I am a self-proclaimed man of the mountains. I like high places. I like being above clouds-the sky looks a different shade of blue from there, the stars are much closer. The sun arrives and leaves through invisible doors on hill crests. Up there, mosquitoes are a rarity and you rarely sweat when you just sit. So, when I got to Bharatpur a few weeks ago as a spoken word poetry instructor for the Write to Speak introductory workshops, I realized that I was not in my comfort zone. Discomfort zone (say it out loud).
Like Nasala did once upon a time, I wrote a Haiku:
I am miles away
from pastures, hills, mountains –home.
It is too hot here.
The Bharatpur I saw had wide roads and hot mornings. It had mosquitoes the size of stars in the night sky. It had a newly set up faint azure Bhatbhateni ready to gulp over small businesses. It had a fancy resort with byzantine walkways and a tiny swimming pool with dirty water. It had small “badaam shake” vendors and a non-descript juice pasal that satiated my hungry sugar craving. It had ‘Magic’-all four wheelers and electric tuktuks that didn’t actually tuktuk, just sort of hummed over the pot-hole infested tarmac, ferrying people from point A to B or X to D.
And, it had poets. In droves. About 60 of them. Tall ones, short ones, young ones, old ones, bespectacled ones, high heeled ones, single braided ones, double braided ones, fancy hair styled ones. Poets with ulto topis and skinny jeans, with swagger that would contest the ‘swaggest’.A host of poets who wanted to learn to write more poetry. Better poetry. From me, us.Whew! Did I tell you it was hot?
We taught them. We split into groups and we taught them. ‘Taught’ maybe a wrong word here. I don’t think you can teach poetry, ever. We talked to them about poetic elements though- metaphors and similes, sensory details, alliterations, rhymes,etc etc. We conducted sessions that dealt with performance elements as well. The group Yuki and I took care of was quiet at first, shy ones of course. Once it got going and the veil of shame lifted, it was full of pleasant chatter, smiles and laughter, poetry rhymes- funny, witty and elegant at times. There were no desperate sighs of relief when the workshop ended, no scurrying to leave. People actually lingered back and chitchatted. I even had a few poets come up to me and complain that the workshop was too short. You should have seen me beam then. Phew. Did I tell you it was hot?
On the last day, 22 poets performed. There were poems about virtually everything. There was a poem that pointed out the splendor of the path of truth. Another poem compared life to a complex chemical equation. A poet shared her struggle to deal with the loss of her ‘handsome hunk’ grandpa. Then, there were poems about hearts, poverty, life’s ambitions and flowers of humanity. A young poet even took a satirical jibe at the demagoguery now so characteristic of a (Nepali) politician’s speech.
That afternoon, just like Nasala would, I wrote another Haiku:
during sunny afternoons,
Later in our mosquito infested hotel room, we talked relevance. Our relevance. Samip worried we were ‘dumbing’ kids down, putting heavy metal shackles on already high flying falcons. He had his reasons. “Were we necessary?” we asked. We rationalized we were. We rationalized all night. We knew rationalizations aren’t absolute, but we did it anyway. (The question lingers.)
The stars were out that chilly night. Did I tell you it was chilly? In Bharatpur?
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