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HAVING come all the way from the Himalayas, I have found a home in the Dreisamtal. The word ‘Tal’ means a Valley in German. I love the wonderful air (Landluft) here, have made good friends in Kappel, and have been living like Mr. Mathew Lobo, my English school teacher, wrote in an e-mail: ‘Satis, you are Omnia bene facere.’ He now lives down under in Perth, and is rather web-active, despite the fact that he’s an octogenarian bajay, a Nepalese word for grandpa. He was the handsomest guy in Darjeeling in the summer of his life, and now he’s a brilliant example of life-long-learning. You will never grow old as long there’s love and this craving for knowledge in your heart. I remember my Mom telling me when I was a school-kid: ‘Satis, vidya (knowledge) is something that no one can take away from you once you have acquired it.’ And at the University of Freiburg are written three words: Wissen ist Macht.

Well, life is a long journey, as I see it, and we are all protagonists in each of our life stories. In this long journey we meet a good many people who in some way influence us, give us empathy, dignity, strength, show tolerance and we learn to love and admire these meaningful people in our lives, and there are those we shun, abhor and who have a negative influence and aura around them. In the school compound it’s the same thing. You can’t get along with all kids, all teachers, all parents, all colleagues and bosses. A lot of mobbing and bossing going on there. But the wonderful thing is you don’t have to fraternise with ‘em all. Just humour them, bear with them. You don’t have to spend all your life with ‘em. Find peace through prayer, meditation, autogenic training, yoga or whatever, and praise and nurture the child in you, and you will gain strength. Praise yourself for your achievements and delete the bad memories from your life. Tell yourself, you might not wake up tomorrow and live the day full to the brim. Care for your dear ones. If you don’t have one, find one. ‘Wer sucht, der findet’ runs the adage in German. Out there in the wide world there’s definitely someone with the same wavelength as you waiting to be contacted. Follow your heart, not your head.

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When you’ve grown older you realise that you cannot get along with everyone. There are people with whom you can only talk about the weather. Even in one’s own family. But there are others who love to talk and have a good time telling about themselves. A good listener and a cheerful attitude always has an advantage. Are you a good listener?

In this epoch of computers, bits and bytes, most of us have no time like in Michael Ende’s Momo-story. We forget to take time, because we’re oh-so-busy. Perhaps we’ll realise it when it’s too late, when our Aufenthaltserlaubnis or stay permit on this planet is over, and our souls head for the cosmos at the speed of light. However, as long as we live we ought to indulge in a bit of enjoyment, fun, wellness and try to find the equilibrium with ourselves. Can you accept the way you are? Are you satisfied with yourself, with what you’ve done till now? Then you’ve lived a meaningful life. Weiter so.

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I find it so enriching to have Nature around us, the chirping of the birds in the dense, lush green bushes and trees, the beautiful blue range of hills of the Dreisam Valley, and in the evening the soothing Höllentäler wind after a sunny day.
From the Rosskopf, which is now known for its four white windmill rotor blades, you can have a commanding view of the entire Dreisam Valley and the approach to the Elz Valley, as well as the distant Breisgau. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Ah, the Black Forest was once to the French Forêt Noire, a dark, gloomy area, difficult to traverse and unpopulated forested hills. To the English the Black Forest conjured up images of the Black-Forest Man, who evoked fear in children, and was delpicted as being half-wild and a robber to boot. In Nepal the mothers also mention the yeti or sokpa when the children are not obedient to instill fear in them should they not refrain from their pranks and stubborness. Children are also told tales about the robber Hotzenplotz who is known to blast you with his pepper-pistole. Even Germans from other parts of the country have been known to bestow the Black Forest with negative compliments as a wild and sad place.


However, when a traveller comes from the Rhine, Donau or Neckar Valleys to the heights of the Schwarzwald, they are delighted to find beauty, fresh air, spas (Bad Krozingen, Bad Bellingen, Alpirsbach), great wines and picturesque towns with cobbled streets, the Freiburger Bächele, cathedral and elite university flair, the young people at its Bermuda triangle, Thomas Rees’ wooden works of fantasy exhibited around Kappel and Freiburg. There’s a mingling of traditonal and modern lifestyles. It’s like another world surrounded by blue mountains from Rosskopf to Buchenbach, St.Peter, St.Märgen and beyond. You can hear the visitor from northern Germany and elsewhere say: ‘One can live here and be happy for the rest of your life.’
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In every nook and corner of the Black Forest there are legends and stories waiting to be discovered and retold. In Feldberg you have the story about being visited by a ghost, the knight Peter von Stauffenberg and the Fairy from the Sea, the Hambacher Festival, the Witch’s Tower of Bühl, the German Farmer, the Ghost of Windbeck’s Castle Cook, the Water-sprite of Schlucksee to name a few. In Staufen even Mephistopheles is said to have visited Doctor Faustus. The people of the Black Forest still put on their traditional costumes and speak their dialects, despite the modernity and fast pace of everyday life where you have to plan everything. The village bands still play their traditonal tunes, and the male singers in the hamlets, town and cities still have their old collection of songs which they sing with gusto as they have done since generations. You hear the Allemanic dialect along the Rhine and Swabian along the Neckar Valleys.

There’s still a lot of old tradition that is being nursed and developed even among the younger generation. And when the visitor has slept in the Black Forest huts, hotels or bread-and-breakfast accommodations, has talked with the people of the Schwarzwald, they go as friends, taking home wonderful memories of the walks in the wilderness, the mountain glades with mooing and chewing well-fed cows, the excellent Badische cuisine and wines, the tasty Black Forest Torte, the witch’s hole mill and the Vogtsbauern homesteads.

You have to learn or re-learn to appreciate the small, good things in life and Nature is a big present for us all. There’s international poetry, culture: music, dances, theatre and in the wintry nights an endless world of books. Oh, life is just wonderful no matter where you live. It’s the mental attitude that makes or breaks you. Keeping good habits and eliminating bad ones helps you along this long journey called life. I like people who have a good and genuine smile on their faces. Death and separation are also a part of our journeys on this stage called life, where we are actors and have the daily chance to change ourselves and play new, constructive roles. If we prefer not to change our character roles and want to remain bitter, envious, jealous, depressed, frustrated, narrow-minded, then nobody can help us. We’re stopping ourselves. You are the director of your own lives and it’s up you to determine which role you prefer to play. The curtain goes up every morning when we get out of our beds. The birds seem to be twittering Carpe diem to us.

Lyrik:

The Symphony of the Morning (Satis Shroff)

I discern the recurring chirps and whistles
Of the birds in the vast foliage of an oak tree,
A German Eiche.

Whistles, chirps, hoots
And melodious symphony,
Like the incessant waves
Slashing on the shores of the Atlantic.

A single bird gives the tact,
A strong monotonous chirp.
The others follow suit,
Not in unison
But still in harmony.

You notice so many melodies
When you eavesdrop,
In the quiet comfort of your bed.
The natural symphony of the morning:
Adagio, crescendo,
It’s all there
For your fine ears.

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CHIRPS IN MY GARDEN (Satis Shroff)

I peer at the pine trees above,
Heavily laden with fluffy snow,
Like sentinels of the Black Forest.

I espy something moving:
Three deer with moist noses,
Sniffing the Kappler air,
Strut among the low bushes
In all their elegance,
Only to vanish silently,
Into the recesses of the Foret Noir.

I hear the robin,
Rotkehlchen,
With its clear, loud, pearly tone,
As it greets the day.
Just before sunrise the black bird,
Amsel,
Which flies high on the tree tops,
Delivers its aries early.
The great titmouse stretches its wings
And starts to sing.

The brown sparrows turn up
With their repertoire,
Rap in the garden,
Twitter and chirp aloud.
All this noise makes the bullfinch alert,
For it also wants to be heard.
It starts its high pitched melody
With gusto in the early hours.

The starling clears its throat.
What comes is whistles,
Mingled with smacking sounds.
The woodpecker,
Specht,
Isn’t an early bird,
Starts its day late.
Pecks with its beak,
At a hurried tempo.

If that doesn’t get you out of your bed,
I’m sure you’re on holiday,
Or thank God it’s Sunday.
Other feathered friends
Who frequent our Black Forest house,
Are the green finch, the jay,
Goldfinch which we call ‘ Stieglitz,’
Larks, thrush and the oriole,
The Bird of the Year,
On rare occasions.

Glossary:
English, German, Latin names
Robin (Rotkehlchen): Erithacus rubecula
Black bird (Amsel): Turdus merula
Titmouse (Kohlmeise): Parus major
Bullfinch (Rotfinke):
Greenfinch (jay): Chloris chloris
Starling: Sturnus vulgaris
Woodpecker (Specht):
Stieglitz: Carduelis carduelis
Oriole: Oriolus oriolus

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Thomas Rees: Soyez mysterieuse in the Black Forest (Satis Shroff)

Thomas Rees is a middle aged jeans type, with greying hair at the sides, thin-lipped, blue eyed, married, two children and is a sculptor who likes to depict the powers that be in religion, fantasy and mythology. He has an individual view of sacral stories and objects.

The birth of Jesus is depicted this time in his 6m work of art, and also associated with the murder of the children of Bethlehem, and posed with King Herodes with a crown, the symbol of power on earth. He begins with Adam and Eva at the top, a dragon head to signify a snake, the inferno, the castle of Herodes with a knife, Roman legionaires with lances, angels, the brothers Cain and Abel and the ten commandments. The open grave in Easter signifies Christian hope, and as the reason for Christian existence is a cross, symbolising a certain Friday (Karfreitag). One figure is shown screaming and the other shows sadness and is sunk in itself.

Wonderful, sensitive wooden emotive art: biblical history carved in wood. But wood is Nature and given to withering and change through the negative onslaught of the scorching sun, wet and damp rain, wind, frost, snow and ice.

When you go past the other wooden sculptures of Thomas near his home in Freiburg-Kappel figures you can discern the changes wrought by the four seasons. But it is this change that makes his wooden figures all the more fascinating. What a magical, fascinating place to live in, with all those magnificent works of art from history, mythology, pre-history, from far-off countries, and Thomas’ fantasy which never ceases to conjour new faces, figures and creatures. Need inspiration for your next fantasy novel? Just drop in at Freiburg-Kappel and you’ll certainly be flabbergasted if not astounded.

In a winter-garden structure in his house is a figure with two lovers in ecstatic embrace which I find pure, fascinating with a hunk of eros, a symbol of what love can be in its sensual, romantic form. You can discover influences of the South Sea figures akin to Paul Gauguin, different styles, even a Givenchy bridge near his home, where a rivulet flows down to the maize and potato fields. Figures of forgotten Gods, strong, elegant women. Thomas combines in his sculpture lot of legends and motifs which remind you of the polytheistic character of old religions from the South Sea, monumental Germanic mythological figures or his studies of the female figures, lying prostrate on the ground, standing erect, hands at the sides and head turned to the side. The variations are endless. ‘Love each other and you’ll be happy’ is also his message to fellow humans, and his art has a certain ambiguity: there’s the good and the bad, positive and negative, happiness and sorrow, small and big, monumental at times, sinking or emerging figures., exotic fantasy worlds.

Didn’t Gauguin insist on ‘soyez mysterieuse’? Be mysterious. That’s the feeling you have when you look at his creations.

Thomas sees not only the beautiful world of religion but he points to, and emphasises, also the not-so-holy world: the banishment from Paradise, the building of the Tower of Babylon, murder of the brother, the flood and Noah’s Arch. He asks his fellow humans and theologists: why? He poses this question not only to Homo religiosus but also people who are in search of religion and rituals. You only have to open your eyes, interpret what they reveal and decide yourself in which direction you want to go. Perhaps all religions lead to the same goal: humans should be humans.

Thomas Rees is the most productive person in Freiburg-Kappel and his works are impressionism it its purest form, the depiction of sensory feelings, which tend to be transitory under the changing conditions of light, colour, movement and form. Nature plays a big role in his creativeness, for his art objects are mostly displayed outdoors, without the protection allotted to works of art in art-galleries. He, himself, is a well-trained out-door guy, prefers to wear a bomber-jacket, jeans and a checked lumberjack’s shirt, a soft-spoken person wouldn’t notice in a crowd but endowed with an explosive creativity. What a fantastic neighbour I have. Do pay Kappel a visit: ask anyone and they’ll tell you where the sculptor lives.

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Tribute: Anzu Furukawa and The Rite of Spring (Satis Shroff)

I’d often seen an outsized portrait of Anzu Furukawa in my friend Wolfgang Graf’s home, and when we talked about Anzu and he said, “My own experience with Anzu came in 1999, during the San Francisco Buto Festival. I participated in her workshop and found her to be a good teacher, able to communicate well to her students despite the fact the her English was somewhat limited. She used humour to break the tension that so often can hamper a student from learning. That same humour was communicated in her performance of one of her most famous works, Crocodile Time.”
Anzu Furukawa was born in Tokyo in 1952. She studied in 1972-75 under professor Yoshiro Irino in the Toho-gakuen College of Music. She worked since 1973 as a choreographer, performer and scenarist in various groups in Japan and Europe on many international festivals. Among others she also worked in 1979 as a solo dancer in the Dairaku-kan buto group. An accomplished ballet dancer, modern dancer, studio pianist for ballet companies and a student of modern composition of music in addition to being both a teacher and performer of Buto dance.
In this connection it is necessary to talk about the Buto. ‘What is ‘Buto?’ you might ask.

Buto is a school of modern Japanese dance which was born at the turn of the fifties and sixties. Buto dance has also influenced the development of dance in Finland and in Europe in general.  Buto was born amid the upheavals in Japan, in the atmosphere characterised by student revolts, performance acts and agitation prop. The founder of the school was Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), who came from Northern Japan to Tokyo.  He started with violent and anarchistic dance performances, after which his relations with the official school of Japanese dance were cut off. In his later work, he created a kind of basic technique for buto, which, however, differed from Western aesthetics.  Another “first generation buto artist“ is Kazuo Ohno (1906-) who also visited Finland.

Anzu gave her debut in 1973 as a director and choreographer with the first piece “grand conceptual opera” SALOME TALE at the German Cultural Centre in Tokyo. From 1974 till 79 she worked as a soloist in the dancer performance Dairaruda-kan directed by Akaji Maro. She also worked with Carlotta Ikeda, Ko Muroboshi, Ushio Amagatsu.
In 1979-86 she founded and led, together with Tetsuro Tamuro, the Dance Love Machine group. Then she founded in 1987 the Anzu Dance School in Tokyo and began solo performances in Japan and Europe. In 1987 she created many successful works such as the Anzu´s Animal Atlas, Cells of Apple, Faust II, Rent-a-body, The Detective from China, and A Diamond as big as the Ritz. From 1991 till 1997 she held University Professorship in Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste Braunschweig, Germany (schwerpunkt Performance) . She received many grants and prizes from the Goethe Institut Tokyo Contemporary music series, The Japan Foundation, Nippon Geijutsu Bunka Shinko Kikin, Afred Kordelin Foundation, The Art Council of Province of Central Finland and the Astro-Labium prize, The International Electronic Cinema Festival-Montreux, Kolner Theatre Prize
As a visiting instructor at a Finnish university, Anzu Furukawa concentrated on collaborative productions at the Helsinki City Theatre and staged works like the Rite of Spring in 1994 and the Buto works Bo (Keppi) and Shiroi mizu (Villi Vesi) in 1995 using mostly Finnish dancers. In Western Europe, most people believe that a dancer should stop performing at the top level sometime in their 40s. Due to the attitude of placing importance on the realities of the body mentioned earlier in regard to the interest in Buto, or perhaps the influence of Buto itself, many Finnish dancers still continue to perform into their 50s.

It is the presence of cross-over type activities that transcend conventional category boundaries, like the works of Uotinen that give Finnish dance its contemporary strength. There is also active collaboration with artists from other genre, especially collaborations with media artists and lighting creators. This writer has personally feels that there is a lot of beautifully created light work in Finnish dance, and it seems as if the sensitivity of the lighting art is not unrelated to a dramatic element that originates in the Finnish natural environment with the shining brightness of the midnight sun in summer, the darkness that dominates the winter and the fact that its polar proximity makes the Aurora borealis a common sight. This light-effect is brought onto the stage by no other than Mikki Kunttu, Finland’s representative lighting designer.

In the work of Saarinen mentioned at the beginning, the natural light effect designed by Mikki Kunttu helped to bring an abstract expression of the religious spirituality achieved through a life of denial of human desires that is the theme of the work.

The solo Hunt that takes Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as its motif, is an impressive solo that brings the theme to life within the burning energy of the dance. Beginning from silence and having the body spring to life with the music, the piece proceeds to the closing stage to build as images of Marita Liulia projected on the body in a way that created a visual expression of the human body in the information age. I personally like Igor Stravinsky’s “Der Feuervögel”, the firebird very much and it is performed in many German schools. There’s a strong interest in Buto in the Finnish dance world and there are many choreographers and dancers who have studied Buto or been influenced by it. This is the result of an expansive approach to the natural world and the physical implications of the fact that the distant roots of the Finnish people who make up most of the population live in Asia. I’d say “Pippis!” to that as a South Asian.

For instance, the approach to nudity that has resulted from Finland’s sauna culture, which is an integral part of Finnish life, is completely different from that of other European countries and even its neighbour Sweden. For the Finnish, nudity is neither implicative of the taboos of sexuality or the diametrically opposed concepts of utopia but simply a natural state that is part of daily life. This fact further deepens the interest in Buto as a form of dance that examines the truths of the body, and the darker sides of life, and seeks to encompass expressions of ailment and death as a part of dance. Dance does not necessarily have to be artificial and aesthetic at all times. In contemporary times we have the Riverdance, Bollywood dancing, Bolshoi or Royal Ballet, in which the body plays a dominant role but the emphasis is on the footwork and a minimum of facial expressions that are used to display the emotions. Not so in Buto performances.

The artistic director of the previously mentioned Kuopio Dance Festival from 1993 to 98, the Asian arts researcher Jukka O. Miettinen, was one of the first to take an interest in Buto and play an active role in introducing Buto artists Carlotta Ikeda, Ko Murobushi, Kazuo Ohno, Sankaijuku and Anzu Furukawa: The festival did help establish an audience for Buto in Finnland.

Among the front-line dancers and choreographers in Finland are a number who have journeyed to Japan to study Buto. Tero Saarinen, who performed as a dancer for the Finland National Ballet Company, before forming his own Tero Saarinen & Company, studied Buto for a year in Tokyo at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. And, Arja Raatikainen and Ari Tenhula also studied under Ohno and Anzu Furukawa.

Other Buto artists who have visited and worked in Finland include Masaki Iwana, but the influence of the late Anzu Furukawa who visited Finnland numerous times. and gave many workshops, was especially strong. After performing with Dairakudakan, Furukawa formed Dance Love Machine with Tetsuro Tamura. Later she moved to Germany and continued her activities based in Europe, forming a multinational dance group called Dance Butter Tokio. The reason for her popularity was probably the wild dance theatre type composition of her works that made use of unexpected or comic twists and the exaggerated deformé type body movement that connected in some ways to German expressionist dance.

In an e-mail posted by Chikashi Furukawa, Anzu’s ‘little boy’ brother dated October 23rd you could read: “I am sorry to inform you that Anzu passed away early this morning. She had been sleeping for more than 30 hours and stopped breathing in peace with her two lovely children holding her hands. She danced at Freiburg New Dance Festival only 20 days ago. In my memory, Anzu was and is always a ‘little girl in an oversized dress’. She ran through all of us in such a hurry.”

©Lyriktribute to Anzu & Pina by Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel

Aurora borealis (Satis Shroff)

The sky was bathed
In fantastic hues:
Yellow, orange, scarlet
Mauve and cobalt blue.
Buto dancing,
In this surreal light,
On the stage,
Was magnificent.
Your heart pounds higher,
Your feet become light,
Your body sways
To the rhythm
And Nordic lights
Of the Aurora borealis.

Akin to the creation
Of the planet we live in.
And here was I,
Anzu Furukawa.
Once a small ballet dancer,
Now a full grown woman:
A choreographer, performer,
Ballet and modern dancer,
Studio pianist.
‘The Pina Bausch of Tokyo’
Wrote a German critic
In Der Tagesspiegel.

Success was my name,
In Japan, Germany, Italy,
Finnland and Ghana:
Anzu’s Animal Atlas,
Cells of Apple,
Faust II,
Rent-a-body,
The Detective of China,
A Diamond as big as the Ritz.

I was a professor
Of performing arts in Germany.
But Buto became my passion.
Buto was born amid upheavals in Japan,
When students took to the streets,
With performance acts and agit props.
Buto, this new violent dance of anarchy,
Cut off from the traditions
Of Japanese dance.

Ach,
The Kuopio Music et Dance festival
Praised my L’Arrache-coer,’
The Heart Snatcher.
A touching praise
To human imagination,
And the human ability
To feel even the most surprising emotions

I lived my life with dignity,
But the doctors said
I was very, very sick.
I had terminal tongue cancer.
I’d been sleeping over thirty hours,
And stopped breathing
In peace,
With my two lovely children
Holding my hands.
I’d danced
At the Freiburg New Dance Festival
Only twenty days ago.
I saw the curtain falling,
As we took our bows.

I bow to you my audience,
I hear your applause.
The sound of your applause
Accompanies me
Where ever my soul goes.

I’m still a little girl
In an oversized dress.
I ran through you all
In such a hurry.

* * *
Poetry and Dance (Satis Shroff)

Her images were unusual,
Shocking to some.
Dancers
Jeering and tormenting
Other dancers.
Dancers
Throwing ripe tomatoes
At each other.
Instead of the bastinado,
Lighters held on the soles
Of other dancers.

Women were women
And men were men,
In Pina’s world.
No melange
Of oestrogens and testosterons,
No X and Y
Chromosomes.

Her women wore scarlet lips,
Her dancers were tormented with ballet:
Adagio, flips and turns,
Carried out rigorously.

In the ‘Rite of Spring’
The dancers were covered with soil.
In ‘1980’ there was a lawn.
In ‘Carnations’ the Nelken were crushed
On stage.
In ‘Palermo, Palermo’
A tall wall fell apart.
That was Pina Bausch live.

We’ll miss the facial muscles
Of her performers,
Her own dance choreography,
Warning us all
To stop ruining the Umwelt
Of this precious planet.

A high priestess,
A courageous stage poet,
Who threw constantly
Challenges,
With her mute, energetic
Choreography.

The poetess is gone.
What remains are her images,
Long after the dancers
With their flailing hands,
Have vanished into oblivion.

A numbness lingers
At the Tanztheater Wuppertal.
Exit Pina Bausch
At the age of 68.

Glossary:
Umwelt: environment
Tanz: dance
Nelken: carnations
Bastinado: beating the soles of the feet, an old punishment
* * *
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THE WIND FROM THE VALE OF HELL (Satis Shroff)

On a hill in Kappel
You feel free and elated.
The stream that bubbles below,
Like an incessant lyric,
A monk’s chant in a monastery.

The cherry tree hangs
With bloom on its sagging boughs.
Ah, to look at trees in all their splendour,
In this Black Forest idyll.

The blue Schwarzwald range,
Makes poetry out of the dying sun
Around the house,
Like an arena in the Himalayas.
The tulips in bright colours are everywhere,
The lovely lilies are swaying,
So are the gladiolas.

As I walk along a mountain stream,
I smell hyacinths.
The marigolds are in full blossom,
And a wave of nostalgia sweeps over me,
For marigolds and Tagetes grow
When it’s Dasain and Tihar,
Festival time,
Far in the Himalayas.
From the Himalayas to the Black Forest,
What a long journey.

The evening wind whispers gently
From the Vale of Hell,
Der Höllentäler,
As we fondly call it.
The birds are coming home to roost.

I discern the attentuated tone
Of my little daughter Elena
Playing on her violin.
My feet take me home
With tardy steps.
I feel at peace
With myself

VAN GOGH: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

If you love Nature truly,
you’ll find it beautiful everywhere
(Vincent van Gogh)

If you want to see Vincent van Gogh’s landscape paintings then Basle (Switzerland) is the place to go. The Kunstmuseum Basel has the world’s first showing of the landscape paintings, although in autumn-winter 2008-09 there was a major exhibition at Vienna’s Albertina on van Gogh’s paintings and drawings with 150 of the artist’s works, and his expressive use of the of the brush, prior to which the artist had done strong drawings with all the details. They were then coloured in his own distinctive way. The Harvest in Provence in oil was first drawn with brown and graphite sticks.

Vincent van Gogh was one of the most productive artists. He painted 900 pictures and 1100 drawings and sketches on paper. He decided to be an artist when he was 27 years old. Ernest Hemingway and van Gogh have one thing in common: both used a gun to end their lives. Van Gogh lived only 37 years. He followed his brother Theo’s advice and went to live in Auvers near Paris, where he was medically treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, a neurologist with a penchant for art. Prior to that he had psychic disturbances and cut his ear, had himself treated at the hospital in Arles, and since 1889 moved to the psychiatric home at Saint Remy.

Van Gogh was born in 1853 in Holland’s Groot-Zundert, and his father was a Protestant preacher. He was influenced by the countryside environment. He felt a deep love for Nature and also nostalgia for his village. He didn’t have a good time at school and as a result he began working in the Art and Graphic business Groupik & Cie. Since he wasn’t motivated in his job, he was fired and worked as a teacher and assistant preacher in England. But the University rejected his theological ambitions.

After a crisis in the family his brother Theo recommended him to become an artist. Vincent van Gogh started learning to draw and paint the hard way as an autodidact. Good news for people who want to do it on their own. He loved to paint dark landscapes and farmers during their working hours. He got closer to a woman, who used to sew clothes and occasionally engaged in the oldest profession in the world. Her name was Sien but the relationship ended after one and a half years.

Vincent van Gogh wanted to understand the contemporary art Impressionism, so he went to Paris in 1886. It was Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Paul Signac and the bright outdoor paintings of the Impressionists that brought a great change in van Gogh’s paintings. He started using brighter colours and the city and the countryside became his motifs: gardens, parks, fields, olive groves and yineyards. The outcome was wonderful paintings daubed in yellows, blues, greens. He was on his way to discover his own artistic language.

The Basler exhibition is a reconstruction of van Gogh’s cycles of Nature and forms, with which he experimented, that are to be seen in the expositions. Van Gogh celebrated the uniqueness and glory of creation, and his deep bond with Nature are revealed in his outstanding works. I love the cypresses tat appear in van Gogh’s paintings and the theme of the cycles of Nature. About his fascination for Cypresses, Vincent van Gogh said this:
‘The cypresses are in my mind again and again. It’s strange that no one has painted them, the way I see them. In the lines and proportions they’re as beautiful as an Egyptian obelisk. And the green has a such s fine tone. It is the dark spec on a sun basked landscape, but it’s one of the most interesting black tones, and I can’t think of anything that’s more difficult to paint.’

Even though he had psychic problems, he painted pictures that were reassuring with warm colours that create joy and optimism, if not exhilaration in the eyes of the viewer, friend, art-lover, connoisseur. How right he was when he said: ‘Art is man plus nature. The art historian Julius Meier-Graefe wrote his story of a seeker of God to help build a legend about Vincent van Gogh in1921. Irving Stone’s book ‘Lust for Life’ (1934) was filmed by Vincent Minelli in 1956. Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’ is a wonderful homage to van Gogh’s painting ‘starry night’ in which the painter is depicted as a misunderstood, suffering soul who was too good for this world. The lyric goes:
Now I understand,
What you’re trying to say
To me.

Even though van Gogh did a lot of landscapes, for him art wasn’t imitating nature. It was the feelings and thoughts evoked by nature that an artist brings to the canvas. It isn’t perspective or anatomy that’s relevant but the authenticity of one’s artistic expression. Van Gogh did it personally with strong colour lines and drawings, making his works of art an expression of his inner feelings and of nature that he adored. Van Gogh’s essential period of work lasted only intensive years which were made eternal by his contemporaries. Like van Gogh aptly said: ‘Some people have a big fire in their soul, and nobody comes to warm himself or herself in it.’

© Copyright 2009 by Satis Shroff

About the Author:

Satis Shroff is a prolific writer and taught in the past Creative Writing at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. http://www.zfs.uni-freiburg.de/zfs/dozent/lehrbeauftragte4/index_html/#shroff. He is a lecturer (Uniklinik Freiburg), poet and writer and the published author of five books: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelogue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff), and two language books on the Nepalese language for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag. He has written three feature articles in the Munich-based Nelles Verlag’s ‘Nepal’ on the Himalayan Kingdom’s Gurkhas, sacred mountains and Nepalese symbols and on Hinduism in ‘Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) and his poem ‘Mental Molotovs’ was published in epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt). 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 “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer.

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. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and 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 in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Academy for Medical Professions (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Center for Key Qualifications (University of Freiburg, where he is a Lehrbeauftragter for Creative Writing). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize and the Pablo Neruda Award    2017 in Crispiano, Italy.


What others have said about the author: 
„Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Through 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).

‘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, Germany).

© Copyright 2009 by Satis Shroff. You may republish this article online provided you keep the byline, the author’s note, and the active hyperlinks.

* * *
FRIENDS (Satis Shroff)

I sit on my chaiselonge,
Serving Darjeeling to my friends,
Strengthened with masala,
And Sahne.
There’s Murat from Turkey,
Rosella from Italy,

Stefan and Barbara from Rheinfelden,
Frau Adolph from downtown Freiburg.

Rosella has brought North Italian flair
And cakes that I relish,
From Milano.
Pannetone with Mascapone,
Champagne and Tiramisu.
A kiss to the right,
A kiss to the left,
Settles down and says:
‘Isn’t life wonderful, Satis?’
Hubby Samuel has expanded
His aerospace factory.

My friend Murat,
The personification of Miteinander,
Hands me a new novel,
With his signature,
Written despite the protests
Of his family,
Keeping late hours,
To finish his Opus magnum,
A story about the Allevite folk.

A pleasure and honour,
But I’m afraid,
I can’t read it:
It’s Turkish to me.
But I’ll gladly view the seven films
He’s written the script for.

Barbara,
And my poet friend Stefan,
Have been to the Zermat
And have tales to tell,
Not only of Wilhelm,
But about the beauty of Switzerland.

Frau Adolph, the pensioned lady,
Glows like the sun:
An infectious smile
Over her tanned face.
No botox, only dentures,
And tells of her adventures in Italy,
Latin-lover inbegriffen,
And of her Sudanese seduction.
An elderly lady,
A friend with style
And aesthetic intelligence.

Ain’t it wonderful
To have dear friends?
Home abroad,
Abroad home.
Shanti!
Shanti!
Peace
Which passeth understanding.

Glossary:
Chaiselonge: long French sofa
Inbegriffen: included
Miteinander: together, togetherness
Shanti: peace
Wechselrhythmus: changing rhythms
Bahn: train
Mumbai: Bombay
Bueb: small male child
Chen: Verniedlichung, like Babu-cha in Newari
Schwarzwald: The Black Forest of south-west Germany

Goethe: A Writer of the First Rank (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who was lifted to nobility as J. W.von Goethe in 1782, was born on August 28, 1749 in the town of Frankfurt. The Goethes lived in a large, comfortable house in the Hirschgasse, now called Goethe Haus. Besides practical, scientific and autobiographical writings, he left behind more than 15,000 letters, diaries relating to the 52 years of his life and also countless conversational writings of people he’d met.

Even though Goethe’s work is fragmentary in general, it reveals the essence of his literary genius. Goethe himself said: ‘Alle meine Werke sind Bruchstücke einer großen Konfession.’
He remains to date one of the most original and powerful German lyric poets and his Faust is no doubt a work of inexhaustible ambiguity and wonderful poetry.

The atmosphere that was evident in his parent’s home was that of the educated and their lifestyle in those days, and through his writings we get an exact idea of the Zeitgeist of Goethe’s days. He held the town of his birth in high esteem for it was the environment and intellectual background of his youthful development. Young Goethe loved to lose himself in the crowd around the Dome or in the Roman hill (Römerberg), which he always remembered as a fine place to go for a walk.

The closest relationship of his youth was his sister Cornelia, who sadly enough died at the age of 27. Asked about the influence of his parents on him, Goethe summed it this way:

From father I have the stature,
To lead an earnest life.
From mother the good nature,
And the joy of story-telling.

Goethe was taught by house-teachers. After learning the old languages, he started learning French, English and Hebrew. At the age of 10 he read Aesop, Homer, Vergil, Ovid and also the German folks-books. Besides education in humanities and science, he was also taught religion, which was determined by the dominating explanatory issue of Lutherdom in Frankfurt.

The big earthquake in Lissabon in 1755 was important for the development of Goethe’s mind, as it went into history as one of the greatest natural catastrophies of the century. Besides these natural calamities there were also religious and historical movements which left a deep impression in Goethe’s mind, for example the Seven-Years War between Prussia and Austria wherein he saw the consequences of the general political situation in his own life. Another important event during the occupation of Frankfurt by Napoleon’s troops was his fascination for a troupe of French actors, who’s shows he was allowed to visit regularly. That was the awakening in Goethe of his interest for theatre, and which had been sparked earlier in his life through a puppet-stage (Puppenbühne) and which can be seen in some scenes from ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Theaterical Shows.’

At the age of 16 Goethe was prepared for his academic studies. His father wanted him to study law in Leipzig. This was a city known for its trade, commerce, rich people in a wealthy epoche, and was filled with the spirit of Rokoko. Although Leipzig made a lasting impression on Goethe, he found the lectures on law rather boring. Nevertheless, the town of Leipzig brought to Goethe his passion for Anna Katherina, the daughter of a man who owned an inn, where he used to eat lunch since 1766.
In his first completed play ‘The Whims of a Lover’ (Laune des Verliebten) which is based on the times of the Rokoko (Schäferstücke), he drew his own glowing passion. It was his inner desire to put into poetry the themes that were burning within him. In March 1770 Goethe arrived in Strassburg to complete his university studies in law.

Like in Leipzig, Goethe found friends in Strassburg. One of the most important events was his meeting with Herder, who due to his eye-disease was obliged to stay in Strassburg for a couple of months. Here’s what Goethe said about Herder: “Since his conversations were important at all times, he used to ask, reply or express himself in another way, and in this manner I had to express myself in new ways and new views, almost every hour.” It was Herder who brought Goethe to the immeasureability of Shakespeare, told him about Ossian and Pindar, and opened his vision for Volkspoetry. Influenced by Herder’s appreciation of Shakespeare’s genius, he wrote at speed a pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy called: “Geschichte Gottfrieds von Berlichingen.” This was so ill-received by Herder that he put it aside.

Shortly after his return from Strassburg, he turned 22 and started working as a lawyer at the Frankfurter Schöffengericht. Goethe couldn’t care less about the traditions of the citizens in Leipzig and his relatives, his parents’ home. As a lawyer in the courtrooms he had to suffer a bit due to his strange way of putting proceedings to paper, and gradually he began to write farces and parodies about well-known authors of his times and railed upon his own friends, took interest in Alchemy experiments and sought out open-minded literary circles of Frankfurt and in his neighbourhood.

At 24 Goethe was already a well-known author of Germany. No other time in Goethe’s life was filled with prolific poetic works than in this period in Frankfurt. The time before and after his work ‘Werther’ was not only a time of multiple literary production, but also a period in which he spent a lot of time on seeking answers for questions on religion.

The last Frankfurter year (1775) brought Goethe another year of passionate love in the form of Lili Schönemann, a 16 year old daughter of a Frankfurter trader. He experienced one of the most exciting and happiest times in his life. Alas, Goethe drifted between his love for Lili and the feeling that he’d settled for a happiness at home wouldn’t be enough for him. An episode from outside helped him to bear and make the separation from Lili possible.

On November 7, 1775 Goethe came to Weimar, which was in those days a town with a population of 6000. In July 1776 Goethe joined the state service formally as its Secret Legislations Council. Goethe’s new position in the Geheim Konsil brought him soon enough in contact with almost all the pre-commissions of the state-administration.
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In 1779 he was appointed the War Commissioner and was responsible for the 500 soldiers of the state. Three years later he had the Chamber under him and became the highest financial administrator. Through his participation in the reading-evenings, redouts and other functions at the court and its high and snobbish society, the events became rather extravagant. And through Goethe’s presence and mediation Weimar gained importance.

However, it was the serene, tempered lady-in-waiting (Hofdame) Charlotte von Stein, a cold beauty, who was unhappily married, who gained more influence on Goethe. From the first moment they met, she reminded Goethe of his sister Cornelia, and he felt drawn to her. In the years to come Goethe couldn’t do without her clear, mature way of doing things. He called her ‘the serene,’ an angel, even a Madonna. A friendship of kindred souls began, which was a puzzle to Goethe himself. It was in these Weimar years that Goethe wrote poems such as: Harzreise im Winter, An den Mond, Gesang der Geister über den Wassern, Wanderer, Nachtlied and so forth. Moreover, many of his songs and poems were set to music by composers ranging from Mozart and Frederik Schubert to Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957). Under the influence of Charlotte von Stein began a decisive change within Goethe. It was during this period in the months of February and March 1779, when he had to go to different places of the Dukedom to recruit soldiers, to keep an eye on them, to inspect the conditions of the roads, that he wrote the first edition of ‘Iphigenie and Taurus.’ This drama became the mirror of his search for purity. The period after ‘Iphigenie’ was penned in 1779 was a phase in the inner development of Goethe’s life, till he travelled to Italy. Goethe became not only confident as an administrator but also improved the purity and quality of his verses.

The more prosaic he became in his daily duties, the more he endeavoured to bring a sense of order and system in all what he did. In addition to the completion of Iphigenie, he also started ‘Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre,’ wrote the concept for ‘Tasso’ and some parts of his ‘Faust.’ These were the fruits of lyrical productions. And just before his Italian journey, he did extensive studies in the natural sciences. His activities at the University of Jena brought him in intensive contact with comparative anatomy. In those days there was a conception regarding the original form and relationship between all living beings, and he proved the existence of the ‘Zwischenkieferknochen’ in humans, which was thought to be known only in the animal world. Goethe showed the biological development of living beings almost 100 years ahead of Charles Darwin.

Goethe’s interest in natural science showed him how his career in the state service brought him away from things he most cherished to do. So he decided on the tenth year of his period in Weimar that he had to break up his service. After arranging his farewell from the state service and personal matters, he asked the Duke for a prolonged leave. He left abruptly, like in 1772 in Wetzlar and 1775 in Frankfurt, as though he was fleeing from something. Even in the presence of Duke and Charlotte von Stein he didn’t utter a word about his concrete plans. He embarked upon the biggest journey to Italy after a short spa sojourn in Böhmen (Bohemia).

After a week-long ride in a coach he reached bella Italia. The first stop was in Rome, where Goethe stayed for four months. It had always been the middle point of his life to study the works of art history in Rome He went to the theatre and attended court cases, watched processions, took part in church festivals, and towards February 1788 even visited the Carnival in Rome. He expanded his knowledge of art history systematically. Goethe found it difficult to say adieu to Rome. The return to Germany was disappointing for Goethe and he felt isolated. Goethe’s record of his journey to Italy (Italienische Reise) appeared in 1816-17. Instead of the Weimar politicians and administrators, Goethe sought to fraternise with professors of the Weimar University. He met Schiller often.

Goethe found a new love: Christiane Vulpius, a handsome woman of lower rank who became his mistress, and with whom he had five children, but only one survived, his first son August, born in 1789. Goethe put his energy in the Weimar Court Theatre, founded in 1791, and developed it within a few years to one of the most famous German stages. Goethe’s loss of Rome was compensated to some extent by his meetings with Schiller, which did him good. Out of the first meeting with Schiller developed an intensive exchange of thoughts in spoken word and writing that was of mutual benefit for both. It was based on their common classicism and on their conviction of the central function of art in human affairs. Goethe’s epic poem ‘Hermann und Dorothea’ (1779) was well received.

Goethe was instrumental in changing Schiller’s tendency to go to extremes, and his habit of indulging in philosophical speculations.

On the other hand, Schiller brought back Goethe from his scientific studies to literature and poetic production. In 1797 Schiller stimulated Goethe to carry on with Faust and it preoccupied him for the next nine years. Part One appeared in 1808, Part Two in 1832. Goethe didn’t stand near Schiller since 1794 and two long journeys to Weimar took him away from his intellectual friend, and in the year 1805 Schiller passed away. Schiller’s death in 1805 coincided with the end of Goethe’s classical phase. After Schiller’s demise, Goethe saw an epoche of his life disappearing. He tried to struggle against the uncertainty of time by concentrating and delving into his own work. Without the regular intellectual argumentation that the company of Schiller brought to Goethe, he felt politically isolated through his distance towards the anti-Napoleon attitude of the public and started living like a recluse.
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In 1806 war broke out between France and Prussia and the decisive battle was fought at Jena and French soldiers who occupied Weimar broke into Goethe’s house. Goethe believed tristiane had saved his life from the French marauders. He married her a few days later. Goethe met Napoeon at Erfurt and Weimar in 1808. The Bastille was stormed when Goethe was 39. In 1809 he wrote the subtle and problematic novel: Die Wahlverwandschaften in which the interrelations of two couples are described.

Besides working for the hat Chance. Soldiers who occupied b Science Institutes of the University, he also carried forth botanical studies. The last two decades in Goethe’s life were devoted not to outer happenings but daily routine work.

A key towards understanding Goethe’s various interests was his conception of human existence as a ceaseless struggle to make use of time at one’s disposal. Despite such intensive devotion to his writings, the ageing Goethe didn’t remain so isolated from his environment as he’d done in his younger years. Since he was seldom out of Weimar, he opened his house for the world. It is interesting to note that among his many visitors were not many poets and writers but more Nature researchers and art historians, discoverers who travelled, educators and politicians. The innermost circle around Goethe was his own family.

In order to avoid the pompous celebration of his 82nd birthday, Goethe left Weimar in August 1831 for the last time.

The most meaningful work of poetry in the German language, Goethe’s tragedy Faust, took a long time to develop. Goethe wrote his Faust almost a life long, and before him were writers who worked on the material. According to his own memories Goethe played with the thought of writing a Faust-drama even during his Strassburger student days. Perhaps the most important aspect of tragedy of Goethe is that these twists and turns took place not only in the outside world but also in the soul of Doctor Faustus.

Despite the colourful scenes and the manifold happenings, Goethe’s Faust remains a drama of the soul, with a chain of inner experiences, struggles and doubts. Among his best works was Novelle, started thirty years ago. Goethe worked away at the last volume of Dichtung und Wahrheit and at Faust II which he finished before his death.

On March 22,1832 at 11:30 in the morning Goethe died at the age of 82, the last universal man and the most documented creative writer.
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Johann Peter Eckmann saw the deceased on the following day and said: “Stretched on his back, lay he like someone sleeping. Profound peace and fastness were to be seen in the eyes of his noble face. The mightiest forehead seemed still to be thinking…”

* * *

BEYOND CULTURAL CONFINES (Satis Shroff)

Music has left its cultural confines.
You hear the strings of a sitar
Mingling with big band sounds.
Percussions from Africa
Accompanying ragas from Nepal.

A never-ending performance of musicians
From all over the world.
Bollywood dancing workshops at Lörrach,
Slam poetry at Freiburg’s Atlantic inn.
A didgeridoo accompaning Japanese drums
At the Zeltmusik festival.

Tabla and tanpura
Involved in a musical dialogue,
With trumpet and saxaphone,
Argentinian tango and Carribian salsa,
Fiery Flamenco dancers swirling proudly
With classical Bharta Natyam dancers,
Mani Rimdu masked-dancers accompanied
By a Tibetan monastery orchestra,
Mingling with shrill Swiss piccolo flute tunes
And masked drummers.

As I walk past the Café, the Metzgerei,
The St. Barbara church bells begin to chime.
I see Annette’s tiny garden
With red, yellow and white tulips,
‘Hallochen!’ she says
With a broad, blonde smile,
Her slender cat stretches itself,
Emits a miao and goes by.
I walk on and admire
Frau Bender’s cherry-blossom tree,
Her pensioned husband nods back at me.
And in the distance,
A view of the Black Forest,
With whispering wind-rotors,
And the trees in the vicinity,
Full of birds
Coming home to roost.

Aurora borealis (Satis Shroff)

The sky was bathed
In fantastic hues:
Yellow, orange, scarlet
Mauve and cobalt blue.
Buto dancing,
In this surreal light,
On the stage,
Was magnificent.
Your heart pounds higher,
Your feet become light,
Your body sways
To the rhythm
And Nordic lights
Of the Aurora borealis.

Akin to the creation
Of the planet we live in.
And here was I,
Anzu Furukawa.
Once a small ballet dancer,
Now a full grown woman:
A choreographer, performer,
Ballet and modern dancer, studio pianist.
‘The Pina Bausch of Tokyo’
Wrote a German critic
In Der Tagesspiegel.

Success was my name,
In Japan, Germany, Italy,
Finnland and Ghana:
Anzu’s Animal Atlas,
Cells of Apple,
Faust II,
Rent-a-body,
The Detective of China,
A Diamond as big as the Ritz.

I was a professor
Of performing arts in Germany.
But Buto became my passion.
Buto was born amid upheavals in Japan,
When students took to the streets,
With performance acts and agit props.
Buto, this new violent dance of anarchy,
Cut off from the traditions
Of Japanese dance.

Ach,
The Kuopio Music et Dance festival
Praised my L’Arrache-coer,’
The Heart Snatcher.
A touching praise
To human imagination,
And the human ability
To feel even the most surprising emotions

I lived my life with dignity,
But the doctors said
I was very, very sick.
I had terminal tongue cancer.
I’d been sleeping over thirty hours,
And stopped breathing
In peace,
With my two lovely children
Holding my hands.
I’d danced at the Freiburg New Dance Festival
Only twenty days ago.
I saw the curtain falling,
As we took our bows.

I bow to you my audience,
I hear your applause.
The sound of your applause
Accompanies me
Where ever my soul goes.

I’m still a little girl
In an oversized dress.
I ran through you all
In such a hurry.

Katmandu, Katmandu von Editor: Satis Shroff (Lulu.com)
Satis Shroff’s anthology is about a poet caught between upheavals in two countries, Nepal and Germany, where maoists and skin-heads are trying to undermine democratic values, religious and cultural life. Satis Shroff writes political poetry, in German and English, about the war in Nepal (My Nepal, Quo vadis?), the sad fate of the Nepalese people (My Nightmare, Only Sagarmatha Knows), the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany (Mental Molotovs, The Last Tram to Littenweiler) and love (The Broken Poet, Without Words, About You), women’s woes (Nirmala, Bombay Brothel). His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. In 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 is a very important one in political and social terms. His true gift is to invent Nepalese metaphors and make them accessible to the West through his poetry.
(187 Seiten) Paperback:  €13.84 Download:  €6.25

KATHMANDU, KATMANDU, an Anthology of Poems & Prose from the Himalayas
(Editor: Satis Shroff)

‘Katmandu, Katmandu’ is aimed at all readers and seeks to contribute towards appreciating the innermost thoughts, fears, delights, hopes and frustrations of the caste-bound, caste-ridden, purity and pollution obsessed high-caste Indo-aryan Nepalis, and the nonchalant but handicapped tribal Nepalis from different parts and walks of life. This collection of Nepali poems and prose is a step in the direction of opening Nepal’s literature to the German-speaking world in Germany, Austria, South Tirol and Switzerland. If this book creates sympathy and understanding of the Nepali psyche, culture, religion, living conditions and human problems in the Himalayan urban and rural environment in daily life, then it has achieved its goal.

