Doing Nothing in Budhanilkantha

The hike in the Shivapuri hills near Kathmandu leaves some of our unfit selves hungry and thirsty, so we decide to take a shortcut to Budhanilkantha, where we will wait for the others. They will make a detour to buy fresh fish for their meal, and we have plenty of time on our hands to wander around the temple complex.

The Budhanilkantha temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, whose magnificent stone image reclines in a pond. We tiptoe to look at it over milling schoolchildren and worshippers, who are out in full force this sunny morning. For some reason — laziness, probably — I don’t have any pictures of the temple, save the one above of a tree in the compound. We are content just to bask in the sunshine and get back our breath. The chill of the evenings is a distant memory, and in the spirit of mindfulness, we don’t have to think about the arduous climb back to the resort, where another steep flight of steps is to be encountered before we can get to the dining area.

At Budhanilkantha, we worship at the tiny shrine, make multiple trips to the pond as the crowd clears, and find ourselves seats that afford us a view of the compound. Isn’t it wonderful how time resists quantifying and measurement when you are on a peaceful break, especially in the hills? Sunrise brings the prospect of beauty and (hopefully mild) exercise, while sunset signals games around a bonfire, followed by hours of stories and pleasant conversation. If you are lucky, an old timer will supply you with ghost stories.

We are close to the end of our work retreat in Kathmandu. We have enjoyed our time here, despite the cold showers and the bitter nights. (My regular winter features lows in the mid-twenties Centigrade.) We have been touristy in Thamel and Durbar Square, eaten Newari Food, and evaded monkeys at Swayambhunath. One of us has lost a phone, which is recovered a few months later. We have crammed ourselves into jeeps which take us to the foot of the hill on which our resort stands. As the biting air gnaws at our fingers and ears, and the slope draws protests from our calf muscles, we have strained up to welcoming lights of the main cottage, collapsing in relief by the flickering bonfire.

Naturally, we deserve this rest at Budhanilkantha before our early flight to Kathmandu (which we are not allowed to take —but that is another story). How wonderful it is to sit and do nothing; to not scroll aimlessly on my phone or to actively wait with an eye on the time, but to simply linger, eavesdrop, be curious, then lapse into delicious languor. In the evening, we will have a lavish send-off dinner, play Jenga and Mafia, finish packing, then turn in early so that we can wake up at the ungodly hour of 4 am.

I can’t wait to pack my bags again. Or I could just learn to enjoy a bit of languor here. But you know which is more fun.

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