It had been quite a busy and thrilling day. I had just returned from college and got the news that my cousin sister had been suffering from stomach pain for some hours. Medication didn’t work, and we were advised to bring her to a hospital. Although it was almost midnight, we drove her to the nearest hospital at Chabahil.
Her case was being diagnosed, and the reports were due after some hours. So we decided to have some street food after leaving her in the observation room. The food was tasty, but the surroundings were unhealthy. We saw some girls and homophiles dealing with men. It took us a while to understand what was going on there.
One could hear the soft sounds of folk songs emanating from a distance through the doors and windows of some small clubs. Some sires in suit and tie were misbehaving with the girls beside the Ring Road. Policemen were busy having tea and snacks. We were done with our eating, and it was time to go back to the hospital. We walked through the small path, next to the Ring Road, where the dim lights couldn’t help us see walkers or ditches.
The reports said her condition was normal. We bought the required medicines and called a taxi. We bargained for some minutes, but we had to pay Rs 500 for a 5-minute ride. All the while, I was thinking of what I had experienced in the streets. No public vehicles, no responsible public and no protection – that was what made up nightlife in Kathmandu.
It’s a problem for people who have to take up late night jobs, such as in the press, or for those who have to reach, say, a hospital. If they don’t have a private vehicle – bike or car – hiring a cab can be a nightmare. A taxi costs money, and walking requires that you be daring. You are witness to immoral activities in the open. There are dark streets without any streetlights, and you’re not sure if your wallet or bag will stay safe. A cab will charge you twice or even thrice the normal rate at night. All this makes me wonder, what will a girl who has to venture out at night for some work do? The night is dark and full of terror. These incidents, which are making the nights darker, can be minimised with minimum effort. Installing cameras and street lights can reduce the threats at night.
Unlicensed pubs with disturbing effects should be shut down, and policemen should be stricter in using the breathalyzer. Public vehicles must be made to operate at night. These will make the nights safer.
A version of this article appears in print on March 20, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.