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Poems by Satis Shroff

HARMONY FOR THE HEART

As the Breisgau-train dashes in the Black Forest,
Between Elztal and Freiburg,

I am with my thoughts in South Asia.
I saunter towards Swayambhu in Nepal,
The hill of the Self-Existent One.
‘Om mane peme hum’ stirs in the air,
As a lama passes by.
I’m greeted by cries of Rhesus monkeys,
Pigeons, mynahs, crows,

The whole world is full of music,
Making it, feasting on it,
Dancing and nodding to it.
Music has left its cultural confines.

The train stops at Zähringen-Freiburg.
I get off and look at the blue-green forest in the distance.
It’s Springtime.
As I approach my home at the Pochgasse,
I discern Schumann’s sonate number 3,
Played by Vladimir Horowitz.

That’s harmony for the heart.


Glossary:

Bahn: train
Mumbai: Bombay
Bueb: small male child
Chen: Verniedlichung, like Babu-cha in Newari
Schwarzwald: The Black Forest of south-west Germany
Miteinander: togetherness

*****

THE LURE OF THE HIMALAYAS

500 years ago near the town of Kashgar,
I, a blue-eyed stranger in local clothes was captured
By the sturdy riders of Vali Khan.
On August 26, 1857
I, Adolph Schlagintweit,
a German traveller, an adventurer,
Was beheaded as a spy without a trial.

I was a German who set out on the footsteps
Of the illustrious Alexander von Humboldt.
With my two brothers Hermann and Robert,
From Southhampton on September 20,1854
To see India, the Himalayas and Higher Asia.
Sans invitation, I must admit.

A Persian traveller, a Muslim with a heart
Found my headless body.
He brought my remains all the way to India,
And handed it to a British colonial officer.

It was a fatal fascination,
But had I the chance,
I’d do it again.

*****

A METAPHOR IN THE EVENING SKY

It was a glorious sunset,
The clouds blazing in scarlet and orange hues,
As the young man, riding on the back of a lorry,
Sacks full of rice and salt,
Stared at the Siwaliks and Mahabharat mountains
Dwindling behind him.

As the sun set in the Himalayas,
The shadows grew longer in the vales.
The young man saw the golden moon,
Shining from a cloudy sky.
The same moon he’d seen on a poster in his uncle’s kitchen
As he ate cross-legged his dal-bhat-shikar after the hand-washing ritual.

Was the moon a metaphor?
Was it his fate to travel to Kathmandu,
Leaving behind his childhood friends and relatives in the hills,
Who were struggling for their very existence,
In the foothills of the Kanchenjunga,
Where the peaks were not summits to be scaled, with or without oxygen,
But the abodes of the Gods and Goddesses.
A realm where bhuts and prets, boksas and boksis,
Demons and dakinis prevailed.

Glossary:

Gurkhas: Nepali soldiers serving in Nepalese, Indian and British armies
Dal-bhat: Linsen und Reis
Shikar: Fleischgericht
Bhuts and prets: Demonen und Geister
Boksas und Boksis: männliche und weibliche Hexen

*****

MENTAL MOLOTOVS

When Hoyerswerda burns
They discuss about the asylum-seekers.
Peaceful, righteous Germans go
In the streets with candles.

When a house burns in Mölln
They discuss about bringing back
Soldiers from the dangers of Somalia.

At the Turkish funeral in Solingen
The Chancellor keeps away
And avoids thus
Rotten eggs and tomatoes
That might come his way.

When the trial comes
The skin and neonazi has a lot of hair.
He wears a two-piece suit,
Ties a tie around his neck
And looks oh-so-respectable.
He peers into the cameras
With clear blue eyes and says:
"I'm innocent and a victim
Of the modern industrial society".
And withdraws his statement.

The judges are lenient
And the neo gets off on bail
Gestures with his middle finger
And quips: "Leck mich am Arsch!"
As he speeds away in a car
Only to reappear with a Molotov
Like the Sphinx again.

"Ausländer Raus!
Deutschland den Deutschen!"
These are the slogans
making the rounds in the nineties.

The old black and white flag
From the Third Reich
Raises no eyebrows
At soccer stadiums, streets and pubs.

It's fashionable again
To throw mental Molotovs
At blacks, browns, yellows
And all non-Teutonics
At cocktails, chats
Stammtisch and in the streets
Against anything alien.
"I don't like foreigners
I'll kill you", says a drunk
In broad daylight at the Bahnhof.
Please don't ask me
How it feels
To be a non-Teutonic
In Deutschland.

*****

OH, ARCHANA

Archana came from Kirtipur,
The hill of the noseless and earless.
She was a Vajracharya woman
Of the priest caste.
She spoke a language
Full of sweet monosyllables.
A young woman with fine features,
She could stare at one
And see through to the depths of one’s heart.

Raj was a Chettri from the Eastern hills,
With a sacred thread on his neck,
From the warrior and noble caste.
They loved each other in the Nepalese way,
Talking with their eyes and hearts.
Never in physical ecstasy,
Always platonic and united in dreams.
No rumbas, no slow fox.
Just the sweet odour of her hair and neck
In moments of stolen darkness
In a movie hall,
With two hundred curious eyes,
Focused on the Bollywood silver screen.
Or was it on their necks?

******

TWO LOVERS

The two were through with their colleges.
She chose to study at Tribhuvan university.
He was awarded a scholarship to Germany.
She said, ‘But no one is forcing you
To study abroad. I fear that it’ll take years.
Perhaps you won’t come to Nepal.’
On the day of his departure
She appeared alone at the Tribhuvan airport,
With a ritual silver copper plate:
Scarlet yoghurt tika, beetle nuts, spices,
A garland of lotus flowers and sweet meat.
A traditional Nepalese farewell.

Years later came a letter from Nepal.
A physician friend wrote:
‘Dear Raj,
Archana of Kirtipur has married
A Brahmin businessman from Pokhara.
Sorry to bring you this sad news.
Sincerely,
Ashoke Sakya.’

‘I’m sad today,’ said Raj,
As he hid his face
In his blonde fiancee’s shoulder.

In the Shadow of the Himalayas (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,
You’re no longer the same.

There was insurrection and turmoil
Against the government and the police.
Your sons and daughters were at war,
With the Gorkhas again.

Ideologies that have been discredited elsewhere,
Still flourish in the Himalayas.
With brazen, bloody attacks
Fighting for their communist rights,
And the rights of the bewildered common man.

The Nepalese child-soldier gets orders from grown-ups
And the hapless souls open fire.
The child-soldier cannot reason,
Sheds precious human blood.

Ach, this massacre in the shadow of the Himalayas.
We can only hope for peace.
Om shanti,
Om.

*****

About the Author:

Satis Shroff is a writer and poet 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 Social Science in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and Manchester. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize for 1998.

Writing experience: Satis Shroff has written two language books on the Nepali language for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag. He has written three 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 (I dream, Oleron, an Unforgettable Isle, A Flight to the Himalayas, Which Witch in Germany?, Fatal Decision, Santa Fe, Nirmala, Between Terror and Ecstasy, The Broken Poet, Himalaya: Menschen und Mythen, A Gurkha Mother, Kathmandu is Nepal, My Nepal, Quo vadis?).


What others have said about the author:

„Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Through Nepalese Eyes’ 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, Satish 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)

Satish Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Senior Fulbright Professor in Creative Writing, University of Pittsburgh).

satisle@myway.com


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