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Touching Foreignness

Jebin Gautam | Sayantan Halder

He was a boisterous little boy, five or maybe six; looking for adventure, looking for fun. The crystalline marbles mud-caked in his bruised palm held little thrill now, neither did the pond shimmering with bright orange fishes. His little hands, battered and beaten, were itching for mischief, itching for fun. Sitting under the intricate decor of the temple, amidst old men enjoying a game of chess, his mind meandered with impish maneuverings.

At a distance, the Patan Palace stood firm with its majestic demeanor. There were a group of tourists, kuhires examining the palace. The red, blonde and brown of their hair mingled with the brilliant colors of their dresses emulating a life-sized kaleidoscope. The ‘60s era glowed radiant and new. The boy approached the crowd, intrigued by their incongruous colors, illuminating the otherwise time-worn setting. Sitting on the brick-lined pathway concealed behind a statue of a lion, he examined their foreignness, their unfamiliar stature, the paleness of their skin and their strange language. Most prominently, the flawless white skin of a sturdy lady who approached the place of his concealment, took him by surprise. How one can have such impeccably fair skin, he wondered. Unable to bear his curiosity, he pinched the lady’s legs, trying to feel her foreignness, as if examining the material she was made out off. But feeling a foreign hand the lady shrieked and pulled back. The young boy, panic-stricken by her reaction, had not had time to let go. The lady’s skin seemed to have stretched an inch or even more. But she was shrieking more with shock than with pain. To run off from trouble, the boy zoomed past the plaza and the temples, criss-crossing the alleyways, as fast as his wee legs could carry him. Escaping the newness, he reached the safe confines of his home, where he described his mischief to his sister, revealing the unique trait of the foreigner’s skin. “Kuhires—they have stretchable skin, just like rubber,” he said. He even revealed his finding the next day at school, telling and retelling the tale to each one of his friends, leaving them all with joyous laughter.

While in a cafe somewhere in Patan, a woman poured out her ordeal to her friends, about a little pervert trying to pinch her through her leggings. They smiled and laughed over the incident, cautioning the troubled lady to be careful next-time.

But, shrill and loud, laughter prevailed everywhere.

About Jebin Gautam

Jebin Gautam is a writer based in Kathmandu, Nepal presently working with a photographic archive.

Visit the author's page >

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