This book is about the Nepali people and the environment they live in, with characters and themes pertaining to the agrarian, soldier, teaching and other milieus. This collection does not profess to represent Nepali literature as a whole, but lays emphasis on certain themes that crop up in the daily lives of the Nepalis. The Nepali world that the Nepali poets and writers describe and create is a different one, compared to the western one. It is true that modern technology and globalisation have reached Kathmandu Valley and the bigger towns of the Himalayan Kingdom, but the world outside Kathmandu Valley still remains rural and untouched by modernity.

The trekking tourism has been booming along the much-treaded trails but village-life has changed little. The traditional caste-system prevails. Nepal still has immense problems in the socio-cultural, religious, economic sectors. The rampant corruption in all sectors, with special emphasis in politics, commercial and economic sectors has shaken the beliefs of generations of Nepalis. The much-proclaimed democracy initiated in 1990 hasn’t been able to fulfil its promises, and maoistic communism is on the rise in the western part of Nepal, where the Nepalis of tibeto-burman origin live, as though it were a panacea for all of this ailing nation’s malady. In Solokhumbu, known for its Everest-trekking route, 300 maoists were killed by the police. According to some organisations at least 200,000 Nepalese have left their homes and another 1,8 million have sought refuge in other countries. Among them are Nepal’s intellectuals: politicians, civil servants, teachers, medical doctors, male and female nurses. Between 1996 and 2005 the Maoists killed 4,500 Nepalese and the Royal Nepalese Army and police killed 8,200 Nepalese.

As time has shown us in the past, there is no genuine cure for all the problems of this country. Nepal’s democracy has to learn to crawl before it can walk and after a decade of constitutional democracy, the nation is still in its infancy. The incessant changes of governments and the rise of communism is irritating not only to the people within, but also the comity of aid-giving nations without. Despite the 40,000 NGOs and aid-giving agencies, Nepal still belongs to the Least Developed Countries. There’s definitely something wrong in this nature paradise.

This book cries to be written because there are hardly any books written by Nepali authors. It’s always the travelling tourist, geologist, geographer, biologist, climber and ethnologist who writes about Nepal and its people, environment, flora and fauna. The Nepalis are mostly statists in these visit-Nepal-scenarios published in New York, Paris, Munich and Sydney and they are described through western eyes. But there have been generations of thinking and writing Nepalis, who were either educated in old Benares (Varanasi), in British Public Schools in Darjeeling and government schools and colleges in Nepal and India, who have written and published hundreds of books and magazines.

In Patan’s Madan Puraskar Library alone, which Mr. Kamal Mani Dixit, Patan’s Man-of- Letters, describes as the “Temple of Nepali language,” there are 15,000 Nepali books and 3500 different magazines and periodicals about which the western world hasn’t heard or read. A start was made by Michael Hutt of the School of Oriental Studies London, in his English translation of contemporary Nepali prose and verse in Himalayan Voices and Modern Nepali Literature. Nepali literature is also represented in the electronic media and there are quite a number of websites that give Nepali writers the opportunity to have their short-stories and poems published in the web. http://www.nepalforum.com, http://www.wnso.org,www.sonog.com,www.insl.org,www.samudaya.com,www.nepalitimesand http://www.geocities.com are some of the most popular sites for publishing poems and prose.

In the second part of the book Satis Shroff has translated Nepali literature  (prose and poems) by Nepali writers such as: Laxmiprasad Devkota (Muna Madan), Bhupi Sherchan, Banira Giri (Kathmandu), Bhisma Upreti, Krishna Bhakta Shrestha, Bal Krishna Sama (Ich Hasse & Auf der Suche nach Poesie), Abhi Subedi, Toya Gurung, Dorjee Tschering Lepcha (Die Ameisenkönigin & Der Spinnenmensch), Guruprasad Mainali (Der Martyrer), Krishna Bam Malla (Der Pfluger), Lekhnach Paudyal (Der Himalaya), Hridaya Singh Pradhan (Die Tränen von Ujyali), Shiva Kumer Rai (Der Preis des Fisches), Toya Gurung (Mein Traum), Binaya Rawal (Phulmayas Dasainfest), Abhi Subedi (Am Abend mit dem Auto), Bimal Nibha (Jumla), Jiwan Acharya (Der Bildhauer & Muglin) etc. into German, a part of which can be read under the title ‘Kathmandu, Kathmandu’, which in Banira Giri’s poem ‘Kathmandu’ is a bird-cry. I’d like to thank Dada (Kamal Mani Dixit) for motivating me to translate Devkota’s Muna Madan, for this sad but wonderful poem has a message for all people living in the diaspora, far away from their homes and it brings the nostalgia, Sehnsuch and longing that one feels, even when one has found a place to call one’s home in a foreign shore. Muna Madan makes us sad, brings tears to one’s eyes and gives hope despite the distance, when one hears the refrain from the Himalayas.

Some of the themes that have been dealt with in this collection are: money-lender (Der Märtyrer, Der Pflüger), struggle for democracy (Der Märtyrer, My Nepal: Quo vadis?), Transition (When the Soul Leaves), the position of women in the Nepalese society (Mutter, Märtyrer, Bombay Brothel, Nirmala: Between Terror and Ecstasy), the mountainous environment (Der Himalaya ), the struggle for existence (Der Preis des Fisches), living as emigrants abroad (Muna Madan, Gibt es Hexen in Deutschland?), ideology and poverty (Mutter), the life of a soldier (Der Verlust einer Mutter), rabies-infection and death (Fatale Entscheidung), fantasy (Der Spinnenmensch, Die Ameisenkönigin), separation and emancipation (Santa Fe), problems of migration abroad (Mental Molotovs), tourismus (My Nightmare), alcoholism (The Professor’s Wife), violence (Krieg), neighbours (The Summer Heat) und love (A Sighing Blonde Princess, Without Words).

The likely readers are the increasing number of male and female trekking tourists, climbers seeking their own limits, peace and tranquillity, spiritual experience or a much-needed monologue in the rarefied heights of the Nepal Himalayas. The book has a glossary within the text information about the original Nepali authors from Nepal and the diaspora of Darjeeling.

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Roswitha’s Gutenbach Dolls (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

(Satis Shroff takes you to a graphic designer who makes unique dolls in the Black Forest and who has won many international gold and silver medals for her work. Collectors from all over the world have been appreciating her superb creations.)

Roswith Rochelt lives in the Black Forest town of Gutenbach, Germany. She holds one of her dolls and says in German: “Dolls are closely related beings,” and shows me a doll which is the splitting image of her daughter Alice, who is now an adult with wonderful long legs that come from years of ballet lessons.

“ Dolls aren’t only children’s toys but also nostalgic objects of reminiscences for adults or as religious symbols in world civilisations.”

It was interesting to note that the china dolls were entirely manufactured at Roswitha’s studio. She not only makes sketches of her living objects, but also creates replicas, does mould building, casting and baking. Even the clothes and accessoires are exceptional. And she only uses high-quality materials such as original French biscuit clay, precious silk and brocade fabrics. You can tell Roswitha’s dolls right away from other collections because she leaves her quality signature in her products.

Roswitha says, ‘Every single doll is made under guarantee in a limited edition of only ten to twenty.’ She creates cats, fairy-tale dolls or south-sea beauties and a host of other lovely things and also holds seminars in doll-making, which we Germans are wont to call ‘Puppenherstellung.’ The dolls are certainly authentic creations of dreams from distant lands and are eye-catchers, perfect in their facial expression, style, choice of material, attire and accessoires. Her special mould-making technique allows unlimited possibilities for experimenting.

‘All my dolls are provided with mouth-blown crystal glass eyes and a wig of real hair,’ says Roswitha. ‘The exclusiveness of my hand-made porcelain design dolls are guaranteed by certificate,’ says Roswitha proudly.

She’s surrounded with her dolls in different stages of development as she thoroughly mixes her ‘flesh colour’, which is French biscuit porcelain. She lets it stay for twenty-four hours and stirs the mixture again till all the air-bubbles have disappeared. This porcelain mass is poured into the one-hole form. Depending on the size of the form, you have to wait for three to ten minutes and pour the content back. After that you wait for two hours. When you open the form you will get the rough doll’s head with its facial features. As long as the head is soft, you have to work on the throat.

She took a scalpel and carved the eyes out.

It reminded me of my medical studies when I had to dissect a sturdy old German grandfather’s corpse the entire winter with the nascent, biting smell of formalin. Roswitha was creating a doll in her own way, giving expression to t, till it almost had a life of its own. It was almost like watching Mary Shelly’s protagonist being created.

The head had to be dried in a dry room. She had a table full of white heads, which needed to be extremely dried. She worked like a surgeon cum artist with her scalpel and brush, as she cleaned the prospective doll’s eyes. After that the heads were put in an oven and heated to a temperature of 1220 degrees Centigrade. The doll’s head shrinks 15 per cent at this temperature. Now the doll gets its biscuit colour. Roswitha coloured the eyebrows and lips, then put them back in the oven. Then she applied the cheek-rouge and the eye-lashes, and put the head in the oven again.

‘To get the dark complexions of South Sea beauties you have to burn at least five times,’ said Roswitha with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

In the end you have to choose the right eyes to give the doll a certain character.

‘I use special wax from inside and fix it with Plaster of Paris, which we call ‘gips’ with the head. Next comes the lead of the head, like a scalp and a genuine French hair wig. The doll’s head is ready.’

Roswith is a dedicated and busy Grandma, and a delight to talk with, and drives all the way from Gutenback to Freiburg to attend to her lovely grandchildren and bring them to a roll-skating club where they stage musicals on wheels, like the Starlight Express.

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Complementary and Modern Medicine: Strange Bedfellows? (Satis Shroff)

The old tradition of the dhami-jhakri in which the fate of a person can be influenced by appeasing the spirits is still intact in Nepal. A séance provides the ill person a communication possibility depending the nature of the illness. For the spirits (Geister), be they rough or fine in their manifestations, belong to the everyday lives of the tradition-conscious Nepalese and many other ethnic-peoples in the northern and southern hemispheres of this globe.

It must be mentioned that in the 80,000 hamlets of Nepal, there are over 400,000 shamans and traditional healers, who have to some extent acquired the basics of modern medical treatment through the Health Ministry.

Disease and conformity: The traditional healers of Nepal are not only versed in the nature of illnesses caused by spirits, demons, male and female witches, Gods and Goddesses, but also diseases which are in conformity with epidemiological studies and results. The usual diseases that are mentioned by traditional healers are: diarrhoea, coughs, pneumonia, heart-maladies, abdominal pain, pain in the joints and other less specific symptoms like: headaches, body pain, nausea etc. Other commonly mentioned diseases are: vomiting, worm-infections, pickles and boils, carbuncles, cases of goitre in the hills (think of the Himalayan-salt ads in the west), different skin problems, tuberculosis, problems of the urinary tract and menstrual disorders and anomalies.

In the past the shamans were not allowed to get rich through healing, and the codex and ethics of the healers in the Himalayas were strict. Today, the Nepalese shaman blesses a life-saving electrolyte solution for the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. The shaman has become innovative in Nepal, and makes himself or herself socially useful by ritualising and selling anti-baby pills for a small financial commission. This way, he or she helps Family planning, which is supported by the government. The Nepalese government has raised the status of the shaman by bestowing an official title upon him: Practitioner of Traditional Medicine, with the condition that he or she take part in medical and hygiene courses. ‘Traditional’ sounds better than ‘complementary’ because shaman has a long tradition in Siberia, Nepal and others parts of the world.

Sociological view: The position of the shamans in the hamlets of Nepal is getting a certain amount of recognition and importance, because he or she gathers new experiences and acquires modern methods of healing, and in this way, the shaman uses a combination of traditional and modern medicine. From a sociological point of view, magico-religious healing plays a central and positive role. The magic and faith in the healing powers of the shaman helps to strengthen the group, tribe or caste by defining a common foe, and in identifying the evil, invisible spirit that has been causing illness. In this way, it is possible to control one’s own environment and the immediate neighbourhood and to influence it. Moreover, the healing ritual of the shaman late into the night helps to sublime difficult somatic Triebanspruche and to channel them in a socially acceptable and legal way, without being stigmatised in the society as being abnormal or an ill-person.

When you boil down the matter between traditional and modern medicine, belief is in the eye of the beholder. If modern medicine doesn’t help, complementary (traditional) therapy seems to do so, for instance in the case of people struggling with long-term pain. Whereas the physician is concerned with infections caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses, Nepal’s Dhamis, Bijuwas, Bong-things and shamans are concerned with spirits, demons, Gods and Goddesses and other invisible powers between Swarga (Heaven) and (Prithvi) Earth. The people in Nepal still have faith in the practitioners of traditional medicine, despite the danger of being stigmatised as being superstitious, anachronistic and backward. The government has found out that even though Health Post have been set up, the people living in the foothills of the Himalayas (Mittelgebirge) still prefer ritual therapies from their shamans. The medically-trained traditional healers can reach millions of Nepalese through a well-developed strategy. Most of the Dhamis-Jhakris have shown that they are open to new skills in health, population and family-oriented basic knowledge. Moreover they were (and are) ready to give their acquired modern knowledge to their respective communities in their hamlets.

Humane and empathetic: The traditional healer not only cures with modern pharmaceuticals, but he or she imparts a cultural note to the therapy by blessing the medicine in a ritual through the recitation of mantras or prayer, which is indeed soft and humane, and the patient becomes a part of the ceremony, and isn’t left alone like in a hospital. Traditional (complementary) medicine has come to stay. It was there all the time in different continents, and is an expression of care, humane-treatment, softness (Sanftemedizin), dignity, respect and empathy for the ill person. These are values that have dwindled in modern medicine’s pursuit for rationalism, validity and science. Every time a patient enters a physician’s clinic, he or she feels uneasy that the clock is ticking away to his or her disadvantage. Time is money. More patients means more money for the physician and the health insurance company. That leaves little time and hope for the hapless, impatient patient.

The value of hope: The value of hope, which is an important resource in different cultures and among traditional healers, is lost in modern medicine. What was Florence Nightingale doing with her candle-light in the bedsides and stretchers of her wounded soldiers in the Crimean War? Was she giving them antibiotics, anti-viral drugs? No, she was giving these forlorn souls a precious medicine named hope. But is traditional medicine entirely based on hope? Certainly not. Traditional Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, and the Indian subcontinent’s Ayurvedic medicine, Unani medicine deploy among others pharmaceuticals botanical, zoological and mineral extracts to cure the illnesses of millions of people since time immemorial. So does modern medicine, which enjoys perfect packaging and marketing and ads through the media. It’s the catchy, convincing-sounding ad that makes people rush to the apothecary to buy the pharmaceutical product that they’ve seen in TV or have heard about from their relatives and friends, as is mostly the case in the layman’s aetiology.

Modern medicine is a science because its experiments can be reproduced, it is systematic and can adjust itself in combating new bacteria, viruses and other disease causing microbes. But traditional or complementary medicine is also learning mew methods of treatment and hospital hygiene.

Alone in 1980 Dr. Badri Raj Pandey et al trained more than 1000 traditional healers (Dhamis-Jhakris) in Nepal under the Family Planning and Maternal Child Health Project (MCHP). Since there are more traditional healers than physicians and paramedical personell, the traditional healers are an important resource for the family planning and health organisations in Nepal. This study has revealed that the traditional healers play an important role. They have a functional network and they aren’t s so expensive as medical doctors. The traditional healers are always ready to visit their patients, even though it means walking through the better part of the day to treat the patients. Physicians are reluctant to walk four to six hours to their impoverished patients, and they’d rather be paid in currency notes rather than with eggs, vegetables, or a little red rooster.

School medicine has to win the traditional healer as a resource and ally, and not as concurrence, for the common aim of traditional and modern medicine is to free the individual from his or her illness, and provide an efficient and honest cure. The wellness and recuperation of the patient should be the common goal and not rivalry. This target was fixed by the Nepalese government and the shamans are now treated with respect, asked for assistance and requested to take part in therapy-workshops and medical training projects. Such workshops were held in: Kanchanpur, Chandani municipality, Mahendranagar, Syangja and Ilam in the past. It was explained that the project as such didn’t have any intention to influence the healing methods or beliefs of the tribal shamans. The participating shamans learned how to motivate the people of their respective communities, family-planning and other health-promoting measures.

Causality and logic: The shaman can differentiate the principle of causality and logical thinking and communication. The shaman manifests religion and the art of healing as a coexistence form, and is open for new healing methods if it helps the patient. Likewise, there is a trend on the part of physicians and psychotherapists to take on the shaman’s healing methods. And to this end, there are universities that are training therapists through the use of modern and traditional medicine by inviting and bringing together traditional healers and modern therapists, medical and nursing students and physicians.

Two German two universities in Heidelberg and Munich have established themselves in the service of traditional and modern medicine by offering workshops and seminars by bringing practitioners of Traditional and Modern Medicine together. It is a marriage between the two systems of medicine.

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Culture Specific Self-help in Nepal (Satis Shroff)

Das Prinzip der Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe hat eine emanzipatorische und eine restriktive Seite. Es unterstreicht die anthropologische Annahme, dass Menschen in der Lage sind, ihr Leben in eigener Bestimmung und Verantwortung zu gestalten. Die Betonung von Selbsthilfe (Selbstorganisation) kann einerseits als Warnung vor staatlicher Bevormundung verstanden werden, andererseits kann sie als Rechtfertigung staatlicher Untätigkeit in strukturellen Krisensituationen benutzt werden. Selbsthilfegruppen in Nepal sind kulturspezifisch. Messerschmidt1 schreibt: „Die Idee von kleinen Gruppen von Verbrauchern, die als Nachbarfamilien zusammenarbeiten, produktive Aktivitäten gestalten, gemeinsames Landmanagement oder öffentliche Arbeitsentwicklungen sind eine gut etablierte Tradition in Nepal“.

Der Sozialarbeiter könnte auch hier tätig werden mit ergänzender Schuldner- bzw. vernünftiger Finanzberatung und sozialen, psychosozialen Beratungs- und Betreuungsangeboten. Solche ergänzende Hilfen sind sehr wichtig für die einfachen, ungebildeten ländlichen Einwohner Nepals. Eines der Prinzipien der Sozialarbeit sagt, man solle „dort anfangen, wo der Klient steht“. In den beratenden und helfenden Angeboten kann der Sozialarbeiter nicht über die Geisteshaltung des Klienten hinwegsehen. Die Nichtachtung oder Mißachtung einer soziokulturellen Gegebenheit kann von vornherein die Kommunikation zwischen Sozialarbeiter (NGO-Experte, Ärzte, Schwestern, Pflegepersonal) verkümmern lassen. Auf die erkannte Fähigkeit des Klienten zu vertrauen, sein Selbstwertgefühl zu stärken und ihn ein Weg zur Selbsthilfe sein, ist die Aufgabe des Sozialarbeiters.

Es wäre wichtig, solche traditionellen2 Organisationsformen zu unterstützen und zu fördern, damit die Ethnien in Nepal davon lernen und profitieren können. Denn es ist höchste Zeit, dass den ländlichen Armen,3 die seit Jahrhunderten von den höheren Kastenangehörigen sozial,-, kulturell, politisch und wirtschaftlich dominiert, unterdrückt und benachteiligt worden sind, endlich geholfen wird, auf eigenen Füßen zu stehen. Dieses Ziel wäre durch die Re-vitalisierung der induzierten Selbsthilfegruppen in den verschiedenen Ethnien zu erreichen.

Die GTZ RRD4 Projekte haben in der Vergangenheit gezeigt, dass die induzierten Selbsthilfe organisationen durchaus funktionieren. Hinzu kommen die einheimischen intraethnischen Selbsthilfeorganisationsformen, die jahrzehntelang erfolgreich eingeführt worden sind. Die ländlichen Bewohner Nepals sind familiär mit kurzfristigen oder wenig permanenten Selbsthilfegruppen, die für verschiedene Zwecke zusammengestellt werden. Zum Beispiel:
Landwirtschaftliche Selbsthilfegruppen wie kulobanaune (irrigation channel maintenance Gruppe), mal bokne (Düngeträger), khetala (Feldarbeitern), ropahar (Pflanzer von Getreiden), hali (Pflüger/Bauer), parma (Gruppenarbeitsaustausch Gemeinschaft) und gothalo (Schäfer).
Forstwirtschaftselbsthilfegruppen wie bana djane (Waldarbeiter), ghas katne (Grassschneider), pat tipne (Futtersammler), und daura tipne (Feuerholzsammler).
Soziokulturelle Selbsthilfegruppen wie guthi (bei den Newars vom Katmandutal), rodi (Kommunale Gruppe von den Gurungs) und bheja (kommunale Gemeinschaft).
Religiöse Selbsthilfegruppe wie kirtan-bhajan mandali (Hymne bzw. Gesangsgruppe).
Politische Selbsthilfegruppe wie die pancha bhaladmi (Fünf ehrenhafte Gentlemen) und dharma panchayat (örtlicher Rat).

Andere, auf der kommunalen Ebene auch wichtige Organisationsformen in Nepal sind: die dhikuri vom Thakalistamm, wobei es um freiwillige Rotations-Kredit-Gemeinschaften geht; die Guthisysteme von den Newars (hier handelt es sich um kommunale Tempel und Land „tenure“ Gemeinschaften; die parma/nogar/pareli/porima (Gruppenarbeitstauschkooperativen); Baglungs Hängebrücke (suspension bridge) Baubewegung; chhatis maudja Kommunale Irrigation Organisation. Manche Organisationen scheinen formell zu sein, aber strukturell sind sie informell. Manche sind kasten- bzw. ethnien-bezogen, und andere sind weit verbreitet in ganz Nepal. Bhattachan5 meint, dass „obwohl die dhikuri, parma und guthi in der Natur ad hoc sind, sind sie dennoch sehr beständig, produktiv und lohnend für die Mitglieder“.

Des weiteren stellen verschiedene Projekte und Initiativen in eigener Trägerschaft ein Beratungsfeld für Sozialarbeiter dar, wie die Straßenkinder von Katmandu und die Slumarbeit im Sinne von Mutter Theresas Orden in Kalkutta. Solche NGOs suchen auch die Zusammenarbeit mit Entwicklungshilfeinstitutionen (wie UNDP, GTZ, DED, Helvetas, OXFAM etc.) damit gute Kooperation entstehen kann.

Deutsche Regierungsorganisationen (GOs und NGOs6) in Nepal: Dem Gesundheitssektor Nepals wird allgemein bei der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit ein hoher Stellenwert eingeräumt. Dies drückt sich nicht zuletzt darin aus, dass viele Organisationen und Einrichtungen sich in diesem Sektor engagieren. Neben den multilateralen Organisationen wie Weltbank, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA etc. ist vor allem das britische DFID (Department for International Development) stark in Nepal vertreten.

Der Gesundheitssektor stellt einen Schwerpunktsektor der deutschen7 Entwicklungszusammenarbeit mit Nepal dar. Gegenwärtig werden folgende Vorhaben in Nepal gefördert:

Primary Health Care8 Project (PHC): Dieses Vorhaben hat die Stärkung der zentralen Programm-Planung und -Steuerung im Gesundheitsministerium, Verbesserungen der Aus- und Weiterbildung des Gesundheitspersonals sowie die Entwicklung von dezentralisierten Gesundheits- und Familienplanungssystemen zum Gegenstand. Das Projekt existiert seit 1994, und die Planung reicht bis weit in das nächste Jahrhundert.

Im Frühjahr 1998 werden zwei weitere durch die GTZ geförderte Projekte beginnen. Zum einen das Vorhaben Reproduktive Gesundheit, welches darauf abzielt, dass Frauen, Männer und Jugendliche verstärkt die Möglichkeit nutzen, vorbeugende, gesundheitsfördernde und kurative Praktiken im Bereich reproduktiver Gesundheitsförderung anzuwenden. Desweiteren ist das Projekt Instandhaltung im Gesundheitswesen geplant, das eine Verbesserung des administrativen Instandhaltungssystems sowie die Verbesserung des Zustandes medizinischer Geräte und Ausrüstungsgegenstände in Gesundheitseinrichtungen zum Inhalt hat.

Bis neulich hatten 93% von Nepals Einwohner keine Möglichkeit Gesundheitsfürsorge zu erhalten. Im Jahre 1991 hat die nepalesische Regierung eine „New Health Policy“ verabschiedet, wobei 4000 Sub Health Posts (SHPs) eingeführt werden sollen, um eine primäre Gesundheitsfürsorge zu fördern. Dieses Programm wird von GTZ (beratende Funktion) und KfW (zuständig für die Ausrüstung und Medikamente mit 10 Mio DM Kapital) unterstützt. Die Idee ist, ein neues und landesweites Netzwerk von Sub Health Posts zu errichten. Die Dörfer sollen die SHPs selbst unterstützen. Seit 1991 sind viele Nepalis im Gesundheitsbereich trainiert worden und jedes Jahr werden 500 SHPs eröffnet. Die Träger dieses Projektes sind: Die japanische Regierung, UNICEF, Nippon Foundation und die deutsche Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).

NGOs: Als Konkurrenz zu HMG9s Ministerien oder als Ergänzung? „Es gibt zu viel Konkurrenzdenken unter den Geldgeber-Nationen und somit ist jede Kooperation gescheitert“ schreibt Toni Hagen (Schweiz10). Der Nepali-Publizist Kanak Mani Dixit fragt: „Die zentrale Frage bei der Vergabe von Entwicklungsgeldern ist, ob die Geber etwas für ihr Geld sehen. Hat die ausländische Finanzhilfe als Katalysator gewirkt, um den Lebensstandard der Bevölkerung zu erhöhen? Hat das Land ein Ziel erreicht, das Nepal auf anderem Weg nicht hätte erreichen können? Die Antwort lautet nein“.

Harka Gurung11 ist der Meinung, dass „For environment, population control, women’s development, NGO12 is the latest fag. Home governments don’t like the NGOs because there is too much of paper processing by the immigration department. But the NGOs are the creation of the donor agencies as an alternative mechanism. They say your normal administrative channel never reaches the poor which the NGOs can do. So this is also an imposed idea. But the problem is: How do you coordinate 480 projects and 900 NGOs?“

„Das Geld ausländischer Steuerzahler ist in Nepal verschwendet worden und das, obwohl es zugleich die Energie zur Eigeninitiative für Nepali untergrub“. Dixit ist der Meinung, dass die ausländische Hilfe die in Katmandu ansässigen Eliten des Landes vergiftete und das gesamte Land wie von einer Droge abhängig machte. Hier muß man erwähnen, dass es auch außergewöhnliche Programme seitens der Deutschen oder Schweizer13 gibt, die bescheiden und effektiv darum bemüht sind, das nepalesische Leben zu verbessern. Die meisten Geber konzentrieren ihre Gelder kaum auf die wirklichen Probleme. Die auswärtige Entwicklungshilfe hat die Macht und die Privilegien im Katmandutal zentralisiert. Sie hat die alten Reichen hofiert und unterstützend dazu beigetragen, dass eine Gruppe Neureicher entstand. Die Entwicklungshilfe hat somit ein Abhängigkeitssyndrom14 geschaffen, das sich von der Regierungsebene bis hinunter auf das Dorfniveau erstreckt. Daher erwartet jedermann in Nepal ein Entwicklungshilfeteam, gleichgültig, ob dieses eine Fernstraße bauen oder nur ein paar Setzlinge einpflanzen soll.

In Nepal bildet ein weitverzweigtes Fußwegnetz das Rückgrat jeglicher Kommunikation und Entwicklung. Ab Ende der 50er Jahre setzte Helvetas die ersten Schweizer Ingenieure für Hängebrückenprojekte ein. Nepal verfügt über eine jahrhundertealte Tradition im Bau von Brücken, welche die zahllosen Gewässer überquerten. Wo einfache Holzstege nicht mehr genügten, bauten die nepalesischen Fachleute Hängebrücken mit handgeschmiedeten Ketten. Dennoch konnten breitere Flüsse auf diese Weise nicht überbrückt werden. Die Regierung beauftragte zuerst eine schottische Firma, an verschiedenen Flussübergängen Brücken mittels Kabel zu bauen. Abgestützt auf die von dem Schweizer Geologen Toni Hagen erarbeiteten Grundlagen entstanden Ende der 50er Jahre unter der Leitung der ersten Helvetas-Fachleute im Marsyandi-Tal, einer wichtigen alten Handelsroute , vier Hängebrücken15.

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Glossar:
Landwirtschaftliche Gruppen:
kulobanaune (irrigation channel maintenance Gruppe),
mal bokne (Düngeträger),
khetala (Feldarbeitern),
ropahar (Pflanzer von Getreiden),
hali (Pflüger/Bauer),
parma (Gruppenarbeitsaustausch Gemeinschaft)
gothalo (Schäfer).
Forstwirschaftsselbsthilfegruppen:
bana djane (Waldarbeiter),
ghas katne (Grassschneider),
pat tipne (Futtersammler),
daura tipne (Feuerholzsammler).
Soziokulturelle Selbsthilfegruppen:
guthi (bei den Newars vom Katmandutal),
rodi (Kommunale Gruppe von den Gurungs)
bheja (kommunale Gemeinschaft).
Religiöse Selbsthilfegruppe wie kirtan-bhajan mandali (Hymne bzw. Gesangsgruppe).
Politische Selbsthilfegruppe wie die pancha bhalamancheyharu (Fünf ehrenhafte Gentlemen)
dharma panchayat (örtlicher Rat).

On This Spot a Lotus Bloomed (Satis Shroff)

Nepalese men and women work in the fields. They use the traditional bullocks and buffaloes that are seen in the villages of Southeast Asia.

They dig the fields manually. The women work beside the men, with babies strapped to their backs. Long wooden hoes are being used to dig and break the soil, whole families pitching in to do the job. And far out in the distance, the all-seeing-eyes of the compassionate Swayambhu observes the land from the towers on which his eyes are painted.

As you start for the temple, you’re first greeted by two Tibetan lions, set in stone, amid wonderful wooded surroundings. Behind the lions you see three colossal statues of the Buddha, serene and daubed in flaming red and gold. All around you there are naked trees in poses of suspended animation.

The ground crackles as you step on the fallen brown and russet leaves. Shrill bird cries ring through the air. It is roosting time, you say to yourself. The trees are silhouetted against the evening sky and the shadows are lengthening. Your eyes discern the prayers carved in the granite slabs as you ascend the seemingly endless stairs.

A bearded tourist and a bevy of girls giggle nearby, talking in French and eating peanuts. They pass some peanuts to the swarm of monkeys who are a regular feature of Swayambhu. The Rhesus monkeys are creeping, jumping, fooling and fighting with each other.

“How happy they are”, remarks a tourist with a laugh, as the monkeys climb the spire of the stupa. The overhanging eaves of the stupa, gilded with gold, are loosely chained together. The wind blowing from across the silvery Himalayas makes them rustle. You are dumbfounded by the majestic temple.

Three lamas go by: “Om mane padme hum” stirs in the air.

You take a cue from them and go about spinning the 211 copper prayer wheels that girdle the dome. Then you peer at the all-seeing-eyes painted on the four sides of the stupa and look where they look: at the myriad pale yellow, white, blue and crimson lights of the Kathmandu Valley below. You feel that you have indeed reached the top of the world.

It is chilly, and an icy gust of wind blows your hair. The clatter of the prayer-wheels is constant. The stony stairs are set at an extremely steep angle, but there are railings to help you up or down. A Tibetan, probably a Khampa from Eastern Tibet, mumbles his prayers as he comes down from the temple. He is wrapped in heavy mauve woollens. A shaggy Tibetan Apso, a tiny dog, like a Pekingese, with bells round his collar jingles past.

You go on. A few paces up, a monkey stealthily passes by as though he were a big-game hunter. You are again confronted by meditating Buddhas: the Dhyanibuddha Akshobya who rides an elephant and a lion, Ratnasambhava who rides a horse, Amitabha who rides the peacock and Amoghasiddhi who rides the heavenly bird garuda.

The going is hard but the ascent is redeemed because of the breathtaking beauty of the place. More Rhesus monkeys dart around you. One of them takes a joy ride along the railings like a kid, skids off and vanishes. You can’t help laughing. You abruptly come across two statues of horses: short and stubby. You’re weary but you press on and come across small elephant statues, with live monkeys playing pranks on their backs. The monkeys give you a quizzical stare. These are all part of the Buddhist pantheon. Now you begin to understand why the tourists call this temple complex also “the monkey temple”. The monkeys are protected by law(as is the yeti)and have freedom there since over 2000 years. They live on the offerings brought by the Hindus and Buddhists, and peanuts and popcorn offered by the tourists.

Your climb is over. The sky is dark, blue, and is fast changing into Prussian blue, and Venus has already appeared, but you have eyes only for the gigantic white dome and stupa of the Self-Existent One. The stupa is of great sanctity for all Hindus and Buddhists. It is hemispherical and you are struck by its enormous size. The earliest inscription on Swayambhunath dates back to the year 1129, but the stupa is thought to be much older.

You make your way to a Buddhist monk and he tells you a legend about Swayambhu…

“Once upon a time the Nepal Valley was a great lake. It was on this spot, where you now stand that a lotus bloomed and became the heart of the world”.

* * *

Newsflash: There is outrage in Kathmandu after the Nepal Supreme Court ruled that the Kumari has rights. The country has long taken a pre-pubescent girl that declared her a “living goddess” – – a nice status but it comes with a denial of school and other basic rights like freedom of movement. The ruling means the the current Kumari, nine-year-old Preeti Shakya, can be freed from a virtual ornate prison in the palace.
The reform comes on the heels of the return to democracy and elimination of the Nepali Hindu monarchy. The Kumari was used to reinforce the legitimacy of the 240-year-old monarchy.
The ruling could signal the beginning of the end of the tradition. Officials are livid at the ruling. Rajan Maharajan, the vice president of the committee that looks after the Kumari and her palace. insists”
“This is not good news. In any case, she is a goddess so how can court rulings apply?” He insists that the living God receives three hours of schooling a day at the palace and is not a prisoner. As the video shows below, however, the Kumari is not allowed to speak to anyone.
While the Kumari is a living princess, she loses that status when she starts menstruating — then a new Kumari is selected. The tradition obviously repels many feminists and Westerners.

* * *

A foot-loose, holy cow eyeing the delicious fruits in a Himalayan town.
© Satis Shroff

THE HOLY COWS OF KATHMANDU
(By Satis Shroff)

Kathmandu without its gay and colourful vegetable dealers and the holy cows, those constant characters, that have featured in almost all paintings, sketches, photographs and books on Nepal will soon be a thing of the past.

The ecological minded mayor of Kathmandu rounded up 88 stray cows and has auctioned them outside Kathmandu Valley. The auction yielded 64,460 rupees to the Kathmandu municipality. The holy cows of Kathmandu have been declared as public nuisances and obstruction to the traffic in the city.

Till recently, the cows of Kathmandu walked at a leisurely gait with that notable air of nonchalance which all Nepalese high-brow cows possess because they’re revered and worshipped by the Hindus.

During my summer holidays I happened to be in Kathmandu seeping in the symphony of colour, noise and sights of Kathmandu perched smack in the middle of Indrachowk.

The noise emitted by the haggling vendors and customers, the high pitched bells of the temples mingling with the honks of scooters, and the sound of bamboo flutes, and the occasional moo of a languidly straying cow who love the vegetable market. This was the sound that I had missed in Freiburg. The smell of burning sandalwood incense sticks, steaming momos, mangoes, gauvas and lotus, marigold and magnolias permeated the air. Add to this cacaphony the unruffled tourists and you get a picture of the pulsating life in this Himalayan bazaar.

In the meantime, another cow, this time a white one with pink ears but hopelessly bent horns, tried to go through a bevy of giggling saffron-wrapped college girls.

The flying vegetable market in Kathmandu is a shanty affair with make-shift transitory shops because the policeman keeps on telling them to park their vegetables elsewhere. Kathmandu has its supermarkets and discount-shops, but most of the Nepalese don’t want to miss the charms of Asal Tole, where there are no fixed priced and where one can haggle and chat with the vegetable vendors in Nepali and Newari.

A steel-blue Ford cruised by noiselessly like a ghost of a battleship. The indigenous push-cart dubbed gurkha-jeep rumbled by, pushed by brawny Tamang porters. Nearby, a small Japoo-child in his birthday suit prodded a big brown cow with a puny stick.

Right near where I was perched was a local Jyapoo (Newari farmer) selling yellow bananas. The bananas looked ripe and the Jyapoo looked prosperous. The good man was busy haggling with his customer: a fat, supercilious Rana lady, and that was when a cow appeared and started munching the bananas without as much as a moo.

Half a comb of bananas later, the Jyapoo finally saw the cool cow. What he did next was utterly remarkable. He performed what might be best described as a VTO. He took of from the ground like a British Harrier jet and then thundered at the calm cow. She galloped off like a horse. But that wasn’t the end of it.

The frightened cow bolted like an unguided missile through the commuters, pedestrians and what-have-yous in the alleys of Kathmandu in its fright. A cyclist was knocked down and quite a number of Hindus and Buddhists got edgy because of the onrushing cow. Our Jyapoo was plainly perturbed and looked plain stupid, blinked uncertainly, ‘Kay garney? Upai chaina! What shall I do? There’s no way out of this mess!’

Cows are regarded as holy and worshipped as mother-cow by the Hindus and give milk, yoghurt, butter, holy urine and dung. According to a legend, a Nepalese king ordered cows to be set free in the streets of Kathmandu by families in mourning to share the pain of the death of a young prince. And since then children in Kathmandu Valley disguise themselves as grotesque cows and motley figures and dance to make the queen laugh. The queen in the legend is long dead but the cow-festival ‘Gaijatra’ remains.

As you walk the streets of Kathmandu, along Asan Tole, Indrachowk and Basantapur near the Freak Street, which is actually called Jhoche Tole, you see the old Newari women with golden pierced ears and children watching you with a curiosity from the artistically carved wooden windows. You cannot help feel being watched, because the doors of Kathmandu have the all-seeing eyes of the primordeal Buddha painted on them.

Below every house leading into the streets, you see shops selling almost everything: from textiles, electronic goods, pots and pans, and outsized gagros (copper vases for ritual ceremonies and festivals). The carpets are eye-catching despite that fact that the colourful ethnic dragons, snow lions and mandalas are disappearing to suit European living rooms in pastel-colours ordered per fax. There are souvenirs on display such as: curved Gurkha khukris, statues of temples, tantric gods in ecstatic poses, gargoyles, thankas (icons), Buddhas and animals in bronze and messing. The entire temples and altars seem to be on-sale. And the gods seem to be moving out.

And out in the distance beyond the forest of Nagarjun: the silence of the Himalayas, revered and worshipped by the Hindus and Buddhists.

* * *

DRINKING FRIESIAN TEA AT LANGEOOG (Satis Shroff)

Thomas, a burly, bearded botanist turned IT-specialist in Basle, and I decided to make a Herrnnachmittag out of a sunny day, despite the clouds in the vast horizon of the North Sea Isle of Langeoog, where we were spending our holidays with our near and dear ones. There we were, two croonies spending the afternoon, after an extended walk along the shore’s shrubby dunes on our way to the traditional East Friesian tea-house.

In the isle of Langeoog they call the houses ‘Hus,’ so you have a Teehus (tea-house) a Spöölhus (a house where kidddies can play). Since we were both avid tea-drinkers, we decided to go the “Ostfriesische Teestube am Hafen,” and I must say I found it delightful. They even had self-baked cakes for diabetics, not that we had insulin problems, but I do remember that my diabetic Creative Writing Professor Bruce Dobler would order a sandwich, weigh it on his portable Waage meticulously. Every gram seemed to count. It was like a ritual after his Creative Writing lectures at the University of Freiburg and we went to an Irish pub called O’ Dwyers, behind the university library for a swig of Guinness stout, as we talked about literature, poets and writers.

The tea was excellent and the butter cakes delicious. Through the white painted windows we could see the blue North Sea and the boats. Trawlers were approaching the harbour bringing in their haul. Our table had a glass case filled with Darjeeling tea leaves.

Thomas asked if it was the First Flush or the Second? I told him that it was certainly the First Flush because the ‘two leaves and a bud’ were distinctly visible. After the excellent Fresian tea we went for a walk along the dyke to the harbour. To our left was the Watt, which had been laid artificially, and which had become a habitat for all sorts of birds among them naturally a numerous sea-gulls.

Behind us we could see the bunkers built during the Third Reich, td been constructed though the iron-door leading to it was closed. Where the tarmac had been constructed for the German Luftwaffe, was now a dense forest, but the impeccable landing area was still intact. Private twin-motored planes took-off and landed now and again.

On August 3, 1941 some 450 Soviet prisoners of war were brought to Langeoog. The island chronist and teacher Richard Windemuth described them this way: ‘ We were all excited to know whether they looked the way the magazines and weekly shows described them. What we saw were figures in rags and uncouth due to the imprisonment, a very depressing picture. According to the SS-guards the POWs had rebelled and didn’t want to board the ship at Bensersiel. They were scared that they’d be left to drown in the icy waters of the North Sea.

The POWs, according to an observer from Wangerooge, were put up in a barrack in the Garden Street (today it’s House Meedland). The youngest POW was 15 years old, and they had to work at the airport of Langeoog. 113 of them died due to the inhuman treatment meted out to them, and buried in mass-graves in the outskirts of the dune-graveyard. After the krieg the island community is said to have created a passable memorial.

On August 26, 1941 came the French prisoners of war to Langeoog. They were soldiers who’d tried to escape from the Lagers (prison-camps) in Germany’s mainland. The treatment was harder than usual in the Isle of Langegoog, but not comparable to the treatment of Soviet prisoners. The chronicler says: ‘ They got the same food, even tobacco and Schnaps (German alcohol) like the German guards.’ Not so the poor Soviets who were called ‘Ivan’ in those days.

It might be noted that the Führer (Hitler) in his big speech demanded from the German public to pray for the blessings of the Almighty for the German Waffen (soldiers) in the Eastern Front. The population statistics of 1939 show that 95 % of the Germans belonged to one or other of the Christian religious societies: evangelic and catholic.

Just before midnight on September 7, 1941 Langeoog was bombed again. To the south of the airport 200 incendiary bombs were counted. One of the exploding bombs destroyed the Meider’s Bridge at the harbour. A ship under construction received 15 splitters and the harbour building was completely destroyed.

At the dune-graveyard you could visit the grave of the famous chanson singer Lale Anderson, who’s haunting, melodious song ‘Lili Marleen’ woke longings in the hearts of the U-boat crews, Luftwaffe pilots and German destroyers and other battleships, away from their Heimat and the danger of being blown to pieces by the US, RAF and Allied airplanes, depth-charges and artillery and flak.

‘No one knows the secret of freedom, unless you are a prisoner,’ said Dietrich Bonhoffer in 1944 when he was imprisoned by the Nazis. He knew through his own suffering and experience what freedom meant, and he also knew what personal freedom one had to sacrifice to achieve freedom for all, for freedom is not only a word. Freedom means words and deeds, as is evident in the Tibetan issue where people around the world are reacting and agitating for the fundamental rights of a country called the Roof of the World.

Meanwhile, you could discern a hoot from an outwards bound ship or the red catamaran which commutes between Langeoog and Benzersiel, and the incessant cries of the sea-gulls vying with each other to get a morsel of fish from the trawlers that were coming to their home-harbour.

The 2500 inhabitants of Langeoog are facing a tough time battling against Nature. The sea, which is washing away the island is one factor, and the influx of people with a lot of capital from the mainland is the other factor. The dunes are very important for the islands and coasts just as the wind, water and sun. Like the Watt and salty meadows, the dunes and other habitats also underlie special dynamic changes and some flora and fauna need these changes. Strandhafer, Strandroggen and Stranddistel live here. Brandgeese and sea-gulls breed primarily in the dunes.

The dunes serve as a protection for endangered animals and also for the inhabitants of Langeoog because there’s no need to build dykes, where there’s a protective shield of dune-chains around the island and along the coast. The dunes are much higher than the dykes and a lot broader. Every year, the west-wind and west-waves bring thousands of tons of sand from the East Sea to the North Sea. The protection of the coast and nature conservation go hand in hand. And visitors to the isle are admonished to walk only along the prescribed paths to the benefit of humans and Mother Nature

Even I’d contemplated how wonderful it would be to build at least a holiday-houses at Langeoog. Instead we’ve decided to build one in the Black Forest right below a hill with pine trees, with an excellent view of the hills in the vicinity of Rosskopf.

The old fashioned Tante Emma shops are dwindling, giving way to supermarkets—like in France’s Atlantic Isle of Oleron. One remarkable feature of the Isle of Langeoog is that it has been long declared a car-free zone. The main means of communication in the Isle is with an old, gaudy diesel-driven train that brings you to the town from the harbour. After that you can hire a horse-driven taxi, bicycle or go on foot. The cars remain in Bensersiel (mainland). And unless you know someone in the island who has a plane, everyone is obliged to take the ferry.

We walked along the north-west beach into the small town. The beach was littered with churned sea-shells, sea-weed and plastic garbage of the tourists. A team of workers who belonged to a jaw-breaking measure (Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahmen ABM) came with a tractor and a trailer to clear the beach.

“Ordnung muss sein, even on the beach!” remarked Thomas. The people of Langeoog have to separate their garbage and put them in the respective bins—as everywhere in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Green bins for paper, brown for biological or organic garbage and yellow plastic bags for PVC and plastic garbage.

Watt n’ Erlebnis: The walk along the North Sea Wattenmeer, along the shore of Langeoog was interesting and strenuous and the local guide Uwe G. turned out to be a bearded, blond East Friesian bloke with a gift of the gab. He introduced us to the dangers and secrets of the Watt, which is typical for Germany and Scandinavian countries. We walked every 100 metres into the sea, and Uwe dug his fork into the sea-bed and showed us the wonders of the North Sea Watt: crustaceans and molluscs, crabs, shrimps, worms and their habitats. How the heart-mussel and clams live, and how to get a glass full of shrimps swimming in water. He loved to tell you about the peristaltic of the worms in comparison to humans, their reproductive and digestive systems. It was what you might call a marine biology lecture carried at a hilarious, non-scientific level and the people loved him for it.

An elderly Germany couple thought the Uwe had a “Bundeswehr tone” to his talk. Another German said that he was definitely “Analfixiert” (anal-fixed according to Freud’s theory, wherein he speaks about people being ‘fixed’ in the oral, anal and oedipal phases of human development). But Uwe was very self-conscious and he went on candidly comparing humans with molluscs. The children and grown-ups had a good time.

By the time we’d reached the outer periphery of the Watt, the tide started coming in. And it got difficult to pull out the gum-boots out of the Schlack (dark, sticky, muddy water). It was a moment when I thought it would perhaps be better to leave my gum-boots behind. But I somehow managed to walk on. The Wattwanderung along the shores of the Isle of Langeoog was interesting and strenuous and we learned quite a lot about the wildlife and acquatic animas on the shores of the North Sea Wattenmeer.

Another day it was a chilly, and we could feel the gusts of wind blowing to the island from the North Sea. Although we had our pullovers, jackets and gum-boots on, as we trudged along between the beach and the waves, busy gathering sea-shells, a woman in the autumn of her life, wearing a one-piece bathing suit in anthroposophical orange pastell colours, walked to the sea and began swimming in the cold, wind-swept water. Brr! She was very courageous, disciplined and trimmed for a hard life, I thought.

Downtown Langeoog reminded me of a sea-town in Britain with those neat brick-houses and white-painted doors and windows, cobble-stoned streets and sea-man’s kitsch on the windows. I couldn’t help it, I had to buy some of it: cards, Langeoogs water-tower in miniature with two sea-gulls and a red-white painted trawler, complete with fishing nets on two sides. Sigh!

* * *
Longing For Langeoog (Satis Shroff)

Were I a sea-gull
I’d fly to the north,
To Langeoog,
Where I spent my holidays.
Ach, how wonderful.

I think of the colourful
Wicker beach-chairs with hoods,
And the small island train.

