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Summary: Nepalese journalist Satis Shroff wrote about a Nepalese mother who waits for her to return from the British Gurkha Army in vain. This story has affected thousands of mothers in Nepal, a poverty-stricken country where the sons join the foreign armies  to eke out a living because they have no chance to educate themselves formally, and life is hard and competitive in Nepal. Satis has written a series of articles on the Gurkhas in the media and it was only recently that the Gurkhas were granted the right to stay in Britain, educate their children and receive the benefits of the NHS. For 200 years the loyal, dedicated Gurkhas were treated as merchandise, discriminated and sent home on a hire-and-fire basis. Many Gurkhas have fought their cases against Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in courts in London and have won in recently because they have at last broken their silence

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnNymFm3TaM

 

 

 

A GURKHA MOTHER’S TEARS  (Satis Shroff)

(Death of a Precious Jewel)

 

 

A Nepalese mother sits in front of her verandah, smokes her crude cigarette looks at the lofty Himalayan peaks and asks:

‘My Nepal, what has become of you?’

Your features have changed with time. The innocent face of the Kumari has changed to that of the blood-thirsty countenance of Kal Bhairab, from development to destruction, from bikas to binas.

‘I have lived to see a crown prince who fell in love, but couldn’t assert himself, in a palace where ancient traditions still prevail. Despite Eton college and a liberal education, he chose guns instead of rhetoric, and ended his young life, as well as those of his parents and other royal members. An aunt from London aptly remarked on Nepal TV: He was like the terminator.’

Another bloodshed in a Gorkha palace, recalling the Kot massacre under Jung Bahadur Rana.

You’re no longer the same. There’s insurrection and turmoil against the government and the police. Your sons and daughters are at war, with the Gurkhas again. Maobadis with revolutionary flair, with ideologies from across the Tibetan Plateau and Peru.Ideologies that have been discredited elsewhere, flourish in the Himalayas.

Demanding a revolutionary-tax from tourists and Nepalis with brazen, bloody attacks, fighting for their own rights and the rights of the bewildered common man.

Well-trained government troops at the orders of politicians safe in Kathmandu. Leaders, who despise talks and compromises, flex their tongues and muscles, and let the imported automatic salves speak their deaths. Ill-armed guerrillas against well-armed Royal Gurkhas in the foothills of the Himalayas. Where will this end?

Nepali children have no chance, but to take sides. To take to arms not knowing the reason and against whom. The child-soldier gets orders from grown-ups and the hapless souls open fire.

Hukum is order, the child-soldier cannot reason why.

 

Shedding precious human blood, for causes they both hold high.

 

Ach, this massacre in the shadow of the Himalayas.

We, Nepalis, look out of our ornate windows, in the west, east, north and south Nepal and think: how long will this krieg go on? How much do we have to suffer? How many money-lenders, businessmen, civil servants, khaki-clad policemen and Gurkhas do the Maobadis want to kill. Or be killed?

How many men, women, boys and girls have to be mortally injured till Kal Bhairab is pacified by the Sleeping Vishnu? How many towns and villages in the seventy five districts

Do the Maobadis want to free from capitalism? When the missionaries close their schools,

Must the Hindus and Buddhists shut their temples and shrines? Shall atheism be the order of the day? Not in Nepal.

It breaks my heart, as I hear over the radio: Nepal’s not safe for visitors. Visitors who leave their money behind, in the pockets of travel agencies, rug dealers, currency and drug dealers,

and hordes of ill-paid honest Sherpas, Thakali, Gurung and Tamang porters. Sweat beads trickling from their sun-burnt faces, in the dizzy heights of the Dolpo, Annapurna ranges and the Khumbu glaciers, eking out a living and facing the treacherous icy crevasses, snow-outs, precipices and a thousand deaths.

Beyond the beaten trekking paths live the poorer families of Nepal. No roads, no schools, sans drinking water and sans hospitals.

Where aids and children’s work prevail.

The dynasties of Lichhavis, Thakuris and Mallas have made you eternal. Man Deva inscribed his title on the pillar of Changu, after great victories over neighbouring states. Amshu Verma was a warrior and mastered the Lichhavi Code. He gave his daughter in marriage to Srong Beean Sgam Po, the ruler of Tibet, who also married a Chinese princess.

 

Jayastathi Malla ruled long and introduced the system of the caste, a system based on the family occupation, that became rigid with the tide of time.

 

Yaksha Malla the ruler of Kathmandu Valley, divided it into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaon for his three sons.

It was Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha, who brought you together, as a melting pot of ethnic diversities, with Gorkha conquests that cost the motherland thousands of ears, noses and Nepali blood. The spoils of that war can be seen even today at the temple in Kirtipur.

The Ranas usurped the royal throne and put a prime minister after the other for 104 years.

104 years of a country in poverty and medieval existence. It was King Tribhuvan’s proclamation and the blood of the Nepalis, who fought against the Gorkhas under the command of the Ranas, that ended the Rana autocracy.

His son King Mahendra saw to it that he held the septre when Nepal entered the UNO. The multiparty system along with the Congress party was banned. Then came thirty years of Panchayat promises of a Hindu rule with a system based on the five village elders, like the proverbial five fingers in one’s hand, that are not alike and yet functioned in harmony.

The Panchayat government was indeed an old system, from the holy days of the Vedas, packed and sold as a new and traditional one.

A system is just as good as the people who run it. And Nepal didn’t run. It revived the age-old chakary, feudalism  with its countless spies and yes-men, middle-men who held out their hands for bribes, perks and amenities.

Poverty, caste-system with its divisions and conflicts, discrimination, injustice, bad governance became the nature of the day.

A big chasm appeared between the haves-and-have-nots. The social inequality, frustrated expectations of the poor led to a search for an alternative pole. The farmers were ignored, the forests and land confiscated, corruption, bad-governance and inefficiency became the rule of the day.

Even His Majesty’s servants went so far as to say: Raja ko kam, kahiley jahla gham.

This birthplace of the holy and enlightened Buddha and the Land of Pashupati, a land which King Birendra declared a Zone of Peace, through signatures of the world’s leaders was at war a decade long.

Bush’s government paid 24 million dollars for development aid, another 14 million dollars for insurgency relevant spendings, 5,000 M-16 rifles from the USA, 5,500 machine guns from Belgium.

Guns that were aimed at Nepali men, women and children in the mountains of Nepal. Alas, under the shade of the Himalayas, this corner of the world became volatile again.

People I knew changed sides, from Mandalay to Congress, from Congress to the Maobadis.

From Hinduism to Communism. Even Nepal’s bahuns vied with each other to become the first communists for there were important political positions to be given away to party-members. Ah, Dolpo and Silgadi, made unforgettable by Peter Mathiessen in his quest for his inner self, and his friend George Schaller’s search for the snow leopard, was where Nepali students wrote Marxist verses and acquired volumes from the embassies in Kathmandu: Kim Il Sung’s writings, Mao’s red booklet, Marx’s Das Kapital and Lenin’s works. They defended socialist ideas at His Majesty’s Central Hostel in Tahachal and elsewhere. This was the fruit of the scholarships given to Nepalese students by the Soviet government to later create a Russian-speaking elite in developing and least-developed countries, just the way the Brits had done with the Indians, Burmese, Malays and Africans in their former colonies.

