When Mother Closes Her Eyes (Satis Shroff)
When mother closes her eyes,
She sees everything in its place
In the kingdom of Nepal.
She sees the highest building in Kathmandu,
The King’s Narayanhiti palace.
It looms higher than the dharara,
Swayambhu, Taleju and Pashupati,
For therein lives Vishnu,
Whom the Hindus call the unconquerable preserver.
The conqueror of Nepal?
No, that was his ancestor Prithvi Narayan Shah,
A king of Gorkha.
Vishnu is the preserver of the world,
With qualities of mercy and goodness.
Vishnu is all-pervading and self existent,
Visits the Nepal’s remote districts
In a helicopter with his consort and militia.
He inaugurates building
Factories and events.
Vishnu dissolves the parliament too,
For the sake of his kingdom.
His subjects and worshippers are, of late, divided.
Have Ravana and his demons besieged his land?
When mother opens her eyes,
She sees Vishnu still slumbering
On his bed of Sesha, the serpent
In the pools of Budanilkantha and Balaju.
Where is the Creator?
When will he wake up from his eternal sleep?
Only Bhairab’s destruction of the Himalayan world is to be seen.
Much blood has been shed between the decades and the centuries.
The mound of noses and ears of the vanquished at Kirtipur,
The shot and mutilated at the Kot massacre,
The revolution in front of the Narayanhiti Palace,
When Nepalis screamed and died for democracy.
And now the corpses of the Maobadis,
Civilians and Nepali security men.
Hush! Sleeping Gods should not be awakened.
A DISRUPTED LIFE (Satis Shroff)
I bought some buns and bread at the local bakery
And met our elderly neighbour Frau Nelles
She looked well-dressed and walked with a careful gait,
Up the Pochgasse having done her errands.
She greeted in German with ‘Guten morgen.’
Sighed and said, ‘ Wissen Sie,
I feel a wave of sadness sweep over me.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Today is our wedding anniversary.’
‘Is it that bad?’ I whispered.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
‘My husband just stares at me and says nothing,
And has that blank expression on his face.
This isn’t the optimistic, respected philology professor
I married thirty years ago.
He forgets everything.
Our birthdays, the anniversaries of our children, the seasons.
My husband has Alzheimer.
Es tut so weh!
Our double bed isn’t a bed of roses anymore,
It’s a bed of thorny roses.
I snatch a couple of hours of sleep,
When I can.
I don’t have a husband now,
I have a child,
That needs caring day and night.
I’ve become apprehensive.
I’m concerned when he coughs
Or when he stops to breathe.
He snores again,
And keeps me awake.
Has prostrate problems,
And is fragile.
Like Shakespeare aptly said:
‘Care keeps his watch in every old (wo)man’s eye,
And where care lodges, sleep will never lie.’
Neither can I live with myself,
Nor can I bring him to a home.
Guten morgen: good morning
Es tut so weh!: It pains such a lot
KATHMANDU IS NEPAL (Satis Shroff)
There were two young men, brothers
Who left their homes
In the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas.
The older one, for his father had barked at him,
“Go to Nepal and never come home again.”
The younger, for he couldn’t bear the beatings
At the hands of his old man
The older brother sobbed and stifled his sorrow and anger
For Nepal was in fact Kathmandu,
With its colleges, universities, Education Ministry,
Temples, Rana-palaces and golden pagodas
And also its share of hippies, hashish, tourists,
Rising prices and expensive rooms to rent.
The younger brother went to Dharan,
And enlisted in the British Army depot
To become a Gurkha, a soldier in King Edwards Own Gurkha Rifles.
He came home the day became a recruit,
With a bald head, as though his father had died.
He looked forward to the parades and hardships
That went under the guise of physical exercises.
He thought of stern, merciless sergeants and corporals
Of soccer games and regimental drills
A young man’s thrill of war-films and scotch and Gurkha-rum evenings.
He’d heard it all from the Gurkhas who’s returned in the Dasain festivals.
There was Kunjo Lama his maternal cousin,
Who boasted of his judo-prowess and showed photos of his British gal,
A pale blonde from Chichester in an English living-room.
It was a glorious sunset,
The clouds blazing in scarlet and orange hues,
As the young man, riding on the back of a lorry,
Sacks full of rice and salt,
Stared at the Siwaliks and Mahabharat mountains
Dwindling behind him.
