Friday, August 03, 2007

Accepting friendship

It's axiomatic that somene offers you a service or a kindness because they want something from you, right? Otherwise, why bother? What is the good in it for them?

A chilling idea for sure, turning karma on its head to say the least (or at least offering a purely market-based interpretation of it - trading kindnesses on a stock exchange of sorts).

But here in Nepal, after a scant 2.5 days, I see the lie in an axiom that I really think pervades life on too many occassions. How can I explain the friendliness of the Nepalese? Of course the shop keeper wants to sell his statues or mandalas and the innkeeper wants you to avail yourself of value-added services such as laundry or meals.

However, having travelled my share, I have never before run into such open and welcoming people.

The keepers of my guest house truely love to provide good service and seem to consider you a part of the family - indeed, I have participated in two important family celebrations in the past two days, which included sampling a powerful Nepali homebrew last night that knocked my socks off after a sip and cured me of any desire for more.

As with the friendship offered by my hosts, I truely believe that I am being offered genuine good will by the Nepalis that I meet in my daily explorations. And please do not think that it is naive optimism or innocense - I have run the gauntlets of Cairo's markets and Bangkok's KhaoSan Road, after all.

Here shopkeepers do not call to you as you pass and, with the exception of a few, beggers seem far between (although this is one of the porrest natins on earth) - it is a soft sell if any at all. This could be different outside of Patan, a community of skilled artisans, but I am in love with the people already.

I wander in courtyards to view family homes built 400 years ago and still occupied by the same family. From windows all around, smiling faces look out and greetings are exchanged with small bows:

Namaste. I greet the divine in you.

We have to accept kindness for what it is, and not contaminate it with thoughts of barter and trade of sentiments. This doesn't mean we should abandon care and caution, but that we should not be ruled unquestioningly by it.

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