Nepali Times
Literature
In rapture and devotion

MANJUSHREE THAPA


Banira Giri is one of the most poised and commanding Nepali poets of today. Her work can be immensely energetic as it sweeps the reader along in a flood of words towards their frothy and eddying conclusions. Lively, sonorous, and rich with cultural allusions, Giri's erudite poems can be intimidating to the reader unfamiliar with Nepal's myths and narratives. Yet their reclamation of cultural territory is decidedly modern in concern. She connects with the past in ways that are fresh and unexpected, and she allows the reader to find contemporary meaning in our heritage. The poem below reveals the intensely private sentiment of devotion.

Though this piece can be read metaphorically in a sacred context, I prefer a more literal interpretation; the narrator speaks, to me, of the touch between a man and a woman, meeting in rapture. No authority, no cultural sanction is required, here, to purify their touch. Rather, this touch is rendered sacred by the longing of the one who is touched. For me, this poem recalls, by contrast, Parijat's classic novel Sirishko Phool, whose intellectual anti-heroine Sakambari dies after being kissed by a soldier and rapist. That work-relentlessly nihilist in outlook-shows the damage done to a woman's being by the profane and unwanted touch. Giri's more hopeful poem celebrates the enlivening of individual spirit through the reciprocity of desire.

YOU TOUCHED ME:I 'M PURIFIED NOW
You touched me
I'm purified now
To attain such purity-
is to become the golden-haired Sunakeshari maiden
bathing in Lake Mansarovar's redolent waters
on awakening from twelve years of sleep,
is to drop gold coins of experience
into the heart's treasure box,
is to make one's way along gardens
of marigolds and chrysanthemums,
is to have trust issue drop by drop
from a ceremonial bowl plated with hope
You touched me
I'm purified now
To attain such purity-
is to be showered by light on a dark moon night
is to have golden moonbeams spread over
the cascades of the Bagmati river
Those golden rays are intended perhaps
for filling the maiden's pitcher
for pouring onto her limbs
I don't know-
Is the moon purified by such unions?
Is the river purified, is the maiden purified?
You touched me
I'm purified now
To attain such purity-
is to have a woman released from a boulder
at the caress of Lord Ram,
is to see Ram taste a plum
already defiled at the mouth of his devotee Shavari
I don't know-
how our learned sages explain this
Was Ram purified by such devotion or was his
devotee purified?
(This and other translations of Giri's poems can be found in the upcoming Himsheekhar publication From the Lake, Love edited by Wayne Amtzis.)


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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