Lyrics of his life
Nothing matches the joy I feel when someone of this generation comes up to me and says s/he has read my poetry. What can be better than to know that today’s generation likes my works,” says Rastra Kabi (National Poet) Madhav Prasad Ghimire, his wise eyes twinkling with fond memories of his literary journey.
Born in 1919 in Lamjung, Ghimire was brought up by his father Gauri Shankar Ghimire and his grandmother. He lost his mother at a very early age.
“I use to get hurt when people used to pity me for not having a mother. I used to wonder how different it would have been if I had my mother by my side,” says Ghimire, adding, “Maybe that is why almost all my literary creations have a divine and glorified vision of women. Unconsciously the emptiness and the absence of my mother during my childhood is fulfiled through my writing.”
He completed his Sastri from Sanskrit Pathsala.
“In our village, it was believed that too much of study (academics) does not suit the Ghimires. But look at me, didn’t it suit me? Maybe it did not suit my village and that lifestyle, but it suited me well,” quips Ghimire.From the hills of Lamjung to being the poet laureate of the nation, Ghimire has travelled further than many men ever will. Famed as a lyrical poet, he has written many songs and counts Kalidas, Khalil Gibran and Rabindra Nath Tagore as his major influences.
Talking of the golden era of Nepali literature, he recalls, “I got along very well with Laxmi Prasad Devkota. He had a magnificent personality and intelligence to match.”
Involved in writing children books and poems, no one can forget Ghimire’s Bhangera ra Bhangeri poem in the school course. But his popularity does not stop here, his story Mann chinte murali has been translated into English and been integrated in the secondary school course in Sweden.
He says, “Writing for children is not a game. You have to see the world through a child’s eyes and understand it his/her way. You have to hold their hand and walk in their pace, but it’s up to you to lead them. If you do it their way, they will follow your lead. And I think this is an easier and effective way to educate them.”
He was married at the age 15 to his first wife Gauri, who was 10 at the time. After 11 years of married life and two daughters, Gauri died. “I wrote the tragic epic Gauri in her memory. Today people consider it the best tragic epic after Muna Madan,” says Ghimire.
He married his second wife Mahakali when he was 29. “After Gauri died, the children were small and they needed a mother. As you know poets live in their own world, and I also needed someone to look after me. Mahakali has taken care of six daughters and two sons, given them good education, a sound up-bringing and taken care of my home,” he says of his better half.
Ghimire leads a life of simplicity and his daily routine is to enjoy life to the fullest and spend time with his family.
“Sometimes if I get in the mood of writing, I forget everything and get engrossed in it. That is when my wife nags me to have lunch,” he says. “I read only the headlines in the morning. She is the one who reads the whole paper and tells me about the news and keeps me updated.”
The high regard that he has for his wife’s opinions is reflected when he says, “Whenever I write something, I read it to her first. If she approves, then it goes for printing. I believe that if my wife cannot understand what I’ve written, then how will the general public?”
A closeknit family, the poet enjoys spending time with them. Though they are interested in literature, his children are not involved in the literary field.
“I never made them do things according to my choice — be it their studies or career,” he says.
He enjoys spending time with them. “Nothing beats food cooked by family members, be it aalo bodi tama, ghiraula, methi chamsur saag or koiralo ko aachar. They are all so delicious, and even better when you eat with you whole family,” he says with enthusiasm.
Ghimire was just 14 when he started writing. Almost 90 today, the living legend says, “I am totally satisfied with what I have done and am doing in my life. If it were not so, why would have I continued? God gave me a long life, and people gave me so much love. What else can one ask for? People have given me importance and honoured me as the National Poet. I wrote Gaunchha geet Nepali in 2010 BS, and people still sing it. That is achievement.”
His personal favourites among his own creations are Gauri and Ashwasthama. The latter was even nominated for the Nobel Prize from Nepal in 1996.
“If I were given a special power to change anything in me... I am a lyrical poet and I regret the fact that I cannot play any musical instrument. By God’s grace if I get a next life, I would like to write music for my lyrics,” he says.
Impressed and happy about the education today’s generation is getting, he says, “I feel so proud to see youngsters today getting degrees from renowned universities. But one thing the government should remember is that development should start from the base, the villages. They should concentrate on rural areas — paat ma pani halera hunchha? Jara ma po halnu parchha (What’s the use of watering the leaves? One should water the roots).”
And for those going abroad for studies, he has this to day, “One should never forget one’s country. Man has to do something for mankind and one’s country. That is our duty, or what’s the worth of being a human being?”
According to him, a poet “has to be a people’s person, he has to relate himself to beauty and life. If you cannot relate to nature and people, then you cannot express your feelings. A poet is a person who takes colours from all around and creates a painting out of words, which others can identify with.”