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Theory:

4. Kathmandu is vivid, mercenary, religious, with small shrines to flower-adorned deities along the narrowest and busiest streets; with fruit sellers, flute sellers, hawkers of postcards; shops selling Western cosmetics, film rolls and chocolate; or copper utensils and Nepalese antiques. Film songs blare out from the radios, car horns sound, bicycle bells ring, stray cows low questioningly at motorcycles, vendors shout out their wares. I indulge myself mindlessly: buy a bar of marzipan, a corn-on-the-cob roasted in a charcoal brazier on the pavement (rubbed with salt, chilli powder and lemon); a couple of love story comics, and even a Reader’s Digest. All this I wash down with Coca Cola and a nauseating orange drink, and feel much the better for it.
Explanation:
 
In paragraph \(4\), Seth describes what he had seen and experienced in Kathmandu. He calls Kathmandu a 'vivid, mercenary, and religious' city. It is interesting to note how adjectives such as "mercenary" and "religious" were put together to suggest that religion is commercialised.
 
He also observes how Kathmandu had little temples to big flower-adorned deities lining the narrowest and busiest streets. There were a lot of hawkers, sellers, and shops lines up on the streets. There were fruit vendors, flute sellers, postcard hawkers, shops selling Western cosmetics, film rolls, chocolate, copper cookware, and Nepalese antiquities.
 
Kathmandu, as Seth remarks, is also filled with all kinds of sounds. From film songs that blast out from radios, car horns, bicycle bells, and to the sellers who call out their wares, the city's sounds come alive.
 
800px-Kathmandu_street.jpg
A busy street in Kathmandu*

In the middle of the vibrant human activity, Seth notices that stray cows are found at the centre as if they were peering questioningly at passing motorcycles.
 
Later, Seth indulges himself mindlessly. He buys a bar of marzipan (a sweet made of almond flour), and an ear of grilled corn rubbed with salt, chilli powder, and lemon. Seth also buys a couple of love story comics and a Reader’s Digest (a popular family magazine in English). He ends his mini shopping with Coca-Cola and a not-so-good orange drink, and he feels considerably better as a result.

450px-LoikawCorn.jpg
Roasting corn on the cob in a brazier**

Meanings of difficult words:
 
S.No
Words
Meanings
1
VividProducing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind
2
MercenaryInterested in making money from a situation
3
AdornTo add something decorative to a person or thing
4
DeityA god or goddess
5
Utensil
A tool, container, or other article, especially for household use
6
AntiqueSomething made in an earlier period that is collected and considered to have value because it is beautiful, rare, old, or of high quality
7
Stray(Of an animal) having no home, or lost
8
VendorA person who sells food or goods on the street
9
Indulge
To allow yourself or someone else to have something enjoyable
10
Corn-on-the-cobThe tube-shaped part of maize (corn) that is cooked (whole corn)
11
BrazierA metal container for burning coal, wood, etc., used to give warmth or to cook on
12
Wash downTo drink something after putting food or medicine in your mouth, especially so that you can swallow more easily
13
Nauseating
Making you feel as if you are going to vomit
Reference:
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Kathmandu- Vikram Seth (pp.127 - 131). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.