The vanguard of poetic movements
Yuyutsu RD Sharma
Like I had no choice in choosing my birthplace, I was destined to be a poet,” ponders major Nepali poet Shailendra Sakar on his creative journey beginning from his birthplace Bhojpur in the remote western Nepal. “And I refuse to glorify the hunger, poverty and cruelty of both Nepali mountain life and my humble vocation as a Nepali poet…” Unlike a majority of his fellow writers, Sakar finds it pointless to celebrate idyllic landscapes of lush green trees, raging brooks and snowy cliffs. One of his favourite anecdotes depicting the harshness of Nepali mountain life, is of a hillside couple travelling on a steep mule path with their only child. As they struggled, tiptoeing on the slippery edge of the cliff, their child slipped out of the basket. Instead of falling straight into the Saptakosi River several thousand feet below, she got stuck in the branches of a tree on the slope. Failing to rescue the trapped child for two days and unable to be helpless witnesses to the child’s suffering, the couple had to stone her to death.
It is not that Sakar doesn’t love his birthplace or that it refuses to crop up every day in his dreams. Not that walking in the streets of New York, Tokyo, New Delhi or Kathmandu, he doesn’t feel the rivers of his hills raging in his blood vessels. Probably it was his mother who first sensed the nucleus of innocence and otherworldliness in him. In his early days, Sakar was considered a very moody child. His mother quite earnestly worried about his future. How on earth would he make a living in this cruel world? Whatever he did, he kept doing intensely and uninterruptedly — swimming in the brook, playing on the swing, studying his books or reading scripture. She always had to interrupt him to bring him back to the kitchen, to eat or to sleep.
And then one day his seniors in the village rejected one of his poems sent for ‘Baal Patrika’, the local hand written children’s magazine. The incident gave the young Sakar an impetus to start writing poems with such intensity that it became his lifetime passion and vocation.
Intense activism and poetry go together in Sakar’s creative world. About two decades ago, I first saw him standing beneath the New Road peepal tree, begging for contributions to save the life of ailing poet Mohan Koirala, who later became vice-chancellor of Royal Nepal Academy. The innocence and grace, with which Sakar stood, impressed me then. “Because our leaders have told so many lies,” points out Sakar, “in the present context it has become essential for poets to speak the harsh truth. To use American President Kennedy’s words, ‘we have to wash our sins in poetry’.” Sakar has launched several movements like Sadak Kavita (Poetry of the Road), Aaswikrit Samaj (Poetry of the Discarded Communities) and Boot Polish in Nepali poetry. Currently he has spearheaded along with me a movement called Kathya Kayakalpa (Content Metamorphosis).
“Poetry can’t be someone’s carrier; a mere mule loaded with other’s ideas. Poetry is the complete idea. Flags can only bring temporary changes. It’s poetry that brings permanent changes in society as evident in the history of Nepali poetry since the times of Bhanubhakta Acharya. The history of Nepal is a history of social awareness stirred by poets — be it the collapses of a despotic Rana Regime or the advent of multiparty democracy.” In his view, only poetry can save the innocence and integrity of smaller nations. Poets aren’t clowns dancing to the tunes of the establishment. Poets are also products of their age. You can’t expect a Nepali poet to speak like a poet from New York or Frankfurt. He can only speak his own language, the intrinsic intricacies of his own world. It’s a pity to see some senior Nepali poets parroting western giants. The problem is our poets don’t have the luxury of seeing the other world.
They don’t want, Sakar believes, to move an inch ahead of Bhanubhakta Acharya. In fact poetry written in Sanskrit metre has failed to be today’s representation. That’s why some of them have started looking like scarecrows in the vibrant field of modern Nepali literature.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org