LET THE POEMS FLY: This is my third poem in a series of poems for the Poetry Marathon event which I’ll be posting for eight days. I will also be nominating a poet or poetess to continue the thread of words across the globe. As Clarissa Jakobsons put it: let the poems fly.
APRIL 1945 written by: Satis Shroff
Sie trug einen roten Wintermantel
Und hielt einen Gehstock in der Hand.
Gabriela Klein überquerte den Zebrastreifen,
Neben der neue schwarzen Unibibliothek.
Eine Kompanie von Soldaten im Kampfanzug
Kamen von der anderen Straßenseite.
Ihre Schritte verlangsamten und ihr Körper zitterte.
In ihrem Geist, ist sie im April 1945:
Die Franzosen haben Freiburg in den Besitz genommen.
Die Werwolf Hitlerjugend wollte das Schwabentor sprengen.
Freiburgs tapfere Männer haben’s verhindert.
Wie werden die Franzosen uns behandeln?
Sie hatte damals keine Ahnung,
Daß der Krieg schon vorbei war.
Kein Radio,Keine Zeitungen.
Ausgangssperre von 19 Uhr bis 7 Uhr.
Obwohl die Deutschen und die Franzosen Einst Erzfeinde waren,
Benahmen sich die französische Soldaten diszipliniert.
Book Review By Satis Shroff: Friedrich Holderlin’s Selected Poetry translated by David Constantine
REVIEW By Satis Shroff
Friedrich Holderlin’s Selected Poetry translated by David Constantine.
The Swabian poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) was born in Lauffen upon the Neckar on the 20th of March 250 years ago. He was a German poet and philosopher and was influenced by Hegel and Schelling, and was also an important thinker of German idealism. The strange and beautiful language of Friedrich Holderlin’s late poemshas been recreated by David Constantine in remarkable verse translations. This is a new expanded edition of Constantine’s Hölderlin Selected Poems (1990/1996) have been widely praised, containing many new translations as well as the whole of Hölderlin’s Sophocles (2001). Here the English translator has tried to create an equivalent English for Hölderlin’s extraordinary German recreations of the classic Greek verse plays. It might be mentioned that Constantine won the European Poetry Translation Prize in 1997 for his translations of Hölderlin. He was the son of an estates bailiff, who died when Friedrich was barely two years old. His mother then married mayor Gock of Nürtingen, who died five years later. At that time Hölderlin was 9 years old. It was decided that Friedrich should take the priest’s profession because he was a gifted boy. At the age of 16 he received a state scholarship for a cloister school, a place known for Catholic drill, order and discipline. In short, a performance system. He knew he had to arrange himself in this system. Friedrich became melancholic and quiet. He wrote letters and poems. It was in Maulbronn where he began to write poems. ‘Ich dulde es nicht mehr ‘ wrote Friedrich as the cloister school became too much with him. Tübingen: Hölderlin belonged to the elite of the mind: : theology, philology and philosophy were his subjects in Tübingen. He shared his room with two other students: Hegel and Schelling. Hölderlin wrote: ‘How can we create a world that d egoism and individual interests? He demanded to be one with everything that lives. A utopia in which art plays a significant role. In Tübingen thinking was trained. He developed the idea of a free human being, despite the restrictions of society. Freedom had to be realized. No power for anyone. He couldn’t imagine that he could and experience history in his days in the town of Tübingen. He wrote hymns to Nature; Tübinger Hymns and for him poetry was a service to society, to change the people. And on how to exist. At the age of 23 Friedrich Hölderlin left Tübingen and took a position as a house-teacher of a noble family with high expectations. In 1802 he made a journey to Bordeaux. France where the French Revolution had taken place in 1689. The storm of the Bastille was the beginning of a new time and a new human being due to the French Revolution. The people got up at last against the tyranny of the rich. Meanwhile, in Germany there were still the noble families in power. The French troops had crossed the Rhine and entered Germany. Holderlin was 22 at this time in the Tübingen Stift. In 1793 Friedrich Hölderlin completed his Tübenger Seminary and due to Schiller’s mediation, he became the private tutor of the son of Frau von Kalb at Waltershausen. The parents of the boy found that their son Fritz used to masturbate, which was then regarded almost as a sin. Hölderlin was fired through no fault of his. It was there that the poet started writing a novel with a Greek setting—Hyperion (1797-99). Friedrich wrote at that time: ‘Why do I have to be so poor? Help me. Schiller was a Swabian writer and poet who became famous abroad. He went to Jena in 1794-95 where he contacted Schiller, who gave him small pieces of work but no major projects. Hegel, Schiller and Goethe were his contemporaries and he enjoyed their friendship—except for Goethe. Nevertheless, Hölderlin was in the right place with the prominent thinkers of his time. Friedrich Hölderlin was 20 years younger than Goethe. He crossed paths with Johann Wolfgang Goethe twice in 1797 and 1800 in Stuttgart and Nürtingen. An embarrassing encounter in 1795 at Schiller’s house in Jena during which Hölderlin was with Goethe alone in a room, but the latter didn’t recognize him. Or pretended not to. At the second encounter two years later in Frankfurt, Goethe called Friedrich Hölderlin ‘Hölterlein’ and advised him paternally to write small poems and to choose a human interest object. His heart sank to his feet. The great Goethe was for Hölderlin a trauma. Later during his tower-days, where Hölderlin lived, he’d wince every time the name Goethe was mentioned by his guests. He wanted to find in Schiller a father-figure, a mentor whom he could look upon for advice and someone who could make a great poet out of him. But Schiller plainly refused with Goethe always towering behind him. Hölderlin carried out monologues: as a poet of the people he wanted to be one with Nature and human beings, where the thunder lends the voice. Dotima, a symbolized love: In December 1795 Friedrich Hölderlin took a new post as a tutor in the house of a Frankfurter banker named J.F. Gontard. However, in Frankfurt Hölderlin had the status of a domestic servant and was not allowed to show his ‘Geist,’ his intellect. He had noticed that Susette, the wife of banker was unhappy in her marriage. The two fell in love which gave rise to the Dotima poems. It was here that Friedrich fell in love with Gontard’s young wife Susette, who returned his affections. She became for him an embodiment of the Hellenic ideal, which was symbolized by Diotima, a name he referred to her in his poems and in Hyperion. Hölderlin developed his characteristic style of poetry in the year 1796. The change is seen in 1797-99 in a tragedy with the title ‘Empedocles.’ In 1798there was a scandal when the banker husband discovered the love affair between Hölderlin and his wife Susetteere was a torntte. Hölderlin got thrown out. The cold and anger can be felt in Hölderlin’s Hyperion II. Here was a broken, torn priest, a thinker. His godly feelings had abandoned him. He felt that his countrymen had no feeling for togetherness and rides rigorously with his own folk. Hölderlin met Susette secretly and handed her a copy of Hyperion II, a love tragedy. He didn’t see Susette Gontard after 1799. During this time there was a war of conquest and exploitation. Napoleon had come to power like a dictator. He officially ended the French Revolution. Holderlin wrote about the French Revolution in English in 1848-49. Friedrich wasn’t satisfied with political life in Germany, and he hoped for a Swabian Revolution and had friends among the revolutionaries of his day. He would have been arrested for his contacts with revolutionaries but a friendly physician wrote an attest that he was a psychiatric patient. It was speculated whether the medical diagnosis was only to escape punishment as a revolutionary. In 1802-1804Friedrich Hölderlin went to his mother in a disturbed mental state. He came under psychiatric treatment in a healing institution. It was like a torture for the poet. The doctors told him he had three years to live, and he was 37 years old. Hölderlin was confined to a tower near the river Neckar, where he spent 36 years of his life with a carpenter master and his daughter. From his tower he could see the Neckar flowing. Hölderlin was unreachable as far as his command of the German language was concerned. He was a loner and a lover, who wrote poems that broke limits and his poetry broke frontiers. All politicians of his day and even later the Nazis sought something and identified themselves in Hölderlin’s poesie. Even Heidegger mentioned during a lecture on Hölderlin: ‘Goethe ist leeres Reimgeklingel.’ He meant the depth that Hölderlin’s poems had. Societal political ideas of a change, similar to the French Revolution were sought in his verses. In 1802 Hölderlin became a tutor at Hauptwil, near St.Gall, Swiss Canton Thurgau. Holderlin was in search of a poetic form. It was how own search and he wanted to get hold of the godly fire. Everything was open. After three months in Switzerland, he went back to Germany. After a decade of war, there’s peace again. Hölderlin writes a ‘Peace Celebration Poem: Friedensfeier Gedicht. An evolution takes place in Hölderlin the poet. The language of the hymn becomes a song. He starts to experiment with music and song. It may be mentioned that Hyperion and the dramatic fragments of Der Tod des Empedocles are about the Greek ideal. The mission of the poet and the deafness of the world around him. Hölderlin wrote his poems radically and tried everything: sentences, classical poems, radical poems. His poems are not understood without the blessing of Goethe. Sand and Sea: In 1801-1802 Hölderlin made a new start in France. ‘What can insult you more, my heart?’ he says. He sought an existential crisis with his extended walks in Nature and crossed dark valleys and came across sunny ones. He reached Bordeaux in 1802 and found beautiful, classical buildings in France and Great Britain. There was trade between the two countries. This time a wine-trader was his employer. The French language fascinated him and he wrote ‘Andenken,’ a landscape that moved him: the beach, the sea in Bordeaux. In his hymn ‘Andenken’ he thinks about the Continent, humans, Asia and South Africa opening his horizon. Four months later, Hölderlin left Bordeaux. In May 1802 Hölderlin the restless soul was underway again on foot. A wandering poet and philosopher. He walks from Bordeaux to Paris and Strassbourg. He returned to Nürtingen, where his mother lived, in a very disturbed mental state. He was unkempt, dirty, unrecognizable and nervous. Hölderlin translated all his writing life. Through translation he reached a poetic language of his own, so that much of his best poetry reads like a translation from elsewhere. He was intensely occupied with Sophocles in the winter of 1803-04. In the last years of his sanity he turned to hymnic verse, with poems of haunting beauty in free verse rhythms: Am Quelle der Donau, Germanien, Der Rheim, Friedensfeier and Patmos. In some of his later poems he tried to reconcile Christianity with his beloved Hellas. Even though he was in bad shape, his mind was extremely creative and he wrote poems, hymns, a new poetic style. His loneliness and coldness came in, and he tried to sum up his work life. Half of his life was a nightly song. He saw his own fate. In the autumn of 1804 he worked as a librarian in a castle in Homberg. But his mental illness recurred and he was sent to an institution in Tüningen. However, his health improved. He began asking questions: a self-assessment. Who was he? What could he write? He knew he didn’t have much time to write. He penned suggestive language images (Sprachbilder), broken poem fragments. He spent the Springtime along the Rhine and wrote like a writing maniac: he wrote in poetic ecstasy. In 1806 he was in the psychiatric ward and was released after 204 days. He ended in the tower near the Neckar, where he spent 36 years under the care of a local master carpenter named Zimmer. He was not a prisoner and it was an extended protective space, a shelter.
The poet and philosopher died on the 7th of June 1843.
In English translation by David Constantine: Ages of Life (Friedrich Hölderlin)
Euphrates’ cities and Palmyra’s streets and you Forests of columns in the level desert What are you now? Your crowns, because You crossed the boundary Of breath, Were taken off In Heaven’s smoke and flame; But I sit under clouds (each one Of which has peace) among The ordered oaks, upon The deer’s heath, and strange And dead the ghosts of the blessed ones Appear to me. ‘Once there were gods’ Once there were gods, on earth, with people, the heavenly muses And Apollo, the youth, healing, inspiring, like you. And you are like them to me, as though one of the blessed Sent me out into life where I go my comrade’s Image goes with me wherever I suffer and build, with love Unto death; for I learned this and have this from her. Let us live, oh you who are with me in sorrow, with me in faith And heart and loyalty struggling for better times! For such we are! And if ever in the coming years they knew Of us two when the spirit matters again They would say: lovers in those days, alone, they created Their secret world that only the gods knew. For who Cares only for things that will die the earth will have them, but Nearer the light, into the clarities come Those keeping faith with the heart’s love and holy spirit who were Hopeful, patient, still, and got the better of fate.
National literature no longer means very much, the age of world literature is due.
(National literature will jetzt nicht viel sagen, die Epoche der Weltliterature ist an der Zeit — Goethe).
Global writers and poets are connecting internationally via the internet. Why should only the literature mainstream in the USA, Australia and Britain take the lead?The world literature propagated was entirely Eurocentric and Goethe himself was a German universal writer one of the most original and powerful German lyric poets and his Faust I & II is a melange of comedy, tragedy, pathos, wit and satire, that is, magical beauty.
