love and death in kathmandu
One of the great things about exploring worlds beyond our own is developing an appreciation of the beliefs and traditions of others. Allison Davies discovers that in Nepal, death is a placid part of life…
“The Jetstream 41 skitters and dances through the sky on its final approach to Kathmandu. I look down at the rapidly approaching city – a checkerboard of pastel houses and Boudha’s white stupa pushing towards heaven through the afternoon haze. With a jolt we hit tarmac. Engine fairings glow as we throttle down the runway past ancient transport planes – a Dakota and something Russian I don’t recognise, gleaming and green like a giant winged toad.
On the journey through the usual gridlock a blast from a conch shell rings out, strident and clear above the car horns and throb of engines. Then I see them. The shell blower is out in front, legs pumping, white robes flapping round skinny ankles. Behind him come two men carrying a body on a bier. It’s all but covered in saffron cloth, only the feet show, soles hard and cracked. It’s the sight of those feet that moves me. Here’s a man on his final journey to the ghats at Pashupatinath, a husband, a father, a son, a friend, borne aloft through heat and traffic by people who loved him, whose hands he touched, whose lives intertwine with his.
I’m struck by how normal this seems. No one gives this sad procession a second glance. Death is more ordinary and yet more beautiful here. It’s simply what it is – a part of life, a scrap of humanity, cells and skin, hopes and dreams, here for a heartbeat, then gone.
The taxi moves forward, gathering speed, and the procession is lost in the chaos of the city, gone in the slipstream.”
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* photo by Bradley Stulberg – Intrepid Photography Competition