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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

City Madness

I begin to recognize a certain darkness that lives in Patan. The melancholy cry of a dog pleading for mercy as his owner provides the nightly beating hovers about the barren room where me and Saziv have our quiet dinner.

Some other time I’d be washing clothes downstairs and an equally disturbing cry would creep into the stone garage: you could tell it was a baby for his cries still retained the crystalline purity of a consciousness unmuddied by language and contempt, it was juicy with goodness. His mother’s voice,  however, had rotten long ago; it was a commanding, even terrifying little rubber voice and you could tell her words had far more power than her body to harm that poor boy.

At early hours I caught another glimpse of the nether world some people here seem to inhabit. The man who had wrath carved into his face shifted aimlessly through the main road, screaming out his lungs with a voice of gravel and tears, getting honked at by shadows. The ardent intensity of his growls invoked images of the hell his mind was slowly cooking in.

These troubled ghouls are only too familiar. They share the metropolitan delirium of so many city dwellers around the world. New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Tokyo and Paris; I have seen many of their likes. Poor despairing souls slowly grinding into non-existence.

Now the dust covers all, a dry heat permeates the flesh of men and buildings alike, animals have become prisoners of the City: the ducks in cages, the feral dogs huddling up in packs to survive the cement labyrinth which seems so foreign to them; a metal ship which took off without their noticing. Pigeons and rats have become entwined with the city itself as their blood covers the very pavement in messy brushstrokes.

But there are other animals –another race altogether– whose magnificence shimmers in the cityscape; who shine when covered in dust. Outside temples the great stone beasts sit waiting, their bodies comfortably submerged in the lukewarm waters of more lucid times.

When the sun desists from its pounding, the engines from their rustling, and the dust has settled in its place, then the moon gives unforeseen clarity to the senses and more and more remnants from this world of old slowly reveal themselves under the delicate lunar glow, like shy stars who only show themselves to gentle gazers. How much beauty suddenly floats from the past! and how much madness, true filth, ugliness have we engendered in but a few generations. And yet the Buddhas, the lions, the temples and the forests all wait patiently, like gargoyles expecting their old friend Luna. Like this they sit, reminding us of something we’ve forgotten and hoping for a blossoming in the hearts of men.