However, his collection of pseudo-oriental lyrics ‘West-östliche Divan’ (1819) is closed associated with Marianne von Willemer, one of the most gifted and intellectual women in Goethe’s life. Goethe spoke of world literature during his times. But what we experience today is global literature, which is not a western literature with national borders. It is definitely post-colonial, post-ethnic and post-national. You could call it non-whitey, non-mainstream literature. This global literature is written by writers and poets who have left their homes for diverse reasons and are, of course put into the ‘migrant literature category.
This global literature is nervous, vibrant, dynamic and these writings have had a quiet existence since decades nut isn’t being noticed by the greedy, sensation-seeking mainstream publishers from the former colonial nations based in the UK, USA, and its ally Australia, Japan, France and Germany. These global writer and poets have, due to their migration, changed their cultures and adopted new languages of the host countries. These authors came and still come from Asia, Africa, Caribbean isles and since they’re obliged to write not in their mother-tongues, they take to literature like fish in water, observing and comparing their new experiences with the old, and write about their lives as global travellers and existential trespassers of international boundaries not only in their lives but also in their minds.
It is a sad fact that the literary market is dominated by Anglo-Americans throughout the world. With Behari, Nepali, Gujerati, Bengali or Malay alone you couldn’t reach the world market which is still dominated by the English language. Would the world have seen and read Tagore’s Gitanjali or Shakuntala if it hadn’t been translated into English? The Nobel Prize for Literature to a Bengali poet has inspired generations of Bengalis and others in the Indian subcontinent, as have the Man Booker Prizes for Rushdie, Kiran Desai and Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Hemingway Award for Jhumpa Lahiri.
Why are Nigerian Chinua Achebe’s books well known in the world than the ones of those of African writers writing in their own mother tongues? If Ngugi wa Thiong’o hadn’t moved to the Britain and later to the USA, why, he wouldn’t have become a professor for comparative literature and performance studies at New York University in 1992.
It is high time that the upcoming authors from the Southern Hemisphere (South America, Africa South Asian and South-East Asia got together and made their own literary world, with book publications, poetry events and awards. It is time that such writers and poetry associations around the world got together and created their own prominent poetry festivals to combat the discrimination going on in the world’s publishing markets. Global literature is here to stay as a resurrection from the ashes of bitter post-colonial experiences and thanks to the proliferation of social media and e-books. Down with the discriminatory Anglo-American, French and German mainstream literature markets that have been ignoring and discriminating global poets and writers.
The fall of the British, French, Dutch and other empires led to changes in relations with these powerful countries and resulted in revolutions as far as east-west relations were concerned. It was also a catalyst for great migration waves because the western cities destroyed during the World War II had to be reconstructed, factories renovated and rebuilt and manpower was missing. Most able men in these countries were injured, crippled or dead. And so the migration brought also changes in these western societies.
In most of the narratives of the global writers and poets the theme of identity takes a central position. Who am I? What am I doing here in this foreign world that I have embraced? Where do I belong? Questions about the hybridity, acculturation and integration, mixed cultures and multiple-identities arise, as men and women of different ethnic backgrounds marry, bring for progeny. Does migration lead to a loss of identity or it a win-win and thus enriching situation? The global authors write a literature of being in-between and growing within foreign cultures that they have accepted. They write about the changes and exchanges between two cultures and the question of: ‘Where do I belong?’ is raised. Is it a world in transition? An improvised life for a temporary period?
In the case of the asylum-seekers the question of the stay-permit or the green card, as the case may be, hangs like a Damocles Sword above the writer or poet. A toleration? A Duldung? Or will my asylum-request be refused and I’ll be obliged to board the next plane to my country?
A lot of writers and poets from ex-colonial countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia have to chew on the mistakes and fatal decisions made by those in power during the pregnancy, birth or miscarriage of their respective countries. The hatred between the Hindus of India and the Muslims of West Pakistan is a glaring example of how the partition of a country should not have been carried out. The British left the Indian subcontinent without solving the Indo-Pakistani problem. The result was a historical mayhem, anarchy, chaos and mobocracy. In other countries independence from colonialists led to dictatorships, civil wars, economic crisis, wanton corruption and open or hidden nepotism.
The colonialists interfered not only in the politics and economies of these countries but also in the socio-cultural lives of these people and had regarded them as being ‘inferior’ to their own British, French, Dutch, Portugese, Spanish and so-called Australian (actually imported Brit) cultures. There was no collective psycho-therapy for these unfortunate people, who were left on their own when the colonial powers retreated. Left to their meagre means to exist because their country’s wealth had been plundered and stolen ‘legally’ by the colonialists. Even today the treasures from the former colonies can be seen for a fee in the British, French, Belgian, German and Rijks (Netherlands) museums.
Like Goethe wrote in ‘Der Gross Cophta, II:
You must either conquer and rule Or serve and lose, Suffer or triumph, Be the anvil or the hammer
Even the history of India has to be re-constructed and re-written by modern writers for the books from the colonial times had a jaundiced perspective and viewpoint. Asian countries and its people are badly described by the Brits and French in their versions. It’s high time that Asians described the Brits, French and other colonial characters in novels and poems through their own eyes and show the world what it was like to live under colonial rule and of how the traditions, beliefs, religions and cultures were ignored and ridiculed by the masters of the empire.
Writers that written with a heart for the downtrodden in the former colonies are undoubtedly V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Conrad, Alexander Hemon, Hanif Kureishi, JM Coetzee and Michael Ondatje. It is amazing how many poets and poetesses there are in the different websites around the world. This is a commendable and formidable resource and must be channelled to produce not only festivals but also works of literature for posterity. In this context I’d like to mention Epitacio Tongohan of Pentasi B World Freiendship Poetry, Leyla I??k from Kibatek,Turkey, Maria Miraglia and Saverio Sinopoli from the Neruda Association from Italy and India’s Manthena Damodara Chary’s endeavours to bring out certificates and anthologies of the best poems on his websites and now we have Singapore Writers under Hj Harisharis Hj Hamzah with a taste of Malay and Singaporean Poetry at an international event in 2018.
This time Satis Shroff tells you in his prosepoem about Nepal’s Wandering Minstrels called Gaineys, who go from village to village throughout the country and beyong Northern India with their crude versions of the violin and sing about kings, princesses, love-stories.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EcVBmaIkic
Prosepoem: A Minstrel’s Songs of Love and Sorrow (Satis Shroff)
Go away, you maya. Disappear. Haunt me not in my dreams.. What has become of my country? My grandpa said: “In Nepal even a child Can walk the countryside alone.” It’s just not true, not for a Nepalese, born with a sarangi in his hand. I’m a musician, one of the lower caste in the Hindu hierarchy. I bring delight to my listeners, hope to touch the hearts of my spectators.
I sing about love, hate and evil, kings and queens, princes and princesses, The poor and the rich, and the fight for existence, in the craggy foothills and the towering heights of the Himalayas, the Abode of the Snows, where Buddhist and Hindu Gods and Goddesses reside, and look over mankind and his folly. I was born in Tanhau, a nondescript hamlet in Nepal, were it not for Bhanu Bhakta Acharya who was born here, the Nepalese poet who translated the Ramayana, from high-flown Sanskrit into simple Nepali for all to read.
I remember the first day my father handed me a sarangi. He taught me how to hold and swing the bow. I was delighted with the first squeaks it made, as I moved the bow on the taught horsetail strings. It was as though my small sarangi was talking with me in its baby-talk. I was so happy, I and my sarangi, my sarangi and me. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I was so thankful. I touched my Papa’s feet, as is the custom in the Himalayas. I could embrace the whole world. My father taught me the tones, and the songs to go with them, for we gaineys are minstrels who wander from place to place, like gypsies, like butterflies in Spring. We are a restless folk to be seen everywhere, where people dwell, for we live from their charity and our trade.
The voice of the gainey, the sad melody of the sarangi. A boon to those who love the lyrics, a nuisance to those who hate it. Many a time, we’ve been kicked and beaten by young people who prefer canned music, from their ghetto-blasters. Outlandish melodies, electronic beats you can’t catch up with. Spinning on their heads, hip-hopping like robots, not humans. It’s the techno, ecstasy generation. Where have all the old melodies gone? The Nepalese folksongs of yore? The song of the Gainey?
“This is globanisation,” they told me.
The grey-eyed visitors from abroad, ‘Quirays’ as we call them in Nepal. Or ‘gora-sahibs’ in Hindustan. The quirays took countless pictures of me, with their cameras, gave handsome tips. A grey-haired elderly didi with spectacles, and teeth in like a horse’s mouth, even gave me a polaroid-picture of me with my sarangi, my mountain violin. Sometimes, I look at my fading picture and wonder how fast time flows. My smile is disappearing, grey hair at the sides, the beginning of baldness. I’ve lost a lot of my molars, at the hands of the Barbier from Muzzafapur in the Indian lowlands; he gave me clove oil to ease my pain, as he pulled out my fouled teeth in an open-air-surgical salon, right near the Tribhuvan Highway.
I still have my voice and my sarangi, and love to sing my repertoire, even though many people sneer and jeer at me, and prefer Bollywood texts from my voice-box. To please their whims, I learned even Bollywood songs, against my will, eavesdropping behind cinema curtains, to please the western tourists and my country’s modern youth, I even learned some English songs.
Oh money, dear money. I’ve become a cultural prostitute. I’ve done my zunft, my trade, an injustice, but I did it to survive. I had to integrate myself and to assimilate in my changing society. Time has not stood still under the shadow of the Himalayas.
One day when I was much younger, I was resting under a Pipal tree which the tourists call Ficus religiosa, when I saw one beautiful tourist girl. I looked and smiled at her. She caressed her hair, And smiled back. For me it was love at first sight. All the while gazing at her, I took out my small sarangi, with bells on my fiddle bow and played a sad Nepali melody composed by Ambar Gurung, which I’d learned in my wanderings from Ilam to Darjeeling. I am the sky and you are the soil; even though we yearn a thousand times, we cannot come together. I was sentimental at that moment. Had tears in my eyes.
When I finished my song, the blonde woman sauntered up to me, and said in a smooth voice, ‘Thank you for the lovely song. Can you tell me what it means?’
I felt a lump on my throat and couldn’t speak for a while. Then, with a sigh, I said, ‘We have this caste system in Nepal. When I first saw you, I imagined you were a fair bahun girl. We aren’t allowed to fall in love with bahunis. It is a forbidden love, a love that can never come true. I love you but I can’t have you.’
‘But you haven’t even tried,’ said the blonde girl coyly.
‘I like your golden hair, Your blue eyes. It’s like watching the sky.’
‘Oh, thank you. Danyabad. She asked: ‘But why do you say: ‘We cannot be together?’
‘We are together now,’ I replied, ‘But the society does not like us gaineys from the lower caste. The bahuns, chettris castes are above us. They look down upon us.’
‘Why do they do that?’ asked the blonde girl.
I spat out: ‘Because they are high-born. We, kamis, damais and sarkis, are dalits. We are the downtrodden, the underdogs of this society in the foothills of the Himalayas.’
‘Who made you what you are?’ she asked.
I told her: ‘The Hindu society is formed this way: once upon a time there was a bahun, and from him came the Varnas. The Vernas are a division of society into four parts. Brahma created the bahuns from his mouth. The chettris, who are warriers came from his shoulder, the traders from his thigh and the servants from the sole of his feet.’
‘What about the poor dalits?’ quipped the blonde foreigner.
‘The dalits fell deeper in the Hindu society, And were not regarded as full members of the human race. We had to do the errands and menial jobs that were forbidden for the higher castes.’
‘Like what?’ she asked.
‘Like disposing dead animals, making leather by skinning hides of dead animals, cleaning toilets and latrines, clearing the sewage canals of the rich, high born Hindus. I am not allowed to touch a bahun, even with my shadow, you know.’
‘What a mean, ugly system,’ she commented, and shook her head. ‘May I touch you?’ she asked impulsively. She was daring and wanted to see how I’d react.
‘You may,’ I replied. She touched my hand, Then my cheeks with her two hands. I found it pleasant and a great honour.
I joined my hands and said sincerely, ‘Dhanyabad.’ I, a dalit, a no-name, a no-human, has been touched by a young, beautiful woman, a quiray tourist, from across the Black Waters we call the Kalapani.’
A wave of happiness and joy swept over me. A miracle had happened. Like a princess kissing a toad, in fairy tales I’d heard. Perhaps Gandhi was right: I was a Child of God, a harijan, and this fair lady an apsara.
