Satis Shroff: A Zeitgeist Poet from the Himalayas


Ein Zeitgeist Dichter aus dem Himalaya
Miteinander, Liebe, Frieden und Gedichte (Togetherness, Love, Peace, Gurkhas and the Poetry)




Tell me something about yourself.

I teach Creative Writing at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. http://www.zfs.uni-freiburg.de/zfs/dozent/lehrbeauftragte4/index_html/#shroff. I’m a lecturer, poet and writer and have published three books: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelogue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff). My 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. I’m a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer (London).

What else do you write on?

Besides poems, I also write fiction, non-fiction and am open to different genres. I also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes.

How come you’ve switched from Science to Literature?


I studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal and used to write a science column in The Rising Nepal besides my other editorial duties like interviewing newcomers to Katmandu who wanted to search for the Yeti, climb mountains, study the Himalayas and its inhabitants (geologists, anthropologists, writers, journalists). Later I came to Germany and studied Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom.
How do you describe yourself?
I like functioning as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and I see my future as a writer, poet and artist. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, I’m dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in my writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander in this world. My work in Basle and at the University of Freiburg are excellent outlets and I really enjoy teaching and writing.

Where do you lecture?

I lecture in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Akademie für medizinische Berufe (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Zentrum für Schlüsselqualifikationen (University of Freiburg where I’m a Lehrbeauftragter for Creative Writing). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.

How many languages do you speak?

I can speak English, German, Nepali, Hindi, and a bit of Urdu, Bengali and Sindhi. I love changing from German into English and prefer the sound of the Basler and Badische dialects. If a student doesn’t understand a difficult theme, it’s great to use one’s resources and explain it in his or her tongue. My kids speak German, French, English, Italian and enjoy singing sacral songs in Latin because they all attend the Freiburger Dom Choirs in their spare time. We have a great deal of cultural exchange in the family and have school kids from France, England who stay with us and our kids go to their homes in neighbouring France, England and recently also Canada. It’s a lovely, open atmosphere and a Miteinander, a togetherness, that enriches our lives.

You’ve written about and translated ‘The Poetry of Nepal’ in The American Chronicle into German. What was the purpose ?

I wanted to give the poets of the Himalayas a helping hand since poets from that corner of the world haven’t made an impact, aside from Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was a Bengali Nobel Prize). There are a few writers from Nepal such as Greta Rana (UK, Nepal), Manjushree Thapa, Samrat Upadhya (USA), Kanak and Kunda Dixit, and a host of Indian writers from Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger) to Salman Rushdie.

You were cited as a poet, who writes about Nepal’s struggle for democracy and a republican status, using Nepalese metaphors?

I like writing political poetry: about the war in Nepal, the sad fate of the Nepalese people, the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany. Sandra Siegel, a poet and teacher from Germany is right when she writes thus: ‘His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. In writing ‘home,’ Satis Shroff 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 is 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.’

I like to think of myself as a Zeitgeist poet who not only writes on different themes but primarily about the Zeitgeist, and that’s precisely what moves us daily. Here are a few poems I wrote about the war in Nepal in which the Maoists played a big role. I studied in Kathmandu and during those days a lot of the students were fascinated by Maoism and used to acquire Mao’s Red Bible and Kim Il Sung’s books. Even then you had the impression that something was cooking in the Himalayas and the result was a ten year war between the government’s armed forces and the Maoists. The war is long over, Prachanda’s Maoist army has taken over the former kingdom, King Gyanendra Shah has been ousted, the Narayanhiti Palace is now a museum, the Maoists have given up their arms, and the Maoist PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal has resigned after an eight month stint, because of a quarrel with the Army Chief Rukmangat Katawal, who has refused to enlist the Maoist fighters in the Nepalese Army. The streets of Katmandu are still burning and the young people are getting louder. Wither Nepal?


HOPE IN THE SHADOW OF THE HIMALAYAS (Satis Shroff)


Hush, an unholy alliance made the rounds,
The political parties and the Maoists are united.
They rattle their sabres no more,
Under Vishnu’s bed of serpents.

Narad brings us good news.
We don’t have to shiver together in angst.
There is hope in the Himalayas.
Hope of a separation of powers,
Hope of free elections,
Hope of fair trials before impartial tribunals,
Hope of amnesty.
We’ll do what Nepalese normally do:
Wait and drink Ilam tea,
And watch the scenario unfurl,
In the shadow of the Himalayas.

