“Fear is a word that means everything in this city,” spoken word poet
Malashree Suvedi recited fervently on a cool Saturday morning before
nine of her fellow poets, including myself. We sat still captivated by
her stage presence and emotionally charged sentiments.
Malashree’s group poem, “The Tale of Two Cities” written and performed
with Biplav Shrestha tackled contrasting feelings of Kathmandu. Like
many of the poems performed at the first ever Word Warrior Poetry
Retreat, “The Tale of Two Cities” highlighted societal and political
issues and ideas prevalent in Nepali culture. Other group poems on
women’s roles, the conception of a home, and the mystery of love
questioned the contemporary nature of society.
As an American study abroad student, I was hesitant to embark on a
journey outside of Kathmandu with unfamiliar faces. Scared of
performing in front of many strangers and fearful of being unable to
understand and relate to contemporary Nepali feelings, I squirmed
anxiously on the bus ride to Dhulikhel.
Yet, group bus games, rap battles, nighttime walks, and impromptu
poetry disavowed any sense of not belonging. Despite only recently
joining the group, I was one of the Word Warriors- ready to tackle
injustices and express emotions through group poetry. The twenty-four
hour retreat set limits on time, but creative possibilities felt
endless with my partner, Yukta Bajracharya.
On the outside, Yukta and I are seemingly opposites- she’s Nepali, I’m
American; she smiles with teeth fully exposed, I do a simple lip
smirk, she wears a thick pea coat in the cold weather, while I stay
warm in a flannel. Yet, simple writing exercises proved our
similarities. Like all women, we feel passionately about gender
equality and freedom of expression with our male counterparts. We want
our words to speak our inner truths and feelings.
This sentiment fostered our group piece, titled “It’s Okay,” a
dialogue representing repressed voices of women. Yukta and I, through
lines like “you said I could never write something that would resonate
with you” and “your insensitivity and passivity left bruises beyond
disguise,” illumined gender injustices commonly making a woman feel
powerless or that “It’s Okay.” Together we performed a piece for
thoughtful reflection and empowerment.
Lead by American Watson Fellow, Emily Weitzman, the inaugural Word
Warrior opened my eyes to shared human experiences despite cultural
differences. Not only did I learn about current Nepali issues, but I
also shared emotions with my new-formed friends despite varying
backgrounds. Together we wrote poetry, challenged injustices, and had
many laughs along the way.
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