I think of Flut and Ebbe,
Of time and tide,
Clams, starfish, seaweed.
The shores full of shrimps,
Sea-urchins and jelly-fish.
The fun of bathing
In the North Sea,
And the fear of the Qualle.

Grandma Else’s porcellain Stube,
A warm cuppa East Friesian
Candy sugared tea
At the harbour Teestube.

I remember ‘Watt’n Erlebnis’
What an experience,
During the Wattwanderung,
Along Langeoog’s dark, slicky shores,
Searching for mussels, clams,
Crabs in the water.
And in the endless sky,
Like an inverted cobalt bowl,
Swarms of Rotschenkel
On their way to Africa.

Glossary:
Flut und Ebbe: flood- and low-tide
Qualle: jellyfisherman
Rotschenkel: red-legged island birds
Watt: banks of sand, flats
Watt’n Erlebnis: what an experience, with a pun on Watt
Stube: store, shop
Teestube: tea-shop

* * *

Eva Gerhards, Satis Shroff & Toni Hagen at a pub in Freiburg

Let’s Live Together, Despite the Differences

(Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

I met Toni Hagen ages ago in Freiburg where he’d come to give a talk about Nepal, and I must say he made a jolly good impression. As a long-time Freiburger, I went with him to a local tavern near the Schwabentor for a swig of German beer. ‘I’ve travelled 14,000 km on foot in Nepal’ said Toni Hagen, a soft-spoken, silvery-haired Swiss-geologist who would be 89 years now, hadn’t Yamaraj beckoned him earlier. He had that typical Schwyzerdeutsch accent, and he liked to think of his days in Nepal in the early fifties as his ‘wandering years,’ for as is the custom in Switzerland and Germany, when you’re through with learning your trade you embark upon an adventurous trip seeking expertise in as many cities and countries as possible before you settle down some place. His poor wife had to remain in Lenzerheide with the children.

In the case of Toni Hagen, however, he seemed to be a wandering soul, even in the winter of his life, spending half of his time in the Swiss Alps and the other half in the Himalayas. He was one of the last living witnesses of a secretive Nepal of the Middle Ages. He entered the Kingdom at a time when it was a “forbidden land” in the early fifties. As the first foreigner who had the freedom of travelling in Nepal as he pleased, Hagen visited areas which are still forbidden to most people even today. Most Toni Hagen admirers can view his life and experiences in the film ‘The Ring of Buddha.’ It is a melange of original film material from the fifties, colour transparencies from his book on the geology of Nepal, and the viewer gets an idea of the Kingdom of Nepal and its peoples. When I saw the film, I had the uneasy feeling that he was saying goodbye to us all.

With the passage of time, Toni Hagen changed his profession from geology to development-work, and he was deeply concerned about the problems of development aid, its successes and failures not only in Nepal but also in many other countries. The people interested him more than the stratigraphic formations. In a book published by the Unesco, dealing with the ‘socio-economic problems of Nepal’ he mentioned the development projects in Nepal and said that the ‘ecological catastrophe prophesy’ that he made in the early fifties ‘has come true’ and talked about the pioneer work in the geological survey of Nepal from 1960 till 1970, and wrote about his new edition of ‘Nepal’ and proudly mentioned that it was a fourth edition ‘without any changes’, and called it a standard work on Nepal, which indeed it is.

He took delight in the fact that the World Bank stopped the Arun III project in Nepal thanks to his efforts and the united lobbying on the part of the ecological organisation Urgewalt, Dr. Hermann Warth, and the political fractions from the SPD, Bündnis 90, the Greens and the PDS in influencing the German government, in addition to the decision of the new World Bank president James Wolfensohn and the assertion of the then prime minister Adhikary. After the World Bank decision not to finance the dam project, it was taken for granted that the 235 million marks from the German side would be set aside for other smaller projects. The Arun III was observed in Germany as development-politics gone haywire.

‘What Nepal needs,’ he stressed, ‘is not road-building projects but genuine and effective help in the agricultural sector. What Nepal needs are not atomic plants but water-works.’ And he wasn’t tired of mentioning, with a sense of pride, that His Majesty King Birendra had read his old reports and had asked him for his opinion regarding Nepal’s optimal development.

‘Is it too late for my country?’ was the question asked by King Birendra, he said, and in the same breath he expressed his admiration for the Nepalese King. He was of the opinion that ‘constitutional monarchy and continuity are essential for Nepal’s survival,’ and praised the advantages of decentralisation, which according to him, is a central characteristic of democracy and is important for every case involving planning whether it’s hydroelectric plants or tourism. In those days, the only pressure that Nepal had as a sovereign state was from India in connection with the trade and transit disagreements. Times have changed and the threat is from within, in the form of maoists, and not from without.

Toni Hagen said, ‘Development must come from the grassroots.’ He was awarded the title of ‘Distinguished Person of Kathmandu City’ on 15th of June 1995 by the mayor of Kathmandu Mr. P.L. Singh, who also presented him a key to the city. On this occasion Toni Hagen went on record as saying ‘Despite the failure of some politicians and parties, freedom of speech, press-freedom, multiparty system and the role of the opposition in the parliament remain the most important trait of the new system in Nepale­se politics.

Nepal can be divided into seven zones: the Terai, the Siwalik Hills, the Mahabharat Mountains (Lekh), the Nepal Midlands, the Himalayas, the Inner Himalayas and the Tibetan marginal mountains. And according to Toni Hagen the river system existed before the Nepal Himalayas came into existence. The Himalayan rivers carved gigantic gorges. According to him it would be appropriate if the Midlands were not ignored today. Almost lamentably he said that the terai urwald, primeval forest, did not exist anymore and talked about the World Bank and the Nepalese government’s project of settling people from the hills to the terai.

From the terai to the hills you have in ascending order of crop cultivation: rice, wheat, maize, millet, potatoes and grassland. Wheat is a relatively new crop in Nepal. He found the soft green revolution in Kathmandu welcome, but at the same time he pointed to the fact that the population had risen in the last decade at an alarming tempo, and called it ‘schlimm’ and bad enough. Nepal, in comparison to other Asian countries, has five persons per hectre of land’, he said and ‘possesses the biggest concentration of population density’.

And then he started to talk about the soil erosion. From the terai at the gangetic-level upto a height of 1800m you have rice terraces and from there up to 3000m you have the Kampf­zone (battle-zone) for existence and above that you have, till an elevation of 3500m, forests with increasing erosion and then grasslands in the Himalaya regions. He pointed out that the steep terraces resulted in soil erosion caused by human beings. The yield per hectre had been decreasing and the land for cultivation had also been decreasing.

As far as the terai was concerned, his prognosis was that it would produce surplus food for a decade, and mentioned that most of the food went to India, because the traders in the plains offered better prices and the transport infrastructure was already there in form of good railways and roads.

In the terai the ground water can be reached at a depth of 2 metres. The terai, with its rich alluvial soil, could be developed into the corn-chamber of Nepal, much like the Punjab in India. And Nepal should not export its rice to India but keep it for domestic demands in the Kingdom. He shook his head and said, ‘It’s easy, but it doesn’t function. We may have a surplus at the moment but the question is whether we can keep up this production or not?’

The farmers must be helped was his argument. Toni Hagen admitted he didn’t have a patent recipe for the problems of Nepal. The farmers had been ignored in Nepal according to Toni Hagen (not so in Taiwan and Niger). He complained that the Foreign Aid until 1976 invested money mostly in road-construction projects which was a grave mistake, for it sucked up the last reserves of Nepal.

Nepal is like a very sick patient. Multilateral and bilateral aid agencies at the governmental and non-governmental level have injected foreign cash and material into Nepal, and the result is that the very economic structure has been weakened. A sum of US 552.8 million was transferred to Nepal without any visible changes in the economic structure of the country and has created an aid-industry in which the corrupt middlemen earn a good living. The country’s masses suffer stoically, as they have done throughout the centuries at the hands of other rulers. Chakari, nepotism and corruption are just as rampant in the post-democratic era as in the past.

It must be noted, he said, that above 90% of the Nepalese population lives on agriculture. The first priority was given to transport, then agriculture and lastly energy. The other way round would have been better on the long run.

He held a pedagogic finger and reminded one Nepal is a country with the biggest hydro-electric potential in the world. ‘Even back in the fifties I suggested to the government to develop energy. Some officials regarded him as ‘backward in his thinking,’ and according to him foreign ex­change was wasted on useless thermal energy projects.

Whereas the population of Nepal in 1950 was 8 million, in 1988 it was 17,5 million. Today it’s 27 million. And whereas the mean life expectancy in 1950 was 26 years, a Nepalese now can live to be 40 to 50 years old if not more. Malaria was rampant in 1950 with 3 million cases, and in the eighties malaria, which was thought to have been eradicated, has made a comeback because the ‘mosquitoes are immune’. Whereas there were 2,5 million domestic animals in 1962, there are over 3,2 million these days. And whereas there were 6,4 million hectares of forest in 1950, it was reduced to half, namely 3,2 hectares in 1982. And whereas the illiteracy in 1950 was 98%, by 1976 almost 77% of the boys (and 25% girls) had gone through compulsory primary school. And as for the medical aspects, 50% more Nepalese doctors are concentrated in Kathmandu Valley than anywhere else in the Kingdom. Due to the war between the Maoists and the government troops and police there has been a steady decline (38%) in the tourist since 1998. And more than 13 000 Nepalese have died in the struggle for power. This would have appeared like a nightmare to Toni Hagen, who had another picture of Nepal in his mind—corrupt, but peaceful and tolerant. Live and let live was the life philosophy. Today it’s live and let die.

The rate of people leaving the rural areas was 3% in 1951 in comparison to 12% in 1982. The crop production figures and prospects according to the Swiss expert look gloomy with a deficit in the year 2000, beginning already in the early with a downward trend.

To a question about the Swiss road in Jiri, which had been praised in German TV as an ecological and technical masterpiece, he said: ‘It’s well built, but wrongly laid (falsch Angelegt). Neither did he have words of praise for the Nepal-India road, nor for the Kathmandu-Lhasa highway, which were great engineering feats. The Tribhuvan Rajpath connecting Nepal with India (built in 1956) was very bad because of erosion along the sides of the road. He called it a ‘terrible construction’. In the meantime the road is open for traffic.

‘In development aid there’s always a wrong investment. The aid-donors wanted to do too much in Nepal. That was the problem’, says Toni Hagen.

On the 11th of April 1996 there was a two-day ‘Nepal Aid Group’ conference in Paris, the first of its kind since 1992. The participating 13 donor nations were: Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Holland, Norway, the Saudi Development Fond, Switzerland, U.K., USA, in addition to various international finance organisations. The summit granted for the period 1996-97 assistance worth US$ 993 million to Nepal.

The then Nepalese finance minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat said, ‘The meeting in Paris has proved that the donor-nations show a cooperative attitude towards Nepal. The main points that these countries complained about were: the constant posting of the government employees, their sinking morale and the delay in the posting and transfers of the civil servants engaged in the development works. The aid-donors suggested that the prices of the public service should be oriented to the actual costs and emphasised the necessity of controlling the rampant corruption’.

Another current trend in development aid from Europe is this ‘Help to Self-Help’ especi­ally from the Germans. In 1995 Nepal received 29.3 million German marks for the projects and programmes of the financial and technical cooperation (FZ & TZ). The financial cooperation involves family-planning, a road infrastructure and a biogas project.

Toni Hagen said, ‘The Nepalese, for instance, should plant trees and care for them for five years. Integral projects would be good for Nepal’ and went on to talk about big projects with the motto: ‘No money, no water’ in other countries. The big organisations of rich countries have lots of money for development projects but how the money was invested was another matter. In his book on development problems he analysed 230 development projects, and according to him in rural areas only small projects have a chance to survive.

He quoted the villager who said, ‘My village has survived so many development projects’. Does it do good to bring the villages in developing countries to modern levels?

Even Swiss villages have come into being through laborious processes of development over long periods of history. Nepal is trying to catch up with the developed world within a few decades. There’s also the question of loss of identity due to development aid. Toni Hagen’s world existed during the Hippie-happy and Flower-power days, for there were no signs of militant maoists in those days. I remember a visitor from England, who was travelling with his side-kick from south India, who said, ‘In Nepal even children can walk around the countryside without fear of being molested or abducted. The Nepalese are such a wonderful people.’ Today, the parents would think twice before they let their children roam about in Nepal.

During my Tri Chandra College days, the communist students came from Doti, Silgadi and Dharan and had stacks of literature penned by Kim Il Sung, Lenin, Marx and Mao’s red books, all made available by the respective cultural centres of these communist countries in Kathmandu. Nobody raised an eyebrow, for these books were available every, even at the Sajha shops of Kathmandu and elsewhere. Today the maoists have spread from Rukum and the Far West but also in Kathmandu. An educated working mother from Kathmandu, with a PhD from Germany, wrote recently to me, ‘Imagine how life in Kathmandu is, due to the corrupt politicians. Right now there are street blockades, actually economic blockades around Kathmandu imposed by the Maoists, The market-price of food commodities have gone pretty high. Sugar, kerosine and other fuels are not available. The businessmen are also responsible for the artificial scarcity. One has to be prepared to pay thrice the price for these commodities and you will get these. Life has become insecure for us Nepalese these days. Once you leave your house, you will never know what might happen. A bomb on the roadside might blow you up.’

Toni Hagen would have thought differently were he living these days, for Nepal has been undergoing a political and military turmoil and Nepal’s face has changed a lot. But let’s talk about our ageing Swiss friend. Toni Hagen’s eyes twinkled when he spoke about the humorous and sunny nature of the Nepalese soul. He called it ‘die Heiterkeit der Seele’ in German, which means the joyousness of the soul.

‘The Nepalese don’t take anything seriously, and themselves the least,’ he said with a smile. And then he switched over to an anecdote about one of the first DC-3 landings in Pokhara in 1950, which was quite a feat then. There was a big crowd of Gurung, Thakali and Tamang farmers gathered to watch the propeller-driven Dakota- aircraft. Out of the DC-3 came a jeep along the ramp and an astonished Nepali farmer said: “It’s like a birth. The small vehicle will learn to fly soon!” In his film he also mentioned his early porters who’d thrown his geological data, namely rocks from the Himalayas, because they’d though rocks are everywhere, so why carry them. It was a hilarious situation in the film, but such a thing wouldn’t have happened if he’d taken the trouble to talk with his porters in their lingo about the importance of the specimens they were carrying behind their backs.

‘Nepal hasn’t changed since the last 45 years in the hills,’ he said, with a twinge of nostalgia and talked about Pokhara with its backdrop of the gigantic Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains. He liked to call the Machapuchare the ‘Nepalese Matterhorn’ in his exquisite Swiss accent and said the Swiss Matterhorn looked so insignificant when compared with the Fish-Tail Mountain. And then he expressed his praise and admiration for the ‘precisely laid rice terraces in Nepal, a wonderful innovation of the Nepali people.’ The terrace farming is a several 100 year old tradition in Nepal. Speaking English as a Swiss geologist from Lenzerheide is one thing, but learning the Nepali language and speaking it is another. Most visitors to Nepal have the attitude that the Nepalese speak English, and they should learn German, Japanese which easier and more convenient for visitors than the other way around.

‘Rice is regarded noble and millet as of lesser quality,’ said Toni Hagen and spoke of the golden yellow millet fields below the Machapuchare. Below the 2000m Dhaulagiri you have the red ‘kodo’ millet-fields and kodo is protein-rich. He was also all-praise for the Nepali farmers with their diversification of products. There was no monoculture in Nepal (except in the tea-plantations of Ilam and Darjeeling). The farmers planted rice, wheat, potatoes and varied them.

The Rara lake at 3000m reminded him of the Swiss lakes in the Alps. And Langtang at 3,500m had lush meadows, with hundreds of edelweiss flowers like in the Alps. He said: ‘When I was in Langtang for the first time, I thought we could make cheese here with yak-milk and that’s how the Swiss-idea of setting up a dozen cheese factories in the Nepal Himalayas began. The cheese is transported on the backs of the Tamang and Sherpa porters from a height of 5,800m to Kathmandu. The Tibetans, Sherpas, Tamangs and other Nepalese ethnic groups knew only churpi, the Nepalese hard-cheese, which is pure casein.

I told him, ‘We, Nepalese, call it Nepali chewing-gum’ and he laughed. Toni Hagen appreciated the Swiss-aided Himalayan cheese and said they tasted just as good as the Swiss ones.

‘And some even have Swiss-holes in the cheese,’ he said with a laugh. This scribe remembers eating cheese and drinking yak-milk during his Amrit Science College days with his Nepalese Ascolite friends at the milk-shop in Thamel. It can happen that some have no enzyme called lactase in their intestine flora and cannot digest the milk-products and suffer from Kathmandu-quicksteps. The Swiss-idea was also a boon to the tourists, foreign residents and western-oriented Nepalese.

Recalling his surveys in the Khumbu area: Ama Damlam, Makalu and Mt. Everest he said, like a boarding-school boy who had gone out of bounds, “ In 1956 I managed to go to Tibet, to the north of Everest without permission. The Chinese were then in Tibet.” And talked about the dangerous and treacherous glaciers: “You’re never sure when water flows under the glacier.”

According to him there was an increasing population mobility in Nepal, but the racial schemes still exist. Then he was ecstatic about the incomparable harmonious religious tolerance in Nepal.

‘Take Swayambhunath for instance, which is for all Hindus and Buddhists. The Nepalese live near each other, mingle with each other: nebeneinander, durcheinander.’ he said. Today it`s more durcheinander due to the war in Nepal. But he certainly wasn’t thinking about Nepal’s political problems with the Maoists. What Nepal needs is a culture of tolerance between the warring political parties, for after battling with each other, the Maoists, democratic parties and the monarch should realise that what all in the end desire is peace. Peace and tolerance is a better path than violence. Aggressive behaviour and politics has only lead to destruction of all involved in Nepal’s struggle. Like old Hagen said, “Let us live together, despite the differences.”

Toni Hagen is dead, but my memories of him remain. His ashes were strewn over the Khumbu Himalayas at an altitude of 5500m by his daughter Katrin from a Karnali Air helicopter. I still see him with his blue glassy eyes, as he raised his beer glass, and said with a tinge of nostalgia, ‘Auf Nepal .’ I followed it up with ‘Auf die Schweiz!’ He’d invited me to Lenzerheide, but I never made it.

* * *

Memoir: IN THE STREETS OF PRAGUE (Satis Shroff)

‘It’s awfully nice to see you in Czech surroundings’ said my long-lost friend Kundan, as he raised his massive and ornate glass of pivo, the famous black Czech beer. That was in 1976 and the Czechs and Slovaks were a single nation. Kunda Dixit was “Our Man Behind the Iron Curtain” and wrote a column in The Rising Nepal named “Prague Prattles.” Kanak might have the gift of the gab, but I’d always enjoyed Kunda’s literary articles during my Katmandu days, when Hippies and Flower Power people were everywhere, mostly to be seen in the high temples and pagodas, stoned with Cannabis sativa, wearing deshi clothes with the word “Ram” printed on them a thousand times. In Katmandu it was a delight to go to the many psychedelic cafes, where you could drink tea and relish Katmandu’s “special” cake baked with hash. After that, and a round of charas smoking, Katmandu looked different. Fantastic, psychedelic Katmandu, made immortal by Cat Stevens in those days.

The place was U-Thomas, a well known beer tavern in Prague, and seated on a long table were five Nepalese male students and two female Germans. It was good to hear Nepalese being spoken, because over the months I’d had been in Germany, I’d heard only German, French, Spanish or Italian. The joint reminded me of a disco-cellar called ‘Le Caveau’ in Freiburg, a small town in southern Germany, except that there wasn’t any music. However, the din that arose from the tables loaded with loquacious and jolly Czechs would have drowned any type of music, and their presence only heightened the noise.

And who bothers about music, especially when old friends meet in a tavern 9000 km away from the Himalayas. It was one ‘cheers’ and ‘prost’ after another. That’s the wonder of the excellent 13% pivo. They say in Prague beer foamed in the tankards of its citizens long before Columbus discovered America.

When abroad, the Nepalese are always confronted with the question: ‘how do you say ‘cheers’ in your language?’ Which is quite embarrassing, because Nepalese always say ‘pyuno hos!’ (please feel free to drink) or ‘pyunu paryo!’ (let us drink), ‘huncha?’(shall we?) huncha! (we may). The whole affair is carried out non-verbally with a lot of affirmative head shaking from left to right.

The tavern just wasn’t a place where one could do any serious talking because of the general clamour. and we had to contend ourselves with small-talk that passed in the name of conversation. There were a good many interruptions when curious Czechs, high on beer, would stop over at our table and ask us where we came from. One could imagine their curiosity since we looked very different from the usual European foreigners in stature and complexion and, of course, sense of humour, for there we were rollicking with what the Germans call ‘Lebensfreude’ and the French ‘vivre’.

One burly, rosy-cheeked Czech, with a receding forehead and wearing a sailor’s uniform, who had plainly drunk one pivo too much, came every now and then asking for cigarettes. Either there were no cigarette-automats in the tavern or the fellow was broke. When we ignored him, the Czech began to pantomime a Sherpa-porter carrying a load on his back. After a short while he got bored and left. We also left U-Thomas.

It was winter and there was snow everywhere in the city, and icy gusts of wind blew incessantly, as we walked along the slippery streets of Prague. We boarded the rickety red-coloured state-run tram.

‘That’s the Eiffel Tower of Prague,’ said the jolly Gurung friend, as he pointed to the look-out tower on the Petrin, which formed an impressive background to the grey student hostels, where our Nepalese friends were residing. The amiable Gurung was entertaining the two German ladies in good German, and I noticed that he’d started the conversation with a game of associations, German associations. He mentioned the positive images of Germany: Beckenbauer, Bayern Munich, the VW Beetle (which was still in production at Wolfsburg then), Berlin as a wonderful city, Karel Gott the Czech singer who sings successfully in German, and soon he’d found a tenor which amused the teutonic ladies. He was doing famously.

I noticed that quite a few Nepalese students had married blonde Czechs and settled down in Prague. There they were, out in the cold, fresh air with their wives and prams, exchanging greetings in Nepali, Newari and Czech languages. The idea appealed to me. Bilingual or multilingual children who visited Czech or Nepalese schools in Czechoslovakia or Nepal. Why not settle down in a foreign country? Or bring your foreign wife or husband home? You could decide where you wanted to live later. There was also the possibility of oscillating between two countries. Or open a travel agency and send Czech tourists on guided trekking tours to the Himalayas? A good many Nepalese students from the Lumumba-Friendship University and Moscow University have brought their Russian spouses along, and they run elite-schools in Katmandu, where the children learn English, Nepal and French. It’s not unusual to see foreign females teaching in Nepalese schools these days. The number of foreign women married to Nepalese males is rising. And also the number of foreign males taking a Nepalese bride.

On the next day we were invited to a Nepalese lunch: dal-bhat-shikar cooked by one of the brahmin students, and it was delicious. The German ladies Andrea and Antonia relished it. Their only complaint was: ‘Es war scharf!’ (It was hot). But what’s an Asian meal without chillies. Or sambal olek? Or chutney and achar? Most Germans have a mild taste indeed, and prefer plain boiled potatoes and lot of sauerkraut, in addition to mountains of meat.

While waiting for a bus near the student hostel, I couldn’t resist the temptation of scooping handfuls of snow and confronting the others with snowballs. Soon we had, what the German ladies called a big ‘Schneeballschlacht’ in progress. It had snowed heavily the night before and was awfully chilly.

‘Do you have any samachar (news) from Nepal?’ I asked her pale, bespectacled friend Kundan, who was a brahmin, a high-caste Hindu, and could easily pass off as a European. He’d been home and had mentioned that the policeman at the Pashupatinath hadn’t let him through into the sanctum sanctorum because he’d thought he was a foreigner, a “quiray: He Who Has Grey Eyes.” My friend Kundan had reassured the policeman in fluent Nepali but the man had retorted with, ‘A lot of foreign development workers speak better Nepali.’ It was only after Kundan had produced his janai (sacred thread), which most high caste Hindus wear after an elaborate ritual-ceremony, that the policeman waved him past.

“When I left Nepal about two months ago, Nepal was rotting. It was dying. One of those slow painful processes, complete with rattles and groans,” said my long lost friend

‘Was it so dramatic?’ I asked him, for ever since I’d been living in Germany I had only heard of Nepal in the German media when some German expedition had climbed a peak or some crazy yeti-search expedition had thought they’d sighted the abominal snowman.

‘I won’t go through the morbid details and make your life miserable,’ he said with a beneign expression and a twitch of his facial muscles, as he went on to say, “ Frankly, I’ve been so anaesthesized by time and instance. I couldn’t express the horrors of contemporary Nepalese life, even if I wanted to. I’m not a pessimist, neither a fatalist, but I don’t see any hope for my beloved motherland. Don’t expect any news coming from that direction to be good news.’

That sounded very pessimistic indeed. Perhaps the Nepalese are survival artists. I couldn’t find another explanation. In the past we have adapted to different dynasties of rulers in Nepal, and in modern times have survived the rule of the arrogant Ranas and the greedy Shahs. And now the republic-minded Maoists under Prachanda.

‘Just a week ago the Nepalese rupee was devalued 16%. Imagine the plight of an ordinary Nepalese civil servant, who is by comparison much better off than his fellow men financially’, said Kundan.

‘He’ll have to pay 16% on basic commodities like rice and dal. It’s saddening.’

He was right. There was no real democracy in Nepal. The Panchayat System, with its intricate, archaic network of nepotism, corruption and couldn’t-care-less mentality was bleeding the country. The Nepalese intellectuals were playing it safely, and those who cared were living in exile in India. The entire media was controlled by the Palace Secreta­riat, and letters, pleas and petitions to the government for justice went unanswered. If you had connexions in the government or the palace, you could climb the career ladder fast, and if you didn’t have what the simple, honest Nepalese calls “source and force” or “afnu manchey” in the higher regions of the government and the Narayanhiti palace, you could slave all your life, and still remain in the same job.

A Nepalese king had described Nepal as a ‘yam between two big stones’ meaning thereby Tibet (later China) and India. The small country has a tough time trying to balance between the two gigantic neighbours, who had already fought a Himalaya-war in 1962, which the Chinese had won. After China had annexed Tibet, India did likewise in a­nnexing Goa and Sikkim. And now Nepal was in the news again. There was an article in the French Le Monde datelined New Delhi about the Indo-Nepalese trade and transit agreement which was to expire in August that year (1976).

“The Empress has not forgotten the Nepalese indignation over Sikkim, and demands that Nepal should pay for oil in dollars,’ said my friend. ‘Transit duties have also been raised.’ The word ‘Empress’ was reserved for Indira Gandhi. She was known for her constitutional chicanery and her almost totalitarian Emergency of 1975.

Kundan went on to say, ‘On April 2, 1976 Nepal signed a treaty with Bangladesh providing for use of the port of Chittagong for transit shipments to Nepal, but India is taking advantage of the narrow strip of Bengal which separates Bangladesh from Nepal. Thus Le Monde’.

Whereas the Chinese had their own problems with Tibetans and the implementation of maoistic-ideology, and in maintaining a strict border policy, Nepal’s southern border with India was open for smugglers, tradesmen and border-dwellers from both sides. (The government carried out a programme of resettlement of hill tribes in the flatlands, but the recent Madhesi movement which has gained momentum shows a different trend. The Madhesis, as the people of the Terai call themselves (and hill people are called Paharis), have a lot in common with the Indian culture and would like to see themselves integrated with the big neighbour to the south, for Katmandu has ignored them in all those years. Be that as it may, a peaceful compromise has to be found.

After India’s two major border conflicts with Pakistan, and the storming of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the Indian armed forces were getting bolder. Nepal and the other Himalayan nations wouldn’t be able to put up much resistance against the newly created mountain-divisions of the Indian Army. The diplomatic and peaceful channel was the call of the hour. And thus King Birendra’s fervent wish to have Nepal declared as ‘a zone of peace guaranteed by international treaty’. China, USA and a host of countries supported the proposal. India, through an inspired article, put it this way: ‘The pre-condi­tion for an improvement of Indo-Nepalese relations is the unequivocal acceptance that Nepal, which forms an enclave on the Indian side of the Himalayas, must belong to the defence system of the subcontinent.’ Thus her Gracious Imperial Majesty…’, said Kundan, with bitterness in his voice. There was no doubt that Nepal was India-locked and not only land-locked. Mrs. Gandhi made also insane internal attempts at social discipline of the Indian masses through licensed thuggery and mass sterilisations.

All that was a long time ago. Indira Gandhi, the uncrowned Empress of India, is dead. Rajiv Gandhi has been murdered. (And so is Benazir Bhutto recently). There was democracy and a multiparty-system in Nepal. A congress party, which had operated all those years in exile in India, held the maximum number of seats in the Nepalese parliament in those days, and Indo-Nepal relations were flourishing with new trade and joint ventures, despite the protests from the communist faction that Nepal was selling out to the neighbour from the south. In the Panchayat era, Katmandu’s beggars were rounded up and transported to the south. They turned up two days later after a long return-march along the Tribhuvan Rajpath. This only showed that you can’t drive people away. They wanted their rights. Human rights, which was long ignored in this kingdom of the past.

Then came Katmandu’s ecological-minded mayor, who wanted to drive the hawkers and peddlers away from Asan Tole and Indrachowk, without much of an alternative, apparently because Katmandu has sister-cities in the western world. But will driving away hawkers and beggars alone be a lasting solution to the problems? After all, what is a hawker or a beggar or a leprosy patient? A human being, a Nepalese in search of a better means of existence and medical treatment. Promising a better quality of life to one section of the population at the cost of the other? There are too many unanswered questions still floating in the Himalayan air. Since King Gyanendra has been stripped of his power, but still prefers to pay his ritual homage to the Katmandu Kumari, the Living Goddess, there are some democrats who still want him as their monarch. The Maoists, however, have taken a no-nonsense course and want to se the former kingdom as a Nepalese republic. The disarming and disbanding of the militant Maoist warriors is another social problem in Nepal. Does the new nation need so many ex-Maobadi fighters in the Nepalese Army? Can the former fighters be recruited to work for the development of Nepal in different development projects?

We in the west have to wait and see what unfurls in the years to come with curiosity, anguish and interest.

* **
Satis Shroff’s German Translations: Satis Shroff has translated Nepali literature  (prose and poems) by Nepali writers such as: Laxmiprasad Devkota (Muna Madan), Bhupi Sherchan, Banira Giri (Kathmandu), Bhisma Upreti, Krishna Bhakta Shrestha, Bal Krishna Sama (Ich Hasse & Auf der Suche nach Poesie), Abhi Subedi, Toya Gurung, Dorjee Tschering Lepcha (Die Ameisenkönigin & Der Spinnenmensch), Guruprasad Mainali (Der Martyrer), Krishna Bam Malla (Der Pfluger), Lekhnach Paudyal (Der Himalaya), Hridaya Singh Pradhan (Die Tränen von Ujyali), Shiva Kumer Rai (Der Preis des Fisches),Sharad Sharma (Woman:Nature), Toya Gurung (Mein Traum), Binaya Rawal (Phulmayas Dasainfest), Abhi Subedi (Am Abend mit dem Auto), Bimal Nibha (Jumla), Jiwan Acharya (Der Bildhauer & Muglin) etc. into German, a part of which can be read under the title ‘Between Two Worlds.’.
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Muna Madan (Laxmi Prasad Devkota)

Devkotas Werk „Muna und Madan“ entstand 1936 auf. Dieses Gedicht basiert auf einer Newari-Ballade. Madan, ein Geschäftsmann will nach Lhasa (Tibet) um dort Handel zu treiben, wie es früher üblich war. Damals gab es eine richtige Newar-Kolonie von Händlern in Lhasa. Seine frisch verheiratete Frau Muna liebt ihn innig und bittet ihn, sie nicht allein in Kathmandu zu lassen, „mein Herz nicht brennen zu lassen in einem Feuer, das nie ausgemacht werden kann“. Madan macht sich sehr viele Sorgen, geht aber trotzdem weg von Muna. Bevor er geht, verlangt er ein Lächeln von Muna. Aber Muna kann „die Sonne nicht herausbringen in der Nacht und lächeln zum Abschied“. Sie hat keine Interesse für Reichtum und ist sogar bereit, ein Leben in Armut, Frieden und Liebe zu verbringen. Aber Madan muss sein Haus reparieren und muss sich um seine alte Mutter sorgen. Er geht auf diese gefährliche Reise, wird auf dem Rückweg krank und wird von seinen Händlerfreunden im Stich gelassen. Dennoch hat er Glück und wird von einem guten Tibeter gepflegt. Muna kann die lange Zeit der Trennung nicht aushalten und ist traurig und verzweifelt. Sie sieht viele schlechte Omen. Ein böser Verehrer von Muna schickt eine Nachricht von Madans Tod zu ihr. Muna stirbt an gebrochenem Herzen. Viele Jahre später kehrt Madan zurück und findet seine Geliebte schon längst tot und verschwunden und seine Mutter liegt auf dem Sterbebett. Er kann den Schmerz und das Leiden nicht verkraften und stirbt auch.

Madan verabschiedet sich um nach Tibet zu gehen:

(Muna): „Geh nicht, mein Leben, und lass mich hier allein,
Im Wald meines Herzens hast du ein unlöschbares Feuer der Sehnsucht entfacht,
Ein unstillbares Feuer der Sehnsucht hast du entfacht,
Du Stern meiner Augen, oh mein Geliebter! Wenn dieses Licht erlischt,
Was soll ich sagen? Ich würde nichts sagen, auch wenn du mich vergiftet hättest,
Geliebter, mich vergiftet!
Die Worte aus meinem Herzen, bleiben mir im Hals stecken, in meinem Hals bleiben sie stecken
Mein Herz schlägt fünfzig mal in einer Sekunde,
Wenn meine Brust aufgerissen (würde) und dir gezeigt würde,
Würden deine Gedanken vielleicht zurückkehren wenn das Bild entschleiert würde,
Ein Stück meines Herzens fällt in meine Tränen, diese Tränen sprechen nicht,
Meine tiefsten Gefühle bleiben in meinem Herzen, meine Brust zeigt sie nicht,
Meine Liebe, Tränen können nicht sprechen!“

(Madan): „Oh meine Muna, sprich nicht so, blühend im Mondlicht,
Schnell werde ich zurückkehren, warum vergisst du?
In Lhasa werde ich zwanzig Tage verweilen, und zwanzig Tage unterwegs sein,
Der Cakheva Vogel kommt an einem Tag morgens angeflogen,
Geliebte, der große Tag, an dem wir uns treffen.
Eines Mannes Entschluss ist Handeln oder Sterben,
Geliebte, leg mir mit deinen Tränen kein Hindernis auf den Weg.
Lächle, und zeige deine Zähne, die wie Kerne des Granatapfels sind,
Wenn du lächelst, kann ich Indra16 auf seinem Thron herausfordern,
Geliebte, lächele beim Abschied !“

(Muna): „Oh, mein Rama, oh mein Krishna, es wird Dschungel und Berge geben,
Die Tibeter auf den Felsen sind wie wilde Tiere, die Kühe anfallen!
Ein Lächeln beim Abschied ist wie die Sonne in der Nacht, wie kann ich dies verstehen?
Wenn du gehen musst, lass mich nicht allein, lass mich dich begleiten,
Laß mich dein Gesicht und deinen Körper beschützen mit meiner Liebe.“

(Madan): „Sprich nicht so, verstehe Muna, deine Füße sind wie Blumen,
Die Wälder sind dornig und steil, wie kann ich dich mitnehmen?
Oh Nagas Tochter, komm nicht in die Berge !
Meine einzige Mutter, das glückverheißende Licht, vergiss sie nicht zu pflegen,
Lass eine Mutter, die sechzig Winter überstanden hat, nicht alleine,
Sie möge sitzen und auf dein mondgleiches Gesicht schauen.“

(Muna): „Ihre grau gewordenen Haare, ihre müde gewordener Körper, die Liebe deiner Mutter
Haben deine Füße nicht zurückgehalten, die Schatten der Liebe konnten dich nicht aufhalten,
Mein Herr, die Liebe deiner Mutter.
In ein wildes Land gehen, gekleidet wie ein Händler, Gefahren ausgesetzt,
Was soll gewonnen werden, Herr ! Du verlässt sie und gehst nach Lhasa?
Taschen voller Gold,( sind) Hände voller Schmutz, was bringt so ein Reichtum?
Besser ist es Brennnessel und Salat zu essen mit zufriedenem Herzen,
Oh meine Geliebte, mit einem reichen Herzen !“

Madan): „Geliebte, deine Worte treffen mich ins Herz,
Was willst du machen, Muna ? Dieser Atem stockt vor jenem sündhaften Reichtum,
Mit ein paar Schluck Milch würde ich Mutters Kehle erfrischen,
Ihre Wünsche nach eine Herberge und einem Brunnen erfüllen,
Diese Arme würde ich schmücken mit Reifen aus schwerem Gold,
Das Fundament des Hauses, baufällig durch Schulden, würde ich verstärken.
Diese Hoffnung entstand in meinem Herzen und verschwand wieder
Ich habe meine Füße jetzt gehoben, meine Wünsche gehoben,
Gott ist oben, mein Herz ist meine Begleiter, Ich werde diesen Fluss überqueren,
Falls ein Gefühl mir gesellen sollte, obwohl ich mich richtig verhalte, werde ich auf dem Weg sterben,
Außerhalb von dieser Erde, im Himmel, Liebste, werden wir uns wieder treffen.

(Muna): „Oh mein Krishna, sprich nicht und binde nicht den Knoten im Herzen noch enger,
In meinem Geist male ich ein Bild von deinem kostbaren Gesicht,
Wende dich nicht ab, Liebster ! Verstecke nicht die Tränen, die deine Augen füllen,
Die Mädchen von Lhasa, mit blitzenden Augen, aus Gold geschmiedet,
Ihre Sprache wie die einer Nachtigall, mit Rosen die auf ihren Wangen blühen,
Lass sie alle spielen, lass sie alle tanzen auf den Bergen und Wiesen,
Falls du mich vergisst, diese Tränen werden dich beunruhigen, sage ich ängstlich.
Mach dich auf die Reise, lass dunkel werden in Haus und Stadt,
Ich habe keine Kraft mehr zu weinen, ich habe Tränen vergossen vor dir“.
In der Dunkelheit brennen die Erinnerungen wenn es blitzt,
Ein Regen von kühlen Tränen wird vor den Augen der Sorgenvollen fallen.

Muna allein

Muna allein, wunderschön, blühend wie eine Lotusblume,
Sich offenbart wie der Mond, der die silberne Wolkenkante berührt,
Wenn sie ihre zarten Lippen öffnete zum Lächeln, regnete es Perlen,
Sie welkte wie eine Blume in Winter (Pus), und Tränen flossen aus ihren Augen
Sie trocknete ihren große Augen und kümmerte sich um ihre Schwiegermutter,
Wenn sie schlief in ihrem Kämmerlein war ihre Kissen durchnässt von tausend Sorgen.
Lang (waren) die Tage, lang die Nächte, traurig die Tage,
Ob dunkle Nächte oder helle, der Mond selbst war traurig,
Muna am Fenster, ein glitzernder Stern, ihre Liebster ist in Lhasa,
Tränen in ihren Augen, Munas Herz war zerfressen von Sorge,
Es war als ob ein dünner Nieselschauer in ihrer Stimme wäre.
Ein Lied stieg empor in der Stille, als ob die Sehnsucht selbst gesprochen hätte.
Ihre Träume waren kostbar für ihre Augen, Tausende von Sorgen erreichten sie nicht,
Wenn sie ihn im Traum sah, fiel es ihr schwer aufzustehen.
Sie weinte, da sie noch lebte, auch im Traum,
Tag für Tag welkt sie dahin wie eine Rose.
Sie versteckt ihre Trauer in ihrem Herzen, verbirgt sie in Schweigsamkeit:
Ein Vogel versteckt mit seinen Federn den Pfeil, der sein Herz durchbohrt,
Das Ende des Tages wird hell im Schein einer Lampe.
Die Schönheit einer welkenden Blumen wächst, wenn der Herbst nahe ist.
Die dunkeln Ränder der Wolken sind silbern, und der Mond ist noch heller,
Sein Gesicht beim Abschiednehmen leuchtet auf in ihrem Herzen, das Licht der Traurigkeit,
Tränen von Tautropfen fallen auf Blumen, Regenwasser vom Himmel,
Sternenlicht, Tränen der Nacht, tropfen auf die Erde.
Die süßen Wurzeln der schönen Rose werden zur Nahrung von Würmern
Eine Blume, die in der Stadt blüht, wird Opfer eines Bösen,
Die Hand eines Menschen füllt Schmutz in reines Wasser
Menschen säen Dornen in den Weg der Menschen.
Wunderschön, unsere Muna, sitzend an ihrem Fenster
Ein Stadtgauner, ein Taugenichts, sah sie, sie bewegte sich wie ein Nymphe,
Machte eine Lampe für die Göttin Bhavani.
Ihre runden Backen, ihre Ohrläppchen, ihre lockigen Haare,
Bei dieser plötzlichen Erscheinung stand er auf, verlor seinen Verstand,
Und ging weg, einmal hierhin, einmal dorthin.

Du siehst die Rose ist schön, Bruder berühre sie nicht!
Er sah sie mit Verlangen, er war verzaubert, werde kein Wilder!
Die Dinge der Schöpfung sind schöne Edelsteine für unsere Blicke,
Berühre und töte nicht die Blume, die Gottes Lächeln bekommen hat.

Madan ist auf dem Heimweg an Cholera erkrankt

„Lasst mich nicht im Wald allein, meine Freunde,
Zur sündigen Beute von Krähen und Geiern,
Meine alte Mutter daheim! Wird die alte Frau sterben?
Meine Muna, gleich wie der Mond, wird sie zu Tode geschlagen?
Oh meine Freunde, O meine Brüder, ich werde jetzt nicht sterben,
Ich werde den Tod bekämpfen, ich werde aufstehen, ich will nicht im Wald sterben,
Mein Hals ist trocken, meine Brust brennt, trocknet meine Tränen,
Noch habe ich Atem, noch habe ich Hoffnung, versteht meinen Schmerz,
Meine alte Mutter wird euch segnen, rettet mich!
Es ist Pflicht eines Menschen, die Tränen des anderen zu wischen.“

Was willst du tun, Bruder? Unser Heim ist weit entfernt von diesem Dschungelweg,
Warten wir bis du geheilt bist von dieser Cholera, wird uns Unglück bringen,
In diesem Wald gibt es keine Heilkräuter,
Verweile hier und denke an Gott,
Alle müssen gehen, ihre Haus und Heim verlassen,
Wenn du in deiner letzten Stunde an Gott denkst, wirst du sicher gerettet werden.“

Gestützt auf seine Arme, erhob sich Madan, (er sah), seine Freunde waren gegangen,
Im Westen hatten sich die Augen des Tages blutrot gefärbt,
Eine fahle Dämmerung kam über den Wald, sogar der Wind schlief ein,
Die Vögel hörten auf zu singen, die Kälte befiel ihn
Ein trauriger Zustand, erbarmungslos die Berge und Wälder,
Die Sterne, die ganze Welt erschien grausam, grausame Trostlosigkeit.
Er drehte sich langsam auf dem Gras, dann seufzte er,
Ein Bild von Zuhause kam in sein Gedächtnis, klarer als je zuvor,
‚Oh meine Mutter, denk an mich!
Oh meine Muna, denk an mich!
Gott, Gott, in diesem Wald bist Du meine einziger Freund,
(Von) oben siehst du die steinharten Herzen der Menschen.

Wo wird jene Feuerflamme sein? Hat der Wald Feuer gefangen?
Ist ein Waldbrand entstanden, um diesen sterbenden Menschen noch mehr zu zerstören?
Ein Man näherte sich, er trug eine Fackel,
War es ein Räuber, war es ein Geist oder eine böser Waldgeist?

Sein Atem hing an einem Faden, sollte er hoffen, sollte er fürchten?
Schließlich erreicht die Fackel sein Gesicht.
Ein Tibeter schaute, wer da weinte, er sah den kranken Mann,
Er sagt liebevoll, “Deine Freunde sind treulos,
Mein Haus ist in der Nähe, nur ein wenig (kos) entfernt, du wirst nicht sterben,
Ich werde dich tragen, ist dir das recht? Mir macht es nichts aus.“

Der arme Madan berührte die Füße des Tibeters and sagte,
„Oh mein Herr, mein tibetischer Bruder! Was für wunderbare Worte!
Daheim ist meine alte Mutter, ihre Haare sind grau,
Daheim ist meine Frau, die wie eine Lampe leuchtet,
Rette mich jetzt und Gott wird zuschauen,
Wer den Menschen hilft, wird bestimmt in den Himmel kommen.
Ich, aus der Kaste der Krieger, berühre deine Füße, ich tue es nicht widerwillig,
Ein Mensch ist ein Mensch durch die Größe seines Herzens, nicht durch seine Kaste“.

Der Tibeter trug ihn zu seinem Haus und legte ihn auf ein Tuch aus Wolle,
Er gab ihm ein paar Schluck Wasser und verwöhnte ihn liebevoll,
Er suchte und brachte eine Heilkraut, zerdrückte es und gab ihm zu trinken,
Mit Yakmilch machte er ihn wieder stark.

Madan verabschiedet sich von dem Tibeter

Madan dreht sich um und schaut nach dem Hof der Tibeter:
„Was für schöne Kinder, was für schöne junge Tiere, so im Spiel vertieft!“
Nachdem er zugeschaut hatte, wandte Madan sich dem Tibeter zu und
Seine Lippen offenbarten verborgene Wünsche seines Herzens:
„Grün sind die Hügel, die Blumen blühen in den Wäldern,
In meinem Herz denke ich an mein Heim in der Ferne, lieber Bruder.
Die Knospen müssen aufgebrochen sein, zart und duftend
Der Pflaumenbaum muss sich des Frühlings erfreuen,
Ein zartes Grün wird in den Wäldern erwacht sein!

Das kleine Haus in jenem Land, es strahlt in meiner Erinnerung
Meine Tränen sind der Tribut für jene Erinnerung
Meine Mutter, Mond der Berge, muss sich an mich erinnern,
Ich verweile weit entfernt an diesem Waldesrand, bringe Tränen in jenes Haus.
Du hast ewige Verdienste erworben, ich kann (es dir) nicht zurückzahlen,
Du hast mir das Geschenk des Lebens gegeben, ich kann (es dir) nicht zurückzahlen,
Ich stehe immer in deiner Schuld, kann es dir nicht zurückzahlen.
Zwei schmutzige Taschen mit Gold habe ich im Wald vergraben,
Eine ist für dich, eine ist für mich, gerecht verteilt für deinen Verdienst,
Nimm es, verabschiede mich, ich gehe nach Hause,
Während ich weitergehe, erinnere ich mich immer an Deine Barmherzigkeit.“

Der Tibeter sagt, “Was kann ich mit reinem Gold anfangen?
Gold wächst nicht, wenn du es pflanzt, oder? Was kann ich mit Gold machen?
Kann ich es pflanzen und essen durch deine Liebenswürdigkeit?
Meine Kinder, Söhne und Töchter, sind verlassen worden von ihrer Mutter,
Was nützt Gold, Vermögen, wenn das Schicksal sie uns weggenommen hat?
Diese Kinder können nicht Gold essen, sie tragen keinen Schmuck,
Meine Gattin ist im Himmel, die Wolken sind ihr einziger Schmuck.“
Der Tibeter sagt: „Diese Gelegenheit zu bekommen, Verdienste zu sammeln, war eine Chance“
Es war ein Glück, die Tugend der Hilfsbereitschaft zu üben.
Für meine Wohltat nehme ich nichts, behalte mich in Erinnerung, während du gehst.
Ich pflüge selbst, ich ernähre mich selbst, nichts wird mir geschenkt.
Was würdest du mir geben? Was werde ich nehmen? Ich bettle nicht.
Denk an meine Name (Changbas) während du gehst, erzähle über mich daheim,
Schicke den Segen der alten Frau für diese Kinder.“
Weinend brach er vom Waldrand auf, unwissend und ungebildet
In jenem Tibeter erinnerte er sich der Quelle des guten Herzens,
Weinend ging Madan in Richtung Heimat.

