Sunday, March 31, 2013

On the fringe of Kathmandu



Today I traveled to the outskirts of Kathmandu to visit the refuge for children not yet able to be returned to their parents. It was a place rapidly urbanizing yet still with the open space of fields, vegetable gardens and the uncleared, forested tops of hills. It was above the punishing smog of the Kathmandu valley that today obscured any view of the mountains. All there was a pallid white-grey opacity.

The refuge was basic, simple but adequate and the children all go to an excellent school up the hill. The staff are caring yet in need of better training to address the psycho-social needs of children whose short life stories (and the youngest is six) have been scared with trauma. The trust's new office, further down the hill, is in the process of acquiring the space to sustain extra-curricular activities and provide confidential, safe counselling spaces.

On the journey up, I was able to see, for the first time, traditional Nepalese architecture, as here,  restored and sometimes brightly painted with psychedelic vibrancy; other examples were in straitened decay. I noticed that all, however, outshone their modern equivalents (though these had more aesthetic sense than much modern Asian (or indeed any) architecture). Even the modern had a sensitivity to the symbolism as well as the actuality of a house.

I saw too the happy mingling of religion, especially Buddhist and Hindu, even occasionally on the same shrine - the Buddha beds down beside Ganesha in a hopeful combination of fortune for the worshiper. Would that this architectural brotherhood fully extend to the habits of men. 

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