As the sun set in the Himalayas,
The shadows grew longer in the vales.
The young man saw the golden moon,
Shining from a cloudy sky.
The same moon he’d seen on a poster in his uncle’s kitchen
As he ate cross-legged his dal-bhat-shikar after the hand-washing ritual.
Was the moon a metaphor?
Was it his fate to travel to Kathmandu,
Leaving behind his childhood friends and relatives in the hills,
Who were struggling for their very existence,
In the foothills of the Kanchenjunga,
Where the peaks were not summits to be scaled, with or without oxygen,
But the abodes of the Gods and Goddesses.
A realm where bhuts and prets, boksas and boksis,
Demons and dakinis prevailed.
Ranas: a ruling class that usurped the throne and ruled for 104 years in Nepal
Gurkhas: Nepali soldiers serving in Nepalese, Indian and British armies
Dal-bhat: Linsen und Reis
Patchwork Kaleidoscope (Satis Shroff)
What’s happening around us?
Lovers getting united,
Only to be separated.
Champagne glasses are raised.
We look deep into our eyes,
Our very souls.
There are reunions
But with other partners and families.
With tormented and bewildered children.
Marriages between gays and lesbians,
Adopted children to give the new bond
A family touch.
A colourful kaleidoscope unfurls before our eyes.
Do we know enough about relationships?
You and me.
Me and you.
Till death do us part?
Or till someone enters your or my life,
And takes my breath away.
The Street Where I Lived (Satis Shroff)
Three decades ago, I remember
I lived at the Maru Tole.
In my student days in Kathmandu,
Right near the Kastamandap,
The temple that gave Kathmandu
The rent of the room wasn’t much
But water was scarce.
There were always people
Gathered around the only tap.
There was a bathroom with a tub,
But nobody took a bath.
There was no running-water.
It was like in a fake ad.
When I washed myself in the morning
A few rats and cockroaches would scurry by.
It just wasn’t the same as my parents’ home.
An elderly Newar gentleman would sing,
A Sanskrit verse ‘Om jaya jagadisha hare.’
Nearby, you could hear the beat of the damaru,
The chiming of the temple bells,
The blowing of a conch to round up the morning prayers.
The entrance near the street was always open,
And the heavy wooden doors had the eyes
Of the primordeal Buddha carved and painted on them,
As if to say— God sees you everywhere:
Up in the hills, down in the plains,
When you’re alone, and in company.
The sahu, our landlord, was a lean Newar,
Who preferred traditional Nepali clothes to shirts and trousers.
He composed Nepali music for Radio Nepal
And his songs could be heard
In the evening programmes of the Valley radio.
He didn’t care who lived in his house,
Didn’t bother about repairing
Or renovating the rooms,
As long as they paid the monthly rent in rupees.
From the window, sans glass, which was normal,
I could see funeral-processions rushing
To the cremation ghats of the holy,
But filthy Bishnumati river.
Below my window lived a Dutch man
With a Sherpa woman.
One day I opened the third page of The Rising Nepal
And saw my neighbour from the Netherlands:
Nabbed by the police and photographed by a city reporter.
The charge was ‘illegally smuggling hashish.’
After a few days he was in the Sherpa woman’s arms again.
People of tall stature always banged
Their heads on the house-entrances in Kathmandu.
The doors were meant for small Newaris,
Tamangs, Gurungs, Rais, Thakalis,
Not for tall plainsmen or westerners.
Many a rasta-haired Hippy cursed the wooden doors of Valley,
For they didn’t give in, but the foreign skulls did.
After dinner I often strolled the streets of Maru Tole,
Didn’t go far and entered a house
Where Led Zeppelin’s music
Was oozing out of every old brick.
Man, this was groovy.
A semi-dark room with scarlet light,
Jimmy Hendrix, Santana posters,
And suddenly psychedelic colours,
Low tables and the sweet smell of charas.
Kathmandu’s chocolate cake
Baked with plenty of hash and flower-power love
Did the rounds and so did the cannabis,
Passed on by friendly, blonde, red-headed, brunette,
Long and sticky-haired, roadies from the whole world,
Who donned gaudy Indian cotton clothes,
Spoke of nirvana, karma-cola and imitated tantric-sex.
For me, this was a fascinating scenario,
For I came from the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas,
Where the majestic peaks bore names like Jammu,
Kabru and Kanchenjunga.
