Category Archives: Wagle Street Journal

The East Nepal Tour: Flying to Itahari

Tuesday: A call from Charles Haviland, the BBC reporter in Kathmandu, changed my day, and the weekend. The call from Haviland meant I was going to eastern Nepal with him as a translator for his possible radio/television programs. In a few hours time (well, after waiting for about three hours at the airport) I was in a ‘resort’ in Itahari. We landed at Biratnagar airport and then went for a half an hour ride to Itahari. In Kathmandu airport I met Padma Sundar Lawati, a pro-RPP leader who was widely expected to be the new chairman of the faction. I asked him about that the he first tried to downplay the question and a few seconds later said this. “Well, I said that there are only two posts that I haven’t assumed, the Prime Minister and the Party President. People exaggerated and linked that to my desire to head the new party. But I could do that too as I had enough supporters for that. But I chose not to create rift within the new party.”

At the gate of Kathmandu airport, I met Kumar Shrestha, an interesting fellow, who was doing camera work for Haviland. I came to know that he is the representative of APTN (Associated Press Television News) in Nepal.

There are quite a few stories from the travel but Haviland and others have requested that they shouldn’t be mentioned in my blog. Respecting their wishes I avoid writing those pieces here. I also met another journalist Thomas Bell of daily Telegraph. I think he also joined the don’t-mention-me-in-your-blog chorus. So, no comment on him as well except that he seemed too old to his age. Ah.. but I don’t know his age!

[All posts related to east Nepal tour are written after the visit and posted on the appropriate dates]

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Two Meetings & a Jacket

Two persons took most of my time yesterday and I didn’t work at all. So, I can safely say Tuesday, Jan 10 was the day of talking for me. When I say two persons took my time, I don’t mean those meetings were forceful. I also don’t mean I didn’t enjoy those meetings. In fact, both meetings were fantastic.

First, I was in the offices of journalis Bijay Kumar at Heritage Plaza, Kamaladi. Many say Vijay Kumar is an arrogant guy with little sense of respect to others. That is debatable topic as I can say I find an interesting person in him. He may sound like the one described above but he thinks he is not like that. I think I will be able to bring some of his perspectives and experiences to the larger audiences in the next few weeks. That’s just a plan and I am happy that he is keenly interested in that. For the students of journalism and viewers of his phenomenally popular and hit television shows, Vijay Kumar is almost like a celebrity figure, a star journalist. I haven’t seen a journalist in Nepal who has, on the one had so many admirers and on the other, haters. I think Vijay Kumar should tell them more about himself and how he feels about himself.

Then there was second meeting. Meeting with a wonderful lady. That was very interesting though I can’t tell more about that here. I have already talked about a meeting with this woman in this site. In both meetings, I just listened to the persons. They talked. Vijay Kumar served me Jasmine tea, and later, milk-coffee where as in the later meeting the main attraction was a chocolate. The chocolates, nuts and the lemon tea were all superb. Especially the chocolate. After seeing that I liked them a lot, the woman gave me a few pieces, as I was about the leave her place. When I gave those chocolates to my colleagues Devendra Bhattarai and Sudeep Shrestha in office, they were full of praise. I didn’t reveal them who gave those chocolates though Devendra was dying to know about that. I will not tell him, at least for the time being.

Okay, for the record, I also bought a jacket that cost me Rs. 23 hundreds. I think that’s pretty much expensive for a jhyaure person like me but then its too cold in Kathmandu and I needed a good coat. I was looking for that piece of garment but hadn’t found a satisfying one. It’s quite okay though, after wearing it for about 10 hours, now I am feeling it’s a bit oversized. But the good point is? Its warm!

Two Meetings & a Jacket

Two persons took most of my time yesterday and I didn’t work at all. So, I can safely say Tuesday, Jan 10 was the day of talking for me. When I say two persons took my time, I don’t mean those meetings were forceful. I also don’t mean I didn’t enjoy those meetings. In fact, both meetings were fantastic.

First, I was in the offices of journalis Bijay Kumar at Heritage Plaza, Kamaladi. Many say Vijay Kumar is an arrogant guy with little sense of respect to others. That is debatable topic as I can say I find an interesting person in him. He may sound like the one described above but he thinks he is not like that. I think I will be able to bring some of his perspectives and experiences to the larger audiences in the next few weeks. That’s just a plan and I am happy that he is keenly interested in that. For the students of journalism and viewers of his phenomenally popular and hit television shows, Vijay Kumar is almost like a celebrity figure, a star journalist. I haven’t seen a journalist in Nepal who has, on the one had so many admirers and on the other, haters. I think Vijay Kumar should tell them more about himself and how he feels about himself.

