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03 Kathmandu

The story ‘Kathmandu’ is an extract from Vikram Seth’s book ‘From Heaven Lake’. Here he describes a long journey from China to India, via Tibet and Nepal. This particular extract is a description of two famous temples of Kathmandu. One is the Pashupatinath and the other is the Baudhnath Shrine.

Seth’s travelogue transports the readers to the place. His cosmopolitan way of upbringing is reflected in his way of making himself accepted in the world. It represents a familiar surrounding of Seth’s world of humanism and religious diversity. Here, the flute in the midst of Kathmandu city lends a common musical universe. Seth feels, to hear any flute, is to be drawn into the commonality of all mankind, to be moved by music closest in its phrases and sentences to the human voice. Its motive force too is living breath, where one needs to pause and breathe.

Meanings of words and phrases

  • sacred: connected with God
  • proclaims: announces officially or publicly
  • febrile: a great deal of nervous excitement or energy
  • elbowed aside: pushed aside with one’s elbow or arm
  • saffron-clad: dressed in saffron coloured clothes
  • convinced: completely certain about something
  • corpse: a dead body
  • cremated: a dead person’s body disposed of by burning it to ashes
  • wilted: a plant, leaf, or flower that has become limp through heat, loss of water, or disease
  • shrine: a place regarded as holy
  • protrudes: extends beyond or above a surface
  • emerges: becomes visible
  • immense: huge
  • immigrants: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country
  • haven: a place of safety or refuge
  • vivid: clear images in the mind
  • mercenary: primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics
  • adorned: decorated
  • deities: god or goddess
  • antiques: a collectable object or work of art that has a high value because of its age and quality
  • blare out: make or cause to make a loud, harsh sound
  • indulge: allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of something
  • brazier: a portable heater consisting of a pan or stand for holding lighted coals
  • nauseating: feel like vomiting
  • propelled: drive or push something forward
  • enthusiasm: intense and eager enjoyment
  • quills: the hollow sharp spines on the body is a spiny mammal
  • meditatively: give your attention to only one thing at a time
  • excessive: to a large extent
  • offhanded: to show little interest in other people in a way that seems slightly rude
  • incidental: something that happens as a result of another activity
  • breaks off: suddenly stop doing something
  • tear away: to leave despite a strong desire to stay
  • commonality: the state of sharing features or attributes

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