She, in her European mind, thought she’d brought the idea of human rights at least to the gainey, this wonderful wandering minstrel, with his quaint fiddle called sarangi.
She said in her melodious voice, ‘In my country all people are free and equal, have the same rights and dignity. All humans have common sense, a conscience, and we ought to meet each other as brothers and sisters.’
I tucked my sarangi in my armpit, Clapped my hands and said:
It was only after the World War II, when it became public, that many Germans realised what an infamy and act of criminality and inhumanity its armed forces and civil servants had meted out to its Jewish citizens, gypsies (Roma and Sinti), POWS from other conquered countries and their very own disabled persons, whose right to exist and live as they pleased was challenged by self-styled members of the Aryan race, who wanted to eliminate, what they called ‘worthless lives.’ Hitler wanted to create a new Aryan race with blondes and blue-eyed Germans and a start was made at Schönborn, where young virile males and females were allowed to mate for the Fatherland. Many of the children from these anonymous intercourses still live today, and would like to know who their parents were, for the offsprings were given to German families or grew up in Scandinavian countries.
We have but to read Bertold Brecht’s book ‘Furcht und Elend im Dritten Reich’ to understand that angst was the order of the day, when even fathers had to fear their own sons because the latter were active members of Hitler’s youth and boy-scout organisations. They had to show allegiance to their Führer and no one else. It was in this atmosphere, charged with fear of denunciation, that the people lived their normal lives in wartime Germany.
In the post-war period it wasn’t any better for the Germans who lived in the German Democratic Republic under Erik Honneker, where kilometres of barbed-wire, Alsatian dogs, manned by the Volks police and deadly automatic guns that fired at the touch of a hidden wire, and where the Big Brother Stasi (secret state security) was always watching its citizens.
You couldn’t trust anybody in those days.
I remember when I was a medical student I met a blonde girl in the Anatomy class and she looked around furtively said in a whisper: ‘I’m from the DDR, but please don’t tell anyone about it.’ She’d fled to the west. She was safe here but her fear accompanied her like a shadow. I reassured her and we are still good friends and laugh about those times. Even Günter Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, has a tough time fighting with himself regarding his past, and he mentions it in his onion-experience book, the English version of which hit the bookstands last year. The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie are replete with historical human tragedies of people who wanted to flee from a totalitarian state. Families were separated and the expression ‘Ossie and Wessie’ was normal for a long time, even after the Berlin Wall fell on November 11,1989. Two nations, two governments, two different ideologies but the same people. The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the most emotional and historical greatest events in this world, not only for us Germans, but also for the former East Bloc countries. In this post-Perestroika period, the new and growing memberships in the European Union and Nato are proof enough of the desire, yes the craving, to be a part of Europe and the Upper Hemisphere, for the East Bloc countries were economically developing countries, made kaput by the communist and socialist apparatus.
Despite the negative headlines and banners in the media, even the former East German cities are mobilising themselves against the Neonazis, and others who still believe in the yesteryears of so-called Aryan culture and power. Wolfgang Tiefen, SPD, Minister of Transport in
Germany was right when he said: ‘It isn’t enough if one thinks in silence. In many cities there are attempts by rightists to show their presence. To counteract this move, one has to go to the streets. Dresden has shown us how to treat the Neos.’ It must be mentioned that at the autobahn resting place Teufelstuhl (Devil’s Chair), near Jena, Neonazis brutally beat up the people who’d taken part in the big demonstration, and some of them had serious injuries.
Apropos injuries, the survivors of the holocaust and their children, and their children’s children still suffer from the traumatic experience in the concentration camps, and have fear of death and loss. In a clinical study carried out in 1968 in Holland with 800 Jewish patients, who’d survived the holocaust, had what is known as the KZ-syndrome, which is a combination of problems. The patients had chronic angst (fear), cognition and memory disturbances, heavy chronic depression, changes in personality and identity, emotional regression, psychosomatic problems like phobia, hallucination and showed signs of agitation. They also suffered from psychosis, restlessness, sleep disturbances, nervosity, diffuse fear of new persecution, permanent exhaustion and loss of vitality due to weight loss caused by persecution.
It is interesting to note that similar symptoms were to be seen in the case of survivors of Hiroshima, POWs and among the persecuted Afro-American and native Indian tribesmen of the USA. A study about the syndromes of Guantanamo survivors on the part of NANDA is pending.
Whereas a lot of the KZ survivors had the syndrome, there were those who were spared such traumatic experiences and syndromes in a new, safe country like the USA, Holland, Canada and Israel, even though they had a latent phase in old age, because the Jewish migrants have a close social network in which rituals and symbols play a big part. Nevertheless, all holocaust survivors have a lot of things in common: the experience of helplessness, terror, deprivation, loss of social groups (friends, family, relatives) and profession. Added to this plethora of problems is the survivor-guilt. When you’ve underdone such hardships and experiences you tend to ask yourself: Why did I survive and not the others?. You have painful pictures of death and the unfinished process of mourning for your near and dear ones who’d died in the concentration camps or were shot by a firing squad.
When a Jewish survivor of the holocaust gets a cancer tumour, it brings up memories of the holocaust because of the loss of hair due to the intake of cyclostatica during treatment, thus baldiness gives you the feeling of being imprisoned again in an institute. The fear of death creeps up slowly and the hospital clothing remind you of the KZ prisoner’s striped dress. The loss of hair imparts a feeling of loss of identity. So the diagnosis cancer develops further in your mind to become a personal holocaust.
The question is: have we Germans learned from the lessons of the past? One thing we should have learned after having survived the Third Reich and World War II is never to be silent when the rights of humans are being trampled, and look the other way. As long there’s democracy, there’s also the right to view one’s personal opinions in matters pertaining to politics, culture and religion. In diesem Sinne: Vive la difference!
In Luzern you can see a Pandora’s Box, the contents of which was long in the hands of a Swiss Red Cross nurse named Elsbeth Kasser, who’d worked in the concentration camp Gurs, located in Southern France. It’s a box full of 150 pictures, works of art by interned Jewish artists. The photographs and KZ artistic drawings, sketches are being exhibited at Luzern’s Historical Museum. The title is appropriate: Hinschauen — -nicht wegschauen, which means, Look at it, don’t look away.
The KZ prisoners, who were transported to the Vernichtungslager by the Nazis, had pleaded to the nurse Elsbeth Kasser: ‘Swiss Sister, tell about it in your country, tell what happened here to the world.’ 1943 was long ago, but it was in 1989 that she showed the works to others. Frau Kasser died in 1992. She’d brought a little joy and support in Gurs and was ashamed of what the Nazis had done to the people she’d begun to like: transported to the camps of elimination, never to return and see the light of the day, never to breathe like you and me, never to live with their families and friends. Uprooted brutally, undergoing suffering, maltreatment, experiencing cold, hunger, deprivation and dying miserable deaths in concentration camps, eradicated like rodents. Precious human souls, who’d lived in Barrack No. C/6.
THE ANGST OF GLOBAL WAR (Satis Shroff) Subtitle: The Sunflowers & Poppies Grow)
Putin shakes hands with veterans in Moscow. Russia should never be underestimated; Power is being mobilized as in the past World Wars. Russia has not lost the war is the tenor. The bells chime in the Kremlin like mockery for those killed. There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
Modern and old weapons are on display, Generals in black cabrios take the salute. A sea of smart, disciplined soldiers carrying weapons, Swords, salutes and martial music on the Red Square. It’s all about defending the Fatherland And solidarity with the soldiers. Stoltenberg message to Putin is to end the war. Bundestags_President Bär lays down a wreath in Ukraine. Eggs are thrown towards Baerbock At an election speech in Germany.
Moscow’s inner city is like a fortress: Chauvanistic and neo-imperialistic is the pathos of Putin, The gatherer of Russian honour. Russia a military and nuclear power, Second only to the USA, Speaks of security guarantees. Reanimation of Russian Weltmacht. In the defence of the Fatherland, There is no family in Russia, That hasn’t been involved in the Wars. Russia has always fought For a system of the folk. ‘ The Nato states don’t want to listen To our endeavours, ‘ says Putin. And speaks about the neo-Nazis and foreign military advisers From the USA and Nato countries. ‘Ours is the only right solution, We’ll respect and honour our ancestors And the Immortal Regiment. We’re proud of carrying it in our hearts.
There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
The others have Russophobia. Today our soldiers fight in the Donbas. We remember all who have given their lives For the Fatherland: men, women, children.
A minute of silence. Only the flames of the eternal soldiers lick the sky. Moscow holds its breath.
The Victors Day parade honours the 27 million Russians Who died in World War II. The death of our soldiers is sad, We shall support the families of the soldiers. I kneel before you for your sacrifice. Terrorists also exist but they are not successful. We will care for the children. The bomb splitters will hold us together; An independent Russia. We’ll orient ourselves to our Armed Forces. An exercise in being one with the people. All men and women shout as one: hurrah! The military bank plays. ‘Russia must ensure the horror of a global war Will never be repeated, says President Putin cynically. The fluttering flag, the Kremlin and gun salutes. What was in-between the lines of his speech?
There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
No mobilisation in the speech today. No feared demonstration of POWs, No MiGs and Sukhoi jets over the Red Square, No declaration of war against Ukraine. No provocation to the world. 19 batallions of 15,000 soldiers ready to cross Donbas. Casualties are taboo and the war goes on as usual. After the parade of the Armed Forces, Even a separate women’s battalion in skirts come by. Putin appears as a professional, closed personality. The Russians really believe the faschist danger in Ukraine. That the Nato troops are out to help the neo-Nazis, And are about to surround Russia.
The Cold War worked in the Soviet days to keep its enemies at bay. The belief is that the future belongs to Russia, Although the launching of the invasion in Ukraine Was the biggest military blunder. A retreat from Ukraine would mean Putin Has lost the battle and his face. Seventy years of refraining from using the nukes; A path has to be found for mighty Russia To leave Ukraine in a dignified manner.
The heavy, cumbersome tanks come: A display of hardware that Ukranians love to destroy, So long as they have the right weapons. Soldiers popping their heads out of the tanks, Saluting the Generals and the President. The ugly, fat missiles with red caps float by. Five big rockets mounted on trucks, No angst in the hearts of these unaware souls. Putin’s ultimate game is to set back the clock And regain all former Soviet territories. Donbas, Crimea, wherever there are separatists. Monstrous warheads featuring prominently, Warheads that spell Hell to countries where they explode;
There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
It’s a a bright day in May with fluffy clouds. And the Russian brass band plays heroic tunes For the soldiers who died like sacrificial lambs. Then comes the all-male choir, Thundering voices in the Red Square. The band marches past in splendid formation. A few nondescript global dignitaries are also present. Putin looks short and obese as he gets up And walks in the Red Squares with his generals Who’s breasts display medals; Enough to sink a cruiser. .Men are indeed ruled by toys.
He holds a short speech for the leaders of the Armed Forces; Talks with a general while walking briskly, With security men in black as shields. Do you hear the stutter of rifles, The screams of missiles, The thuds of the shells? The vast majority don’t watch news About what’s going on in the Ukraine.
There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
The rivers of Ukranian and Russian blood flow In Kiev, Bursa, Mariupol and Donbas, Haven’t clotted. More blood is to flow. This is the reaffirmation of Putin’s ambitions. Till the troops have achieved their objectives A formidable country of patriots,
Rifles go up in salute, Two soldiers bring a wreath Ageing generals with roses in their shaky hands. President Putin arranges the ribbons, And spends a quiet moment In memory of the 27,000 dead Soviets. Young girls with all their tenderness Lay flowers for the dead; Who now can neither touch silk nor cheeks.
The bank begins with a clash of cymbals, The men and women of the Armed Forces salute. The Victory Day Parade is done with fervour and pomp. Many military invitees lay their red roses on the floor. The Russians feel good about the leadership. That was the would-be tzar’s sole intention.
The parade goes on with smartly dressed units marching past. Putin walks and swings only his left hand. His right hand is stationary beside his rump. He has deep furrows below his eyes. Sleepless nights caused by Ukraine’s resilience. Lays scarlet flowers on coffins of the recently dead soldiers. A general with a grandchild and blues eyes.
Putin tries to justify the Ukraine war. Collective responsibility for the war in Ukraine; A country which was attacked without provocation. A sovereign and independent state. The Ukranians have surprised the whole world, With admirable sacrifice, resistance and the desire To survive and exist as a nation, Bringing great military losses to Russia.