Then there was second meeting. Meeting with a wonderful lady. That was very interesting though I can’t tell more about that here. I have already talked about a meeting with this woman in this site. In both meetings, I just listened to the persons. They talked. Vijay Kumar served me Jasmine tea, and later, milk-coffee where as in the later meeting the main attraction was a chocolate. The chocolates, nuts and the lemon tea were all superb. Especially the chocolate. After seeing that I liked them a lot, the woman gave me a few pieces, as I was about the leave her place. When I gave those chocolates to my colleagues Devendra Bhattarai and Sudeep Shrestha in office, they were full of praise. I didn’t reveal them who gave those chocolates though Devendra was dying to know about that. I will not tell him, at least for the time being.

Okay, for the record, I also bought a jacket that cost me Rs. 23 hundreds. I think that’s pretty much expensive for a jhyaure person like me but then its too cold in Kathmandu and I needed a good coat. I was looking for that piece of garment but hadn’t found a satisfying one. It’s quite okay though, after wearing it for about 10 hours, now I am feeling it’s a bit oversized. But the good point is? Its warm!

The Day of Banda

I arrived at office early in the morning, at about 8:15.yesterday. Why? An office vehicle would go to drop a Kantipur employee near by home in Kadaghari, Gothataar. I desperately wanted to avoid walking for about an hour to reach office because I wasn’t feeling well. I mean I was recovering from Pilo. So, I though that was a nice idea to get a lift from office van. Had daal bhat in office canteen. That was good.

Then I started my Valley Banda coverage on UWB. I was eager to see the Banda effects. I walked up to New Baneshwor and spent hours wandering from one corner to another following the clashes and taking pictures. Once, I was caught up in the tear gas. Felt like I am going to die on the spot. The gas directly entered from my mouth and reached to the bottom of my lungs. I felt so. But then seeing people caught up inside a shop full of gas broke my heart. I tried to capture the image but my camera wasn’t that fast enough and I missed the horrific scene. Bikash Karki took the picture though that too doesn’t capture the intensity of the scene.

Today I feel that I ran too much. Thighs are feeling the stress. No problem. I think I can handle the pain easily. Well, here is an update on my Pilo: the sign of Pilo has gone from my nose. I knew it in the morning and now people in the office are also reminding me that. A few minutes ago, as I was congratulating Bikash Sangraula for his wonderful story in today’s Kathmandu Post in the canteen, Prateek Pradhan commented: “I also like you nose now. The sign of Pilo has gone.”

Nagarkot Massacre Victims

Ah..feeling so tired. Today was a tough day. Yesterday was similar. As I was recovering from the pilo, events dragged me in full swing. To live in Nepal these days means you will experience all the fascinating developments personally. From very near. Live in real life. The Nagarkot Massacre case as a shocking surprise as I was participating in a low-profile ceremony organized to release Nepathya’s latest album Ghatana. In the album, the 25-minute-long title song, details an incident in Mainapokhari a year ago in which a bus carrying civilians was caught into a live firing between Maoists and the army. A bigger and horrific Ghatana (incident) happened in Nagarkot hours ahead of the album release.

While returning from the program, I got the details of the incident from Prateek Pradhan, the editor of the Kathmandu Post. He dropped me in the office of Kantipur and within 20 minutes I got words from Hari Bahadur Thapa, the Chief Reporter at Kantipur. “Army is taking journalists to Chhauni (Birendra Sainik) Hospital. Rush to Officers’ Club immediately.” There you go. As I was about to get out of the Kantipur Complex, I found DK Jaishy, Chief Reporter at the Post, going to Sundhara. He hired a cab and ah…both time and money saved. Many journalists were already present and I couldn’t find seat in the army bus. No problem. I was determined to be at the hospital and see the survivors. That’s what happened.

