Going to Katmandu

Katmandu       Bells were jingling at 5 AM.  My window opened to a street that abutted a pond where a Hindu prayer space sat in the middle and on the other end were Buddhist stupas.  Were the bells a kind of call to prayer or a melodious bicycle moving in the early morning to work?  I’ll never know.

I was in the Patan district, an older section, of Katmandu.  Waking up from time to time with jet lag, the city seemed so quiet.  Other times the silence was pierced by dogs barking, singly and in packs, perhaps below me or maybe a kilometer away.  I knew I was in Katmandu, but it felt like India, except when I listened to the different language cadences.  I could be fooled though.  Everyone understood the Hindi that my colleagues spoke.  Indian rupees were taken as freely as Nepalese rupees.  The fast food shops served roti.  Signs advertised tandoori.

I knew I wasn’t in India, since I had been unable to renew my 10-year Indian visa successfully for the last three years.  Renewal in the time of Prime Minister Narenda Modi and the BJP, the rightwing communalist party, ruling on a hyper-nationalist, anti-Muslim agenda, made it seem like politics, given his attack on nonprofits and any foreign ties, other than the ones worn by his buddy, President Trump, but it could have as easily been incompetence since he privatized the visa process and had taken it out of the hands of consulates in the USA.  (Listen to Wade’s World where Vinod Shetty and Suresh Kadashan talk about India under Modi). Katmandu had not been on any sort of list of places we sought to organize or had short listed to visit, but when violence and unrest wracked Sri Lanka, where we had planned to all meet with the Organizers’ Forum, it became the alternative location where I might be able to meet for several days with the principal organizers of ACORN India in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru.

Bob Seger and his 1975 song was ringing in my ears on my journey to meet the ACORN India team.  Some may not remember parts of the song where he sang,

I know my plane is due
The one that’s going to Katmandu
Up to the mountain’s where I’m going to
If I ever get out of here
That’s what I’m gonna do
K-k-k-k-k-k Katmandu
Really, really, really, going to
If I ever get out of here
If I ever get out of here
If I ever get out of here
I’m going to Katmandu, oh

Take my word, I didn’t remember every word of the song either, but I lived that song, and it was in my head thanks to Qatar Airways.

My trip had started well enough.  Jet Blue got me squared away to JFK.  I boarded Qatar Airways to their hub in Doha, and all was well until arriving at their five-year-old, $17 billion-dollar airport.  My flight reservation, booked through Expedia, had me leaving at 5:15 PM and landing at 1AM, so I had about an hour to make the plane, so I needed to hustle.  There was nothing on the departure board at all.  A security guard pointed out the information desk.  They couldn’t have been more helpful as they told me for the first time that, no, my flight left in eight hours at 12:40 AM and didn’t arrive until 8:15 AM!  As Seger sang,

I know my plane is due
The one that’s going to Katmandu
Up to the mountain’s where I’m going to
If I ever get out of here

It doesn’t end there.  Once Qatar spent $17B with six years of overruns on their airport mall monstrosity with its wide and nearly empty concourses, it seems determined to make Doha the Bermuda triangle of air travel.  They sent me a note Friday night in Katmandu telling me they had also unilaterally changed my flight time from 2AM Monday morning to 8:50 PM Sunday evening so that I could land in Doha at 11:45 and spent the night walking through desolation row at Hamad International Airport.

Make that more of a travel warning, than a travel tip.

Please enjoy Bob Seger’s Katmandu (Live).

Thanks to KABF.

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