Madans Mutter stirbt

Madans Mutter, ihre Haare weiß, liegt im Bett,
Mond der Berge, wartend in Traurigkeit auf ihre letzten Tag.
Die Lampe dieses Hauses, das Öl verbraucht, sich verzehrend,
Flackerndes Licht, die Dunkelheit drohte zu kommen.
Sie sieht das Gesicht ihres Sohnes, und ruft (nach) Gott
Für ihren Sohn, ihres Herzens Herz, (ruft) sie nach Gott.
Eine Brise vom Fenster streicht über ihre weißen Haare und geht vorüber
Haucht Mutters Herz in Richtung Lhasa.
Keine Tränen in ihren Augen, erfüllt mit Frieden
Der Glanz des Endes kommt um die Abenddämmerung zu erhellen,
Die treibende Kraft ihres Lebens, ihr Garant gegen den Tod: Ihr Sohn ist weit weg,
Sein Gesicht zu sehen bevor sie stirbt, ist ihr Herzenswunsch,
Heiß von Fieber, ihr schmale Hand brennt mit Sehnsucht,
Sie hält liebevoll die Hand ihrer weinenden Schwiegertochter,
Tätschelt ihre weiche Hand und sagt, “O meine Schwiegertochter,
Jetzt ist die Zeit gekommen, ich muss diese Welt verlassen17,
Warum Weinen, weine nicht Schwiegertochter !

Alle müssen diesen Weg nehmen, mein Kind, der Reiche und der Fakir
Erde vermischt sich mit Erde an den Ufern des Leidens,
Erdulde dies, sei nicht gefangen in der Schlinge des Schmerzes,
Sei Fromm, denn Hingebung erbringt Erleuchtung auf dem letzten Weg!
Ich habe die Blumengärten der Erde blühen und verwelken gesehen,
In Traurigkeit, liebe Schwiegertochter, habe ich Gott erkannt !
Die Samen, die auf der Erde gesät werden, tragen Früchte im Himmel,
Was ich gegeben habe, nehme ich mit mir, was geht mit?
Der Reichtum, den du in einem Traum erwirbst, bleibet in deinen Händen, wenn du erwachst.
Ich nehme Abschied von allen, Madan ist nicht gekommen.
„Meine Augen haben ihn heute nicht gesehen, bevor sie sich schlossen,
Ich bin gestorben,“ sag dies zu Madan.
Die alte Frau, die ihrem Ende entgegen ging sagte: „Weine nicht zu sehr“

Madan kehrt Heim

Munas Worte waren wie Geschosse, erinnert sich Madan,
Wie süß hat sie mich getadelt, „ Was kannst du machen mit Reichtum?“
Ihre nektargleichen Worte trafen mich bis ins Mark und durchbohrten mein Herz,
„Besser ist es mit glücklichem Herzen Salat und Brennnessel zu verzehren“,
Jetzt hat Gott dies ermöglicht mit Reichtum
Ein Vorhang hat mich zugedeckt, ein Vorhang hat mir meinen Weg versperrt, oh Schwester!
Ich werde nicht weinen, ich werde morgen gehen und sie treffen,
Lüfte den Vorhang, O Schicksal (Gott), und du wirst schnell gesegnet.

Madan fiel auf die Erde und wurde schlapp vor Traurigkeit.
Der Arzt18 kam, hielt ihn am Handgelenk und fühlte seinen Puls:
Was ist Medizin für einen der krank ist am Herzen?
Probleme mit Husten und Schleim, sagt der Arzt,
Ohren, die Worte von anderen nicht hören, hören diese
Madan sagt ihm „Lies die Bücher über die Heilkunde, blättere die Susruta durch‚
Wo ist die Qual des Herzens, erzähle es mir?
Die Krankheit, die meinen Körper quält, ist, am Leben zu sein: Vertreibe diese Krankheit!
Die Erinnerung macht mich unruhig, ich habe Durst nach dem Anblick von Muna (Darshan)19
Meine Augen starren in die Weite, ich werde verbrannt durch eine Brise,
Mein Gehirn dreht sich wie ein Wirbelwind, mein Herz schmerzt mich,
All meine Symptome sind in meinem Herzen, versteckt von der Außenwelt.“

Der Arzt schaute, der Arzt verstand, jener Arzt kam nie (mehr).
Was auch das Herzleiden sein mochte, ein Mittel dagegen wurde nicht gefunden.
Tag für Tag wurde es mit dem armen Madan noch schlimmer,
Er war bei Bewusstsein wie zuvor, seine Sprache war klar.
„Oh, meine Schwester, führe diesen Haushalt,
Erfülle Mutters Wunsch nach eine Herberge20 und einem Brunnen,
Muna kümmert sich um unsere einsame Mutter, hoch oben;
Möge keine andere einsame Mutter vernachlässigt werden,
Mach den Knoten21 an meinem Kleid auf, gib mir einen Schluck Gangeswasser22,
Es gibt keine Medikamente, meine Schwester, für ein gebrochenes23 Herz!“
Die Wolken rissen auf, der Mond lächelte schön am Himmel,
Begleitet von den Sternen, schaute der Mond durch das Fenster,
Die Wolken zogen sich zusammen, Madan schlief für immer,
Am nächsten Tag war es wieder klar, und die Sonne ging auf.

Habt ihr den Staub aus eueren Augen gewischt, Bruder und Schwester?
Wir müssen diese Welt verstehen und nicht Feiglinge sein.
Schauen wir der Welt ins Gesicht, reißen wir uns zusammen,
Lasst unsere Flügel zum Himmel schwingen, während wir auf dieser Erde leben.
Wenn das Leben nur Essen und Trinken wäre, Herr, was wäre das Leben?
Wenn der Mensch keine Hoffnung hätte auf ein Leben danach, Herr, was wäre der Mensch?
Solange wir auf der Erde leben, schauen wir zum Himmel,
Klage nicht, wenn du nach unten auf der Erde schaust!
Der Geist ist die Lampe, der Körper das Opfer, und der Himmel die Belohnung24.
Unsere Taten25 sind unsere Gottesverehrung, so sagt Laxmiprasad26, der Dichter.

Devkota, Lakshmiprasad:Muna Madan Sajha Prakashan, Kathmandu e-mail:sajhap@wlink.com.np

******

Satis Shroff ist Journalist und Schriftsteller. Schule in Darjeelings North Point, Studium der Zoologie und Botanik an der Tribhuvan Universität (Kathmandu). Danach Tätigkeit als Lehrer der Naturwissenschaften an einer englischen Schule in Kathmandu und später Features Editor (The Rising Nepal). Verfasser der „Sprachkunde Nepals“ (Horlemann Verlag) und Veröffentlichungen in: The Christian Science Monitor, epd-Entwicklungspolitik, Nepal Information (Köln), Himal Asia, The Rising Nepal, The Independent, Nelles „Nepal“, Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) und schreibt regelmäßif für The American ChronicleSyndikate von 21 US Zeitungen. Er studierte Creative Writing (bei Prof. Bruce Dobler, Universität Pittsburgh), und Writers Bureau (UK). Er ist Dozent in Basel (Schweiz), Akademie für medizinische Berüfe(Uniklinik Freiburg) und Lehrbeauftragter für Creative Writing an der Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg. Preisträger des DAAD-Preis.
* * *

The Colour of Your eyes (Satis Shroff)

Blue is the colour of the mountain,
Blue is the colour of t sky,
Blue is the colour of our planet,
And blue is the colour of your eyes.

Blue,
You have so many names:
Blau, bleu, caerulus,
Neelo, niebes, mavi,
Sininen, sienie,
azzuro
azul
a-oj.

Blue is the colour
Of your balanced character:
Unshakeable and constant,
Peace-loving and distanced,
Where there’s conflict,
You shy away.

Blue is the colour
Of your responsibility,
Your astonishment
And helpfulness,
Towards your fellow beings.

Blue is the colour of flexibility,
Tender feelings and faithfulness.
Perhaps that’s why
I love you.

Blue is not alone light,
It carries a bit of darkness
With it.
The colour of your eyes
Have an unspoken effect on me.
I feel an ambivalence
When you look at me.

Ultramarine blue is deep,
The endlessness of the mind.
Your cool blue eyes are distant,
Like an open ocean.
Stimulus and silence,
Annäherung,
Vermeidung.
Sometimes,
I understand you,
At other times,
I don’t.
Am I day dreaming?

Glossary:
Blau: German
Bleu: French
Caerulus:Latin
Neelo: Nepali
Niebes:Polish
Mavi: Turkish
Sininen: Finnish
sienie:Russian
azzuro: Italian
azul: Spanish,Portugese
a-oj: Japanese
Annäherung: to draw close to
Vermeidung: shun, avoid

* * *
© 2009 satisshroff

Wolfgang Graf: A Freiburger Feingeist (Satis Shroff)
Wolfgang Graf was born in Freiburg-Zähringen and did his schooling at the Kepler Gymnasium. Later he studied Biology and Chemistry at the Freiburger University because he thought then that it would be good to be a teacher in a school. But he didn’t teach and worked instead in the quality control department of a factory lab, which produced cigarettes in Freiburg.

He said that science and technology always interested him, a child he looked at what his big sister, who had her own photo-lab and experimented with photo development and used her microscope. Later at school he wrote a paper about the human nervous system as his Abitur dessertation. But that wasn’t all.

“There was something boiling within me that had to come out. It had to be the arts. During his school days he painted a lot, wrote poems, and even a theatre manuscript, which was printed in the school-mag, but which was never staged,” said Wolfgang.

Wolfgang describes himself as a late post-World War II child and he lived with his parents and two sisters in one room at Grandma’s flat in Zähringen, in which there were three rooms for eight persons. Grandpa was semi-paralysed since thirty years.

“My father was 16 when he had to join the Wehrmacht as a soldier but he wasn’t involved in the real fighting. He shot his thumb through an accident. As children we took it as something serious and Dad enjoyed it as a heroic deed to be wounded during the war. He put on a laconical smile and said, “It was more a case of collerateral damage. Dad died last December. Mom lives in Freiburg and is 87 years old.”

“How’s she doing?” I asked him.
He replied, ‘She’s still going strong. She loves watching TV and reading women’s and TV mags and is fond of the Bild Zeitung because of the big headlines.’

I recall an old Freiburger medical professor who was also an avid Bild reader, Germany’s leading Yellow Press Zeitung. During one of our conversations in the crowded S-Ban on our way to Freiburg’s main railway station we’d started talking about the ‘Entartete Kunst’ during the Nazi regime. So I asked him a question about it.

Wolfgang replied, “Germans have a big history but just before the World War II, the Nazis introduced their own version of what art and culture should be. Faschism brought not only war and misery to Europe but also destroyed modern art and culture. In Italy and France the people sing a lot but in Germany there’s no singing culture anymore.”

‘What’s the reason?’ I asked him.
He said, “The Nazis sang too much, al the time and we Germans have now have a disturbed relationship to old German songs.”

In this context I’d like to mention that Alois F. who’s a prominent member of the Zähringia, a local old men’s singing choir, asked me to join them. But Thomas my neighbour from Cologne told me that the old boys’ choir didn’t want new English songs. They didn’t want any innovative ideas. Just their old songs, and this didn’t appeal to the younger generation of Germans who prefer:hip-hop, Eminem, 50 Cents, Tokyo Hotel and gospel songs. When you go to the local church you see only old people and mothers with toddlers. The youth are conspicuous through their absence.

“What about the olde German Liedergut, the treasury of songs?” I asked Wolfgang.

“German culture is rich in songs and they used to sing it a lot before the World war II.” He went on to say, “Even Hitler wanted to be an artist but he was refused admission in Austria. The Art Academy in Vienna refused Hitler the unknown artist twice. If they’d taken him, there would have been no World War II.”

The work in the lab didn’t interest him either and he switched to a dancing career in 1978.

Wolfgang said with a laugh, “I had a girl-friend at that time who was a dancer. Actually he wanted to be an actor and play in the German theatre. She told me: ’Come along, it’ll do you good.’ I complied and then began my life-long love affair with dancing. In those days there was an Alternative Movement, wherein you cold do anything if you wanted to.”

Contemporary dancing (Zeitgenössischer Tanz) was an unknown form in those days, but there was a growing scene for those who were interested. In 1980 he founded a school for New Dance, Theatre and Bodywork with some friends, which exists even till today, and had made Freiburg, besides Berlin, one of the important centres for new dance forms. There was a breakaway from the traditional dance movements and the gender roles were questioned and changed, everyday-movements were brought on the stage and the barriers to the theatre were eliminated. The motto of the school became: “Every movement can be danced” and it produced new professional dancers till today.

‘We were freelance dancers and we opened our own school and performed in festivals in Freiburg (1979-80). The Hippie-Flower Power Culture was long over and a lot of people wanted to try out something new things, new ideas and there was a Häuserkampfbewegung, in which empty houses were boarded by young people, the police came, there was a struggle ensued, the young people were carried away, only to reappear the next day.’

During his students days he lived with six friends in a provincial nest, an old farm with a gardening complex. It was a time when they thought everything was possible. If someone had an idea they got together and made it work. There were alternative schools, bakeries, car-garages and a lot of other things. They forced their projects without state-subventions, that is with all the advantages and disadvantages. But today, according to him, the people try to find an existing niche, instead of doing something themselves.

To give impulses, produce and work with others together, that’s what made Wolfgang decide to work in the end as a Kulturbeauftragter (culture-manager) in Basle (Switzerland). Wolfgang was a dancer before he became an organisator of cultural events, and travelled as a dancer, choreograph through Europe and worked as a dance-teacher. He remembers working in “The Detective from China” Dance Butter Tokyo, where he spent two months, an Internatonal Ensemble mit 17 dancers from Japan Switzerland, Finnland und Germany and the director was Anzu Furukawa. In Tokyo, Nagano he danced the “Last Toast in Japan”a solo-performance, then came Dornbirn, in Dresden, Cologne “The Diamond as big as the Ritz” Dance Butter Tokyo, a two month stay in Japana, he starred in the International Ensemble comprising 12 dancers and Anzu Furukawa was again the director. Then he danced in “Tonight in The Moon” a duo-dance with Anzu Furukawa, Idar-Oberstein/ Freiburg “Duo” Neuer Tanz und Neue Musik – Improvisations with the Saxophonist Christina Fuchs, Cologne “Alternating Currents” International Improvisationsensemble, Potsdam, Freiburg, Stuttgart (Sprache des Körpers, the language of the body.

Even though he was a lot of times in foreign countries, he always came to roost in Freiburg. Today he lives with his wife and son in Freiburg Zähringen, where he spent his childhood. Only once did he think of going to Paris and work there but he’d have been another dancer, and not someone who organises and runs events, and on the other hand he really didn’t feel at home in the world of performing arts.

“Perhaps I’m less of a Feingeist and a bit rustical to be a part of it,” he said with a grin.

That’s why he had to balance his life between strenuous dance-performances and organising events, especially when he turned forty. He decided to say farewell to the stage and devoted his time to culture-management. At first he organised different theatre projects in Freiburg, then as the chief of the Theater/Tanz workshop Kaserne in Basel and ultimately as a culture-manager of Riehen. In the meantime Wolfgang rides his bicycle, swims and does a bit of jogging. As one of the founders of Tanzfestival, he made a small come-back during the 25th Birthday of the dance festival. “I had to summon up a bit of courage, but then I was astonished,” he said with a smile. I hadn’t forgotten anything. I could really dance.”
As a parting question I asked him, “You’ve worked in Germany and in Switzerland. How do you find the Swiss?”
Wolfgang’s answer came like a bullet from a Bretta, “In Switzerland everything’s organised perfectly and one has to avoid making mistakes. We have more time and things go a bit slowly than in Germany. I think it’s the Calvinism behind it. This strict, evangelical form of Christianity in Switzerland makes everything function like a clockwork. The administration is strict but you don’t see this strictness outwards. Things are done in cooperation with others. The Swiss want superlatives and are not satisfied with moderate results.”

* * *
Winter Blues (Satis Shroff)

Winter blues,
Go away!
Season of short daylight,
Coughs and rheuma,
Wet, cold days.
Misty towns,
Snowbound Schwarzwald,
Season depression,
Winter blues.

This cold seasonal change
Influences your hormones.
The lack of sunlight,
Its warm and reassuring rays,
Reduces the endorphine
In your blood vessels.

Serotonin, which regulates
Our happy mental state,
Is sparingly there,
When we need it.
Daylight is the best cure,
For light seasonal depression.

You go for a walk,
Even when the weather
Is misty and wet.
You keep a balanced diet:
Fruits and vegetables,
To create good feelings,
And to avert colds.

But for those have
Endogenic depression?
Low appetite,
Weight loss,
Sleepless nights,
Increased melatonin,
Caused by a lack
Of sunshine,
Makes you tired:
Your activities are at a low.

If walks in the misty countryside
Or city parks don’t help,
You have antidepressiva
As a last resort.
Ach, winter blues

The Charms of Written English From the Diaspora (Satis Shroff)

Words and expressions change their meanings when a language leaves its native environment and the meanings change and are lost in translation, creating embarrasing, humorous situations. Speech is a cacophony of noises, rhythms and tunes, whereas the printed page is what it is. English is a global language spoken by almost 2000 million people. Daniel Defoe defined this hybrid language as a mixture of “Roman-Saxon-Danish-Norman English.”

Spoken English is one thing, but written English can be just as charming and amusing for the world is not full of academicians, and while travelling to other countries you do come across expressions that you might find baffling, amazing, ridiculous, funny, and sometimes they make no sense. They reflect the way other people use English in everyday situations during holidays, and especially in hotels.

When you visit Germany’s Black Forest you might chance to see a sign: “It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest Camping Site that people of different sex, for instance men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.”

You are inclined to think: are the Schwarzwälder so prude? Every Baggersee, which is the German term for a lake, has its FKK beach. It’s not the Black Forest I’ve known. One sees naturalists living and sun-bathing comfortably in their natural and simple surroundings, without anyone raising as much as an eye-brow. No one cares if it makes the rest of us ‘unnaturalists.’ Sex is a never-ending topic, which makes sexology for many people the most fascinating of all ‘-ologies.’ We love ice-cream in summer, we fall in love, make love, and the word remains a magical distributing word.

In an article I’d mentioned that my German grandma used to call 007 “Rogger Mooray” because she didn’t speak English. When F. Eugene Barber, CEO Las Vegas, heard that he said, ‘The Italians do that as well. When they come to America, they tend to add a vowel to each major word. I looked in an Italian dictionary many years ago—I now understanda whata they isa talkina abouta.”

He went on the say, ‘Some things come across okay. We say ‘He sleeps like a log’ and a German would say ‘Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier’ and that makes sense. ‘Brand new’ translates the same way and has the same identical meaning—brandneu!’

In a Zürich hotel (Switzerland) was a notice: ‘Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.”

A lovely idea on the many uses of a hotel lobby. They certainly aren’t prude out there in Switzerland, you might think.

If married people had extra-marital sexual relationships, the women invariably had lovers and the men had mistresses. Today both men and women have lovers.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant you could read: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.” Sounds rather depressing, doesn’t it? What the hotel-manager has done here is to put his best foot forward and make a literal translation of “sich nicht zu wünschen übrig lassen.”
A very elaborate way of saying that their wines are great.

In another menu at a Polish hotel in Warsaw you read: “Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.”

I’ll take the roasted duck let loose. Isn’t there bird-flu at the moment? But would you earnestly like to have beef rashers really beaten up, like they do it in the countryside? The poor creatures. You might have the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after you.

Oh, Paris is so lovely in springtime. Outside a Paris dress shop you read: “Dresses for street walking.”

Street walkers are women who belong to the oldest profession in the world. That is really walking on thin ice. Near the Moulin Rouge pavement? Oh, no. I’m sure you don’t want ‘dresses for street walking.’

Apropos dresses, you know the Colossus of Rhodes. At a Rhodes tailor-shop you could read the sign: “Order your summer suits. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.”

How ghastly! I thought Greece was the cradle of democracy, with freedom of movement and speech. Aren’t they in the European Union? Have to ring up Brussels.

Ah yes, Rome: the city of Romulus and Remus and the magnificent pieta and Michaelangelo sculptures of Leonardo da Vinci. In modern Rome, you could read at a laundry: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.”

We Germans call it FKK, Free Körper Kulture, that is, nude in the city of Rome with all those Paparazzis and Latin Lovers. To visitors from the USA it’s ‘sex in the city,’ I presume. What a thought under the blazing Italian sun, and what an exquisite translation from Italian into English. It just takes your breath away.

At a Czech tourist agency you could read: “Take one of our horse-driven city tours – we guarantee no miscarriages.”

You associate the word ‘miscarriage’ with bringing forth babies prematurely before they had a chance to even breathe. The guarantee was plainly for mishap that might occur along Prague’s Charles Bridge. What a healthy ride for grown ups. I’ll have to tell that to my friend Bruno Käshammer, who’s a gynacologist.

In a Swiss mountain inn one was confronted with: “Special day – no ice cream.” I can very well imagine it, with snow and icy peaks, snow-bound valleys and spurs in the Swiss countryside and apre-ski.

At a Copenhagen airline ticket office you were confronted with this message: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”

Oh-my-God! How do I get my bags back? This happens all the while, but to admit it officially in Denmark, that’s really honest. At least they don’t say whether the machine or the personnel were responsible for the mistake.

On the door of a Moscow hotel room was a message: “”If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

Otherwise, nyet? You are reminded of Ian Fleming’s protagonist: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. Thrice is enemy action. Russia doesn’t like tourists who come again and again like rubber balls and argue with: “Because it’s there. It’s so cheap when you have dollars to throw around. I love the KGB and Siberia’s Gulag.”

At a cocktail lounge in neighbouring Norway you can read: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”

Do children like cocktails? Some pregnant ladies must have taken one for the road and had to deliver in the bar. You can imagine what jolly names the babies must have had: Tequilla Nabokov, Vodka Vasilsky, Scotch McGregor.

In a Paris hotel elevator you could read: “Please leave your values at the front desk.” Can you leave your worth, principles and standards in the front desk of a hotel in Paris, the City of Love? Your ‘valuables’ was what the hotel management wanted to convey to its guests.

And in a hotel in Athens: “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am daily.”

Which leaves you wondering: what if one doesn’t?

Found in a Serbian hotel: “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.” By Jove! What a job. A wonderful translation from the serbo-croatian language, which obviously might create consternation, panic or shock waves among the young chamber-maids in Belgrade.

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel, on the other side of a Russian Orthodox monastery, you could read: “You are welcome to visit the cemetery where the famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.”

I see. Is that why there are hardly any intellectuals left?

Winter has been banished in the Alpine countries after the Fasnet carnival celebrations and in an Austrian hotel which catered to skiers was a note: “Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.”

Boots of ascension? Oh, you mean climbing boots? What a charming way to describe a pair of Bergstiefeln, Wanderschuhe or trekking shoes.

In a Belgrade hotel elevator hung a piece of paper neatly typed with the message: “To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.”

Americans first, please.

For the West, the Hungarians are East Bloc, for the East Bloc Hungry is more or less western. To the Hungarians they are a little bit of both. In a Budapest zoo there was a sign: “Please go not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.”

Hope he enjoys it, you might add. He must be on the Atkins-diet a long time.

In the office of a Roman doctor who had a medical degree from Perugia you could read: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”

‘Since when are women diseases?’ you might wonder. This physician must be a macho and chauvanist. Despite equal-pay legislation, women still earn less than men and are underrepresented in the professions and are engaged in office and welfare work. Germany is going with the times, and it is regarded as belittling a female when she’s described as a ‘Fräulein.’ The Fräuleinwunder is out. Every girl over eighteen is to be addressed as a ‘Frau’ in Germany. So don’t you ‘Fräulein’ the lady at the restaurant or at the October beer festival, if you want to pay the bill on your next visit to Germany. She’s a young lady, junge Dame, if you’re talking about her in the third person singular. The word ‘ladies’ is regarded by some as snobbish and genteel.

In Germany teenagers use the word ‘cool’ often. If it’s something they don’t like, they come up with: ‘Oh, how uncool!’

However, ‘cool’ in American jazz music means: retrained, relaxed or unemotional. If you are up-to-date, you’re cool and it has the same meaning as ‘laid-back.’

‘Dictionaries are among the noblest ventures of man the ordering animal, the only signposts we have in the great forest of words which we wander all our lives,’ said Gerald Long, BBC. If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant. If what said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. Like Shakespeare said: There’s much virtue in ‘if’.

If you said so, then I said so. If you didn’t, neither did I.

* * *

Cosmic Soul (Satis Shroff)

E=mc2
Your body is a mass,
When you decease,
It becomes a mess.
Putrification.

Your soul,
Which never had a beginning
And never has an end
Lives on as energy,
Travels with the speed of light,
To be one with the cosmos,
Leaving behind families,
Friends and relatives.
People and emotional experiences
Of this small transitory world.

Was it an illusion,
This worldly maya,
With its ethereal charms?
Did you live
Or were you already dead?

Unanswered questions of humanity,
As the soul leaves your body
And heads for the vast,
Unfathomable cosmos,
Like a blitz.
To transform into energy.

What came first?
The light?
The energy?
Or the mass?

UP WITH ECOLOGY (Satis Shroff)

Claudia, Raj, Evelyn and Nita had lunch together. They’d cooked Nepalese food comprising: chicken, potatoes, rice and chutney and ice-cream as dessert and sat watching some videos of Nita’s trip to Europe, when he suggested that they should go to the ecological exhibition (Ökoausstellung) at the Messplatz in Freiburg and was reputed to be the biggest of ist kind in Europe.

They took the tram and got off at the Messplatz and Nita was quite surprised to see a peaceful exhibition going on. There was no jostling and not much noise. There were alternative energy exhibist, esoteric music, tourist curios, temple statues from the Hindu and Buddhist pantheons priced at 100 euros each, and lots of biological food: müsli, fullcorn-bread and crepes, bio-drinks, and woollen textiles and so forth. Solar cars, watches, pumps and other energy-saving gadgets were also on display.

Freiburg could even boast of an ecological-station at the Seepark (west). The Freiburger called their city till 1996 the ‘Ökohauptstadt’, which means the ecological capital of Germany. This is a status awarded officially in Germany. Heidelberg is the Ökohauptstadt now.

Nita tried out wholesome ‘full-corn crepes’ and found herself making a grimace. She wasn’t a friend of fullcorn bread, though she’d always been fond of puris, chapatis and parathas made of ‘atta’ (full-corn flour) in Nepal and India. It was a matter of taste, nothing more. Either you liked something or not. The fresh apple-juice that went with it was delicious though.

After the exhibition, which to Nita seemed more like an esoteric exhibition than an ecologi­cal one, they were, as the Germans put it “fix und fertig” (exhausted), and decided to have a siesta and recharge their batteries.

Later they watched the European soccer championship in TV because Germany was apparently playing against Sweden, and Raj was an avid soccer-fan. The match was after dinner, which comprised: Thai scented-rice, Indonesian egg-cauce and masala curry with onions, garlic, ginger, tamarind and tomatoes.

Claudia took delight in cooking Nepalese and Asian food and had even taken courses in Asian cooking at the local Volkshochschule.

In Nepal a good many orthodox Hindu families have a brahmin or bahun as a cook, because a bahun has a high esteem in the Nepalese society for he can not only speak, read and write in Sanskrit which he has learnt in Benaras or Kasi (India) but can also function as a priest, is pure and unpolluted in comparison to other mortals, and is respected as a mediator between the humans and the Hindu Gods.

An orthodox Brahmin doesn’t even touch the food that has been handled or cooked by someone from the lower castes due to the impurity associated with the lower castes. Even though the socio-religious barriers are slowly disappearing in the urban areas of Nepal and because the Nepalese have started travelling to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Europe and America–such customs are still strictly adhered to in the Himalayan villages.

Neeata remembered that once they had a Tamang cook from the tea-gardens of Ilam, an all-round talent but he hadn’t mastered the Chettri’s usual command of the Nepalese language with ist complicated grammatical rules, derived from Sanskrit. In Nepali, like in Latin, you have to be careful about the tense and the honorific useage of words. For instance: he has come would sound ‘waha aunu bhayo’. The rice is cooked would be: bhat pakyo. But this sincere, well-meaning Tamang kitchen boy didn’t know the rules of Nepali grammar and turned up with: bhat paknu bhayo, which caused a great deal of laughter and was a family joke for years.

Bhat is a neuter word and, as such, it cannot be attributed with an honorific. He was bestowing honour upon the rice which was a howler. Contrary to most guidebooks on Nepal, even the Nepalese are glad when the guest comes punctually,because the dal-bhat-tarkari may get cold and a warmed up meal tastes different than a freshly cooked one. Most Nepalese don’t have a refrigerator. The guest can bring some sweets for the children but alcohol is taboo in the high caste Brahmin and Chettri families, even though a German guidebook suggests bringing a bottle of whiskey for the host primarily because it’s imported or from a duty-free shop.

When Nita read that, she thought of her dear aunty Deviji in Patan, who would be shocked if she produced a bottle of whiskey. Alcohol is associated with decadence in the purity-pollution conscious Nepalese world of the high caste Hindus. But on the other hand, there are other ethnic tribemen who pass under the rubric of the ‘matwali-jat’ (the caste-that-drinks) who might be delighted with a bottle of Scotch and it might create a good im­pression. After all Scotch is expensive for a Nepalese-pocket and is an imported item. Nevertheless, it is useful to find out whether the person is visiting prefers alcohol or regards it as an affront.

The Nepalese generally drink a lot of tea from Ilam (Eastern Nepal), which is just as good as the Darjeeling one because it grows on the Nepalese side of the same mountains just across the border. The Nepalese make tea by boiling the water first, then putting the tea leaves and letting them boil till a good, strong colour appears, after which they put sugar and milk. Another method of making tea in Katmandu is to boil the milk first, then putting the tea-leaves along with cardamom and then the sugar. It’s called: dudh-chiya (milk tea). The preparation is similar to the Milchkaffee.

Dr. Novel Kishore Rai, the Nepalese Ambassador to Germany, for instance prefers to drink smoked-tea made by the hands of his dear mother in Ilam. She has a few bushes of Thea sinensis which she calls ‘my plantation’ and is proud of her hand-made tea. In the Victorian days the tea leaves were plucked, weighed, rolled by hand and set out to wither in the sun. After the advent of industrialisation, the tea-leaves were rolled by maschinery and the withering was also done in factories.

Since he was a man of Rai origin, Nita had asked him to say something about his ethnicity and he said, ‘As you know, ‘Rai’ is only a cover term of more than 60 to 70 sub-clans and they do speak more than 50 different languages and not dialects. For example Chamling, Khaling, Thulang, Bantawa, Kulung and so on. Culturally they are not so different but linguistically one cannot expect so much of variation among the so-called ‘Rais’. Nepali is the only Lingua franca among them in their original settlement and now the younger generation is drifting towards Nepali because of so many socio-economical reasons. I am a Bantawa speaker, belonging to the Chamling sub-clan, but my children and my wife don’t speak Bantawa at all’.

His two teenage daughters spoke excellent German and were preparing for their German Abitur (‘A’ level exams).

Since Nita had grown up with shamanism in the form of traditional healers like: jhankris, bijuwas, amchis, and yebas, she had given him a shamanistic text in Thulung shaman vocabulary written by the anthropologist N. J. Allen, and he went on to say, ‘ As you know, shamanism is an old tradition in Nepal and the shamans are well-accepted faith-healers. They do many kinds of shamanistic rituals and use the language even though they don’t understand the exact meaning of the words in many instances. Some of the words and phrases they do repeat out of memory and practice without knowing the exact meaning. Moreover, they are controlled by the spirist they play on. They agree that whatever said or done is by the spirit but not by themselves. Science has not yet been able to prove the fact, what is behind it and how it operates.

Dr. Allen collected and viewed some of these shamanistic healing practices among the Thulungs of the Rai-group and he has written ‘Illness in Nepal’, which may attract the interest of medical students. I would say that this paper is more related to anthropology than western medical practice. As a Bantawa native speaker, I cannot understand the Thulung words he describes and some Nepali loan words we do understand though they are phonetically somehow different.

Nita recalled that a lot of Tibetans, who had fled from their homeland Tibet after it was annexed by Mao’s Red hordes, would pass through her small town and she was fascinated by their style of living because they’d spread out their ornamental ethnic tents outside the town and make a central fire and their mules, donkeys and yaks would graze in the green grass along the slopes and their dogs would bark and scurry around. The men had braided hair with moustaches and mongolian beards unlike the Sikhs with their thick mossy beards.

The Tibetans had a fire-place romantic about them. It was difficult to communicate with them because they spoke only Tibetan and we spoke only Nepali, English and a smattering of Hindi. Oh, how she wished she could have talked with the friendly Tibetan ladies who were all smiles, despite their tragic past. The post-fifties generation of Tibetan children who came as refugees to Nepal, Dharamsala (India) and Rikon (Switzerland) speak excellent Nepali, Hindi and Schwyzer Deutsch and also English and have integrated themselves in these respective countries.

The milky rice-beer is a very popular drink among the matwali-jat (The Caste That Drinks) in Eastern Nepal, in the vicinity of Katmandu and among the different ethnic folks. Every tribe has ist own brewing secret. The Sherpas, Thakalis and Tamang-hillfolk prefer the chaang, which is made of millet. During the cold months the Sherpas and Tibets drink tongba which is a hot, milky alcoholic drink sipped with the help of a bamboo pipe. .Momos, thukpa and sikuti (dried meat) go well with tongba after a long trek in the Himalayas. The highland Nepalese also prefer the tongba during marriage feasts.

The ubiquitous raksi, a high percentage alcohol, which goes under the clandestine name of gurkha-rum, is prepared from rice, millet and barley. Raksi is not served in a small schnaps-glass but in a 0,4 liter glass, the ones used to drink limonades in. Liquor is taboo in the case of orthodox Brahmins and Chettris. The high-caste Brahmins go even so far as not to eat meals which have the following ingredients: onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. Some Brahmins and Chettris might even refuse to eat with Europeans because of their ideas of pollution and food-taste. There might be a face-saving move: by eating only fruit with them.

On the other hand there are Nepalis who won’t sit down and share their food with others, because they’re only used to eating self-cooked food. Some Brahmins even go to extremes and wear a loin-cloth called the dhoti when eating a meal with rice. Even the eating-direction is important for some. In Nepal you must be careful not to eat facing the Himalayas to the north. The sight might be grandiose but it’s not regarded as auspicious. And don’t sit looking to the south either. Either east or west is the most auspicious way to sit while eating lunch or dinner in Nepal. The Nepalese eat facing to the south only while conduc­ting funeral ceremonies.

An eating-habit worth emulating from the Nepalese is the ban on speech during meals. Nepalese observe silence while eating. Nita noticed that speaking during meals was a normal thing to do in Europe. The topics were mostly about one’s diseases: kidney trouble, bowel problems, appendicitis, gall stones and how big they were, even about the prostata and pus-filled boils. Nita thought it was a nightmare and not a luncheon. But that’s the way people are. They had to tell others about their problems irrespective of the place and occassion.

She asked a Japanese lady named Shikibu Sawa, who’d come to Freiburg to learn German at the Goethe Institute and knew a common girl friend named Franziska Dold, whether they also spoke during meals in Japan and she said, ‘Oh, no. My father would hit me if I did’.

Before the Nepalese start eating, they purify themselves ritually by washing their hands and then sitting down on the floor near the kitchen and making an offering of the different food to their Gods, Goddesses and ancestors.

There’s no point in asking a Nepalese: “How do you say ‘cheers’ in Nepali?”

The urbanised Nepalese may say: “Cheers! Prost! Kampai! Nastrovije!” but the Nepalese from the village will tilt his head to the left and say, “Pyunu hos!”,which means ‘please drink!’

Since a good many Nepalese have gone abroad for further studies and have returned to work for the development of the country, they have organised themselves into alumni clubs and the German-returned club members hold an annual get-together through the courtesy of the Carl Duisburg Society, Goethe Institute and the German Embassy. On these occassions you get to hear Nepalese conversing in German with the most amazing dialects depending on whether they got their degrees from Bavaria, Baden-Württemburg or Hessen. The same phenomenon is to be observed among the England-returned and Russia-trained scholars.

The best way to get along with a Nepalese is to treat him or her as your equal and with respect, no matter how poor or rich he or she may be, because the Nepalese have an eloquent speech and care a lot about not losing face in front of strangers. Think about that when you meet a Nepalese and you’ve won a trusty and loyal friend for your lifetime. And never pat a Nepalese on his back or shoulders because that is where the god resides, and he might get offended and react with ‘deuta cha, chunu hudaina!’. Oh, please don’t touch me there, there’s a God on my shoulder.

To win a friend in these consume-oriented days of egoism, with the rat-race going on, people jostling each other with their elbows, can be enriching. To return to Nepal and meet old friends with whom you have shared your holiday-experience can be rewarding to some. To recognise and be recognised despite a long absence in the dizzy heights of the Himalayas, be it under the Lhotse and Nuptse or below the Annapurna and Machapuchha­re can do you good. Good, honest, sincere people who respect each other are welcome everywhere they go…

Claudia had once been to Bombay to attend her pen-friend Zinnat’s muslim marriage, and had often pumped Raj full with questions about life in India, Hindu customs, religion and especially about the many Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. She was perpetually interested in knowing which God was associated with which God­dess, and what their riding animals were.

Raj groaned, threw up his hands and said, “It’s like a never ending quiz on who’s who, with whom and on what, of the Buddhist and Hindu pantheon circuit”. Claudia, on the other hand, was determined to write down the entire list of Gods and Goddesses and had her chist always handy in the kitchen, below the cupboard with the hot spices.

“Isn’t Krishna with Parvati? And who’s Laxmi? What does Krishna ride on? A cow? But I thought that belonged to Shiva. Does Ganesh also have an animal he can ride on? What, a rat?” she’d say terrified.

“Well as long as they don’t ride on spiders. I’m scared of spiders. I know I have arach­nophobie”, she said.

“By the way, I know that Kumari is the Living Goddess in Katmandu but who is Ku­mar?”she asked.”And what does he ride on?”

“Kumar is the elephant-headed God Ganesh’s brother and he uses a peacock”, Nita replied.

It somehow reminded Nita of the fictive American journalist in “The Mountain Is Young” who stepped out of the aeroplane in Tribhuvan airport and asked , ‘Who’s Shiva? Who’s Vishnu?’ The fact is that most Nepalese bear the names of Gods and Goddesses of the hinduistic and buddhistic pantheon, and a teacher might be confronted with a class full of Gods and Goddesses,
Or a Nepalese bearing a God’s name might be arrested by the local police and you have a book or story title: Arresting God in Kathmandu.

Satis Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Associate Professor in Creative Writing, University of Iowa)

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,
Humility,
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,
Himalaya.
The Home of the Gods.

A WALK ALONG THE SOUTHERN VOSGES IN FRANCE (Satis Shroff)

Frankenthal-Missleheim is an excellent nature reserve in the South Vosges of France. You can go along the Col de la Schlucht, which is a gorge, via Trois-Fours, past Martinswald to Frankenthal and Holneck, where you can see the formation vegetables des cirques glacieres.

However, the first advice to wanderers and trekkers in the Southern Vosges is: don’t use a car, keep your dog on a leash, camping is strictly forbidden and don’t leave the paths. Mountain bikes, horse riding and cross country skiing allowed only on trails more than two metres wide. There were so many trees lying across the trails and you cannot imagine someone skiing along the Col de la Schlucht without bumping on horizontal tree trunks. Or you’d have to be a stunt skiier. And it is a long and intensive walk along the French countryside.

Let me introduce you Ms. Waldtraut Kapp, an elderly matron (nurse) from Freiburg with a penchant for flowers and herbs. It’s always good to refresh my knowledge of Botany with hers. She’s a self-taught botanist and knows a lot about gardening and botanical specimens from the Black Forest and the Vosges. She has inherited a wonderful house with exotic garden from a lady physician with whom she had worked in the past. Frau Kapp is an old fashioned, tradition-conscious lady, and even though she has only a training as a nurse, she has widened her horizon through reading books, travelling and talking with interesting people. Her knowledge of classical German literature would make a student envious, and yet she remains humble and interested in a lot of things.

Frau Kapp has been to Namibia and written a 2000 word article on the botanical pecularities of that country. It is August and there are blue gentian meadows everywhere in the Vosges. A gentian is called an ‘Enzian’ in German, made popular by the pale, blonde bard with goggles named Heino who makes his appearances during folk festivals, mostly in German TV. The meadows along the trails have Alpine anemones, pfeilchen, fever clover or to give it the Irish name: shamrock and rausch berries. It’s a rhapsody of orchids and blue and yellow daffodils which we call Narzissen in German.

As we walk towards the Martinswand you see some French locals doing rock-climbing. Then comes a moor at the Martinswand. A wand has nothing to do with fairies but is just a wall in the German language.

Along the gorge the scenery is beautiful at an elevation of 1139 metres. There are valleys winding between blue misty hills with the veil rising slowly, revealing the Vosges. We come across a clear blue lake with dark fir trees surrounding it like sentries. Now and again you come across waterfalls cascading into pools which are littered with rocks. A serene and majestic countryside. You discern the fresh smell of forest undergrowth, wet decaying leaves as you walk below the tall trees, and are rewarded in the clearing with a magnificent view of the Vosges and the grass is lime green. You notice at least four biotopes: the high moor as you walk, beech forests and rocky cliffs and crags.

There’s the Lac de Forlet some four kilometres from Soultzeren castle, where the traditional Munster cheese is still made. Munster is only nineteen kilometres from Colmar, which has houses like in the mountains with sturdy walls. You can see the farmers called Marcaire, from the word ‘to milk,’ still manufacturing the genuine Munster farmhouse cheese with their hands. The milk is left for a day and the tasty cream is skimmed off. Fresh milk is added to it and this mixture of old and new milk is heated to 35 degrees Centigrade in a big copper pot. Thereafter, it is removed from the heat and an enzyme is added to curdle the mixture. What remains is the ferment which is decanted into a wooden mould. It is left to solidify in the night. A month later you have relish the mature farmhouse cheese from the damp cellar.

The terrain has become slippery, narrow, stony and full of obstacles: trees lying across, small tunnels and rusty, fixed-iron-ladders. You picnic at 1pm in a French trench on the lee side of a hillock. During the World War II there was heavy bloody fighting in these very trenches. anemones and gentians grown now over the grave s of the fallen German and French soldiers. There’s an uncanny peace and serenity about the trenches as you munch your food. There are green grassy meadows here now with larks chirping incessantly where once the whining of bullets from rifles, shells from artillery and mortar made a killing field out of this lovely terrain. The cries of the birds are broken only by the thunder of the French Mirage-jets doing their sorties over the blue Vosges.

I know my father-in-law telling me that he was a POW in France on his way back from the devastating and traumatic experiences of Stalingrad and had nothing to eat. A kind French lady had cooked pancakes for him and other German stragglers on their way home to Freiburg. Since he didn’t have anything to put the pancakes in, he stuffed them in his army trousers. He speaks highly of the French people even to this day. A good deed in need is something you’ll never forget as long as you live.

You’ve been zig-zagging down the Col de la Schlucht which is a long journey along the scree strewn path. ‘Bon jour!’ say the other trekkers as they come up the steep gorge abreast of you. You do likewise: ‘Bon jour!’ with a tired smile, in case you’re not out of breath. As you trudge on you notice at least eight rock-climbers crawling like Spiderman on a cliff. You are rewarded with a splendid view of the beech and spruce forest till you reach Frankenthal at a height of 1030m from a height of 1330 m along a steep valley.

In a nearby café you relish coffee with rhubarb cake after the arduous journey. Nearby is an old stone house which is reminiscent of an old mill, where a French duo are making cheese. A small French girl with freckles like Astrid Lindgren’s Pipi Lngstockings, her brother and mother are laughing aloud. The girl has a hopelessly bent aluminium spoon in the hand, the king used during the post-World War days, as a side-product of the aviation industry. She shows it to you and shrugs her small shoulders lightly. You notice that it doesn’t take words to communicate something funny to someone: gestures alone suffice. The rhubarb cake is a bit hard at the base and its been fun eating cakes with spoons. In Germany you always get forks for cakes. Nevertheless, you notice that the Fench are very cultivated. Even in a countryside picnic, eating out in the fresh air, the French bring their own chairs, tables, table-cloths and appropriate cutlery.

We meet Mr. Winterhalter, a thick-set German in his late sixties, with a bandaged hand (carpal syndrom), a gardener with love for flowers and admiration for Frau Waldtraut. There seems to be love in the autumn of their or is it late summer? You’re amused for in Germany we say: you never know where love falls, meaning thereby that you literally ‘fall’ in love.

Mr. Winterhalter says: ‘I was in Russia from the age of 18 till 22 and was wounded four times. I was decorated with the German Iron Cross.’

An old warrior, you think.

He goes on to say with a feigned laugh, ‘I’d have rather done my gardening than go to the Front. But we were forced to enlist.’

Frau Waldtraut is planning to bring along pensioned tourists from Freiburg to the Vosges and is trying to plan the excursion. She times the route including where to make a picnic with her usual German thoroughness. We say adieu to her and Mr. Winterhalter as she spreads out map of the Vosges and begins to ponder over the route.

They bid you farewell and say in unison: ‘Aufwiedersehen!’

You’ve enjoyed the walk back and marched at a brisk pace thanks to the good trekking shoes and remember that it had been fun stepping on stones along the way at the same time taking in the beautiful countryside of the Vosges. You think a walk in the Nature is a wonderful gift that you have made to yourself. You feel tired but elated in the end.

If you’re visiting Feiburg (Germany), Basle (Switzerland) or Colmar (France) you ought to do a bit of wine-tasting at the local vintner’s in Requewihr or Eguisheim. If you prefer German wines then in Freiburg, Endingen, Ihringen to name a few. Eguisheim is known as the Cradle of Viticulture in Alsace. Even if you’re not an expert on wines you can learn and taste the different varieties of the choicest wines in the characteristic long-stemmed glass known as the ‘Alsatian tulip,’ and discover the truth in wine: in vino veritas.

* * *

MUSIC AND MUSE (Satis Shroff)

Pillows of silk, sheets of white satin
A world of lights and colours,
Of precious spices, exotic fruits
And music.
A world of joy and merrymaking
Behind the Rana palace curtains
In Kathmandu.

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:
‘How wonderful.’

Glossary:
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

* * *

Freiburg:
ETHNIC ROOTS ABROAD (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

Claudia, Maria, my sister Neeta and I had lunch together. We’d cooked Nepalese food comprising: chicken, potatoes, rice and chutney and ice-cream as dessert, and sat watching some videos of Neeta’s trip to Europe, when I suggested that we should go to the ecological exhibition (Ökoausstellung) at the Messplatz in Freiburg, reputed to be the biggest of its kind in Europe.

