This is a story about an unusual friend of mine.
Ramesh spent all his time doing nothing.He thought it to be quite a challenging job. After his father’s death some three years ago, no one really had any concern for his lack of activity. His father’s house, which was five storeyed – just beside what once used to be Manakamana hall but is now sunrise apartments, took care of the green he needed to survive. A whooping seventy-five thousands every month. Location- he knew it.
The primary requirement to do something is to have a job, and to get a job one requires a qualification, education to be more general. He, however could not read that well, nor did he remember how to write. He dropped out of Ratna-Rajya a long long time ago. Why? That is a different story altogether.
And because his wife really brought him no joy, he had a habit of mingling with the creatures of the night. He drank, smoke, quarreled with his neighbors and waited for the month to end as soon as the month began. It was a circle he enjoyed being at the center of. Ramesh had a favourite spot down at Sundhara. He sometimes spent his nights and even days there. His wife Sumitra, once had to call the cops because he disappeared for two weeks. The Local policemen knew him well. If you excused his quarreling habit, he has never really caused any trouble to anyone.
Ramesh had one habit that would blow away any assumptions that could be made about him. All his hobbies, his lifestyle and even his moral did not fit his habit of visiting a library every week. As has the scenario been presented already he could not read. Now what was he doing at the library?
I was reading a graphic novel when he first looked at me and smiled. I smiled back but got right back to my book, It felt weird. A middle-aged man smiling at me at a library which otherwise is anything but unhappening. I could still feel his gaze on me. You all know one of those times when you feel like somebody is still looking at you and you don’t want to look up to make sure if they infact are looking at you because you really don’t want your eyes to meet. I finally looked up at him, across the room, three tables away, he was dressed in a cream-colored shirt and a darker shade of the same colored pants and chappals. He had a book in front of him. No, thankfully, he was not looking at me. So our eyes did not meet. He was looking away at another reader in the library. I looked at the direction he was staring at and saw a young girl. Pervert !
Two days later, I saw him again. I was in Basantapur, I don’t exactly remember why, anyways.Ramesh was walking alone. Because I myself had nothing better to do, I decided to follow him. He was walking down the street towards Hanuman Dhoka. The shopkeepers on his right were attending the tourists. Some hawkers were trying to sell bangles to a hot Latino. Sorry, I cannot not notice a hot Latino. And it looked like even Ramesh couldn’t not notice a hot Latino. He kept walking until he reached Hanuman Dhoka, where he stalled for sometime and moved again. I was growing impatient. I was drawn by my curiosity to discover more about this man. After moving on from Hanuman Dhoka, he made his way towards Thamel through all the winding gullies that only a regular walker can decipher. I followed him, making sure not to gain his attention.
The day was dying, and the street was coming alive. Shops were competing with fancy lights, It was a nice time to be walking down the street. He was looking at sign boards. Like he was trying to find some place. “What is he looking for?” I thought to myself.
He then suddenly, slowed down, turned and entered a book store. I slowed down too. I decided it was going to be a bad idea to follow him inside, so I just as much as could be seen, decided to stalk him from outside the store.
After ten or eleven minutes he came out. I turned around, afraid if he would see me. He did not. He had nothing in his hands. His steps did not move deeper into Thamel but outwards towards Keshar Mahal.
Now the evening was slowly bleeding out all the light it had and was turning darker. Just as he passed by the fancy stores with big windows that display trek gears and really expensive watches, he came across a row of book stacked on for display. A man probably in his thirties was trying to sell them. Ramesh stopped and gazed at the books.
The street seller, seeing that Ramesh was interested in the books, said- “buk haru ramro condition ma cha , Khaire haru le chodera gako ho. Sasto cha dai, ali bhau pani milaidiu la, k cha ra- saanjh ko samaya ma, essooo….”
Ramesh smiled back. “Kinnu ta hunthiyo, angrezi padhnai aaudaina.” He replied
“Chora chori chan hola ni, hijo aaja angreji padhna na janne keta keti hundainan, padh bhanne ani lu malai bujhaa bhanne ni daai… ” The seller was using all his marketing skills.
I could see that Ramesh really wanted to buy a book, any book, it did not matter, he just wanted to own one. He was trying to move on but the books were calling him. He finally asked the seller for a book with nice stories in it.
“Stories from my Chinese Adventure- yo ramro cha dai, choto choto china ko katha haru re” The seller handed him the book. Ramesh purchased the book and headed towards Keshar Mahal.
I did not follow him from there onward, as I was getting late already and walking all the way from Basantapur was tiring me out. But Ramesh’s thought followed me. Why would this guy buy books he cannot read? Why did he spent his time at the library gazing at people reading? Did watching people read tickle his crazy demons? Did he want to make friends who would read angrezi stories to him? Or was he just doing what people with nothing better to do did?
I was juggling all these question in my head when I reached my home. I rang the doorbell and my wife opened the door. I walked in, without even sparing her a smile.
“What is that in your hands?” She demanded to know. ”Since when did you start reading books?” She shouted out in a stern voice.
“I don’t know, It about some Chinese guy, people ….and things… I don’t know ” I shouted back.
I placed the book carefully on a table and decided to take a shower. All the walking had left me sweaty.