Glossary:

Narad: A heavenly messenger mentioned in the Rig-veda, he was a great Rishi, chief of the heavenly musicians who invented the lute.
Vishnu: The second God of the Hindu-triad, preserver and restorer, the supreme being from whom all things emanate.
_____________________

Not in Nepal (Satis Shroff)

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.
The religion is too much with us,
Within us.

*****

A THOUSAND DEATHS (Satis Shroff)

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
And Tamang and other ethnic 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.

No roads, no schools,
Beyond the beaten trekking paths
Live the poorer families of Nepal.
Sans drinking water,
Sans hospitals,
Where aids and children’s work prevail.

*****

Development and Destruction (Satis Shroff)

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.

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 Nepalese
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.

******

Child Soldiers (Satis Shroff)


Nepali children have no chance,
But to take sides
To take to arms not knowing the reason
Against whom and why.
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.

*****

Time Stands Still in Nepal (Satis Shroff)

Globalisation has changed the world fast,
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, Romania,
Poland, East Germany and Iraq?
The Maobadis will be 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’d prefer a republican rule
To monarchy in Nepal.

*****

GUNS INSTEAD BOOKS (Satis Shroff)


My academic friends have changes sides,
From Mandalay to Congress
From Congress to the Maobadis.
The students from Dolpo and Silgadi.
Dolpo, unforgettable through Peter Mathiessen
In his quest for his inner self,
And his friend George Schaller’s search
For the snow leopard.
The 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,
And defended socialist ideas
At His Majesty’s Central Hostel in Tahachal.
I see their earnest faces, with guns in their arms,
Instead of books,
Boisterous and ready
To fight to the end
For a cause they cherish
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 capitalist 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.


Do you have nostalgia for your former country?

Nostalgia is normal for a person who has left his country and settled down in the country of his choice. When nostalgia for the Himalayas overcomes me, I invite friends and we cook Nepalese and North Indian food, listen to traditional lyrics, talk in German, Nepali and English, read books written by South Asian authors, discuss about them and enjoy dal, bhat, shikar, with phulkas, chapatis, parathas, achar and chutneys from our own garden. Cooking is something I’ve learned from my Mom. We used to have Nepali, North Indian, Tibetan and Chinese cusine at home. I also love the Badische cusine as well as the Italian pasta dishes and Swiss raclette. We even have a Potentilla nepalensis in our garden. Most of the time I listen to classical music composed by European composers: Bach, Brahms, Mozart piano sonatas, Beethoven’s Klaviersonaten, Hayden, Händel, Chopin’s waltzes. I appreciate Anne-Sophie Mutter and love Hilary Hahn’s interpretations of allegro molto, the Lark Ascending. I also like Glenn Gould’s interpretation on the piano. I listen to the lyrics of Shambhu Rai, Suresh Kumar’s love songs and Ram Krishna Dhakal’s gazals. Back to nostalgia: home is where your heart is, and it is in Germany’s Black Forest. I remember going over to Bonn and handing in my Nepalese passport at the Nepalese Embassy, because if you want a German one you have to give up your former citizenship. My friend Novel Kishor Rai, was the ambassador, and together we helped to repatriate a lot of Nepalese who had come to Germany to seek asylum following the democratic movement in the nineties. The German authorities had declared Nepal to be safe for all political party members and so they were obliged to leave Germany. The Nepalese were spartanic in their ways, earned a bit of money and gladly went home.


TIMES CHANGE (Satis Shroff)


It’s raining in Kathmandu Valley,
The last showers of the summer monsoon.
Grey-haired, I sit in a taxi
In front of the city of Bhaktapur,
The town re-built by Germans.

A teenage tourist guide comes
To my window, peers at me and my wife Karin
And says, ‘Sir, wollen Sie Bhaktapur sehen?’
He speaks German, this young man, an ethnic Rai.
A Nepalese who wants to show a Nepalese
The city of Bhadgaon.

I reply politely in Nepali and thank him.
He returns to his fellow guides and says,
‘The uncle speaks super Nepali.’

* * *

At the German Doctor’s (Satis Shroff)

My small daughter Elena’s middle-ear is inflamed
I go to our German child-doctor.
He examines her and curses her left ear,
Which is red 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.

