when a nascent spring walks the cold, dank streets of kathmandu with the promise of impending warmth, there is cause to celebrate.
and celebrate they did, in a big way too – a riot of splashes and colours so obscene that one might be forgiven for forgetting the severe water shortages or the depressing diversity of the country’s problems. for a while at least.
i spent a couple of hours with with the inhabitants of freak street, the famous (or infamous) stretch that is quintessentially more kathmandu than kathmandu, and these are what i saw —
hiding behind little windows set in old stone and brick houses, the inhabitants throw buckets of water on the unsuspecting.
a delicacy associated with the festival, bhang (cannabis) is cooked the way one would prepare milk tea. spices and other ingredients are added to the mix. depending on his physiology, the gentleman taking a swig below would have been stoned for 2-3 hours after.
coloured powders are an indispensable part of the festival – they are thrown at people, rubbed into their faces, mixed with water in ‘water bombs’ and squirt guns.
yusuf enjoying his shower.
foreigners are especially targeted during this festival, caucasians to be exact. few of them are willing to brave the chaos though.
newari rice wine is passed around outside ‘santa pub’, which is an establishment among the long-timers of freak street.
arun manandhar, tungna-player extraordinaire in kutumba (famous nepalese folk band) and a great guy all around.
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last friday a few of us were at sarah’s place to celebrate her birthday a day in advance. she is 20 this year but she keeps insisting that she is twenteen. nice.
sarah’s mom whipped up quite a dinner for us. there were lamp chops and steaks hot off the grill (ooh, the lard!). add ceasar salad, asparagus wrapped in streaky bacon and vienna sausages and you have a meal fit for a king.
look at them just begging to be eaten.
embellishing the dine with some wine.
one happy eater.
after dinner we went down to the basement to hang out. i have to say, it is one hell of a basement, with the wood panels, heavy drapes and ornate furnishings. the photo above looks much brighter than the scene actually was because i bounced my flash off the ceiling.
i never thought playing “polar bear” (a cuter variation of the game “murderer”) could be so exciting – the mock accusations and the blatant denials. besides, the low-key, almost noir-like setting added to the mis-en-scene (take that, com227!)
to give you an idea of how dark the basement actually was, the next series of photos were shot at iso 3200 wide open at f1.4 with my 50mm prime. i managed to yield only a shutter speed of 1/40 – 1/50. did not want to use the flash as i felt it destroyed the mood and the feel of the scene. for the non-photographers, well, you just have to take my word for it.
sarah’s cousin, etienne, got this shot. great timing i say.
sarah’s shot of me trying to make her sister’s prosumer work in the extremely low-light situation. some things are not meant to be.
austen, the resident dog. his bark is surely bigger than his bite. shot by rachel.
instead of trying to fight the noise generated by the use of high iso, i decided to process the above photos to black and white, ramping up the contrast. they worked together with the grain-like noise to produce the fast film kind of look.
after a while in the basement, we went upstairs for cake and presents. etienne had to do the birthday song for sarah in french because he is half-french after all.
lide and the girls got sarah a pair of heels from guess. it was rather amusing how they tried to disguised the gift as something cheap. they stashed the shoes in a box from mondo.
a couple more obligatory group photos to end off the evening.
sarah and family.
was a really enjoyable evening on the whole. great food, great company, what more can you ask for?
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yesterday we celebrated sarah’s 20th birthday. she is presumably older and wiser now.
dinner was at a japanese restaurant called ‘hanabi’ at king’s arcade. 3 of the guys had the buffet, watched by the ever-vigilant staff who kept repeating that those having the buffet shouldn’t share with those who were not. they looked pretty imposing with their red bandanna and all, and it must be some variation of the bushido code that they strictly adhered to – to defend the buffet to the death.
nothing really happened until pamy spilled amos’ miso soup, thus spilling the beans and at the same time hitting her clumsy quota for the day. amos was surprisingly cool. what could he do? he’s the boyfriend. we were just glad that the vigilantes (the staff) did not scream for blood for this act of ‘dishonour’. otherwise, we might have had a ‘hari-kiri’ for the appetiser, surely not the best way to begin a meal. (ok, pamy, you know i am just playing here. we love your clumsiness, for all the right reasons.)
kyle made 2 interesting observations that i feel deserve a mention here. firstly, he suggested that all the chef’s recommendations were the cheap stuff (read ‘crabstick with some sauce’ and some ‘chicken wing’ thing). next, he noticed that near closing time, all the normally vigilant staff suddenly disappeared. he suspected that they were tired of serving the ‘sashimi mixed platter’ to us, thus helping to keep the restaurant ‘afloat’.
after dinner, the cake was brought out – an oreo cheesecake affair called the ‘big O’ (how witty), made wittier by the fact that there was a big ‘0’ in sarah’s age. this was of course a case of coincidence.
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