Kishore Raj Pandey- My treasured mentor

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Nobody ever introduced the two of us formally. But Kishore Dai was part of the Kathmandu scene when the capital city actually had more temples for deities than the populace itself. I already knew that he was a member of the blue-blooded Pandeys from Dhoka Tole, the hereditary priests for Nepal’s Royal Family.

Older than me by several years, we, however, always acknowledged one another whenever we passed each other by up and down the New Road, Durbar Marga and other places around Kathmandu during the late sixties and early seventies. He would be with his own buddies and I would be with mine.

Time went by and, eventually, several years later, both of us somehow ended up opting for the same profession in the hospitality industry. After SLC, and during my I Com college days at RR Campus, I also completed a course in Front Office Operations from the HMG/UNDP Hotel Management and Tourism Training Center, then located at Dilli Bazaar.

The year was 1973. My certificate from the Tourism Training Center helped me qualify for a position as a receptionist at Hotel de l’Annapurna, a five-star property at the heart of Kathmandu. This sterling hotel, along with her sister enterprise, Yeti Travels, are profitably in operation to this day.

While working at the hotel’s front office, I heard through the grapevine that Kishore Dai had left town and headed toward West Germany for a course in Hotel Management.

Not long after I moved on from Hotel Annapurna seeking greener pastures, Kishore Dai had returned to Kathmandu. And guess what? He also began his career as a hospitality professional from Hotel de l’Annapurna, the one that I had already put behind in the rear-view mirror.

From Hotel Annapurna, Kishore Dai pole-vaulted across the street to Hotel Yak and Yeti, another resort hotel that had just begun operations in Durbar Marg, Kathmandu. Our usual routine of greeting and acknowledging each other every time we met continued.

Then, lo and behold, Kishore Dai is back at Hotel Annapurna again. This time perhaps high-diving from the rooftop penthouse suite terrace of the Yak and Yeti to the newly built swimming pool at the back of Hotel de l’Annapurna. I simply have no clue.

But he is back where he began after returning from Germany. Obviously, no rear-view mirror for Kishore Dai. I find out why he is up to these antics many years later when I actually got the opportunity to ask him personally.

In 1980, I followed the path that Kishore Dai had blazed by going overseas myself. In my case, it was at Brighton Polytechnic located at the south coast of England, about an hour away by train from London.

My four years in the old merry England was an experience of a lifetime. But that is another tale altogether.

I returned to Kathmandu in 1984. Within a month, I was fortunate enough to be employed as a junior executive at Hotel Everest Sheraton in Naya Baneswor. Mr. Mike Blackall, the GM was a pucca British gentleman. I have a feeling he had a soft corner for me because of my education in England.

Beginning my career at the Everest Sheraton, I moved on to Hotel Dwarika’s at Battispuli. Then this wandering nomad moved on to Hotel Himalaya in Kupondole. I then had a brief hiatus from my professional career after which I was then employed by UNDP as an instructor at the very same HMG/UNDP Hotel Management and Tourism Training Center, now located at Rabi Bhawan just above Kalimati.

And thus, I reached a landmark. I was among the first batch of trainees to come out of this institution as a trainee and now, just over a decade later, I was back there as a Food and Beverage Instructor. The job was sweetened even more by the fact that my pay and other allowances were coming from UNDP.

By this time, Kishore Dai had set a record in Nepal by being the first Nepali ever to become a General Manager of two major five star hotels in Kathmandu. And, believe it or not, the two hotels were again Hotel de l’Annapurna and Hotel Yak and Yeti.

Following his tenures as the head honcho of two five-star hotels, he became a tourism entrepreneur in his own rights. He plunged right in into the business as a major partner in the Keyman Group of Hotels and Resorts. Under this banner, he established Bhancha Ghar, the only high-end restaurant in Kathmandu serving authentic Nepali cuisine at the time. Once Bhancha Ghar took traction as a profitable enterprise, Kishore Dai began to reach further into mining the Nepali tourism trade.

And this was when fate finally brought Kishore Dai and me together professionally.

One day, I meet Kishore Dai somewhere in town and he asked me to come over to his office at Kamaladi. A few days later I am sitting across him at his office.

Kishore Dai wanted me to be a kind of his wingman at Keyman, with him as a very capable and seasoned skipper. After all, he had already logged many thousands of hours running reputable hotels.

Over the next four years or so, until before I left for the US with my family in 1998, I had the distinct pleasure of rubbing shoulders with him on a very regular basis. Under his guidance and supervision, we handled many projects that involved resort properties not only in Kathmandu but also outside the capital at Nagarkot, Chitwan, Pokhara, Kurin Tar and Gorkha.

In Kathmandu, Kishore Dai and I worked on menu planning and staff training for many other clients seeking our expertise as consultants. As you can imagine. I had the time of my life. Learning from Kishore Dai was fun. And that is not something that happens too often.

I met Kishore Dai again after along gap during my recent visit to Kathmandu. He had apparently moved on from being the Partner and Chief Executive of Keyman Group of Hotels and Resorts and was now deeply involved with enterprises created by him alone.

Other than that, I can only describe him as a true gentleman and a scholar.

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