Being invisible in my journo-casual attire, I can move unnoticed among the tables, which mostly consist of fresh-faced financiers and entrepreneurs attempting to court jaded, weather-worn locals with marketing phrases they really don’t care about.
They’ve been joylessly doing business in a virtual war zone for decades. I’m not sure I’d open with agencyspeak blabber about catalyzing demographic sea change and brandvertising. You can tell that these young sales guys are corporate cannon fodder, sent in to see if it’s worth their bosses slumming it for a couple of weeks to tie up the big bucks.
There’s usually a high level of escort presence, but Kathmandu seems weirdly puritan about things courtesanal. If they want big business, then surely that’s a pill they’re going to have to swallow. What corporate drone is going to want to live here without hot and cold running cheap prostitutes?
Meanwhile, over egg-white omelettes, a cacophony of trans-adlandic accents vie for attention. The Americans, English and Australian commercebots all sounds the same – neutral TV tones via California, London and the Pacific Rim.
A Canadian junior executive tells an ill-advised story about buying pharmaceuticals in Thailand. “You can get the pharmacists there to write you a prescription,” he says, with wide-eyed wonder. As I recall things in Bangkok, you just walk in and buy whatever you like – the paperwork part just seems unnecessary if it’s being written by your salesperson. In any case, he was sold Tramadol for a minor back pain, and was horrified on Googling it to find out that it was an opiate derivative. A life of heroin addiction narrowly swerved, there.
The audience of locals seem unimpressed, given that pharmacies here seem to operate out of the front of houses, even the idea of paperwork in any form seeming laughable.
The young sales people press on, relentlessly. This is early days. A capital city with mud tracks for roads is still pre-capitalist-frenzy. But get in now, and the riches could be yours. Condos, malls, Kathmandu’s first Starbucks. A whole world of delights. Close that deal, young grasshopper.