Venue: World's Fair Marina (Wikipedia article)
The venue was gorgeous, and the convention lasted for long enough. I got to meet Madhesis I had not met in a while, I got to meet Madhesis I had heard of but had not met yet, number one on that list was Professor JP Sah from Florida, also a Janakpur person like me, one of his daughters is doing a PhD in "aerospace engineering" at Purdue - "I have been to the Purdue campus," I said - I got to meet Madhesis I had not heard of, had never met. It was a good gathering.
When the Chairperson of the convention, Dr. Sukhdev Shah - who worked at the IMF for three decades, was a few years back nominated Nepali ambassador to the US - said that after almost four decades in the US, half a century later seeing people in his homevillage still not having shoes to their feet, he felt like he was from "nowhere." That is when I knew we Madhesis have gone global. Rootlessness is a necessary accompaniment.
There were some surprise moments. The final panel on Saturday was really something. Mukesh Singh said he had only one leg, one leg lost to a motorbike accident - his second leg is prosthetic - and he came to America with 60 dollars in his pocket and now he lives in a million dollar home. Mukesh Singh is a-l-w-a-y-s in a good mood.
In a brief remark Saturday during the cultural program Binod Shah, the ANTA President, thanked his elder brother. He took me to school by my finger, and that is how I became a doctor, he said.
Aditya Jha stayed the entire time. He sold his company to Sun Microsystems for $100 million over a decade back. His homevillage is not far from mine in Nepal. Jha is based out of Toronto. He flew in.
About a dozen people, all of whom had climbed Mount Everest, many several times, had been invited and were felicitated. These were Sherpas, not Madhesis, but what the heck. At lunch on Saturday I found myself sitting next to Adityaji. We were having lunch with these Sherpas. And Adityaji said he was genuinely interested in climbing Mount Everest.
"Can someone like me do it with the help of four Sherpas?" he asked. "How many months of training will it take?"
Ends up Adityaji had raised money for a school one of the Sherpas had gone to high in the Himalayas in his homevillage.
Answer: it can be done. If you have four Sherpas with you, you will not have to worry about oxygen at any point, and that is the primary worry.
By the end of the day Nepal's Home Minister Bhim Rawal had showed up. Former UN Under Secretary General Kul Chandra Gautam - a Nepali - had showed up. He is now retired and lives in Nepal. Famous Nepali movie star/actress Gauri Malla performed.
The missing Madhesi was Upendra Mahato, the richest Nepali in the world. He had some event in London he could not skip. Otherwise.
Upendra Mahato showed up in the Soviet Union as a scholarship student right before it collapsed. The rest, as they say, is history. Mahato owns the building that houses the largest electronics shop in Moscow, for one.
Someone once gave me the simplistic version of how Mahato made it. He became good friends with locals at college who came to power after the Soviet Union collapsed. This was in Belorussia. Spelling? He used those contacts to borrow money from their banks to buy property for cheap. And that is how the vicious cycle began. But there had to have been more than that. He was named Russia's Manager Of The Year in 2008, the year of my Obama 08 personal mess.
"I heard you are rich," someone once said to him.
"You heard it wrong," he said. "I am not rich. I am very rich."
The guy's net worth is in the hundreds of millions. He is the founder of the NRN - Non Resident Nepali - movement. It is global. For the longest time the Nepalis in America resisted. Ends up resistance is futile.
The event was to start at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights Friday. My email said 7PM. I showed up at 7PM. True Nepalis don't show up on time. They know. They simply know. They know not to show on time. You don't have to be a VIP. You simply have to be a Nepali. Different cultures understand time differently. Nepalis who don't struggle with showing up for their American jobs on time switch back when it comes to Nepali events. It is a body clock thing.
People started showing up. Divita Mehta - author of the idea that I move to NYC from the Midwest where I was five years ago, Mt. Holyoke star student, a Goldman Sachs Director assistant fresh out of college, investment banker - showed up a little after.
Divita said people handed her Reshma Saujani flyers near her apartment on the Upper East Side.
And then people started percolating in. Jay Mandal - my "friend" within ANTA, San Diego guy - had flown in. Ratan Jha - founding president of ANTA, now NRN global General Secretary - had flown in from Texas. Lalit Jha - my hometown Jankapur guy, best friend to Ratan Jha - had flown in from Nebraska where he is at.
Jay said he also applied for Budhanilkantha but was rejected. I said they also took into account good looks. He gave me a high five on that one.
"You have matured much in four years, become much wiser," Lalitji told me when he first met me Friday evening and again Saturday evening when it was time to say goodbye.
I learned Saturday during a presentation by a Chicago Kharel - a Pahadi - that Ratanji had managed to get a whole bunch of Nepalis to invest in his construction company promising them an annual 12% return. I am like, heck, I was trying to raise money from Nepalis a few years back, I did raise some, but most of my round one came from a local NYC friend, business partner like Adityaji kept telling me needed to happen.
"The money you need you can raise right there in New York!"
Abhi to main Mr. No Green Card hoon. We will cross that bridge when we get there.
By the time the dinner winded down Friday, Binodji is like let's go to my place. The guy's house is in Scarsdale. I call that out of state. So Satendra Shah, Biplav Yadav and I hopped into his van. We - minus Biplav - were up until four in the morning, printing stuff, working on his speech.
The ANTA President is going to show up late for the first ever ANTA Convention, I thought to myself. There is a term for that: Nepali time. The event started late. People just knew not to show up on time. No one seemed to be complaining.
