The People of Bhaktapur

Life in Bhaktapur, Nepal flows at a slower pace, despite the honking impatience of motorised vehicles that intrude upon it with an intolerance that seems out of place in a city where people always have time for social interactions. The women, especially, in their colourful clothing, contrast sharply with their environment. Their beauty and grace are transferred to their daily tasks: fetching water, doing laundry, raising children, knitting, weaving, sweeping, cooking, haggling, selling, spinning, sewing, or even when they carry heavy things or work in the fields.

All generations are equally represented in this city they call home, but it is the children in their neat school uniforms and wide, open smiles, who imprint a multitude of special moments upon my heart. They blow me kisses, smile, wave, and sometimes even start conversations in English. Some are shy, some are bold, some are curious, and some have learned the art of begging.

The faces of the elderly have a weathered look that tells the story of a life lived well. People here often laugh amongst themselves, and their eyes mostly shine with curiosity. Smiles that light up faces and connect hearts over a cultural divide come easily and often.

Economic activity focused on the tourists that visit this city, often described as Nepal’s Cultural Gem, can mostly be found in and around the different squares they come to see: Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Potter’s Square and Dattatrya Square. The main and backstreets though, are filled with shops that serve the local economy, and if one sits still for long enough many ‘movable shops’ will pass one by.

Begging, although minor compared to many other places, is still a sad reality of life here. The old people that engage in the act of begging, unlike the handful of children, do not just target the tourists, but often approach the locals or sit at the temples where the locals come to pray. The community itself seems to takes care of the destitute, and I have witnessed local people giving money to cripples without them asking, and alms and money to the frail-looking women that seem older than time itself, and I assume, have no one to take care of them.

The cultural treasures in the form of temples and palaces that the brochures and guide books highlight pale in the presence of the people that live here. Their beauty, grace and friendliness have captured my heart.