I see their earnest faces, then with books in their arms, later with guns. Trigger-happy, boisterous and ready to fight to the end for a cause they cherish in their frustrated and fiery hearts: to do away with poverty, royalty, corruption, nepotism and capitalism and feudalism.

But weren’t these sons of Nepal misguided and blinded by the initially sweeping victories of socialism?

Even Gorbachov, the baldy man with a red forehead, pleaded for Peristroika, and Putin had shown his admiration for Germany, its culture and commerce.

Look at the old Soviet Union, and other East Bloc nations. They have all swapped sides and are EU and Nato members.

Globalisation has changed the world fast, but in Nepal time stands still. The blind beggar at the New Road gate sings: lata ko desh ma, gaddha tantheri. In a land where the tongue-tied live, the deaf desire to rule.

 

Oh my Nepal, quo vadis?

The only way to peace and harmony  is by laying aside the arms forever. Let there be no more bloodshed among the Nepalese and Gurkhas, and let no Gurkha raise his khukri against another’s throat. I know it’s wishful thinking in this Kali Yuga, this Age of  Darkness. I wanted my son to be an educated person with the pension earned by my husband, but he went his own way, following others like him in their youthful, capricious manners. He became a school dropout, joined the British Gurkhas in Dharan and away he was out in the wide world, across the Black Waters, as we call the Oceans. He wrote beautiful cards from Hong Kong, the Rhine towns and London. I felt so proud to have a son who wrote such lovely cards, I a Gurkha widow, withering in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sometimes I ask myself, can Nepal afford to be the bastion of a movement and a government

that rides rough-shod over the lives and rights of fellow Nepalis? Can’t we learn from the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq? The people in the Hindukush must be suffering since centuries. The Pathans and Pashtoon chieftains fought even in the times of Queen Victoria and even before that. The British took their Gurkha troops to fight against the Afghans. A British captain wrote home to his parents: ‘You have no idea what fine little fellows the Goorkhas are. They actually do not know what fear is.’

Yes, this fearless attitude has been a boon to the Gurkhas but also the cause of death, which has made thousands of Gurkha mothers weep dearly. I dare not think about the mothers of the soldiers slain by our Gurkhas. The Gurkhas were our sons and when they were in battle they also had fear like any other soldiers. Piles of letters written by the Gurkhas in the battlefields were confiscated, censored and not sent to families and relatives in Nepal. The Gurkhas love their legends but behind these legends there’s also another story. The story of a soldier who was discriminated by his officers, cheated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). When a British Gurkha became an invalid or developed illness, he was shipped to Nepal as soon as possible, and didn’t enjoy the benefits of the NHS. Healthy Gurkhas were and are always good Gurkhas. The Royal Palace and the former Nepalese governments did little to assist the Gurkhas in their demands for equal pay in the British Army. In the Falkland War the Argentinians protested at the UNO that the Brits were using mercenaries to fight under the Union Jack. The British MoD replied that the Gurkhas were a part of the British Army. If they were a part of the British Army when had they been given only half the pay that a British Tommy got? Why weren’t the children of the Gurkhas given the right to learn and sit for the GCE examinations? Why were Gurkhas just sacked and sent home on the hire-and-fire principle? Perhaps because we Nepalese or Gurkhas haven’t put much emphasis on education and there are only a few Nepalese who are solicitors who can put the case of the Gurkhas forwards in the British, European or International courts.

Meanwhile, the Maobadis, as Maoists are called in Nepal, have been given a chance at the polls, like all other democratic parties, for the Maobadis are bahuns and chettris, be they Prachanda or Baburam Bhattrai, leaders who fought against monarchy and later even preferred to retain it in Nepal.

After the massacre of the Royals in the Narayanhiti Palace by Prince Dipendra, Birendra’s brother Gyanendra Shah ascended the throne in a blitz ceremony. What better chance for a constitutional monarch, a re-incarnated Vishnu, who held the executive, judiciary, legislative, spiritual and temporal powers in the shadow of the Himalayas to flourish again? The people thought otherwise, and the Nepalese Maoists marched into Kathmandu and the Valley became a scarlet sea.

 

* * *

 

 

The Gurkha with a khukri but no enemy, works not for his country but for the Queen of England since the times of Queen Victoria. Yet gets shot at in missions he doesn’t comprehend. Order is hukum, hukum is life and Johnny Gurkha still dies under foreign skies.

He never asks why, politics isn’t his style. He’s fought against all and sundry: Turks, Tibetans, Italians and Indians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Argentinians and Vietnamese, Indonesians and Iraqis.

Loyalty to the utmost and never fearing a loss. The loss of a mother’s son from the mountains of Nepal.

My grandpa died in Burma for the glory of the British. My husband in Mesopotemia, I honestly do not know against whom for no one did tell me. My brother fell in France, against the Teutonic hordes.

I pray everyday to Shiva of the Snows for peace and my son’s safety. My joy and my hope, as I do farming on a terraced slope. A son who helped wipe my tears and ease the pain in my mother-heart. I’m his frugal mother, who lives by the seasons and peers down to the valleys, year in and year out in expectation of my dear soldier son.

One fine day, two smart Gurkhas are underway, heard from across the hill with a shout, as is the communication-custom in our hilly country:

‘It’s an officer from his battalion and an orderly.’

A letter with a scarlet seal and two poker-faces.

‘Your son died on duty,’ said the blue-eyed and red-headed British officer, ‘keeping peace for the country and Her Majesty the Queen of England.’ The Gurkha orderly near him translated into Nepali.

A world crumbled down. I couldn’t bring myself to utter even a word. Gone was my son, my precious jewel. My only insurance and sunshine in the craggy hills of Nepal. And with him my dreams. A spartan life that kills.

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Yours truly, Satis Shroff,Germany

Gainey: A Minstrel’s Songs of Love and Sorrow (Satis Shroff)

Go away, you maya.

Disappear.

Haunt me not

In my dreams..

What has become of my country?

———-

My Nepal, what has become of you?

Your features have changed with time.

The innocent face of the Kumari

Has changed to the blood-thirsty countenance

Of Kal Bhairab,

From development to destruction,

From bikas to binas.

A crown prince fell in love,

But couldn’t assert himself,

In a palace where ancient traditions still prevail.

Despite Eton college and a liberal education,

He chose guns instead of rhetoric,

And ended his young life,

As well as those of his parents

And other royal members.

An aunt from London aptly remarked,

‘He was like the terminator.’

Another bloodshed in a Gorkha palace,

Recalling the Kot massacre

Under Jung Bahadur Rana.

You’re no longer the same

There’s insurrection and turmoil

Against the government and the police.

Your sons and daughters

Are at war again.

Maobadis with revolutionary flair,

With ideologies from across the Tibetan Plateau

And Peru.

Ideologies that have been discredited elsewhere,

Flourish in the Himalayas.

