The word is enough to startle you, especially when it’s loud enough and you’re not expecting to meet anyone, walking through the capital’s streets. Your eyes are on the pavement that you’re walking and suddenly you lift your head. It was a stranger, not even remotely close to anyone I’ve seen or met.
In a matter of split second, I realized that he was not calling me, and had stopped another passer-by. But then, as I passed by, I happened to be close enough to hear what they were speaking.
“Nepali blue film, dai,” the caller was saying, carrying a bunch of CDs in his hand.
“What? Have I gone nuts?” Thoughts raced across my head.
This is broad daylight, and this is no lonely alley. For God’s sake, this is pavement in front of Kathmandu Mall, opposite Tundikhel, and has public transport stand, where thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles stop. It is one of the busiest streets of Kathmandu during daytime.
But this was for real. The guy, with worn look but agile movement, was trying to convince another gentleman, perhaps in his Mid-20s, to buy porn.
“Nepali ho dai, ramro chha. Kati bideshi hernu hunchha,” he was saying. (Meaning: It is Nepali and is good. How much of foreign ones would you watch?)
The prospective buyer, who apparently was as shocked as yours truly was, shook his head in refusal and walked off. But yours truly was too shocked to move. Feet stuck in cement. How can this be? I turned back (by then had already passed both), tried to have a glance. This did not look like a joke. He meant business.
This is was not a shop, and there was no hush-hush conversation. He was speaking normally, as if selling socks or other clothing items, just like many others in this pavement do.
Million thoughts raced my mind till then. I also thought – “Why did he not ask me?” – just as I was trying to spot any police nearby. But I hardly would recognize one, even if I saw one. I was blank. Having made a few circles around him, I tried to take a picture with my mobile device. Not to show him in public, but to remind myself, if at all it was real.
I needed some time to cool down. Have a coffee. To reflect upon what was happening. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, walk that street. Children, young adults, women. He was trying to speak to almost everyone.
“Is it legal now?” I was thinking, answering to myself “Of course not”.
“Nobody stops it? Where are those, who talk of market regulation and raid on shops and eateries.” Of course, no answers…
Reminded me of a story I’d read in Nepali Times (English weekly) some time earlier, about how children are exposed to pornography at early age. Maybe last year. Maybe year before that. Luckily, I found it on the internet. It was in the issue #507 (18 – 24 JUNE 2010).
[A ten-year-old student was throwing up, complaining of headaches, and refused to go to school for days. Unable to identify any physical causes for the child’s distress, his father (a child counselor) sat him down and asked him if anything out of the ordinary had happened. After much coaxing, the boy revealed that his computer teacher had shown him pornographic images online.]
The same story also quoted an NGO CWIN (Child Workers in Nepal) data saying 79 percent of young Internet users had seen offensive materials online, either accidently or intentionally. It also talked about parents not knowing what their children were viewing in the World Wide Web. It was an interesting story as it said 2 percent of the child respondents (1,430 children aged 12 to 18) said porn sites were among their favorites.
It would be interesting for most adults my age that during our growing up years, we heard of so many stories of dingy rooms in some areas of Kathmandu showing pornographic movies. Those days, it was talked in the hush-hush tones. Those were early 90s. Move over 20th century, this is second decade of 21st century and whatever you thought of as clandestine is ready to be hurled down your throat. That too, with a lot of noise…
Thankfully, yours truly realized, he doesn’t have children. If he had, he would be worried… Very Very worried…