I am an epicurean and an aficionado of food, drinks and dresses. At an early age, I crossed over from milk and rice to cakes and pies with lemon tea, the staple of the hippies, and vegetarian delights. I also experimented with a wide range of drinks and dresses in the first quarter-century of my existence.
However, I had some unfulfilled desires, two of which were to wear cowboy boots and leather pants. And, of course, cars. I would visit Freak Street every evening in the hope of finding a hippie who might want to offload his used boots and leather pants. Finally, one day, a German hippy offered to sell his yellow leather pants. The problem was that not only were they twice my size, they would also cost me almost two tolas of gold back then. I bought the pants but had to send them to Delhi to fit my size. I still wear them till today.
A hippy came to me to sell his Italian Fiat car. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the rules to buy a foreign car. The hippy was desperate to go home and badly wanted 200 dollars for the flight ticket.
So he offered to give it and the accessories for that amount. He was frustrated that I was not convinced.
Finally, together we went to a ratty office called the Commerce Department, and told the officer that he had brought a customer. They had asked him to find a customer first. The officer laboured to speak up in English but could not utter more than ‘carnet, carnet’. Frustrated, the hippy barged out of the office shouting the choicest expletives.
As for the boots, I wasn’t lucky at Freak Street, and it was only in the early 1980s that I could find one, a genuine American cowboy boot. A tourist guide came to me and said, “I hear you want a boot. I have a real boot for 10,000 bucks.” I asked him where he got the boot from, suspecting lest he might have stolen from his clients. He said he got it from Italy for himself, but it would not fit him. It could have been a present, but I did not care as I liked the boot. So I paid him 10,000 rupees in cash and took possession of the boots. Although badly worn out, I still use them to walk around in the dirty, dusty streets of Kathmandu.
Whenever I wear my tattered boots, my wife’s face turns into a furnace. But I tell her I am not going to throw away something that could have bought me a hill in the heights of Chapagaon back then. A boot back then was worth all the hills of Kathmandu to me.
A version of this article appears in print on November 07, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.