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THE NAKED HILLS (Satis Shroff)

A young Nepalese woman
Sits in front of her parents’ thatched home
In the Middle Hills of Nepal.

Her two hands caress her shoulders.
It’s cold in the hills of Nepal,
Where the hills are naked
And its sons have left
In search of better pastures,
For the hills are barren.

Governments and kings
Have come and gone,
But the poverty has remained.
There’s no flour to bake one’s bread.
The mothers seek and pluck Brennessel,
And call it sisnu,
To make a soup
In the frugal hills of Nepal.

In Maghey Sankrati we eat
Stems and roots,
Tarul and sweet-potatoes.
There’s no wheat, maize, rice or mustard
In these naked hills.
Everything has become bitter.

What remains is love and attachment.
A Nepalese bird still sings:
Kafal pakyo.
Kafal pakyo.
The berry’s ripe

Glossary:
Brennessel (Ger.): sisnu (Nepali), stinging nettle
Maghey Sankrati: festival in Nepal
---------------------------------

THE GODS HAVE LEFT (Satis Shroff)

I walk at a snail’s pace
Watch the statues and works of art
From my homeland in the Himalayas.

I discover the Hindu pantheon
The bodhisattvas and exquisite tantric figures
Meditating in ecstatic poses.
Such a long journey have they made,
From the Himalayas to Heidelberg,
Brought by Hippie hagglers out to make a buck.

Incense sticks, temple bells,
Printed Tibetan and Hindu prayers
On fine cotton cloth.
Stacks of vedic verses, sutras
And upanishads.

Is it a museum?
A monastery?
Or a temple in Europe?
No, it’s a stall at Freiburg’s potato-market.

The Gods have left Kathmandu Valley forever.
To decorate the living rooms of Europeans.
For them they are conversation pieces,
For us they are Gods and Goddesses,
To be revered and worshipped.
---------------------------------------------

SHAME (Satis Shroff)

Should I be shamed
To have fallen in love,
With a lady outside my caste,
Outside my religion?

Do I have to apologise
For my intercultural adventure?
To whom shall I apologise?

To my dear old mother
Who lost her status in society
Since she became a widow,
And now emits groans of emptiness?

To my sister who prefers
A life as a virgin,
Than under the yoke
Of a man-of-letters,
Foreign-educated
But no manners
Towards ladies?

To my motherland,
Where school children
Are abducted and indoctrinated,
To work for collective farms?

Times have changed even in Nepal.

The Maoists have usurped the land
And are now a power
To be reckoned with.

Your sons have left
For better chances and homes.
Nepal’s proverbial hospitality is no more
The people have more than their share of grief.
The cheerful ghasi geet has gone,
Women and children wear camouflage attires.
The sickle and khukri have disappeared
And now they hold modern guns.

How many widows, fatherless children
Have these weapons cost?
In Nepal children have to play
With luxurious toys.
Toys that kill
Or be killed.

All Nepalese are equal
Some Nepalese are always
More equal than the others.
That is the shame of my land.

Centuries of corruption,
Nepotism and misrule.
A bonded people in isolation.
A once forbidden kingdom
Has become a terror state.

Throw down the weapons,
Gurkhas or Maoists,
Royalists, democrats,
Communists or terrorists.

Use your cerebral cells
Not lethal guns.

Glossary:
Ghasi geet: grass-cutter’s song
Kuukri: curved Nepalese multipurpose knife
Gurkhas: The King’s soldiers

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

SUMMERTIME (Satis Shroff)

I sat in the garden
With Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure on my lap,
And saw a small butterfly
With dark spots on its frail wings,
Violet patterns on its tail.
It was Aglais utricae
Flattering lightly
Between the marigolds
And chrysanthemums.

The Potentilla nepalensis
Was growing well
Under the shade of the rhododendrons.
The great pumpkin was spreading
Its leafy tentacles everywhere.
The tomatoes were fighting for light
Hiding beneath its gigantic green leaves.

A Papilio machaon with its swallow-tail
Came from no where.
The laughter of the children,
As they swung in the garden’s two swings
Were a delight to one’s soul.

Little Florentin’s fear of bees,
Natasha’s morbid fear of spiders,
Elena’s garden gymnastics
And Julian’s delight in discovering
New insects, snails and snakes.

Holding hands we strolled in our garden.
You watered the flowers and trees,
I removed long, brown snails,
A hobby-gardener of Nepalese descent,
In a lovely house with character in Zähringen,
An Allemanic stronghold.
Once the subject of dispute
Between Austria and France,
Now a sleepy residential area of Freiburg.
-----------------------------------------------

WHAT IS LIFE? (Satis Shroff)

Life is the warmth
Of our kisses
In moments of passion
And sensuality.

Life is not only our kisses
But also those of our lovely children.

Life is the helplessness and injustice
In the lives of people living,
Under the shadow of the far-off Himalayas.

Life isn’t helplessness and injustice alone
We have to ask how it happened
To avoid them in the future.
Seek and find a solution,
And not let it happen again.

Life is five million Germans
Who are officially jobless
And the other millions
Who tighten their belts.

Life is to choose better politicians
And not let the rightists come again.
That’s life.


About the poet:

Satis Shroff is a writer based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Sozialarbeit in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and Manchester.

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. In 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).

He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. He is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Nepal’s literary heritage and culture in his writings and in preserving Nepal’s identity in Germany. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize for 1998.

Writing experience: Satis Shroff has written two language books on the Nepali language in German for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag. He has written feature articles in the Munich-based Nelles Verlag’s ‘Nepal’ on the Himalayan Kingdom’s Gurkhas, sacred mountains and Nepalese symbols and on Hinduism in ‘Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) and his poem ‘Mental Molotovs’ was published in epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt). He has written many articles in The Rising Nepal, The Christian Science Monitor, the Independent, the Fryburger, Swatantra Biswa (USIS publication, Himal Asia, 3Journal Freiburg, top ten rated poems in www.nepalforum.com and also articles, book-reviews and poems in www.inso.org, www.isj.com, www.inls.org, www.paradesh.org, www.peacejournalism.com, see also in www.google & www.yahoo search under: Satis Shroff (for poems, essays, articles and reviews).

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