Demanding a revolutionary-tax

From tourists and Nepalis

With brazen, bloody attacks

Fighting for their own rights,

The rights of the bewildered

Common man.

Well-trained government troops at the orders

Of politicians safe in Kathmandu.

Leaders who despise talks and compromises,

Flexed their tongues and muscles,

And let the imported automatic salves speak their deaths.

Ill-armed guerrillas against well-armed Royal Gurkhas

In the foothills of the Himalayas.

Nepali children have no choice,

But to take sides

To take to arms

Not knowing the reason

And against whom.

The child-soldier gets orders

From grown-ups.

The hapless souls open fire.

Hukum is order,

The child-soldier cannot reason why.

Shedding precious human blood,

For causes they both hold high.

Ach, this massacre

In the shadow of the Himalayas.

Nepalis look out

Of their ornate windows,

In the west, east,

North and south Nepal

And think:

How long will this krieg go on?

How much do we have to suffer?

How many money-lenders, businessmen, civil servants,

Policemen and gurkhas do the Maobadis want to kill

Or be killed?

How many men, women, boys and girls have to be mortally injured

Till Kal Bhairab is pacified by the Sleeping Vishnu?

How many towns and villages in the seventy five districts

Do the Maobadis want to free from capitalism?

When the missionaries close their schools,

Must the Hindus and Buddhists shut their temples and shrines?

Shall atheism be the order of the day?

Not in Nepal.

It breaks my heart,

As I hear over the radio:

Nepal’s not safe for visitors.

Visitors who leave their money behind,

In the pockets of travel agencies,

Rug dealers, currency and drug dealers,

Hordes of ill-paid honest Sherpas

And Tamang porters.

Sweat beads trickling from their sun-burnt faces,

In the dizzy heights of the Dolpo,

Annapurna ranges

And the Khumbu glaciers.

Eking out a living and facing the treacherous

Icy crevasses, snow-outs, precipices

And a thousand deaths.

Beyond the beaten trekking paths

Live the poorer families of Nepal.

No roads,

No schools,

Sans drinking water,

Sans hospitals,

Where aids and children’s work prevail.

Lichhavis, Thakuris and Mallas have made you eternal

Man Deva inscribed his title on the pillar of Changu,

After great victories over neighbouring states.

Amshu Verma was a warrior,

Who mastered the Lichavi Code.

He gave his daughter in marriage

To Srong Beean Sgam Po,

The ruler of Tibet,

Who also married a Chinese princess.

Jayastathi Malla ruled long and introduced

The system of the caste,

A system based on family occupation,

That became rigid with the tide of time.

Yaksha Malla,

The ruler of Kathmandu Valley,

Divided it into Kathmandu,

Patan and Bhadgaon

For his three sons.

It was Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha,

Who brought you together,

As a melting pot of ethnic diversities.

With Gorkha conquests that cost the motherland

Thousands of ears, noses and Nepali blood

The Ranas usurped the royal throne

And put a prime minister after the other

For 104 years.

104 years of a country in poverty

And medieval existence.

It was King Tribhuvan’s proclamation,

The blood of the Nepalis,

Who fought against the Gorkhas

Under the command of the Ranas,

That ended the Rana autocracy.

His son King Mahendra saw to it

That he held the septre

When Nepal entered the UNO.

The multiparty system

Along with the Congress party

Was banned.

Then came thirty years of Panchayat promises

Of a Hindu rule

With a system based on the five village elders,

Like the proverbial five fingers in one’s hand,

That are not alike,

Yet functioned in harmony.

The Panchayat government was indeed an old system,

Packed and sold

As a new and traditional one.

A system is just as good

As the people who run it.

And Nepal didn’t run.

It revived the age-old chakary,

Feudalism  with its countless spies and yes-men,

Middle-men who held out their hands

For bribes, perks and amenities.

Poverty, caste-system with its divisions and conflicts,

Discrimination, injustice, bad governance

Became the nature of the day.

A big chasm appeared

Between the haves-and-have-nots.

The social inequality,

Frustrated expectations of the poor

Led to a search for an alternative pole.

The farmers were ignored,

The forests and land confiscated,

Corruption and inefficiency became

The rule of the day.

Even His Majesty’s servants

Went so far as to say:

Raja ko kam,

Kahiley jahla gham.

The birthplace of Buddha

And the Land of Pashupati,

A land which King Birendra declared

A Zone of Peace,

Through signatures of the world’s leaders

Was at war again.

Bush’s government paid 24 million dollars

For development aid,

Another 14 million dollars

For insurgency relevant spendings

5,000 M-16 rifles from the USA

5,500 maschine guns from Belgium.

Guns that were aimed at Nepali men, women and children,

In the mountains of Nepal.

Alas, under the shade of the Himalayas,

This corner of the world became volatile again.

The educated people changes sides,

From Mandalay to Congress

From Congress to the Maobadis.

The students from Dolpo and Silgadi,

Made unforgettable by Peter Mathiessen

In his quest for his inner self

And his friend George Schaller’s search

For the snow leopard,

Wrote Marxist verses,

Acquired volumes

From the embassies in Kathmandu:

Kim Il Sung’s writings,

Mao’s red booklet,

Marx’s Das Kapital,

Lenin’s works,

And defended socialist ideas

At His Majesty’s Central Hostel

At Tahachal.

I saw their earnest faces,

With guns in their arms

Instead of books,

Boistrous and ready to fight

To the end

For a cause they cherished

In their frustrated and fiery hearts.

But aren’t these sons of Nepal misguided and blinded

By the seemingly victories of socialism?

Even Gorbachov pleaded for Peristroika,

And Putin admires Germany,

Its culture and commerce.

Look at the old Soviet Union,

Other East Bloc nations.

They have all swapped sides,

Are EU and Nato members.

Globalisation has changed the world fast,

But in Nepal time stands still

The blind beggar at the New Road gate sings:

Lata ko desh ma, gaddha tantheri.

In a land where the tongue-tied live,

The deaf desire to rule.

Oh my Nepal, quo vadis?

The only way to peace and harmony  is

By laying aside the arms.

Can Nepal afford to be the bastion

Of a movement and a government

That rides rough-shod

Over the lives and rights of fellow Nepalis?

Can’t we learn from the lessons

Of Afghanistan and Iraq?

The Maobadis were given a chance at the polls,

Like all other democratic parties.

Maobadis are bahuns and chettris,

Be they Prachanda or Baburam Bhattrai,

Leaders who’d prefer to be republicans

In the shadow of the Himalayas?

Shall the former Maobadis

Be regular soldiers?

Shall the Madeshis

And Paharis go asunder?

Where is the charismatic,

Unifying figure,

In Nepal’s political landscape?

My grandpa said:

“In Nepal even a child

Can walk the countryside alone.”

It’s just not true.

Not for a Nepalese,

Born with a sarangi in his hand.

I’m a musician,

One of the lower caste

In the Hindu hierarchy.

I bring delight to my listeners,

Hope to touch the hearts

Of my spectators.

