Nepali Times Asian Paints
Literature
Kumud Devkota’s


MANJUSHREE THAPA


Kumud Devkota's most evocative poems lie somewhere between poetry and prose-they tell stories of characters at important junctures in their lives, though they eschew the option of narrative development to offer readers, instead, the poet's emotion and insight into the human condition.

It is rare to find a poet, today, who writes in the third person, as Devkota does in his best works, and who pays more attention to the plight of others than to his or her own subjectivity. Devkota focuses closely on the inner life of his characters. In the first poem below, he writes of a Kathmandu everyman bitterly excluded from the opulence of a wedding party:

NEM BAHADUR MUTTERS

On the frosty
mist covered street
at the kind of
dead end where I am
a person
freezing in silence begins in anxiety
to add and subtract
his desire to take some warmth
from the lights
in the house that stands before him
the lights that
glitter from the roof down to the sidewalk

This apparently
is where the division lies
amid
people. The lights are lit so
that
someone might
grant someone else her youth
For the person
who does divisions
for he who bares
his poverty
for those who
suffer the frost and mist-
how much longer
is the truth to be denied?

Life is
bountiful for those who know how to
daub faint
deceitful laughter across their lips
The Sahebs at
the gate with their palms joined
and their faces
made up like those of true citizens-
they make a fine
topic for poetry. Nem Bahadur
mutters
-just you
wait. We couldn't become one of
your own
We were left out
of your feasts and gatherings
It doesn't matter.
I've enjoyed one or two samplings
of foreign
spirits in my time. Does it matter
where it came
from? It's just the desire
to be one of
your people. It's just this
time
sprawling with
so much darkness
all over the
street

Winter weather features in another of Devkota's poems, once again emphasising the helplessness of the poor against the elements.

RISHAV BHATTARAI'S LIFE A COLD ROOM

A foggy winter's
day-
Kathmandu must suffer the rain that pours
endlessly
The swarming
people must bear what comes-victory or defeat
Amid this kind
of whispering in a cold room
Rishav Bhattarai is stroking life,
making love to life
He blows smoke
from his mouth, targeting the ceiling
The representative of a class,
he is only just living
For whom and for
what?
Recoiling at
winter's sour, unfinished taste
moving without
shame through the street, the hut, a cold room
as if to found a
maxim or a truism. This is how
to bear life
This is how a
person must lack faith in himself
In order to take
pride in his soil. Maybe it is
solely for my poem
that Rishav has
lived so long here under his name
Awareness
doesn't rest in only one place
The feel of
rebellion rises and moves swiftly
toward the war
that hot electric currents wage against winter
far, far beyond
the windows with large glass panes
Isn't this the same Kathmandu
as that one?
Where a story
had started to be told of the winter,
of one who
stroked life in a cold room
and of recoiling
at a sour, unfinished taste
How long to
cover the truth and speak
of the purity of this soil?
How long to hide
the self? How long to bear this?
This relentless
selfish epidemic-
Sometimes
something arises and a question
wants to erupt
Why did we get
into the habit of tolerating?
Why is it that
only the years stay out and get exposed?
What harm would
there be if a new day appeared?
The artificial
temperatures decked with such grandeur
would disappear
from the house that decorates Kathmandu
The soil that
has been stepped on would begin to go cold
The life of
Rishav Bhattarai, spent in a cold room
will take on a
question and spread through the entire country
So far, the
winter, not satisfied with fog,
has transformed
only into endless rain.

Devkota's poems are translated from his collection Kumud Devkotaka Kabita, published by the Royal Nepal Academy.


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


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