By Dinesh Wagle in Baluwatar (Outside the Prime Minister’s residence)
Wagle Street Journal (All pics by Wagle)
Mission Republic: Lokraj Pandey, 22, is in a mission to spread the message of democratic republicanism in Nepal.
While leaders inside the official residence of the Prime Minister in Baulwatar were busy in the past two days bargaining on issues that will decide the future of the country, Shankar Chaudhari, 55, was putting pressure on the stove with the same intensity. There were people from the various walks of the life in front of the Gate No. 3 (east) of the PM residence on Monday and Tuesday as the high level talks kicked off. There were people, with wide range of political affiliation, who full of curiosity about everything going inside. There were people, from the civil society, who said they were there to pressurize the talking sides for the declaration of the Constituent Assembly elections. And there were scoop hungry journalists who were desperate for the headlines. While the Gate No. 3 remained closed to all these people, the wide entrance of Shankar’s place was open to all. Shankar not only fed samosa and other eatables to tired reporters who were standing all day expecting information from inside but also got a glimpse of how do they really function.
And His Cycle: Lokraj Pandey plans to reach all 75 districts with this bicycle, a loudspeaker, thousands of pamphlets and address hundreds of corner and mass meetings.
“So the business is brisk, isn’t it?”
Around 4:30 PM Tuesday, I asked Shankar the above mentioned question as he was busy making and cooking Pakauda in a big black iron pan.
When he saw a reporter with a notebook in hand and flashing camera from the other, Shankar responded as if he was habituated talking to journalists.
“Oh…yes! It’s shining.”
Then he was back to the business. He was making a mixture of onion, green chilly, spinach and beans for pakauda. But I wanted to talk. “I do business of Rs. 4-5 thousands in a normal day,” he said. “Yesterday (Monday) it was Rs. 10 thousands.” So the business was brisk, indeed. A crowd had gathered in front of the PM residence well before 4 PM on Monday and that stayed there till 12 in the midnight, he said. Tuesday saw the resumption of talks from morning and people were there till late night.
The Samosa Man: Happy with the brisk business in his shop, Shankar Chaudhary has one hidden wish: will his son get citizenship of Nepal?
Who doesn’t know Shankar in Baluwatar? 22 years have passed since he started a small hotel offering samosas and other food items. He hired a room of folk singer Kumar Basnet’s house for about 17 years until the place was converted into a big and attractive shop. Two years ago he moved to the current place, near the Gate No. 3, on the left. Employees of Nepal Rastra Bank, the central Bank, students from three schools in the neighborhood and boys and girls from National College are the regular customers of his shop, Shankar said. These days, as more people are coming to the shop because of the talks inside the PM residence, samosas costing Rs. 6 per piece, Lalmohan and Pakauda have become the bestsellers in Deepak Sweets and Bhojanalaya.
Did you notice the word Deepak in the previous sentence? For Shankar, the importance of the talks is associated with this word. He doesn’t know what they are talking inside the PM residence, but the citizen from Muzzafarabad, a town in Bihar, India, is very much curious to know if leaders will agree on a provision that will let his 21-year-old Kathmandu born son get the citizenship of Nepal. Nepali Congress and CPN Maoists have agreed to put a provision in the Interim Constitution that will make all people born before 2046 eligible for the citizenship of Nepal. CPN UML has disagrees with the provision.
“So you wish your son could get citizenship here?”
“Yes, I think so. But I am not sure if that is possible.”
“Any idea what’s going on inside?”
“Hami ta yaha chha abhi, ke thaha? [No idea as I am here now]”
Chana chatpate: The best way to kill curiosity about the summit talks is to have beans and popcorns!
Even reporters standing outside don’t have clear idea about what’s going on inside. They are moving here and there expecting that someone would come outside and tell them the latest on the summit talks. Now here is one colorful character on the opposite corner of the Gate No. 3. With long and unwashed hair, the bearded man is presenting weird perspectives about the constituent assembly and summit talks. A curious crowd is attentively listening to him and I can see occasional laughter emerging out of the crowd. He is entertaining the crowd with some sort of live commentary in a comedy channel. “There must be one provision in the interim constitution,” said the man who was carrying a pot with the word ‘Kamandalu’ written over it. “Pahile dhogne, nabhaye thokne.” He was being satirical to leaders who were trying to save monarchy.
There is another colorful character nearby who, it appears, is giving political lectures to the crowd that is surrounding him. He is also bearded and seems like he hasn’t taken shower in the past several weeks. He is wearing a helmet with a slogan (“Election of Constituent Assembly For the Democratic Republicanism”) and photos of all martyrs of April uprising printed on it. He is Lokraj Pandey, 22, who is in a mission: to take the slogan to all 75 districts of Nepal before the election of the constituent assembly. He claimed to have addressed 217 corner meetings in various places and campuses in the 46 districts after he started his journey in bicycle 54 days ago from his hometown Kailali. This cadre of Nepal Student Union, sister organization of Nepali Congress, strongly disagrees with his leader Girija Prasad Koirala on the issue of continuing monarchy in Nepal. “If these talks fail to decide in the interest of people and go for democratic republicanism,” he warned, “I have found many youths ready to launch another movement.”
FM bulletin: We are here, where the news is happening, but oh…FM radios, will you tell us something divine on the summit talks inside those walls heavily guarded by the police?