I sing about love,

Hate and evil,

Kings and Queens,

Princes and Princesses,

The poor and the rich,

The Maoists and democrats,

Madeshis and Paharis,

And the fight for existence,

In the craggy foothills

And the towering heights

Of the Himalayas.

The Abode of the Snows,

Where Buddhist and Hindu

Gods and Goddesses reside,

And look over mankind

And his folly.

I was born in Tanhau,

A nondescript hamlet in Nepal,

Were it not for Bhanu Bhakta Acharya

Who was born here,

The poet who translated the Ramayana,

From high-flown Sanskrit into simple Nepali

For all to read.

I remember the first day

My father handed me a sarangi.

He taught me how to hold and swing the bow.

I was delighted with the first squeaks it made,

As I moved the bow on the taught horsetail strings.

It was as though my small sarangi

Was talking with me.

I was so happy,

I and my sarangi,

My sarangi and me.

Tears of joy ran down my cheeks.

I was so thankful.

I touched my Papa’s feet,

As is the custom in the Himalayas.

I could embrace the whole world.

My father taught me the tones,

And the songs to go with them,

For we gaineys are minstrels

Who wander from place to place,

Like gypsies,

Like butterflies in Spring.

We are a restless folk

To be seen everywhere,

Where people dwell,

For we live from their charity

And our trade.

The voice of the gainey,

The sad melody of the sarangi.

A boon to those who love the lyrics,

A nuisance to those who hate it.

Many a time, we’ve been kicked and beaten

By young people who prefer canned music,

From their ghetto-blasters.

Outlandish melodies,

Electronic beats you can’t catch up with.

Spinning on their heads,

Hip-hopping like robots,

Not humans.

It’s the techno, ecstasy generation

Where have all the old melodies gone?

The Nepalese folksongs of yore?

The song of the Gainey?

“This is globanisation,” they told me.

The grey-eyed visitors from abroad,

‘Quirays’ as we call them in Nepal.

Or ‘gora-sahibs’ in Hindustan.

The quirays took countless pictures of me,

With their cameras,

Gave handsome tips.

A grey-haired didi with spectacles,

And teeth in like a horse’s mouth,

Even gave me a polaroid-picture

Of me,

With my sarangi,

My mountain violin.

Sometimes I look my fading picture

And wonder how fast time flows.

My smile is disappearing,

Grey hair at the sides,

The beginning of baldness.

I’ve lost a lot of my molars,

At the hands of the Barbier

From Muzzafapur in the Indian plains,

He gave me clove oil

To ease my pain,

As he pulled out my fouled teeth,

In an open-air salon

Right near the Tribhuvan Highway.

I still have my voice

And my sarangi,

And love to sing my repertoire,

Even though many people

Sneer and jeer at me,

And prefer Bollywood texts

From my larynx.

To please their whims,

I learned even Bollywood songs,

Against my will,

Eavesdropping behind cinema curtains,

To please the tourists

And my country’s modern youth,

I even learned some English songs.

Oh money, dear money.

I’ve become a cultural prostitute.

I’ve done my Zunft, my trade,

An injustice,

But I did it to survive.

I had to integrate myself

And to assimilate

In my changing society.

Time has not stood still

Under the shadow of the Himalayas.

One day when I was much younger,

I was resting under a Pipal tree

When I saw one beautiful tourist girl.

I looked and smiled at her.

She caressed her hair,

And smiled back.

For me it was love at first sight.

All the while gazing at her

I took out my small sarangi,

With bells on my fiddle bow

And played a sad Nepali melody

Composed by Ambar Gurung,

Which I’d learned in my wanderings

From Ilam to Darjeeling.

I am the Sky

You are the Soil,

Even though we yearn

A thousand times,

We cannot be together.

I was sentimental that moment.

Had tears in my eyes

When I finished my song.’

The blonde woman sauntered up to me,

And said in a smooth voice,

‘Thank you for the lovely song.

Can you tell me what it means?’

I felt a lump on my throat

And couldn’t speak

For a while.

Then, with a sigh, I said,

‘We have this caste system in Nepal.

When I first saw you,

I imagined you were a fair bahun girl.

We aren’t allowed to fall in love

With bahunis.

It is a forbidden love,

A love that can never come true.

I love you

But I can’t have you.’

‘But you haven’t even tried,’

Said the blonde girl coyly.

‘I like your golden hair,

Your blue eyes.

It’s like watching the sky.’

‘Oh, thank you,

Danyabad.

She asked: ‘But why do you say:

‘We cannot be together?’

‘We are together now,’ I replied,

‘But the society does not like

Us gaineys from the lower caste.

The bahuns, chettris castes are above us.

They look down upon us.’

‘Why do they do that?’

Asked the blonde girl.

I spat out:

‘Because they are high-born.

We, kamis, damais and sarkis,

Are dalits.

We are the downtrodden,

The underdogs of this society

In the foothills of the Himalayas.’

‘Who made you what you are?’ she asked.

I told her: ‘The Hindu society is formed this way:

Once upon a time there was a bahun,

And from him came the Varnas.

The Vernas are a division of society

Into four parts.

Brahma created the bahuns

From his mouth.

The chettris who are warriors

Came from his shoulder,

The traders from his thigh

And the servants

From the sole of his feet.’

‘What about the poor dalits?’

Quipped the blonde foreigner.

‘The dalits fell deeper in the Hindu society,

And were not regarded as full members

Of the human race.

We had to do the errands and menial jobs

That were forbidden for the higher castes.’

‘Like what?’ she asked.

‘Like disposing dead animals,

Making leather by skinning hides

Of dead animals,

Cleaning toilets and latrines,

Clearing the sewage canals of the rich,

High born Hindus.

I am not allowed to touch a bahun,

Even with my shadow, you know.’

‘What a mean, ugly system,’ she commented,

And shook her head.

‘May I touch you?’ she asked impulsively.

She was daring and wanted to see how I’d react.

‘You may,’ I replied.

She touched my hand,

Then my cheeks with her two hands.

I found it pleasant and a great honour.

I joined my hands and said sincerely,

‘Dhanyabad.’

I, a dalit, a no-name, a no-human,

Had been touched by a young, beautiful woman,

A kuiray tourist,

From across the Black Waters:

Kalapani.

A wave of happiness and joy

Swept over me.

A miracle had happened.

Like a princess kissing a toad,

In fairy tales I’d heard.

Perhaps Gandhi was right:

I was a Child of God,

A Harijan,

And this fair lady an apsara.

She, in her European mind,

Thought she’d brought human rights

At least to the gainey,

This wonderful wandering minstrel,

With his quaint fiddle

Called sarangi.

She said in her melodious voice,

‘In my country all people are free and equal,

Have the same rights and dignity.

All humans have common sense,

A conscience,

And we ought to meet each other

As brothers and sisters.

I tucked my sarangi in my armpit,

Clapped my hands and said:

‘That’s nice.

Noble thoughts.

It works for you here, perhaps.

But it won’t work for me,’

Feeling a sense of remorse and nausea

Sweep over me.