We took the Strassenbahn, as trams are called in Germany, and got off at the Messplatz. Neeta, who’s a teacher in a Nepali school, was on a visit to Germany, and was quite surprised to see a peaceful exhibition going on. There was no jostling, and not much noise. There were alternative energy exhibits, esoteric music, tourist curios, temple statues from the Hindu and Buddhist pantheons priced at 200 euros each, and lots of biological food: müsli, which some nasty people call Vogelfütter (bird-food), full-corn bread and crepes (a French invention), which can in no way compare to roti, chapatti or paratha from Nepal and the Indian subcontinent, bio-drinks, and woollen textiles and so forth. Solar cars, watches, pumps and other energy-saving gadgets were also on display.

Freiburg even boasts of an ecological-station at the Seepark (west). We, Freiburger, called our city till 1996 the ‘Ökohauptstadt’, which means the ecological capital of Germany. This is a status awarded officially in Germany. Till Heidelberg nabbed the title. Science City? Another German town grabbed it. Perhaps Solar City?

Neeta tried out wholesome ‘fullcorn-crepes’ and found herself making a grimace. She wasn’t a friend of full-corn bread, though she’d always been fond of puris, chapatis and parathas made of ‘atta’ (full-corn flour) in Nepal and India. It was a matter of taste, nothing more. Either you liked something or not. The fresh apple-juice that went with it was delicious though.

After the exhibition, which to Neeta seemed more like an esoteric exhibition than an ecologi­cal one, we were, as the Germans put it “fix und fertig” (exhausted), and decided to have a siesta and recharge our batteries.

Later we watched the European Championship soccer in TV because Germany was apparently playing against Sweden, and we were all avid soccer-fans. The match was after dinner, which comprised: Thai scented-rice, Indonesian egg-cauce and masala curry with onions, garlic, ginger, tamarind and tomatoes.

Claudia took delight in cooking Nepalese and Asian food and had even taken courses in Asian cooking at the local Volkshochschule, where an elderly Indian guy was teaching German women the finer aspects of using Ayurvedic spices in the potato-cum-masala chicken.

In Nepal a good many orthodox Hindu families have a brahmin or bahun as a cook, because a bahun has a high esteem in the Nepalese society for he can not only speak, read and write in Sanskrit which he has learnt in Benaras or Kasi (India) but can also function as a priest, is pure and unpolluted in comparison to other mortals, and is respected as a mediator between the humans and the Hindu Gods.

An orthodox brahmin doesn’t even touch the food that has been handled or cooked by someone from the lower castes due to the impurity associated with the lower castes. Even though the socio-religious barriers are slowly disappearing in the urban areas of Nepal and because the Nepalese have started travelling to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Europe and America–such customs are still strictly adhered to in the Himalayan villages.

Neeta recalled that we had a Tamang cook from the tea-gardens of Ilam, an all-round talent but he hadn’t mastered the Chettri’s usual command of the Nepalese language with its complicated grammatical rules, derived from Sanskrit. In Nepali, like in Latin in Europe, you have to be careful about the tense and the honorific usage of words. For instance: ‘He has come’ would sound ‘waha aunu bhayo.’ The rice is cooked would be: bhat pakyo. But this sincere, well-meaning Tamang kitchen boy didn’t know the rules of Nepali grammar and turned up with: bhat paknu bhayo, which caused a great deal of laughter and was a family joke for years.

Bhat is a neuter word and, as such, it cannot be attributed with an honorific. He was bestowing honour upon the rice which was a howler. Contrary to most guidebooks on Nepal, even the Nepalese are glad when the guest comes punctually, because the dal-bhat-tarkari may get cold and a warmed up meal tastes different than a freshly cooked one. Most Nepalese don’t have a refrigerator. The guest can bring some sweets for the children but alcohol is taboo in the high caste Brahmin and Chettri families, even though a German guidebook suggests bringing a bottle of whiskey for the host primarily because it’s imported or from a duty-free shop.

When Neeta read that, she thought of her dear aunty Deviji in Patan, who would be shocked if she produced a bottle of whiskey. Alcohol is associated with decadence in the purity-pollution conscious Nepalese world of the high caste Hindus. But on the other hand, there are other ethnic tribesmen who pass under the rubric of the ‘matwali-jat’ (the caste-that-drinks) who might be delighted with a bottle of Scotch and it might create a good im­pression. After all, Scotch is expensive for a Nepalese-pocket and is an imported item. Nevertheless, it is useful to find out whether the person is visiting prefers alcohol or regards it as an affront.

We Nepalese generally drink a lot of tea from Ilam (Eastern Nepal), which is just as good as the Darjeeling one, if not better, because it grows on the Nepalese side of the same mountains just across the border. We make tea by boiling the water first, then putting the tea leaves and letting them boil till a good, strong colour appears, after which we put sugar and milk. Another method of making tea in Kathmandu is to boil the milk first, then put the tea-leaves along with cardamom and then the sugar. It’s called: dudh-chiya (milk tea) and is served with ayurvedic spices. The preparation is similar to the Milchkaffee in Germany.

Dr. Novel Kishore Rai, the former Nepalese Ambassador to Germany and a good friend of mine, for instance prefers to drink smoked-tea made by the hands of his dear mother in Ilam. She has a few bushes of Thea sinensis which she calls ‘my plantation’ and is proud of her hand-made tea. In the Victorian days the tea leaves were plucked, weighed, rolled by hand and set out to wither in the sun. After the advent of industrialisation, the tea-leaves were rolled by machine and the withering was also done in factories.

Since he was a man of Rai origin, I had asked him to say something about his ethnicity and he said, ‘As you know, ‘Rai’ is only a cover term of more than 60 to 70 sub-clans and they do speak more than 50 different languages and not dialects. For example Chamling, Khaling, Thulang, Bantawa, Kulung and so on. Culturally they are not so different, but linguistically one cannot expect so much of variation among the so-called ‘Rais’. Nepali is the only Lingua franca among them in their original settlement and now the younger generation is drifting towards Nepali because of so many socio-economical reasons. I am a Bantawa speaker, belonging to the Chamling sub-clan, but my children and my wife don’t speak Bantawa at all.’ They spoke German, English, Nepali and sometimes Hindi, when we visited them at the Embassy in Bonn.

His two teenage daughters spoke excellent German and were preparing for their German Abitur (‘A’ level exams). They have both received their masters degrees from the University of Poona.

Since I’d grown up with shamanism in the form of traditional healers like: jhankris, bijuwas, amchis, and yebas, I had given him a shaman text in Thulung shaman vocabulary written by the anthropologist N. J. Allen, and he went on to say, ‘ As you know, shamanism is an old tradition in Nepal and the shamans are well-accepted faith-healers. They do many kinds of shaman rituals and use the language, even though they don’t understand the exact meaning of the words in many instances. Some of the words and phrases they do repeat out of memory, and practice without knowing the exact meaning. Moreover, they are controlled by the spirits they beckon during their rituals. They agree, that whatever said or done, is by the spirit but not by themselves. Science has not yet been able to prove what is behind it and how it operates.

Dr. Allen collected and viewed some of these shaman healing practices among the Thulungs of the Rai-group and he has written ‘Illness in Nepal’, which may attract the interest of medical students. I would say that this paper is more related to anthropology than western medical practice. As a Bantawa native speaker, I cannot understand the Thulung words he describes and some Nepali loan words we do understand, though they are phonetically somehow different.’

I recalled that a lot of Tibetans, who had fled from their homeland Tibet after it was annexed by Mao’s Red Army, would pass through our small town and I was fascinated by their style of living because they’d spread out their ornamental ethnic tents outside the town and make a central fire and their mules, donkeys and yaks would graze in the green grass along the slopes and their dogs would bark and scurry around. The men had braided hair with moustaches and Mongolian beards unlike the Sikhs with their thick mossy beards.

The Tibetans had a fire-place romantic about them. It was difficult to communicate with them because they spoke only Tibetan and we spoke only Nepali, English and a smattering of Hindi. Oh, how I wished I could have talked with the friendly Tibetan ladies who were all smiles, despite their tragic past. The post-fifties generation of Tibetan children who came as refugees to Nepal, Dharamsala (India) and Rikon (Switzerland) speak excellent Nepali, Hindi and Schwyzer Deutsch, and also English and have integrated themselves in these respective countries.

The milky rice-beer is a very popular drink among the matwali-jat (the-caste-that-drinks) in Eastern Nepal, in the vicinity of Kathmandu and among the different ethnic folks. Every tribe has its own brewing secret. The Sherpas, Thakalis and Tamang-hillfolk prefer the chaang, which is made of millet. During the cold months, the Sherpas and Tibetans drink tongba which is a hot, milky alcoholic drink sipped with the help of a bamboo pipe. Momos, thukpa and sukuti (dried meat) go well with tongba after a long trek in the Himalayas. The highland Nepalese also prefer the tongba during marriage feasts. During my days as a journalist in Kathmandu, we used to go after a hard day’s work to relax at Pala’s Place, where his wife and lovely daughter used to serve us with momos, gyathuk and the warm tongba drinks. We’d sit around in a circle with the Pala, a burly Tibetan guy, who has the head of the family and the restaurant owner. Most of the Nepalese who came upstairs to eat momos and drink Pala’s excellent tongba were His Majesty’s civil servants and from the corporations. As time went by, the people would get garrulous and start telling stories.

The ubiquitous raksi, a high percentage alcohol, which goes under the clandestine name of gurkha-rum, is prepared from rice, millet and barley. Raksi is not served in a small schnaps-glass but in a 0,4 liter glass. Liquor is taboo in the case of orthodox Brahmins and Chettris. The high-caste Brahmins go even so far as not to eat meals which have the following ingredients: onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. Some Brahmins and Chettris might even refuse to eat with Europeans because of their ideas of pollution and food-taste. There might be a face-saving move: by eating only fruit with them.

On the other hand, there are Nepalis who won’t sit down and share their food with others, because they’re only used to eating self-cooked food. Some Benaras-trained Brahmins even go to extremes and wear a loin-cloth called the dhoti when eating a meal with rice. Even the eating-direction is important for some. In Nepal you must be careful not to eat facing the Himalayas to the north. The sight might be grandiose but it’s not regarded as auspicious. And don’t sit looking to the south either. Either east or west is the most auspicious way to sit while eating lunch or dinner in Nepal. The Nepalese eat facing to the south only while conduc­ting funeral ceremonies.

An eating-habit worth emulating from the Nepalese is the ban on speech during meals. Nepalese observe silence while eating. I noticed that speaking during meals was a normal thing to do in Europe. According to the rules of etiquette, the only time the Europeans don’t speak is when their mouths are full of food. That’s why you hear German parents saying to their children, “Man spricht nicht bei vollem Mund.” The topics during the meals were mostly about one’s diseases: kidney trouble, bowel problems, appendicitis, gall stones and how big they were, even about the prostata-glands and pus-filled boils. I thought it was a nightmare, and not a luncheon. But that’s the way people are. They have to tell others about their problems irrespective of the place and occasion, despite the fact that such things are not encouraged in Knigge, the German book of etiquette.

Once I asked a Japanese lady named Shikibu Sawa, who’d come to Freiburg to learn German at the Goethe Institute and knew a common girl friend named Franziska Dold, whether they also spoke during meals in Japan and she said, ‘Oh, no. My father would hit me if I did.’

In Nepal, before we start eating, we purify ourselves ritually by washing our hands and then sitting down on the floor near the kitchen and making an offering of the different food to our Hindu, Buddhist or animist Gods, Goddesses, Rimpoches, Bodhisattvas, spirits and ancestors.

There’s no point in asking a Nepalese: “How do you say ‘cheers’ in Nepali?”

The urbanised Nepalese may say: “Cheers! Prost! Kampai! Nastrovije!” but the Nepalese from the village will tilt his head to the left and say,”Pyunu hos!”,which means ‘please drink!’

Since a good many Nepalese have gone abroad for further studies and have returned to work for the development of the country, they have organised themselves into alumni clubs and the German-returned club members hold an annual get-together through the courtesy of the Carl Duisburg Society, Goethe Institute and the German Embassy in Kathmandu. On these occasions you get to hear Nepalese conversing in German with the most amazing dialects, depending on whether they got their degrees from: Bavaria, Baden-Württemburg or Hessen. The same phenomenon is to be observed among the England-returned and Russia-trained scholars.

The best way to get along with a Nepalese is to treat him or her as your equal and with respect, no matter how poor or rich he or she may be, because we Nepalese have an eloquent speech and care a lot about not losing face in front of strangers. Think about that when you meet a Nepalese and you’ve won a trusty and loyal friend for your lifetime. And never pat a Nepalese on his back or shoulders, because that is where one’s personal God resides, and he or she might get offended and react with ‘deuta cha, chunu hudaina!’ Oh, please don’t touch me there, there’s my God on my shoulder.

To win a friend in these consume-oriented days of egoism, with the rat-race going on, people jostling each other with their elbows, can be enriching. To return to Nepal and meet old friends with whom you have shared your holiday-experience can be rewarding to some. To recognize and be recognized, despite a long absence in the dizzy heights of the Himalayas, be it under the Lhotse and Nuptse or below the Annapurna and Machapuchhare can do you good. Good, honest, sincere people who respect each other are welcome everywhere they go.

Claudia had once been to Bombay to attend her pen-friend Zinnat’s muslim marriage, and had often pumped me full with questions about life in India, Hindu customs, religion and especially about the many Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. She was perpetually interested in knowing which God was associated with which Goddess, and what their riding animals were.

I groaned, threw up my hands and said, “It’s like a never ending quiz on who’s who, with whom and on what, of the Buddhist and Hindu pantheon circuit.” Claudia, on the other hand, was determined to write down the entire list of Gods and Goddesses and had her list always handy in the kitchen, below the cupboard with the hot spices.

“Isn’t Krishna with Parvati? And who’s Laxmi? What does Krishna ride on? A cow? But I thought the holy cow belonged to Shiva. Does Ganesh also have an animal he can ride on? What, a rat?” she’d say terrified.

“Well as long as they don’t ride on spiders. I’m scared of spiders. You know, I have arach­nophobia,” she said.

“By the way, I know that Kumari is the Living Goddess in Kathmandu but who is Kumar?” she asked. And what does he ride on?”

“Kumar is the elephant-headed God Ganesh’s brother and he uses a peacock,” I replied.

All these questions somehow reminded me of the fictive American journalist in the novel “The Mountain Is Young” who stepped out of the aeroplane in Tribhuvan airport and asked , ‘Who’s Shiva? Who’s Vishnu?’ The fact is that most Nepalese bear the names of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu and Buddhist pantheon, and a teacher might be confronted with a class full of Gods and Goddesses, and there might be a God or Goddess serving you in your flight to Kathmandu and back. In Kathmandu the police even arrest a God.

How delightful your writing, and how generous your sharing of these wonderful worlds of learning and exquisite experience with us! If I may ask this favor, then please, if you ever write a book of your essays on life and travel, please let me know where it might be obtained. These articles are not only fascinating but most enjoyable. Thank you!
Julian Three, Gather.com commented

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Memoir: Oh, Kanchenjunga (Satis Shroff)

A splash of the crimson rays of the sun appeared on the tip of the 8598m Kanchenjunga Range. Then it turned into orange, and was gradually bathed in a yellowish tint, becoming extremely bright. You could discern the chirping of the Himalayan birds in the surrounding bushes and trees, amidst the clicking of cameras.

But my thoughts were elsewhere.

I was thinking about Kanchenjunga, my Hausberg as we are wont to call it in Germany, and the former memories of my school-days in the foothills of the Himalayas. These mountains had moulded and shaped me to overcome odds, like other thousands of other Gorkhalis, Nepalese, Lepchas, Bhutanese and Tibetans, from both sides of the Himalayas. I have watched the Kanchenjunga ever since I was a child in its different moods and seasonal changes. Cloud-watching over the Kanchenjunga in all their hues and formations was always a fascinating pastime whether from Ilam, Sikkim or Darjeeling’s Tiger Hill or even Sandakphu.

To the Sikkimese the Kanchenjunga has always been a sacred mountain, and on its feet are precious stones, salt, holy scriptures, healing plants and cereals. It is a thousand year belief and tradition that the Himalayas, the abode of the Gods, should not be sullied by the feet of mortals.

Ach Kanchenjunga, you have taught me to keep a stiff upper-lip in the face of adversity created by humans in this world and to light a candle, rather than to curse the darkness. To adapt, share and assimilate rather than go under when the going gets tough in foreign shores. The Himalayas have taught us to be resilient and to bear pain without complaining, to adapt to new environments and to search for solutions and keep our ideals high, and not to forget our rich culture, tradition and religious beliefs.

After a brisk drive from Darjeeling. through pine-forested areas and blue mountains, you are rewarded by a vision of the Kanchenjunga Massif in all its majesty. At Ghoom, which is the highest point along the Hill Cart road, we went to the 19th century Buddhist monastery, about 8km from Darjeeling. In the massive, pompous pagoda-like building with a yellow rooftop, was a shrine of the Maitree Buddha, with butter lamps and Buddhist scarves in gaudy scarlet, white and gold.

It’s was a feast for the eyes. Tibetan art in exile. You go through the rooms of the museum which has precious Buddhist literature, traditional Himalayan ritual masks and a numismatic collection in the centre of the room, with coins and currency from Tibet that were in circulation till 1959. A small friendly lama-apprentice posed for a photograph of the tourists. And another lama with jet-black hair, suddenly came up, behind a mask of a Tibetan demon with ferocious-looking teeth, and springs in front of us to get photographed for posterity.

A blue coloured Darjeeling Himalayan train built in 1881 by Sharp, Steward & Co, Glasgow, chugged along on its way to Kurseong (Khar-sang), another hill station along the route from Darjeeling to Siliguri in the plains of India. There were young Gorkhali boys from Ghoom, having a jolly time, jumping in and out of the running toy-train, with the conductor shouting at them and doing likewise, and trying to nab one of them. But the Ghoom boys were far better and faster than the ageing, panting train-conductor, whose tongue almost hanged out of his red face. It was a jolly tamasha indeed. A spectacle for the passengers amidst the breath-taking scenery in tea-country.

I thought about my friend Harka, who used to live in Ghoom, and who was one of those boys during my school-days. The last I heard of him was when he and his dear wife invited yours truly and a student friend named Tekendra Karki, now a physician in Katmandu, to have excellent Ilam tea with Soaltee Oberoi sandwiches. Tek and I were doing our BSc then at Tri Chandra college in Katmandu.

Along the side of the mini railway track, reminiscent of the Schwabian Eisenbahn from Biberach, were groups of vendors of Tibetan origin selling used clothes, trinkets, belts, bags and most other accessoirs that you find being sold along the Laden La road, leading to Chowrasta in Darjeeling.

A short drive to the Batasia loop, where the blue train makes a couple of loops during its descent to Darjeeling, and suddenly you see the clouds above the silvery massif, rising languidly in the morning.

I went with a school-friend to Dow Hill via Kurseong, past the TB sanatorium, in a World War II vintage jeep driven by a Gorkha named Norden Lama, who had blood-shot eyes and a whiff of raksi. There’s no ‘promillen’ control (alcohol-on-wheels) in Darjeeling, and in the cold winter and rainy monsoon months it isn’t unusual to find jeep and truck-drivers stopping to take a swig of raksi, one for the road, to keep themselves warm. I must admit, I did feel relieved when we reached our destination in one piece. I must mention that the Indian government has an Excise Duty troop who try to control and prohibit the production of illicite alcohol in the form of raksi, jadh and chaang.

“Ayo Apkari!” is the cry when the excise policemen appear in the towns and villages, and soon the illicite liquor is dumped into the gullies nearby. The policemen can smell the alcohol, but they can’t make arrests because the no raksi means no evidence at the court of the district magistrate, who is invariably a Bengali with names like Mukerjee, Bannerji, Chaudhary or Chatterjee. Not that I dislike Begalis but in Darjeeling it is a fact that the Bengalis are better educated that the local Gorkhalis, Lepchas and other ethnic groups. At school we had a wonderful grey-haired Bengali gentleman named Mr. Nandi who would invite us, joke with us and motivate us to recite Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali,’ which we all did. I still remember it as well as Wordsworth, Shelley, Yeats, Keats and Shakespeare’s sonnets.’ I remember Mr. Nandi as our tall, fatherly, benign, smiling intellectual teacher-friend, so unlike the usual Bengalis and the earnest Irish brothers. The Bengali families have always been proud of their literature, Tagore et al, and Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen’s films. “Amar sonar Bongal” has always been the hymn in their hearts. They were, and still are, proud of Subash Chandra Bose who fought for the Indian National Army, and who is still to be seen in gaudy posters in the not-too-illustrious company of Hitler, Germay’s Führer. But those were the days of the Raj and any resistance against the British rulers was welcome. Those were the days of Gandhi, Jinna and Nehru.

Driving along the left track of the autobahn at 150 km per hour is safe compared to all the curves that one has to negotiate along the Darjeeling trail on misty days. We were rewarded with excellent ethnic Rai-cuisine comprising dal-bhat-shikar cooked with coriander, cumin, salt, chillies, garlic, ginger and love. My school friend, who’s a Chettri, a high caste Hindu, known for the ritual purity and pollution thinking, had married a Rai lady, much to the chagrin of his parents, but unlike Amber Gurung’s sad song “Ma amber huh, timi dharti,” they were extremely happy and had come together after the principle: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Or as the people in the subcontinent say: “miya bibi raaji, to kya kareyga kaji.”

As is the custom among Gorkhalis, we ritually washed our hands, sat down cross-legged, put a little food symbolically for the Gods and Goddesses, and relished our meal without talking. Talking during meals is bad manners in the Land of the Gorkhas, Nepal and the diaspora where the Gorkhalis and Nepalese live.

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Creative Writing Critique: Chicken of India Unite! (Satis Shroff)

Book-review: Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger. Atlantic Books, London, 2008.
German version: ‘Der Weisse Tiger’ published by C.H. Beck, 2008.

Aravind Adiga was a correspondent for the newsmag Time and wrote articles for the Financial Times, the Independent and Sunday Times. He was born in Madras in 1974 and is a Mumbaiwallah. The protagonist of his first novel is Balram Halwai, (I’m a helluva Mumbai-halwa fan, you know) who tells his story in the first person singular. Halwa has a fantastic charisma and shows you how you can climb the Indian mainstream ladder as a philosopher and entrepreneur. An Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time (sic). Balram’s prerogative is to turn bad news into good news, and the White Tiger who’s scared of lizards slits the throat of his boss to reach attain his goal.

In the subcontinent, however, Aravind Adiga’s novel has received sceptical critique. Manjula Padmanabhan wrote in ‘Outlook’ that it lacks humour and die formidable Delhi-based Kushwant Singh 92, who used to write for the Illustrated Weekly of India and is regarded as the doyen of Indian English literature, found it good to read but endlessly depressing.

‘And what’s so depressing?’ you might ask. I found his style refreshing and I found it creative the way he introduced himself to Wen Jiabao. At the beginning of each capital he quotes from a part of his ‘wanted’ poster. The author writes about poverty, corruption, aggression and the brutal struggle for power in the Indian society. A society in which the middle class is reaching economically for the sky, in which Adiga’s biting and scathing criticism sounds out of place, when deshi Indians are dreaming of manned flights to the moon, outer space and mountains of nuclear arsenal against China or any other neighbouring states that might try to flex muscles against Hindustan.

India is sometimes like a Bollywood film, which the poverty-stricken masses enjoy watching, to forget their daily problems for two hours. The rich Indians want to give their gastrointestinal tract a rest and so they go to the cinema. They all identify themselves with the protagonists for these hundred and twenty minutes and are transported into another world with location shooting in Switzerland, Schwarzwald, Grand Canyon, the Egyptian Pyramids, sizzling London, fashionable New York and romantic Paris. After twelve songs, emotions taking a roller-coaster ride, the Indians stagger out of the stuffy, sweaty cinemas and are greeted by the blazing and scorching Indian sun, slums, streets spilling with haggard, emaciated humanity, pocket-thieves, real-life goondas, cheating businessmen, money-lenders, snake-girl-destitute-charmers, thugs in white collars and the big question: what shall I and my family eat tonight? Roti, kapada, makan, that is, bread, clothes and a posh house are like a dream to most Indians dwelling in the pavements of Mumbai, or for that matter in Delhi, Calcutta (Read Günter Grass’s Zunge Zeigen) and other Indian cities, where they burn rubbish for warmth.

The stomach groans with a sad melody in the loneliness and darkness of a metropolis like Mumbai, a city that never sleeps. As Adiga says, ‘an India of Light, and an India of darkness in which the black, polluted river Mother Ganga flows.’

Ach, munjo Mumbai! The terrible monsoon, the jam-packed city, Koliwada, Sion, Bandra, Marine Drive, Juhu Beach. I can visualise them all, like I was there. I spent almost every winter during the holidays visiting my uncles, aunts and cousins, the jet-set Shroffs of Bombay. I’m glad that there are people like Aravind Adiga, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai who speak for the millions of under-privileged, downtrodden people and give them a voice through literature. Aravind deserves the Man Booker Prize like no other, because the novel is extraordinary. It doesn’t have the intellectual poise of VS Naipaul or Rushdie’s masala language. It has it’s own Mumbai matter-of-fact speech, a melange of Oxford and NY. And what we get to hear when we take the crowded trains from the suburbs of this vast metropolis, with its mixture of Marathi, Gujerati, Sindhi and scores of other Indian languages is also what Balram is talking about.

Adiga was bold enough to present the Other India than what film moghuls and other so-called intellectuals would have us believe. Balram’s is a strong political voice and mirrors the Indian society which wants to present Bharat in superlatives: superpower, affluent society and mainstream culture, whereas in reality there’s tremendous darkness in the society of the subcontinent. Even though Adiga has lived a life of affluence, studied at Columbia and Oxford universities, he has raised his voice in his book against the nepotism, corruption, in-fighting between communal groups, between thr rich and the super-rich, a dynamic process in which the poor, dalits, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Children of God (untouchables), ‘scheduled’ castes and tribes have no outlet and are to this day mere pawns at the hands of the rich in Hindustan, as India was called before the Brits came to colonise the sub-continent. Balram, Adiga’s protagonist, shows how to assert oneself in the Indian society. Hope it won’t create monsters without character, integrity, ethos, and soulless humans, devoid of values and norms.

From what sources are the characters drawn? The story is in the form of a letter written by the protagonist to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and is drawn from India’s history as told by a school drop-out, chauffeur, entrepreneur, a self-made man with all his charms and flaws, a man who knows his own India, and who presents his views frankly and candidly, sometimes much like P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. The author’s attitude toward his characters is comical and satirical when it comes to realities of life for India’s poverty stricken underdogs, whether in the form of a rickshaw puller, tea-shop boy or the driver of a rich Indian businessman. His characters are alive and kicking, and it is a delight to go with Balram in this thrilling ride through India’s history, Bangalore, Old and New Delhi, Mumbai and its denizens. The major theme is how to get along in a sprawling country like India, and the author reveals his murderous plan brilliantly through a series of police descriptions of a man named Balram Halwai. The theme is a beaten path, traditional and familiar, for this is not the first book on Mumbai and Indian society. Other stalwarts like Kuldip Singh, Salman Rushdie, Amitabh Ghosh, VS Naipaul, Anita and Kiran Desai and a host of writers from the Raj have walked along this path, each penning their respective Zeitgeist. In this case, the theme is social, entertaining, escapist in nature, and the reader is like a voyeur in the scenarios created by Balaram. The climax is when the Chinese leader actually comes to Bangalore. So much for Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. Unlike Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss) Adiga says, “Based on my experience, Indian girls are the best. (Well second best. I tell you, Mr Jiaobao, it’s one of the most thrilling sights you can have as a man in Bangalore, to see the eyes of a pair of Nepali girls flashing out at you from the dark hood of an autorickshaw (sic). As to the inellectual qualities of the writing, I loved the simplicity and clarity that Adiga has chosen for his novel. He intersperses his text with a lot of dialogue with his characters and increases the readability score, and is dripping with satire and humour even while describing an earnest emotional matter like the cremation of Balram’s mother, whereby the humour is entirely British—with Indian undertones. The setting is cleverly constructed. In order to have pace and action in the story Adiga sends Balram to the streets of Banalore as a chauffeur, and suddenly you’re in the middle of conversations and narrations where a wily driver Balram tunes in. He’s learning, ever learning from the smart guys in the back seat, and in the end he’s the smartest guy in Bangalore, evoking an atmosphere of struggle for survival in the jungles of concrete in India.

* * *
WITHOUT WORDS (Satis Shroff)

We speak with each other
A wonderful feeling overcomes me
And I’m touched to the roots of my existence.
As though it’s a doubling of my existence.
It becomes a passion
To speak with each other.

Our lives are filled with togetherness:
With ourselves and our children.
I discover myself in you
And you in me.
Where one is at home
In the company of the other
And vice versa.

Where you can be the way you are,
Where I can be the way I am.
Our tolerance for each other is crucial.
There are moments when one forgets time.
We speak to each other without words.
It’s not sung,
It’s not instrumental chords.

Just our hearts understanding each other.
In tact with each other.
Our eyes speak volumes
And a nod is enough.

* * *

A CROSS-COUNTRY SKI TOUR (Satis Shroff)

It was a chilly Sunday morning in February when Stefan, his wife Barbara, and I, decided to do a bit of cross-country skiing in the Feldberg area, which happens to be the highest peak in Baden-Württemberg (south-west Germany).

We’d received a call 8am from Frau Heinz (Stefan’s mother) who had made a rendezvous near the kiosk in Feldberg. After a short drive from Freiburg up the Vale of Hell, past the Hirschsprung, where the stag in stone was visible, we were in the skiing area.

The Hirschsprung reminded me of the Chovar Gorge in the vicinity of Katmandu, where according to legend, Manjushri cut through a gorge to let out the water from Katmandu Valley, which was then a lake.

Here, there were definitely more alpine than cross-country skiiers. Stefan’s parents had decided to do a bit of trekking or ‘wandern’ as the Germans are wont to call it, and they’d also volunteered to take along their grand-daughter Amanda. After the usual ‘Ski Heil!’ and ‘Aufwiedersehen’ salutes, we went our ways.

We had to duck under the many lifts that seemed to travers the whole mountain, and there were alpine-skiers whizzing past you from every direction. I thought we had definitely chosen the wrong place to do cross-country.

However, after a short distance we left the fast-skiers behind and were rewarded with a sight of the Alps in all their magnificence from a snow-covered summit. It was one of the loveliest sights I’d ever seen since I was in Switzerland a year back. I’d gone to see the Rhone glacier and managed to enter the recesses of the glacier, because the clever Swiss had even cut a tunnel through the massive ice. When it comes to exploiting nature for the sake of tourism, the Swiss are indeed far ahead of the European crowd.

The Black Forest is wonderful in spring and autumn with pine trees, lush meadows, valleys, mountains and tarns. You notice the good up-keeping for which the forest officials are responsible, despite the scare that you hear now and then about a ‘dying Schwarzwald’, mostly due to the heavy emission of carbon monoxide and dioxide by the traffic that threatens to increase all the time. The Germans, as a nation, have become extremely conscious of pollution and are well ahead as far as countermeasures and protests are concerned.

The ‘Bürgerinitiative’ as local protests groups are called, were rather loud in the past in their attempt to prevent the construction of the autobahn B 31, which slices through Freiburg and its east-end Ebnet. More cars (despite catalysators) means bad air, and bad air means a fall in the quality of life in this Schwarzwald metropolis.

Freiburg was the ecological capital of Germany till 1996, and holds among others an annual international ecological film festival. It has introduced an ecological train-bus-tram ticket to get the commuters off their cars with a great degree of success. This idea already existed in Switzerland since many years, and it is catching on in other cities in Germany. The park-and-ride idea is another welcome contribution, whereby you park your car in the suburb of a city, and take the tram or bus into the city-centre.

It is indeed difficult to get most Germans to travel by alternative methods, because the car remains a status-object in Germany, unlike the Swiss who have privatised their railways during the First and Second World Wars and have developed it to profitable excellence. The Swiss don’t mind switching over to their trains, trams (fondly called ‘trämle’) and cable cars, but most Germans still behave as though not travelling by car would be beneath their dignity. I recall a Swabian lady near Rottweil, who told me in her loud voice, ‘If you live in this area and don’t possess a car, then you’re a Depp’ (something of an idiot). That also brings me to the tale of two young German ladies I know, who went through Europe’s longest Gottard-tunnel, with Eros Ramazotti’s Italian song and music blaring in their Golf Cabrio on their way to Italy, without bothering to use the hood, and came out with blue lips, and had to undergo medical treatment.

In Germany, the car is the pride of the family, and you still see the average German cleaning and polishing it on Saturdays and Sundays, with a dedication, tenderness and thoroughness that would be better reserved for other human spheres. The fear of the increasing Umweltverschmutzung, as environmental pollution is called in German, has made the Germans take to the sanfte-tourism (with insight) promoted by Jost Krippendorf et al, though there’s skepsis when millions of tourists (trekkers, alpinists and climbers) take to the mountains in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tirol and so forth. These invasions en masse throughout the years have had their effects in devastating the mountain countryside of Europe in general. The ski-tourism takes the bulk of the environ­mental destruction, and the catastrophic results have been evident only too often in the form of landslides, for entire areas are robbed of their vegetation especially trees. Albert­ville, the venue of the Winter Olympics, was another example of the rape of Nature in the name of sport and economy.

‘It’s wonderful here,’ said Barbara with a jump like a ski-acrobat, pointing with one of her ski-sticks to the distant clouds. She seemed to be eternally fascinated by clouds. I remembered the time we’d visited the Basle art exhibition and the three of us had taken turns in pointing out and describing landscape paintings. Her descriptions of the cloud formations had been so precise and poetic.

Despite the increasing pollution in the valleys, the air up at Feldberg was refreshing and exhilerating. The snowy landscape and the blue sky, with remarkably few clouds, was a marvellous sight, in comparison to the misty atmosphere in the city below. You could really breathe up here and not think about pseudo-krupp or other respiratory diseases. It seemed as though the world was intact here. I thought about the time we’d visited a Black Forest farmer’s family after dusk, and the fact that I’d seen myriads of flies on the Schwarzwälder bacons that hung from the ceiling of the Bauernhof at Munstertal. It was something unusual in Germany’s otherwise sterile and clean houses. At that moment I’d thought, it was just like in Nepal. It reminded me of a journey to a Tamang shaman’s thatched house and the dinner they’d eaten , seated on mats on the floor, as is the custom in Nepal, with their right hands, accompanied by scores of Musa domestica, as flies are called, flying sorties everywhere in the household, oblivious of the humans.

I was glad that I was in the company of two jolly, ecological-conscious and cosmo­politan Germans, which is saying quite a lot. The younger post-war generation of Germans are well-travelled, suave and chic and think about the consequences of air, water and soil pollution and also rightists, who have been getting more organised since the eighties and are getting louder, due to Germany’s liberal fundamental laws and complacent politicians.

Stefan has developed a liking for Nepal and its mountains, where he went on two treks: the Annapurna and Everest, and has ‘wonderful memories of his walks in the Nepalese countryside’ which he refreshens by arranging transparency-slide shows on the beauty, development and destruction of Nepal. Stefan is a tall blue-eyed, sensitive intellectual and shares Richard Chatwin’s love of travel and adventure, and would like to travel around the world, and write about it rather than work in Basel as a professional social worker me­diating in drug, criminal and family matters of his affluent, but otherwise weird clients.

Those who took part in the 1968 protests in Germany against the American war in Viet­nam are part of the establishment or responsible members of the Greens, Green Peace and the BUND, which is a pan-German ecological organisation.

It is encouraging that there are genuine protests against the Umweltverschmutzung (ecological pollution) in the European continent. The French, especially the people living in Alsace, are becoming increasingly aware of the ecological damage caused by the chemical and atomic industry, in comparison to their compatriots in other parts of France. Umweltverschmutzung and Waldsterben (dying forests) were unknown to most French people in the 80’s, and they even thought it was an idea imported from Germany, till the radioactive clouds of Chernobyl swept through Europe. Even then, the French departments made themselves rather conspicuous through their non-chalant official advice to the worried French public, eager to know about the effects of radioactivity on humans, animals and crops.

Due to Freiburg’s triangular location, the developments in the French and Swiss border-towns are quickly passed on, and the people of this triangle called the Regiodreieck, bounded by Alsace, Switzerland, the Black Forest, the Vosges and the Alps, show solidarity and take part in festivals, exhibitions, political and economic demonstrations and also joint-ventures.

Our ski-tour over, we went to our home and warmed ourselves with rum-tea, Black Forest torte and coffee.

Tiger Ecology in Nepal:
Catching ‘em Alive (Satis Shroff)

I met John Sidensticker, a tiger-ecologist from the National Zoological Park (Smithsonian Institute) in Katmandu. He was a tall, thin-lipped, well-built man with deep blue eyes and a matching ruffle of brown hair. John had a PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Management and was in Katmandu with his wife and a two year old daughter. He’d done a four month job at the Royal Chitwan Park when I met him. And there was also Kirtiman Tamang from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (Michigan State University).

The goal of the tiger study was to get a detailed ecological and behavioural information on the animal that had to be known if viable populations of tigers were to be maintained in the wild.There was no use in laying a ban on the tiger-hunts and calling that conservation.The tiger is a lone hunter and there’s still a lot to be known about about it,in the field of population dynamics,its special features,its social structure,its response to man and so forth.As to the distribution,the Nepalese tiger Panther tigris, is one of eight subspecies of tigers in the world.Panther tigris is found in Nepal,India,Bangladesh and Sikkim,Bhutan and West Burma.The other subspecies occur in northern Iran,Afghanistan,China,Siberia and in other parts of south-east Asia.

The tiger-density at the Chitwan Park,according to an estimate in 1974 was between 20 to 25.And the Karnali and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserves are said to have fair-sized tiger populations. The cause of the sharp decline in the seventies were: overhunting, poaching and poisoning of the tiger’s prey. The tiger basically needs vegetative cover in which to hide, a source of water and adequate animals to prey upon.

Sadly enough,man’s progressive strides have jeopardised the tiger’s haven of refuge by clearing forests for agriculture,townships and all the paraphernalia that does in the name of development.The gradual dwingling of Panthera tigris’s natural prey leaves it with no option but to go in for domestic animals,thereby bringing it in direct confrontation with a deadly,invincible,ingenuous and fast spreading animal called Homo sapiens.

The fieldwork of the ecologist duo began in the Park’s Sauraha area,confined to the north-east part. The Chitwan Park is noted for its thick vegetation and complexity,so a zoologist working with only a jotting pad and a pair of eyes would hardly get far trying to study the ecology of the tiger in the Nepalese jungle. It might be the other way around. The duo used radio-telemetry to gather quantitive data on the tiger and, for comparison, leopard movements and predative activities in of the Chitwan tiger. Radio-tracking consists in attaching a radio-transmitter collar around the neck of the tiger or leopard. But strapping the transmitter-collar around the jungle cat is quite a job, because the animal has to be captured first. This is done by shooting the tiger with tranquillizer darts (the drug then in use was: Parke Davis CI-744).

The exact term for this operation is “chemical restraint”,and it is the safest means available to “manhandle these overgrown and ferocious cats”.The technique used is either to dart free-ranging individuals or to box-trap them.John was telling me that the radio-telemetry and chemical restraint methods were very new in South Asia,in fact they were used for the first time in Chitwan.After an animal is immobalised it is weighed,measured and tagged with a transmitter.The tiger comes out of the drug slowly and there’s no danger,I was told.The poor fellow feels groggy and wobbles on its feet for quite sometime.The radio-tagged tigers and leopards return to both:baits and natural kills the same day they were darted,and they went about their home areas just as casually ,unmindful of the radio-collars.

From the radio-tagging it has been learnt that tigers and leopards use and reuse specific areas,and they shift from one area to another in keeping with factors like:seasonal changes,their reproductive status and forest-fires and grassland cutting by the local Nepalese.However,the main reason for change of habitat by the tigers tends to be due to prey species becoming scarce.

During the tourist season, which falls incidentally in winter,the tigers and leopards are highly active and move about day and night.However,as the season progresses and the mercury shoots up,the tiger tends to enjoy siestas in the unburned tall grass areas near a waterhole.They also enjoy the shade.

An analysis of the predatory habits of the tigers was made with the information collected from at least fifty natural kills and more than thirty baits killed by tigers and leopards.Most of the natural kills were located by tracking instrumented cats.These kills tell us about the movement of the tigers in relation to their kills,the time taken to finish the kills,and the distance covered and time between one kill and and another.John and Kirti regularly observed Panthera tigris both from elephant-back and per pedis.They made systematic observations from machans(Jägersitz)and line transects.All the data have come in handy in analysing how tigers utilise a particular area in relation to the structure of that area.

Like John was saying,”Only from this can we learn how environmental factors affect,for example,hunting,density of breeding adult tigers,reproductive success,immigration and emigration rates and so on”.This has to be known to determine the course management must take to maximise environmental conditions for the tiger.

In Nepal the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1974 has made hunting,killing or sale of tiger skins illegal,and it is illegal to kill a tiger in any part of the world.In the year 1986 alone 28,000 Bengal tiger skins were imported to West Germany according.Furs are status symbols in the western world especially among Royalty and the super rich. A leopard fur-coat costs DM 100,000.

According to a study on tourism carried out by World Bank adviser Michael Wells based on data collected in 1989, tourism has brought more disadvantages than advantages.The number of tourists visiting Nepal were 260,000 in 1989 and they left 44 million marks in the kingdom. A fourth of this sum came from the tourist’s purse from the fees collected while visiting a protected area. But the National Parks could make no profits. The money collected through Park entry fees was 1,6 million German marks, but at the same time the Parks had an expenditure of 1,7 million.

More than a third of this sum was spent by the Nepalese government to pay the Royal Gurkhas. They had the function to prevent the local Nepalese from felling trees for firewood, which are actually used for the benefit of the foreign visitors. The rounding up, transport and disposal of the garbage and the excrement left by the tourists also costs money. The World Bank expert suggests raising the entry-fees of the National Parks drastically. In his opinion this will serve as a deterrent to the great number of visitors, and they protect the landscape and provide higher income. But whether this will pay off is another story, and has yet to be seen. His trump is Bhutan, which demands from every tourist 200 US dollars (320DM) per day.

Nepal, which is a favourite destination among low budget rucksack tourists, doesn’t have such strict regulations till now, and no compulsory sums to be spent per day. The tourists spend an average of 32 dollars per day in Nepal.
—————————————————————————————————————

BUDDHISMUS IN NEPAL
Satis Shroff Dipl. Sozialarb.(FH), B.Sc.(Tribhuv. Uni), Creative Writing(UK)

Der Buddhismus war ursprünglich eine philosophische Reformbewegung, eine von vielen, die aus der Krise der vedisch-brahmanischen Religion im 6. Jahrhundert v. Chr. resultierten. Der historische Buddha wurde um 563 v. Chr. in Lumbini, im Süden des heutigen Nepal, nahe der Stadt Kapilavastu, als Prinz Siddhartha geboren. Nach seinem Familiennamen Shakya wurde er später auch Buddha Shakyamuni genannt.Die Mutter Maya war eine Prinzessin aus dem Geschlecht der Koliya von Devadaha. Ihre Schwester Mahapajapati übernahm die Pflege des Kindes, da Maya eine Woche nach der Geburt starb.

Im Mahayana Buddhismus tragen auch göttliche Wesen, die sich nie in menschlichen Leibern verkörpern, den Namen Buddha. Sie werden als Transzendente Buddhas bezeichnet, früher war der Ausdruck Dhyani-Buddhas üblich. Sie stellen die geistigen Mächte dar, die die Welt regieren, Vairocana in der Mitte, Aksobhya im Osten, Ratnasambhava im Süden, Amitabha im Westen, Amogasiddhi im Norden. In Nepal zieren die Bilder dieser fünf Buddhas den Türsturz jedes buddhistischen Hauses.

Im Alter von neunundzwanzig Jahren verließ der Buddha eines Nachts heimlich seine Familie und den elterlichen Fürstenhof und zog sieben Jahre als Wanderasket umher. Unter dem Bodhi-Baum (Pappelfeigenbaum) in Bodh Gaya erlangte er die Erleuchtung, die Einsicht in das Wesen des Daseins und seiner Überwindung. Später erhielt er zahlreiche Ehrentitel, vor allem Shakyamuni (der Weise der Shakyas), Jina (Sieger) und Tathagata (der Vollendete, wörtlich der ‚So-Gegangene‘.

Der Buddhismus sucht nach der letzten Ursache von Sünde und Leid und entdeckt, daß es kein Selbst oder Ich gibt. Der Buddha verkündete keine neue Religion, im Gegenteil, seine Lehre vertrat eine atheistische Weltauffassung.

Die Vorzeichen eines Lebensweges: Buddhas Lehre ist nichts mehr als die Vorzeichnung eines Lebensweges. Über andere Fragen wie Gott, Seele und die Welt. Auskunft zu geben, erklärte er für nutzlos. Seine Ansichten darüber lassen sich aber aus seiner Lehre erkennen. Sie fußt auf Samkhya-Gedanken. Der Buddha bekennt sich zu einem vollständigen Atheismus und Akosmismus, d.h. er leugnet jedes substantielle Sein, Gott, Seele und die Welt. Es gibt nur ein Werden und Vergehen ohne wirkliche Grundlage in einem anfang- und endlosen Kreislauf, dem Sansara.

Die Welt, der Gott und der Mensch sind eine Summe von physischen und psychischen Erscheinungen in ständigem Fluß, wobei die vorhergehende die nachfolgende bestimmt. Jedes Wesen gleicht einer Flamme, die scheinbar eine Substanz, in Wirklichkeit aber ein stetig voranschreitender Verbrennungsprozeß ist. In der Summe der Erscheinungen (Körperlichkeit, Empfindungen, Vorstellungen, Gestaltungen, Bewußtsein) die ein Mensch nennt, bewirkt das Karma des abgeschlossenen Lebens die Art des neuen Daseins, das ein tierisches, menschliches oder göttliches sein kann. Diese ruhelose Aufeinanderfolge ist das große Leid der Welt, das Aufhören des Kreislaufs ist die Ruhe des Nirvana27.

Die “vier edlen Wahrheiten”: Den Weg zum Nirvana will der Buddha, so wie er ihn selbst gegangen ist, auch seinen Jüngern lehren. Es ist ein Mittelweg zwischen dem Weg der weltlichen Menschen und dem Weg der sich kasteienden Asketen. So verkündet er, zum ersten Male in der Benares-Predigt, die “vier edlen Wahrheiten28”. Es sind die folgenden:
1) Die Wahrheit vom Leid: Alles Dasein ist Leiden29.
2) Die Wahrheit von der Entstehung des Leidens: Aus der Unwissenheit als letztem Grund entstehen die Lebensäußerungen, als verhängnisvollste der Durst, d.h. das Haften am Dasein.
3) Die Wahrheit von der Aufhebung des Leidens: Das Aufhören der Lebensäußerungen, namentlich des Durstes, führt zum Ziel.
4) Die Wahrheit vom Weg der Aufhebung des Leidens: Auf dem edlen achtteiligen Pfad führt der Weg zur Erlösung: Rechte Einsicht, rechtes Wollen, rechtes Wort, rechte Tat, rechtes Leben, rechtes Streben, rechtes Gedenken, rechtes Sichversenken.

Unter den Lebensregeln finden sich Anleitungen zum sittlichen Handeln, die auf dem Wege voranhelfen; so wird vor allem das Wohlwollen empfohlen. Da aber auch Freude und Liebe und alle guten Handlungen Karma hinterlassen und zu einem neuen Dasein zwingen, sind sie auf den höheren Stufen zu meiden. Der Weise verharrt in völlig seelischer Untätigkeit. Der Weg Buddhas bedeutet ein Selbsterlösung ohne göttliche Hilfe, ohne selbstlose Menschenliebe, ohne Tugendübung. Nur die wenigen, die sich zur völligen Weltflucht entschließen, können diesen Weg gehen.

