My first meeting with the press was with Mani. I had written to several local newspapers. I wanted to to meet someone to find some leads. One day my phone rang. It was someone to say that « Mani, a political reporter » was going to call me. He did. After a few misunderstandings we set up a meeting the next day. A coffee, a taxi and there I was. Waiting for someone in Kingsway. When we met he shaked my hand and we started to walk a busy street. I was being asked the usual questions at the same time. « Which country you from? First time in Nepal? How long you stay in Nepal? ». He saw an iron street bench « Have a seat please! ».
Mani was a reporter with a network. He knew « lot of people » in Kathmandu and he was an expert in the history of Nepali politics. My first impression was not as I expected it to be. A small man, with a cap on his head walking at high speed. He had to be a busy person. His English was poor since he was a Hindi writer. However he had the patience to try to understand.
He asked why I wanted to meet. I told him that I wanted to write about the elections so I would gain an understanding of Nepal. He grabbed my notebook and he started to write a lot of things in small letters. After that he decided to explain me what those drawings were about « This Sunday, seventh of December, people vote in 32 districts. It represents 37 constitutancy (seats) » « Himalayan and high altitude districts ». Mani was getting into every details he could give me. Sometimes, to prove his point, he did big mathematics in the notebook. I was amazed by the speed of this guy.
I asked him who was the front runner for the elections. So he started to draw diagrams in my notebook. This was an introduction to the Nepalese political landscape. « Biggest party in Nepal is Nepali Congress (Right-Wing) but this election communists from Maoist Party (Far-Left wing) and CPUML (Marxist Leninists, left-wing) have made coalition and they are the front-runners ». Suddenly, Nepalese politics became an easy matter for me. I could finally be a smart guy in town. The conversation continued as I asked about Nepali Congress. Mani wrote the entire political history of Nepal in my notebook. Finally, I asked about Anil Sharma. « Big deal in Kathmandu! » he said.
After this brief and intense lesson. Mani proposed me to fix a plan to go to Dhading the 7th of December. There, I would find people voting. « I have to call friend ». A conversation in Nepalese later he said: « He is in a meeting, he’ll call later. Come to my other friend office, media company. ». And so we started to run to go somewhere and hanged out there.
A few days after, I received a message from a certain Prabesh. « Hi Thomas. I am Prabesh, talked to you last week. I hope you got support from Mani. ». After a brief conversation we settled for a meeting. « Come to my office, we can have a cup of tea » I went there the next day. A taxi dropped me. I waited for Prabesh at a given location and he arrived. A small guy from Pokhara. « Lakeside guy? - Yes! » We entered a street. After two corners we were in front of a building. « This is my office »
Inside, it was a nice building. Only two floors and fresh paints. On the first floor, an office with a computer and a printer but also a video editing room aside. On the screens, a man talking with a flag behind him. Someone was working on what was going on in these screens. We took a seat in the couch. I asked Prabesh what this company was about. He explained me that it was a communication company. « We follow the money, not ethics. We work for all parties. ». Since we had to wait for the tea, we started to discuss about random and personal things. « Do you have girlfriend? How long you in Nepal? First time in Nepal? ».
As time and discussions flied I showed my pictures to Prabesh. He gave me some informations about their content. So I asked if he could provide a new lead to my story. I wanted to meet the right wing. « I know a few people, just wait ». He called someone but no reply. A man entered the room. « He can help you! » The man’s name was Mohan. Mohan was the spokesperson of RaPraPa. The party of the man on the screens. They were in an alliance with Nepali Congress against the reds.
Mohan asked me if it was my first time in Nepal and then grabbed my notebook from my hands without asking. He started to write names and phone numbers. « This is Mr Bikram Bahadur Thapa, Minister for women, children and social welfare. He is candidate of Kathmandu Area Nr. 7. Tomorrow at 8 am, he will be in Banasthali. This is his phone number. When you arrive in Banasthali, you call him. If you cannot reach him, call Mr. Uddhav Thapa. Central Comity Member of RPP. If you cannot reach him, you call Sawaswati Adhikari, candidate RPP and Central Comity Member of RPP. If you cannot reach him, you call Pranash Rimal, candidate of province area number eight. RPP is RaPraPa. In English: National Democratic Convention. ». After taking some time to write all these informations in my notebook he hanged out with us.
Around five, all of them decided to hang out somewhere else. But Prabesh staid because it was his place. He gave me the cable for the speakers. So we began to listen to techno. « This very popular in Belgium. - Very good! » I could see him moving his legs at the rhythm of the beat.