About the Author:

Satis Shroff teaches Creative Writing at the University of Freiburg, and is the published author of three books on www.Lulu.com: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelgue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff). His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. Satis Shroff is a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer. He also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany  in Nepal, Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, he is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in his writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Akademie für medizinische Berufe (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Zentrum für Schlüsselqualifikationen (Lehrbeauftragter für Creative Writing, Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.

What others have said about the author:

Satis Shroff  writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Associate Professor in Creative Writing MFA, University of Iowa).

‘Satis Shroff writes political poetry, about the war in Nepal, the sad fate of the Nepalese people, the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany. His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. I writing ‘home,’ he not only returns to his country of origin time and again, he also carries the fate of his people to readers in the West, and his task of writing thus is also a very important one in political terms. His true gift is to invent Nepalese metaphors and make them accessible to the West through his poetry.’ (Sandra Sigel, Writer, Germany).

Brilliant, I enjoyed your poems thoroughly. I can hear the underlying German and Nepali thoughts within your English language. The strictness of the German form mixed with the vividness of your Nepalese mother tongue. An interesting mix. Nepal is a jewel on the Earths surface, her majesty and charm should be protected, and yet exposed with dignity through words. You do your country justice and I find your bicultural understanding so unique and a marvel to read.’ Reviewed by Heide Poudel in WritersDen.com 6/4/2007.

“The manner in which Satis Shroff writes takes the reader right along with him. Extremely vivid and just enough and the irony of the music. Beautiful prosaic thought and astounding writing.”
(Susan Marie, www.Gather.com

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Women’s Rights in a Former Hindu Kingdom(Satis Shroff)

 

The work draws on my own experience and observations during my visits to Kathmandu. Since Nepal is one of those rare places which Nature and culture-enthusiasts would like to visit, I thought the plight of the Nepalese women ought to be told in your website, because till now Nepal is only known for its tough male Gurkha soldiers who fought on the side of the British in the First and Second World Wars, in the Falklands and in Kosovo and Croatia, the sturdy male Sherpas who have worked for the glory of all climbing nations in the Khumbu area, and is also known as the Land of the Yaks and the abominal Yeti.

 

What about the fate of the Nepalese women in the Shangri-la? In James Hilton’s book ‘The Lost Horizon’ the local women never get old (unless they leave the enchanting Shangri-la environment), but the average Nepalese women have a lifespan of 50 years in one of the least developed countries in the world, and they never live to be 60.

 

Women who have spontaneous or natural abortions, or give birth to still born babies are charged with infanticide and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment because Nepal’s abortion law is based on an ancient, draconian Hindu law. Imagine: 20 years of imprisonment when the average lifespan is 50 years ! Abortion is prohibited in Nepal under any circumstances (rape, incest, or when a pregnant woman’s life is threatened). There are no fair trials for the needy and poor women of Nepal and the justice caters only to the rich and influential people.

 

Due to the lack in clarity in Nepal’s Law, many Nepalese women have been victimised on the ground of spontaneous abortion, whether it was a simple miscarriage or abortion caused by the heavy manual labour on the part of the woman. The women of Nepal cannot defend themselves because of the lack of definition of abortion’, says Singh B. Moktan, the director of PAM Nestling Home (PAM= Prisoners Assistance Mission) in Kathmandu.

 

What is needed is a mobilisation of women in Nepal, the USA, Europe and the world over in fighting this ancient, archaic practice of the Rule of Garbhabat. Despite the fact that democracy has dawned in Nepal and different political parties are allowed, the male population still dominates Nepalese politics and the plight of women hasn’t changed much, even though there are tourists in Kathmandu and along the trekking-trails, flocking to Nepal to see the Himalayas and take pictures of its rural women and children for mellow home slide-shows, amid relatives and neighbours. The benefits of democracy and westernisation haven’t caught up with the majority of the Nepalese women as yet.

 

The entire world knows how hard the average Nepalese woman works in the fields and in urban areas, and the price she has to pay is immense. Ethnic Nepalese women sell their own products in the local markets and provide for the family. In other cases, the men give their earnings to their wives and the latter have a feeling of sharing the income, but when it comes to deciding what to buy, it’s always the men who take over. The desires and plans of the women are just ignored. Nepal’s males control property and decide all financial transactions in the family, and the women are left with peanuts. The women cannot take credits from the banks because they never possess anything, and hence have no security. The women tend to be traditionally docile and dependent upon their husbands due to the fact that they’re cut-off from financial sources.

 

The Nepalese men spend the family-savings as they please, for drinks and eating out with their friends, and for their own chauvinistic needs. The women and children, on the other hand, have to do without basic items like clothes and school-fees. The majority of the illiterate and thus socially handicapped women think in the traditional hinduistic way and leave the men to make decisions. Many women also fear that they might lose their positions as family-treasurers.

 

There are a lot of doctors for the rich people in Kathmandu but none for those in the rural, isolated and God-forsaken hamlets of Nepal, and those deprived, hungry souls eking out a miserable existence in the hovels and slums under the Bagmati and Vishnumati bridges. A land where children are jailed if a mother is sentenced for aborting a dead child. The women in Nepal are handicapped from birth till death in their Himalayan environment–in their families, education, farms, offices and in every sphere of life. It’s a long and thorny path till the Nepalese women are accepted as persons, and not as properties that are malleable, and without wills of their own. The Nepalese women have to develop an awareness and self-esteem of their own worth, women’s rights, potential and the important roles they play in the economy of their families and the country in general.

 

According to a Unicef report, the children of Nepal have to start doing important work at an early age. They have to do baby-sitting, gather fire-wood, forage for feed for the domestic animals or drive them to the meadows. These chores take such a lot of time that the children don’t have time for school, especially daughters who have to help in the households at an early age. They have to work eight hours a day and the sons work just half of the time. Most Nepalese children work barefoot and wear inadequate clothing because they cannot afford it. Nevertheless, Nepalese children attract your attention with their attentive looks, open and curious faces and their spontaneous and cheerful laughter. 46 per cent of Nepal’s population are younger than 15 years. And although 45 per cent of the six to eight year olds go to school, only half of them do their primary school exams. Nepal has millions of children without school-education and without carefree childhoods. Education can improve the survival chances of the children because there is a direct relationship between the literacy of women (4 per cent in Nepal) and infant mortality (child-death). In Nepal 134 out of 1000 children die in the first year of their birth.

 

It was only in 1950 that Nepal’s doors were opened to the outside world. Till then we lived in an age of political darkness. To the average Nepalese, going to Kathmandu was traveling to Nepal, because Kathmandu was Nepal. Later, the Panchayat government talked about a decentralised form of government but it was just a hoax. It was very much centralised, and still is, even after the democratic movement in 1990.

 

A lot of men and women lost their lives in their attempt to free themselves from the shackles of the Panchayat government and monarchy, and the result is that there’s no stability in Nepalese politics. There’s a change of government after short terms, with an alarming corruption and nepotism, and the NGOs in the aid-giving countries only shake their heads in disbelief, because their counterparts are shuffled and posted to remote places, depending on their political color.