The marine troops dressed in Prussian blue, Holding their weapons with a rehearsed pride, Noses like Roman senators in the air, Conjoured up images of a defiant, proud Russia. It all smells of fascism and tyranny during the Third Reich With the difference that it is Russias who are the faschists. Putin’s days in the GDR were well spent. He has not only learned the German tongue But unfortunately was fascinated by the Gestapo methods. But Ukraine, Crimea want their territories back.
Putin’ s Blitzkrieg, Special Operation, has led to a war of attrition. The Ukranians put up a good fight, Inflicting heavy losses to the fasists from Russia; Its conventional weapons couldn’ t compete Against Nato hardware. The losses were enormous. No mention on Victory Day. The war against Ukraine Dishonours the dead Of the past and present. There where the soldiers lie buried In cemetaries and on the roadside, Sunflowers and poppies will grow; Orthodox crosses arranged in rows. The dead loved, drank vodka, Sang songs and now sleep, In the killing fields of Ukraine.
THE CLOUDS OF WAR (Satis Shroff)
Spring is with us now. Underneath the dry, yellow grass on the hillside You can see new grass arising. We’re looking forward to Summer, Even though thick clouds Have been caste by warlord Putin. Flower have started to bloom in the garden And in the wild meadows. There’s sunlight and the chirps and tweets Of the birds are audible.
So manysoldiers and civilians Have died in the killing fields of Ukrain. Once the goldenen Kornkammer of the world, Now littered with demolished houses, Gaping tanks, shot down jets, pieces of missiles and shells. Moscow, you won’t be spared either, Unless you retreat.
I saw tha shy, scared woodpeckerat the birdhouse. A crack of a twig and it’s away, Looking for safety. Nature is awakening in the early hours, With optimism and a new life. Over three million Ukranians have left the land. A greedy, paranoid tsar who lied to his folk, Has now to be held accountable For his war-crimes On a sovereign, independent nation. Moscow, your time will come too, Unless you retreat.
The season of pairing begins among animals. And humans? Why, we dance into the month of May: Tanz in den Mai. Through music and dance We come close together. The women wear exquisite clothes and Trachten. May is when the Maiwanderung begins, When Austrians, Germans and Swiss folk Put on their trekking boots and walk to the hills. A wonderful tradition in the Alps, Vorarlberg and the Schwarzwald.
The Russian dictator has licked blood And seen the Nato is reluctant to help Ukraine directly, For they are scared of the consequences Of a total war in Europe and North America. Radioactivity knowns no borders and spreads In ever increasing circles. Moscow, you won’t be spared either, Unless you retreat.
Spring—a season with traditions. In Europe the clocks have been Put and hour ahead. And winter has been banished. Moscow, you have been isolated, And you won’t be spared either, Unless you retreat.
Why do Nepalese sing? We don’t have the fatalism that is accredited to most South Asian ethnic people. We, Nepalese, from the foothills of the Himalayas and the Terai have positive elements in our character such as honesty, ‘Heiterkeit der Seele’ and compassion towards our fate.
Here in Germany I listen to breakfast music from Austrian TV and casually view the snow-topped peaks to the accompaniment of the Zither, an alpine music instrument. The soft reassuring tones of the string-instrument and the live webcam movements revealing the Alpine summits remind me of the grandeur of Lake Phewa in Pokhara with its wooden boats, green algae and lotus leaves floating upon the surface, and in the distance the white Annapurna range. This image has been imprinted in my mind ever since I took part in a botanical and geological excursion there during my college days. As we went by in our dugout canoes over the placid lake, we sang Nepalese folk songs: ‘Deurali ukali chaday-ra’ and ‘Kathmandu-ki Newarni’ for the delight of some Katmandu students. The landscape evokes these songs because they were the Zeitgeist-songs of those days.
Listening to music has in a way defined my life in the foothills of the Himalayas, be it in Katmandu, rural Nepal or in the tea gardens and forests of the Darjeeling hills, Ilam or the Terai near Dharan. I hear the Jhauray song of the villagers in Kathmandu Valley in which they sing:
‘We Nepalese have gathered wisdom.
We throw away our money,
And call hot water ‘tea.’
The self-irony of the singer causes a thunderous laughter from the people, who have gathered around and who shake their heads in confirmation to the lyrics of the wandering bard called ‘gainey’ who roams around the hills with his four-string fiddle.
The Nepalese love to sing and flirt and are a cheerful people. ‘Joban gayo, baisa-ta gayena lai-lai’ goes another song meaning thereby that the singer’s youth has faded but his passion hasn’t abandoned him. Whether the Nepalese are working hard in the terraced slopes, minding their sheep, goats or yaks, weaving carpets, cutting and gathering firewood in the forests, carrying heavy loads on their backs for tourists and climbers, a song always lingers on their lips.
On of the most beautiful songs is the grass song, which is sung as a couplet. The Nepalese are catching on sms, e-mails, MP3s and i-pods and pads but the endearing grass-songs of the Himalayas are heard even today along the trails and after a while a female echo comes from the distant hill, as a reply in soprano. A farmer’s daughter working in the barley fields replies to the questions in the song dealing with who’s out there, where one is going, what one’s doing for a living. A lively lyrical dialogue develops. Sometimes a third one joins this impromptu song-play the Nepalese indulge in.
I experienced a revelation as I view the majestic Everest for the first time. We call the mountain Sagarmatha, and the Tibetans Chomolungma. I could feel the music of the vastness of the mighty Himalayan ranges as they towered above the clouds. Beyond that lay the Roof of the World. I had similar feelings when I saw the Matterhorn, the Arabian Sea in my childhood from the Gateway of India in Mumbai, and the Atlantic breakers from the Ile d’ Oleron. You have the impression that you mingle with the landscape and become one. A feeling of peace and tranquillity descends over you and you are one with the vastness and beauty of Mother Nature. And to each such landscape you tether your own emotional music.
When you’re in the City of Love, Paris, you hear Edith Piaf’s self-conscious, goose-pimple raising ‘Non, je ne regretted rien’ seems to ooze out of the mansions of Paris. As a zoology student I imprinted the pagodascapes of Patan with Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence,’ for wherever you looked you saw Hippies stoned on the temple and pagoda steps watching Cat Steven’s version of Catmandu unfurling before them with cannabis eyes, a bit dazed and far-off expression, long blonde, unkempt hair or rasta-look, cheap Indian cotton prints on their frail, pale bodies. Hopelessly emaciated, sexually emancipated, peaceful, withdrawn in their psychedelic minds. If the Katmandu Quickstep hadn’t got them, then jaundice sure did, as they’d chosen to go native. Nobody cared about the trekker’s manual with the advice on food hygiene: peel it, boil it or forget it.
Have you heard Hilary Hahn playing ‘The Lark Ascending’ on her violin? ‘A revelation,’ swears my neighbour. He’s right. Or for that matter David Garret, Nigel Kennedy or Anne Sophie Mutter? I was recently in Salzburg and seeped in Mozart’s childhood environment and his music. I also enjoyed drinking coffee at the Literatur Café with those red leather seats.
Classical vedic singing from the Sama Veda is at least 3000 years old. The recitation was done originally with three notes, later raised to an octave, and is a Sanskrit prayer. Vedic prayers are learnt by-heart which I did from my Mom when she was doing her daily Hindu rituals in the mornings and evenings. I didn’t understand the meaning then, but as I grew up I did. I still love listening to Hom Nath Upadhya’s rendering of a communion with the Hindu God Krishna in Nepali. In the real musical raga there’s a revelation of God. The musician who plays the sitar identifies himself with godliness and evokes this feeling through the raga he plays on his 13-string instrument. The Hindu Goddess Saraswati is depicted in paintings with a sitar in her hand.
In the classical ragas there is no written music arrangement. That’s why it’s a long teacher-cum-pupil relationship when you learn a classical instrument in Nepal or India. It’s the guru (teacher/professor) who passes on the composition, the ragas and talas to the pupil. As a music student you learn compassion through your dedication to the master and his music. It’s a spiritual experience and there are morning, evening ragas and for different occasions. In the Indian subcontinent the songs were originally vedic and were as such sung in Sanskrit but later they were, and still are, sung in dialects of the region. Classical music came under the patronage of the Maharajas, Rajas and representatives of royalty and was performed in royal courts. After the Brits left India, the ragas could be heard all over India and bordering countries over the All-India-Radio and later on TV. If you heard ragas being played all day over the A.I.R. it was a sign that some big politician had died. On other occasions such as marriages and public ritual ceremonies (Pujas) it was Bollywood music till your ears started singing and you’d developed tinnitus.
In Nepal the court-music in the Narayanhiti Palace and radio Nepal was patronised by the royals during the 104 year rule of the Ranas aristocrats as well as by the Shah kings Mahendra, Birendra and for a short time Gyanendra, till the Maoists threw him out. In Nepal you’ll find raga music, western music, classical Nepali music and folksongs for young and old. However, after the advent of democracy in Nepal the tribes from the hills whose rights had been ignored and discriminated by the Ranas and Shah rulers at different periods suddenly wanted to be represented in all spheres in the new government which has democrats, different shades of communists (Leninists and Maoists). Nepal has become a federal republic without the federalist political connotations that you find in Germany. The land has been divided into Cantons but the Swiss spirit of a unified Helvetic nation is failing. The country’s politicians cannot decide on a common constitution and the deadlock continues.
Although classical ragas are such a wonderful cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent, the olde colonial set that came with the East India Company didn’t care much about the ragas of the Hindustani classical music and was not venerated by the colonial Brits, who preferred their own brand of British classical and march music from England. To the western ears the classical ragas were too monotonous and without melody. But it’s the variations of certain melody types that are the characteristics of the ragas.
The flute accompanies the classical ragas as well as the oboe (Sehenai or Nadaswaram). The singer’s different changes in tone from bass to tenor are accompanied by the Tanpura which takes the lead. For rhythm you have the percussions (Tabla, Pakhavaj, Ghatam, Mridangam). Whereas the strings of the Sarangi provide the melody, the differences in tone-scales are performed by musicians who play the Vina, Tanpura, Sitar and Sarod.
In the Himalayas areas of Nepal (Mustang, Solokhumbu), Sikkim and Ladakh we have different music instruments due to the Tibetan Lamaism Buddhism where mussel-horns, leg-bone horns, long horns like in Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria, short trumpets and flutes. The Mahayana Buddhist monks use big drums, small hand-drums like Shiva’s damaru, bronze cymbals and bells. These instruments are used for liturgical and religious ceremonies.
As a child I used to shudder at the sound of Buddhist monks praying in their sonorous voices accompanied by the eerie sounding cloister orchestra during death ceremonies and on Buddha’s birthday. The scary, scarlet mask of the Newari Lakhe dance, with a wig made of yak-tail hair, looked so realistic in my childhood days and caused many nightmares.
When you hear an old, familiar tune over the internet radio, you are invariably transported to another world or another person you’ve loved and you were with. There’s memory and association when you see an old picture or view card sent to you by someone you once dearly loved. The neurons in your brain connect again and recall is almost perfect, as you think about the place, the feelings you experienced then, the smells around you immediate environment, the aroma of the spices when someone was cooking. Or listen to the music of yore and the memories it brings.
I tell my Creative Writing students to close their eyes and think back in their past, people they cherished or even hated, the smells, the touch, the taste of what they came in contact with. It’s amazing what you come up with from your past.
In another lesson they’re required to bring objects, souvenirs, whatever they like or find interesting, even objects with negative associations which ought to serve as hints for prospective stories. Since the students are an international set they bring stories, memories and associations from global villages and share their themes. The stories are tethered to landscapes and music of their times in their countries, their childhood, the first kiss, friendships, fights, rivalries, envy, inhibitions, taboos.
* * *
2. HEART OF THE WORLD (Satis Shroff)
Far out in the distance,
From the towers
On which his eyes are painted,
The All-Seeing-Eyes ,
Of the compassionate Swayambhu,
Observes the land.
The ground crackles as you step,
On the fallen brown and russet leaves;
Shrill bird-cries ring through the air.
It is roosting time.
The trees are silhouetted
Against the evening sky.
You discern the prayers chiselled in granite slabs;
The shadows are lengthening.
Swarms of Rhesus monkeys are active:
Creeping, jumping, fooling and chattering
On the tree branches.
Some even climb the spire of the stupa.
The wind blowing from across the snowy Himalayas
Makes the gilded eaves of the stupa rustle.
You are fascinated by the majestic temple.
Three lamas go by:
‘Om mane padme hum’
Stirs on the air.
You start spinning the 211 copper wheels
That girdle the dome.
