Nepali Times
The urge for equality


Purna Bahadur Vaidya has written over a twenty-year period 84 poems in Nepal Bhasa: La La Kha (Water is Water: a collection of 84 poems refracted through water). Although some of these poems have appeared in translation in Nepali and in English, one can see from the concise alliterative La La Kha how readily the intensity of the original is lost in translation. The long-term commitment made to the craft of poetry and to insight gained through repeated encounters with a single theme should stand as a guideline for writers. Vaidya's threefold commitment-to the language he writes in, the society he lives in and to the person he would become hones itself against necessity. Water when seen as an elemental force, when investigated in its own right, clarifies human endeavour. It is not nature Vaidya is concerned with, but human nature. The mirroring force of his poetry demands that one attend to the details of living and not turn from the inevitability and power of necessary action, be it personal, political or social.
In "Mutual Quest", through the simple act of immersing oneself in water, the experience of giving one's self to another is examined as a moment of mutual and self definition. Sensuality establishes the basis for the exploration, yet what emerges is an understanding of the limits underpinning the encounter.

Mutual Quest
Only when naked
fully immersed
can I be touched throughout
I realise the warmth,
the pressure
Through touch I know
my own warmth
given over
What holds me fears
being fire, and
I fear those icy claws
To meet somewhere between
that's our mutual quest,
our meeting point

In "The Restless Urge For Equality" a description of a river flowing through land characterised as an ongoing encounter between the freeing force of nature and bounding enclosure of civilisation resolves itself with a statement of self recognition that carries with it social acquiescence and political commitment. The relentless force of water is tempered by all that resists it, but it flows on, itself a tempering force, and it is that levelling urge that draws it on.

The Restless Urge For Equality
Before moving water rounds itself
and rises ever so slightly
with an eye to sorting out where the land slopes
where depth lies
Encountered, the world gives it flow, direction, speed
As always water's intention is to fill and raise
Where boundaries create you & me
where between yours & mine walls rise -it revolts
Gathering strength it flows,
and wherever it flows
as day follows day walls collapse,
boundaries are dismissed
In the absence of boundaries and walls
we see wider land-where water calmly, naturally, moves on
This struggle tells me
that the character of the land is uneven
Tempered by the speed of the flow
my own innate desire
is the equality I seek

In La La Kha, Purna Bahadur Vaidya, avoiding the rhetoric of his contemporaries, has become the most unlikely of political poets, while his exacting descriptions purifies poetic language in Nepal today. For he has identified in nature a force that cannot be denied; staying close to that force and recognising its qualities, he has clarified his own vocation as a poet. Through understanding nature-not praising its majesty nor playing with its illusive forms-he has explored what it is to be human. Clear yet sensual; understated, yet political-underpinning commitment with a sure sense of what is and an intent to continue until limits are unbounded and privilege is undone-these water poems distil from Nepal Bhasa a fine and bracing liquor ready to be decanted.

(Poems from La La Kha were translated by Wayne Amtzis and Purna Bahadur Vaidya.)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)