Video Night in Katmandu

One night in Katmandu my companion and I decide that we want to watch a movie. There being no English-language theaters around, we venture to ask the video rental store on the bottom floor of our hotel if they rent televisions and VCRs. After some confused inter-lingual jabbering, we figure out that they don't. However, it seems like they're willing to work something out. They urge us to pick out a pirated Indian copy of Silverado and direct us out of the store onto the street, around through the passageway into the hotel courtyard and up to a pair of tiny French doors on the back of their store. The doors are opened to reveal an impossibly small room with a television and a VCR. The room was so small, in fact, that chairs have to be set up for us in the courtyard. It is through the tiny French doors that we are to watch the film.

After fetching some warm clothes, I ask the hotel manager if it's alright if we make a dent in the unfortunately huge block of hash we bought the day before. "No problem," he assures us, and we begin to smoke happily as the video man tries to get the machine to work properly.

About ten minutes into the film (which, by the way, was incredibly confusing), we notice that a man has been standing behind us for a short while and is now walking towards the reception desk. It is a member of the Nepali Police Force, in full, rigid uniform, hands behind his back, practically goose-stepping his way over to the manager. Eek. How long has he been there?

A minute later the manager comes running towards us, gesticulating frantically at the hash pipe sitting, sore thumb-like, in the middle of the expansive, white table. He says in a low, choking whisper: "The police are here! Hide it!" In one swift motion I slyly toss the evidence into the bushes. Out comes the cop again, klomp, klomp, to stand behind us. Again. Three inches behind us. He snorts. He watches. He rocks on the balls of his feet. He snorts.

I, by now, have completely succumbed to paranoia. I am shaking lightly, covered in a uniform layer of cold sweat. Why doesn't he just get it over with? Why is he tormenting us? Maybe he didn't see the pipe! Maybe he's trying to determine if we are stoned! I'd better try to act normal.

It is at this key juncture that I remember the notice in the restaurant where we ate earlier in the evening. It was a plea for books, letters, and visits for unfortunate Americans incarcerated for many, many years on drug charges. WHY DO I CONSISTENTLY IGNORE SUCH OMENS?!?

I haven't the faintest idea what "Silverado" is about.

The cop leaves. I exhale. Immediately thereafter, a group of five policemen enter the courtyard and being searching rooms. I come very close to losing my fudge.

While the cops are going from room to room on the floors above us, the hotel manager returns and ushers us quickly into the tiny room with the television. "Wait in here," he says, and locks the doors behind us. For a while everything is hunky-dory, aside from the cramped conditions. I begin to calm down and pay attention to the movie again. Maybe they don't know that we were the ones smoking. Maybe they decided that their imposing presence was enough of a warning for the stupid American tourists. Maybe they'll arrest someone else.

BOOM!!!--the doors fly open! It's the cop again! Sweat glands, do yo' stuff!

The cop does the Imposing Presence thing again for awhile-- standing in the doorway, watching, rocking... WHAT IS GOING ON?? All of a sudden he does something totally unexpected: he sits down.


He is soon joined in our old seats by the hotel manager, and they begin a friendly conversation. They're talking about...cowboys? Cool waves of understanding, relief, and anger wash over me in cosmic illumination. All this time, this horrible, paranoid time, the policeman JUST WANTED TO WATCH THE FUCKING MOVIE!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

The next day I asked the manager about it. He said the police come by to check out the hotel about once a week--it's no big deal. Ughm...

Chez Zeus:Writing:Silverado:Katmandu

Last modified: Thu Mar 31 15:42:09 2005
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