Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Much ado about nothing much


Without further ado, let us use this period of relative calm before the onset of the annual typhoon season to get right down to some literary analysis of the works of William ("Bill") Shakespeare. As some of you may be knowing (or pretending not to know, as the case may be) Mr Shakespeare actually travelled overland to Nepal during his hippie days as a budding bard, and many of his now-famous lines are strongly influenced by this poetic nation of ours. (National flower: rhododendron, national animal: cow, national credo: "Never do unto others what you do to yourself".)

When he got face-to-face with Nepal's great versifiers, Bill realised just how much harder he needed to work to polish his iambic pentameter, inject more subtlety to his symbolism, and be less clumsy with his morphology and syntax. But, inspired by some of our great poet laureates, Bill learnt fast and honed his craft, going on to become rich and famous, and the inventor of such vibrant words as: "zounds", "forsooth", and "bung-hole" (this last word was later shamelessly plagiarised by two terrorists going by the nom de guerre "Beavis and Butthead").

Bill Shakespeare's works carry many references to the sights and sounds and, yes, the smells of Kathmandu Valley. Take this verse that he penned after an exhilarating hot-air balloon ride over our fair city, and later used in Macbeth:

Fair is foul and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Being a great dog lover, Shakespeare was especially touched by the number of canines he saw in and around Kathmandu. Sometimes, he even mistook the she-goats for dogs, like:

Aroint thee, O, Spartan dog, I do beseech you.
Black ram tupping with your white ewe.

Or take this vivid description of the garbage dump at Krishna Galli, which the troubadour got to know intimately since he passed it every day on his way to his rented flat at Chakupat:

There's hell, there's darkness,
There's sulphrous pit, burning, scalding,
Stench, Consumption!
Forsooth, fire burn and cauldron bubble
In the poison'd entrails throw
Fillet of a fenny snake,
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing
Ditch deliver'd by a drab.

Having been a keen student of politics, Bill often erupted spontaneously into poetry after reading the Nepali morning papers:

Fetch that minister hither.
Thou rogue, thou rascal,
Thou art a hellish villain, hell hath no end
Thou burst thine ass in thy back o'er the dirt
What profane wretch art thou?
And to that dauntless temper of his mind, alack,
For supporting robber, shall we now
Contaminate our fingers with base bribes
And sell the mighty space of our large honours for so much trash
As may be grasped thus.

Shakespeare was also impressed with the languid pace of life in Nepal, and wrote a tribute to the Nepali habit of never doing today what can be done tomorrow:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools.

And then again, he was impressed by how we can fall asleep at the drop of a hat despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:

To sleep, perchance to dream, there's the rub
O sleep, o gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse how I have frighted thee
That thou no more wilt no more weigh my eye-lids down
Prithee, let me snore, sirrah.
For, otherwise, I will knock you over the mazzard.
Zounds! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of bung-hole?

And despite the restrictions on his personal freedom imposed by a state of emergency, Old Bill managed to say:

Alarum'd by this sentinel,
I awake.
Be not offended
I speak not as in absolute fear of you
I think our country sinks beneath the yoke
It weeps, it bleeds
And each new day a gash is added to her wounds.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)