A shaggy Tibetan Apso with bells around his collar
Jingles past non-chalantly.
A monkey gives you a quizzical stare.
The sky is darker now,
Changing into Prussian blue;
And Venus has appeared.
But you have eyes only for the white dome
And stupa of the Self-Existent One.
The stupa is of great sanctity
For all Hindus and Buddhists.
A Buddhist monk tell you a legend
About the Swayambhu…
‘Once upon a time, the Nepal Valley
Was a great lake.
It was upon this spot where you now stand,
That a lotus bloomed,
And became the heart of the world.’
* * *
A FLIGHT TO THE HIMALAYAS (Satis Shroff) Will the passengers please fasten their seat belts,” said a soft voice over the intercom. And I slid one end of the belt into the heavy metallic slot, sat back, and peered through the window of the Nepalese jet.
The runway was clear and there was an Airbus 310, three Russian-made helicopters and a Dornier-aircraft near the control tower of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Some people waved from the tower. It was one of those early-morning mountain flights that are run ‘provided-the-weather-is-good’ as they say in tourist-brochures.
My seat was right near the port wing and I could get a fairly good view of the engines coming noisily to life. The jet taxied lazily down the southern end of the runway, swerved around and sped towards the north gathering momentum till I could finally feel a hollow in my stomach. We were airborne.
It was a steep climb and the blue mountain front was looming close. You could even spot the trees growing on the mountainside. But in a moment we left it behind. I was thrilled at the picturesque panorama of Kathmandu Valley with its pretty brown terracotta houses and prominent pagodas, which receded beneath as the jet banked almost languidly in an easterly direction.
The first mountain that caught my eyes, was the conical snowbound Langtang Peak, which was gleaming in the early morning sunlight. By the time Dorje Lakpa loomed on my window, the aircraft had attained its ceiling height of 30,000 feet. Dorje Lakhpa in Tibetan means “thunderbolt hand”. Nearby was another splendid peak, the 19,550 ft. Choba Bamare, reigning in splendid isolation. Choba Bamare rose in the distance and seemed to fizzle out towards the east.
I sat tight in my seat, oblivious of the 50-odd passengers in the aircraft’s cabin, lost in a world of snowy fantasy, and marveling at the thought that we were less than fourteen miles away from those Himalayan giants, and feeling snug inside the pressurized cabin. Over the monotonous whirr of the Yeti’s engines, the captains voice boomed through the intercom: “Attention ladies and gentlemen, the big peak to your left is Gauri Shanker.”
The 23,442 feet Gauri Shanker, which is part of the Rowaling Himal Chain, was bathed in a ghostly mantle of snow and dominated the scene. This was indeed the Mount Olympus of the Orient, I said to myself. Gauri Shanker, the legendary abode of the Hindu God Shiva and his consort Parvati.
The Melungstse massif appeared to be blanketed with snow and looked smooth and even: like a tent covered with snow, except that a depression existed between Melungtse and its sister peak Chobutse.
Chugmago, Pigferago and Numbur impressed me with their virgin and silvery summits–looking placid and serene.
My thoughts drifted to the ageless Himalayas and their eternal silence. But my Himalayan reverie came to a momentary stop, when a tall and petite air-hostess came offering orange juice at a cruising height of 30,000 feet. It was a toast to the Himalayas.
From the 26,750 ft. Cho Oyo onwards, the Khumbu Range began to show their undisputed supremacy, since this range boasted of the mightiest of the mighty among mountains. As the jet flew past the 25,990 ft. Gyachungkang Peak, I was pleasantly surprised to find the steward come over to my window, point out small dotted structures against a rugged mountainside and say, “There’s Namche Bazaar.” I was amazed. Namche of the mountaineer’s delight, and the home of the Sherpas. Namche, the village that has become a byword in mountaineering and trekking circles throughout the world–lay below us.
The jet lost height gracefully to give the passengers a closer view, and the snows looked hauntingly beautiful from the port side windows. The warm sunlight filtered through smack on my face. Its warmth was reassuring.
The 23,443 ft. Pumori Peak seemed to be soaring in the distance, and that was when I began to ogle at the familiar 25,850 ft. Nuptse peak. Then suddenly, like a revelation, I spotted the giant amongst them all: the grey, imposing triangular massif that was Mount Everest to the outside world, Sagarmatha to the Nepalese and Chomolungma ‘the Goddess Mother of the Earth’ to the Tibetans. There were flecks of snow to be seen along the ridge of the highest peak in the world. A trail of vapor was emanating from its limestone summit.
Far below the magnificent Ama Dablam peak struck me as trying to reach for the sky. But I had eyes only for the mysterious, grey and foreboding Everest massif. I recalled Mallory’s words: “There was no complication for the eye. The highest of the world’s mountains had to make but a single gesture of magnificence to be lord of all, vast in unchallenged and isolated supremacy.
The peaks Lhotse, Chamlang and Makalu continued to fascinate me. I felt thrilled to my marrow as the knowledge that we were flying over the highest mountains in the world sank into my head. I noticed that the Himalayas occurred as narrow ranges, prominently longitudinal and that the highest Himalayan chains below us were not massive elevations but narrow ridges.
Towards the north, as far as the eye could see, was the barren Tibetan Plateau: rightly dubbed the Roof of the World. I was astonished to note that beyond the Everest massif’s central chain there were no Himalayan ranges. It was the limit–the last frontier. The bleak Tibetan Plateau seemed to blend with the horizon towards the north.
I could not help feeling nostalgic as the jet turned for the homeward flight. I peered at the blue Mahabharat Mountains below and the Siwalik Hills a little further south–and the extensive, fertile Terai, which blended with the azure sky. While the major ‘snows’ were still visible on the starboard , it was fascinating to see the hanging-valleys, aretes, cwms and magnificent glaciers directly beneath the port windows. It reminded me of a trip I had made to the Swiss alpine town of Grindelwald, where the tongue of the glacier licks almost the town. Occasionally, as the jetliner sped by, the mountain-tarns would catch the sun’s rays on their crystalline surface, thereby imparting blinding flashes of reflected light.
It must have snowed the previous night, since the neighboring hills, which were normally beyond the zone of perpetual snow, were also covered in varying degrees with fluffy blankets of virgin snow. One couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the ecstatic and exotic beauty of these high snowbound wilderness areas that we were over-flying.
Continental music began to seep into the pressurized cabin and the lithe and beautifully swarthy air-hostess came down the aisle gracefully handing the passengers miniature khurkis (curved Gurkha knives) as souvenirs, with the usual compliment of sweets.
I could feel the captain easing off the throttles and saw the spoilers on the top surface of the port wind rising up slowly, in a row inducing a drag and causing the jet to slow as it touched town at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport. * * *
4. LIFE IS A COSMIC DANCE (Satis Shroff)
My soul is a passionate dancer.
I hear music where ever I am,
Whatever I do.
I hear the lively rhythm beckoning me to dance.
Sometimes it violins and Vienna waltz.
At other times a fiery salsa.
A Punjabi bhangra or a slow fox.
Life is a cosmic dance.
With its kampfmuster
And its own choreography.
We have people around us.
We look at each other,
Oblivious of the others.
Drawn together by an invisible force.
The Flamenco guitarist wails,
‘Life is an apple:
And throw it away.’
* * *
5. GROW WITH LOVE (Satis Shroff)
Love yourself Accept yourself, For self-love and self-respect Are the basis of joy, emotion And spiritual well being.
Watch your feelings, Study your thoughts And your beliefs, For your existence Is unique and beautiful.
You came to the world alone And you go back alone. But while you breathe You are near To your fellow human beings, Families, friends and strangers As long as you are receptive.
Open yourself to lust and joy, To the wonders of daily life and Nature. Don’t close your door to love. If you remain superficial, You’ll never reach its depth.
Love is more than a feeling. Love is also passion and devotion.
Grow with love and tenderness.
* * *
6. A DREAM LED TO ANOTHER (Satis Shroff)
I was around twenty years old, My head full of dreams. I left the Himalayan foothills to win a dream: A dream to go to Europe, visit places I’d read about. The Bastille from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities,
Where I spent time recalling the French Revolution. My friend’s Parisienne sister shook her head and said: ‘Monsieur Satish, there are others ways of spending an afternoon in Paris.’ The smell of sea food at a French harbour, Such as the peasants of Normandy built. La Rochelle and the German bunkers in the Ile d’ Oleron. I peered at sea fogs from the mighty Atlantic, Watched the ‘last oozing, hours by hours,
From a cider-press’ in the Vosges, as John Keats aptly put it. * * * In Blenhelm’s little tavern I saw murals of its famous son:
Winston Leonhard Spencer Churchill. I stood in front of Churchill’s grave; Above his remains lay his mother. The words of James Shirley came to my mind: ‘Death lays his icy hands on kings, Sceptre and crown, Must tumble down, And in the dust be equal made. With the poor crooked scythe and spade.’
I listened to the English ‘Country Sound,’ I’d read in William Cowper’s verses. An eighteenth century house, described by George Eliot. A pub akin to the one in John Burn’s ‘Tam o’ Shanter’: Even though ‘pleasures are like poppies spread.’ Took a swig of English ale in picturesque Burford, A Cotswold town in Southern England. Country scenarios depicted by John Milton in ‘The Poet’s Pleasure:’ ‘And the milkmaid swingeth blithe, And the mower whets his scythe.’
To walk over the Thames Bridge between Waterloo Bridge and Chelsea, As in Stephen Gwynn’s ‘Decay of Sensibility:’ ‘The halflight when the lamps are first lit’ in London. Where the people are now confronted With the uncertainties of Brexit, And promises made by Trump to May. Peered at the Gurkha and Scottish Guards Doing their loyal duty near the Buckingham Palace.
One dream led to another; I found myself in Stratford-upon-Avon, To be reminded of the Bard’s words: ‘Turning again toward childish treble, Pipes and whistles in his sound’ From The Seven Ages of Man. * * * ‘In Denmark’ with Edmund Gosse, When he wrote about: ‘All the little memories of this last afternoon, How trifling they are, How indelible!’
At the German butcher’s in Oberried with my friend,
Who died later of aneurisma of the aorta, The Metzer’s daughter was what he called an ‘Augenweide.’ Having read Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein,’ I found myself in the apothecary in Heidelberg castle, And later in the Anatomy Museum in Basle, Fascinated by the deformed specimens, Preserved in formalin. Back in the lovely Schwarzwald town of Freiburg im Breisgau I dissecting an elderly German’s body, Under glaring white neon light. Did he fight the Russians in Stalingrad? He couldn’t tell me his story. * * * The inner German border wall, Long lines of inhuman barbed wire, Meant to keep humans in, Not out. Hitler said: ‘The great masses of the people …will more easily fall victim to a great lie Than to a small one.’ * * * King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya came On a state visit to Bonn, With familiar faces from Nepal’s media. A reception at La Redoute and Graf Zeppelin, And a salute from the Bundesgrenzschutz In Echterdingen.
A few years later the Royal family was massacred, By the crown prince so the tale goes. ‘Strange things happen in Nepal,’ said my Swabian physician. * * * As if in reply to the 20th year of the Berlin Wall. A metal plate with these words of Konrad Adenauer Was hung on 13.8.1981 in Bayern-Thüringen: “The entire German folk Behind the iron Curtain call us, Not to forget them! We will not stand still, We will not rest, Till Germany Is united again In peace and freedom.”
We’re fortunate to have lived to see the day. An invitation from President Gauck and Winfried Kretschmann Flattered to me one day from Stuttgart. A Spätzle lunch with the Landesvater And dinner with the President.
* * * My dreams lived in my head with fluid thoughts. Went to Venice and imagined the speech Of Portia to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice: ‘…in the course of justice, None of us should see salvation.’
A dream within a dream, Of a young man from the Himalayas, Now grown old with a shuffling gait. Goes to Crispano to be bestowed the Neruda Award 2017, For his verses And thereby hangs a tale.
* * *
7. O, CRY WITH ME (Satis Shroff) (Subtitle: The Prayer Wheel)
Adieu winter, The signs of growth are here, Between sunshine and rain. There’s a subtle greening everywhere. People work line bees, Cutting and pruning weeds Using their ancient hoes To plough the terraces
The joy that plants have survived Beneath the deadwood. There’s optimism in the air And with it hope, When crocuses rear their heads. Lovely lupins, delphiniums and daffodils, In the meadows of the Himalayas.
People are bathing in the tributaries of holy rivers, Chanting vedic hymns. Those who have lost their mothers, Remember them through rites, Followed by a bath in the river Matatirtha. The sound of thundering hoofs in Tudikhel, In the heart of Catmandu. Snorting and foaming horses, And cheering Nepalese. Spectators who watch the great chariots Of Bhairawa and Bhadrakali.
