Kathmandu Is Nepal (Satis Shroff)
There were two young men, brothers
Who left their homes
In the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas.
The older one, for his father had barked at him,
“Go to Nepal and never come home again.”
The younger, for he couldn’t bear the beatings
At the hands of his old man.
The older brother sobbed and stifled his sorrow and anger
For Nepal was in fact Kathmandu,
With its colleges, universities, Education Ministry,
Temples, Rana-palaces and golden pagodas
And also its share of hippies, hashish, tourists,
Rising prices and expensive rooms to rent.
The younger brother went to Dharan,
And enlisted in the British Army depot
To become a Gurkha,
A soldier in King Edwards Own Gurkha Rifles.
He came home the day he became a recruit,
With a bald head, as though his father had died.
He looked forward to the parades and hardships
That went under the guise of physical exercises.
He thought of stern, merciless sergeants and corporals
Of soccer games and regimental drills
A young man’s thrill of war-films and scotch and Gurkha-rum evenings.
He’d heard it all from the Gurkhas who’s returned in the Dasain festivals.
There was Kunjo Lama his maternal cousin,
Who boasted of his judo-prowess and showed photos of his British gal,
A pale blonde from Chichester in an English living-room.
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,
With or without amphetamines,
But the abodes of the Gods and Goddesses.
A realm where bhuts and prets,
Boksas and boksis,
Demons and dakinis prevailed.