Friday, February 23, 2018

A Meeting With the Mayor of Lalitpur.

Original Post Date: July 6, 2017.

It's not everyday that you get to meet an elected official for no reason other than someone thought you should meet them and they went ahead and set up a meeting for you.  That's exactly what happened today.

So, our time in Nepal will be a mix of time on our own and time spent with Chantale's friends and friends of friends. It was her friend, Hari Ji, who set up today's get together with the mayor of Lalitpur (aka Patan).  She has no idea what she is going to speak to the mayor about.  Of course, I wondered how she would even agree to meet with the mayor!  By Chantale is a networker by birth so I guess I should not be surprised that she accepted the invitation.  I just went along for the ride cause that's how I roll!

Our meeting was scheduled for 9:30a so we got up early to have breakfast with Sumana and Bindu. Even though she has a full time servant working for her, apparently the servant is quite working up to Sumana's standards yet - a bit more on the job training needed so to speak so Sumana pitched in with making breakfast this morning.  It was a simple affair with eggs and sausages but I really appreciated having anything other than rice, dal, curry, and naan....or even an Indian omelette.

Sumana and Bindu's home is located in Lalitpur and so we didn't have far to go.  The traffic in Kathmandu is so horrendous that even to go the shortest of distances can take the longest of times.  In this case, Bindu said it would not be a long drive.  Apparently, our car and driver had arrived earlier in the morning and Bindu had already coordinated our departure time with him.  Typically, I'm the one that has to do all the trip coordination so it's such a treat for me to be able to just kick back and have some one else do all the arranging.  He and Sumana are very quickly spoiling us!

When we walked out the front door of the house, a small light gray colored sedan was waiting for us.  Standing beside it was our driver....a man named Sonam.  He had been told to take us to see the mayor and then after that, to take us to Patan Durbar Square.  We were all set so into the car we went.  We waved goodbye to Bindu as we pulled out of the gate and onto the streets of Lalitpur.  When I was in Kathmandu in 2007, I knew Lalitpur as Patan and so I've always called it that.  I think Patan is the ancient name and is still used to refer to the old city.  Lalitpur is the modern day name.  I think that's the differentiation so that's how I will refer to the two places.

Of course, we had no idea where the Mayor's office is so we relied on Sonam.  At point, he parked the car and got out.  When he didn't see us getting out of the car, he waved us to follow him and so we did.

We were in the backstreets of a neighborhood.  This didn't seem like a place for a mayor's office but who knew. 

We walked and I kept looking for an office building of some sort but all I saw were small commercial establishments and what I presume were apartments that people lived in.  It was all very odd but Sonam seemed to know where he was going so we just followed him.

Sonam then led us to a small side building.  The door was open so we entered.  Sonam placed a call....I don't know to who but someone eventually came to open it.

On the other side of the gate, we found ourselves standing before two doors.  This was the mayor's office so we knocked and knocked and knocked.  No one appeared.  It was very odd.  We presumed the mayor knew of our appointment but perhaps he was late so we headed back downstairs.

We decided to walk down the short block and around the corner to see if there was another entrance to a more *official* looking office but all we saw were shops opening up for the day.  The streets of Kathmandu were busy with people starting their day.  The pollution and dust was noticeably bad here.

So, we decided to just wait a bit to see if the mayor would show up.  We found a coffeeshop located just outside the place that we thought was the mayor's office and just sat for a bit.

Chantale and Sonam.

Admittedly, I'm not very good at sitting still so my itchy feet had me up and exploring the few feet around that coffee table.  One thing about Kathmandu - there are prayer altars set up on just about every street corner or even tile in the street.  Somebody is saying a prayer or giving an offering to someone or something at all times.  It's a very religious population of people.

I don't know if all of a sudden a light bulb went off in Sonam's head or he got a call but by the time I was finished checking out all the religious stuff, we were on the move.....down the block and across the street.  Wouldn't you know that's where the municipal building for Lalitpur was located.  Now....this place made sense.  If there's any building that would hold the mayor's office, this was it!

The mayor's office was located on the top floor and so we took the stairs up.  We had had finally arrived at the mayor's office and the sign posted outside was proof we were at the right place!  Seeing the sign finally told me the man's name as well.  He'll now be referred to as Mayor Maharjan and not just mayor.

The sign indicated the Mayor Maharjan was Out but given all the activity taking place inside, he was most definitely in and working and so I set the sign to read *In*.

Mayor Maharjan was in a meeting when we arrived so we sat outside and patiently waited for our turn.  Considering we were late by an hour, I was surprised he would even have time for us but he did.  A short time of waiting and one of his staff came to escort us into this office.

Of course, we started the meeting with a sincere apology for being late.  We told him about going to the building and standing outside the doors with posters on them.  He smiled and he told us that was his private residence.  We now know where the Mayor of Lalitpur lives :-)

Chiri Babu Maharjan, mayor of Lalitpur.
From the very instant we met him, you could tell he was a politician.  Very charming with a calm demeanor.  Has good listening skills.  Chantale is also very polished when it comes to dealing with politicians - skills she honed from decades of working at high levels in the US government.  Before walking into his office, I think she had already drummed up a conversation in her head.  Their conversation revolved pretty much around some of the project work that she had approved for Nepal when she was working at the Millennium Challenge.  She also took the opportunity to do some networking for Bindu who, in his retired life, is consulting in areas that he specialized in during his career.  Chantale was acting as a broker of sorts - setting up Bindu and the Mayor.

Before we left, we posed for some photos with Mayor Maharjan.  They never asked us to provide our names (though I know Chantale did leave him with her business card) so I think the photos will quickly end up in the deleted items folder.  We didn't take any photos of Mayor Maharjan using our cameras but I did manage to find his Facebook page.  His full name is Chiri Babu Maharjan and what I've posted is his current profile photo.

Since our meeting was not an official one, we didn't want to take up too much of the mayor's time so after our brief chat, which was accompanied by cups of tea, we had the photo op and then we said our goodbye's.  It was nice to meet the man and oddly, I somehow oddly felt that we had met our obligations for the day and that we could spend the rest of our time *playing*.  Apparently, while we were with Mayor Maharjan, Sonam had walked back to retrieve the car which he had parked in the lot behind the municipal building.  We followed him there. 

Off to Patan Durbar Square!