I’d visited a Kindergarden run by western nuns
And an Irish boarding-school, which was originally a British cadet-school
With strict rules, canes on our young buttocks
If we broke the rules.
Discipline, obedience and no-nonsense.
The Christian Brothers of Ireland ruled the school with an iron fist.
Many a hill school-boy had to give up schooling,
When the poor parents couldn’t pay the exorbitant fees.
Drop outs had to join the Gurkhas, and fight India’s wars
With China in the Himalayas, against the Portugese in Goa,
In East Pakistan to help the Bengalis against the West Pakistanis,
In the Falklands on Her Majesty’s Service against the Argentinians,
And Nepal’s numerous UN Peace Keeping Missions.
Later I joined another school run by American priests,
Which was much more liberal and democratic.
We did a play called the Judgement at Nuremburg
And our music teacher was a colossal bloke from Germany.
His blonde son David gave us free shaves
With his Papa’s electric Rasierapparat.
The school-band played marching songs with a lot of oomph.
The Street Where I Live (Satis Shroff)
The street where I live with my family is the Pochgasse.
It lies to the north of Freiburg, in Zähringen.
Zähringen has a castle ruin, which is a tourist attraction.
In the early days they dug for silver ores below the castle.
The ores were brought to the ‘Poche’,
Where they separated the silver from the ore
By melting them at high temperatures in the charcoal-kilns.
Our house is fondly remembered as ‘the milk shop of family Wichmann.’
People used to tell us often,
“Gel, ihr wohnt da, wo früher die Wichmanns gewohnt haben?“
Frau Sanders, who lives at the charcoal-street, said to me,
‘I went there often to buy milk.’
I tried to imagine our house with cows, big milk-cans and haystacks.
At the moment it smells of smoked-fish.
The adjacent barn has been rented to a German,
Who wears his spectacles on the tip of his nose,
He lisps and tells stories of the old times in Zähringen.
He smokes trout from the Black Forest thrice a year.
I think he sells them, otherwise he wouldn’t smoke so many fishes.
He always hands me a freshly smoked trout
Wrapped on a piece of German newspaper.
I thank him and hand him a bottle of Weissherbst from our cellar.
My one-eyed neighbour Herr Huber and I relish the trouts.
He drives an old, broken-down car and has two big, black Rotweiler dogs.
He calls them Zeus and Apollo.
They’re nice and always leashed.
At noon, when Herr Huber is away, and they have hunger,
You hear blood-curdling howls reminiscent of the hound of Baskerville.
When I sit and read a book on the terrace,
Frau Keller greets me with a friendly ‘Hallochen!’ from the street.
She has short, silvery hair and has a warm smile across her face.
She’s an ethnic German from Romania.
I like her soft-spoken East Bloc accent.
Her friendliness is disarming even though she has a lot of pain.
She used to go walking in the European countryside with her husband.
He’s dead and she undertakes only small walks in the Black Forest now.
Then there are two Frau Maiers, a thin and an obese one.
The obese one is fighting a losing battle with her breath and varicose veins.
One can plainly see that she has a tough time
Walking up the steep and narrow Pochgasse.
Bur her pain-filled countenance disappears,
When she emits a courageous smile and greets me.
It’s like watching the sun breaking
Through the sky on a clouded, winter morning day.
‘One has to walk as long as one can, night wahr?’ she says.
The thin Frau Maier wears spectacles and is over 70,
Likes to chat about the weather and the day’s headlines.
She certainly is going strong.
She knows every Zähringer,
And everyone knows her.
In the afternoon I hear soft piano melodies,
When my son Julian does his music exercises.
The tones of the piano mingle with bird-cries,
And suddenly one hears the loud noise of a lorry,
Transporting either furniture or building materials,
Up and down the Pochgasse.
A lot of expensive villas are under construction.
‘Ach, Zähringen isn’t what it was previously ‘ says Herr Flamm,
Who lives four houses down the street.
Herr Flamm knows Zähringen, for he and his grandparents were born here.
The entire Music Choir Zäringia, of which he’s a member,
Has aging problems.
The choir sings only the old traditional songs.
Broadway songs, rap, hip-hop, gospels aren’t traditional enough.
The German youth just keep away.
They’ve become Europeans.
