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Manoa 13.2 (2001) 17-21

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Pashupati Hotel

Narayan Dhakal

Before the People's Movement broke out, in early 1990, we would spend the evenings killing time at Pashupati Hotel. Despite its name--which it shared with the temple to Shiva--the hotel was quite run-down. The old signboard that hung above its black, smoke-charred doorway was rusty and well below the standards of the rest of Kathmandu. An address had been scraped from beneath the hotel's name, as if the sign had been used on another building.

From the first evening we went there, we could see that the hotel traded in sex. Women arrived after dark to make a living and vied with each other in the murky, cavelike room upstairs. That large communal space was the only real room in the place. The landlord lived somewhere in Tahachal, and he would show up only to collect the rent at the end of the month.

The men who came to exchange their money for pleasure with these women were mostly soldiers from the barracks, policemen, or long-haul drivers who arrived in the valley after dusk. Local hooligans and pubescent boys also came to the hotel to debauch themselves. In addition, a steady stream of townspeople appeared in the afternoons to eat their meals and drink tea; at night, others came to drink liquor. Laborers and alcoholics could all get their fill, and the hotel was usually teeming with bodies.

When my friend and I first began to go there, I was unemployed. This friend was a newspaper editor even though he had none of the skills necessary for his job. He could talk eloquently, but he couldn't even write a grammatical sentence. I was able to make a living off of his incompetence. I did all his work for him; in addition, I wrote articles, under different pen names, on politics, sports, women's rights, and the latest films. In a sense, the paper was ghostwritten and edited by me. In return, my friend gave me two meals a day, enough liquor to get drunk every now and then, and the use of his run-down, dirty bed.

The owner of Pashupati Hotel was a Gurung from around Pokhara who drove trucks for a living. A rude man who drank heavily and neglected his work, he had caused almost twenty large and small accidents over the years. Somehow, none of the accidents had killed him. But as a result of them, he'd had to change employers over a dozen times: each new truck owner fired him as soon as he got to know Gurung's ways. [End Page 17]

Gurung was also known to have changed wives as often as he had changed employers. No woman had ever stayed with him longer than fifteen days--except his current wife, who had been with him for over a year. This said quite a lot about her.

Regulars called her Susma Bhauju. She lived at Pashupati Hotel and had been married once before; she'd eloped with Gurung when her first husband was jailed on trafficking charges. At the time, Susma had been operating a Pashupati Hotel in Butwal for about two years. When she moved to Kathmandu with Gurung, she brought the signboard with the hotel's name on it.

After the People's Movement started, my editor friend and I began to go to the hotel every day as soon as evening fell, ending up at our lodgings only late at night. The reason for this was that policemen searching for those involved in the political demonstrations often arrested ordinary people walking in the streets. We saw no better way to avoid arrest than by pretending to be alcoholics.

Among the hotel regulars was a poet. He had a long face and slight build and always looked flushed with emotion. He must have had a name, but everyone simply called him "the poet." The editor and I befriended him, and the three of us formed a regular group.

After a while, Susma Bhauju joined us, and the editor...


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