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A royal tragedy in 'Poetic Nepal'


June 8, 2001

Over the past week Nepal has become the theatre of the world. The massacre of the royal family, including King Birenda, Queen Aishwarya and seven others, had all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy. It was so unnatural. Yet it was shockingly real.


The murder of the royal family shattered my fixed image of Nepal. Yet it also reminded me of a weeklong trip to Nepal 14 years ago at the invitation of Royal Nepal Airlines. The experience turned into "Poetic Nepal", published in this newspaper on October 8, 1988.
It should be appropriate enough to republish Poetic Nepal as a tribute to the land of paradox. Nepal is a Hindu nation, but it is also the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. Its Himalayan mountain range is a sight of beauty and death. It is one of the few places in this Internet world where a medieval atmosphere remains thick in the air. Only in Nepal would you come to encounter a subtle religious experience, at once given and denied.

KATHMANDU
I fall into a dreamless sleep
And wake up
To a medieval world
Crowded with deities.

Having no knowledge
Of the present,
Nor any anticipation
Of the future,
I walk into the past
And seek shelter
From divinities.

MY WATCH
My Seiko quartz
Fails to tell
The exact time
In Kathmandu

RISING NEPAL
I rise to the Rising Nepal
And digest its news
As dry as a piece
Of dayold bread.

MOUNTAINS
Mountains
Surrounding the Kathmandu valley,
Appear for a few moments
Before vanishing
Behind the dark cloud.

ASAN SQUARE
The market
Springs to life,
From dawn 'til dusk,
Carrying the last flag
Of medieval bustle.

A NEWARI WOMAN
She peers down
From her secondfloor window,
And yawns
At the long afternoon.

TOURISTS
Without tourists,
Many will go hungry;
With tourists,
Many will become decadent.

PUBLIC BATH
It is too cold
In the morning
Or evening,
But just right in the afternoon
To bathe
In Himalayan water.

HINDU STUDENTS
I search for you
Among the Nepalese girls,
Hoping you are disguised
As a Hindu student.

A GIRL
That girl
Embodying your smile
And dimple,
Gives me a nod that reddens
Her forehead dot.

I want to pursue
Her footsteps
In search of
Your identity.

MACHCHHENDRA NATH TEMPLE
She disappears into the shrine;
But as I enter,
All that greets me
Are frightening statues.

NEPAL
How can Nepal rise further
When it already stands
On top of the world?

With both feet
Resting on the threshold,
Nepal is suspicious
Of the outside world.

TIKA
A twoyearold boy
Slips into Ganesh shrine
And attaches a tika to his forehead
Before his mother drags him away.

With a tika
On my forehead,
I feel at ease
As a Nepalese.

I am a Nepalese,
In a frame of thought.

A BUDDHA IMAGE
Adorned with fresh flowers
In his ears,
A Buddha image
Reveals a feminine smile.

A DREAM
Your image
Appears blurred
As I try to reach
Into a dream.

PANTHEISM
With so many gods to please,
The Nepalese find ample time
To worship each one.

MT EVEREST
I conquer Mt Everest
With an eye wink
From the aircraft window.

From its peak,
Mt Everest utters
An eternal monologue
With heaven.

THE GOLDEN PAGODA OF LOKESHWAR
Tibetan monks,
Chanting Buddhist scriptures
With fervour,
Try to read enlightenment
Between the lines.

A worshipper spins
The prayer wheels
Along the monastery aisle,
Reciting Om mani padme hum,
Om mani padme hum,
Om mani padme humů

A SIDEWALK VENDOR
She does not spare one guava
On her manual scale,
Yet gives them away
To a friend
Going to pray
At a nearby shrine.

SACRIFICE
A black goat is beheaded
At one stoke,
Its blood cleansing
The evil spirits.

KUMARI (Virgin)
I long to see
The living goddess
From the balcony window,
And seek blessings
From her divine grace.

Yet no one would be allowed
A sight of the Kumari,
Who recedes
For a praying session.

THE STUPA OF SWAYAMBHUNATH
The 300 steep steps
To reach the Buddhist stupa
Are the first test
Of a devoted pilgrim.

With the eyes of the Buddha
On four sides of the stupa,
Atop stands an umbrella,
One may climb to nirvana.

THE FLIGHT
I fly back home
With a memory,
Fulfilled.

Unconsciously,
I chant
Om mani padme hum,
Om mani padme hum,
Om mani padme humů

by Thanong Khanthong

 

 

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