| Reformed' Paras (right) with wife Himani
Kathmandu, May 18: No more the binges and bust-ups, the fast life and fast cars. For Nepal’s crown prince, it’s now time for a leisurely stroll on the greens and polite conversation.
The man who was making news by beating up people in night clubs even a few months ago now aims his lustiest swings at golf balls, in the genteel company of diplomats.
Paras, the enfant terrible of Nepal and the first in the line of succession to the throne, seems to be turning over a new leaf. And if the palace grapevine is to be believed, it’s King Gyanendra himself who is supervising the makeover of his 33-year-old son.
That Paras is being groomed for the throne became obvious last week when he took part in a golf tournament and inaugurated several public events, including the golden jubilee celebrations of the Nepal Rashtra Bank and an Asian football tournament.
But it’s what the prince did over the last weekend that has taken the whole of Kathmandu by surprise.
He sent out personal invitations through the Royal Nepal Army to four top diplomats posted in the capital, including Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee and American envoy James Francis Moriarty, for a round of golf.
The other two diplomats were the British and Australian ambassadors, Keith Bloomfield and Keith Gardner. American defence attach' Lt-Col James E. Oxley and his Indian counterpart, Col Shokeen Chauhan, too, were invited to the tee-off.
The guest list was significant: India, the US and Britain had joined hands with other Western nations to stop all forms of military aid to Nepal following the February 1 takeover by King Gyanendra (Delhi has since resumed military assistance though, apparently, not arms supply).
Eyewitnesses say the diplomats were “pleasantly surprised” when they were received by an “extremely gracious and suave” Paras on the Tribhuvan Army Golf Course at the crack of dawn on Saturday.
Nepal army chief Pyar Jung Thapa and three other generals also took part in the game played over nine holes.
Paras formed a foursome with the US ambassador and two Nepali generals, while the Indian envoy teed off with his British counterpart and two others.
The normally reticent royal was in a talkative mood during the game, the sources said, showering attention on Moriarty and discussing everything from the weather to golf swings with him.
Paras had played all 18 holes with the American during the US Ambassador’s Cup tournament 10 days ago.
The sources said the prince, who hit the longest drive among all the players, failed to match Moriarty’s expertise, losing narrowly to him.
About seven months ago, Paras had scandalised Kathmandu by badly beating up Sidharth Rana, son of tycoon Prabhakar Rana who is a friend of Gyanendra, in a night club.
The prince did show glimpses of that fiery temper during the weekend game with the diplomats, especially when he hit a wayward stroke or missed an easy putt.
For an earnest golfer, that, however, is par for the course.