The Zähringer, as people living in Zähringen are wont to be called,
Are an active folk when it comes to organising things.
Every autumn there’s a Hock around the St. Blasius church,
A get together, with Blasmusik, children’s cries of joy,
The smell of waffel, noodle soup, roasted pork, sausages,
Fried potatoes and pizza lies in the air.
The ancestors of the people in Zähringer were charcoal-burners,
Who lived behind the castle.
One day the coal-burner discovered melted silver under his oven.
In those days there used to live a king, who’d fled to Kaisersstuhl.
He lived with his family in poverty.
The coal-burner went and gave the silver he’d found to the king.
The king was so impressed that he gave his daughter in marriage to the coal-burner,
As well as the land surrounding Freiburg.
The king named him the Herzog von Zähringen.
The Zähringer duke founded Freiburg and other castles.
Sometimes, we send our children to Herr Laule, the fat grocer.
The children like doing errands to Herrr Laule,
For he never forgets to reward them with candies.
The bespectacled Frau Laule, is stout and kind and both come from Waldkirch.
Hope they’ll run the shop for years to come.
The children get a slice of Lyoner as a treat at the butcher Sumser’s shop.
My daughter Natasha loves Lyoner.
There’s a tunnel at the end of the Pochgasse.
The cars drive below and the ICE and Swiss trains above.
Young and elderly Germans come by and ask only one question:
„Wo, bitte, geht’s zum Zähringerburg?“
Where’s the road to the Zähringen castle-ruins?
The castle was built in 1091 by Herzog Bertold V.
It was destroyed by war and fire.
What has remained is an 18 meter high tower,
With a commanding view of Freiburg.
Gasse: small lane
Köhlerei: charcoal works
Weissherbst: a German wine
Blasmusic: brass band music
THE HOLY COWS OF KATHMANDU (Satis Shroff)
Holy cow! The mayor of Kathmandu
Has done it.
Since ancient times a taboo
The free, nonchalant cows
Of Kathmandu were rounded up
In a rodeo by the Nepalese police.
Was it Nandi, Shiva’s bull?
Or holy cows?
“They’re cattle still”,said the mayor.
“Straying cattle are not wanted”.
Eighty-eight holy cows
Not at Sotheby’s
But in Kathmandu.
The auction yielded 64,460 rupees
Said the mayor of Kathmandu.
Cows that were a nuisance
To pedestrians and tourists at Thamel.
Cows that provided dung
And four other products:
Milk, yoghurt, butter and urine
For many a hearth.
Cows that gave urine
That the Hindus collected.
Cows that were sacred
And worshipped as the cow-mother.
Cows that were donated
And set free by Brahmins and Chettris
To set themselves free from sins.
Cows that marked the Gaijatra,
An eight-day homage to the dead.
It was a king, according to legend,
Who ordered cows to be set free
By families in mourning
In the streets of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
To share the bereaved pain of
The death of a beloved prince
And a sad mother and queen.
The children disguised themselves
As grotesque cows and motley figures
And danced to Nepalese music
To make the queen laugh,
And forget her tears.
Even today the bereaved
Families drive their cows
Through the streets of Kathmandu
On the day of Gaijatra:
The festival of the cows.
Despite the ecological control
On the cows of Kathmandu,
Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.
From ancient times
Kings, noblemen, pedestrians
Cyclists, pullcarts, cars,
Scooters and rickshaws,
The traffic snaked around the holy cows.
The umwelt-conscious mayor
Has made up his mind:
The cattle are obstructing the traffic
Long-haired Nepalese youth need a crew-cut
Horse-pulled carts and rickshaws must go.
They worsen sanitation
And environmental problems.
But the carpets and cars must stay.
Elephant-rides remain for the tourists
After all, we’ve developed
A yen for dollars, francs and marks.
Kathmandu is catching up
With the rest of the world.
Umwelt: German word for environment
Braahmins, Chettris: high castes in Hinduism
THE HILLS ARE EMPTY (Satis Shroff)
Where have all the young folk gone?
The men are in foreign armies
Serving strange masters.
The servile, pretty women
Have been enticed to India’s brothels
And you ask me:
“Where have all the young folk gone?”
