Written by Venkatesh Iyer
Photography by Wietse Jongsma
What was it like to live in Nepal in the 80’s?
Heaven. In the 80s, I lived in Lalitpur City in the Kathmandu Valley (the Valley had three major municipalities then — Lalitpur, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur — loosely known as Kathmandu by the rest of the world). I commuted to work in Kathmandu City. My house had farms on three sides (later on, down the decade, two). Farms on the busiest and most “congested” of roads were a common sight, anywhere in the Valley. That’s history now.
I used to ride my bike in the morning from home to work — a distance of about 4.5 miles — in about 12 minutes, and back home in the evening in about 7 minutes. That is a comment not so much on my speed addiction in those days as on the density of traffic on the roads.
The air was nectar. The biggest pollution source in the Valley was probably Himal Cement, to the southwest. There were hardly any other industries (non-cottage scale) worth talking about. The housing boom in the Valley was still a few years away, and there were very few brick kilns (major polluters). The Valley is now chock a block with kilns.
Vehicle volumes on the roads, as I have already mentioned, were nowhere near threatening, let alone critical, levels. They are now way past critical levels.
There were a few hundred species of birds that raised cain every morning, and on very early mornings in the winter, their racket had an almost other-worldly effect in the thick mists. The birds are disappearing, the mists are now stringy apologies.
Maximum temperatures in summer rarely exceeded 33 deg C (about 91 deg F). Minimum temperatures in winter rarely went below -2 deg C (about 28 deg F).
The Bagmati River that runs through the Valley was crystal clear. People once used to drink the river’s water. I have had a bath many times in the river where it goes past the Pashupati temple. In those days, you could see coins on the river bed at the other side of the river. Kids used to dive for those coins, tossed there by temple worshipers. The river is now a black toxic stream.
I could go on and on, I suppose. Kathmandu is still worth going to, however. Because of the people.
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Photography was taken from the following Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11497410@N08/albums/72157658552011099