Suitcase and World: Lunch With Adärsh, Awantika, and a Visit to Mitini.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Lunch With Adärsh, Awantika, and a Visit to Mitini.

From left to right:  Lakshmi Ghalan (founder of Mitini), Awantika, and Chantale.

We had a very nice lunch today with Adärsh and a young woman who works in his office named Awantika.  We met them both at Adärsh's office which is housed in the same building as one of his father's offices. 

Despite the fact that he was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, Adärsh wants to make his own way in the world, riding on his father's coat tails as little as possible so he has chosen a career path that is far different from his father's.  He's well educated and is using his education to head up the Nepal branch of dgMarket which was born from an international non-proft organization called Development Gateway (DG).

Formerly known as the Development Gateway Foundation, DG was founded in 1999 by World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and spun off as an independent organization in 2000.  DG provides technical tools and advisory services to country governments and development organizations. dgMarket is the e-procurement solution developed by DG.  It is essentially an electronic marketplace for government procurement information such as tender notices, contractawards, bidding documents, etc.  You can read more about DG and dgMarket here.  While it sounds like dgMarket Nepal is up and running, it's still in a bit of an infancy stage so Adärsh is working hard to grow it.

Naturally, we were curious about Awantika.  Very pretty girl.  About the same age as Adärsh. Was she the girl friend?  We asked but they were coy at giving answers.  My impression is that she's quite ambitious and while she is very fond of him, she does not appear to be ready to settle down so if she is the one for him, he will have to wait.  So they are friends. We'll it at that. 😍  Setting aside the romantic relationship thing, Awantika herself is also very well educated and very well spoken - her English is flawless.

While we waited a bit for Adärsh to wrap up some work, his father ushered us into his office where he was having a chat with a friend who is a local policeman.  Arun Ji is most definitely all about business and even in the company of his friend he seemed that way.  I think he is laser focused on work and that's probably a big reason why he's been so successful.

Their office building is located in walking distance of a very nice, upscale restaurant.  In fact, the office is located very nearby to the Japanese Embassy so the area is high end.  I have to say it was a very nice restaurant, a very nice lunch, and we had very enjoyable time chatting with Adärsh and Awantika who are you but yet very mature and poised individuals.  They will do well in life.  Although Chantale and I insisted on picking up the tab for lunch, Adärsh paid telling us that his father would be really upset if he didn't.  I believed him.

Back at the office, we bumped into Adärsh's mom and a few of her friends who themselves had been out for lunch and a bit of shopping - girls' day.  His mom greeted us with a big smile and again, we thanked her for the lovely dinner she hosted last night.  I was surprised I could even eat anything today given the huge amount of Nepalese deliciousness I had downed at dinner last night.  I think she was happy and probably slightly relieved to hear that we enjoyed the meal so much.  I know how it feels to host a meal for people you don't know - you're always worried if they will like your food or not.

Before continuing with our sightseeing day, Adärsh wanted to take us to meet someone so we got back in the Sonam and headed back on to the chaotic streets of Kathmandu.  From the main road, Sonam drove down a very narrow lane and eventually dropped us off outside a building.  We followed Adärsh up the stairs and down the hall to a small set of rooms that comprised the offices of an organization called Mitini

I had never heard of Mitini before but based on some of the information that was posted on the walls, I pretty much could figure out that the organization focused on rights for lesbians. Awantika introduced us to the founder of the organization - Lakshmi (Laxmi) Ghalan.

With Awantika translating, we learned that the fight for lesbian rights is still a big struggle in Nepal despite the fact that the country has some of the most progressive LGBT rights in Asia.  Lakshmi is championing the fight for lesbians.  We asked how Awantika got involved with Mitini and apparently she has been volunteering with them for several years, providing advice and assistance mainly in the areas of communications and social media.

Lakshmi acknowledged the challenges she faces as lesbians continue to be shunned by the broader Nepalese society.  It seems like the tougher the struggles, the more steadfast and resolute she is to fight the fight for lesbian rights in Nepal!

Lakshmi did not come out and directly ask us for anything though there was mention that the organization members do produce handicrafts that are sold to raise funds and I am sure she would have gladly accepted a donation.  Chantale was more engaged in the conversation than I was so I was following her lead.  She made no move to offer up a donation or buy any of the handicrafts so I refrained as well.  I think what we can do is to help spread the word for Mitini and its cause.

Awantika stayed behind with Lakshmi while Adärsh returned to his office with us.  There, we said our goodbye's to him and continued with the rest of our day.  It was time to visit another of my favorite spots in Kathmandu - Boudhanath.