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Quick time, slow time

Updated on: 21 April,2024 04:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Paromita Vohra |

A few days later, the lockdown was declared. Despite the starkness of the times, time became, not a luxury, but luxurious

Quick time, slow time

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraThe last time I was in Kathmandu was on March 8, 2020, just for one day. I was sick. In fact I had fallen sick a few days earlier in another country, but that was no reason not to keep going in that life.

A few days later, the lockdown was declared. Despite the starkness of the times, time became, not a luxury, but luxurious. I swore then, as people do in calamities, that if things got ok, I would no longer travel relentlessly. No more one-day, two-day trips for me!

Reader, I almost made it. But you know the fate of such pious declarations. And so, I’m back in Kathmandu, back to my bad-ways-just-two-days, for a conference. I flew with a friend, so we indulge in in-flight chatting, instead of mid-air working. We will reach and finish our work we say. Our flight is late (Dindigo Airlines as Instagrammer @docanilabe has forever christened it). We expect to be received by two young people from a travel company called Queermandu. Instead an elderly gentleman, T, and his younger friend, A, meet us.

“You seemed like interesting people so we said let us pick them up instead, it will be fun” says T. “Yes” confirms A. “When T suggested, I immediately asked my wife, ‘you pick up our son from school’.” “Sorry you had to wait a long time” we say. “It’s ok, we were chatting. It’s Kathmandu, we have time” says T.

It is decided (not by me) that rather than go to our hotel, we will have coffee at the airport first. Ok, then. Our companions know nothing about us really, or we them. We make ourselves known. We learn T is a monk. Once rich, married, living in another country, life was good, yet never felt right. A journey featuring therapy, celibacy and various spiritual practices later, Buddhism became home. He has also turned his monastery’s café into a profitable business, something he says he’s always been good at. “It’s not about profit and non-profit, really. What does it matter if you can’t create something people value?” A and T met via the café. “T helped me think my life through” says A. “I took a six-month sabbatical.” “Glorious?” I ask enviously. “The first three months was hell! But the next three were great. I went to Vipassana. Now I’ve decided to open Nepali restaurants around the world and make x million dollars in three years.” This is a most unexpectedly material result of Vipassana, yet it seems just right. “After that I will build a programme to create 1,000 people like T to help everyone figure out their life.” “Like pro-bono life-coaches?” I ask. “Exactly.” Perhaps spirituality is not about finding your goopy bliss, as much as finding your fitrat—the orientation of your being.

Time has trickled by at a steady pace and we leave for the hotel. But instead, it is decided (not by me) to first visit T’s monastery and café. We amble through, stopping in the library to watch monks read. We perambulate the stupa, gold and white in the sunset. We will be late, on emails, on columns, for dinner, but here we are, taking a full circle, making and breaking our promise to ourselves, both at the same time, as is our human fitrat. 

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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