Uday Niroula writes poems with an essayist's sensibility: he prefers to explore ideas in his verses, rather than to delve into sentiment, as most Nepali poets do. This makes his work stand apart from the expressionistic impulse of the day.
In the first poem below, translated from his 2053 BS collection Jaraaharu Kimartha Mardainan, Niroula expresses the contradictions, hypocrisy and pretensions of modern Nepal, all of which may be quite familiar to those of us in Kathmandu:
We Reap Land Deeds from the Soil
So many plants we should have harvested from the soil
So many peaks we should have erected from the soil
Avoiding all we should harvest
evading all we should erect
we reap from the soil
our citizenship certificates
and identity papers
Was creativity slain in the appraisal of land?
Was creativity slain in the notebooks of projects?
It's been a while flowers have not bloomed from our soil
It's been a while flowers have not sprouted from our soil
Spreading the name of Buddha in the dust
we set imported customs to boil on the stove
Having sold our inner enlightenment
do we nurture another's Buddha in our hearts?
We should sow mint plants of creativity
but instead sow artificial etiquette
We inject imported technologies
trampling upon our beings
plucking out our own consequences
We taunt the poor
We assure the future
We urge those who should be rising to lie down on beds
and measuring Sagarmatha with our eyes
we urge those those who should sleep to rise as peaks
We thrill to receive gifts meant for others
We rip out buds of creativity
Stinging ourselves mercilessly
we sow land deeds and etch
countless fakes and forgeries in the soil
The second poem, translated from an earlier collection Kolaahal Piyera, explores the more universal theme of consciousness, focusing on the false consciousness that we easily slip into despite our claims to enlightenment thinking.
The Human 'Chemical' Is Being Translated
Who doesn't know who doesn't say
that people have consciousness?
Only humans do not know this
Only our consciousness does not say so
This is what I have come to understand
For I man a shop of consciousness
I buy and sell licenses in consciousness
In my thoughts on being human I find-
surviving the present moment
people chew through consciousness
And gradually, gradually
transform are transforming will transform
into beasts In images reflected in sophisiticated eyes
people don the coat of consciousness
but bear the soul of animalhood
as they chant 'Hara Ganga, hara Ganga'
washing in the waters of turbid emotion
People nurse their athiritic pains
in the frostiness of consciousness
INHURED? Amnesty? The security council?
The wars raging within wars give off a stench
in the bogs and swamplands
This is why people have not exploded
or why they have not ingested patriotism
Have no death sentences been sounded
in the contracted judiciaries of the world?
The veto has become someone's inheritance
The bids and tenders of human rights work
do not scratch the sovereignty of nations
This is not a pack of wild men
but a human-shaped human-sized assembly
fragrant with the course of reason
The matters of Arafat and Jerusalem
do not so much as scratch
the private affairs of any nation
There is no free nation or a free nation is rare
in the geopgraphy of the world
Humans beings are capable of consciousness!
And that is why in the present
the ghosts of humanity lurk in the shadows of truth
The sole universal truth now is death
No battlefield has been prepared
The warriors are all sheltering in oblivion
It could be
the history of humanity is crooked
today's intelligent person
is living on the plain of truth
mixed partly in the size of a person
partly in the shape of a beast
It could be that science's 'chemistry'
has finally been translated.