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Whiskey Man

Like many things in Nepal so far, I had to take my appointment with Upreti, an ayurvedic healer, on faith. We spoke on the phone and he told me to meet “near immigration.” When I called, having reached the checkpoint, he said “wait five minutes. Someone will pick you up.”

It was all deliciously cryptic. Me, standing like a spy outside the giant blue Nepali Immigration gate. An anonymous man coming to pick me up.

In exactly five minutes, a man on a sapphire blue motorcycle pulled up, waved briskly and turned the bike around. I recognized it as Upreti himself (I did my homework, as I am not usually in the practice of hopping around with strange guys) and we were off. This was my first motorcycle ride in Kathmandu, third in my life. First was my uncle Chris and we were only in my grandma’s neighborhood. Second was Davey from Amara Zee’s crew last fall and we both wore black leather jackets while we sped through New Jersey at sunset. This time, I was weaving through traffic in the rain, holding the waist of a 60 year old natural healer. I have to say, the third time was truly a charm.

He dropped me off in front of a door and said “go downstairs.” Then he sped off, leaving me to wonder if that had been him after all. What was I walking into? I wound down a labyrinth of staircases to arrive at the front of three pink apartments. So many doors but no people.

Tree vines brushed my face and a dog barked from a balcony above. There, a gentle lady bowed and said “one minute.”

She led me into a dark room where I was instructed to sit on a flimsy folding chair. I looked up and immediately jumped back at the sight of what I thought was Upreti the healer. Instead, it was a wooden throne-like chair with an elegant and very scary mask perched on top of it. I tried to draw it so I could convey the ferocity of the thing. I sat there in the dark for five minutes or so, wondering if I’d been duped. Maybe this was part of the appointment. How does she handle sitting alone in dark places?


spot on mask illustration

Finally he walked in. It was the same tiny, unassuming man from the motorcycle. He asked me for my birthday, scribbled a few things down and then disappeared again. This time, I decided to snoop around. I went to the bathroom. I looked at the dusty glass jars with different colored lids, presumably full of healing herbs. There was a leopard skull that was a little shrunken, the mouth pried open like it was growling at the time of death. Larger, more intimidating wooden masks hung all over the walls. This was not a room I’d like to wake up in, to put it one way.

Just as I began to get restless, he returned with my vedic horoscope scribbled on the back of a white shoebox. He didn’t waste any movement as he settled himself in his chair, opened his entire posture toward me like he was inviting me in.

What’s your story?

This caught me off guard. My story?  I asked for clarification, ever the curious student.  Like my background?

No. Your story. 

He said this with the same attitude of people playing Pictionary who keep circling the same object they’ve drawn instead of drawing something new when you don’t guess it.

Oh. My story. I still looked at him blankly.

What brings you here? 

Oh. Of course. I rattled off a few personal details and he asked for my hand. He squeezed my pulse and played my arm like gentle chopsticks on the piano. Three beats and he moved on, once putting his ear to my wrist as if he could hear something happening with my heart through that portal.

Then he switched hands, sat upright again and squinted at the chart.

Your health problems are minor. (he then listed off two things that have ailed me in the past exactly as they happened).And no, you are not losing your memory. The health problems that you have had in the past are because you think too much.You are just a little confused sometimes and you like to try a lot of things. Nothing serious.Your only problems are there. You are healthy. Your memory is stronger than you think. You can have a baby. And I think you will live a long life, don’t worry.  There might be an accident in a few years but it will only hurt you for a  little bit. You could jump out a window right now and it wouldn’t kill you. 

He asked me if  I drink. I said yes but not as much as I used to in my wilder days.

I think that’s no good for you, with everything in your chart. It will hurt you more than other people. I will give you this herb. You put in whiskey for three days. Then you call me. I think you won’t drink anymore.

I decided it can’t hurt, what with the predilection for alcohol in my blood. I wondered if it was some kind of thing to make me so sick that I never can taste alcohol again. Trick’s on him because I can’t stand liquor and won’t miss it anyway.But it is coming full circle, as whiskey is the first drink I ever got drunk on. And he said specifically whiskey. Maybe he knew that somehow.

Then I asked him what he would suggest when I do start overthinking things, knowing meditation was going to be the answer.


It was. But he’s cool, like… there’s nothing any medicine, eastern or otherwise can do to change your mind. Only you can do that. The mind is very strong. Also you don’t need to meditate all the time. That’s a stupid idea. You just take your time a little each day and you will be fine.

Then, of course, he told me about love. He told me that I should just have fun with men right now- asking me in a very progressive tone if it was indeed men I was interested in. He apologized for assuming, saying these days he should not be so quick to do so. I told him yes, men. But I loved his thoughtful self- awareness.

 Not everyone settles down young. You didn’t and you won’t.  You have at least five or six years before you will do that. In the meantime, have fun. Go around and travel.  You may have boyfriends and that’s good. Men can be fun.It’s ok to have a whiskey man… You understand what I mean?

I did, but I kind of wanted him to tell me directly to have casual sex just for the experience. That way I could make the joke “Dr.’s orders”. But he just got all impish around the eyes and kept making gestures that could be construed as vaguely sexual, I guess. I think he was trying to be a gentleman, or at the very least, not a dirty old man, which I appreciated very much. Honestly, I thought this would have gone the other way, in more of a “deny yourself  earthly pleasure so you can fully focus on your inner being” sort of wave. But nope. Not this guy.

Then there was this question- how old are men you like? I said right near my age usually, give or take five years on either side. I asked him why-was the universe setting me up with an old man for a partner?

No, no. No old man. But I don’t want to tell you the future. It’s not good to know too much about these things.
He leaned close and actually cupped his mouth with his hand like he was hiding his words from the nonexistent other person in the room…

Maybe I see things, maybe I don’t. 

I waved my hands to make him to stop talking in case he was about to spill some cosmic beans. Why ruin a surprise? Who would want to know something like that? Equally, I don’t want to know if I’m going to die soon or how many kids I may have. (though allegedly there is a son in my future). I don’t want to know anything because then it will color the decisions I make or worse yet, make me stop living as fully. We both agreed that whatever will be will be either way, so it’s more fun to let it unfold without interference.

I asked him if I have to choose- I have so many things I’m interested in.

He told me…have fun. Try things. Meditate when you feel sad. That’s it. Simple. 

That was my plan all along, but it was nice to have a healer’s blessing on the whole thing.

We talked about life for almost two hours and I left feeling light and cheerful. He sent me off with an order to call him in three days to talk about how the herbs went. I slipped some rupees into the donation box because his services are completely free and walked off to grab a taxi in the sprinkles of rain.

I am currently dissolving his herbs into my glass and toasting Upreti, King of the whiskey men.




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