 

The fact that the Nepalese woman suffers in society is deeply rooted in the social system and the anachronistic and discriminatory, patriarchal, hinduistic Civil Code (Muluki Ain) which was formulated under the reign of a king named Surendra Bikram in 1853. It was modified by King Mahendra (the father of the present King Birendra) in 1963. If a Nepalese woman gives birth to a still-born child she is charged with infanticide on the evidence of a denunciation, without so much as a gynacological examination, and sentenced by the rule of Garbhabat, which is the Nepalese word for: destruction of life. The Nepalese Civil Code was made in a dark age of Nepalese history during which another form of social and cultural values were prevalent. Though the winds of change have swept in the Nepalese kingdom, the Code still remains unchallenged as far as the poorer section of the Nepalese population is concerned.

 

Many women who miscarry hide the evidence by not going for medical tratment and this can lead to infertility or even death. The Nepalese Code assumes that every pregnancy that fails due to natural causes is the fault of the mother –in effect, a deliberate attempt to abort the pregnancy, and it’s horrible to see a woman hauled off to jail as a criminal on top of the personal tragedy of the loss of a child that may have been longed for. It is possible for influential Nepalese women to get away with abortion without much fuss in the male-dominated Nepalese society.

 

Hindu marriage ceremony:

If a Nepalese couple wants to elope and marry fast and cheap, all they do is perform a minimum of ‘tika-talo’ ritual ceremony, and they don’t even have to be registered. The normal hinduistic marriage is elaborate and arranged by the parents and is a family matter in which the caste plays a big role even today. The well-educated bridegrooms of Kathmandu Valley prefer to see a video of the bride-to-be in the case of arranged marriages to avoid the ‘cat-in-the-sack’ phenomenon. For the family of the bride it is a matter of prestige and the marriage is celebrated with much ado, and hundreds of guests are invited. This may have ruinous consequences for the family of the bride, because it means blowing up a lot of borrowed money in case the family isn’t wealthy. The dowry comprises both gifts and money and this is also an incentive for the bridegroom. The tradition is stronger than the legislation .

 

During the marriage ceremony the couple sit down cross-legged in front of the altar where scores of sacrificial objects are spread out on small cups made of banana leaves held together with tooth-pick sticks. The offerings consist of flowers, incense, water, oil-lamps, cinnober-powder, rice, sweets, fruit (depending on the season), coins, and even cloth.

 

Not all the stainless-steel thalis and Meissner porcelain are ritually pure in compari­son to the hand-made natural taparas from banana and other smooth leaves for the Gods and Godesses of the hinduistic pan­theon. The priest who performs the marriage-ceremony is a Benaras-educated Sanskrit-reciting Brahmin. In civil-life he works for the Nepalese government, but since he is a Brahmin by birth, he is often invited to carry out all forms of pujas by the Hindu population of Kathmandu. The house-bahun is consulted, who calculates the time for the rituals to be performed by consulting his astrological calendar. An auspicious day for the wedding has to be found, for the human being is a microcosm of the rhythm of the universe.

 

A young daughter is treated as a holy person, even holier as the cows that you see in the streets of Nepal, Sikkim and India and a young daughter brings a lot of positive aspects or punya to her parents. Normally the parents of the bride wash the feet of both bride and groom. The foot-washing is accompanied by the recitations of vedic lore by the Bahun priest beckoned by the parents of the bride. After that follows the gift-of-the-virgin (kanyadan) ceremony.

 

The bride wears a scarlet seven meter long sari, an embroidered silk blouse, traditional jewelry and her hair is parted in the middle. She wears pearls on her ears decorated with gold. A number of sacrifices are made to the Gods and Goddesses by sprinkling their symbolic effigies with jamara and holy water. This is followed by the entire family chanting “Om jaya jagadisha hare” to the accompaniment of a small ritual drum (dama­ru), the chiming of a bell and the blowing of a conch.

 

And then comes the actual swayamvara-ceremony with the sacrificial fire, which is made in the form of a quadrangle that encloses the ritual article: the sacred altar, with the fire in the centre.

 

Hindu Offerings:

Various offerings are made to the dieties: Ganesh, Agni the God of Fire, the sky, wind, earth, water, and the hinduistic trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Sacrificial rituals have been an essential part of the vedic way of life. The sacrifice is simple but its meaning can be complex. This is followed by the sindur-potay ceremony. The bridegroom has to place vermillion (sindur) as a sign of marriage on the parting of the bride’s hair. A Hindu bride is expected to apply the sindur as long as her husband lives. After that the couple are obliged to walk around the sacrificial fire three times. In Hinduism, Agni (latin: ignis) is not only the God of Fire and ritual but also the fire itself and summons the power of the Sun God Surya to the sacrificial altar.

 

Divorce among Hindus:

Even though Hindu marriages are elaborate, they can be annulled quicker than the marriages that end on the rocks of Reno. The divorce rate among the Nepalese is rising even though most marriages are arranged by the parents. It’s the male who files the divorce because he might have been forced to marry by his parents, and later when he has financial resources and is independent from his father, decides that his spouse is an unsuitable match. A couple is divorced when the man denies the relationship. And if the woman has the misfortune to be pregnant or has children, then she’s stigmatised and branded as immoral.

 

Article 11 of the Nepalese Constitution states that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of sex, but in Article 9 it states that the children of Nepalese male citizens are deemed to be citizens of Nepal by descent. The children of Nepalese female citizens with foreign fathers are considered foreigners, and have to reside in Nepal for fifteen years before they can be granted Nepalese citizenships.

 

Nepalese males should examine their own attitudes towards girls and women in their immediate surroundings. Do our daughters and sons get the same attention, affection and the same status?

 

Motherhood and Child-rearing:

Marriage and rearing children shouldn’t be the sole aim of a woman’s life. In Germany, for instance, there’s an alarming high number of mothers-with-kids (alleinstehende Mütter). Living with a partner seems to have gone haywire and they prefer to live alone, cashing alimony cheques from the fathers of their children or living on hand-outs of the Social Department throughout Germany. The German law makes it possible. The Nepalese women have a tough time in their hinduistic, patriarchal milieus, which hardly give them a chance to get up once they have fallen in the eyes of the pollution-purity professing Hindu society.

 

Despite the sweeping changes that have been introduced in Nepal’s Civil Code since 1975, most women are ignorant of their rights because of the high illiteracy, low self-esteem and lack of self-consciousness. The Nepalese society plays a pivotal role in victimising women who have divorced or have separated from their partners. Widows are not allowed to wear scarlet saris, no wedding necklaces and the vermillion powder called tika. They have to wear white as a sign of mourning . The social stigma attached to these unfortunate women reduces their chances in the marriage-market. Nepalese males prefer chaste, untouched females, almost girl-children, as their brides.

 

After the success of the people’s movement, the new constitution of Nepal was promulgated in November 1990 and broke new ground as far as women’s rights to equality and fair-play are concerned. The State has been given the authority to legislate specific laws for the protection of the special rights of women.