Der ursprüngliche Buddhismus ist deshalb wesentlich ein Mönchsreligion. Genaue Vorschriften, die zum Teil von Buddha herrühen mögen, regeln das Leben der Mönche und der Mönchsgemeinde (Sanga).

Die Heilswege und ihr Ziel: Der Buddhismus wurde durch innere Spaltungen geschwächt. Mit dem ersten nachchristlichen Jahrhundert begann in Nordindien eine Umwandlung, wodurch sich der Buddhismus klar in zwei Religionen spaltet: das Hinayana (Kleine Fahrzeug), das nur die wenigen Mönche zum Nirvana zu führen verspricht, und das Mahayana (Große Fahrzeug), das allen Menschen einen leichten Weg der Erlösung zeigen will. Die Entwicklung vollzieht sich unter dem Einfluß der alten Volksreligion und des Bhaktigedankens. Das Mahayana nähert sich der brahmanischen Religion und erleichterte die Aufsaugung durch dieselbe. Ein wichtiger Weg des Mahayana ist aber der des Vertrauens auf den Buddha und seine Lehre. Das Vertrauen (shraddha) auf den Buddha und seine Lehre fordert die ganze Person. So kann es von Tugenden und Selbstzucht begleitet, zur Erlösung führen. Das Erlösungsziel ist das Nirvana. Es wird in der Buddhaschaft erreicht, in der Erkenntnis des Illusionscharakters (Maya) des Sansara.

Im Mahayana ist es das Einswerden mit dem Absoluten, das einen andauernden Glückszustand mit sich bringt. Dies ist das Jenseits, und dieses Jenseits ist das Ziel aller derer, die im großen Fahrzeug zur Erlösung streben. Zum Jenseits des Nirvana führen alle “Fahrzeuge” im Buddhismus, zu einer Erlösung, über deren Beschaffenheit kein Wort möglich ist. Mit der Erlösung aber hat die Lehre ihr Ende.

Der freiwillige Verzicht auf Erlösung (die Bodhisattvas): In der neuen religiösen Richtung tritt Buddha als milder Gott vor uns. Man erhebt ihn zu einem einzigartigen göttlichen Wesen, dem Urbuddha, von dem ungezählte Ausstrahlungen erfolgen. Das sind die Dhyanabuddhas in der oberen Welt, sodann die Bodhisattvas, die Vollendeten, die auf das Nirvana verzichten, um den Menschen zu helfen, endlich die irdischen Buddhas, deren letzter Sakyamuni war. Der Grund hiervon ist das “Große Mitleid”, das alle Bodhisattvas für die Wesen empfinden und das sie zur Tätigkeit für die Wesen treibt. Sie versuchen, die Leiden der Sansara auf sich zu ziehen, und umgekehrt ist es ihnen möglich, das durch ihre Verdienste gesammelte Karma auf andere zu übertragen. So sind die Bodhisattvas deutlicher Ausdruck für die Möglichkeit der Fremderlösung.

Der große Dhyanabuddha im gegenwärtigen Zeitalter ist Amitabha, der im Paradies des Westens thronende allbarmherzige Erlösergott, der alle, die ihn anrufen, selig macht. Der mächtige Bodhisattva der Gegenwart ist Avalokiteshvara30, der in seiner Hilfsbereitschaft auch vor Sünde und Höllenqual nicht zurückschreckt. Dazu finden die hinduistischen Götter Aufnahme in den Buddhismus.

Erzwungene Kastensystem in Nepal: Unter König Jayastathi Malla (1382-1395) wurden die Buddhisten unter Berufung auf die von Sankaracharya durchgeführten Maßnahmen, in ein rigoroses, neu geschaffenes Kastensystem eingegliedert. Außerdem wurde die Verwaltung und Jurisdiktion gestrafft. Man unterstellte, daß die unverheirateten Mönche ursprünglich aus der Bahun- (Brahmanen) oder Chettri- (Kshatriya) Kaste gekommen waren und nachdem sie gezwungen worden waren zur Heirat und Fortzupflanzung, sollten sie diesen Kasten weiter angehören. Zuunterst in dem hinduistischen Kastengefüge in Nepal stehen die unberührbaren Kasten, unter anderem die Kami (Schmiede), die Sarki (Schuster) und die Damai, die zwei Beschäftigungen ausüben: Sie sind Schneider und Musikanten. Die frühe Geschichte Nepals läßt Stämme, aber keine rigorose Kastenordnung erkennen.

Die Erlösung als das Ende des Strebens: Im Buddhismus redet man nicht nur von Wissen, das die Kausalität des Entstehens hebt sondern auch vom Nichtwissen, das die Bildung karmagestaltender Triebkräfte nach sich zieht. Die Triebkräfte sind die Urheber allen Strebens; da sie vom Nichtwissen freigesetzt wurden, bilden sie ein Bewußtsein aus, das sich dann im Einzelnen niederläßt. So kommt eine Individualität zustande, die nicht mehr ein leeres Bewußtsein trägt, sondern ein durch Eindrücke, Empfindungen, Bedürfnisse, Gier bzw. Streben angefülltes Organ.

Als Folge des Strebens tritt mit dem Lebenshang das karmische werden. Es realisiert sich als Wiedergeburt, und damit als Wiedereintritt in den Sansara, ins Dasein, ins Leid31. Das Streben ist das, was den Sansara bewegt und die Erlösung verhindert. Das Erlösungsstreben findet man auch im Hinduismus; hier wird das Streben selbst als Ursache des Leides erkannt. Das Streben nach guten Taten bewirkt eine bessere Wiedergeburt, nicht aber die Erlösung. Und Streben muß sich immer auf die Illusion des Ich richten, also auf das Nichtwissen. Läßt man diese Illusion als Wissender fallen, so erscheint die gesamte Welt des Samsara als eine Illusion. Im Durchschauen dieser Illusion (Maya) besteht die Erlösung, die in der völligen Aufgabe allen Strebens und der vollkommenen Ruhe des Geistes erreicht wird. Mit dem Verlöschen allen Strebens ist das Samsara überwunden.

Der Tod im Buddhismus: In den Himalayaregionen Nepals, wo die Bevölkerung überwiegend buddhistisch sind, findet man Manisteine und Chortens. Die Toten werden begraben und Chortens (Pukangs) als Denkmäler errichtet. Wenn ein Lama stirbt, dann muß ein anderer Lama das Feuerholz bei der Verbrennungszeremonie anzünden. Im Gegensatz zu dem hinduistischen Todesritual darf der Sohn des Verstorbenen die Todesreste seiner Eltern nicht anzünden.

Einer der wichtigsten Texte des tibetischen Buddhismus ist das Totenbuch “Bardo Thodol”32. Trotz seines Namens und der Tatsache, daß dieses Buch am Bett der Sterbenden von den Mönchen vorgelesen wird, ist es ein Buch des Lebens. Bardo heißt “Zwischenraum” (‘bar’ bedeutet zwischen, und ‘do’ heißt Insel ). Es ist nicht nur das Intervall des nachtodlichen Schwebezustandes, sondern vielmehr der Schwebezustand in der Situation des Lebens. Die Bardo-Erfahrung ist Teil unserer grundlegenden psychologischen Struktur. Dieses Buch erhält nicht nur eine Botschaft für jene, die bald sterben oder bereits gestorben sind, sondern auch eine Botschaft für jene, die bereits geboren sind.

Geburt und Tod widerfahren jedermann andauernd, genau in diesem Augenblick. Es besteht ein Konflikt zwischen dem Körper und dem Bewußtsein, und es gibt die dauernde Erfahrung von Tod und Geburt. Die Buddhisten in Nepal betrachten den Tod nicht als besonders unangenehme oder schwierige Situation. Der sterbende Mensch hat Anteil an seiner eigenen Festigkeit. Wenn man gefaßt ist, dann wird die Person im Bardo-Zustand automatisch davon angezogen. Mit anderen Worten: man sollte den sterbenden Menschen eine sehr geistes-gegenwärtige Situation präsentieren. Man sollte auf ihn eingehen, sich füreinander gegenseitig öffnen und das Zusammentreffen von zwei Seelen entwickeln.

Die Botschaft des Totenbuches ist folgende: Die Verwirrungen des Lebens werden durch die dualistische Sicht des Menschen verursacht. Indem er das Bardo Thodol aufmerksam liest oder hört, wird der Mensch befreit und in einem nicht-dualistischen Zustand versetzt, in dem sich die Verwirrungen in Weisheit umwandeln.

Im Mahayana Buddhismus gibt es die Lehre eines höchsten Gottes bzw. eines Ur-Prinzips, des Adi Buddha. Aus diesem entspringen die fünf Dhyani Buddhas, die als Verkörperung der fünf ursprünglichen Elemente, aus denen der Kosmos besteht, angesehen wurden. In der Regel werden die einzelnen Gottheiten mit der Miniaturfigur ihres jeweiligen Dhyani Buddha, aus dem sie emanierten, im Kopfschmuck gezeigt. Dabei werden die Bodhisattvas als Söhne der jeweiligen Dhyani Buddhas mit ihrem Buddha-Shaktis angesehen.

Obwohl die Erlösungswege von Hinduismus und Buddhismus verschieden sind, so gleichen sich die zwei Religionen in der Annahme des Sansara, die die Einmaligkeit des Lebens auf der Erde ablehnt und einen Kreislauf von Wiederbeburten setzt. Die ausgleichende Gerechtigkeit vollzieht sich selbst in der Qualität der Wiedergeburten. Im Christentum wird mit der Überzeugung der Einzigkeit des menschlichen Lebens auch die eines personalen, allmächtigen Gottes verbunden.

Während es für den Hindu keine einzige, fest umrissene, alleinseligmachende Wahrheit gibt, ist die Zuflucht zur Lehre für den Buddhisten unerläßlich.

* * *
VENICE: From Canaletto to Monet (Satis Shroff)

Beginning with the views painted by Canaletto and Guardi in the eighteenth century, the exhibition traces a grand arc to the series of canvases Monet painted in Venice in 1908. Based on the work of twelve European and American artists, an unprecedented panorama emerges of the forms of visual representation developed in Venice by forerunners and early representatives of modern art in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

It is a panorama that does almost without Venetian artists. The epochal Venice pictures of the period were created by artists from northern Europe and the United States. Canaletto and Guardi in the eighteenth century were the last great Venetian painters of views, whose cheerful and festive works, a few fine examples of which are on view in the exhibition, continued to shape the popular image of Venice long after the Serenissima’s demise.

Already likely the most frequently depicted city at Canaletto and Guardi’s period, Venice advanced in the nineteenth century to cult status, a place that fueled the imagination of some of the greatest and most significant artists and intellectuals, including painters and photographers, authors (George Sand, Marcel Proust, Henry James, Thomas Mann) and poets (Lord Byron, Rainer Maria Rilke), composers (Richard Wagner, Peter Ilich Tchaikowsky, Frédéric Chopin), and philosophers (Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Simmel). The depictions and descriptions of artists and intellectuals were a key reason why Venice, more than any other city, became a “pre-established” experience in the public mind. In the nineteenth century, the image of Venice developed into a palimpsest in which diverse and very ambivalent pictures were superimposed: images of power and demise, love and death, beauty and transitoriness, joie de vivre and melancholy.

The foundation for this new image of Venice was laid in the early nineteenth century by Lord Byron and his poems and dramas. His enthusiastic devotion to the city, understood as an allegory of decline and fall, was shared by his countryman, the English artist William Turner. As the magnificent loans from the Tate show, the painter’s transcendent visual inventions are no less compelling than the poet’s evocative imagery.

In 1874, Edouard Manet became the first early modern artist to paint in Venice. This is all the more surprising for the fact that Manet and his Impressionist confreres, advocates of a self-reflexive, “pure” painting, tended to avoid genres and subjects that were all-too freighted with sentimental and literary meaning. This sort of thing was the domain of academic artists who showed regularly at the official Paris and London salons. Still, some of the most important representatives of early modernism could not remain immune to the unique atmosphere and beauty of Venice. For Manet and James McNeill Whistler, Odilon Redon and Paul Signac, painting in Venice meant confronting clichéd visual stereotypes with new and original imagery. Each of the artists represented here developed his own approach to this end, based on his previous oeuvre.

The exhibition brings together outstanding works by prominent representatives of the French and Anglo-American avant garde who were active in Venice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In addition, with John Singer Sargent and Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Whistler, artists who maintained friendly ties from early on are shown here together for the first time.

The Swedish artist Anders Zorn, an internationally acclaimed painter in his day, stands in our exhibition for the magnetism exerted by cosmopolitan, fin-de-siècle Venice on a growing number of moderately progressive artists. The city’s attractiveness for these juste milieu artists was increased by the Biennale d’Arte, which opened its doors for the first time in 1895. This new forum also had an inspiring effect on local artists, as seen in the painting by Pietro Fragiacomo on view here.

A new chapter in the media dissemination of the image of the City on the Lagoon, which did not remain without effect on contemporary painting, had already begun around 1850, with the continually growing influence of photography in Venice. Crowds of tourists stimulated a demand for photographs of the city’s main landmarks and its popular life, especially around 1900, when Venice found its true raison d’être in tourism. We consider ourselves fortunate in being able to include a representative selection of early Venice photographs from the Herzog Collection, Basel, in our exhibition.

Claude Monet avoided going to Venice for many years. When he travelled there for the first (and last) time with his wife, Alice, in 1908, he was sixty-eight years old. After hesitant beginnings, even Monet succumbed to the mysterious fascination of what Paul Morand called “the water-lily city.” In the course of two months, he blocked in paintings at several locations, which he would finish in his Giverny studio in the years to come. These works were exhibited in spring 1912 at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris. One hundred years after their emergence, we have attempted to reconstruct Monet’s Venice series, which has never been on view in its entirety since its first Paris showing. In retrospect, this elegiac series of paintings has the effect of a farewell to the image of Venice held by an epoch that would come irrevocably to an end two years later, with the outbreak of the First World War.

The exhibition unites about 150 works, including 80 paintings, 50 works on paper, and 20 historical photographs. Leitmotifs are the famous views of Venice, such as the Piazza San Marco, the Canal Grande, Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore Church, and Santa Maria della Salute Church.

* * *

Cocktail Klatsch (Satis Shroff)

A cocktail party is an intermittent dance,
With champagne glass in the hand,
And a blonde’s waist in the other.

Dodging and negotiating
Between sips and slips,
Small talk.

With zeitgeist music,
As a psycho-barrier,
When confronted by
Ladies and gents,
You don’t prefer
To exchange niceties,
Personal secrets
Or somatic secretes
With.

* * *

Dancing Eyes (Satis Shroff)

The dance floor,
A heaven to those
Who know how to dance:
The salsa, samba, tango,
The fox and the waltz.

How many shoe soles have I danced,
How may souls have I conquered?
Here I am,
Longing for a dance,
A paraplegic dancer.

I dance now
With my eyes,
Even when I seem
To gaze in the distance.

I hear wonderful melodies
From the Spring of my life.
I dance now
In my mind.

* * *

Isolation (Satis Shroff)

She had a small soul
And little education.
She gave,
But sought
Something else in return.

She loved her husband,
Pampered him in society,
For all to see.
Did she love him,
Or his wallet?
And things money can buy?

She shielded him from his friends,
With whom he’d fought
In the trenches of Stalingrad,
Cornered together like rats,
And prayed when Stalin’s Orgel
Screamed murderously over them.

He needed love and care
After the trauma of war.
Woke up in sleep
With nightmares of the krieg.

He gave up his camarades,
For a wife who said she loved him.
They had sauerkraut and spätzle,
Watched tennis and thrillers on TV,
And had no time for others.
Lonesome pensioners,
In self-inflicted isolation.

What came was depression
Sans eyes,
Sans friends.
Failing senses
Varicose veins,
Cerebral sclerosis,
Alzheimer and strokes.
The light went out.

Was someone out there?
Did someone say something?

* * *

The Feud (Satis Shroff)

The feud I fought
Was not whole heartedly.
I handed it to a lawyer,
Who made a hash of it,
And a judge who was subjective.

I had to pay a heavy loss.
Would it have been better,
Had I put my heart
Into the feud?

Can I forget it,
But not forgive?
Can you forgive,
But not forget?
Questions that still
Torment my soul.

* * *

Surya at Benaras (Satis Shroff)

My eyes and mind were fading
Under the rays of the scorching sun.
I was at Benaras,
Standing in the polluted
But holy river.

Half naked,
With a sacred thread,
Greeting Surya,
The child of dawn,
The great source of light
And warmth:
The Sun.

You are the nourisher,
The brilliant light-maker,
The eye of the world,
The witness of men’s deeds.
Oh, you king of the constellations,
You,
Who possesses a thousand rays.

I was mumbling a Sanskrit litany,
I’d learned from my dear Mom :
Hara, hara Gungay,
Saba paapa langay.
May all the sins of this world
Be washed away
By the Ganges.

Glossary:
Gungay: Holy Ganges of the Hindus
Saba: all
Paap: sin
Benaras: Old name for Varanasi

* * *

Wine (Satis Shroff)

He who drinks sings,
He who sinks drinks,
You say.

He who drinks
Drops and spills
His wine,
His self,
His Ich
His life.

And when it’s spilt,
Can you still drink?
Is it you
Or is it the wine
That spilt your life?

* * *
Glossary:
Ich: German word for Id (Freud), I, me

* * *
Christa Drigalla: Helping the Nepalese to Help Themselves (Satis Shroff)

Christa Drigalla is an amiable German lady, a hospital managers who worked at the Diakonie hospital in Freiburg (South-west Germany), where she did Nursing Management. Sometime back, this author had the opportunity of going for a walk to the Emperor’s Chair (Kaiserstuhl), a volcanic wine-growing area in the vicinity of Freiburg, with Christa.

‘I’d love to trek to the Rara lake. I saw colour transparencies of Rara shown by a Freiburger professor in St. Georgen and was so fascinated’, said Christa. She has been to Annapurna, Chitwan and Langtang. ‘Springtime in the Himalayas is wonderful’, she said as she drank her Nepal tea and mentioned names like Kanchan Gompa, Laurebina-pass and Sundari and about 17 to 18 degrees centigrade temperatures in the month of November. But she said she liked to brave it all and wouldn’t miss trekking a bit.

At the beginning Christa worked as a nurse at the Shanti Seva Griha, a leprosy clinic run by the Dortmunderin Marianne Grosspietsch, which is located in Pashupati, near the river. She helps where she can, and is uncomplicated. The small 12-bed clinic, an outdoor Ambulanz (In German Ambulanz is not a car to transport injured patients, but a ward to cater to the needs of the outdoor patients. An ambulance in the English sense of the word is called a Rettungswagen). Shanti Seva also runs a school for the children of the leprosy patients. There’s a coffee-shop, a tailoring-service and a branch in Budanilkantha, which is open twice a week. The outdoor ward has over 2,300 registered patients.

The poor, ill, blind, lame and lepers come from the miserable, smoggy streets of Katmandu and the temple complex of Pashupatinath, Nepal’s biggest and holiest gold-roofed hinduistic temple. The sickly beggars are never too tired to beg for alms from pious people (Hindus from Nepal and India), who are allowed to worship in the sancrum sanctorum of the Shiva-temple.

The other curious visitors who are obliged to remain in the periphery of Pashupatinath are the camera-toting foreign tourists. Whether it’s coy and ashamed bathing Nepalese women in wet, sticky saris, burning Hindu corpses and the mourning relatives of the deceased, hungry lepers or agile Rhesus temple-monkeys, the dauntless tourists photograph everything for their transparency, video and DVD-shows back home. The Shanti Seva Griha takes care additionally of the white-haired, wrinkled widows, women and children from the neighbourhood. And the treatment is free. The Griha also has a rehabilitation-centre near the Royal Golf Club Nepal. It has a tailoring workshop where stigmatised Nepali lepers work in peace. Lepers are still heavily stigmatised in Nepal, like the people with plague in the Middle Ages in Europe. Today, it’s possible to cure the disease by using an antibiotic cocktail.

Christa said that she put up at a small lodge near the Clinic, and lived sometimes with Nepalese friends near the Ring-road. There’s a German nurse named Irma who hails from Achern and she has additionally a leading role at the Nursing Campus (Patan). Christa comes from a hamlet named Albringhausen, with a population of 229 in Lower Saxony, a flat state at an elevation of 14metres above sea-level.

‘It’s all farms, corn-fields, meadows and windmills. More and more farmers are giving up their farms and the farms are in poor conditions due to the bad EU agricultural politics. It’s East Friesian country with fishers, crabs, cows.’ She has a brother and a sister out there in Lower Saxony but she lives the mountains. If she’s not trekking in the Himalayas then she’s invariably wandering up and down the Swiss Alps or in the Black Forest Mountains.

‘I have it in my genes, this Wanderlust,’ she says almost apologetically. Christa Drigalla has been running the Interplast Germany’s hospital in Nepal for a long time. Interplast is a US- German undertaking which carries out plastic surgery on leprosy patients, which is extremely useful for the poor Nepali patients, who are ostracised and shunned by the Nepali society.

She talks at length about the corruption scandals in Kathmandu. ‘Everybody is pumping money into Nepal but where is it vanishing? The number of beggars in Katmandu, and Nepal in general, seem to multiplying. I don’t see any structure in Nepal. There are so many NGO projects, and there’s hardly any monitoring done.’ All the NGOs ought to be coordinated by the new government’s Social Ministry. Every big foreign country has, in addition to its official development volunteer programme, a bevy of NGO projects. Even local NGOs are cropping up like mushrooms after a monsoon shower. And all international organisations want to help the fifth poorest country in the world to get up on its feet.”

Where are the priorities? For instance, most of the foreign projects have programmes in the educational sector, but they don’t dare to intervene and help develop new, attractive vocational curricula. They just open or support existing schools, and let the Nepalis carry on with their own anachronistic teaching methods and curricula. Only the rich have access to modern education. What are Nepal boys and girls to do after they have done their School Leaving Certificate? Who is going to finance higher education? There are just not enough vocational outlets.

There’s no question about the need for NGOs but where does the money disappear? Isn’t it literally helping others to help themselves through the aid-industry? The money and effort just doesn’t seem to trickle down to the grassroots. Quo vadis development aid?

Christa Drigalla says, ‘‘A deep orthodox faith in religion is not good for these modern times. For now. It’s better to try and improve one’s present life(style) than to expect that it will be better in one’s next life. I often hear paralysing fatalistic opinions like ‘ke garnu? jindagi jestai chha (What shall I do? Life is like that). Or ‘ke garnu? upai chaina! (What shall I do? There’s no way). Modern educated Nepalis tend to say ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Perhaps that is the value of education.’.

‘Practical steps are useful in pepping oneself up. When I was at Shanti Griha we constructed a shower for the staff and patients. She longs to see the friendly faces of Prabha the social worker, Hari the sanitater, Krishna the physiotherapist, Dr. Singh the team-physician and Marianne.

‘I’ve been expanding the plastic surgery hospital project run by Interplast at Salambutar, near Sankhu,’ says Christa Drigalla. This new hospital was opened officially in November 1997 and was dubbed Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital (SKMH) after the daughter of the former Nepalese Prime Minister who burnt to death in her sari. The international medical team of the SKMH is busy with operative corrections of patients who have scars from burns, deformities from birth, or have lost a part of their hands or feet through leprosy-infection. This medical area has been the connecting link with the Shanti-Griha-Project with its leprosy patients. Besides rendering concrete medical help to these Nepalese patients, the aim of the ‘Interplast’ organisation in the whole world is to teach local surgeons special operation-techniques, and to give their know-how to them so that they can operate independently at a later stage. Other members of the medical-staff like nurses, sanitaters, physiotherapists also receive special training and instructions to take optimal care of the post-operative patients. The Interplast-run hospital is, after a period of initial financial and intellectual help, to be overtaken by the Nepalese counterparts.

Christa has been working for more than a decade in Nepal and has survived the revolution of the eighties, the nineties and now the Maoist take over at the recent polls.

‘I’m sure that this ‘help to self-help’ (Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe) is the most effective solution towards improving the situation of the patients in Nepal,’ says Christa Drigalla. She has always had an inner desire for a long time to get to know Nepal not only as a tourist, but to live here and to experience the entire seasonal changes of Nature, with winter and sommer, the dry period and monsoon, to get to know and understand the people better and to do more trekking’. And that’s exactly what she has been doing all these years and has even built a wonderful house in scenic Nagarkot from where she can peer at the Himalayas..

One can only admire her courage, endeavour and the ability to assert herself and I’d like to wish her well. She is what we call in German eine gute Seele, a good soul, and is the personification of togetherness, Miteinander.

* * *

Das Entwicklungshilfeprojekt Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital (K.C.Shroff MA)

Allgemeiner Überblick
Das Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital ist ein Gemeinschaftsprojekt von Interplast-Germany33 und dem nepalischen Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust. Das Hospital wurde 1997 unter der Leitung von Prof. Dr. G. Lemperle eingerichtet. Es befindet sich im Nordosten des Kathmandu- Tales am Rande von Salambutar. Der Schwerpunkt der Hospitalaktivität liegt in der Behandlung angeborener Lippen-Kiefer-Gaumen-Spalten und der Behandlung schwerster Verbrennungsfolgen.

3.2 Rahmenbedingungen
Das Gebäude der Klinik wurde 1997 von Interplast Deutschland in Kooperation mit dem Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust34 übernommen, nachdem es einige Jahre leer und ungenutzt gestanden hatte. Seit Februar 1998 läuft ein regelmäßiger Betrieb ab. Es werden monatlich Ärzteteams aus verschiedenen Ländern eingesetzt, die ihre Arbeit ehrenamtlich leisten. Der Operationsraum und das Patientenhaus haben nach europäischem Standard eine einfache Ausrüstung. Der Mitarbeiterstab besteht aus zwanzig nepalischen Angestellten, neben dem nichtnepalischem ärztlichen Leiter und der Krankenhausmanagerin aus Deutschland, die sich die Krankenhausleitung teilen. Wöchentlich findet eine Allgemeinsprechstunde statt, um der Bevölkerung aus der näheren Umgebung neben dem sehr speziellen Therapieangebot auch allgemeine Behandlung anzubieten. Diese Sprechstunde wird von nepalischen Ärzten durchgeführt.

3.3 Darstellung des Arbeitgebers
Der Arbeitgeber aller Angestellten ist der Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust. Diese seit 1993 bestehende non-profit und non-governmental organisation initiiert in ganz Nepal karitative und soziale Projekte. Die Schwerpunkte liegen im Bereich Gesundheitswesen, Frauen- und Dorfentwicklung im ländlichen Bereich sowie in der Katastrophenhilfe.
Für das Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital wurden folgende Ziele festgelegt:
das Angebot spezieller chirurgischer Versorgung aus dem Gebiet der plastischen und wiederherstellenden Chirurgie
die Etablierung eines Spezialkrankenhauses für den erwähnten Bereich mit entsprechender materieller und personeller Ausstattung
die Ausbildung nepalischer Ärzte und Krankenschwestern sowie Hilfspersonal für dieses chirurgische Gebiet
die Einrichtung eines allgemeinärztlichen Services für die örtliche Bevölkerung

Da in Nepal nur in wenigen großen Kliniken (Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar) Abteilungen für plastische Chirurgie angesiedelt sind, ist das Therapieangebot begrenzt. Hinzu kommt, dass kein Gesundheitsversicherungssystem existiert. Das bedeutet für die indigene Bevölkerung, dass sie Operationen und Behandlungen bar bezahlen müssen. Dies hat zur Folge, dass viele mittellose Patienten von einer Therapie ausgeschlossen werden. Im Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital werden die Patienten nahezu kostenlos operiert, da die Operationskosten mit europäischen Spendengeldern beglichen werden und die verschiedenen Ärzte ehrenamtlich arbeiten.

3.4 Wirtschaftliche Situation
Wie schon oben erwähnt, werden die finanziellen Mittel für den laufenden Krankenhausbetrieb ausschließlich durch Spendengelder aus Deutschland und Europa aufgebracht. Das bedeutet für die Krankenhausleitung, dass die Finanzierung immer nur auf kurze Sicht im Voraus abgesichert bzw. abgedeckt ist. Anträge auf eine regelmäßige, längerfristige Unterstützung der Betriebskosten sind sowohl bei der Europäischen Union als auch beim Bundesministerium für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit gestellt. Das Verbrauchsmaterial für die operativen Eingriffe (s.B. Instrumente und Verbandsmaterial) bringen die Ärzteteams als Spende mit. Der Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust finanzierte den Ausbau des Gästehauses für das medizinische Personal. Die nepalischen Ärzte, die ebenfalls im Operationsbereich eingesetzt werden, arbeiten auch ehrenamtlich. Das Krankenhaus kommt mit einem monatlichen Budget von derzeit 10.000 DM aus.35

3.5 Organisatorische Rahmenbedingungen
Das Krankenhaus ist in die Aktivitäten des Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust eingebettet, hat aber einen weitgehend eigenen Organisationsablauf. Die Organisation der Teameinsätze wird durch den Medical Director durchgeführt. Auch für die Erstuntersuchung der Patienten mit Indikationsstellung und Terminvergabe für die Operation zeichnet er verantwortlich. Die Administratorin organisiert die Einbestellung der Patienten zur entsprechenden Zeit.

Die Diensteinteilung und Arbeitsablaufplanung, sowie Organisation des Einkaufes sowohl der medizinischen Materialien, als auch des Bedarfes aus Wirtschafts- und Versorgungsbereich, unterliegen der Krankenhausmanagerin. Transportorganisation für die Teams von und zum Flughafen, sowie die Unterbringung und Verpflegung im Gästehaus des Krankenhauses sind ebenso wie Instandhaltung und Management der Reparaturen ihre Aufgaben. Die allgemeine und spezielle Krankenhaushygiene unterliegt ihrer Aufsicht. Die Belegung des Patientenhauses und die Entlassung bzw. die Unterbringung der Patienten im „Dorfhotel“ werden von der Krankenhausmanagerin überwacht. Sie übernimmt die Verantwortung für die Anleitung der Krankenschwestern, der Reinigungspersonen und alle Helfer. Regelmäßige Mitarbeiterbesprechungen werden durchgeführt.

Die Anzahl der nepalischen Mitarbeiter beträgt derzeit 13, davon sind 3 Krankenschwestern. Eine „rund um die Uhr“ Betreuung vor, während und nach der Operation kann nur durch den kurzfristigen Einsatz von ehrenamtlichen Krankenschwestern (meist aus Deutschland) und durch die Bereitschaft aller Mitarbeiter Überstunden zu erbringen, gewährleistet werden.

Da ein Arbeitsgesetz und gewerkschaftliche Vorgaben nicht vorhanden sind, kann das Personal je nach Arbeitsanfall entsprechend eingesetzt werden. Es wird generell in der 6 Tagewoche gearbeitet und die wöchentliche Arbeitszeit beträgt maximal 48 Stunden.

Die Krankenschwestern und die Verwaltungsangestellte wohnen alle in der Hauptstadt Kathmandu und werden durch ein dauerhaft gemietetes Auto täglich gefahren. Es besteht aber auch die Möglichkeit im Gästehaus zu übernachten. Alle Reinigungspersonen, Helfer und Wachleute sind aus dem Dorf oder dessen näherer Umgebung. Somit kann sich das Krankenhaus als der größte Arbeitgeber in Salambutar bezeichnen.

Alle Mitarbeiter haben Stellenbeschreibungen und Arbeitsverträge erhalten, die, wie hier üblich, jeweils für 6 Monate begrenzt sind und immer wieder erneuert werden können. Ein Sozialversicherungssystem gibt es nicht und über eine private soziale Absicherung der Angestellten soll in Zukunft nachgedacht und verhandelt werden.

Einen zusammenhängenden Urlaubsanspruch ist in Nepal nicht üblich, wohl aber gibt es eine große Anzahl von meist religiösen Feiertagen. Jedem Mitarbeiter steht ein halber Tag pro Monat für persönliche Dinge und ein Tag pro Monat für einen Krankheitsausfall zur Verfügung. Diese Tage können aufgespart werden, um sie zusammenhängend in Anspruch zu nehmen. Wird die vorgegebene Anzahl der Tage überschritten, wird das Gehalt entsprechend gekürzt.

Es entstehen oft unvorhersehbare Probleme in der Zusammenarbeit mit Nepalis durch die unterschiedliche Kastenzugehörigkeit der Mitarbeiter. Zwar wird es offiziell verneint, dass es Unterschiede durch Kastenzugehörigkeiten gibt, jedoch ist dies gerade im ländlichen Bereich sehr ausgeprägt. Auch einzelne Regeln und Bestimmungen, die in der hinduistischen Religion begründet sind, spielen in den Arbeitsalltag hinein.

3.6 Patientenmanagement
Über eine Radiomeldung werden die jeweiligen Ärzteteams und deren Operationsschwerpunkte bekanntgegeben. Diese Meldungen organisiert der Sushma Koirala Memorial Trust. Mit einem einfachen Kartensystem wird die Patientenverwaltung geregelt.

In der Anfangsphase war es schwierig, die Patienten zu überzeugen, dass eine Terminvergabe für Operationen notwendig ist. Für das erste Team erschienen nur 60% der terminierten Patienten, manche kamen mit tagelanger Verspätung an. Dafür reisten andere einfach ohne vorherige Information an. Inzwischen hat sich die Situation wesentlich verbessert. Mit genauen schriftlichen Informationen werden die Patienten nach der ersten Voruntersuchung entlassen und müssen ihren Operationstermin noch einmal telefonisch bestätigen. Die Patienten müssen für sich und ihre Begleitung das Geld für die tägliche Verpflegung aufbringen. Das Krankenhaus verfügt über keine Patientenküche zur Gemeinschaftsverpflegung. Im nahen Dorf stehen aber mehrere Restaurants zur Verfügung, die das traditionelle Essen Dal Bat täglich anbieten.

Die täglichen Verbandswechsel werden von den Ärzten und Schwestern gemeinsam durchgeführt, und gehen regelmäßig mit Hygieneunterweisungen der Patienten einher.

3.7 Materialbeschaffung
Da es in Kathmandu keine großen medizinischen Warenhäuser oder Medizingroßhändler gibt, gestaltet sich die Materialbeschaffung oft schwierig und mühsam. Die Verbindungsstraße in die Hauptstadt ist stark beschädigt und gefährlich. Unvorhersehbare Knappheiten von z.B. medizinischem Sauerstoff oder einer 0,9%igen Kochsalzlösung verschärfen die Situation natürlich sehr. Hinzu kommt die schlecht Qualität der Materialien und der Geräte. Bei notwendigen Reparaturen weigern sich die Mechaniker oft den beschwerlichen Weg nach Salambutar auf sich zu nehmen oder sie sind nicht in der Lage, eine erfolgreiche Reparatur an dem defekten Gerät vorzunehmen. Dies bedeutet, dass für eine erfolgreiche Zusammenarbeit mit nepalischen Mechanikern eine hohe Kompromissbereitschaft vorhanden sein muss, um nicht unnötig die Spendengelder für diesen Bereich auszugeben.

Da die Finanzierung des gesamten Krankenhausbetriebes von Spendengeldern aus Deutschland lebt, ist es dringend erforderlich, eine regelmäßige Unterstützung für mindestens 5-10 Jahre zu organisieren, damit langfristige Planungen gemacht werden können. Diese haben die Übergabe des Krankenhauses in nepalische Hände zum Ziel- was derzeit aber noch in weiter Ferne liegt.

1.Zusammenfassung: In dieser Arbeit wurde versucht, einen allgemeinen Überblick über die Entwicklungshilfe in Nepal zu geben. Die Bedeutung der NGOs wurde hervorgehoben. Es gibt viele negative Beispiele von NGOs, die sinnlose Projekte zur Folge haben. Es wurde ein positives Beispiel einer NGO in dieser Arbeit intensiv vorgestellt, parallel dazu aber auch die Probleme angesprochen , die in einem Entwicklungshilfeprojekt unweigerlich auftauchen können. Gleichzeitig ist eine Transparenz in der Durchführung der Programme erforderlich, das bedeutet, dass die NGOs sowohl ihren Emfängern als auch ihren Gebern gegenüber berechenbar und verantwortlich sein müssen.

Oberstes Ziel sollte eine Miteinbeziehung der Bevölkerung in das geplante Projekt sein,
um das Interesse und die Unterstützung der Einheimischen zu erhalten. Ansonsten besteht
Gefahr, und das haben unzählige Berichte gezeigt, dass z.B. viele landwirtschaftlichen
Forschungsvorhaben mehr der Befriedigung der Forscher als der Bauern dient.

Literaturangabe:
Bista, Dor Bahadur People of Nepal. Kathmandu
Pratap Thapa, Ram und Baaden Joachim Myths & Realities. Delhi

Zeitschriften:
Nepal Information Zeitschrift der Deutsch-Nepalischen Gesellschaft e.V. Köln
Nepal Information Zeitschrift der Deusch-Nepalischen Gesellschaft e.V. Köln
Nepal Information 2001 Zeitschrift der Deutsch-Nepalischen Gesellschaft e.V. Köln
Darjeeling Limited: A Journey to India and Within (Satis Shroff)

Darjeeling Limited is a road movie with three different protagonists who we are told are brothers. One looks like a Hawk-nosed Italian with fine features and a heavily pregnant wife he’s left behind, one a heavily bandaged German on a spiritual trip to India and the other like a horny Tom Cruise with a moustache. If you want to do a bit of sight-seeing in Darjeeling with its Chowrasta, the former Governer’s House, Birch Hill, Windemere Hotel, the Mall, S ropeway ride to Singla tea estate, Tiger Hill and the Batasia Loop, you’ve boarded the wrong train. It’s definitely not the Darjeeling Himalayas Railway with its toy train.

Darjeeling Limited is a train that takes three brothers to the dunes of Rajasthan, its colourful villages and towns and Punjab, with a lot of Sardarjis making their appearances but certainly not the foothills of the Kanchenjunga. The brothers are on their way to find their mother, who lives with Christians nuns who run a school

* * *
Zeitgeistlyrik:
Trauma (Satis Shroff)

Trauma.
‘I am not a boy,
I’m a girl.’
She won the gold.
Her mom says:
‘She’s my girl.’

There’s high testosterone
Soaring in her blood.
Cholesterin at its peak.
Anomaly of chromosomes?
Hormones gone awry?

There was once a Heidi Krieger
Who was pumped with anabolica
For the glory of the German
Democratic Republic.
She became so masculine,
That she changed her name.
Heidi became Andreas Krieger.

A man can be a woman,
A woman a man.
Chromosomes and hormones,
Playing Yin and Yang.
Women have X,
Men have Y.
Alas, when Y is there,
A man is still
Not masculine.
There are also men without Y,
Women with Y chromosomes.
Why?
Masculine women,
Feminine men.
Between the ovaries and testes
Are a melange of tissues.
A man with big breasts,
A woman with a strong beard.

What remains is an athlete
With a trauma,
Around a gold medal.

Political Poem:

GORDON STILL WALKING 2009 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

‘I will not walk away,’

Said PM Gordon Brown.
His ministers had walked out on him.
Disgusted with his inner circle
Of soccer-fans
And other fads.

Manchester is United,
Labour isn’t.

Was he walking by a rule?
Mr. Brown ruled with two circles:
His soccer-crazy inner circle
With Ed Balls,
An outer one with grey mice.

He was walking down a lonely road,
It seemed.
When he walked in,
He walked into Blairites.

Gordon was walking into his political savings.
Could he steer Britain’s economy
Out of the big recession?
He walked his legs off,
Pleading to Labourites to stay.

It wasn’t a walk over
For Brown’s pride,
When ministers refuse to walk
Together with him,
After the debacle at the Euro polls.
He racked his brains,
Came up with a belated inquiry
Into the Iraq war,
To save his skin.

In a last bid he reshuffled
His cabinet cards:
Darling, Miliband and Balls
Held their jobs.
Gordon promoted:
Johnson, Jowell, Mandelson,
Cooper, Burham, Ham.
Eh, was it worth to promote Ainsworth?
A soap-opera supper,
Where guests prefer
To sit and walk out at will.

Gordon is certainly walking on air.
It’s become more a walk
On a razor’s edge.
If this silly Labour circus goes on
In Downing No. 10,
He is most likely to walk
On all fours.

The battle is lost,
Er steht auf verlorene Posten.
The rats have sprung overboard.
Councils like Lancashire, Derbyshire,
Stafford, Nottinghamshire
Have become Tory counties.
Labour lost 250,
Conservatives gained 217 seats.
Captain Brown remains adamant,
And runs his ship.

I’m afraid it’s not Trafalgar.
Perhaps Cap’n Bleigh?
He clutches his crutches
And mutters:
‘I will not walk away.’

Brown has a strategy:
He hopes to limp towards autumn,
Defying the wind against him.
Can he bend it like Beckham?
Captain Brown, still at the helm,
Insists: ‘I will not waver,
Or walk away.’

Britain doesn’t know:
Whether to be awed
Or amused.
And thereby hangs
A tale.

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,
Drink Darjeeling,
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.

Gunslinger Metaphor (Satis Shroff)

Steinbrück’s speaker said:
‘Switzerland should be bought
To accept the rules of OECD.
He didn’t show disrespect.’

To use Indians and Cowboys
As a metaphor,
Is indeed a folly.

The Germans aren’t cowboys,
And the Swiss no Indians.
Steinbrück has identified himself
Not with Old Shatterhand,
Who was a friend of Winnitou,
But with someone else.
Which caused Chief Watahomigie,
Of the Havasupai-Indians,
All the way from Arizona,
To proclaim:
‘The German should not speak
About things,
He doesn’t understand.’

Swiss Chief Merz replied,
With a straight tongue:
‘The danger of landing
In the Black List of the G20
Has been averted.’
He sees now only positive
Smoke signals from the EU.

Ja, Grüezi!
Switzerland is no longer
A tax-dodger’s oasis.
It’s an oasis for petro-rich sheiks,
People who declare incomes,
And Bollywood film crews.

The finance ministers
Of the USA, France, Japan
Are knocking on Helvetia’s door,
For new agreements.

A time will come,
When the list of persona non grata
For Swiss bankers in the USA
Will disappear.

The police in Geneva
Were only going their duty,
By sticking to paragraphs.
Merz will have to bear
With Gaddafi’s emotional outbursts
On Helvetia’s sovereignity.

German ministers come and go,
The Swiss bank business remains.
Es lebe Helvetia!

Glossary:
Merz: Hans Rudolf Merz, the Swiss Bundespresident
Steinbrück, Peer: German minister of finance
Steuer: tax.Switzerland cooperated with the US financial authoriy IRS and handed over the data of 255 UBS customers.

Impressions From Zermatt-Matterhorn (Satis Shroff)

Sunrise at the Gornergrat 3089 m above sea level and a hearty Continental breakfast in the 3100m high Kulmhotel Gornergrat. What a delightful and unforgettable experience with the panorama of the Alps right in front of you. For people who’ve been to the Himalayas, it’s like breakfast at Lukla or Namche Bazaar. Albeit, with the exception that the Swiss do pamper you with the very best from their kitchen and cellar.

Zermatt-Matterhorn is a hamlet located in the Swiss Alps. The world famous Glacier Express brings you directly to this holiday resort. Zermatt is a charming mountain hamlet at the foot of the Gornergrat peak, which is flanked to the west by Hohtali (high valley), Rote Nase (red Nose), Steckhorn and the 4634m high Dafourspitze. Whereas the names of the major peaks in the Himalayas have been named after Gods and Goddesses, in the Alps they bear their names according to their looks. To the Swiss the peaks appear like horns (Matterhorn, Breithorn), pointed summits (Parrotspitze, Dafourspitze), a thumb (pollus) or a comb (Liskamm) with their respective glaciers (gletspuchhare peak,cher): upper and lower Theodul glacier, Breithorn glacier, Zwillinggletscher (the Twin glacier), Grenzgletscher, Gornergletscher and the famous Rhone glacier, where the Swiss have built an icy tunnel and sell souvenirs. It sure is uncanny to walk inside a glacier, but the Swiss have everything under control for the delights of the visitors. The Rhone glacier is just as delightful with waterdrops pattering on your hear from the icicles.

The Matterhorn glacier paradise, is also known as the Small Matterhorn and beyond the Theodul pass looms the 4478m Matterhorn, aloof from the other peaks, in all its majesty. A modern cable cabin brings you right to the top.

A pang of nostalgia always overcomes me when I see the Matterhorn, because it reminds me of the Machapuchhare peak, the fish-tailed one, in Pokhara (Central Nepal) where we used to go on geological and botanical excursions during my student days in Catmandu. I also think of the friendly and brave Gurung people who live in the upper reaches of the Annapurna mountains and the boat-rides on the placid waters of the Phewa lake.

I remember having painted the Matterhorn from a Swiss calendar during my school days in the foothills of the Himalayas. We even had a huge Swiss nun with a broad infectious smile who ran the school infirmary and who’s name was Sister Felix. It was a strict school run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland and Sister Felix had a heart for us small boys with our small injuries. She was a great solace to us in the English boarding school which the Irish Brothers ruled with typical school rules, arrogant prefects, tidiness inspections, benders for the offenders and all. I still see her sympathetic face, the strains of her blonde hair climbing out of her bonnet, speaking English with a soft Swiss accent. She was our Florence Nightingale amid the skirmishes between the school-kids and the teachers, for in those days punishment was severe, and not like today where the parents sue the teachers for their so-called brutality, and the kids threaten brazenly with their respective lawyers in case a teacher loses control over himself or herself.

From Zermatt you take Europe’s highest open-air cog train past the picturesque viaduct at Findelbach (1774m), Rifflealp along a serpentine route, reminiscent of the loop after Ghoom along the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, up to Rotenboden, which means ‘red soil.’

Since the new Lötschberg-basis tunnel is open to traffic, you can drive from Zürich, Basle and Bern and gain an hour.

On the right side you see the Riffel lake and the breathtaking Gorner glacier. Below you are people trekking or walking with their nordic walking gear along the Heidi landscape. Some are panting on their mountain bikes, overwhelmed by the glacier landscape that unfolds in front of your eyes. What’s wonderful about the Zermatt-Matterhorn is that it’s open all the year round. You can get off the cog-train at any station along the route and jump in again when you’ve had enough of walking in the Alpine world. I walked all the way to Interlaken with Karin and enjoyed the Swiss countryside, especially the flora and fauna.

It was easy going from the Gornetgrat, past Rotenboden to the Riffelsee, a picturesque lake and to Riffelberg from where you could see the Furg glacier and above it the Theodul Pass with the Massif of the 4478m Matterhorn with its jagged peak. In the towns below you get souvenirs centred around the Matterhorn massif: chocolates, blue stones shaped like the mountain, T-shirts with the Matterhorn icon, letter-openers, cakes, mugs, cigarette lighters, aprons too. You descend to Riffelberg, past Riffelalp, and after you’ve reachered Findelback with its waters gushing under the picturesque viaduct, you arrive at the village of Zermatt, which has always functioned as a town where the experienced climbers of Zermatt have looked for and people who hire them to climb the peaks that are draped in misty curtains on rainy days. When you think of the Matterhorn you can’t help thinking about Edward Whymper, who scaled the peak with a climbing party on July 14, 1865.

On the day of the Matterhorn disaster, the British climbers began their descent after having climbed the mountain. Above the shoulder of Matterhorn, the most dangerous part of the mountain a slip occurred and the rope broke. The climbers Hudson, Hadow, Lord Francis Douglas and Croz fell down the north face of Matterhorn. The following day, the exhausted and sad survivors reached Zermatt. The Swiss Hotel-owner Seiler asked Whymper what had happened up in the mountain.

Whymper’s laconic answer was: ‘The Taugwalders and I have returned.’