Saturday was panel after panel after panel after panel. What saved the day was food. There was a ton of food. When it was not lunch time yet, it was appetizer time. There was dessert time. Indian dessert is s-w-e-e-t. I don't got no sweet tooth, chocolate does not excite me, but Indian sweets are different. Soon enough it was appetizer time again. Then dinner time. Then dessert time.
Roshan Chaudhary had a name for the icecream served at dessert.
"They got kulfi," he said.
Jackson Heights is Jay Kishan Heights.
Panels are all good, and I attended all of them, listened to all speakers unfailingly. But these Madhesi panels were one way traffic. There were no Q&A sessions. They just were not there.
My brother-in-law Bisundev Mahato was in town for the day. He is in Boston, the first Madhesi ever at Harvard Medical School. He spoke on health care. He also was on the final panel of the day, the best one. Bisun spoke as frankly and boldly as Mukesh Singh. Divita Mehta was on that same panel.
By the time I got home it was Sunday two in the morning. I needed the sleep. I slept like a log. And I needed that shave and that shower when I finally got up.
The ANTA Convention had been an emotional bath.
New York Times: Nice Way To Shea: the new ferry service inaugurated earlier this month between Manhattan and Shea Stadium in Queens offers gentle river breezes and spectacular sunsets denied car or subway travelers. .... In all, the trip to the World's Fair Marina takes less than an hour. Then it's an easy five-minute walk to the stadium.One nagging question ANTA has for me is as to why I will not become a member, why I will not become an office holder, why will I not possibly even lead the organization? Jay Mandal approached me all over again. He said he had a presentation that will convince me to finally sign up.
I launched ANTA in New York Metro, but never joined although I doubt I have missed any major ANTA event in the city over the years.
Becoming a member of ANTA would be like joining the NRN movement. Until the NRN movement achieves the goal of dual citizenship for the NRNs, it is a failure. The NRN movement is Upendra Mahato's thing. It is his space. I support the NRN movement wholeheartedly, but I can't join it any more than I can go work for one of Upendra Mahato's companies.
If I am going to be an entrepreneur, I am going to be a bigger entrepreneur than Upendra Mahato. That is why I can't join ANTA.
For me the question is as to why the Nepalis in New York City don't want voting rights in this city based on residency - not citizenship - like the Irish had in Boston 150 years ago? That entails coalition building with South Asians at large, the Hispanics in the city perhaps.
Internet access is the voting right for this 21st century. Every human being deserves to have big screen broadband. Gandhi and MLK might have been tech entrepreneurs today.
Also, it is not like Mahatma Gandhi needed a political office. I am no Gandhi, never will be, but I don't need an office to do the political work I do.
Rajesh Shah wanted to know why I was now putting some time into Iran's democracy movement.
"I am going to win the Nobel Peace Prize," I said to him. If I can do for Iran what I did for Nepal, that is a Nobel.
Rajesh Shah and Biplav Yadav are both in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Yadav is a doctor, Shah is what I call a tourist. He has a fancy degree in hotel management. Mukesh Singh is in Columbus.
Shah, Yadav, Bisundev Mahato and I, we all went to Budhanilkantha School, as did Sanju Mahato.
Biplav Yadav gave me $100 from a lost bet. In 2007 - "before the primaries," like he likes to say - I bet Barack Obama was going to become president. I am not a betting kind, but this was different.
New York Times: A Manhattan-to-Queens Ferry Is Planned for Mets Fans: New York Waterway, said the company was awaiting final approval to operate the ferry service between the South Street Seaport and the city-owned World's Fair Marina, a quarter of a mile from Shea Stadium..... ''But we think that two years from now, the Shea Stadium ferry will be just as successful as the Yankee Stadium ferry.''"I am not a journalist, I am not a writer, and the word blogger does not even begin to describe me. I am a political activist who uses digital tools," I said in my eight minute presentation. "I was one of Barack Obama's top 20, top 30, perhaps top 10 volunteers in the city. When it was time for the British to finally leave, they said, okay, you can have your independence, but you are going to have to give us Subhash Chandra Bose, dead or alive. When the Mahabharata was over, the Pandavas won, Yudhistir went to see his uncle Dhritarashtra. Come near me, let me embrace you, the old man said. Krishna sensed something was wrong. He made a wax replica of Yudhistir. The blind, old man crushed that statue. Democratic primary khatam huwi 2008 mein aur ye log mere ko under kar diye. Barack Obama jita. Uske chaar deen baad mere ko phir se bahar kiya."
2007 mein Upendra Yadav ko Amrika aane ke liye visa nahin mil raha tha. Ratanji se meri gupp hui phone par. Wo kahe ki sab kism ka prayas kiya gaya, kuchh phi kaam nahin kiya. Aap kuchh kariye hai to. Main apne ek DC ke dost ko contact kiya. Wo State ke South Asia desk officer ko janta tha.
New York Times: Free Ferry to U.S. Open: The 35-minute ferry ride, which can accommodate up to 149 passengers, will connect the East 35th Street and the World’s Fair marinas. .... Just to be clear, the fastest way to get to the tournament site from Manhattan is still the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to the Mets-Willets Point station.Polarization Is Complete: Nepali Congress No Longer A Terai Party
ANTA Convention Program Details
1st ANTA Convention: September 24-25
Securing Federalism And Beyond For The Madhesi Cause