___________________________________________________________________

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 electric-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?
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MY NIGHTMARE (Satis Shroff)


When the night is not too cold
And when my bed isn’t cold
I dream of a land far away.
A land where a king rules his realm,
A land where there are still peasants without rights,
Who plough the fields that don’t belong to them.
A land where the children have to work,
And have no time for daydreams,
Where girls cut grass and sling heavy baskets on their backs.
Tiny feet treading up the steep path.
A land where the father cuts wood from sunrise till sunset,
And brings home a few rupees.
A land where the innocent children stretch their right hands,
And are rewarded with dollars.
A land where a woman gathers white, red, yellow and crimson
tablets and pills,
From the altruistic world tourists who come her way.
Most aren’t doctors or nurses,
But they distribute the pills,
With no second thoughts about the side-effects.
The Nepali woman possesses an arsenal,
Of potent pharmaceuticals.
She can’t read the finely printed instructions,
For they are in German, French, English, Czech,
Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.
What does she care, the hieroglyphs are always there.
Black alphabets appear like an Asiatic buffalo to her.
‘Kala akshar,
Bhaisi barabar,’
Says the Nepali woman,
For she can neither read nor write.

The very thought of her
Giving the bright pills and tablets
To another ill Nepali child or mother,
Torments my soul.
How ghastly this thoughtless world
Of educated trekkers,
Who give medical alms and play
The macabre role of physicians,
In the amphitheatre of the Himalayas.

Glossary:
kala: Schwarz
akshar: Buchstaben, Schrift
bhaisi: asiatische Büffel
barabar: gleich, vergleichbar mit
___________________________________________________________________

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 preserver 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 is, 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 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.
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The Gurkhas are the elite troops of Britain. Do you think they’ve been given a bad deal throughout the years in the British Army?

Yes indeed, even though they have been fighting under the Union Jack since 200 years, they are still discriminated in the British society due to the MoD’s strange, colonial attitude towards these brave and smart warriors. The migrants from Britain’s former colonies (Jamaica, Karachi, Delhi, Dacca) are given UK passports and equal rights but the children of the Gurkhas are not allowed to go to English schools, study at UK universities and are obliged to return to Nepal. The older generation of Gurkhas are regarded as gerontological liabilities and pushed off to Nepal, like the former guest workers in Germany. I have the impression that the British haven’t realised that Gurkhas are humans with emotions, and have a right to a slice of so-called British life-style and equal rights. Here are two appropriate poems to describe the situation of the Gurkhas and their dependants in the craggy hills of Nepal.

Zeitgeistlyrik:

The Gurkhas Win, Labour Capitulates (Satis Shroff)


Ayo Gurkhali!
The Gurkhas are upon you!
This was the battle-cry
That filled the British heart
With pride and admiration,
And put the foe in fear.

Now the Gurkhas are not upon you.
They are with you,
Among you,
In London,
Guarding the Queen at the Palace,
Doing security checks
For VIPs
And for Claudia Schiffer,
The Sultan of Brunei.
Johnny Gurkhas
Or as the Brits prefer:
Johnny Gurks.

Sir Ralph Turner,
An adjutant of the Gurkhas
In World War I said:
‘Uncomplaining you endure
Hunger, thirst and wounds;
And at the last,
Your unwavering lines
Disappear into smoke
And wrath of battle.’

Another General Sir Francis Tuker
Spoke of the Gurkhas:
‘Selfless devotion to the British cause,
Which can be hardly matched
By any race to another
In the whole history of the world..
Why they should have
Thus treated us,
Is something of a mystery.’

9000 Gurkhas died
For the Glory of England,
23,655 were severely wounded
Or injured.
Military glory for the Gurkhas:
2734 decorations,
Mentions in despatches,
Gallantry certificates.

Nepal’s mothers paid dearly
For England’s glory.
And what do I hear?
The vast silence of the Gurkhas.
England had failed miserably
To match the Gurkha’s loyalty
And affection
For the British.

Faith binds humans
The Brits have shown
They have faith
In the bravery and loyalty,
Honesty, sturdiness, steadfastness
Of the Gurkhas.

Did the souls of the perished Gurkhas
Have faith in the British?
Souls of Gurkhas long dead and forgotten,
Lingered long,
Seeking justice
At the hands of Queen Victoria
And Queen Elizabeth II,
Warlords, or was it warladies,
They died for?