The joy of the fresh air, In the tranquillity of the blue Mahabharat hills, Where life begins anew. The blackbirds, finches, thrushes Twitter and chirp to the glory of Prakriti.
In Springtime we awake with expectations, Of pleasure and new luck. The tourists have come. The mountains are beckoning me. No, it’s the tourists with dollars, Who want to be celebrated in the media, With heroic selfies Or camera-teams.
O, go not to the mountains, my love. End not in a crevasse Or beneath an avalanche. I shall not cry for you. My father died for the tourists On the lap of Chomolungma.
I’m doing it for our children’s education.
The Tibetan wheel turns relentlessly, O cry with me.
**** It’s Summer where moist southern winds prevail. Your body, mind and spirit, Are one with Nature. The flowers bloom and cherries get ripe, ‘Kaphal pakyo, kaphal pakyo,’ Sings a a bird. The day lengthens And the clouds cannot hide the Surya. Soon great clouds bring rain. Indra gives his blessing: Monsoon. A gift to many, A curse for few.
The sun shines now And the leaves sag. The frogs dive in the pond, The dragon fly hovers awhile. There’s life and beauty in this transient world. Summer brings enduring happiness To one and all, When trees blossom and bear fruit.
The paddy planting season is over In the Vale of Catmandu. The Newari jyapu farmers sing songs And rejoice. The sun fills our lives with light, Positive thoughts prevail. The wonderful scent of the roses, Butterflies dancing over Himalayan orchids. Your fingers touch and feel The silkiness of the rose petals.
People sing in praise of the cow for eight days. The holy cows of Catmandu wear garlands. The prayer wheel turns unceasingly, O cry with me. ** * *
Chilly Autumn arrives soon enough, The summer flowers, Those dear friends have gone. Asters and chrysanthemums still greet us.
People celebrate the festival of lights, In honour of Goddess Lakshmi. Even the common crow is worshipped this day. For the crow is the messenger of Death, To the Hindus: Yamadoot. Another day the dog is garlanded and revered, For he is Bhairab’s steed. The third day of Tihar belongs to the cow, The reincarnation of Lakshmi. If you beat a cow you might be punished With a life in poverty.
The fruits are ripe now, Waiting to be harvested. The sun’s rays become mellow. The leaves turn golden, russet, brown. The paths are strewn with dead leaves. We reflect about our own lives. The dying leaves, A metaphor of your short existence, On this beautiful earth.
With splendor of Summer gone, We become thoughtful and melancholic. What has fate in store for us? In this epoch of Kali Yuga, Wealth has become the personification Of success and career. If the Gurkha survives he comes home, With presents for his family. Others remain cremated in foreign lands. Nothing endures in the cycle of life. We come, grow up, live our lives And go. Thereby making place for others. Akin to the sunflower that ripens, Provides shade and seeds, Follows the whims of the sun, And wilts. Even green leaves die.
The wheel of life waits for no one, O, cry with me.
** * *
The sky is sunless, The tree branches look like emaciated humans, Hands reaching for the sky, In poses of suspended animation. The nights are cold and dark, All seems lifeless, dead, buried, Beneath the white snow. No bird sings.
Misty mountains veiled, With dampness everywhere. The cold makes the people remain indoors. Winter means respite, A time for solitude and contemplation. Read books, watch DVDs, tell tales, Time for Kaffeekranz elsewhere, With the family or friends.
Hush, life is merely asleep outside. Come Spring and life blooms, In the meadows, in the woods and gardens. Worms start tilling the earth. Even in the cold and darkness of winter, There are faint signs of life, In the microcosmos off the beaten path. Prakriti is regenerating, Despite the onslaught of the elements: Snow, wind and rain. Nature survives and we gather hope. The old Tibetan wheel turns eternally, O rejoice with me.
A screaming train, Billowing smoke and sparks, As it reaches Ghoom hill, Descends to Darjeeling Looping its way to lessen its speed. What unfurls is a memorable Bergblick: The majestic panorama of the snown peaks, The Kanchenjunga in all its splendour. The summits like a jewelled crown, Bathed in golden, yellow and orange light. A moment of revelation in life, Shared on a particular evening, As the sun goes down slowly, The mountain range is glowing, A Himalayan glow. A feast for the eyes of the beholder, The play of lights Evoked by the dying sun, Upon the massif.
* * *
8. A GURKHA MOTHER (Satis Shroff)
(Subtitle: Death of a Precious Jewel)
The gurkha with a khukri,
But no enemy,
Works for the United Kingdom
And yet gets shot at
In missions he doesn’t comprehend.
Order is hukum,
Hukum is life
Johnny Gurkha still dies
Under foreign flags and skies.
He never asks why
Politics isn’t his style
He’s fought against all and sundry:
Turks, Tibetans, Italians and Indians
Germans, Japanese, Chinese
Argentinians and Vietnamese.
Indonesians and Iraqis.
Loyalty to the utmost
Never fearing a loss.
The loss of a mother’s son
From the mountains of Nepal.
Her grandpa died in Burma
For the glory of the British.
Her husband in Mesopotemia
She knows not against whom
No one did tell her.
Her brother fell in France,
Against the Teutonic hordes.
She prays to Shiva of the Snows for peace
And her son’s safety.
Her joy and her hope
Farming on a terraced slope.
A son who helped wipe her tears
And ease the pain in her mother’s heart.
A frugal mother who lives by the seasons
And peers down to the valleys
Year in and year out
In expectation of her soldier son.
A smart Gurkha is underway
Heard from across the hill with a shout
‘It’s an officer from his battalion.
A letter with a seal and a poker-face
“Your son died on duty”, he says,
“Keeping peace for the Queen of England
And the United Kingdom.”
A world crumbles down
The Nepalese mother cannot utter a word
Gone is her son,
Her precious jewel.
Her only insurance and sunshine
In the craggy hills of Nepal.
And with him her dreams
A spartan life that kills.
gurkha: soldier from Nepal. Gurkhas are the elite soldiers of the British Gurkha Brigade, France’s Foreign Legion, India’s Gorkha regiments, the Sultanat of Brunei, Hong Kong police and the Nepalese Army. They are also engaged in security services around the world.
khukri: curved knife used in hand-to-hand combat by the Gurkhas and at a kitchen knife.
shiva: a God in Hinduism. The Rudra of the Vedas developed in the course of time into the great and powerful deity Shiva. The Hindu Triad comprises: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
* * *
10. THE LURE OF THE HIMALAYAS (Satis Shroff)
ONCE upon a time near the town of Kashgar, I, a stranger in local clothes was captured By the sturdy riders of Vali Khan. What was a stranger With fair skin and blue eyes, Looking for in Vali Khan’s terrain? I, the stranger spoke a strange tongue. ‘He’s a spy sent by China. Behead him, ’ barked the Khan’s officer. I pleaded and tried to explain My mission in their country. It was all in vain.
On August 26,1857 I, Adolph Schlagintweit, a German traveller, an adventurer, Was beheaded as a spy, Without a trial.
I was a German who set out on the footsteps Of the illustrious Alexander von Humboldt, With my two brothers Hermann and Robert, From Southampton on September 20,1854 To see India, the Himalayas and Higher Asia. The mission of the 29000km journey Was to make an exact cartography Of the little known countries, Sans invitation, I must admit.
In Kamet we reached a 6785m peak, An elevation record in those days. We measured the altitudes, Gathered magnetic, meteorological, And anthropological data. We even collected extensive Botanical, zoological and ethnographic gems.
Hermann and I made 751 sketches, Drawings, water-colour and oil paintings. The motifs were Himalayan panoramas, Single summits, glacier formations, Himalayan rivers and houses of the natives. Padam valley, near the old moraine Of the main glacier at Zanskar in pencil and pen. A view from Gunshankar peak 6023 metres, From the Trans-Sutlej chain in aquarelle. A European female in oriental dress in Calcutta 1855. Brahmin, Rajput and Sudra women draped in saris. Kristo Prasad, a 35 year old Rajput Photographed in Benaras. An old Hindu fakir with knee-long rasta braids,
Bhot women from Ladakh, snapped in Simla. Kahars, Palki-porters from Bihar, Hindus of the Sudra caste. A Lepcha armed with bow and arrows, In traditional dress up to his calves And a hat with plume. Kistositta, a 25 year old Brahmin from Bengal, Combing the hair of Mungia, A 43 year old Vaisa woman. A wandering Muslim minstrel Manglu at Agra, With his sarangi. A 31 year old Ram Singh, a Sudra from Benaras, Playing his Kolebassen flute. The monsoon, And thatched Khasi houses at Cherrapunji
The precious documents of our long journey Can be seen at the Alpine Museum Munich. Even a letter, Sent by Robert to our sister Matilde, Written on November 2,1866 from Srinagar: ‘We travelled a 200 English mile route, Without seeing a human being, Who didn’t belong to our caravan. Besides our horses, we had camels, The right ones with two humps, Which you don’t find in India. We crossed high glacier passes at 5500m And crossed treacherous mountain streams.’
My fascination for the Himalayas Got the better of me. I had breathed the rare Himalayan air, And felt like Icarus. I wanted to fly higher and higher, Forgetting where I was. My brothers Hermann and Robert left India By ship and reached Berlin in June,1857.
I wanted to traverse the continent Disregarding the dangers, For von Humboldt was my hero. Instead of honour and fame, My body was dragged by wild riders in the dust, Although I had long left the world.
A Persian traveller, a Muslim with a heart Found my headless body. He brought my remains all the way to India, Where he handed it to a British colonial officer.
It was a fatal fascination, But had I the chance, I’d do it again.
* * *
11. CATMANDU IS NEPAL (Satis Shroff)
There were two young men, brothers Who left their homes In the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. The older one, for his father had barked at him, “Go to Nepal and never come home again.” The younger, for he couldn’t bear the beatings At the hands of his old man. . The older brother sobbed and stifled his sorrow and anger For Nepal was in fact Catmandu, With its colleges, universities, Education Ministry, Temples, Rana-palaces and golden pagodas And also its share of hippies, hashish, tourists, Rising prices and expensive rooms to rent.
The younger brother went to Dharan, And enlisted in the British Army depot To become a Gurkha, A soldier in King Edwards Own Gurkha Rifles. He came home the day he became a recruit, With a bald head, as though his father had died. He looked forward to the parades and hardships That went under the guise of physical exercises. He thought of stern, merciless sergeants and corporals Of soccer games and regimental drills A young man’s thrill of war-films and scotch and Gurkha-rum evenings. He’d heard it all from the Gurkhas who’s returned in the Dasain festivals. There was Kunjo Lama his maternal cousin, Who boasted of his judo-prowess and showed photos of his British gal, A pale blonde from Chichester in an English living-room.
It was a glorious sunset, The clouds blazing in scarlet and orange hues, As the young man, riding on the back of a lorry, Sacks full of rice and salt, Stared at the Siwaliks and Mahabharat mountains Dwindling behind him. As the sun set in the Himalayas, The shadows grew longer in the vales. The young man saw the golden moon, Shining from a cloudy sky. The same moon he’d seen on a poster in his uncle’s kitchen As he ate cross-legged his dal-bhat-shikar after the hand-washing ritual. Was the moon a metaphor? Was it his fate to travel to Catmandu, Leaving behind his childhood friends and relatives in the hills, Who were struggling for their very existence, In the foothills of the Kanchenzonga, Where the peaks were not summits to be scaled, With or without oxygen, With or without amphetamines, But the abodes of the Gods and Goddesses. A realm where bhuts and prets, Boksas and boksis, Demons and dakinis prevailed.
* * *
11. ONLY EVEREST KNOWS (Satis Shroff)
The Sherpa trudges in the snow Wheezes and struggles And paves the way With fix-ropes, ladders Crampons, hooks and spikes And says: ‘Follow me, Sir.’
Last season it was a Tiroler, a Tokyoter And a gentleman from Vienna. This time it’s a sahib from Bolognia. Insured for heath and life Armed with credits cards and pride Storming the Himalayan summits With the help of the Nepalis.
Hillary took Tenzing’s photo Alas the times have changed. For the sahib it’s pure vanity For the sherpa it’s sheer existence.
By stormy weather and the trusty sherpa’s Competence and toil the previous day, The sahib takes a stealthy whiff of oxygen. And thinks: ‘After all, the Sherpa cannot communicate He’s illiterate to the outside world.’ And so the sahib feigns sickness and descends Only to make a solo ascent the next day, Stoned with amphetamine.
