed.

It took hours.

I started chatting to the two monks in the hotel Lobby after the dinner with Bhim and at the Reception Area. I was asking for connection instructions to the hotel Wi-Fi and so too were the monks. The television in the Lobby was repeating the news that Pope Benedict the Sixteenth had resigned. This is a very big event in the Catholic world and is something that hasn't happened for 600 years.

I initiated the chat asking by what the monks thought of this announcement and the discussion then continued over a pot of tea. At their invitation. The chat continued and transformed into a conversation. A most pleasant one. In the Lobby cafe. The monks seemed unsurprised at my suggestion that there was political intrigue involved in the resignation of the Pope. They wisely informed me that there are complex layers of politics in all religious organizations. 

Even Buddhist monasteries. 

We talked for more than two hours about faith and history and architecture and youth. We asked each other's opinions. We were Inquisitive. Genuine. We sought clarification and we expressed surprise and delight. We agreed to disagree on some things. We did all this Politely.



There was a lot of clever wit and some verbal jousting. It was banter and I didn't swear. Not even once. We drank several pots of tea these monks and I. We laughed a bit at conspiracies and politics and we chatted about the monarchies of England and Nepal. We talked about the wonder of Ancient Empires. There was a lot of humor. It was great.

I enjoyed it a lot.

Yes a good conversation really is a lot like dancing with words.

We should all do it more often.

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