PAKNAJOL

Parallel to Thamel, Paknajol lies on a curved, eponymous street beginning at a string of pharmacies, cut by the Sorakhutte division of the Nepali police, and running down a 10-minute march to Chetrapati. Midday in the typical Kathmandu neighborhood: shoe shiners and hawkers ambulate announcing their services and wares, while elder residents perch on steps under storefront eaves. Activity pivots around a bend on the main road: street kids, stray dogs and a lone cow graze at a perpetually renewed pile of trash. From this point, a set of stairs descends onto a timeworn fountain, where on Hindu feast days the devout conduct their pujas or ritual cleansing and, on an ordinary day, women wash and children bathe. An adjacent row of apartments is replete with tenants, children, and their children’s children. It also serves as a barrier, muffling the recycled tunes of Bob Marley and Bryan Adams by nightly cover bands in Thamel. From top to bottom, lines of laundry decorate rooftops; homemakers and less-able bodies engage in vertical chatter from windows; and doors and arteries into semi-private courtyards perforate their feet. Up a slight incline, commodities in tranches are on sale in an almost repetitive succession of produce, textiles, samosas and haircuts. Just outside my guesthouse, taxi drivers huddle at a steaming momo (dumpling) stand drinking raksi, the local moonshine. The joy of living in Paknajol lies in the ability to indulge in the local customs of getting a weekly shave and paying homage to the goddess Durga with battled kites and slaughtered goats—all within a quick turn from a freshly pulled espresso, a pain au chocolat, and copy of the International Herald Tribune.

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