Cathmandu is Still 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 couldn’t bear the beatings
At the hands of his old man.
The older brother sobbed,
Stifled his sorrow and anger
For Nepal was in fact Kathmandu,
With its colleges, universities, Education Ministry,
Exquisite temples, extravagant Rana-palaces,
With its share of hippies, hashish, tourists,
Rising prices and expensive rooms to rent.
The younger brother went to Dharan,
Enlisted in the British Army depot
To become a Gurkha,
A soldier in King Edwards Own Gurkha Rifles.
He came home the day he 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.
Scotch and Gurkha-rum evenings.
He’d heard it all from the Gurkhas,
Who’d returned in the Dasain festivals.
There was Kunjo Lama his maternal cousin,
Who boasted of his judo-prowess,
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 glorious scarlet 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
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
Where humans were God-fearing,
Blamed everything on fate,
Not their doings.
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
Boksas & boksis: male & female witches
|Comment about poem or author||Response Country||Response Added|
|Elizabeth Olesen (Denmark)||Satis, I enjoyed reading this contribution with much interest and joy. This poem brings back the memories of Nepal where I lived six years in my life. This is a great story of your courageous Gurkha coming back to Kathmandu, Nepal, seeing before his eyes the rich culture, religion and history of his own country. I would be very happy to read more of your poems with the context of the beautiful Hindu Kingdom of Nepal.||Denmark|
|Dear Satis, hope all is going well for you always a treat to read you again and again here on Voices!||Australia|
|Dear Satis I have read all your poems and I only can say to you Amazing and Fantastic read it has been an incredible journey. Thank you|