I was deeply wounded by seeing those innocents who were victims of a senseless firing. But more than that I was hurt by the behavior of journalists in front of those wounded souls. Journalists were like, what to say, careless folks who were only interested in their stories. They didn’t care about the Nagarkot folks health. They were asking questions, creating hustling and bustling and big noise. More than 35 reporters and photographers were in the room were four victims were kept. Their names were written on the files kept on the end of the bed but no one cared to see and read that. Everyone was asking: What is your name? What happened? Where were you exactly? I could see wounded folks were tired of repeating the answers because questions were repeating from one scribe to another. Trying to get information from them was like was like raping the victims.

Yes, if journalists don’t ask, public will not know. So, they have to ask. But I was afraid to ask a single question to a single Nagarkoti. I couldn’t do that.

Meeting the Other (Sarah) Giri

(pic will be reposted.)
Sarah Giri, the wife of Dr. Tulsi Giri, is in a mission. Pic by D Wagle.

In the beginning, I though I was talking to a diplomat. That was the impression I gathered while talking in telephone. Sarah Giri has all traits that a diplomat needs to have. When you talk with her you feel like you are in front of a highly religious personality. Okay, that’s another aspect. I had heard quite a few ’stories’ about Mrs. Giri before actually meeting her a few days ago in her residence in Baluwataar. Yes, the same ‘famous’ residence of Dr. Tulsi Giri, Sarah’s husband and the Cabinet vice chair.

As a reporter you meet many people and some of them are people in the news. Yes, Sarah is not in the news but her husband is for all good and bad reasons and that makes a lot of difference. You tend to feel like “Oh..Tulsi Giri ki srimati” {Tulsi Giri’s wife!). Kasti holi Tulsi Giri ki srimati? (How would Tulsi Giri’s wife seem like?) How does she feel being the wife of one of the most ‘famous’/’infamous’ man in Nepal? I wanted to know the answers of all those questions though that was not part of my reporting. I was tempted to ask that question because of well various things. Most of the time I try not to deviate from the core topic of reporting but in this case I couldn’t stop myself from asking questions related to her personal life. But asking personal/family questions to women is not new to me because when I was working for Tarun Weekly, I ran a column (Adha Sansaar) interviewing wives of political leaders and other prominent personalities. That was a long time ago, almost 7 years ago.

Sarah is beautiful and appealing. But she wouldn’t reveal her age but here is my guess. This woman married three years before I was born (I am 27) to a man who is 50 years older than I am. When you see Sarah, your guesses turn wrong. She deceptively appears younger than she actually is. Dr. Giri had briefly talked about Sarah in our meeting in the same building a few months ago.

Sarah Giri is in a mission. For those who have sound and functioning ear, her mission might sound like a difficult one because that is related to making deaf communicate and, yes, dance! I was amazed how those beautiful deaf boys and girls danced in the tunes unheard to the rest of the world. They were all practicing for a ballet project and Sarah was directing them. I will post another blog in UWB about this in the next few days but let me write here more about our meeting.

I regret for not being able to eat those fish and cookies that were given to me on behalf of Sarah at the time of interview. I was too busy to note down her verbatim. In our journalism classroom they always teach us to put your eyes on the face of your subject while interviewing. When you do that, your interviewee feels that you are giving attention to his/her talks. I genuinely try to follow that idea because that also helps you better understand the facial expression and body language of the interviewee while not missing the exact wordings s/he utters. While keeping both eyes on the interviews face and part of your mind in the notepad, you find no time for coffee and fish. Still, after she repeatedly reminded me of the coffee, I finished that in less than 10 sips. I couldn’t eat fish that according to Sarah was “prepared in the house.” I miss that.

I think I did a mistake by presenting her with two tickets of a charity screening of two documentaries in Jay Nepal Theater on Friday (Nov. 25). Well, let me not use the word ‘present’. That was rather selling of the tickets that I know a reporter shouldn’t have done. The Kantipur branch of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) had organized a charity show screening two non-fiction films ‘Bheda ko oon jasto’ and ‘Team Nepal’. One of our colleagues needed money for his sister’s serious and expensive treatment and Kantipur journalists wanted to help him. They were selling tickets to people and one of my colleagues gave me two tickets worth Rs. 500 each hoping that I might be able to ’sell’ them to Sarah.