Europe was shocked by the disaster and even Queen Victoria asked whether such a perilous pastime could not be stopped by law. But ever since man has started climbing mountains, the mountaineers have been paying a heavy toll for their ‘deadly pursuits’ in the higher regions for their egoistic endeavours, be it alone or in teams, sans oxygen and sans amphetamines. The graveyard adjacent to Zermatt’s English church and the Swiss graveyards are replete with people who died while climbing. A couplet from Romeo and Julia reminds us of Edward Broome, a prominent member of the Alpine Club:

‘Night’s candles are burnt out
And jocund day stands tiptoe
On the misty mountain tops.’

The highest elevation of the Gornergrat is 3089m. It’s like being on the top of the world with a panorama that comprises 29 four-thousand metre peaks as far as your eyes can see. It is when you have reached such a great height where the mountains meet the sky, and when you realise how small and insignificant you are in the presence of the gigantic massifs before you that you have thoughts about your very existence and ask yourself about your ‘sein oder nicht sein’ (to be or not to be). It is in these dizzy, rarefied heights that you ask yourself questions about yourself and philosophise about your own life like other thinkers have done in the past. When you have gone through this process of self-examination, you have the choice to carry on the way you’ve chosen or to change within and start leading a new, conscious life. Aware of yourself and others, modern life without its automatic behavioural patterns.

The observation platform for visitors is at a height of 3130m and for those who feel a wave of sanctity suddenly sweep across their hearts in this splendid place, there’s the Berhhard von Aosta chapel. Further below the Gornergrat lies Rotenboden at an elevation of 2815m, which is the starting point of the trail to Riffelsee, a lake where you can observe a gorgeous reflection of the Matterhorn. You take the Monte Rosa Hut trail and when you go past the Gorner glacier, you are rewarded with an excellent view of the 4634m Dufourspitze.

The Gornergrat Bahn is Switzerland’s first electric cog railway and is celebrating its 111 birthday. All eight trains of the Glacier Express to Zermatt have panorama wagons. Since it’s summer, and the Swiss are perfectly organised, there’s even a folklore group with Swiss brass and alp-horns to greet you. In Europe they say we Germans do things with German thoroughness. I’d even go even further to say that the Helvetians do it even better.

Generations have seen the film ‘The Sound of Music’ with Julie Andrews and have been moved by the song ‘Edelweiss.’ There’s even a 110 year old, Edelweiss hut built at a height of 1961m and which was in the past frequented by the likes of writer Emile Zola, Albert Schweitzer of Lamberene fame and the climber Edward Whymper.

You don’t expect haute cuisine up in the Swiss Alps, do you? Gault-Millau classified the hospitality up here as ‘comfortable, hearty and inviting.’ I can only second it. On July 4, 2009 there was a Zermatt Marathon, a race in which you climb 1853m. Quite a feat but not to be recommended for complacent couch potatoes. If you like the Alpine folklore, there’s even a Folklore Festival on August 9, 2009 with big parades comprising 1200 participants from the entire Alpine region. If you feel that climbing up to the Matterhorn is not enough for your ego, then you can take part in the Matterhorn race. You’ll be traversing 12,49km and have to overcome an elevation of 980 metres. The Zermatt festival takes place between September 4-20,2009 and the Chamber Music with ensembles and solists of the Berliner Philharmonic orchestra will bring you western classics. If you like Swiss and other Alpine costumes then you can visit the Trachtenfest on September 5-6, 2009. For ladies it might be fun to be a part of the crowd by donning dirndel costumes with Alpine flower-hats to go with them. You can buy excellent traditional dirndels and trachten costumes in Zürich, Basle, München and Zermatt itself. With the exception of the Gornergrat, children under 9 can travel all mountain trains free of charge. Ain’t that grand?

More information for your Swiss holiday? Google, Yahoo or Bing: http://www.zermatt.ch. Grüezi miteinander.
* * *
LIVING WITH AIDS IN GERMANY (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

“It’s the 1st of November (Allerheiligen) and I ask myself: why do you give the dying company? In all those years I haven’t visited a single grave. I can’t let go of my clients before they die. I just can’t bear to do it after a certain amount of deaths through Aids.” This was what the guy at the local aids assistant center in Freiburg said to yours truly when I paid him a call.

How does a person afflicted with Aids feel and what does he think about himself, his family, the society and what sort of help does he get in Germany? These were the questions that I posed to HIV-positive people living in a kind of commune run by the local Aids-Hilfe in Freiburg (Southern Germany). The Aids-Hilfe is a pan-German institute which helps HIV-infected people.

The clients were in the age group 26 to 46 and some of them were drug-addicts in the past, some were chronic alcoholics, and most of them were from the middle and under-class Germany society with bi-, homo- and heterosexuals tendencies.

Even though it´s possible to protect oneself from contracting the HIV- infection, Aids still marches on. We know that it´s a disease with an unusual latent period and that the full clinical Aids leads to death. And yet we point our finger towards the minorities of the society: homosexual and bisexual men, fixers and prostitutes. In the media there´s a tendency to individualise the risks of HIV-infection, and such a stance doesn´t promote a collective coping behaviour. The infected and the aids-afflicted are still stigmatised and discriminated.

A closer look reveals that every one of us could contract HIV-infection and it has psycho-social connotations. Only a massive campaign in which parents, teachers, lecturers, medical doctors, social workers and trade-unions work together can achieve some degree of success. This campaign should be launched at school and college levels, in the tourism industry and other industrial and administrative sectors, in order to eliminate the half-knowledge and angst, and to motivate self- responsibility, and to avoid the risk of getting infected.

Take Stefan W. 46 for instance, a blond male nurse. Stefan had undergone the Aids-test in 1985 and found out that he was HIV positive. He said, “I was scared then, because I´d read an article about Aids in “Der Spiegel”. After that I decided to do an Aids-test, because I couldn´t bear this fear and indecision. And when I came to know the positive result, I felt miserable and alone in this world.”

I asked him whether his family had supported him.

I had problems with my parents who didn´t show any sympathy towards my homosexuality. I even lost two brothers, because they couldn’t live with my Aids-problem. I was really stigmatised.

How did you come to the Aids-Hilfe and what did you expect?

For a while I had to take care of myself. It was in 1988 that I contacted the Aids-Hilfe. My aim was to get to know other HIV-infected people and to see what they offered in terms of aid. I met a nice female social- worker, who helped me a lot by telling me about dying and death. We talked about what I was to expect when I develop Aids fully, how I could relax and how to behave with my sexual partner. It was here that I received real social -support. I feel good today and I can talk about my HIV- infection openly. I don´t have to hide myself anymore. The aids-help organisation gave me a full-time job and I give advice to others. Some clients want to have a HIV-infected person as a counsellor, because they feel more accepted this way.

Did the Aids-help give you a new insight?

I know today how to react to the signals from my body. One has to create or find an environment where one can relax. I try to avoid people who don’t support me. When you have Aids, you have to go from one extreme to another. I always advise others that it pays to live”.

I met Wolfgang K., 26, a bar-keeper and waiter. He said he knew that he was bisexual since the age of 15. He thinks that he infected himself through a man. He admitted having had one-night stands with different men. He also said he had a junkie-phase and had done needle-sharing a lot of times.

Wolfgang says, “I came to know that I was HIV-positive on December 13,1994. I was in Freiburg at that time and went to the Aids-Hilfe and managed to get a place in this commune. I still have contact with my mother. She lives with another man. Since it was shortly before Christmas, I felt obliged to tell her before Christmas. My mother was in despair and very concerned and understood my situation. She supports me morally as usual, but I know that it´s difficult for her. She maintains her calm outwardly, but she trembles inside. I know it.

What did you expect from the Aids-Hilfe and what did they do for you?

Wolfgang said, “I expected information and personal help from them and I got it, but a bitter taste remains nevertheless. The commune isn’t ideal for me. In the sport- group a lot of people wear masks and pretend to be happy and cheerful. I like riding my bike and go to swim and am relaxed. I´m a Bhagwan-disciple and practice my meditations twice a day. Ever since I started doing my meditations, I haven´t even caught the common cold.
Do you find everything negative here?

When I get the blues – when I´m depressed – there´s always someone in the house with whom I can talk. For me, the commune is an emergency landing pad. I want to study something else that´s why it´s cheaper for me. If I live here two years I´m entitled to a social apartment in Freiburg. As a HIV-infected person, I can´t carry on my sexual activities. I want to cure myself through my meditation and self-hypnosis. I have a T-helper cell count of 875, which is much better than anyone´s here.

How much rent do you pay here and how many euros do you have to live on?

The rent here is exorbitant. We have to pay 120 euros per person. Then we have to pay 15 euros for the electricity and 100 euros for the advisers. That makes 235 euros without the telephone. We get money from diverse sources: the joblessness-assistance, apartment-aid, food- and social -allowances. I live with only 150 euros a month.

Did the Aids-Hilfe help you to win a new perspective?

Through the Aids-Hilfe I´ve become positive-thinker. My basic fear of Aids has vanished. I find it good that we have personal contacts here and that they take us to seminars for further-training on Aids, so that we can understand and cope with the disease better.

Franz P., 38, is a salesman, heterosexual and came to know that he had Aids a decade ago.

I asked him,” How did your family react? Did they support you?”

Franz: “My mother cried buckets of tears when she learnt that I was infected. My wife, who was then pregnant, ignored it till she got the child. Both mother and child were HIV-negative, by the way. After the birth we used contraceptives when we had sexual intercourse.

You said that you live alone now. Was your disease the reason for the separation from your spouse?

Franz: “Actually my drug-problem was the main reason. I had angst and that´s why I started taking drugs again. My wife´s father died of cancer and my wife didn´t want our son to be confronted with my Aids-problem. We lived in a small village in the Black Forest and I tried to live a normal, social life. In summer 1991 I had an infection of the lungs and came to Freiburg. In autumn 1992, I was invited to a brunch at the Aids-Hilfe and met the social worker and the others and was happy to get an apartment.

How do you find your daily life in the commune?

The social worker handles the financial and other bureaucratic aspects and we have brunch thrice a week, during which we talk about ourselves. We don´t have a structured life here. Everyone does things and is responsible only to himself. Our rooms are private and everyone has to knock on the door and when someone says “No!”, it means no, without reasons. There´s a pecking-order not only in the society outside but also here. On the top of our hierarchy we have the haemophilics, then the gays and at the bottom the junkies. The heteros lie between the haemophilics and the gays. I find that one is accepted when one says one’s HIV-infection was due to constant changes of female partners, than when one says it was caused by an infected-needle.

What did you expect from the Aids-Hilfe and what did you get?

I wanted to have information about Aids and contacts with other HIV-infected people and naturally psycho-social support. The social-worker accompanied me to the hospital, through the jungle of red-tape and helped me in daily life. We are allowed to live in the commune till we are physically and mentally fit and can take care of ourselves and our lives. It can also happen that some of us die here. The death-rate is 15 %.

I find that the Aids-Hilfe does predominantly preventive work. There had been a lot of in-fighting in the organisation, but now it´s all quiet. The social-workers have high ideals but there’s also a commercial aspect to it. I’m looking for another apartment and want to go on living.

What would you advise other people in terms of preventive measures like safer-sex, being faithful to each other, no sex or social expectations?

It sounds good but I find people should be open to themselves and to the others. When they are infected they shouldn’t practice a double moral. They shouldn´t try to ignore the matter. The infected should let themselves be guided by their inner feelings. I think the infection destabilises one´s self-consciousness. In the commune I’ve stabilised my psyche, and this is ignored by modern medicine. I live here with people from different social structures and milieu, and we have one thing in common: the HIV-infection. It’s possible to live out one’s ego, because there´s no community-life. It’s every man for himself and the social-worker for us all.

Bruno K.,27 is a mason and was a drug-addict since the age of 13. He’d taken soft drugs and worked at a construction- site and carried cement-sacks on his back, was tired after the work and needed stronger stuff that hash and alcohol. He got Valeron-N from a doctor (10 bottles at once), because the doctor “was too lazy to look up the Red-List. He can’t cope with with the society and can’t live legally. But he’s glad that he has a substitution-identity card now. He was and searched by the police six times a day, because he was well-known as a junkie. He left his parents’ home at the age of 15.

How did your mother react when she came to know that you were HIV-positive?

Bruno: “That can’t be true!” was how my mother reacted. She didn’t reject me because of the infection but because of my long, unkempt hair. She said that she´d refuse to see me as long as I had my long hair. She circulates in high-society. I find such people false and hypocritical.

When and where did you know that you were infected?

I came to know that I had the HIV-infection when I was in jail. I and my girl-friend wanted to contract Aids wilfully, and we left our injections and needles where we´d used them.

What drugs do you take?

I take Methadon, Flanitrazepan and Testosteron, because I’ve become very lethargic due to the substitution therapy. I can sleep sixteen hours a day. When I´m so tired through the substitution-therapy, I find it difficult to get in contact with women. He points his index-finger at his big TV-set and says,” In that box they show Aids-ads in every channel and the people have become tolerant due to the TV-spots.

What do you think of therapy?

I haven’t done a therapy. It’s all useless. The judges give you a jail-sentence instead of a therapy these days. I was in the drug-scene previously and have made my experience with 3.6 grams of heroin. I oscillated between life and death. I realised that I wasn’t ready to die. Now I have nothing to do with drugs. I smoke hash now and then.

Are you trying to reintegrate yourself socially, and trying to get a clear picture about your own situation?

I hate nothing more than this society. I believe in God, but I hate the church. I was born in the wrong century. I wait and contemplate that there are at least 100 ways of killing myself. But I’m alive. As soon as the Aids-symptoms get bad and I can’t take care of my own interests, I’ll take the necessary measures and end my life.

Did you get good tips from the Aids-Hilfe?

I didn´t get any advice from them. I got good and useful advice from the social-worker. When it comes to a quarrel, the social-worker always has the last word. I have a generation- conflict with the social-worker, because I love wearing old, torn jeans with slits, and she sounds like my mother. My long hair and torn-jeans are a form of protest against the mainstream.

What plans do you have for the future?

I’m satisfied as long as I can live, can move about and decide for myself. I can be blind through Aids. In that case I’d prefer suicide (Freitod). I can’t bear the artificial, insincere compassion and sympathy of the others when I have pain, and when I can’t fight back. I’d rather shoot myself before that happens. Despite all that I find life worth living and we can only bring changes as long as we live. The chance that a wonder-drug will be discovered is slim. I have no angst as far as death is concerned. It’s the pain that I’m scared of, and the fear that I might be helpless…

Eberhard N.,36, is an electro-specialist heterosexual from Stuttgart. He knew he had the HIV eight years, and he lives in Freiburg since half a year and was nine months at the Aids-Hospice in Oberhammersbach.

Do you know how you infected yourself?

I had a girl-friend named Petra and she was also HIV-positive. She didn´t care less. I was behind bars for 18 months because the police caught me with drugs. I´m a dry alcoholic. At that time, I didn’t have anything to drink. A junkie friend offered us heroin and we used the same needle. The bloke was positive and gave us his needle.

How did your family react?

They shoved me off. In 1993 I landed in the Hospice and my family visited me there. I telephone my mother every week. She wanted to visit me in December 1994 and now it’s August 1995, and she hasn’t showed up as yet. I have liver-cirrosis and it would mean my death if I’d drink.

How did you come to Freiburg from Stuttgart? Who helped you?

I’m a well-known alcoholic in Stuttgart. I got in touch with the Aids-Hilfe through the Hospice. I got an apartment and received help from Freiburg. On Christmas I even received a financial shot from a girls’ school. I bought a stereo-set with the money, because I can’t live without music.I like Neil Young.

Do you take medicines? What are your future plans?

I take only Hepaloges N ( a plant-based liver-remedy). I find that a healthy psyche is the best medicine against disease. One ought to keep one’s hands away from medicines. I live for now and today. What´s the use of making great plans? How do I know what it’s going to be like in a year? I live intensively though. My thoughts are good. I smoke a joint or a pipe now and then. I don’t drink. I haven’t given up as yet. One should keep on fighting. One can die fast—in a matter of days. When I was at the Hospice, I thought I was lost. I’m a Pink Floyd fan too and went all the way to Strassbourg (France) to attend the concert on the 9th of September 1994. One has to gave a goal. I want to live here, because after two years I can get a new apartment. And I want to have a girl-friend…

“There’s a lot of stress involved in working with Aids-patients because one is confronted with difficult situations. You have to make quick decisions and ask yourself later: was it necessary or not,” says the guy of the Aids-Hilfe Freiburg. It´s a life- and work-situation. The social workers have to give hope to the infected clients and then see with their own eyes how they deteriorate physically and mentally. How does a social worker react to the deaths?

He shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands up and said, “It’s the 1st of November (Allerheiligen) and I ask myself: why do you give the dying company? In all those years I haven’t visited a single grave. I can’t let go of my clients before they die. I just can’t bear to do it after a certain amount of deaths through Aids…”

* * *
European Ethnology (Switzerland):

Votive Images of the Mountain Chapel at Stoos (Satis Shroff)

Stoos is located in the Alp world of inner Switzerland 1300m above sea-level. This was once a region dominated by shepherds and farmers. Till 1933 you could go to Stoos only by foot, along a steep trail via Morschach or Ried (Muota Valley).

The shepherds and alpine farmers used to climb up to the mountains in the summer months and live there in simple alpine huts, which provided shelter for the humans and domestic animals. They were acquainted with and used the lush green grass and medicinal krauts (herbs) found on the alpine meadows and on the slopes of the hills.

The Swiss shepherds are a religious folk and know basically no other goal than to live their Christian lives, and to die happily. This is the reason why you find so many mountain-chapels in good olde Schwyz.

The pretty chapel called Maria Hilf on Stoos was constructed for the alpine farmers and their families in 1721. The farmers and alpine people visited the Sunday religious celebrations where they could get compassion and help. A priest from Schwyz was obliged to climb all the way to Stoos every Sunday. He had to have an empty stomach up the steep climb, because of an old law in those days. After the holy mass, and having given the holy sacrament to his believers, he was obliged to leave the mountain world and return to monastery in Schwyz. After a fire which destroyed the chapel, a new one was constructed in 1932.

In the inner chapel is a picture of Maria Hilf, which shows the holiest virgin Mary with her God-son on her arm, surrounded by angels. It’s one of those imitations of the picture by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553) which can be seen in Innsbruck (Austria). The wooden alter dates back to 1721 and the statues of Holy Francis of Assisi, Wendelin and Antonius are dated 1720.

In Hinduism Durga is the Great Goddess (Mahadevi), the consort of Shiva and the daughter of Himalayas (Himavat). Durga appears in the Mahabharata under different incarnations, and is also found in the Puranas. She is often known as Shakti, the female energy of Shiva, and has a mild and a fierce character. She is worshipped during the Durga puja celebrations in Nepal and India. In her mild form she is seen as Uma (the light), the yellow or brilliant Gauri, the Goddess from the mountains Parvati, Jagamata (the Mother of the World) and Bhavani. In the terrible, fierce form she is the inaccessible Durga, black Kali and Syama, and Bhairavi the terrible. Durga is depicted symbolically with ten arms to show her might.

Like Durga, the Great Goddess in Hinduism, Maria Hilf is held in high regard as the victor over all battles of God and reaches to the glorious sea-victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. It is said that the victory was possible through the power of the rosary prayer. Through this victory Christianity became the true faith and the Occident (Abendland) has thus remained Catholic.

What I found most fascinating were the votive boards and artistic calligraphic documents to bear witness to prayers that were heard by Maria Hilf. The memorial images for having been saved after accidents, rescued from illness, difficult situations in life, are a gesture of thanks to God. These thanks can be a plea and prayer for help for the well-being of the domestic animals or when a son has been commanded to fight for his lord or country, cured illnesses, like typhoid, sufferings, post-operative healing, avalanche mishaps, ski-accidents, a safe sojourn abroad.

Such pictures are painted on wood, canvas, tin, paper or glass and donated to holy places. No profane paintings or kitsch whatsoever are allowed, and the images follow a strict composition. In the clouds there are the guardian angels, beneath which we find the objects of thankfulness or the plea (bed of the ill person), objects or causes of mishaps (falling tree, lightning or an avalanche in the Alps). And at the end of the votive picture the name of the donor and the word: ex voto with the year. The inner walls of the chapel are replete with different ex votos from the 18th century, from the French kriegs and the Russian invasion in Muota Valley in 1798.

Much like the Tamang, Sherpa and Tibetan tormas, the alpine folks also have their sacrificial objects (Opfer) as miniatures. The hunter of the Old Stone Age also painted the animas that they wanted to hunt on the cave walls, akin to their inner wishes and desires. In Nepal and South Asia sacrificial offerings are made either through the mediation of bahuns (priests) or shamans (dhamis, jhakris, bijuwas etc) and rituals are performed to the God or Spirit and to strengthen the protective powers. Dough figures called tormas, which are symbolically the causes of illnesses, are offered to the Gods and Spirits. The Dhamis, Jhakris enter a trance during a seance during which the entire village people take part. The patient is not alone and is a part of the village community in good and bad times.

The votivs are made by a village artisan, carpenter or artist under strict rules. Even in these days of bits and bytes and globalisation, votives haven’t gone out of fashion and can be seen in the shops, trains, trams, bus posters in the form of Sunday paintings, Nurnberger cake wrappings, logos and icons, and have in this way become rather aesthetic but profane. The plea to have one’s wishes fulfilled by a higher authority, namely God, and the presenting of the votive (ex voto) as one’s way of showing one’s thankfulness is called an Opfer in Germany, which means ‘sacrifice’or ‘offering,’ is a folks-art. The image or effigy which was regarded as the sacrificial offering retains its old magical meaning.

* *
Deleting Lives in the Cyberworld (Satis Shroff)

The young man and his double-clicks
In a cyberworld
Of bits and bytes,
Full of elves, tough turtles, dementors,
Warriors and evil beings,
Who destroy hamlets, towns,
Civilisations,
At the command of a few clicks.

An unreal world
Where the fantasy stories
Are pre-programmed.
The elimination of farmers, slaves,
Knaves and enemy warriors,
But a click away.

You are the creator,
The maker and destroyer,
You are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
Thumbs up or down,
Death to you,
Delete.
Yawn!
Your’re short of amphetamines.
It’s a long way to the apothecary.
More clicks,
More tiredness,
You’re falling asleep.
Drowsy bits and bytes,
You haven’t taken a bite.
Your inner man is growling,
But you have no time,
For bodily needs.
You’re hooked
To your bits and bytes.
Oh, it bites.
————————————–
Groggy in the Afternoon (Satis Shroff)

Groggy from the Cyberworld at home,
Kevin goes to school.
He’s tired of school,
And is restless.
Retalin doesn’t seem to work today.
The lessons are irrelevant,
He sees not the classmates.
He sees the goblins, Power Rangers,
Sword-fighting Ninjas ,
Scores of other figures

* * *

THE SEA SWELLS (Satis Shroff)

The sea shells on the sea shore
Suddenly the sea swells.
Ring the church and temple bells.
All is not well.
The sea has gone back.

Brown-burnt Tarzans and Janes
From different continents,
Wonder what’s going on.
A man from Sweden
Is immersed in his thriller under the palms.
A mother and daughter from Germany
Frolic on the white sunny beach.

Even the sea-gulls stop and listen
To the foreboding silence.

The sea swells,
Comes back
And brings an apocalyptic destruction:
Sweeping humans, huts and hotels,
Boats, billboards and debris.
Cries for help are stifled by the roaring waves.

The sea goes back.
Leaving behind lost souls,
Caught in suspended animation.
I close my eyes.
Everything dies.

Tsunami. Tsunami.
Om Shanti. Om shanti.

WHEN THE SOUL LEAVES (Satis Shroff)

Like Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage’
And we’ve played many different roles in our lives
In various places and scenarios.
As we grow old and ripe,
Our knowledge of the world grows.
We hold what we cannot see,
Smell, taste and touch in our memories.
We only have to walk down memory lane
To find the countless faces,
Places, sights and sounds that we have stored,
To be recalled and retrieved
Through association
In conversations with others
Or when we contemplate alone.

Why should elderly people be scared
Of social terror and aging?
Aging is a biological phenomenon.
We should be glad that we have lived
Useful lives,
Filled with good or bad experiences.
The wonderful children that we have created,
The very gems of our genes,
Each so individual in their personalities.
The house we lived in and filled
With love, laughter, songs and music.
The parents and grand-parents,
Friends and relatives,
We have had the time to share with.
But we should be able to assert our exit
From this earthly existence
In the manner that we desire,
And not leave it in the hands
Of an intensive life-extension unit.

Let us dwell on common experiences and encounters
That we can take with us,
When the soul leaves the body,
Races towards space
With the speed of light
And becomes unified
With the ever expanding,
Timeless cosmos.

Ethnomed: Fatal Decision (Satis Shroff)

‘Give me a glass of water,’ said the London-trained Nepalese, as he came into the room, where a group of Nepalese people with mongolian and causacian features were gathered, either pitying or wondering what the strange illness could be.

With the glass of water in his hand, the swarthy, thick-set, bespectacled doctor approached the thin, emaciated girl, who’d retreated to a corner of the apartment like a cornered cat, and was having fits. A brown froth oozed out of her thin mouth.

As soon as she caught sight of the stranger with the water, she let out a chilling scream that seemed to echo in the Himalayas.

The physician turned to the girl’s father and said, “I’m sorry Mr.Rana, I cannot do anything for your daughter. She has hydrophobia”.And with that he packed his black medical bag and left.
Mr.Rana was stunned. The shock of the doctor’s poker face, and dry diagnosis hit him with such a vehemence that he reeled mentally.

“But there must be some hope or solution for Sudha, my daughter,” he uttered.
He told his wife what the doctor has said, adding that their daughter had no hope of surviving the dog-bite, for Maya Devi spoke only Nepali and no English.

The doctor had spoken in English, as all educated Nepalese did, even among each other.
Sudha was dying and there was no help at hand. Even modern medicine, with all its antibiotics, cortisones, antiferons wouldn’t be able to help their child.

“Oh,Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva! Please don’t let us down”, cried Maya Devi, summoning the Hindu Trinity, with a mixture of fear and worry. And she decided to send for the local shaman, a jhakri, and dispatched a female relative of hers with the nickname ‘Bhunti’, which means a fat person, not that she was pregnant or had a pot belly, but because she had a hollow back, with the result that she went through life preceded by her belly.

Mr.Rana had faith in allopathic medicine and didn’t trust the traditional medicine or that which passed for traditional medicine, especially the jhakris, dhamis, bijuwas, lamas and others who took to what he called “phuk-phak” methods, which literally meant ‘blowing-and-throwing.’

He preferred the old western school-medicine for himself and his family. That was because his brother and grandfather were physicians, having studied at the Grant Medical College in Bombay in the days of the British Raj.

It had almost become a family tradition, and he was contemplating to send his eldest son to this college, despite the astronomical sums that the medical colleges demanded in India in general. They called these criminal sums open-donations, and was a rather done thing.

His wife, being a traditional Tamang tribeswoman, didn’t think much of modern medicine and went back to the traditional healers that she knew through her parents and grandparents for they’d lived in the foothills of the Himalayas and had heard only hair-raising stories of the practitioners of modern medicine. Whereas a local shaman was happy with a dozen eggs or a small goat, you had to pay in currency notes to the modern doctor. And currency notes were scarce in the hills of Nepal, where people bartered with natural products.

Maya Devi had seen a sick neighbour receiving a glucose injection with an outsized hypodermic syringe, and that had scared the wits out of her. She didn’t know what the thing was, but it certainly looked frightening. The patient, a diabetic, had died soon after.

After that experience she’d decided that she’d definitely not go to a modern doctor.

Her grandpa, who had been a village shaman, had treated and cured the whole village, sometime or other, ever since she knew him. And what’s more, he was her grandpa and that meant a lot to her and she had confidence in him, because he’d never do any harm or inflict injury, as was expected of true shamans.

She remembered once asking him how he’d become a shaman, and he’d told her that he’d been picked up in his childhood by the banjhakri, a wild, wise man who lived in the jungle in a cave, and who became his guru and had taught him the secrets of the healing plants and profession. Her grandpa had long hair, like that of the Hindu God Shiva of the Snows: unkempt but braided, and it gave him an extraordinary appearance as he’d sit near his house altar, where he had his ritual objects. To her he was Shiva reincarnated.

Maya Devi’s husband, an educated civil servant of His Majesty’s government, sneered at times about her faith in the jari-buti, as the medicinal roots-and-stems were called.

After what seemed like ages, Bhunti turned up with a lean man, who had mongolian features. He was thought to be a ‘knowing’ practitioner of his blow-and-throw trade. He was half Tamang and half Bhotay, as people of Tibetan origin are called, and looked as though he, himself, was suffering from consumption. He was untidily dressed, had blood-shot eyes and stuck his thin black hair under his monkey-cap, and had a pair of drooping moustaches. He was left alone and Bhunti catered to his needs and demands.

First of all, he demanded rice grains to be brought for the blowing part of the ceremony, and then alcohol, since he belonged to the matwali-jat, which means the ‘caste-that-drinks-alcohol’.

In the high-caste, ritual purity-pollution thinking Hindu society, it is regarded as a direct affront when one is offered alcohol. But since this was an emergency situation, a matter of life and death in the family, there were no protests. Neither from her otherwise orthodox Hindu husband, not from the relatives and neighbours.
Meanwhile, after gulping some of the raksi (alcohol) as though he was drinking lemon juice, he began the treatment by raising his voice and reciting a mantra and counting the rice grains on a copper plate. After each chant he drew a deep breath and blew his breath thrice in quick succession.

His first intention was to find out whether the child, who was letting out screams intermittently, was seized by a witch in the neighbourhood or a distant demon (bhut), for only then could he apparently begin treatment. After more swigs of the Gurkha raksi, his mantras became unintelligible and he seemed to withdraw within himself.

After a great deal of time, he began shaking and said in staccato bursts, “It’s the demon from the othay-khola”. A rivulet in the vicinity of the town. ‘Othay’ means a ‘lip’ in Nepali.
The diagnosis having been completed ,a blood-sacrifice had to be made to appease the concerned river-demon along with a prayer to the Mahaguru: Shiva. It had to be a little red rooster.

Bhunti organised a red rooster in no time, and the jhakri prepared his ritual.

Although Mr. Rana showed respect this time for the traditional methods despite his distrust, he just couldn’t help feeling irritated by this particular species of his sort, especially his preference for alcohol at a critical moment in someone’s life.

“Perhaps he’s just an alcoholic and practiced traditional medicine as a quack, a dabbler who could in effect do nothing,” he thought. There was nothing he could do at the moment. He had to try it out with this quack too. It was faith healing at its best. Either you believed in someone or not. Take it or leave it. There was no choice. And when you’re in a desperate situation, you had to take all the chances that were available to soothe your conscience.”

Meanwhile, the thin girl had started seeing double, because her optic nerve was affected, and her brain stem was assaulted by the rabies-virus and she had problems with her swallowing reflex.

Her mother had tried to give her water not knowing the medical implications and her daughter had a spasm of panicky angst and screamed again.

“Oh God, my poor Sudha, what’s become of you?” cried Maya Devi as she held her daughter wrapped in a brown blanket. It was pathetic to see a pretty daughter, a girl who was only eight years old, with beautiful black hair and an olive complexion turn virtually into a skeleton, so that even the teeth seemed to jut out, the body growing thin, dehydrating and the psyche a chaos, for she was no longer able to take in the world as it had been.

There was a mighty struggle going on in her nervous system, and it registered through her brown and frothy saliva and her screams of angst and terror, which had seized her. She was evidently losing the fight.

A neighbour suggested that the patient should be immediately transported to Kathmandu for “further treatment.” Another thought it would be better to try out a local dhami, a traditional healer, and yet another an ayurvedic practitioner from the town, who wore spectacles and a turban and was from the Punjab. A well-meaning Lepcha neighbour said, “Ranaji, you should call a Lepcha Bongthing who is a mediator between humans and the Spirits. If that doesn’t help we could engage a Limbu Yeba exorcist.

Mr.Rana had often seen the Limbu Yeba males going about wearing their ridiculous creased white skirts and turbans, with long feathers, cauri and rudraksha garlands.

“Why not try homeopathy?” said another.

In this lost and helpless state there was nothing to do but to try everything, like a drowning person clinging to the last straw, and so began an odysee of ‘treatments’ carried out in the hope of saving a child whose body and mind were rebelling and running out of control.

Mrs. Rana’s thought wandered to the day when her daughter Sudha had returned with a neighbour’s daughter after the bhai-tika ceremony from a distant part of the town. Bhai-tika, the festival during which the sisters proffered various honours on their brothers after a ritual puja, whereby the brothers are blessed with prosperity and protection against the adversities of human existence and unseen evils. And who could think that evil would strike on such an auspicious day?

As is the custom in Nepal, the people have their chicken, dogs, yaks and goats outside the courtyard. The dog, which was a bitch, had let out a few snarls and barks to warn passers-by that they were trespassing her marked territory. The children had been scared by the angry barks and had emitted shrieks of fear, and the bitch had made for the two scared children in a frenzy and had bitten them on their legs after a short pursuit.

The two girls had returned home crying and told their parents about the fierce dog that had bitten them. However, the parents who were entertaining guests in the afternoon hadn’t thought anything worse about the consequences of a dog-bite and Mr. Rana had only used the zinc oxide and eucalyptus salve that you find in every household. He had faith it would heal the wound, as in the past against other bites and wounds.

And that had been a terrible mistake.

Whereas the other girl Chitra was immediately sent to a local doctor, who gave her anti-rabies injections, Mr. Rana’s daughter was treated with only a smear salve.

“That ought to do the trick,” Mr. Rana had thought. “Why spend more money unnecessarily on the doctor? Injections were expensive. And after all, if the salve had the same effect, why not save the money for another purpose?”

Only last Monday the Nepalese Brahmin from Dhankuta had visited them and had predicted something inauspicious in the near future in the family. But in order to counteract that he had suggested making an amulet for his two daughters, with vedic mantras inscribed in them, which were thought to have preventive and protective effects against the bad planets (grahas) that had changed their constellations. The Brahmin was a jotisi, a learned Banaras-returned astrologer, with the ability to interpret and analyse the astrological data of Hindus, for every Hindu possessed a long scroll (janai-patra), which bears all the lucky and unlucky, the auspicious and inauspicious days in one’s lifetime, noted according to the constellation of one’s zodiac sign, and starting from the date of one’s birth.

In the Nepal of yore, this scroll of paper was an important document, and it still is, in the Middle Mountains of Nepal where the Chettris and Brahmins live.

Mr.Rana though a Chettri from birth, didn’t think much of the jotisis and other wandering brahmins. As far as he was concerned, they were slimy, garrulous, cunning fellows who went from house to Hindu house talking fancy Sanskrit with the married women who were unfailingly always at home, and departing with a handsome dakshina (present) in the form of: rice, currency notes and coins, and sometimes even a whole cow. The Hindu religion allowed it, and the priests and astrologers made the best of this belief.

The doctor’s words had struck Mr. Rana like a guillotine. It was a death sentence.

A dark, monsoon-like cloud hung over the family. A feeling of mourning, depression and helplessness spread, even though the daughter was breathing, shrieking and struggling with death. Their daughter had developed a hoarse throat and her whole frail body was shaking.

Mr. Rana had heard that it took at least 15 injections to treat the rabies virus. In these days it was even possible to do it with three shots, but what was the use of knowledge? Or when a medical therapy is refused due to the ignorance on the part of the parents who have the money, and therefore the power to decide whether a member of the family should be medically treated or not, through traditional or western healing methods.

The way Mr. Rana saw it, it had been a blatant misuse of power. And he had a terribly guilty conscience regarding his daughter. It had been a fatal decision. One part of his mind accused him and the other seemed to rationalise and shift the blame to the uselessness of medicine, even though man had set foot on the moon and the skies were studded with satellites belonging to the western world.

Sudha died that night.

* * *

Ethnomed: Which Witch in Germany? (Satis Shroff)

“Do they have witches in Germany?” asked Archana S., a 26-year old Nepalese woman from Dharan at a Nepalese get-together in the Pochgasse 31 in Freiburg, a university-town in south-west Germany.

It was an interesting question. I thought about the symbolic burning of the witches during the fasting period of Fasnet in the Allemanic areas, and also about the recent exorcist trials, and said, “Yes, there are witches in Germany.” European history is replete with cases of witches being burned at the stake in the name of Christianity during the Middle Ages. And there are very often reports in the media about black magic and secret ritual ceremonies being held with the effect that the Pope has appointed certain priests to weed out the satan from the souls of the afflicted people through ritual purifying ceremonies.

“Ever since I’ve come to Germany, I’ve been bitten by a boksi (witch). And I also have nightmares when a boksi bites me.” The Nepalese word for it is “aithan paryo.” When you are asleep and you have a heavy feeling on your chest and this heaviness increases, as though someone is placing heavy weights on your rib-cage. Your breathing becomes heavy and difficult, you sweat and gasp and suddenly wake up, and find yourself drenched with perspiration. What you’ve had is an attack of “aithan”. And very often a black cat darts from your bedroom.

Archana said, “When I’ve had an attack by a witch I have red patches where the witch bit me. And after some hours it becomes blue”.

I asked if she had had such bites in Nepal.

“Oh yes,” she replied, “I had it often in Dharan and Kathmandu”.

“What did it precisely look like?” I asked. “Was it like an insect bite?” I was thinking of Dharan’s near sub-tropical climate, the air infested with tropical insects like mosquitoes.

“It looks like a bite”, she answered sharply as if reading my thoughts, then added, “but here in Germany you have to look for insects because everything’s so clean and sterile. It’s difficult to find insects here because of the wanton use of insecticides and pesticides in urban areas”.

She was right. In Nepal you only have to go into the Terai or to Chitwan and you’d see tigers, panthers, leopards, elephants, rhinos, wild boars, monkeys, crocodiles and in the Narayani river the Gangetic Dolphines, exotic birds and it’s an entomologist’s paradise.

The other guests at the Pochgasse 31 were a German-Nepali doctor couple. I translated what Archana said because Werner’s command of the Nepali language wasn’t that good, and asked him what he thought about it. He was of the opinion that it could be a psycho-somatic phenomenon because of the fact that Archana was new in Germany, didn’t have friends, lived with her husband alone in a strange environment, and was unhappy because she didn’t fluent German, and couldn’t talk with ordinary Germans in the town of Kulmbach (Bavaria), where she lived.

In Nepal Archana’s problem with the boksi-bites would be no news at all, for every village has its own village-shaman who takes care of psychosomatic and religious ‘ailments,’ and treats the problems by mantras, seances, herbal medicine, or in modern times, by the competent use of modern medicine.

It might be mentioned that in the 80,000 mountainous hamlets of Nepal there are at least 40,000 shamans and traditional healers who have been, or are taught the basics of first aid. With the influx of tourists since 1950, Nepal’s shamans have marched with modern times. The winds of change have swept Nepal, where once the shaman wasn’t supposed to get rich and make a profit through his healing profession. Today, he blesses a life-saving electrolyte solution for the treatment of diarrhoea, and makes himself useful by selling ritualised anti-birth pills for a commission, thereby helping the government’s family planning efforts. Moreover, the Nepalese shamans have been given an official status while also bearing the title “Practitioner of Traditional medicine”, and being trained in the application of modern drugs.

I told them about an ethnologist from Freiburg who’d specialised on Thakali-shamanism and had spent a few years in Nepal. She even had a huge Jhakri drum (dhangro)with her, but wasn’t concerned with the healing aspect of shamanism. Her job had been to record and document about shamanism and wasn’t concerned with the healing aspect and didn’t possess the ability to heal a patient. The thought of a German with a dhangro provoked laughter, but in England there’s a woman-Jane Purce-who uses chanting influenced by Mongolian and Tibetan shamanistic techniques for healing and transformation. A weekend course 59 Pounds Sterling.

And then Archana went on to say, “Even my husband has bites on his arms.” Her husband, who’s a food technologist, answered in the affirmative. Since it was a Nepalese evening, the main language was Nepali, but our conversation was studded with German words so that our German guests wouldn’t feel uneasy and out of place.

Just as the Germans have a grillfest with steaks, würst and beer, the Nepalese buffet consists of: dal-bhat-shikar, rounded up with momos and delicious achaar. And there was soft Nepalese ethno-music (Sur Sudha)and songs sung by Narayan Gopal, Ambar Gurung and Sambhu Rai accompanying the conversation and delicacies.

“I had an uncle in Nepal who first had dreams about shamans,” said Archana S. She said the old experienced shaman of his village had died. Her uncle had begun to see the dead shaman in his dreams and had spoken to him, but he had dismissed the dreams. The dreams, however, became persistent. Whenever there was a shamanic seance in the village, her uncle would start shivering and shaking like a leaf, as if in a trance. The drums of a shaman would incite his quiverings.

Sometime later, he’d seen the shaman in his dreams again. He said that the shaman had shown him where he’d hidden his shaman’s paraphernalia: the dhangro (drum), gajo (stick)were behind a certain bush, the headgear of porcupine quills in another place, and beside a big boulder by the rivulet were his Rudraksha malas and belts with cauri mussels and bells. The brass bumba (jug)and his thumri, a wooden ritual dagger, were also hidden in the vicinity.

It was a call to Archana’s uncle to be a shaman, and the younger man after the fashion of the layman’s etiology, had asked his elders and neighbours for advice, and they had concluded that he should take up the mantle. So he went and collected the dead shaman’s ritual objects and became a jhakri.

I mentioned that I’d read a book written by an American named Larry Peter’s, who’d done a stint of shamanism in Tin Chuli in the outskirts of Kathmandu. Mr. Peters worked as an assistant Jhakri (shaman), and beat his dhangro, but said he did not believe in the spirit world to which the Jhakri, Bhirendra, was introducing him. He refused to enter a de rigeur initiation psychosis. Sadly enough, when he and his son were seriously ill, they preferred the missionary hospital to the shaman. The son, however, died in the hospital. And Bhirendra the Jhakri was understandably not on speaking terms with Larry because of the breach of confidence (Vertrauensverlust).

The question is: would the boy have survived if the traditional healer had treated him?
Perhaps the modern doctor should also learn to send his patient to a shaman when he gets baffled by certain symptoms. The shaman will then banish the cause of the illness, namely an invisible power that becomes active in the visible world, causing suffering and illness. For the shaman establishes contact with the invisible world and the earthly sphere, and forces the evil power that takes residence in human hosts to reveal their identities, ask them to what they desire, and eventually make them promise to leave the somatic environment of their hosts. And that is traditional healing through a ritual.

Asked about life in a small German town, Archana S. said “Man-parey-na!” which means she didn’t like it. She longs for the mountains of Dharan in Eastern Nepal, and worries about her children who are still in the small Himalayan Kingdom. What will happen to my children when there’s a monsoon-flood? Or an earthquake in Nepal? Or malaria? Or typhoid or dysentery and diarrhoea?

In the meantime, Archana S. has been to a modern German doctor and has had blood and allergy tests, but her boksi-bites will be healed when she returns to Nepal forever this autumn–and visits her local shaman.
* * *
Book-review:
Theme of book: Migration
The Inheritance of Loss and Intercultural Competence (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

‘My characters are purely fictional,’ says Kiran Desai. In her book The Inheritance of Loss she has tried to do exactly that, namely to capture her own knowledge about what it means to travel between East and West, and to examine the lives of migrants who are forced to hypocrisy, angst of being nabbed, and have biographies that have gaps, and whose lives are constructed with lies, where trust and faith in someone is impossible, as in the case of Sai and Gyan.

Migration is a sword with sharp blades on both sides. The feeling of loss when one leaves one’s matribhumi is just as intensive and dreadful as having to leave a foreign home, due to deportation, when one doesn’t have the green-card or Aufenthaltserlaubnis. Everyone copes with such situations differently. Some don’t have coping solutions and it becomes a traumatic experience for the rest of one’s life. Some pull up their socks, keep a stiff upper-lip and begin elsewhere.

The problem of illegal migration hasn’t been solved in the USA, Britain, France, Germany and other European countries. It is an open secret that the illegal migrants are used as cheap labourers according to the hire-and-fire principle, for these people belong to the underclass. In the USA it’s chic to have Hispanics as baby-sitters, just as Eastern Bloc women are used by German families to do the household chores. Nepalis work under miserable conditions in India as darwans, chowkidars, cheap security personnel and the Indians have the same arrogance as the British colonialists. The judge, Lola and Noni are stereotypes, but such people do exist. It’s not all fantasy. I’m sure the Gurkhas looking after photo-model Claudia Schiffer and singer Seal’s house and guarding the palace of the Sultan of Brunei are well paid and contented, in comparison to other people in Nepal and the Indian sub-continent.

What does a person feel and think when he or she goes from a rich western country to the East? And what happens when a poor Indian comes to the USA (land of plenty) or Germany (Schlaraffenland)? Is there always a feeling of loss? I’ve been living thirty years in Germany and I have met and seen and worked with migrants with biographies from Irak, Iran, Turkey, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Kosovo, Albania, Croatia and East Bloc countries. The worst part of it is that the Germans ignored the fact that it had already become, what they call ‘ein Einwanderungsland.’ They thought they’d invited only guest workers after World War II, with limited stay-permits, not realising that they’d encouraged human beings with families and emotional ties, hopes and desires of a better future in the new Heimat with for their children and their grand-children.

Kiran Desai flashes back and forth, between Kalimpong and New York, and she uses typical clichés and Indian stereotypes that have also been promoted by Bollywood. She’s just as cynical and hilarious with her descriptions of fellow Indians in the diaspora, as she is when she describes the Gorkhalis in Darjeeling. Her portrait of the Nepalis in Darjeeling is rather biased, but what can one expect from a thirty-six year old Indian woman who has been pampered in India, England and the USA? Her knowledge of Kalimpong and Darjeeling sounds theoretical and her characters don’t speak Nepali. She lets them speak Hindi, because she herself didn’t bother to learn Nepali during her stay in Kalimpong. The depiction of a Gorkhali world might be true, as far as poverty is concerned, but she has no idea of the rich Nepali literature (Indra Bahadur Rai, Shiva Kumar Rai, Banira Giri to name a few), and folks music in the diaspora.

Gyan’s role was overdone, especially when Sai demands that he should feel ashamed of his and his family’s poverty and so-called low descent. What is Gyan? Is he a Chettri, Bahun, Rai Tamang, or even a Newar? Describing a country, landscape is one thing, but creeping into the skins of the characters is another. The Gorkha characters remain shallow, like caricatures in Bollywood films, and she overdoes it with the dialogue between Sai and Gyan.

For someone like me, who also went to school in Darjeeling, Kiran Desai’s book was a pleasant journey into the past, where I still have fond memories of the Darjeeling Nepalis, their struggle for recognition and dignity among the peoples of the vast Indian subcontinent. I’m glad that peace prevails in the Darjeeling district, although I wish Subash Ghising had negotiated more funds from the central Indian government, and a university in Darjeeling. Gangtok (Sikkim) also does not have a university. The recognition of Nepali was a positive factor, but a university each for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong would have given more Nepalis (pardon, Gorkhalis) the opportunity for higher education and better jobs, if not in the country, then abroad. To eat dal-bhat-tarkari at home and acquire MAs and PhDs within one’s familiar confines would have immensely helped the Gorkhali men and women, even more than the recognition of Nepali. We can regard it as a small step towards progress.

The description of Gyan’s visit to Kathmandu was extremely superficial. Kathmandu is a world, a cosmos in itself, with its exquisite temples and pagodas and stupas and the culturally rich Newaris families from Lalitpur, Bhadgaon and Kathmandu.