And so the legend grows Of the sahib on the summit A photo goes around the world. Sans sherpa, Sans sauerstoff.
Was it by fair means? Only Everest knows Only Everest knows.
* * *
The pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas. In each stanza, the second and fourth lines of each stanza, serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza.
13. Pantoum poem: GORKHALAND BLUES (Satis Shroff)
Early in the misty monsoon morning, A Gorkhali meets a Bengali, Below the statue of Bhanubhakta Acharya, At Darjeeling’s Chowrasta.
A Gorkhali meets a Bengali, The Bengali doesn’t like the Adi Kavi At Darjeeling’s Chowrasta. The prime poet of the Gorkhalis.
The Bengali doesn’t like the Adi Kavi Why do you have your poet here, The prime poet of the Gorkhalis. Why not also Tagore?
Why do you have your poet here? The Gorkhali says,’ Tagore belongs to Shantiniketan.’ Why not also Tagore? East Bengal belonged to ancient Bengal.
The Gorkhali says,’ Tagore belongs to Shantiniketan.’ East Bengal belonged to ancient Bengal. But it turned into East Bengal overnight in 1947. You Bengalis had nothing in common
But it turned into East Bengal overnight in 1947. With the Muslims of East Pakistan You Bengalis had nothing in common Freedom from Pakistan led to Bangladesh.
With the Muslims of East Pakistan. We in the hills of Darjeeling, Freedom from Pakistan led to Bangladesh. Want freedom from Bengal.
We in the hills of Darjeeling, We want our own Gorkhaland. Want freedom from Bengal. ‘But Gorkhaland lies in Bengal,’ says the Bengali.
We want our own Gorkhaland. What do you have in common with us Gorkhalis? ‘But Gorkhaland lies in Bengal,’ says the Bengali. The Bengali replies: ‘We have the same religion.’
What do you have in common with us Gorkhalis? Ah, but nothing else. You eat fish, we eat dal-bhat-shikar. The Bengali replies: ‘We have the same religion We fought for our Nepali language.
Ah, but nothing else. You eat fish, we eat dal-bhat-shikar It has been recognised as one of the languages of India. We fought for our Nepali language. The Bengali retorts with gleaming eyes:
It has been recognised as one of the languages of India. ‘Tagore got the Nobel Prize.’ The Bengali retorts with gleaming eyes: We are fighting for our Gorkhali identity.
‘Tagore got the Nobel Prize.’ Neither do you speak our tongue nor do you read Nepali literature. We are fighting for our Gorkhali identity. You read your own books and watch your own Bengali films.
Neither do you speak our tongue nor do you read Nepali literature. We read Bhanubhakta, Bangdel and Devkota. You read your own books and watch your own Bengali films. You have usurped our land,
We read Bhanubhakta, Bangdel and Devkota You have usurped our land, And have become rich and arrogant in the process. The monoculture Thea sinensis was planted
And have become rich and arrogant in the process By the Nepalese migrants under the British Raj. The monoculture Thea sinensis was planted The plantations are not owned by Gorkhalis but Bengalis.
By the Nepalese migrants under the British Raj. The migrants from Bengal have done in Darjeeling, The plantations are not owned by Gorkhalis but Bengalis. What the Han Chinese have done in Lhasa.
The migrants from Bengal have done in Darjeeling, You have taken our jobs away: the teaching profession, What the Han Chinese have done in Lhasa. Administrative jobs all run by brown Bengali babus.
You have taken our jobs away: the teaching profession ‘We are better qualified, perhaps,‘ says the Bengali. Administrative jobs all run by brown Bengali babus. Qualification takes time and money.
‘We are better qualified, perhaps,’ says the Bengali. The only legacy and pride left to us is our brawn, Qualification takes time and money. As soldiers under foreign flags and India’s Gorkha regiments.
The only legacy and pride left to us is our brawn, Where is the liberty, equality and fraternity As soldiers under foreign flags and India’s Gorkha regiments. Guaranteed by the biggest democracy in the world?
Where is the liberty, equality and fraternity? Had Darjeeling been reverted to Sikkim we’d be well off, Guaranteed by the biggest democracy in the world, As the Sikkimese are today under Central rule.
Had Darjeeling been reverted to Sikkim we’d be well off, What have you Bengalis brought to us besides poverty and misery? As the Sikkimese are today under Central rule. The railways, roads and telegraph were introduced by the Brits,
What have you Bengalis brought to us besides poverty and misery? The three leaves and a bud were planted by the English. The railways, roads and telegraph were introduced by the Brits, The entire administrative jobs were kept by the Bengalis.
The three leaves and a bud were planted by the English. The Gorkhalis transferred to jobs in the plains. The entire administrative jobs were kept by the Bengalis How can you say Darjeeling belongs to Bengal?
The Gorkhalis transferred to jobs in the plains The bespectacled Bengali Minister Namata Mukerjee, How can you say Darjeeling belongs to Bengal? Warns the Gorkhalis with a raised index-finger,
The bespectacled Bengali Minister Namata Mukerjee Delays development in Darjeeling deliberately, Warns the Gorkhalis with a raised index-finger, Demands more troops from Delhi,
Delays development in Darjeeling deliberately, Instead of solving Gorkhaland’s people’s demands. Demands more troops from Delhi, Please read the history of Sikkim and Darjeeling.
Instead of solving Gorkhaland’s people’s demands. Please read the story of Sikkim and Darjeeling. We never belonged to Bengal in history. We never belonged to Bengal in history.
* * *
14. MOON OVER THE ARABIAN SEA (Satis Shroff)
Surrounded by the greyish clouds,
I see a full moon
Glowing in the Prussian blue sky.
I walk to the Gateway of India,
Where the breakers
Thrash against Mumbai’s shore.
Waves from the Arabian Sea,
That have brought pirates,
Warships of colonial powers
From foreign shores.
Become household words,
In Portugal, France and Britain.
A warm reassuring breeze
Gandhi’s dreams have come true,
The British have come true,
The British, French and Portugese
Have left the shores
Tourists now spend their money
At the ghats,
In Rajput palaces,
Armies of beggars
Along the footpaths,
Who won’t be millionaires.
The rich dream of more dollars,
At the cost of construction workers,
Underpaid and exploited.
The poor dalits cling
To their dreams at night,
For dreams are not forbidden
And are as free,
As the bad air you breathe.
In my thoughts,
A heavenly Apsara appears,
Dances and sings,
Her heavenly song.
My reverie is broken
By the hooting
Of a white ocean liner,
The ripples of the sea.
* * *
15. LIKE PROMETHEUS AND ICARUS (Satis Shroff)
Up and up we flew exultantly
Towards the Himalayas.
Kathmandu, Bhadgaon and Lalitpur
With their palaces, pagodas, shrines,
Brick houses and hotels ,
Lush green fields in the outskirts
Of the valley,
Were becoming smaller and greener.
For a moment in my mind
I was the dragon that rides over the clouds.
I was Prometheus,
The saviour of mankind,
Who gave mortals fire.
I was Icarus,
Flying away from Crete.
As I peered at the majestic silvery Himalayas,
I felt my insignificance in the vastness
That unfurled below me.
How many climbers from the West and East,
How many Sherpas and other ethnic porters
Still lie in the crevasses
Of Himalayan glaciers?
The earth is below us,
And receives us.
I have a feeling of smallness,
As I alight from the jet.
I’ve seen and felt
The spell of the mighty Himalayas,
And what’s beyond the clouds
In the sky.
A strong, deep, religious experience,
For I had trespassed
The Abode of Snows,
The Home of the Gods.
16. MUSIC AND MUSE (Satis Shroff)
Pillows of silk, sheets of white satin
A world of lights and colours,
Of precious spices, exotic fruits
A world of joy and merrymaking
Behind the Rana palace curtains
I’ve learned the mystery of love
And buried my face in her lap.
Penned poems in the white heat
Of passionate moments,
Till she cried in ecstasy:
Ranas: The Ranas were former rulers of Nepal who usurped the throne of the Shahs. Nepal is a republic since 2008 headed by a Maoist Führer named Prachanda
17. Drinking Darjeeling Tea in England 2008 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
Beware the Ides of March
Manchester will be a milestone
In Gordon Brown’s polit-life.
Your economic ‘competence’
Has become an Achilles heel,
Your weak point.
The people’s party of New Labour
Wants to get rid of you.
These are the rumours
Heard in the trendy streets of London.
Twelve months ago Gordon Brown
Was the Messiah of Brit politics,
After Blair’s disastrous role in the Labour.
Alas, the new Messiah
Lost his face,
Within a short time.
His weakness: decision making.
England is nervous, fidgety,
For Labour fears a possible loss,
Of its 353 Under House seats.
Above the English cabinet
Looms a Damocles sword.
Will Labour watch,
Till a debacle develops?
Labour is in a dilemma.
Hush, help is near.
David Miliband is going vitriolic.
A silly season indeed,
Drinking Darjeeling tea in England.
* * *
My Lyrical Landscapes
Life is a Cosmic Dance
Grow With Love
A Dream Led to Another
O, Cry With Me
A Train Journey
A Gurkha Mother
The Lure of the Himalayas
Catmandu is Nepal
Only Everest Knows
Pantoum: Gorkhaland Blues
Moon Over the Arabian Sea
Like Prometheus and Icarus
About the Author:
Satis Shroff is based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) and also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom. The German media describes him scribes him as a mediator between western and eastern cultures, and he sees his future as a writer and poet. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, he is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in his writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander (togetherness in this world. He has lectured in Basle (Switzerland) and in Freiburg (Germany) at the Academy for Medical Professions (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Center for Key Qualifications (University of Freiburg
Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize (DAAD Preis), the Heimatmedaille Baden-Württemberg 2018 for his contributions to literature and Heimatpflege. He received the Pablo Neruda Award for literature 2017 from Italy.
His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. He is a member of “World Peace Foundation, and poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and and is active in the social media. His literary works can be read on: http://writinglife.kobo.com/ThroughNepaleseEyes
‘Brilliant, I enjoyed your poems thoroughly. I can hear the underlying German and Nepali thoughts within your English language. The strictness of the German form mixed with the vividness of your Nepalese mother tongue. An interesting mix. Nepal is a jewel on the Earth’s surface, her majesty and charm should be protected, and yet exposed with dignity through words. You do your country justice and I find your bicultural understanding so unique and a marvel to read.’ Reviewed by Heide Poudel in WritersDen.com.
„Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Nepalese Eyes’ sind faszinierend und geben uns die Möglichkeit, unsere Welt mit neuen Augen zu sehen.“ (Alice Grünfelder von Unionsverlag / Limmat Verlag, Zürich).
Satis Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Associate Professor in Creative Writing MFA, University of Iowa).
Due to his very pleasant personality and in-depth experience in both South Asian, as well as Western workstyles and living, Satis Shroff brings with him a cultural sensitivity that is refined. His writings have always reflected the positive attributes of optimism, tolerance, and a need to explain and to describe without looking down on either his subject or his reader. (Kanak Mani Dixit, Himal Southasia, Kathmandu)
Satis Shrofff: the personification of goodness, enlightenment and kindness in Poetry and Lliterature in many and contemporary ways. Multi- talented in various literary and academic, humanitarian and environmental fields, he is blessed and honored by many prizes of international reputation. Satis proves that a poet, writer and academic in our days is foremost a humanist and environmentalist! Nepal, his country of origin is a land proud for him. Much admiration and best wishes for more blessings! (Poetessa Roula Pollard (Greece) on FB.
‘The manner in which Satis Shroff writes takes the reader right along with him. Extremely vivid and just enough and the irony of the music. Beautiful prosaic thought and astounding writing. ‘Your muscles flex, the nerves flatter, the heart gallops, As you feel how puny you are, Among all those incessant and powerful waves.’
“Satis Shroff’s writing is refined – pure undistilled.” (Susan Marie, www.Gather.com)‘Satis Shroff writes political poetry, about the war in Nepal, the sad fate of the Nepalese people, the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany. His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. I writing ‘home,’ he not only returns to his country of origin time and again, he also carries the fate of his people to readers in the West, and his task of writing thus is also a very important one in political terms. His true gift is to invent Nepalese metaphors and make them accessible to the West through his poetry.’ (Sandra Sigel, writer and teacher, German
Putin has thrown the gauntlet: how dare anyone, eh?
