By Leona Thomas
Whilst it is true that I have a super power - the ability to turn down the volume of the sound track playing all around me in the everyday theatre of life in Kathmandu - that magical city has a good sense of humour too and always manages to pull a surprise or two out of its hat when you least expect it!
The noise begins in Kathmandu at around 4am and adds layer after layer of sound tracks as each new element comes to life. By 8am the cacophony is in full swing and does not ease off until after 7pm when the micro buses stop running.
One day I was in my kitchen making a cup of tea when I heard a noise from the Lazimpat main road that was so astonishing I nearly dropped my drink!
For the first time ever I could hear something unbelievable in the middle of the afternoon in Kathmandu. Actually I would go so far as to say it was an impossible sound.
And yet there it was.
I came out on to the roof terrace and I switched off my super power. I decided to let in the full volume of Kathmandu.
Yet I could still hear the mysterious noise. I was flabbergasted.
What was it that stopped me in my tracks?
Well it wasn't a noise as such. It was the absence of noise...
In the middle of the afternoon at the busy noisy Lazimpat main road the only thing I could hear was the sound of silence!
Impossible AND unbelievable!
Yet my ears were not deceiving me.
I peered over the edge of my roof. My eyes had never seen anything like this at 5pm in Kathmandu!
The main road was empty!
A traffic policeman was stood in his usual place but all the vehicles had been forced off the main road and were wedged into the side roads leaving no space for anyone to pass.
What on earth was going on?
The silence was deafening.
Eventually a cavalcade raced down the centre of the empty main road.
I had seen government limousines in the past. But there were normally just 2 fancy cars and the police would radio each other along the route and pedestrians and cars would have to stop briefly to let them pass.
This empty street was a whole new game.
Now that Nepal had a Maoist Prime Minister there was money to be spent on looking fancy and important.
First came 6 motorbike policemen riding in pairs, in full dress uniform complete with white helmet and white gloves....
Then a series of cars preceded the Prime Minister's limousine. Behind them were more cars and finally a huge truck full of armed police!
Then the silence reasserted itself.
If I hadn't seen or heard it for myself I would never have believed anybody who told tales of silence on the busy streets of the capital. Yet here were Nepali motorists (apparently) patiently waiting silently for permission to continue their journeys.
Another cavalcade raced down the centre of the empty road. More fancy uniforms, more cars and a Nepali President on the move. Another truck full of armed police at the rear.
Then a street dog began running down the middle of the road and a policeman chased after him, blowing his whistle and waving his stick. The dog seemed to enjoy the space.
A final cavalcade raced through the Lazimpat neighbourhood. More white gloves and helmets, guns, cars, flags. And in the fancy limousine was the President of Sri Lanka.
Then a whistle from the traffic policeman and a frantic waving of arms signalled bemused drivers that they must unblock the side roads immediately and continue on their way...
It's a funny thing but you do get used to the noise in a busy Asian city. The silence was unsettling, like some terrible disaster had befallen the capital.
Luckily for us, within 5 minutes life in Lazimpat returned to normality. Chaos and cacophony reinstated themselves and were a welcome relief!
I reinstalled my Mute Mode super power and returned to my kitchen to make a fresh cup of tea...