How has the loyalty and special relations
Been rewarded in England
Since the Treaty of Segauli
On March 4, 1816 ?
A treaty that gave the British
The right to recruit Nepalese.

When it came to her own kind,
Her Majesty the Queen
Was generous.
She lavishly bestowed lands,
Lordships and knighthoods
To those who served the crown well,
Added more feathers to England’s fame.
A Bombay-born Salman Rushdie
Got a knighthood from the Queen,
For his Satanic and other verses.
So did Brits who played classic and pop.

When it came to the non-British,
Alas, Her majesty feigned myopia.
She saw not the 200 years
Of blood-sacrifice
On the part of the Gurkhas:
In the trenches of Europe,
The jungles of Borneo,
In far away Falklands,
Crisis-ridden Croatia
And war-torn Iraq.

Blood, sweat and tears,
Eking out a meagre existence
In the craggy hills of Nepal
And Darjeeling.
The price of glory was high
Fighting in the killing-fields
Of Delhi, the Black Mountains,
Khyber Pass, Gilgit, Ali Masjid.
Warring against Wazirs, Masuds,
Yusafzais and Orakzais
In the North-West Frontier.
And against the Abors,
Nagas and Lushais
In the North-East Frontier.
Neuve Chapelle in France,
A hill named Q in Gallipoli.
Suez and Mesopotamia.
In the Second Word War
Battling for Britain
In North Africa, South-East Asia,
Italy and the Retreat from Burma.

The Queen graciously passed the ball
And proclaimed from Buckingham Palace:
‘The Gurkha issue
Is a matter for the ruling government.’
Thus prime ministers came and went,
Akin to the fickle English weather.
The resolute Queen remained,
Like Chomolungma,
The Goddess Mother of the Earth,
Above the clouds in her pristine glory,
But the Gurkha issue prevailed.

‘Draw up a date
To give the Gurkhas their due,’
Was the order from 10 Downing Street.
‘OMG,
We can’t pay for the 200 years.
We’ll be ruined as a ruling party,
When we do that,’
Said the Labour under Gordon Brown.

A sentence like a guillotine.
Was the injustice done to the Gurkhas
Of service to the British public?
It was like adding insult
To injury.
Thus Tory and Labour governments came
And went,
The Gurkha injustice remained.
All Englishmen cannot be gentlemen,
Especially politicians.

England got everything
Out of the Gurkha.
Squeezed him like a lemon,
Discarded and banned
From entering London
And its frontiers,
When he developed ageing problems.

‘Go home with your pension
But don’t come back.
We hire young Gurkhas
Our NHS doesn’t support pensioned invalids.’
Johnny Gurkha wonders aloud:
‘Why they should have thus
Treated us,
Is a mystery.’

Till lady Joanna Lumley, Prince Charles
And even Brown’s own Labour members,
Took the matter in their hands
And gave the Gurkha veterans the right
To stay on in the UK.
.
Meanwhile, life in the terraced hills of Nepal,
Where fathers toil on the stubborn soil,
And children work in the steep fields
A broken, wrinkled old mother waits,
For a meagre pension
From Her Majesty’s Government,
Beyond the craggy Himalayas
Across the Kala Pani,
The Black Waters.

Faith builds a bridge
Between Johnny Gurkhas
And British Tommies,
Comrades-at-arms,
Between Nepal and Britain.
The smart, sturdy Gurkha makes
A cheerful countenance,
And sings:
‘Resam piriri,’
An old trail song
Heard in the Himalayas.

--------------------------

Lyrik: A GURKHA MOTHER (Satis Shroff)
(Death of a Precious Jewel)


The gurkha with a khukri
But no enemy
Works for the Queen of England
And yet gets shot at,
In missions he doesn't comprehend.
Order is hukum,
Hukum is life
Johnny Gurkha still dies
Under foreign skies.

He never asks why
Politics isn't his style
He has fought against all and sundry:
Turks, Tibetans, Italians and Indians
Germans, Japanese, Chinese
Argentineans and Vietnamese.
Indonesians and Iraqis.

Loyal to the utmost
Never fearing a loss,

The loss of a mother's son
From the mountains of Nepal.

Her grandpa died in Burma
For the glory of the British.
Her husband in Mesopotemia
She knows not against whom
No one did tell her.
Her brother fell in France,
Against the Teutonic hordes.
She prays to Shiva of the Snows for peace
And her son's safety.
Her joy and her hope
Farming on a terraced slope.

