Nepali Times
Mohan Koirala making associations


The current Vice-Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy Mohan Koirala is applauded by fans who find his poems playful and inventive, and reproached by critics who find his writing abstruse and unwilling to reach out to its audience.

Grafting together common social narratives, fragmented dialogues, literary quotes and his own keen observations, Koirala produces poems which tease meaning out of a rush of words, and at their very best, sparkle with associations.

Without a doubt, his poems speak not to the masses, but to the sophisticated reader who is comfortable with ambiguity and even obscurity in language. Indeed, Koirala\'s poems refuse to tell the reader what to think, asking them instead to seek their own meanings from his offering of shards and fragments.

The following poem is a particularly vivid example of Koirala\'s wit, playfulness and dexterity with language, and one which is slightly less obscure than some of his others. With its witty commentary on contradictory Nepali mores, it also supports the poet\'s claim, in a recent interview, to be primarily a social writer.


A house with curtains on the windows without curtains
With an indoor toilet and cemented stairs too
With its own tap or for lack of it water must be carried over
from someone else\'s well
A house with its own walls or only overhead beams of its own. Or the house of someone Who fetches vessels of drinking water only from someone
else\'s house
This is what a village house is like
Sit around for hours staying home all day and with pride about
How can I go anywhere without a car these days
After riding a bus a person who needs lots of space can\'t
tolerate the crowd otherwise Who walks on the street clasping his son who isn\'t well Or when taking his wife to the cinema is compelled to reach her
in a taxi Who sits around complaining it\'s late when the bus breaks
down on the road till it\'s pushed and repaired
The type who can\'t make his way around Ranamukteswor or
Asan to buy turmeric till he flocks along with his wife (Himself full of light suffering faith and knowledge in extreme
religiosity) Who must reach Sri Pashupatinath temple from time to time
must frequent the goddess Kali at each festival Is eager to reach Lord Narayan Doesn\'t trust that the motorbike will start whether or not it has petrol Till his wife slides her hand from the back seat and pinches his
waist When having to search upon request for plum candy and other
such products A man who can\'t do anymore without a motorbike
No matter whether its plates are yellow white red or black
A father of children who refuse to walk to school if the bus
doesn\'t come Faithful to a creed that deems that the household will thrive if
young sons and grandsons Walk, lisping in foreign tongues, in courtyards upper floors
house rooms, otherwise it\'s ruined Days passed in talk, in fun, in eating whole mouthfuls, in search Come near I turn them over, move away I turn them over When red earth shakes and the bed quilt rips when shopping
when examining the feel of riding a taxi Wiping dung each morning household duties auspicious Sri Ganesh having a long line of successors in the family With a wife who brags that
You sell alcohol the whole neighbourhood\'s defiled only at parties does mine-that\'s why he\'s kept his caste Though declaring that wisdom is greater than blind faith considers blind faith to be Wisdom
There is a belief in our village settlements
There is a belief in our house

("Our Village Settlements" appears in Koirala\'s 1986 collection Himchuli Raktim Chha.)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)