They went to survive
The coldness that has swept the land
The drought, famine
Poverty, nepotism and feudalism
And the curse that goes
Under the name of afno manchey’
afno manchey: one’s own clan or own people in a set-up
chakari: service done in a feudal heirarchy system (Speicheleckerei) to attain personal gains
BACK TO THE VILLAGE (Satis Shroff)
Go back to the village
And order and a decree
With the blessing of the palace
To send the rural people home
And urbanised spectators to rural Nepal
Villagers who fled from the poverty
And the barrenness of their homes.
THE VIDEO-DOCTOR (Satis Shroff)
“I’ll go to the video-doctor
He’ll find out what’s wrong with me.
And prescribe a foreign cure
Or give me an imported cure
A medicine that’s stronger than
The herbs of the traditional shaman.
Yes,the video-doctor examines my belly
He applies a white, cold paste
On my ailing belly.
Turns on and off fascinating switches
And fumbles like Dr. Frankenstein
Above his prostrate creature,
With instructions and signs that are alien.
Red, green, yellow lights blink
The screen flimmers, curves appear
Am I that? Is that my belly? Honestly?
A broad, hazy conical contour that
Appears and disappears.
What has the foreign-trained shaman seen?
I saw numbers and shades
Did he see more?
Can he tell more?
Can he find a cure?
Does he see spirits, boksas and boksis
Bhut and pret that I don’t?
Or other spirits that don’t exist?
Will the cold metal on my belly
Will I get an electro-shock?
Had I but listened to Maila Tamang
And gone to the jhakri, dhami or bijuwa
I could have saved the precious rupees
And got away with a rooster,
Instead of being told to turn
To the right, left, on my belly and back
With my body exposed
And a nurse, a woman sneering at me
Oh, what a shame for my male pride.
I’ll never go there again.
A SMALL PARADISE (Satis Shroff)
A walk with Elena in a pram
Along the Wildtal (the Wild Valley) path,
I hear the chirping of birds
In the trees and dense foliage on the wayside.
Elena leans out, only to throw herself back on her pram.
Suddenly a clearing and you see
Two ranges of the Black Forest mountains,
Behind the conifer silhouette.
Two white butterflies frolic and fly by.
Elene, who’s not even two, exclaims, ‘Da-da- da!’
As she points to them full of glee.
We go past the pastures and discover
A small Hexenhaus (witch’s house)and a row
Of Herrenhäüser (mansions).
There’s shade from the morning sun.
A noise along the tracks below
Increases in crescendo.
The world has caught up with us.
A sleek, snow-white ICE-train dashes by and breaks my reverie.
At the German Doctor’s (Satis Shroff)
My small daughter Elena’s middle-ear is inflamed
So I go to our German child-doctor.
He examines her and curses her left ear,
Which is read and causes pain, even after thirteen antibiotic cures.
“By the way, what do you say about the massacre in your kingdom?”
I tell him it’s incredible, a crown prince who killed the King and Queen,
His brother and sister and then himself,
In a fit of rage and helplessness”.
The bald, bespectacled German doctor went on,
‘My little daughter quipped today at breakfast,
“the King must have lied when he said to his people
The automatic gun went off and shot them all.”
Strange things happen in the Kingdom of Nepal.
The Summer Heat (August 2003) (Satis Shroff)
Forests are burning in Canada, Portugal and Brandenburg-Germany
There’s danger of fire even in the Black Forest
With this scenario in the background,
Our children Julian and Elena and a Kindergarden friend Sarah
Are playing: teasing, jumping, running and singing in the garden,
Having a rollicking time in their inflated swimming-pool
Under the shade of two plum trees
No Kindergarden and no school, for it’s the summer holidays.
The summer heat is with us.
The fair town of Zäringen-Freiburg and the entire Schwarzwald
Seems to have slid to the tropics.
Car drivers of all makes barking at each other
To turn off their car stereo music and ghetto blasters, and barbeques
For fear of a flame that might spark off a wild fire.
A thick set bearded in casual wear, spectacles on his nose,
A grin countenance came, leaned on our house wall and said,
“I can’t bear the noise of you children playing in your garden.’
Six pair of eyes looked up at him
Not understanding what the neighbour had against them.
Herr Hermann lived two houses away.
‘I’m retired since two months
And I want to enjoy my days reading philosophic texts
Or listening to classical music
But I get the jitters when I hear the you shouting and screaming.
Our immediate neighbour is a one-eyed roofer,
With a heart for big dogs, cats and children.
