KATHMANDU, MAY 26
Not many people sympathise with Kathmandu's landlords. Everywhere they are portrayed as narrow-minded and money-minded.
Standup comedians make fun of the landlords' penchant for being cranky all the time. There is always a subtle element of racism and ethnocentrism, usually targeted at Kathmandu's indigenous community.
Especially the mockery of the Newari accent has become so gross and repetitive, that I bet nobody finds it funny anymore.
Landlords are always portrayed as stingy and selfish, over reacting over the smallest of issues, like when the tenant brings over a guest for a sleepover or when he uses too much water. The landlord, more often the landlady, is always ready to frown upon the tenants, ready to explode like a bomb over trivial issues.
Tenants have their own problems.
Especially those families who are crammed inside claustrophobic rooms with limited privacy. Tenants try desperately to get more rooms for rent, and landlords try desperately to deny them. Landlords try desperately to raise the rent, and tenants try desperately to deny them. In these frustrating misunderstandings, small issues like parking space can lead to a confrontation. But a typical tenant does not have the luxury of showing his frustrations or anger at the landlord for he knows that the property does not belong to him.
The landlords of Kathmandu are never sympathised by comedians, no doubt. But the reality is that most landlords who rent their roomsto unknown strangers are also victims. They are also victims of skyrocketing living costs, and no stable source of income.
Unlike the tenants, urban landlords do not have any farmland. They are victims of disrespectful attitudes towards their culture – a once proud culture that is now on the verge of collapse. Traditional Newari lifestyle had a subtle nostalgic charm to it. Just ask those western hippies who settled in Kathmandu in the 1960's and 1970's, they will tell how tolerant and beautiful Kathmandu was back then.
Normal landlords of Kathmandu do not have spacious houses. Their traditional houses are too small, usually clustered together around a courtyard (bahal). They are the victims of being constantly under pressure to lease out their limited private spaces. Likewise, if a tenant refuses to leave the property, there is nothing a landlord can do.
And the loneliness of being abandoned by their selfish sons and daughters who live abroad.
...That's the worst. The young generations living abroad have turned their back on their family.
Landlords of Kathmandu are, thus, lonely and loveless. No wonder they are so cranky.
A version of this article appears in the print on May 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.