The dark interior of the Om Restaurant on Freak Street was my favourite hangout when I first arrived in Nepal. Run by three groovy long-haired brothers, refugees from eastern Tibet, it was one of the few eateries in the Kathmandu of the 1970s.
Tenzin, the eldest, was destined a decade later to become my husband, but I hardly remember him from those days. Busy establishing the family carpet factory he made only occasional appearances, but I do recall a dark floppy moustache and his reputation for a bevy of foreign girlfriends. I liked his air of mysterious purpose.
The fried rice, noodle soup, momos and cheerful welcome at the original Om were a staple of the world traveller community, along with Yin Yang’s apple pie, and our favourite sizzling chicken on the Crystal Hotel rooftop with the historic city spread beneath us.
It was from that lofty terrace one monsoon afternoon in July 1973 that I imagined watching the smoke rise and the fire engulf most of the seven courtyards and 1,700 rooms of the Singha Darbar palace, conveniently consuming all government records.
The Om restaurant was not destined to last forever either, and became a casualty of Nepal’s shifting allegiances in the Tibetan resistance movement and China’s ping-pong diplomacy. By 1978 it had closed.
When I came to marry Tenzin — in the Winchester registry office in the summer of 1986 — the Om brothers decided it was too hard for their aging mother to face the dreadful reality that her favoured eldest son was wed to an Englishwoman. She still regarded him as a monk in Lhasa’s Sera monastery, where he had studied as a teenager.