The Gallery Baithak was where the Ranas used to watch dances, plays, and movies. The seating was segregated, with queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting, and concubines in a separate enclosure. The Nautch Ghar has obviously seen better days and should perhaps be turned into an art museum, definitely not a parliament for a country of 27 million.
The only reason the honourable members didn't keel over with hypothermia on Monday night was because they were stacked cheek to jowl and forced to share body heat. How this building is going to seat 425 members of the constituent assembly this summer is anybody's guess. Maybe Nepal should have a three-tier parliamentary system with the Upper Berth, Middle Berth, and Lower Berth.
.....Tip Top Tailors on New Road worked overtime to finish grey blazers for the 73-member Maoist team in parliament, but could get only 41 ready by the time the session started and that was only because the proceedings were delayed by six hours. And in the spirit of gender empowerment that has become a hallmark of the Maoist movement, female comrade members got first crack at the rather fetching coats. Although the temperature inside the legislature probably made them wish they could have donned their knockoff North Face fleeces instead.
And who was that suited booted guy in the Maoist ranks? None other than Major General Kumar Phudung of our own ex-Royal Nepal Army. Eyebrows have been raised about how someone so close to former Chief of Army Staff General Satchit SJBR agreed to be a hand-picked Maoist nominee, and speculation is rife that he may have been a DPA all along. But Phudung told colleagues that the Maoists approached him saying they needed advice on restructuring the armed forces and he felt it was his duty to the nation to help. Whatever the case, getting Phudung was quite a coup for the comrades. The other seven parties didn't show any such imagination.
.....The reason Krishna Sitaula, Pradeep Gyawali and Deb Gurung were looking under the weather was not just because of the cold, the Ass understands. All three have been suffering from suspected jaundice. Since they were part of the government-Maoist negotiating process, it should be fairly easy to trace the five-star establishment where kitchen staff are hygienically challenged.
.....It wasn't just the Ass freezing his ass off on Monday. Also caught unawares by the frigid ambience inside the chambers were Kathmandu-based ambassadors, who were seen huddled together for warmth in their balcony seats. Some were spotted sneaking off to the parking lot for smokes at regular intervals. But when they found out that 18 members were listed to speak and the microphone had malfunctioned, many dips called it a day and went home to watch the Ash-Abhishek engagement live on tv instead. One of the few who stayed till the end was Big Brother Mukherjee, silhouetted spookily against a backlit balcony.
Bal Bahadur Rai first entered the Gallery Baithak as an elected member of parliament after the election in 1959. Being seniormost, it fell upon him to lead the collective oath-taking. Members dutifully repeated after him "I.do solemnly swear"."to abide by the norms and rules of the house". When Rai got to the part "as god is my witness" us Asses in the media gallery noticed that the first row of Maoist atheists didn't repeat that sentence. Backbencher comrades, however, seemed to have no qualms about invoking god.