A son who helped wipe her tears,
Ease the pain in her mother's heart.
A frugal mother who lives by the seasons,
Peers down to the valleys
Year in and year out
In expectation of her soldier son.

A smart Gurkha is underway
Heard from across the hill with a shout
'It’s an officer from his brigade.
A letter with a seal and a poker-face
"Your son died on duty," he says,
"Keeping peace for the Queen of England
And the United Kingdom."

A world crumbles down
The Nepalese mother cannot utter a word
Gone is her son,
Her precious jewel.
Her only insurance and sunshine
In the craggy hills of Nepal.
And with him her dreams
A spartan life that kills.

* * *
Have you also written some poems on the eternal theme love?


Love Songs On a Misty Morning (Satis Shroff)


Do You Remember?
On a misty morning at Pokhara,
We sat in a dugout canoe
With our college friends.

The misty veil slowly disappeared.
Mirrored on the turquoise waters
Of the lake Phewa
Were the virgin white peaks
Crowned by Machhapuchare,
The fish-tailed one.
Placid, serene, majestic,
A moment of magic.

Do you remember?
The love songs I sang from our canoe,
Strumming on my guitar
Were meant for you.
For you alone.
Even the Himalayan birds
Stopped chirping
To eavesdrop at our wondrous melodies,
Like at a Rodighar.

Our friends sang in chorus:
Nepalese folk-songs,
Bollywood and English lyrics
On that misty morning.

Songs sung in chorus
To share our feelings
Of the beauty of Nature
And human attachments.
Breaking the tranquillity
Of the misty morning in the Lake Phewa.
A motley symphony in the morning.

The elderly Phewa-fisher smiled,
As he rowed the long canoe.
A knowing smile,
For he too had sung love lyrics
When he was young.
A frugal life in the Annapurna hills,
Trying hard to make ends meet.

He had his life behind him,
We had ours before us.
Life was cruel,
But love was everywhere.


The Symphony of the Morning (Satis Shroff)


I discern the recurring chirps and whistles
Of the birds in the vast foliage of an oak tree,
A German Eiche.

Whistles, chirps, hoots
And melodious symphony,
Like the incessant waves
Slashing on the shores of the Atlantic.

A single bird gives the tact,
A strong monotonous chirp.
The others follow suit,
Not in unison
But in harmony.

You hear so many melodies
When you eavesdrop
In the quiet comfort of your bed.
The natural symphony of the morning:
Adagio, crescendo,
It’s all there
For your fine ears.

* * *
I Saw Love (Satis Shroff)

One wintry evening I saw love.
She wore glasses
At the university dancing classes.
We danced fox-trot, cha-cha
Then came the rumba.

I looked deep into her sky blue eyes.
Eyes so blue,
Without a hint of a cloud.
Clear blue eyes,
Like the waters
Of the Maladives.

A joyous feeling overcame me.
My hormones were out of control.
My cardiac status said ‘tachycardie.’
My lungs began to over-function.
Hyperventilation.
My knees were sagging.

By Jove, I’d fallen in love.

-------------------------------------------
Thoughts About You (Satis Shroff)

When I’m alone
I think about you.
When I’m with others
I think about you.

About the way you speak
The way you walk
The way you eat
The way you ask questions
The way you answer my questions.

I think about the way you are.
Your blue eyes
Your well-formed nose
Your blonde hair
Your voice.

I think of the battles we’ve fought
Situations we’ve mastered together,
Against all and sundry.
I think of our closeness,
Are we just a team,
Or merely a nice couple?
There’s more to it.
There’s love that glows.

* * *

Have you also written a poem on poetry?


On Poetry (Satis Shroff)

An established bard motivated me,
A poet from the American mainstream.
Words of praise that soothed
And amused me.
He compared my lyrical fragments
With works of poets
Of whom I’d never heard.

A protest poem about a drunk landlady
Reminded of W. H. Auden.
A ballad about a Gurkha mother
He said: ‘the best of Auden
And E.E. Cummings in tone here.’

Namaste,
Auf wiedersehen.
Auf wiedersehen,
Namaste.
I greet the godliness in you.
We shall see again.

‘There is such a surprise and delight.
A triumphant moment (here).
A small miracle of revelation

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