Nepali Times
Dinesh Adhikari


Poet and songwriter Dinesh Adhikari is capable of taking on the darkest human realities in his writing. In the pacifist poems translated below,he takes on the theme of war and its many dehumanising consequences. These poems hark back to earlier wars, when enemies were clearly defined, when national borders were clearly at stake, when brute manpower played as important a role on the battlefield as did technology. Today, when national guerrilla warfare and international terrorism complicate any simple understandings of war, these poems can seem slightly dated. Yet they speak to the eternal truths of the battlefield: the loss of love, the hardening of the heart, and the insanity of violence.

The Other Side to Belief
1. Settlement after settlement has been razed by neutron blasts
All greenery has wilted
The peacocks have stopped dancing
Springtime is wailing
Haven't you gone mad even now?
If not
I must believe you've lost your head

2. Things are so far gone now
with each new birth a martyr is born
a funeral procession is born
a shroud is born
You're seeing all this, aren't you?
In its first few hours
that baby there
is being deprived of his mother's lap
is being deprived of his mother's breast
on charges of treason against the nation
Your eyes haven't yet moistened?
If not
I must believe you've lost your heart

3. Vying to extend the boundaries of nations
giving up their own shelters
giving up the mouthfuls they had gathered
people have gone to live as refugees
east/west/in all directions
The act of suicide banned by law
has proved inevitable in practice
The Bhandarkhal massacre is repeating
The Kot massacre is on the way to reviving
What, haven't you gone mad even now?
If not
I must believe you've lost your head

Fiery and romantic in its tropes, the poem below is addressed to a war widow. Though it reads like a poem from an older time, from the Second World War, say, it can still be seen as relevant today, with growing speculations that the British army may deploy Gurkha troops in Afghanistan.

Wait! Don't shatter the chiming bangles on your wrists just yet
The rhododendron pinned to your plaited hair
the way a baby's mouth sticks to a mother's breast-
it suits your youthfulness well
Stop! Don't desecrate your looks
washing off the sindoor in the parting of your hair
all for desire, leave it be! Don't kill yourself
breaking the strands of your beaded necklace
The round sindoor teeka
glimmering on your forehead
matches the blush of your cheeks
Just because a trifling letter
bound in handspun string arrived
I will not say your husband has died
And if anyone should insist he is dead-
Be proud!
Your husband hasn't died for nothing
He has enriched the soil of this country
on which you sow grains
Amid the dearth that makes one pick rice grains from
he has arranged for one meal of rations each day
for the baby with an empty stomach on the cot
You are the wife of a soldier
Don't you know even this:
like steam from water and water from steam
your husband who is said to be dead
returns now
as a secure country

And if you ask me,
listen! I say
a soldier never
Or else he is dead the day he accepts his appointment

These poems are found in Dhartiko Geet, an older collection of Adhikari's poems. Adhikari is also the author of several other poetry collections, book-length poems, and song collections. By profession he is a high-level advocate in government service.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)