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Poems by Satis Shroff

*Wer den Dichter will verstehen
Muß in Dichters Lande gehen.
-Johann Wolfgang Goethe

What other have said about the author:
Wonderful clarity and good details. (Sharon Mc Cartney, Fiddlehead Poetry Journal)

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

A MOMENT OF MAGIC (Satis Shroff)

She had short, golden hair
Tied neatly behind
With a blue satin-scarf.
And yet I saw her
Wearing a diadem
And a flowing satin gown,
Like a princess.

A meek, submissive smile
A movement of her fair hair
Akin to a Bolshoi ballerina
In moments of embarrassment and coyness.
Her blue Allemanic eyes, sweet and honest
They knew no intrigue,
Neither treachery nor rebellion.
‘I was brought up to obey,’ she whispered.

Pure bliss and love sublime,
A book you could read.
Plain and straight,
And not in-between the lines.

An openness, and yet
She's resolute and seeks
Perhaps stability
Or security?

A neglected childhood
With pain and punishment.
A legacy of the Black Forest
Nevertheless, she remained
Soft and tender, submissive and sincere.
Not demanding and aggressive
Ever alert and considerate.

Murmurs and sighs filled the air.
Love became stormy and frantic.
Sweat and aphrodisiac mingled,
To create a moment of magic,
To recede in moans and whispers
And a thousand kisses.

Brought to reality
By the rays of the dying sun
And the sudden noise
Of birds coming home to roost.
A tranquillity after the tumult
Within our passionate souls.


The one-eyed, pock-marked Newar landlord
Had ‘rooms to let’ in Kathmandu.
In the sixties came the Hippies,
Flower Power, Make Love, Not War.
They left his flat a mess,
With the sweet smell of Cannabis,
And psychedelic paintings on the walls,
Seminal fluid and menstrual blood
Smeared on the once white sheets.
The Sahuji was plainly perturbed.
‘How could the new sahibs and memsahibs
Behave so inconsiderately?’

Thirty years later,
The grey-eyed Love Parade guests,
Were still lying prostrate on his terrace,
Golden brown baked bodies,
Kissed by the rays of Surya,
The Sun God.

One part of his brain whispered,
‘Oh, it’s delightful,
Where can you see so much exotic,
Eros and tantra,
Except at the bathing spouts of Balaju?’
The other half of his mind admonished,
‘These shameless grey-eyed creatures,
Don’t behave like guests in the Nepalese sense.
During the Raj in India,
They came with uniforms, cannons and rifles.
Then with long unkempt hair,
Like Shiva’s ascetic followers,
In cotton home-spun clothes,
With the word ‘Ram’ in Devnagari script,
On flimsy blouses, trousers and skirts,
Became high on marihuana.
And now with designer drugs,
Ecstatic with ecstasy
And techno-music.

‘I don’t have to travel to see the world.
The world comes to me,
In all its splendour,’
Chuckled the ageing Sahuji


I’ve become a European,
Integrated and assimilated,
As they say.
As the Breisgau-train dashes
Through the Black Forest,
Between Elztal and Freiburg,
I am with my thoughts in South Asia.

I hear the melodious cry of the vendors:
‘Pan, bidi, cigarette,’
Interspersed with ‘garam chai! Garam chai!’
The sound of sambosas bubbling in vegetable oil,
The rat-ta-tat of onions, garlic and salad
Being rhythmically chopped in the kitchen,
Mingled with the ritual Sanskrit songs of the Hindus:
‘Tame-wa Mata, Sabita tame-wa,
Tame-wa vidhyam, Tame-wa saranam.’
The voices of uncles, aunts, cousins
Debating, discussing, gesticulating, grimacing
In Nepali, English, Newari, Hindi and Sindhi.

I head for Swayambhu,
The hill of the Self-Existent One.
Om mane pame hum,
Vajra Guru pemey siddhey hum
Stirs in the air,
As a lama in a Bordeaux robe passes by.
I’m greeted by cries of Rhesus monkeys,
Pigeons, mynahs, crows,
And the cracks of Heckler & Koch guns
Of the Royal Army.

My eyes scan the train passengers:
Blondes, brunnettes, black-hairedGermans,
Arabs, Turks, Africans, Afghans,
Their faces painted, like mine.
Black, red and gold stripes.
Soccer was in the air.


THE BEAT GOES ON (Satis Shroff)

There’s a brodelndes Miteinander,
Different sounds, natural sounds,
Musical sounds.

I hear Papa listening to classical ragas.
We, his sons and daughters,
Dancing the twist, rock n’ roll, jive to Cool Britania,
The afternoon programme of the BBC.
Catchy Bollywood wechsel rhythms,
Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle,
Rafi, Mukesh and Kishor Kumar.
In the evenings after Radio Nepal’s External Service,
Radio Colombo’s light Anglo-American melodies:
Dean Martin’s drunken schmaltz,
Billy Fury, Cliff Richards, Rickey Nelson,
And Sir Swivel-hip, Elvis Presley
Wailing ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog.’

Out in the streets the songs of the beggars,
‘Amai, paisa deo,
Babai khanu chaina.’

Overwhelmed by the cacaphony
Of the obligatory marriage brass-band,
Wearing shocking green and red uniforms.
A tourist wired for sound walks by,
With a tortured smile on his face,
An acoustic agitation for an i-Pod listener,
Who prefers his own canned music.

From a side street you discern the tune
Of ‘Rajamati kumati’ rendered by a group
Of Jyapoo traditional musicians,
After a hard day’s work,
In the wet paddy fields of Kathmandu.

Near the Mahabaoudha temple you see
Young Sherpas, Thakalis, Tamangs, Newars
Listening, hip-hopping and break-dancing
To their imported ghetto-blasters:
Michel Jackson’s catchy tunes,
Eminem, 2 Pac, Madonna, 5 Cents.


WORLD OF MUSIC (Satis Shroff)

Everyone hears music,
Everyone makes music,
With or without music instruments,
Humming the latest Bollywood tunes,
Drumming on the tables, wooden walls,
Boxes, crates, thalis, saucers and pans.
Everyone’s engaged in singing and dancing.

The older people chanting bhajans and vedic songs,
Buddhist monks reciting from the sutras in sonorous voices,
When someone dies in the neighbourhood.
Entire nights of prayers for the departed soul,
Interspersed with serious Tibetan monastery music.

The whole world is full of music,
Making it, feasting on it,
Dancing and nodding to it.

I remember the old village dalit,
From the caste of the untouchables,
Who’d come and beat his big drum,
Before he proclaimed the decision of the five village elders,

I remember the beautiful music from the streets of Bombay,
Where I spent the winters during my school-days.
Or was it musical noise?
Unruhe, panic and flight for some,
It was the music of life for me in that tumultuous, exciting city.
When the sea of humanity was too much for me,
I could escape by train to the Marine Drive,
And see and hear the music of the breakers,
The waves of the Arabian Sea splashing and thrashing
Along the coast of Mumbai.

Your muscles flex, the nerves flatter, the heart gallops,
As you feel how puny you are,
Among all those incessant and powerful waves.


Wechselrhythmus: changing rhythms
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


Author Biography Information: Satis Shroff’s anthology A Gurkha Mother, Mental Molotovs & the Broken Poet is about a poet caught between upheavals in two countries, Nepal and Germany, where maoists and skin-heads are trying to undermine democratic values, religious and cultural life.

Satis Shroff has been a free lance journalist since 1973. He worked with The Rising Nepal, an English daily in Kathmandu, as a features editor and knows the media and politics in Nepal as an insider. He is a writer and poet based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. 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.


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