Moscow theatricals in the heart of power in Russia where the main protagonist is the new Zar. Vladimir Putin, plays the role of a military strategist who combines martial arts philosophy with his deep desire to bring the lost glory to his broken Soviet Union through the blatant use of force and a deadly, expanding arsenal of lethal weapons, conventional, as well as, nukes. Today the Ukraine is in danger of being swallowed, tomorrow the other former and smaller Soviet states, and the day after tomorrow perhaps a piece of the European cake? The Bear’s appetite is growing.
What we are witnessing in the Ukraine is a scenario back from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ in which a Mungo (Russia) has to be cunning, outwit and outmanoeuvre the Cobras (Nato) and Sher Khan (USA). The Mungo made a fast move and left the Western Alliance (Nato) gasping for breath. The Cobras and Sher Khan had only one word in their lips: sanctions.
Thousands leave Kiev because of the Russian invasion. The Russian troops want to drink vodka in the Ukranian capital. Flurries of futile diplomacy with Moscow.
With the march of Vladimir Putin’s troops into Ukranian territory the West’s politics of appeasement towards Moscow has come to an end. Elena Kovalskaya, the director of Moscow’s Vsevolod Meyerhold State Theater and Cultural Center, has announced her resignation in protest against the invasion of Ukraine. “It’s impossible to work for a murderer and collect a salary from him,” she writes.
Elena Kovalskaya, the director of Moscow’s Vsevolod Meyerhold State Theater and Cultural Center, has announced her resignation in protest against the invasion of Ukraine. “It’s impossible to work for a murderer and collect a salary from him,” she writes.
UKRAINE BLUES: prayers and sanctions against a Nation led by a deranged oligarch who calls others ‘neonazis addicted to drugs’ and shows he has no scruples and ethics. A warlord indeed.
A flood of tears flow when a daughter leaves for safety in neighbouring Poland or Romania. Martial Law in Ukraine for all able bodied men from 18 till the age of 60: to the weapons was the call of the day.
German TV Channel One- ARD. Italy agrees to ban Russia from SWIFT. Germany and Switzerland are still hesitating.
The French are worried about their elections..
Selensky’s direct appeal to the People of Russia: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made an appeal to Russian citizens not to support a major war in Europe. Zelenskyy said he attempted to call Russian President Putin but was met with silence. There is a Russian version of the developments in Ukraine meant for young Russian, and former Soviet, ears. In this version Ukraine is being misled by drug-addicted neo-Nazis. The word ‘nazi’ has a strong implication for the elderly generation of Russians who had to suffer hardships and crimes at the hands of the Nazis and the Gestapo in Stalingrad and elsewhere.
US Senator Bernie Sanders said: Putin and his oligarch friends seek a divided world and the destruction of democracy. We must stand with the Ukrainian people against this war, and with the Russian people who are demonstrating against their corrupt, reckless president who started it.
To Kiew via Chernobyl: Russian assault route because it’s shorter. Poor Kiew and Ukranian people. And he says arrogantly, and in defiance, he might even make use of his nukes if the case demands. Threats of European and US sanctions don’ t bother him. Chernobyl, the nuclear power plant was captured by Russian forces . The Ukrainian president says Russian “enemy sabotage groups” entered Kiev.
MOSCOW BLUES: a news posted on February 24, 2022 mentions more than 1,700 arrested in anti-war Russia protests in Moscow and across dozens of cities in Russia, over 400 in Saint Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies. Thousands gathered near Pushkin Square in central Moscow, while up to 1,000 people gathered in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, according to the AFP news agency. “No to war” was spray-painted on the front gate of the Russian parliament’s lower house.
“I am in shock. My relatives and loved ones live in Ukraine,” Anastasia Nestulya, 23, told AFP in Moscow.
Putin wants to control not only the Donbass but Ukraine and other former Soviet Baltic countries too. A conventional warfare with nukes? The krieg has come back to the killing fields of Europe. The massing of Russian troops was ignored, and EU countries followed a policy of appeasement. After the annexation of Crimea the Western countries did business as usual, hoping that peace would come. There were instances of protests against North Stream 2, but they were swept under the carpet because dependency on Russian oil and fluid gas meant prosperity.
And now we pretend we’re surprised about the wrath of the bear.
TRADE SANCTIONS: Ukrainians were fearing the Russians but Europe turned a deaf year. The only weapon that the USA and Europe have are belated half-hearted economic and trade sanctions. Tension is increasing in the area and sanctions are no longer a deterrent for Putin and Lukaschenko (Belarus). The Russian warlord said he had given orders to this armed forces to activate his ballistic and cruise missiles. He emphasised that his country has been facing EU sanctions since many years and is used to it. Western sources interpret this as Putin’s declaration to invade Ukraine. The Second German Channel has reported about explosions, quoting a Ukranian woman. According to van der Leyen this Invasion on the part of Putin has brought the EU and Nato closer together. Aside from threats of sanctions the West follows a policy of wait- and-see.
There’s no guarantee that the Nato and US fire brigade is going to come in the case of Ukraine. We’re following a policy of wait- and-drink-tea and watching the scenario unfurl warily and with angst. Experts warn that Putin’s order for troops to carry out what he called “peacekeeping functions” in the region, and what President Biden has now called the start of an invasion, could lay the groundwork and provide the pretext for a larger Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
Putin has revealed how vulnerable Europe and the Nato is. A lot has to be done in terms of defending and investing in Fortress Europe against aggressors like Putin, and changing existing policies of appeasement towards oligarchs who mean business and are extremely determined.
We in Europe suffer with you, Ukraine: air attacks, bombs, intimidation, people hiding in the Underground, hallways, bunkers as Warlord Putin marches into sovereign, defenceless Ukraine. The target is Kiev, via the Chernobyl route. And he says arrogantly, and in defiance, he might even make use of his nukes if the case demands. Threats of European and US sanctions don’t bother him.
Putin wants to control not only the Donbass but Ukraine and other former Soviet Baltic countries too. A conventional warfare with nukes? The krieg has come back to the killing fields of Europe. The massing of Russian troops was ignored, and EU countries followed a policy of appeasement. And now we pretent we’re surprised about the wrath of the bear.
After the annexation of Crimea the Western countries did business as usual, hoping that peace would come. There were instances of protests against North Stream 2, but they were swept under the carpet because depedency on Russian oil and fluid gas meant prosperity.
Ukrainians were fearing the Russians but Europe turned a deaf year. The only weapon that the USA and Europe have are belated half-hearted economic and trade sanctions.
Putin has revealed how vulnerable Europe and the Nato is. A lot has to be done in terms of defending and investing in Fortress Europe against aggressors like Putin, and changing existing policies of appeasement towards oligarchs who mean business and are extremely determined.
Dreams of a past Soviet and Imperial glory: are being realised with military brutality, disinformation and Gewalt. Aggression. Colonial nostalgia on the part of oligarch Putin who is out to restore the old Soviet Union into a new Russian Federation.
Dr Finnin, University of Cambridge, explained why, in the realm of political values, Ukraine is not Russia’s cousin but her competitor; and why the West needs to work harder to recognise the complexity and importance of the Black Sea region.
Russian forces have launched a military assault on neighbouring Ukraine, crossing its borders and bombing military targets near big cities. A missile sparked a fireball as it hit Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport in western Ukraine. Russia’s military breached the border in a number of places, in the north, south and east, including from Belarus, a long-time Russian ally. There are reports of fighting in some parts of eastern Ukraine.
President Macron’s reset-Russia politics has miserably backfired. He has underestimated Putin’s determination to control the Donbass. Germany’s policy of promoting North Stream 2 under former Chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel, followed by an attitude of appeasement towards Moscow, wasn’t right too under the new circumstances created by the Russian warlord.
Democracy and freedom: The outcome of this inferno is that the EU, Nato and USA are working closer, thanks to Putin’s aggressive, thickheaded attitude. Long live democracy and freedom in Europe and the world. These are two treasures that have to be fought for again and again, all over the world against dictators, oligarchs, rulers that follow a policy of intimidation and injury of human rights.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he plans to conduct a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, confirming fears why he was massing troops along the border ahead of a strategic offensive. Shortly after his announcement, explosions were reported in the cities of Kyiv and Kramatorsk.
Ukraine battles Russian attack on multiple fronts. At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers killed, official says President Biden: “The world will hold Russia accountable.”
This is the end of the world order as we know it.
Russia will “not stop at Ukraine”, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told the United Nations, as he warns of “a grim scenario which will throw us back to the darkest times of the 20th century.”
The Pariah on the World Stage? President Biden levied crippling sanctions against Russia for its Ukraine attack and said the U.S. and allies will make sure Putin will be a “pariah on the international stage.”
Experts warn that Putin’s order for troops to carry out what he called “peacekeeping functions” in the region — and what President Biden has now called the start of an invasion — could lay the groundwork and provide the pretext for a larger Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
Even seasoned Kremlinologists were alarmed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s belligerent tone as he offered a monologue on why Ukraine has no right to exist.In a lengthy televised speech Monday, Putin formally recognized the independence of two regions in eastern Ukraine — the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic.” He later ordered troops to roll over the border under the guise of being “peacekeepers.”
Niinistö on Tuesday viewed that Russia recognising the independence of the self-styled people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, located in south-eastern Ukraine, signifies the end of the path laid out in the Minsk agreements, a series of international agreements signed to end the war in Donbas, Ukraine, in 2014–2015.
Newsweek quoted President Joe Biden, on Tuesday, saying Russia’s actions in Ukraine will trigger massive sanctions, a response he has been threatening for weeks as President Vladimir Putin built up troops along Ukraine’s borders. In a speech from the White House, Biden said the Russian leader has committed “a flagrant violation of international law.”
A big ‘IF’: speaking to journalists Tuesday evening, Putin set out a number of stringent conditions if the West wanted to de-escalate the crisis, saying pro-Western Ukraine should drop its Nato membership ambitions and maintain neutrality.
It might be noted that on Tuesday President Vladimir Putin received authorization from lawmakers to use Russian troops outside of the country, a move he said was necessary to formalize the military’s deployment in two rebel regions of eastern Ukraine. Russia recognized those provinces as independent on Monday. Things are moving fast. Putin ordered troops there to “maintain peace” which is highly doubtful because he ordered Kiev and others cities to be bombarded by his MiGs and Sukhoi jets. It is plainly evident that he is not on a ‘peace keeping mission.’
The winner takes it all when as long as conventional weapons are used in a war but when nukes are involved, there is no winner.
Let Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as reminders of how a country with its cities and humanity can be flattened, and remain radioactive for years to come. Let us not forget the tragedies of Cherobyl and Fukushima.
Peace in this world is the best compromise and solution but as long there is sabre-rattling on both sides there cannot be peace.
Words, dialogues, negotiations have to be used to find solutions. But when the antagonist refuses words and knows only the language of the sword then he must be taught a bitter lesson.
History has seen tyrants come and go. The ravaged countries and people have remained.
Long live human genes, long live peace.
* * * *
VOLNOVAKHA: the trauma, displacement, fear of further attacks and helplessness in war-torn Ukraine.
The astonishing thing is that the Russian Orthodox Church gives its blessings and support to the invader and warlord Putin. Reminds me of the collaboration of the Catholic Church in Germany with the nazis in the Third Reich.
* * *
Rightists helping rightists in Germany & Ukraine, eh? Perhaps these are the new generation of nazis Putin wants to weed out that he keeps on mentioning in his fiery threatening speeches.
Das Asow-Regiment steht bereits seit der russischen Annexion der Krim wegen Menschenrechtsverletzungen und Kriegsverbrechen in der Kritik. Doch Melnyk verweist lieber auf die Situation in Deutschland. Er kommentiert: „Leute, kümmert euch lieber um eure eigenen Rechtsradikalen.“
* * *
GERMANY’S ENERGY ISSUE:
President Selensky’s suggestion and demand on the German government means all the chemical, pharmaceutical and other factories will be affected by such a ban.
The Green Minister Habeck has gone to Katar, UA Emiates looking for alternatives to Nordstream 1 & 2. The former President Gauck quipped: ‘Then let us freeze a bit in winter.’
The Schröder and Merkel governments were appeasing and doing a flourishing biz with Putin.
In the meantime, the government has changed, and so has Putin’s attitude.
The point is whether Germany is willing to take up this energy challenge?
Germany’s Wohlstand is at stake and it means a big sacrifice.
* * *
A PEEP INTO THE RUSSIAN PSYCHE: this is a must-see video about a pro-Putin woman who has internalised Putin’s war propaganda and she doesn’ t budge. “There will be another world… with other values.”
Former Russian MP and Putin supporter Natalya Narochnitskaya saysthat the war in Ukraine is “developing according to plan”.
She believes firmly in Putin’s new values and world order This is what a lot of Russians have been drilled to believe. What a shame.