I know Sarah was in difficult situation. A reporter whom she welcomed so warmly half an hour ago was ‘offering’ her with the tickets that too sabotaging the moment when she started talking about a documentary on deaf people that she made sometime ago in India. Screening for a charity. Pay the money. She just couldn’t ignore that. I would have done the same. But I think what I did was wrong. Worst, Sarah couldn’t make it to the charity show meaning she only ‘donated’ the money. I am thinking of returning the money to Sarah. [In my latter meeting with Sarah, I told her what I felt about that ticket thing. “Let me return the money to you, Sarah ji,” I said. “I gather that you didn’t make it to the theater.” She refused to take money back. She told me that she donated the money for charity.]

The story of my interview with Sarah appeared in the Wednesday (Nov. 30) issue of Kantipur.

This Ason & That Ason

Since the original photos of the post were lost because of a technical failure on the web site, I re-posted these photos. Some of the photos were taken in March 2005 while others in 2006.

flower sellers of asonFlower women in Ason

A few months ago, I was in Ason, the heart of Old Kathmandu, to see pro-democracy political protests. One day I stayed there for about an hour and observed activities just before a demonstration took place (that was immediately controlled by the police). While some people were taking risks of being arrested, a few were worried about their business being hampered. Today here is no sign of political protests in Ason. Everyone is busy shopping, bargaining and deciding the thing that they are going to buy is good enough for them or not. “We need some spices,” I just overheard a woman talking with her husband.

Oh, did I just see Mickey Upriety in that crowd?

“Namaste! Tihar ko subhakamana hai. (Happy Tihar)”

“Oh..Namaste, Mickey ji. Same to you. Kata ho?”

There were a few Japanese following her in that crowd. What’s going on, Mickey ji?

“Shooting for NHK (a Japanese network),” she said before disappearing into the crowd.

A few foreign tourists are roaming around visibly awed by the intensity of the crowd. One of them is chewing almonds with a map of Kathmandu under his shoulder.

Now, I am in front of a shop, trying to get myself away from the crowd and observing the movements of people. Its really amazing to see these people struggling in the crowd and worried about their own ‘problems’.

Ason is crowded today, very much in fact. It is difficult to walk without touching other person. I can see people who have come here with their families and close friends.

Yes, majority of them are middle or upper middle class citizens. Shopkeeper are hell busy with their customers. Intense bargain. This is the time for them to sell as much as they could. This is the business season when people are ready to spend more than they earn.

That’s the Ason. I arrived in New Road to eat something. Got a chicken burger in a bakery shop. Great. I have not eat anything other than two cups of tea today. A burger partly filled my belly. For a meeting with a pair of American journalists, I left house early in the morning that is to say at 8:30 AM. Both Dr. Sherry Ricchiardi and her husband Frank Folwell are journalists. Sherry, director, International Media Affairs and Senior Writer at American Journalism Review came here to do a story on Nepali politics. Flowell, photojournalist and Deputy Managing Editor at USA Today, accompanied her for photography. What a lucky pair.

New Road has now a new landmark. Just in front of the Gorkhapatra/Nepal Bank offices, near by the Peepal tree, a huge temporary tent has been established. Inside, I can see idols of Shiva and some Bihari types of songs are being played in loud sound. I tried to figure out what the song is saying but failed to understand.

Unlike in Ason, In New Road, you can have some spaces for easy breath.

When I SMSed him, I found that Deepak Adhikari was in office enjoying the Deusi songs and dances. His presence in office compelled me to go there and see the dances. Great.

From Kantipur FM to Supreme Court to Deepak’s Place

That was quite a busy day yesterday. Spending time in Kantipur FM and in Supreme Court to express solidarity and update on the writ petition. Today’s Valley Banda, general strike in Kathmandu. That’s why I decided not to go to home. I went to Deepak Adhikari’s place yesterday evening. After reading his blog on Dera Owes, that was an opportunity for me to see his place and stay there. His brothers made wonderful food. Great work. I loved that. I was too hungry because of the day’s busy schedule. Going here and there and standing all the time and updating the event on UWB. For the first time, I sat behind Deepak’s bike from office to his room yesterday. His was an average ride.

We made rounds of Ghattekulo, Dilli Bazar. Putalisadak and Ratna Park this morning observing the Valley Strike. Then we took trolley bus from Maitighar to Tinkune. Later in the afternoon, we did a long march: from Tinkune to Basantapur, and then rallied for about half an hour. I was quite tired and found Vishnu just arrived in the mass meeting venue. I persuaded him to return back to office and we walked up to Thapathali expecting a trolley bus. The bus arrived and we too arrived in Tinkune.