 

Nothing has changed since then in practice. Although provisions have been made in the New Nepalese Constitution (1990) in favour of women, the elections showed that the major parties are not prepared to improve the status of women in Nepal. Women are treated as second-grade citizens and even like servants, as can be seen in the laws relating to property rights, family rights and sexual rights. My question is: Quo vadis Nepal? Will the new government formed by the Maoists, Congress and other parties also take the role of the women in Nepal’s development?

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What others have said about the author:

Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Through Nepalese Eyes’ (www.Lulu.com) sind faszinierend und geben uns die Möglichkeit, unsere Welt mit neuen Augen zu sehen..“ (Alice Grünfelder von Unionsverlag / Limmat Verlag, Zürich).

 

Since 1974 I have been living on and off in Nepal, writing articles and publishing books about Nepal– this beautiful Himalayan country. Even before I knew Satis Shroff personally (later) I was deeply impressed by his articles, which helped me very much to deepen my knowledge about Nepal. Satis Shroff is one of the very few Nepalese writers being able to compare ecology, development and modernisation in the ‘Third’ and ‘First’ World. He is doing this with great enthusiasm, competence and intelligence, showing his great concern for the development of his own country”. (Ludmilla Tüting, journalist and publisher, Berlin).

 

Due to his very pleasant personality and in-depth experience in both South Asian, as well as Western workstyles and living, Satis Shroff brings with him a cultural sensitivity that is refined. His writings have always reflected the positive attributes of optimism, tolerance, and a need to explain and to describe without looking down on either his subject or his reader”. (Kanak Mani Dixit, Himal Southasia, Kathmandu)

 

Satis Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace”. (Bruce Dobler, Professor in Creative Writing MFA, University of Iowa).

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Commentary on Tibet:

Dalai Lama’s Realpolitik: A Policy of Appeasement (Satis Shroff)

 

The Chinese poet Dong Guanfu writes in his blog: “We cannot win the heart of the Tibetans if we only develop their economy. If we cannot manage to understand this, then many other conflicts will follow. There’s no denying that one of the reasons of staging the Olympic Games is that we want to make money. But the greater value of the Games is to strengthen and rejuvenate the spirit of a nation. How many spiritual values can we convey by way of the Olympic torch? This is a question that has to be weighed by the whole Chinese folk, especially the ruling part members (in Beijing). ”

 

The Dalai Lama has threatened to resign as the political leader of the Tibetans in Tibet and the diaspora (USA, India, Nepal and Switzerland), but the protests within Tibet has been rising although Tibet has been hermetically sealed for foreign journalists, and the nabbed demonstrators have been put to show as terrorists, their own outmoded arms on display (Royal Enfield rifles from World War II), knives and a few cartridges. A young monk was shown on TV welcoming and thanking the Chinese Army soldiers as ‘saviours’ by putting the traditional khada scarves on their heads.

 

Never before was a farce staged so badly. It was sickening to watch it, propaganda at its worst. The foreign journalists were obliged to leave Lhasa so that the Chinese propaganda could function without democratic impediments. And the views that have emerged through Xinhuan and Chinese TV are conspicuous through their slanted reporting to the benefit of the rulers in Beijing. The selected foreign-press was invited to Lhasa but this time the younger generation of Tibetan lamas were shown in tears with the words in their mouths, “Tibet is not free!” You could only feel a numbness and a lump in your throat.

 

The world knew already in 2001 that Peking put not only the Tibetans under pressure but consequently cracked down on intellectuals and other Tibetan people, and went even so far as to hang them en masse as political criminals. It is ironical that the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Beijing. One hopes that this will be a lesson to the Olympic Committee, if they are ever in a dilemma of staging the Games in similar countries, where the rights of the individuals are suppressed, and human rights are trampled upon. This goes against the Olympic spirit. But the question of morality and ethics doesn’t seem to arise when political lobbyists are at work, and economic and commercial gains are also a part of the game, in this case, Games. The privileged party elite of Peking and the organisers of many western countries seem to have a common opinion as far as the Olympic Games are concerned, and they all come up with: how could be punish our own sportsmen and women by not letting them take part in the competitions? Think of the gold medal possibilities that might be lost.

 

A sportsman with ethos and integrity would be ashamed to take part in the competitions. Most of the organising and participating nations are against boycotting the Games “because it would damage the sport and the contestants (sic).” On the one side, we have competitors wanting to take part in the Games no matter what it costs. On the other side, there are the one-party organisers in Beijing who see the Tibetans as disturbing elements led by the Dalai Lama clique, although they know very well that this is a cheap lie, fabricated to suits their purpose. Thanks to the Olympic Games 2008, the Chinese elite are in the international limelight, and have been ignoring the critical views of the rest of the world’s leaders and world organisations, and using them for their own purposes. The march of the Chinese troops in Lhasa has shown the real face of China.

 

What are gold medals worth in terms of humanity? A dark shadow has been cast upon the Olympics 2008 and August is nearing, but Peking is adamant. It’s still playing the olde, hackneyed melody, instead of listening to the Tibetans and the conscience of the world that are demanding equal human rights and justice, tolerance and respect for China’s minorities. The sportsmen and women have got nothing to lose their fame in the form of gold medals and money from future sponsors, but the Tibetans and the Chinese have a lot to win in terms of human values, tolerance, compassion and togetherness—a Miteinander.

 

I met an old German lady yesterday on my way from downtown Freiburg and she said, “Herr Shroff, you should have seen the film about the Lhasa-Peking train in Fernsehen. It was fantastic. They even have oxygen-masks, like in the Airbus, for the passengers who feel weak. How thoughtful of them!”

 

It is a fact that China has opened to the economic benefits of the western world, but in the jurisprudence sector, China this big Asian giant, is still an underdeveloped country and more paragraphs on human and individual rights have yet to be added before China’s Communist Party can speak of equal rights like others in the comity of nations. China’s leaders have been keeping its own Han-folk in the dark through the usage of propaganda by treating the Tibetans who protest in public as criminals. But the worst part of this propaganda war is that the Han-Chinese have become gullible and actually believe the theatre that has all the while been presented by Xinhua and CCTV. Moreover, the Han-Chinese believe that they freed the poor Tibetans from slavery and feudalism. The reality is, however, complex, because the Tibetan folk have their own script, scriptures, their own history of development, their mentality, psyche, religion, traditions and rich culture. When you see a Tibetan monk or youth throwing stones, it is a metaphor of a David who is trying to raise his hand against a Goliath (Han-Chinese), and this protest has nothing to do with criminality in the ordinary sense of the word. The real crime was committed when Han-Chinese overran the Tibetan Plateau and robbed the Tibetans of their religion, language, culture and outlawed them after the principle: A good Tibetan is a Han-Tibetan.

 

There was a time when the Dalai Lama was a welcome guest, as the spititual and temporal ruler of Tibet, and he was feted by rich and poor alike, by academicians and statesmen. Even the town of Freiburg showed that we were in solidarity with him, his folk and his cause. Now we are silent when Tibet needs us. The Olympic spirit and Machtpolitik should not be allowed to go hand in hand. We have had parallels in Berlin in 1936 and Moscow in 1980. The International Olympic Committee has made a terrible mistake in awarding Peking, at this stage of its power-politics, the privilege of staging the Olympic Games.

