Poem Hunter
Quo Vadis, My Nepal? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
SS Satis Shroff ( / Dharan)

Quo Vadis, My Nepal? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

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,
From bikas to binas.
A crown prince fell in love,
But couldn’t assert himself,
In a palace where ancient traditions still prevail.
Despite Eton college and a liberal education,
He chose guns instead of rhetoric,
And ended his young life,
As well as those of his parents and other royal members.
An aunt from London aptly remarked,
‘He was like the terminator.’
Another bloodshed in a Gorkha palace,
Recalling the Kot massacre under Jung Bahadur Rana.

You’re no longer the same
There’s insurrection and turmoil
Against the government and the police.
Your sons and daughters are at war,
With the Gurkhas again.

Maobadis with revolutionary flair,
With ideologies from across the Tibetan Plateau and Peru.
Ideologies that have been discredited elsewhere,
Flourish in the Himalayas.
Demanding a revolutionary-tax from tourists and Nepalis
With brazen, bloody attacks
Fighting for their own rights
And the rights of the bewildered common man.

Well-trained government troops at the orders
Of politicians safe in Kathmandu.
Leaders, who despise talks and compromises,
Flex their tongues and muscles,
And let the imported automatic salves speak their deaths.
Ill-armed guerrillas against well-armed Royal Gurkhas
In the foothills of the Himalayas.

Nepali children have no chance, but to take sides
To take to arms not knowing the reason and against whom.
The child-soldier gets orders from grown-ups
And the hapless souls open fire.
Hukum is order, the child-soldier cannot reason why.
Shedding precious human blood,
For causes they both hold high.
Ach, this massacre in the shadow of the Himalayas.
Nepalis look out of their ornate windows,
In the west, east, north and south Nepal
And think:
How long will this krieg go on?
How much do we have to suffer?
How many money-lenders, businessmen, civil servants,
Policemen and gurkhas do the Maobadis want to kill
Or be killed?
How many men, women, boys and girls have to be mortally injured
Till Kal Bhairab is pacified by the Sleeping Vishnu?
How many towns and villages in the seventy five districts
Do the Maobadis want to free from capitalism?
When the missionaries close their schools,
Must the Hindus and Buddhists shut their temples and shrines?
Shall atheism be the order of the day?
Not in Nepal.

It breaks my heart, as I hear over the radio:
Nepal’s not safe for visitors.
Visitors who leave their money behind,
In the pockets of travel agencies, rug dealers, currency and drug dealers,
And hordes of ill-paid honest Sherpas and Tamang porters.
Sweat beads trickling from their sun-burnt faces,
In the dizzy heights of the Dolpo, Annapurna ranges
And the Khumbu glaciers.
Eking out a living and facing the treacherous
Icy crevasses, snow-outs, precipices
And a thousand deaths.

Beyond the beaten trekking paths
Live the poorer families of Nepal.
No roads, no schools,
Sans drinking water and sans hospitals,
Where aids and children’s work prevail.

Lichhavis, Thakuris and Mallas have made you eternal
Man Deva inscribed his title on the pillar of Changu,
After great victories over neighbouring states.
Amshu Verma was a warrior and mastered the Lichavi Code.
He gave his daughter in marriage to Srong Beean Sgam Po,
The ruler of Tibet, who also married a Chinese princess.
Jayastathi Malla ruled long and introduced the system of the caste,
A system based on the family occupation,
That became rigid with the tide of time.
Yaksha Malla the ruler of Kathmandu Valley,
Divided it into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaon for his three sons.

It was Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha,
Who brought you together,
As a melting pot of ethnic diversities.
With Gorkha conquests that cost the motherland
Thousands of ears, noses and Nepali blood

The Ranas usurped the royal throne
And put a prime minister after the other for 104 years.
104 years of a country in poverty and medieval existence.
It was King Tribhuvan’s proclamation and the blood of the Nepalis,
Who fought against the Gorkhas under the command of the Ranas,
That ended the Rana autocracy.
His son King Mahendra saw to it that he held the septre
When Nepal entered the UNO.
The multiparty system along with the Congress party was banned.

Then came thirty years of Panchayat promises of a Hindu rule
With a system based on the five village elders,
Like the proverbial five fingers in one’s hand,
That are not alike and yet functioned in harmony.
The Panchayat government was indeed an old system,
Packed and sold as a new and traditional one.
A system is just as good as the people who run it.
And Nepal didn’t run.
It revived the age-old chakary,
Feudalism with its countless spies and yes-men,
Middle-men who held out their hands
For bribes, perks and amenities.
Poverty, caste-system with its divisions and conflicts,
Discrimination, injustice, bad governance
Became the nature of the day.

A big chasm appeared between the haves-and-have-nots.
The social inequality, frustrated expectations of the poor
Led to a search for an alternative pole.
The farmers were ignored, the forests and land confiscated,
Corruption and inefficiency became the rule of the day.
Even His Majesty’s servants went so far as to say:
Raja ko kam, kahiley jahla gham.

The birthplace of Buddha
And the Land of Pashupati,
A land which King Birendra declared a Zone of Peace,
Through signatures of the world’s leaders
Is at war today.

Bush’s government paid 24 million dollars for development aid,
Another 14 million dollars for insurgency relevant spendings
5,000 M-16 rifles from the USA
5,500 maschine guns from Belgium.
Guns that are aimed at Nepali men, women and children,
In the mountains of Nepal.
Alas, under the shade of the Himalayas,
This corner of the world has become volatile again.

My academic friends have changes sides,
From Mandalay to Congress
From Congress to the Maobadis.
From Hinduism to Communism.
The students from Dolpo and Silgadi,
Made unforgettable by Peter Mathiessen in his quest for his inner self
And his friend George Schaller’s search for the snow leopard,
Wrote Marxist verses and acquired volumes
From the embassies in Kathmandu:
Kim Il Sung’s writings, Mao’s red booklet,
Marx’s Das Kapital and Lenin’s works,
And defended socialist ideas
At His Majesty’s Central Hostel in Tahachal.
I see their earnest faces, then with books in their arms
Now with guns and trigger-happy,
Boisterous and ready to fight to the end
For a cause they cherish in their frustrated and fiery hearts.

But aren’t these sons of Nepal misguided and blinded
By the seemingly victories of socialism?
Even Gorbachov pleaded for Peristroika,
And Putin admires Germany, its culture and commerce.
Look at the old Soviet Union, and other East Bloc nations.
They have all swapped sides and are EU and Nato members.
Globalisation has changed the world fast,
But in Nepal time stands still
The blind beggar at the New Road gate sings:
Lata ko desh ma, gaddha tantheri.
In a land where the tongue-tied live,
The deaf desire to rule.
Oh my Nepal, quo vadis?

The only way to peace and harmony is
By laying aside the arms.
Can Nepal afford to be the bastion of a movement and a government
That rides rough-shod over the lives and rights of fellow Nepalis?
Can’t we learn from the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq?
The Maobadis must be given a chance at the polls,
Like all other democratic parties.
Time will tell us whether they can integrate
In Nepal or not.
I have hope,
For the Maobadis are bahuns and chettris,
Be they Prachanda or Baburam Bhattrai,
Leaders who are Nepalese.
The game of bagh-chal goes on,
For Vishnu no longer holds,
The executive, judiciary, legislative,
Spiritual and temporal powers
In the shadow of the Himalayas.

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Langston Hughes


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