Kathmandu February 2020

Kathmandu February 2020 by Philip Blenkinsop

A little over two weeks after Nepal’s first Covid 19 case was certified on the 24th January, I alight from my Malindo cabin and wander through a sparsely populated customs area to baggage retrieval at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, where I count as many as 27 painstakingly string-wrapped, flat-screen televisions (a portent of the lockdown ahead perhaps) doing turns on the luggage belt, saunter past customs, and snap my way into town down Pashupati Road through an open cab window as is my wont. Little more than a week has past since the buying frenzy on face masks slowed.

The spectacle of someone wearing a mask in Kathmandu should come as no surprise; the dust and the traffic pollution alone warrants one, if you are able to put up with the discomfort, however, looking back at the scenes I shot during that week I now realise that the prevalence of covered faces marked the beginning of increased awareness and fear.

Returning to that world of Kathmandu through my images now, the doorway to that world I left behind in late February takes on the guise of a heavy and immovable stone portal, open barely a crack and I’m struck by the realisation of just how much our planet has changed, dare I say, irreversibly so, and the unlikelihood of my being able to return any time soon to be reunited with friends and a place, one of several such places, which until now has demanded a continuous dialogue with me; a dialogue which I have welcomed, embraced and nurtured.

The feeling that this realisation evokes hangs heavy inside of me.

The process of arriving at that insurmountable gulf between what was then and what is now, is one that usually happens over a long period of time. One awakens after several years and it dawns on you that here is a chapter of your life that is now irretrievably lost to the past. The players have long since exited the stage, your responsibilities I dare say lie elsewhere. It has morphed into memory, no longer something nurtured that can touch you, no longer a flame that brightens your darkness, no matter how much you would wish it so.