Square of charms
Generations have passed through this courtyard, and generations more will. Over the years, many have peeped through those aankhi jhyals and scores have spent many a sudden drizzle under one of the ancient porticos, while many rambled about in search of a good bargain or a friend.
Basantapur Durbar Square — a place where time has stood still, yet has been able to keep up with the changing seasons and trends — from Hippies to Hip-Hop, from bhajan mandalis to rap, from royal processions to hawkers’ shrill pitches.
The sight of the temples and palaces transports one back to another era as if the place has just emerged from the pages of a history book. Its sheer magnificence have astounded thousands, and attracted people of ages and kinds to its bosom.
And it’s for the youth that the Square seems to hold an almost mystical charm. They throng the place every evening and spend hours here with friends.
Twenty-somethings Arpit Maharjan and Saroj Shrestha have been coming here since 2060 BS.
“We usually come here around 6:00 pm and stay till 8:00 pm. We meet up and talk about our jobs, our plans of going abroad or starting a business,” said Shrestha.
But a major part of their time goes in pulling each others’ legs and sharing jokes. “It’s become
a kind of a habit. If we and decide to stay home even for a day, we start missing our friends and always end here,” added Maharjan.
And for many guys, ‘girls’ are the priority why they frequent this place. An enthusiastic one from the group quips, “In the evenings this place is nothing short of a ramp. You get to see the latest fashion. Actually more than 80 per cent of the girls come decked up so in hopes that we will tease them. Babaal bhayera aauncha.”
Tea is the main ingredient in any gathering of Nepalis. In a corner lies the Durbar Square Momo Centre. The evenings see owners Bishwo and Kalpana Shrestha, who’ve been running the stall for 10 years, busy preparing... not momos, but tea non-stop. They make 400 cuppas on an average every evening.
“We have a lot of regulars who come in groups,” said Kalpana. “Previously, a lot of foreigners used to come too, but now its mostly Nepalis.”
Shopping is another another part of the Basantapur experience. As the night market has resumed, most youngsters, especially girls are delighted. Tshering Yanku Gurung, who has a stall of jewelleries and accessories said, “It’s mostly young girls who come, but even aunties come. Foreigners come to buy these stuff as presents.”
They have regulars who frequently come to check if anything new has come, so their stuff is updated almost every week.
Suresh Sharma, who has a stall of the trendiest and latest sunglasses, said, “Nepalis are very fashionable and like to follow the latest trends, but it’s not possible for everyone to buy branded shades, so most come here.”
His customers range from teenagers to models to people from the media to well known personalities.
Basantapur shoppers are not disappointed by the wares they get here.
Neelam Pokhrel from Sinamangal said, “Shopping here is great as you get almost everything in one place and at cheaper rates.”
Besides this, it is the roaming around with her friends that she loves.
Basantapur’s attraction is not lost on the not-so-young crowd too.
“We had to love on the sly, but now things have become very open. You see guys and girls almost everywhere you look. I wish I was young again,” said Shankar Joshi, a social service worker on an envious note.
Dr Ramesh Kumar Shrestha, professor of Political Science at TU, said on a more realistic note, “The sad thing about Kathmandu is that there is no place for entertainment or refreshment for youngsters. So they all come here. There should be more places where they
can go to. I think it’s okay that food stalls are put up, but maybe it should have been better if it were done outside this area which is a world heritage site.
This place should be maintained properly as it is a monumental area.”