South Asia Poets' Afternoon at a Nepali Home in New England
We all were eagerly anticipating arrival of our quarterly poetry meeting, so that we can listen to poems from our now familiar and friendly voices from South Asia. It was Saturday, February 5. We just had a snowstorm few days before our meeting. As we approached our destination, the snow bank provided a perfect backdrop. It was as if Mother Nature had kindly decided to give us a glimpse of snows of Himalaya of Nepal. Our gracious host Achyut ji and our sincere organizer Misra ji were out there in the parking area guiding our vehicles so that we can park safely.
Soon we entered the second floor of the house of our hosts. It was warm there, not only by the heat of the house but even more so by the warmth of the reception. Mr. and Mrs. Adhikary had outdone themselves. They had prepared a delicious hors d'oeuvres and delicious Nepali/Indian tea. With the help of friends and family members they had decorated the walls with beautiful paintings and pictures. One that is still fresh in mind is the picture of Buddha’s birthplace. It reflected saundarya (beauty) and shanti (serenity).
The poetry recitation began with the host’s reading his poem that narrated a pilgrimage to the holy site in the Himalayas, where one has to leave some of the attachments of the past behind and one offers prayers for both the past and future generations. It was an enchanting start. Kṛiṣṇāditya recited a Gujarati poem. It explored the poet’s despair when he sees that his depiction of social injustice is treated as another mind-diverting activity. Bijoy ji, not surprisingly, brought a new subject in his poem, which he had read at an interfaith gathering in a Jewish home. The poem was about lighting candles, as the Jewish people do during their high holydays. There were eight stanzas and it gave a new and universal symbolic meaning to the act of lighting the candles.
Balachandra ji recited a wonderful poem about snowfall. The description of snowfall in the beginning stanzas was picturesque. Rosie Kamal recited the English translation of a wonderful and famous Bengali poem. It showed how sensitive the poet’s ear was to the arrival of the spring season. Sajed ji recited two poems, one dealt with the human being in a modern urban environment as a hunter, but as we find out in the concluding line, the 'hunt' was for a parking space! This was most appropriate for us the drivers of the Boston area on snow-covered roads. The second poem that he recited dealt with the International Mother Language Day, celebrated annually on February 21st. It had moving sentiment!
Maria Cusumano, who always recites her songs with impeccable sense of music, recited two poems, which made their meanings so vivid. A pure vedantist, she Invokes the cosmic expanse of love and consciousness in her compositions. "Ocean of Love" was a brilliant metaphoric presentation. Lisa, at the request of Bijoy ji and all of us, sang a country song from Tracy Chapman band. Dhruva ji, the president of Nepali Association, recited few lines of a song and promised that in the next session he would recite some more poems. Alex, who is from Turkey and very interested in Nepali as well as Indian arts and literature, read a poem written by our host Achyutji. The poem beautifully expressed the sentiments of the universal aspirations of the humanity for freedom and equality. Alex also offered few comments about poems in his native language. He said he would recite some poems in the next meet. That concluded the poetry session.
But wait! There was more to come! There was a delicious feast awaiting us, in the form of several vegetable dishes, rice, yogurt and pickles, prepared by Adhikary family and friends. Finally, Achyut ji and Dhruva ji offered all of us a beautiful scarf (duppata/khes) and took our pictures. This was truly a memorable and very enjoyable evening, an experience of Nepali warmth in a New England winter.
Excerpts from the poems read in the meeting
"Let us go to Badridham (in Nepali)
Reach Haridwar by bus or by train
or by your own means
Reach Delhi whatever way
it is up to you.
Wandering Mind hold into your grip
in your own way.
Brindaban's Jula string
which is in your grip
leave behind the string of Brindaban Jhula
once you reach Laxman Jhula."
Artist (in Gujarati)
"The powerful and the populace noticed a golden hue around me,
and they thought I was in a festive mood as if in a festival of spring.
The diplomats started to draft a resolution:
my birthday should be celebrated as the spring festival of the whole nation,
I represent the essence of such a society.
I am decorated with many awards.
I am an artist.
I am a poet.
I feel disheartened."
Light a Candle (in English)
"Light a Candle to our Father, who gave us life and took our fear,
Who held our hand, who taught us living, gave us our character,
Light a candle to the pain, the struggles, and the boat we sail,
To the Spirit of our life, that protects, to the Lord we hail!
Light a Candle to our Mother, who stayed unseen,
Cared for us, gave us food, taught us manners always keen,
O’ Mothers of the world! This candle is for you!
Let us remove darkness, such that we can have a view!"
Snow, Snow, Snow (in English)
"Now my thoughts go to California with sunshine.
Why am I here, when I could be there
Without all the snow and the resulting mess, and
One worries only about earthquakes and wild fires?
I was woken up from my reverie with a grinding noise
It was the neighbor with his snow blower
Dressed in a warm coat and gloves
Clearing his driveway for an early commute.
My serenity is gone, my worries begin
How am I getting out from my steep driveway?
Would my guy with the snow plow come in time?
Or will I be stuck here till evening?"
Don't Sleep Tonight (original in Bengali by Sufia Kamal, 1911-1999)
"Keep the windows open!
Spring has begun its whispered dialogue outside
as the south wind, in sudden impulses,
brings in the fragrance of the mango blossoms
and breaks the silence."
Ekushe Means (original in Bengali)
"Ekushe means courage
Ekushe means self-awareness
Ekushe means self-identity
Ekushe means self-test
Ekushe means self-realization
Ekushe means self-respect
Ekushe means self-confidence
Ekushe means not to forget."
Ocean of Love (in English)
"The Ocean of Love is light like the air
The Ocean of Love it can fit anywhere
It may be a color blue black green azure
And yet as a color it is clean white and pure."
Behind the Wall (lyric and band by Tracy Chapman)
"Last night I heard the screaming
Then a silence that chilled my soul
Prayed that I was dreaming
When I saw the ambulance on the road
And the policeman said
"I'm here to keep the peace.
Will the crowd disperse?
I think we all could use some sleep."
Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good to call
The police always come late
If they come at all."
Same Feeling(a poem in English by Achyut Adhikary))
"Red Rose, Blue Diamond
Arts of Love
Flow of Minds', fingers of Bloggers'
awaits to sleep, River
into the lap of Ocean.
Fingers on top of the Head
beneath the chest
Blogger places the Head
into the lap of the legs.
No Boundry, no land
No matters same feeling
when the pain occurs at Human kin.
A Grand Salute to Red Blood, White Blood who made the End of Slavery."