 

Come August and the Games are really staged in Beijing, this will be the unkindest cut for the people of Tibet, the peace-loving Dalai Lama, the man who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in Stockholm, lest we forget, by the western world. The Dalai Lama has been all along constantly following a pragmatic Realpolitik, for the only way to bring China to reason is through the practice of patience, far-sightedness, pragmatism and non-violence in the spirit of Gandhiji and Martin Luther King.

 

The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying that China’s re-settlement policy is a “demographic aggression” and that China is a Police-State with “the rule of terror.” How are the Europeans reacting to all this? The EU Commissioner Ferrero Waldner threatened with an Olympia boycott and the EU foreign minister demanded that Peking should carry out a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. According to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the EU foreign ministers want to invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels. The EU parliament has already extended its invitation to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. China’s Jiang Yu from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs naturally protested.

 

Tibet and China are an unequal brotherhood sealed by fate, destiny, kismet, history. Tibet was ignored for centuries but globalisation has caught up with Peking after the Han-Chinese marched into Lhasa and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee or face imprisonment.

 

It can only be hoped that the Beijing government gives up the path of brutal confrontation, does a bit of soul searching and turns to the peaceful path of conflict solution through dialogue at the same eye-level, and not from above-to-below with its minorities. Since the Chinese and Tibetans (government in exile at Dharamsala) obviously are not in a position to carry out talks together, it would be better if Beijing consented to talks with UN mediators.

 

There is no denying that the Olympic Games are a competitive festival of sports and cultures, but how can people of different cultures celebrate when war-tanks and the Chinese Army are holding the Tibetan folk back in Lhasa, “Jhokang-market, and people in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Tongren (Rebkong) in the province Qinghai? The situation is similar to 1989 when ten thausand Tibetans demonstrated against the Chinese regime.In those days Perking imposed military rule over Lhasa, and sent its People’s Army to the streets. Hundreds of monks were imprisoned, many were shot.

 

Today, a new generation of monks and Tibetan angry youth have grown up and are only trying to fight for their human rights, as members of Homo sapiens. Even the Dalai Lama spoke of more autonomy, mind you, within the framework of the Chinese constitution. What the Tibetans want are equal rights and freedom from the cultural domination of thousands of Han Chinese, who have been re-settled by Beijing’s policy makers with the result that the Tibetans have become a minority in their own country. This is certainly not what the Tibetans and the western world understand under ‘autonomy.’

 

For centuries Tibet was the ‘autonomous region’ of China. But the Tibetans have been deprived of their very autonomy with the creation of a Chinese governor. China has in the past regarded the Himalayan countries as its phalanx, and has fought fiercely against India in 1962 over the border areas. There’s a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai atmosphere, as the two big South Asian powers vie with each other for economic and commercial gains and cooperation, as evident newly between the Indian and Chinese troops that took part in military exercises. I remember a similar military exercise at the invitation of the Indian Army. A Chinese general had been invited and the Indian Army demonstrated its fire-power. The Chinese general applauded the firepower of his neighbour, then added: “Wonderful, but can you produce this same firepower under Himalayan conditions?” And truly enough, in 1962 the Chinese troops had a better fire-power than the Indians and were no match for the thoroughly trained mountain divisions of China.

 

The Lingua franca of Tibet is not Tibetan now but Standard Chinese, for the Han Chinese are out to develop Tibet and its people culturally, economically, socially and psychologically after the motto: there’s no better culture than the Han culture.

 

In the Kindergardens and schools of Tibet most of the lessons are held in Chinese, and not Tibetan. If one speaks Tibetan, one risks losing one’s job. When the Tibetan parents speak with the teachers they are obliged to do so only in Chinese, even though they are Tibetans. If this isn’t cultural imperialism, then what is it?

 

Even though some athletes are showing character and personal integrity by protesting as individuals spontaneously, the majority, however, do want to take part in the Games. Like for instance the German spear-thrower Christina Obergföll who said: “The boycott would steal the chance of a lifetime.” The manager of Sabine Spitz (mountain-bike discipline) said: “The boycott will only punish the athletes.”

 

Beijing has to listen to the Dalai Lama and his followers in the West, and in Tibet, and take to dialogue, instead of playing the hardliner and condemning and slandering His Holiness and his ‘so-called clique.’ The former spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet has serious and sincere intentions as far as the future of Tibet is concerned The communist politicians in Beijing have to realise that the only way to peace and stability in this former poverty-stricken country of monks, farmers and nomads is not through the use of force (Gewalt) but through well-meant consessions through dialogue, and by raising the status of the Tibetans to that of the Han-Chinese, and letting and encouraging them to develop Tibet together, and not by regarding Tibet’s wonderful culture and religion as something inferior and exotic. We can all learn from Tibet’s rich culture. Beijing has more to gain if it follows the path of peace, tolerance and Miteinander (togetherness) instead of using cheap propaganda to stage a Peking Opera with Tibetans as the culprits, which no one with a conscience, character and integrity wants to see. The scenario is well-known in the western world and no propaganda in this world can help the Chinese government in this particular issue.

 

The Han and other Chinese have the chance to prove to the world that they can practice social welfare and social development by giving the Tibetans the same autonomy, same status as the other Chinese. Otherwise, Beijing’s political goals remain a farce, reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’: all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others.

 

The Ocean of Wisdom (Satis Shroff)

 

Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual and former

Temporal ruler of Tibet,

Came to a town in the Black Forest

And conquered the hearts of the Freiburger.

A lama in a back limousine,

Applauded by hundreds of Europeans and Asians.

You could feel the goose-pimples in your body,

Tears of joy came to your eyes.

His Holiness prays and blesses

The Tibet Kailash Haus,

A thousand Tibetan prayer flags

Flutter merrily in the wind,

Carrying the mumbled words to Himmel.

 

At the Freiburger Town Council

Says the lama:

Nations, races, social classes

Even religions are secondary.

What is important is that

We are all human beings.

 

Even the sun breaks through the clouds

When Tenzin Gyatso folds his hands,

Smiles from the balcony,

And throws flying kisses

To the German masses.

Even Petrus seems to be smile in Heaven.

 

The Ambassador of Peace

Hopes for a peaceful change,

In Tibet, the Roof of the World,

Where the economy booms

Under the control of the Chinese,

But where democracy and human rights

Are still stifled.

 

I remember seeing His Holiness

As a child in the foothills of the Himalayas,

As he fled across the Abode of the Snows.

Crowds thronged with snow white khadas,

To greet the Dalai Lama.

And here was I in Germany

With my humble prayers,

And there His Holiness,

Blessing us all,

The personification of the Ocean of Wisdom.

 

A seventy-two year old monk,

With the charisma and spontaneity of a child.

A message which said:

Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist or atheist,

If you have compassion for humans,

You can’t be wrong.’

What counts are the inner values

Within us:

Love, forgiveness, tolerance and self-discipline.

Religions help us to make these values even stronger.

Like the inner love and dialogue,

Between a mother and a child,.

To create a Century of Dialogue.

 

 

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