He told us, ‘When I first came to Zäringen
It was a dead area and silent like a graveyard.
I’m so glad that people are buying houses or building them.
It’s filling with life.’
He has bought the house next to ours
And renovates it around the clock,
Not even bothering about the afternoon rest hours from 1 to 3 pm.
He stops working neither on weekdays nor on religious and state holidays.
He hates silence and gets nervous when he doesn’t work.
At that very moment you could hear him working with his electric drill.
I asked Herr Hermann, ‘Can you hear this noise day in and day out? We do.’
“I don’t hear it, but I hear the children’s noise.
I can’t concentrate when I read or listen to the music.
It penetrates my ears.
Strange ears that don’t register noises
Created by cars, vans, trucks, taxis that pass by all day and night,
Created by his own garden appliances,
Created by his other neighbour who works like a horse on his 300 year house,
Created by how own beer parties deep into the night
And the blood curdling barks of the neighbour’s big black dogs,
That Julian my 5 year son fondly calls:
“The Howls of the Baskerville hounds” after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book.
Sarah, who’s mother is a state-attorney, remarked:
‘We also make a lot of noise in our garden,
But no one has complained.
Children are allowed to have fun and scream and shout when they play.’
Julian couldn’t resist the temptation of adding:
‘Herr Hermann, didn’t you scream and shout when you were a child?
Or have you forgotten it?’
Herr Hermann was speechless and left.
It just wasn’t his day.
Perhaps it was the 40 degrees outside.
On Painting a Winter Landscape (Satis Shroff)
I’ll paint a picture in acryl,
Of a winter landscape.
Not the Alps, but the Himalayas.
The eternal snows in the mountains
Are silvery and white.
The sky is azure, like on a holiday card,
With fluffy clouds above.
It’s a winter scene,
But you don’t feel the cold.
And you don’t freeze at daytime.
Yet when it becomes dark,
We Nepalis feel in our marrows the cold Himalayan wind,
Howling down the valleys and spurs.
Theirs is no central heating.
Neither gas nor electro-heating.
There are no plugs in the Himalayan huts,
Except along the well-beaten trekking trails.
There’s a tree in the landscape.
A black, naked tree
With branches like hands
In suspended animation.
A black crow crows aloud
And a shaman listens to it. It’s a mute language.
The shaman understands the crow
Does the crow follow the shaman?
A NEPAL TALK (Satis Shroff)
A German school teacher invites me
To talk about Nepal
And to introduce a traditional dish to her German class.
The teacher, a lady in her forties,
Likes it multicultural.
She asks her pupils with foreign parents
To greet the class in outlandish tongues.
The bicultural children comply,
And the class learns to say:
‘Good morning, Bon Soir, Namaste,
In English, French and Nepali.
A class full of curious children await me.
We make momos and little hands help in turn.
In the audio-visual room the slide projector has no bulb.
An Italian Hausmeister turns up with a new one
And voila! Our adventure can begin.
I show them colour transparencies
Of Nepal, my homeland.
Temples, streets and school-children and ethnic Nepalis
From Kathmandu Valley and the hills.
Living Goddesses, potters, farmers, sadhus and priests,
Overdressed and underdressed Nepalis.
Rhinos, tigers and elephants in the subtropical flatlands.
King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya,
King Gyanendra, his consort and the smart Royal Gurkha Guards.
After the slides we return
To the classroom to try out the momos.
The German kids relish the Nepali Maultaschen.
I tell them a story about the yeti.
Meanwhile, Frau Wolf gathers money for the ski afternoon.
Our Nepal theme is over,
What remains are the queries,
Of the innocent, well-fed and well-off children of Freiburg:
Why did you come to Germany?
Have you climbed the Everest?
What does the Yeti look like?
Is the King of Nepal rich?
OUT OF GERMANY (Satis Shroff)
Germany is our home, our Heimat
A land with Christian occidental norms and values.
A land with a culture and tradition
Rich in values, diversity and a hoary past.
Even in this social welfare state,
The poor are getting relatively poorer.
We’re embraced the euro,
And everything is expensive.
The old Deutsche Mark is out,
Though a lot of older Germans
Have problems with the conversions.
It reminds me of the time,
When Nepal went metric according to a royal decree.
The government did, but the older generation of Nepalis didn’t.
They still cling to the manas and pathis.
That’s tradition .
