For those of you that intend to grace me with your presence in this wonderous country there is one place that is sure to be the first of our stops on your own personal guided tour. That stop will be at Gunga's tea shop.
Gunga is quite possibly the happiest man you will ever meet. He has an endearing round face which I have only once seen crossed with a frown. His shop is across the road from the main department store in Lazimpat and is adourned with a clean looking green shopfront with the words "Sagamartha Tea House" printed in grand white letters, "please step in for all kind of Nepali tea, coffee and spices". "Sagamartha" is the Nepali word for Mt . Everest.
On a pinboard out the front are articles regarding tea production in Nepal and a sign quite adamently declaring that "sugar destroys the taste of the tea!" Gunga is a bit of a purist! He can tell you where all of his teas come from, how they are grown, and what ailments they will help you with. He would make a great winemaker, as he even has it down to the art of telling you where in your mouth and how quickly you will feel the flavour of the tea.
As I pass on my bike I always look in to give him a wave and often see him looking through the window out onto the street waiting for someone to visit. I say someone to visit rather than "his next customer" because I don't really think Gunga has customers. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how the man eats, not only because he is always in the slightly claustrophobic shop, but because only rarely do I see the man exchange tea for money. He's usually giving the stuff away (in actual fact I think he is a rather shrewd businessman.
"Please Robji, sit down, have some tea, we will have some tea, what do you like today?"
He encourages all people to come in and will have the kettle boiling before you have even introduced yourself. "If you want to buy, you buy, if you don't, is ok, just come back for a nice cup of tea!" He loves talking to people and has enlightened me quite a bit on the very confusing process that is Nepali politics. His business partner Navin has a similar shop (although a little more cramped) down by New Road but is just as regularly in Gunga's shop helping out, and he educates me on Nepali religion, custom and in particular Newari culture (the Newari's are one of the predominant Kathmandu Valley castes).
Gunga breaks down religion like this, "You be the best person you can be, isn't it? You have good in your heart and you give goodness to others, isn't it?. All religions say this, isn't it? Christian, Hindu, Musleman, Budd-His, isn't it? So I accept you, and I accept you, and in this way the world can have peace and understanding, isn't it?"
"And tea Gunga?" says I.
"Oh yeeess, Peace, Understanding and a cup of tea!"