Amid Kathmandu’s Hustle and Bustle, an Attempted Shakedown

KATHMANDU, Nepal — At some point between Durbar Square and Kathesimbhu Stupa, I was accosted by two local boys, probably about 12 years old, who were very friendly and proceeded to chat me up about where I was from, my faith and my impression of Nepal so far.

One boy seemed older and street-wise. He did most of the talking.

When it came to the topic of religion, the boy asked, “Do you believe in God?”

It was a curious inquiry, especially considering the wealth of deities that populate the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. He had used the singular noun.

To proclaim my agnosticism explicitly felt odd, so I shrugged and mumbled vaguely.

My answer didn’t seem to affect him, and the conversation continued unabated.

It was a bit more enthusiastic a reception than I’m used to on the streets of New York, although I did have a reminder in Varanasi, India, that ulterior motives do lurk.

At one point, the older and chattier boy asked for a “donation” toward food, and I demurred. I didn’t have any Nepalese rupees on me, and I wasn’t about to hit up a cash machine with my two new acquaintances in tow.

“F— you,” came the reply, and both boys stormed off.

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A vendor sells produce on the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal. At top, pedestrians and a cyclist move through the city. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)

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