WHEN THE SOUL LEAVES (Satis Shroff)
Like Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage’
And we’ve played many different roles in our lives
In various places and scenarios.
As we grow old and ripe, our knowledge of the world grows.
We hold what we cannot see, smell, taste and touch in our memories.
We only have to walk down memory lane
To find the countless faces, places, sights and sounds that we have stored,
To be recalled and retrieved through association
In conversations with others
Or when we contemplate alone.
Why should elderly people be scared of social terror and aging?
Aging is a biological phenomenon.
We should be glad that we have lived useful lives,
Filled with good experiences.
The wonderful children that we have created,
The very gems of our genes,
Each so individual in their personalities.
The house we lived in and filled
With love, laughter, songs and music.
The parents and grand-parents, friends and relatives
We have had the time to share with.
But we should be able to assert our exit from this earthly existence
In the manner that we desire,
And not leave it in the hands
Of an intensive life-extension unit.
Let us dwell on common experiences and encounters
That we can take with us,
When the soul leaves the body
And races towards space and becomes unified
With the ever expanding, timeless cosmos.
GROW WITH LOVE (Satis Shroff)
For self-love and self-respect
Are the basis of joy, emotion
And spiritual well being.
Watch your feelings,
Study your thoughts
And your beliefs,
For your existence
Is unique and beautiful.
You came to the world alone
And you go back alone.
But while you breathe
You are near
To your fellow human beings,
Families, friends and strangers
As long as you are receptive.
Open yourself to lust and joy,
To the wonders of daily life and Nature.
Don’t close your door to love.
If you remain superficial,
You’ll never reach its depth.
Love is more than a feeling.
Love is also passion and devotion.
Grow with love and tenderness.
WITHOUT WORDS (Satis Shroff)
We speak with each other
A wonderful feeling overcomes me
And I’m touched to the roots of my existence.
As though it was a doubling of my existence.
It becomes a passion
To speak with each other.
Our lives filled with togetherness:
With ourselves and our children.
I discover myself in you
And you in me.
Where one is at home
In the company of the other
And vice versa.
Where you can be the way you are
Where I can be the way I am.
Our tolerance for each other is crucial
There are moments when one forgets time.
We speak to each other without words.
It’s not sung,
It’s not instrumental chords.
Just our hearts understanding each other.
In tact with each other.
Our eyes speak volumes
And a nod is enough.
THE SEA SWELLS (Satis Shroff)
The sea shells on the sea shore
Suddenly the sea swells.
Ring the church and temple bells.
All is not well.
The sea has gone back.
Brown-burnt Tarzans and Janes
From different continents,
Wonder what’s going on.
A man from Sweden
Is immersed in his thriller under the palms.
A mother and daughter from Germany
Frolic on the white sunny beach.
Even the sea-gulls stop and listen
To the foreboding silence.
The sea swells,
And brings an apocalyptic destruction:
Sweeping humans, huts and hotels,
Boats, billboards and debris.
Cries for help are stifled by the roaring waves.
The sea goes back.
Leaving behind lost souls,
Caught in suspended animation.
I close my eyes.
THE NEPALESE REALITY (Satis Shroff)
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Could not put Nepal together again.
Nepalese men and women
Look out of their ornate windows,
In west, east, north and south Nepal
A decade long war between the Maoists and Royalists
Has come to an end
We have suffered so much.
So many innocent men, women, boys and girls
Have been slain by bullets,
From both sides.
Kal Bhairab seems to be pacified,
For Vishnu has crept to his bed of serpents.
He peers at the unfurling scenario:
A new interim government,
A new constitution,
He hisses with a sulk:
‘What can they do better than I?’
When aristocrats, chauvinists, egoists and phallocrats
Were in power,
The underprivileged castes and tribes,
Women and children,
Went always with empty hands.
A new revolution and democracy is in the land,
But have the people changed their minds?
Or are they still conscious of their caste, birth and tribe?
Of their earlier prejudices, hatred and malice
Towards the dalits, the have-nots?
Our fervent prayers have been heard.
The people are rejoicing in the streets of Kathmandu.
May there be ‘everlasting’ peace again in Nepal,
Though ‘everlasting peace’ has become inflationary.
We have no choice,
But to lay our hopes on the fragile signatures
Of two protagonists,
In the Shadow of the Himalayas.
Rejoice and take reality as it is.