DHARAN, Oct 27: The size of a living room is directly proportional to the number of guests one can invite at once during Dasain. That is what my aunt says, and as I look around at the 13 people seated comfortably in her living room, I can only agree with her.
Dharan, during Dashain, resembles just any other town in Nepal. The shops are closed and houses full of hustle and bustle. The roads are empty with a few people walking in their dashain clothes and carrying beer, fruits, assortment of meat dishes and big plastic bottles of coco-cola and mountain dew - something suitable for each member of the family they are visiting.
Every visit back home is a revelation. What strikes me most these days is the search for the fabulous alu nimki and chat pate. It seems that my palate’s remembrance of the alu nimki that was and the alu nimki that is doesn’t quite match. New ‘must try’ joints seem to be springing up every year but they don’t cut it. For one thing, what we could get for Rs 5 is so much more expensive at Rs 20. People, however, do still hover around their chowk’s bhaiya’s stall.
Clubs and pubs are slowly coming up too. Last I heard, dance parties were the closest thing to a discotheque in Dharan so it’s surprising how fast the pubs have been established and incorporated into a ‘party goer’ lifestyle here. They aren’t too bad either: just a small scale thing compared to the capital.
When I was growing up, there was only one bookstore in town where they sold novels. The rest catered to school and college books, a few children’s story books, dictionaries and some Nepali novels. That bookstore was where I bought my Jane Eyre and Rebecca. There was also a small area in the back where only a few were allowed. I managed to get in every time I visited the store.
There are two cinema theatres here and until about two years ago, it screened mostly Nepali films. The rickety seats, the stuffy atmosphere and the lack of popular Hindi films had relegated them to the backs of people’s minds. Now, everybody flock there to catch all the latest Hindi films. It might not be as good as the multiplexes in Kathmandu but, I’m told, it sure beats watching pirated movies at home.
Dharan is said to be a laid back town, and it’s mostly true during the afternoons when noisy children are in school and housewives can stretch themselves contentedly in front of their television sets with the fan above sweeping away the prickly heat outside. Most young people are either studying or working in Kathmandu, or abroad for the same purposes.
Retired British army men can be categorized into three kinds: bespectacled men in shorts and fishermen hats out on walks, disciplined men tinkering about their house in search of some work or men gathered in their chowks sitting together and buying each other drinks almost every day.
Dharan comes alive during the festive season. Everyone is home and the energy soars from level 3 to 8. There are people everywhere: at the annual month long mela, pubs and clubs which are crammed with people and at the ‘bazaar’.
A small town rife with rumors, petty squabbles and plenty of shopping, Dharan is a good place to raise children and live a retired life. It’s safe and it’s clean. There is the eternally chilly Bhedetar just a 20 minute bike ride away to visit when the town gets too hot. Life is slow and rhythmic during the day and at night, there are the pubs to visit. What more could one you ask for?