Episode 065: Close Call…
Monkey Business At The Monkey Temple. As Scott and I were walking around Swayambudnath I suddenly saw a familiar face. It was Kumar, the shopkeeper Ben and I met back in 2003. This man is such a character and makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the world when you speak with him.
“Oh, my God how lucky I am to have met you two times in this lifetime!” he said as he ushered us into his shop to serve us some orange Fanta and catch up on the past 4 years. Kumar is one of our favorite memories from the 2003 expedition. He appears in our film “Everest: The Other Side” a couple of times and the footage of Ben teaching him how to shake hands ‘American style’ is always an audience favorite. Just too funny. I wanted to thank him for those great memories by buying a pricey item from his shop. In fact, I’ve wanted an old, high quality singing bowl for some time and this was the perfect opportunity to acquire one.
Scott and I spent an hour or so in the shop speaking with Kumar, or more precisely put just listening to him. It turns out that he’s had a very difficult few years and was forced to sell his store to cover some family medical bills. He was now in the employ of another shop owner. He also seemed much more thin than I remembered him. But even after whatever hardships he has suffered over the past few years he was still a most gracious host and spoke with us about many topics including the need for daily meditation in our lives and all of the senseless violence in this world. It was a profound afternoon. We parted ways after I purchased an old singing bowl with intricate engravings covering its surface. The 5000 rupees I spent on it earned Kumar some bonus points with the shop’s owner.
Scott and I then decided to make our way back to the hotel and walked out of the stupa complex to hail a cab. A very intense young man met us at the stupa’s entrance gates saying he had a taxi for us. As Scott walked over to the car and opened the door about 4 nervous nepali men jumped into the car as well. I saw Scott instantly duck out of the vehicle and head over to another taxi that had just pulled up. He jumped in the back seat and I jumped in the front seat. Suddenly, the same intense man who met us at the gates walked over to our new taxi’s driver and began to harass him with a verbal onslaught. The 4 other men who had jumped in Scott’s original taxi surrounded out new vehicle. We had no idea what was being said or what was transpiring. All we knew was that our driver looked like he was in shock.
Scott and I both began to shout “let’s go, let’s go. Go go go go go!” and our driver was able to pull out onto the road. I looked over at him and asked, “Are you OK?” He looked back over at me and nodded yes. What had just happened? Were we about to be robbed? Kidnapped by Maoists? Who knew? What I did know was that it was the first and only time I’ve ever felt threatened in Kathmandu. That would never happen again.
Total Running Time: 26:19