Kiran is, and remains, a supercilious brown-memsahib, like the made-over English characters of Varindra Tarzie Vittachi’s fiercely satirical book ‘The Brown Sahibs’ in her attitude towards Gorkhalis and the downtrodden of her own country. I can imagine that the Nepali author D.B. Gurung is piqued about Desai’s portrayal of the Nepalis in Kalimpong as ‘crook, dupe, cheat and lesser humans’ and his own emotional rejoinder regarding the Bengalis as ‘the hungry jackals from the plains of Calcutta.’ Since D.B. Gurung is known for his poetic vein, perhaps he can treat the long standing problems between Indians and Nepalis, or as Desai puts it, Bengis and Neps, in his lyrical verses. But please, less of the vitriol and more of tolerance, because even a poet and novelist can make or break human relations. I, for my part, am for living together, despite our differences, for variety is the spice of life in these days of globanisation. Vive la difference.

The story is served like a MacDonald’s Big Mac for the modern reader, who has not much time, and there are multi-media distractions craving for his or her attention. As small morsels of information, like in a sit-com. I found the story-pace well timed and interesting, and she has a broad palette of problems that migrants face when they leave their homes, and when they return home. You can feel with Bijhu when he embraces his Papa in the end. A foreign-returned son, stripped of all his belongings. It was a terrific metaphor. I’m glad that there are women like Kiran Desai and Monica Ali (Brick Lane) who’ve travelled and experienced what it is like to be in the diaspora and try to capture the emotional and historical patterns in their lives as migrants.

When you read the last page of the Desai’s book you feel a bit dissatisfied because you wish that the unequal love affair between Gyan and Sai will go on and take a positive turn. There are so many Nepali-Indian couples who live happy conjugal lives with their families. I know at least three cases of Nepali women who’re married to Bengalis. The Nepali women speak perfect Bengali, but their husbands don’t speak Nepali, even though they live in Gorkhaland. They are proud that they can speak English instead. Nepali (Gorkhali or Khas Kura) is such a colourful and melodious language and we ought to listen to Sir Ralph Turner’s when he says: “Do not let your lovely language become the pale reflexion of a sanskritised Hindi.”

Dinesh Kafle calls Desai ‘schizophrenic.’ Well, when you talk with an Indian he always praises the achievements of India in terms of the second Silicon Valley (Bangalore), the Agni and Prithvi missiles, the increasing nuclear arsenal, the expanding armed forces etcetera. But, Gott sei dank, there are Indians, who like Gandhi, are humble, religious, practice humility, are poor, deprived, castless, untouchables and, nevertheless, human and full of empathy, clean in their souls and hearts, and regard this world as merely a maya, an illusion, an earthly spectacle
to be seen and felt—without being attached. D. B. Gurung is wrong when he assumes that Desai seems “unable to acclimatise herself to either the western milieu or her own home.” But where is her home? She’s a rootless, creative jet-set gypsy, who calls India, England and USA her home. The gypsies (Sintis and Romas) were originally from India (Rajasthan), weren’t they?

Even V.S.Naipaul (Half a Life, The Mimic Men), J. M. Croatzee (Youth), Isabel Allende (The Stories of Eva Luna) and Prafulla Mohanti (Through Brown Eyes) haven’t gone so far in their description of a race or nation the way Desai has in her book. What is missing in her writing is the intercultural competence. Instead of taking the trouble to learn Nepali and acquiring background knowledge about the tradition, religion, norms and values, culture and living style of the Gorkhalis in Darjeeling and the Nepalese in Nepal, and comparing it with her own Indian culture, and trying to seek what is common between the two cultures and moving towards peace, tolerance, reconciliation—she just remains adamant , like her protagonist Sai. She does not make an ethnic reflection, but goes on and on, with a jaundiced view, till the bitter end. The dialogue between Neps and Bengis, between Neps and other Indians (Beharis and Marwaris and others from the plains) or between the British and Indians cannot be described as successful intercultural dialogues. The dialogues are carried out the way it should not, because there’s always a fear that one is different in terms of social and ethnic status, even between her two main protagonists: Sai and Gyan. There is no attempt to reveal the facts behind an alien in a new cultural environment, no accepting of the problems of identity and no engagement for equality and against discrimination.

If you’re looking for frustrations-tolerance, empathy and solidarity with the Gorkhalis in the book, it’s just not there. The characters necessary for intercultural interaction are joy in interaction with foreign cultures (not arrogance and egoism), consciousness of one’s own culture, stress tolerance, tolerance of ambiguity, and bucketfuls of empathy. Had she shown empathy towards the Nepalis from Darjeeling and Kalimpong and made a happy-end love story between Gyan and Sai, the Nepalese would have greeted her with khadas and marigold malas. The way it is, she has only stirred a hornet’s nest. Kiran just doesn’t have empathy for Neps, despite the Booker Prize. Great women are judged by the way they treat the underprivileged and downtrodden. With 36 years, it’s time for meditation and self-searching in Rishikesh, like the Beatles, I suppose.

* * *
LONDON WHEN IT DRIZZLES (Satis Shroff)

It was a pleasant sunny afternoon in Freiburg, the metropolis of the Black Forest in south-west Germany. The inter-city express (ICE) arrived in time.

We lifted our big luggage into the train and stuffed it, with some difficulty, into a baggage niche near the door and went to look for our reserved places. You have to reserve your seats, because the trains are full most of the time, and without a reservation you’re obliged to spend the better part of your journey in some corridor letting fellow passengers go by. Moreover, a seat-reservation costs nothing.

Once we got settled down, I started reading a copy of “Die Zeit,” Germany’s equivalent to the former Times Literary Supplement, and now the Guardian . The problem with “Die Zeit” is, you have to have a lot of time at your disposal.

An article on the role of the German soldier in the Gulf War caught my eye, especially the right, according to the German Grundgesetz, to refuse to wear a uniform and fight. In the USA we call it draft-dodging, but in German it’s called Verweigerung (refusal) compara­ble to conscientious objection. The title of the article was “Eine Armee zum Schiessen” by Frank Dreishmer et al, with a pun on the expression “zum Schiessen” which could mean: An Army to Shoot or An Army to laugh at. There was another caption to it: the Bundeswehr–Today in Germany and Tomorow in the Whole World? According to it, the Bundesgesetz (Fundamental Laws) was going to be changed so that the German forces could take part in wars and peace-keeping missions under the UNO (and NATO) com­mand in far-off countries. But the recruit and officers of the Bundeswehr showed no sanguinary designs. Conservative Bundeswehr officers would like to introduce rigid service and were demanding a military education that was in conformity with real-war conditions…

There was another article on the plight of Muslims, especially in Britain and the mention of a black chador-dressed lady in incognito look, who seemed to be lamenting about the ill-treatment meted out to the Muslims of her country in recent times, especially arrest and detention.

And then there was a story of a palestinian man who’d raised a family in Germany written by his German-born daughter, with questions regarding the attitude towards Jews and Palestinians.

And while I read the newspaper, I asked myself if London was safe for a visit these days when Saddam was sabre-rattling and the USA and UK were flexing their muscles.

Our German friends in Freiburg thought that we had been a bit daring and crazy to fly to London because England was fighting the war against Saddam Hussein, and there was the danger of the Arab terrorists hijacking planes. However, We found the security in Frankfurt and London reassuringly tight. I had to admit that a day earlier he had heard over the SWF-3 Baden-Baden that two bombs had exploded in London’s stations: Paddington and Victoria. And their hotel Senator was in Paddington.

In the morning newspaper the Badische Zeitung there was a news item about a terrorist action. But We had booked their tickets, remained adamant and ventured towards Lon­don. Moreover, We had been looking forward to it all those days and weeks. The 40 % hike on the fuel did disturb them though. We left Offenburg and Karlsruhe behind and went through a tunnel…

The general atmosphere in Freiburg regarding the Gulf War had been that of protest, indifference and angst, not to speak of an attitude of Verweigerung, aimed at non-coo­peration with the government´s Gulf-policy. In the middle of downtown Freiburg at Bertold’s fountain, young Germans had staged demonstrations and erected a temporary Mahnwache, with an outsized mock-up scud-missile, a fallen soldier and the words: NO WAR FOR OIL.

It being Fasnet-time (carnival), a local newspaper carried out interviews on the decision not to celebrate Fasnet. Most children were disappointed and some grown-ups too. But the majority of the Germans thought it was not the appropriate time to celebrate. The Swiss people were indifferent to the Gulf War and had their Morgenstraich and Fasnet-fun as usual. For them it was a war that didn’t spoil their revelry.

“Arriving in Mannheim, meine Damen und Herrn,” said a voice over the ICE-loudspeaker. It had been relatively easy to acquire the British visa (30 euros) and the German-English speaking lady over the phone at the British Consulate had been friendly and helpful.

The sun was shining in Mannheim as we sped past the series of cranes and containers, for it was a big junction.

“Ist hier noch jemand zugestiegen bitte?”, asked a blue uniformed female conductor, who was a woman in her late thirties. The way she said that sounded as though she was selling bon-bons in the train and not punching tickets.

By the time it was 14:20 pm We were already in the outskirts of Frankfurt. A DC-10 was visible in the sky, ascending at an excruciatingly slow speed.14:30 and We were already in Frankfurt upon the Main. From platform no. 21 we took the S-Bahn to the airport.

Once inside the terminal, we made a dash for the duty-free shop and bought among other things a Schlumberger Sekt (7.50 euros for the pleasant days in London. Claudia had drunk a piccolo Sekt in Freiburg, and another in Frankfurt airport: one for the road. It’s the done thing when you have low blood pressure.

She smiled coyly and said, ‘A sekt piccolo is just the right thing for a long journey and for your blood circulation.’ The Germans swear that it makes your circulation swing into action.

It was a long wait at the airport.

We walked around the extensive terminal and took snapshots of the aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling. We had to pay 5 euro for the privilege of having a security check of our baggage. However, it was a relief to get rid of the heavy luggage, a monster of a suitcase.

On a big board We read: B33 ,and went through board-luggage security. A paunchy bloke in his late fifties, with a face like Mr. Beck, a local bow-legged baker from Freiburg, said, “Camera,” when the maschine let off a peep. He’d meant my digital camera. I separated the zoom-lens from the camera’s body, had a peep inside and smiled. Everything was okay. A Japanese tourist was subjected to the same treatment at the adjacent counter. At the travel bureau I had been warned not even to take a hair-dryer. All electronic goods had to be left behind. No I-Pods, no electric-shavers, no hair-dryers, no mobiles. The security was like in Ian Fleming’s spy books.

The prospects of a London visit sans camera seemed outrageous. I felt good that we were through. Now we had to wait in another enclosure, where we had the liberty of taking free German and English newspapers for the jet-flight. I took a ‘Guardian.’
Claudia said, “Oh, look at the plane outside. It’s a tiny jet!” There seemed to be disappoint­ment in her voice. Most of the prospective passengers buried their noses in the free newspapers. It was 7:05pm

The German policemen, one in khaki and the other in olive green of the Bundesgrenz­schutz, seemed to be taking a lively interest as the red DANAIR jet docked outside, and the passengers poured out.

Claudia said, “I must take a photograph of the airport, because nobody’s going to believe me that it is so empty.”

Empty? There were people talking in French, Arabic, Vietnamese, English and German, strolling or pushing their Kofferkulis (baggage-wagons) from one terminal section to the other.

Perhaps the usual crowded bustle and noise was missing.

Some GSG-9 anti-terror specialists (of Mogadishu fame) with sturm-automatics slung across their shoulders came patrolling. A certain tension, uneasiness seemed to lurk in the airport atmosphere. The flight to London Gattwick from Frankfurt in the small DANAIR jet reminded I of a so-called de luxe bus-ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, because the vibrations and excitement was the same, except that I had an earache to boot in this flight.

After the landing in Gattwich We took the transit-car to the terminal, and since Nepal didn’t belong to the EC, I was obliged to take another queue and show my Nepalese passport, answer a few questions and was ushered out with a polite “have a nice stay in London, Sir” or words to that effect by the officer in charge. I had the same hollow feeling in my stomach when I went to Nepal in 1985 and 1992 after a long sojourns abroad and had to take a queue for locals with thorough checks of one’s belongings and person, and the same German passengers who’d paid the same amount of money for the Condor flight to Nepal from Munich were escorted like VIPs and greeted with garlands. That was the magic of tourism and euros and naturally the pale complexion.’

Since we were tired, we retired early at 23:00pm, because our tourist undertaking had to drop-off German tourists en route in hotels like: Holiday Inn, Metropole, Charles Dickens, to name a few. The elderly blonde German female guide had a lovely little daughter who was having a whale of a time helping her mother the entire evening, and was all smiles.

There were bomb-alert signs everywhere in London. The signs read: BOMBS–be alert. If you see an unattended package or bag in this car: do not touch it. Move away etc. It was a bit hazy in Paddington from where We started their excursions to discover the sights and sounds of London, this great historical and traditional capital.

We drove past the Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, and stopped at the Tower of London, went to the St. Paul’s cathedral, past the British Museum. We went past the famous Hyde Park, the Greek Park, the St. James Park, and past the Waterloo Bridge to Westminster, crossed the Thames and made our way through the Royal Mews along the Park Lane to Wellington Arch, and then the Oxford Street to Regent Street via Piccadilly Circus, down to the National Gallery and the Admirality Arch, along Whitehall to the Horse Guards and Downing Street.

We also went past the Royal Albert Hall and Science Museum along the Cromwell Road to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and through the Brompton Road, the famous shopping centre of Harrods, and the driver even managed to make two rounds around the Bucking­ham Palace, before we made for Cleopatra’s Needle along the Victoria Embankment. We got off the bus after the tour at Piccadilly Circus, with its naughty neon lights winking in the night.

The London traffic, pedestrians and elegant shops were fascinating and impressive, and it was exciting to walk along the pavement and mix and be a part of ist million restless inhabitants from all over the world, especially the British Commonwealth and the eccen­tric clothed Londoners. Oho, how could one go to Piccadilly and forget Soho? I found Soho rather different in comparison to St. Michael in Paris.

As we walked past the gaudy, neon-strip we saw in a side street a sparsely clad young lady being chatted up by, what the Germans would call, a ‘freier’. And next door you could see a serious, elegant boutique, a Turkish and Chinese restaurant. I’d had been told that London’s cooking is comparable to an eclectic stew. Claudia had been to London to do an English course and her landlady had been gastronomically tight-fisted, and she was obliged to eat baked beans fresh from the tin–a staple British diet. The landlady hadn’t bothered to find out what the world ate. She probably thought eating new dishes was something daring and almost wicked enterprise. Britain’s favourite take-away is still fish & chips, which was first mentioned in Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist in 1839. We saw two small school-boys wearing their immaculate school-uniform merrily eating fish & chips on a rainy morning after school. The thought of eating chips with mayonese or ketchup is bearable, but with vinegar?

Different countries, different tastes.
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White Chapel: Formerly Cockney, Now Bangladeshi (Satis Shroff)

We took the underground from the Embankment (green route) to White Chapel in Lon­don’s East End, previously a Cockney area, now turned Bengali. London’s East End looked dark, dilapidated, gloomy and there were hundreds of Asian shops and restaurants in the side streets.

In one such Bengali restaurant hung a pair of enlarged photographs of a team of wrestlers from West Pakistan in decent European clothes. The few Asian customers were reading Urdu newspapers and discussing the Gulf War. Some seemed to be for and some against it, as I could gather from snippets of conversation in Urdu. On the whole they looked like a shabby, unhappy, frustrated, miserable and rootless lot. The flair and smart­ness that you see among the established West End Asians in London’s tube or taxis was totally missing. It was like a ghetto and the people didn’t seem integrated with their white fellow-citizens, and it reminded me of the Turks in Mannheim and Berlin’s Kreuzberg.

They created the impression that they still hung to their countries of origin and felt neglected and rejected by mainstream-England. Even though the East End looked gloomy and sad, like the slums of Calcutta under the Howrah Bridge, there were nevertheless simple-minded Asians living there, eking out an existence with a British address, despite the poverty and hopelessness, as anywhere in their own distant homelands. After all they regarded it as a sort of privilege to be in ‘Lundun’.

At the White Chapel Underground entrance, a huddled, pitiable soul was lying on the filthy floor. An Asian, probably a Tamil from India or Sri Lanka judging from his ethnic features, was controlling the tickets from a kiosk oblivious of the tragic human heap. Perhaps he’d seen too many such helpless creatures in his own country in his lifetime to bother about a white social case. The British government had its social and street wor­kers, and there were so-called friendly bobbies everywhere, probably more in the West than in the East End of London. The East End: that was the Bronx. And outside, a white helicopter was bringing in the British casualties from Irak to London Hospital’s rooftop landing-pad.

After a long time in Germany, it was interesting to discover the heavy South Asian characters of East End. The Bengali sari shops and mannequins, the smell of puris, chapatis, sambosas and the appetising smell of masalas overwhelming you, as you walked along the narrow, dimly lit streets. It was like revisiting India. It was like being in Calcutta.

I felt a bit weary and lethargic for it had been a long day, doing the sights of London. I talked with Claudia about the East End because she’d already been to Bombay twice and also to Canada, Australia and a good many cities in Europe.

“I wouldn’t walk these streets alone,”she said with a serious face. “It looks so dark and foreboding. I get the creeps.”

I had to ask myself whether the Asians from the British Commonwealth were just as insecure, unhappy, frustrated and without much rights as the foreigners in other European Commonwealth countries, perhaps due to their origins, and not their acquired British passports.

We had a rendezvous at Madame Tussaud’s at the Marylebone Road with the famous and the infamous. There were criminals and heroes to be seen in wax. The entire British Commonwealth leaders were represented: Africans to the right, Indira, Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi to the left, and Chancellor Kohl and other European dignitaries in the middle of the room. The British Royal Family was almost real, though Lady Diana was a disappoint­ment. But Princess Sarah, Timothy Dalton (007), Grace Jones were admirably done. The wax figures did thrill, shock and amuse you, especially the Chamber of Horrors in the basement. Next door, the London Planetarium had daily star shows every 40 minutes.

The next morning we were underway to Westminster from Paddington Station with the underground. A one-way ticket costs 80 pence for adults. It had become cold and misty by the time We reached West Minster Abbey, the scene of coronations of Kings and Queens of England since 1066 and ‘nearly as many deaths’, royal weddings and countless state occasions. Princess Fergie and Prince Andrew were married here in recent times.

It is also the final resting place of countless monarchs, statesmen, poets and heroes. The Abbey, however, doesn’t seem to receive money from the state, but the collections and donations must be substantial judging from the opulence and grandeur of the Abbey.

At the Westminster Abbey, England’s dead statesmen and heroes were glorified, for you could see written and sculptured evidence. Right near the entrance gate were the buried remains of a dead unknown soldier from a long forgotten war. England’s Standard and other regimental flags hung in one corner of the Abbey, near the entrance in a fenced-in room.

I couldn’t help thinking about the Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu, which had also been the scene of King Birendra’s coronation in 1974, and the courtyard is a place of animal sacrifice during the Dasain festival in Nepal. The Royal Gurkhas behead a great number of Asiatic buffaloes and goats at an official ritual ceremony. And during the Kot massacre in 1846 Junga Bahadur Rana, the man who created the Rana dynasty in Nepal, and called himself the Maharaja of Nepal, eliminated the Nepalese aristocracy and paved the way for the overtake of power in the Himalayan Kingdom. The Shah dynasty was almost supposedly wiped out by Prince Dipendra, the crown prince. And now the Maoists and the Congress party have cut off the King’s power.

Was there even a single memorial for the Gurkhas that were sent to countless wars against Tibet, India, Burma, Vietnam, Congo, Malaysia, Borneo, Pakistan, China and the Falk­lands? I hadn’t seen any in Nepal or in India. There’s only a Gurkha Museum at Win­chester, co-located with several other British regimental museums registered under a United Kingdom Charity No.272426 to commemorate and record the services of the Gurkhas since 1815.

Alone in the two World Wars Nepal sent 200,000 Gurkha soldiers to fight for England’s glory and 45,000 died in France, Gallipoli, Suez and Mesopotamia in addition to Burma, Singapore, Italy and North Africa. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) never seems to be tired to insist that the Gurkhas are an integral part of the British Army, but when it comes to human rights, pay-scales and stay-permits for Gurkhas, the MoD uses another yardstick. The excuse is that Britain’s Gurkhas are paid a pension so that they are obliged to live in Nepal. According to MoD and the Home Ministry, a Gurkha has no attachment to the British Isles. I have the impression that the Gurkhas are being treated like the asylum-seekers, and are only tolerated as long they fight for Britain’s glory, but as soon as they reach a certain age, they are obliged to return to Nepal, and not stay in Britain, the country of their choice. The Gurkhas and their children are denied a British education and are thus not allowed to be integrated through better qualifications in the British society. The asylum-seekers who come from Britain’s former colonies are given equal rights when their papers are recognised by the Home Ministry. The Gurkhas are nown for their reputation and have been publicly praised by British Generals and Royals, but when it comes to money matters and human rights, others members of the Commonwealth are more equal than the Gurkhas. It’s a sad story, which has happened again and again for the last two centuries, for that’s how long the Gurkhas have sworn their allegiance to Britian and the Queen, from the times of Queen Victoria till Queen Elisabeth II. If I were a British citizen, I’d feel very much ashamed of the treatment meted out towards the Gurkhas by the various British governments and Monarchs. The Gurkha-problem has been too long tolerated and ignored in the past.

Suddenly the ether crackled and a bearded priest beckoned the Abbey visitors to stay where I and her group were, be silent and pray with him for the dead, injured and anxious souls and relatives and ended with: “Our Father who art in Heaven…” A touching gesture. The bombings in Iraq was very much with them in their thoughts, if not in the media, which preferred to show a clean, remote, sterile war. A war without its horrors and sufferings. It was a case of tampered sterility and censorship. This was the first gesture in public in London, otherwise life seemed to be going on, as though everything was normal. Business as usual.

I remembered her London female guide saying: “In London we don’t take all these terrorist actions seriously. The IRA has been active also in the past, and we’ve learnt to live with it and ignore it.”

Just before wee reached the Buckingham Palace, and saw the scarlet uniformed Horse Guards going past and managed to take some photographs. At the Buckingham Palace we saw the Foot Guards in their grey overcoats marching hither and thither like robots. I thought about my English professor named Bruce Dobler from the University of Iowa, who had described a Gurkha armed with his short automatic gun and a razor sharp curved khukuri. The professor had said that his blood had chilled when he looked at the Gurkha. He said, ‘I wouldn’t have liked to meet the fellow in a dark alley. We cracked jokes about the regular English Royal Guard with those tall, woolly hats and took photographs with them, but had respect for the Gurkha. He looked sinister and made one scared.’

At another occasion in Freiburg where I was invited to hold a Nepal transparency show, there happened to be a pair of music-students from Argentina and we were awfully curious to know Nepal and its Gurkhas because of the Falkland War in 1982. In this war the British had sent their elite troops: the First Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles and the Schots Guards and the Welsch Guards, all under the command of Brigadier M.J.A. Wilson. The Argentinian press had compared the British Gurkhas as a cross between dwarfs and mountain goats and the Argentinian soldiers were apprehensive about the Gurkhas and were full of misconceptions. I had to clear the misconceptions about the Gurkhas and the Nepalese in the course of the evening.

It started drizzling and we didn’t feel like waiting for the Changing of the Guards in the rain, so We made for the small Guards Museum. I had hoped to see the Gurkhas at least on postcards. Nothing of the sort. So we went to the nearby underground station and made for Harrods for it was nearing tea-time.

On the way, I thought how delightful it was: London when it drizzled (and not sizzled). Harrods in the Brompton Road lived up to its name of being the world’s most famous and prestigious department store, for fashions, furniture, home-wares. The gastronomic section was well-stocked with all the food you could imagine. How could you resist doing a bit of shopping to suit your purse?

After that we went past the Duck Island, an island teeming with ducks, swans, quails, squirrels and pigeons. A member of a Swedish trio, who were walking ahead of them, approached a squirrel with a stick. The small squirrel was wary at first, lay low and then thrust forward. The Viking was alarmed and dropped his stick, and his two colleagues burst into laughter.

I thought we should brush up their our knowledge of geography and decided to take a boat to Greenwich. The boat was rather empty, except for a Muslim family, that you could tell from the jewellery and salwar kameez of the women and their dark silken complexions.

There was a cold wind, but we felt we had to brave it by sitting on the deck and watch the muddy waters of the Thames. The old dilapidated warfs were a contrast to the flashy and chic West End, but We were interspersed with modern buildings with expensive looking apartments, with the blessing of Margret Thatcher during her hey-days.

The sun didn’t shine. The houses or what remained of them on both banks of the Thames evoked a depressing, chilly atmosphere. There were water-buses and ferries plying alongside. We were greeted in Greenwich pier by the burnt remains of the ‘Cutty Sark’, a sailing clipper built in 1860. There was a teacher and a parent instructing a bunch of small school-kids to draw the ‘Cutty Sark’ on bits of paper and the lady explained to her charges , “Cutty Sark was a witch and she’s depicted in front of the ship.” One had to imagine it.

‘Some witch’ said Claudia.

I exclaimed sheepishly ‘Some boobs!’

I remembered the poem “Tam O’ Shanter” by Robert Burns from her schooldays in the Himalayas, which means ‘short shirt’, in which the name Cutty Sark features. The poem has a moral for people who drink and ride home late. She’d found the poem rather amusing and down to earth in comparison to Byron, Goldsmith and Wordsworth. It had made them laugh, because the local Nepalese people were fond of that high percentage alcoholic raksi. You could vividly imagine old Tam, drunk as he was, riding like the wind with the devil behind him, and his wife reprimanding him.

The walk from the pier to Greenwich Observatory was pleasant due to the green surroun­dings, despite the fact that it was raining. It was a short sharp climb. Greenwich Ob­servatory was founded in 1695 and the zero meridian passes through it. GMT is the official time in the British Isles and the basis for International Time Zone System. And each time zone is 15 degrees or an hour across. Flamstead’s Ob­servatory dated back to 1675. There was a 5 foot Mural Quadrant by Adam Sharp built about 1710 on display. Flamsted (of star-catalogue fame) used his mural arc to find the zenith distance and time of transit over the meridian of the star called Gamma vergnis in 1698. Bradley’s zenith sector dating 1727 was mentioned along with huge collinating telescopes.

It was interesting to learn that Edmond Halley (1656-1742) the Second Astronomer Royal (1720-1742) was appointed to succeed John Flamstead in 1720. There was a transit-clock by William Hardy of London (1811) which tells sideral time (time by the stars).

I, Claudia and I took photographs with their legs apart over the Greenwich Meridian, as all visitors are wont to do, before it got too dark, and decided to walk through the tunnel that runs below the Thames. It was a strange feeling and rather exciting,to think that you had the Thames flowing above you.

Claudia asked with a concerned expression on her face: “What’ll we do when the water from the Thames starts pouring in?”
A ghastly thought that made them walk faster. There were very few commuters underway. A local bloke, probably a Cockney, with a bicycle walked by. He had a flat-tyre, but his spirit was high for he was humming a tune.

At the other end of the tunnel We saw a notice which read: Docklands Light Railway opened by HM Queen, 30 July 1987. The train reminded I of the Transit-affair from Gattwick to the Airport Terminal. We read another poster: Island Gardens:modern train to keep London clean.
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LONDON’S EAST END (Satis Shroff)

It was getting chilly and rainy again, but We were quite elated after the visit to Green­wich. We had a sense of accomplishment as We boarded the train. We walked in rainy London and then took the tube to the East End.

We were virtually in small India or Bangladesh again, with Bengali sweetmeat, pan, video, audio cassette shops, jam-packed with gaudy Indian trinkets. Claudia, who does put on airs at times, said, “Just the trash that you see in India”. Saris, salwar kameez, dhotis, other Indian garments, de-luxe (in the Indian sense of the word) leatherwear. These very trinkets and items are momentoes from a far-off country that the emigrants have left behind and for which their hearts pine. Indian restaurants have become an important part of British gastronomy but 95 per cent of UK’s 10,000 ‘Indian’ restaurants are run by Bangladeshis. In 1960 there were 1,000 ‘Indian’ restaurants in Britain run by Bangladeshis from Sylhet. After 1971, when East Pakistan became Bangladesh, there was another flood of immigration to Britain.

Though the London East End finds mention in the official tourist brochures, it is still a characterful area and still seems to echo the 19th century Jewish quarter. And it isn’t difficult to imagine Jack the Ripper prowling even today in ist dark and poorly lit alleys. The bulbs emit a creepy, yellowish light in this area, like the foggy days in the London of yore and macabre literature. Jack the Ripper was active in London’s White Chapel area in the autumn of 1888, where he struck panic and terror into the hearts of Londoners.

There are even guided tours on the trail of Jack the Ripper, Sweeny Tod and the Ghost of Scratching offered to London visitors. And in the shadows of St.Paul’s, professional actors bring you a taste of the macabre, albeit with more than a hint of humour in one of Lon­don’s fringe theatres.

Not to be outdone, the London Brass Rubbing Centre has come up with: take home a knight! Brass rubbing is easy and fun, you know. The British seemed to be doing a flourishing business with horror and heraldry. I thought about the hundreds of weapons and armour on display at the castle in Sigmaringen.

We boarded one of those scarlet double-decker buses with a bus driver from the African part of the Commonwealth and asked him how We could get to Paddington. He gave them explicit instructions. However, a drunken bloke with a Cockney accent, who was swaying next to them got wind of their conversation and asked, “Baddington? Never heard of that place!”

He looked at Claudia, I and I with wet, bloodshot eyes and remarked, “Excuse me, I’ve been drinking a lot tonight”.

I hoped he got home that night.

En route to Paddington, I unfolded her copy of the Evening Standard in the train. Suddenly she had a lot of interested British passengers ogling at the headlines: US JET KILLS NINE BRITONS, A STEP CLOSE TO SURRENDER and WHY SADDAM MUST BE CAST INTO OBLIVION. It’s not regarded bad manners or impolite to read a newspaper or magazine of a fellow commuter while travelling with the underground, bus or train. Not so in Germany.

We booked an excursion with Golden Tours at Harrods. The next day We were en route to Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds and Oxford. After getting up early, pick up some sandwiches along the way after breakfast, and go to London Elizabeth Hotel to the concierge and wait for their tour bus. There wasn’t any hot water in their hotel and the Arab porter mumbled something about a breakdown apologetically.

At 7:15 We were already underway, past the sights of crocusses and daffodils in Hyde Park and driving towards the statue of the Duke of Wellington.

We were leaving London and Middlesex. None of the chimneys in London were smoking, but We did see one chimney emitting smoke ‘illegally’ as the female guide explained, ‘ Perhaps the people in this particular house don´t care a bit about the government´s environmental plans’. We sped past a series of chimneys which were supposed to have featured in the musical “Mary Poppins”.

London cars have white and yellow plates on the same car. Heathrow airport was ap­proaching and We were informed that it was the world’s busiest airport with 140 million passengers per annum.

There were cars speeding by and overtaking to the right. An unusual sight, because in Germany it’s left hand drive,and you overtake on the left track. The Swiss and US citizens love to race and try out their German-built porsches and Mercedes along the left track of the German autobahn. I remembered seeing at least Ferraris with Swiss plates darting along the autobahn at 200kmph. That would be impossible and a serious offence in Switzerland.

On the way to Oxford, I chatted with the elderly female guide about the school system in Eng­land, and was told We’d scrapped the old comprehensive and grammar schools ten years ago.You only had private and state-run schools now.

With 8 years you go to pre-school, with 11 to the primary and with 16 to the secondary, where you do your GCSE, which is the same as the ‘ordinary’ levels of yesteryears. ‘Advanced levels’, what the Germans call Abitur, were done with 18 years.You still had better education in Public Schools and had parents spending money in better education than on luxurious items for the comfort and future of their children.

The tendency isn’t different in India and Nepal either, with all those public-schools in the hill stations left by the British, a tradition upheld by the new brown sahibs even after the days of the I in India.

In Germany most children receive a sort of educational stipend depending upon the income of their parents, with the result that higher education is democratic but overfil­led, and not the previlege of a rich few or the upper ten thousand as We say in Germany. But in recent times there is talk about introducing university and college fees. Even the German state is running short of money.

“The state-run school is like the Health Programme in Britain: in a bad shape”, was her caustic comment. A teacher in Britain earns 8ooo Sterling pounds a year, which is too little. I remembered reading an article in the Guardian sometime about teachers in Britain switching over to other careers or jobs, because We were overworked and underpaid.

“I thought that happened only in Nepal”, I told her. In Germany it´s a different story. A teacher is a civil servant and has a handsome starting salary (DM 3850) and it keeps on increasing with the passage of time. Teaching is one of the most secure and attractive jobs in Germany.

Meanwhile,the bus was going down a valley and the sun broke through the clouds. The Oxfordians call the river Thames the ‘Isis’. Oxford is known as the city of Dreaming Spires and ist origins go back to 1000 years. Oxford’s streets are dominated by the stone walls of the colleges.

“Oxford has a population of 114,000 and the colleges have been restored and cleaned to their pristine glory”, said the guide.

Around 1100 when King Henry was reigning in England, the English students were expelled from France and so We came to the monks in Oxford, where We lived and got food from the monks. That was the beginning of education at Oxford. You have to be bright and have at least three A-levels. The interview counts, not the examination. Oxford became a co-ed in 1975. You must have 16 subjects and learn self discipline in tutorial system, in which essays written are gone through, and it’s rather difficult to buckle down in the first and third year of college.

We saw some students at the Trinity College in casual and alternative-look like the ones in Freiburg or elsewhere in Europe. Nothing special and not uniformed. Are old traditions dying out in olde England?

All the Oxford colleges have quadrangles, which reminded I of the quadrangle at St. Joseph’s school (North Point) in Darjeeling. The Union Jack in the grass quadrangle had been retained long after the British I. So were the stuffy old English school uniforms complete with school ties. And We had to wear those woollen blazers and pants in the beastly heat of the Indian sun. Noblesse oblige or was it a case of sticking to archaic colonial norms?

It was only in 1920 that the women were allowed to take their degrees in England. Excellent athletes were given the ‘Oxford blue’. Medical education at Oxford costs 12,000 pounds and other subjects 6,000 pounds.

The students lived in cute little houses. There were also free houses and tied house pubs (belonging to a brewery) to take care of the thirst of students and other Oxford town-folk. The country pubs in England have excellent food, but you have to order your own food and drinks. You can wash it down with Guinness stout, ale or bitter.

“The younger members of the Royal Family live in manors in the countryside”, said the lady guide.

There were green meadows in the English Landscape, like one of Turner’s masterpieces. You could also see geese farms, dark horses and ravens in the meadows, in addition to small country houses arranged in rows, with luxuriously green creepers on their walls.

We went past Whitney to the enchanting town of Burford, where a small river named Windrush flowed. In the inns you could order a shepard’s pie with lamb (cottage pie), cold meat, and it wasn’t expensive either. The dried mortar walls were handmade. The walls replaced the hedges and fences that one saw in the green countryside. There were lambs and sheep grazing in the lush green meadows,and you could see cultivated fields around the town.

There was Burford church and We went past “The Winter Tales Inn”. The houses in Burford had drip- stones on their roofs. We even went to have a dekko at the Blenheim Palace, and then to Blenheim town and were informed that it was in the Temple of Diana, near the lake, that Winston proposed to Clementine. After that We went to the cemetery where Blemheim’s illustrous lay in peace.

Driving into the Cotswold hills had been indeed unforgettable, and We had seen some of England’s rustical countryside interspersed with villages. The Cotswold is renowned for the beauty of its rolling countryside and its ancient buildings in honey stone. We entered a tavern which took pride in calling istelf the ‘world famous Cotswold Arms’, whose inn-keeper was burly and bearded. Near the door was an amusing ‘Olde Noticeboard for Useless Information’.

“How’re you dear?” said a red-headed female in a tight blue suit to a bloke named Dickie, who popped in. Even in this tavern in the Cotswold hills, the radio was on and the locals and guests were listening to the news about Saddam Hussein, the cease-fire and prisoner’s of war, especially the Iraqis.

“No Iraqi soldier is forced to return home against his will,” announced the BBC newsrea­der.

Claudia ordered a bitter which she said ‘tasted like an adulterated version of the German Altbeer’. I discovered that she had only five pounds in British currency, and the rest in German. In the tavern there was a fire burning, something unusual in Germany, and you felt cosy in this place. A shield with a cock and the words: ‘Take Courage’ painted across it hung near the hearth. There was also a notice which read: For the benefit of the other customers, please do not sit in front of the fire. The British prefer to drink draught beer and I and Claudia were advised to try a foaming pint (0.568 litre) fresh from the cellar. The cold-fermen­ted and long matured beer is called lager in Britain to distinguish it from the older, local one known as ale.

Burford was a picturesque, clean little town on a hill. A lovely place with pretty shops and white painted windows. We bought some sandwiches for our further journey. In the vicinity of Burford We saw the ‘Marsch Goose Inn’.

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Shakespeare Country: Stratford-upon-Avon (Satis Shroff)

Stratford-upon-Avon, a fascinating little town, was our next stop. We went to the spacious farmhouse which was the early home of William Shakespeare’s wife: Anne Hathaway. It was a house made of wattle, stone and brick, the earliest part dating back to the 15th century. I had done a lot of Shakespeare at school and even performed ‘As you like it’ on stage, but she didn’t remember having read much about Shakespeare’s spouse. Anyway, in Anne Hathaway’s cottage garden, there were some local workmen busy repairing the stones, bricks between clipped box hedges and shrubs. You could only imagine that Shakespeare had once written about this very garden as: ‘a world of pleasure in’t. Here’s flowers for you. Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram’.

But alas, it being still winter we could only hope and ask what Shelley would have asked:..’can Spring be far behind ?’

Nevertheless, I found delight at the thought that this was where William had wooed, and won, his beloved Anne Hathaway. The thatch-roofed cottage had a bed with a canopy, because if you slept with your mouth open, all sorts of insects, reptiles, mice and squirrels would drop in, We were told.

Off We went, curious as We were, to the Bard’s house in the Henley Street, where he was born in 1564. How wonderful it was to be in Shakespeare’s house, I thought. The birth­place was inherited by him and remained in the family, until the death of his sister Joan Hart, 1646. It was purchased for the Nation for 3,000 pounds in 1847.

Life in Stratford was dull and boring and Shakespeare left for London in 1586. He wrote 37 plays and 50 sonnets, which are still presented throughout the globe. His first play to be published was “Love’s Labor’s Lost” written in 1594. I found Stratford-upon-Avon extremely touristic but doubtlessly picturesque in ist own right. Avon is the Celtic word for ‘river’, so if you said the Avon River, it would be obviously redundant. We undertook a quick march to the vicinity of the Holy Trinity church, where Shakespeare was buried, and took some photographs of the serene Avon and the church, before making it to Stratford town to view the home of the Bard’s favourite daughter Susanna and her husband Dr.John Hall. Hall’s Croft was a fine Tudor half-timbered house, with fine Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture.

Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1610 and lived at New Place, the second largest house in Stratford, which he purchased in 1597. We were told that the ambassadors of all nations pay their floral tributes on the grave of immortal Shakespeare on his Birthday celebrations even today.

“This winter we don’t have much tourists here, because of the Gulf War. Otherwise it’s full and there are long queues all over the place”,said the guide. I had to thank old Saddam for their pleasant guided tour of London, it seemed. What a ghastly thought.

Well, the Gulf War had been brought to a satisfactory end and the newsstands in London had already devoted attention to a local theme: POLL-TAX HAS GONE DOWN.

We had to head for the town of Warwick to the north to get the car-route, so We told their London guide that We’d like to get off at East End. Her eyes popped out and her eyebrows left off like two Harrier jets and her mouth opened and she asked, “East End? What on earth do you want to do at East End?”

We gulped because she’d said it so loud. She gave the impression that decent people didn’t go to London’s East End. But We’d already made their our minds to go for dinner to ‘little Calcutta’, and she had to oblige.

We sped past a part of the 650 square miles of London area which had houses with chimneys, without smoke. Most of them managed to snooze along the way to London. You could see semi-detached houses and terraced houses, joined in rows.

The three had a Bengali dinner in Jack the Ripper territory with pilau rice, peas, aloo, mutton, yoghurt, raw onions and masala everywhere, rounded up with sweet-meat: rasagollas, rasmalai just like in the Indian Subcontinent. The annual turnover of ‘Indian’, pardon me Bangladeshi, restaurants is more than 1.5 billion Sterling pounds, and We employ between 60,000 and 70,000 people.

After that I suddenly wanted to catch up on her Bollywood (Bombay as India’s Hollywood) film reading, which she had neglected since a long time, and bought: Asian Times, Indiamail and Cineblitz and some classical music. She’d developed a deep love for Indian and Nepali classical music because it had a exhalted psychic and religious nature and she could feel the music touching her deeply like a prayer and she underwent a lot of emotions whenever she heard classical music.

After all the music from the Indian subcontinent was over 4000 years old. It all began with the Sama Veda, which was recited with certain notes. Originally such recitations were performed with three notes and later developed into a whole octave.

Music became a prayer. Humans tend to be in communion with God when We hear or play real music, and the musician identifies himself or herself with Godliness. And there are musicians who are able to awake and imbibe this godliness in their listeners. I loved to listen to the ragas and the talas. In a raga there were 72 scales, and every scale had had 8, 10, 20, 30 ragas. Thousands of ragas were possible, and each of these ragas had its characteristics with ascending and descending scales. These ragas depended upon the time of day and season. And a classical musician improvised the instrumental raga compositions, with the result that the music is never the same.

She preferred listening to such music rather than the noisy, vulgar music-cocktails that are actually lifted from the western hit charts, for want of inspiration, and dubbed in Hindi, giving them a cacaphonous Indian slant. But the masses love them. ‘Hare Krishna, you are the greatest musician of this vurld’ was blaring from a cassette-recorder in a corner of the stuffy Asian shop. You could even buy, chew and spit your pan without causing eye-brows to be raised. It was a pucca bazaar with all the wallahs.

Claudia expressed her disgust with ‘Igit-igit!’ as a Bengali spat on the wall of an East Londoner house. A red blotch on a whitewashed surface.

I quipped, ‘Well, as long as the bloke doesn’t spit at us, it’s all right.’

It was dark by the time we went for a walk over the bridge across the Thames at Westmin­ster, which was floodlit and there was a laser show in progress on the other side of the bridge. Big Ben struck 10pm and We took some parting photographs, for it was their last night in London, before heading for the underground to Paddington.

We bade goodbye to Westminster and the scenic coloured lights of the Thames water­front.

After getting up at 8am We had the usual continental breakfast, and started from Paddington to Charing-cross, and eventually to Trafalgar Square, where We strolled and took snapshots of the outsized British lions. We proceeded further towards Picadilly Circus and photographed the statues of Florence Nightingale and lots of other British motifs with pigeons shitting on their heads nonchalantly as usual.

What a romantic setting, with all those monumental buildings and cosmopolitan atmo­sphere, I thought. A coloured Bobby chatting and walking with a white colleague was keeping an eye on Picadilly’s streets. I had to admit, I liked the idea and had to think of Freiburg in south west Germany, actually a provincial area, and rather conservative.

It would be impossible to have an Asian driving a Strassenbahn or an Asian working as a teacher with a civil-servant status, or even in the police department. But then, Germany didn’t have colonies in Asia and as such no German Commonwealth. What with the kids of the GIs, and guest workers growing up in Germany, the influx of refugees from the whole world, including the boat-people of Vietnam, Bosnia and Croatia, not to speak of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Albanians coming in, Germany might one day have to come to terms with its foreigners and grant them their rights like the rest of the Germans. The way it is, at the moment, foreigners are only being tolerated, even though there’s talk about integration of foreigners. The multicultural society is in their midst, even though most Germans fail to see it.

At Paddington I had to exchange another fifty euros at a bank counter. There was an Asian female behind the counter and so she asked her where she came from originally. She felt uncomfortable, like when she was asked by an Indian scientist at the Goethe Institute in Freiburg, ‘Which-kuntry-are-you-from?’ The swarthy woman with fine features replied in a melidious voice, “Sri Lanka.”

“How’s the job?” I asked her.

“Oh, it’s all right”, she said without any enthusiasm.

We bought some sandwiches for the long wait at Gattwick airport and also because We thought about the not-so-good food in the air. The flight was at 16:35 and We’d already checked-out from their hotel. There were lots of young people waiting for the bus to Gattwick.

I left London with pleasant memories. She’d seen London by night and by day, by rain, mist and sunshine. The Londoners, be they commuters, conductors, policemen, beef-eaters, yeomen, bobbies, pedestrians had all been extremely polite and helpful.

As you went collecting the pasengers for the DANAIR flight to Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, you could see restaurants with names like: ‘The Magic Wok’, ‘Marco Polo’s Mongolian Barbeque’, followed by ‘Flats to Let’.

The present generation of Britain travels a lot abroad and there are enough immigrants from all over the world, and predominantly from the old colonies who cater to the gastrono­mic delights of the British.

“Run For Your Wife” was running at the Duchess Theatre, described as ‘dottily hilarious’ to ‘superbly demented’. The bus radio was belting out the Gulf News again, with mention of mass celebrations in Kuwait City and songs in praise of President Bush. The BBC correspondent interviewed a participant:”Can you tell us what you’re singing?”
The answer was, “Kuwait is our home” in a chorus.

I, Claudia and I arrived in Kensington Gardens. Collecting the passengers was indeed a tedious affair. Meanwhile, the BBC interviewed a British Falkland War General on the surrender terms in the Falklands. He replied,”It was a battlefield surrender, and there was none of the business as in this Gulf War, wherein the ceasefire was taken over by the UNO”.

Then he went to deal about the ‘business of defeating an enemy in the battle’.

According to the Christian concept, wars are not just, but some wars are justified. Jewish opinion is divided, it was stated. A war waged in self-defence is only justified according to it. Is it justified to increase one’s military field of influence as in the case of the USA because of oil interests?

We were in Gattwick by then and ready for the check-in. I showed her passport to a young lady in uniform probably of Indian descent, who asked where her next stop would be.

“Frankfurt”, I replied. And she wished her good journey and all that jazz (hope you’ll visit our country again).

It was 17:15pm when We went through customs and it was the same show as before. The detector gave a beep and I was obliged to open her handbag and dismantle her camera again.

The customs officer wanted to know what she had in the sealed round tin-box.
“It’s purified butter: ghee”, I told him.
“Gee, that must be good”, he replied with a grin and went to the next passenger. A customs officer with a jolly sense of humor indeed.

We boarded the scarlet DANAIR jet and were off. At 11,000metres We were flying over wonderful fluffy clouds. Their short flight dinner was over and We were at a height of 29,000 feet. As high as Mount Everest.

You could see the sundown: a blazing orange above the clouds, which became the horizon and suddenly the sun was obscured and We passed through heavy grey clouds, and it gradually became dark outside. The ‘fasten-your-seat-belts’sign appeared and I could feel a mounting pressure in her ears. The flight back to Frankfurt was nevertheless pleasant in comparison to the flight to Gattwick.

“10,000 feet and landing in 10 minutes”, said the captain. You could see only a few lights below. Was it a football field or was it a well-lit winter garden?

And suddenly the lights of Frankfurt appeared below.

“Cabin crew, take your seats for the landing, please”, said the captain again.

We went past the sky-blue uniformed stewardesses and entered the Frankfurt-am-Main terminal and went through the German customs. There was a long queue in the ‘non-EG’ section. A cultural troupe from Ethopia or Somalia dressed in white tunics stood up front, mostly children, led by a few elderly people and a blonde manager, who was similarly dressed. The kids had crude ethno musical instruments in their hands.

One of the Bundesgrenzschutz guards responsible for security at the airport asked his German colleague jokingly in German,”Are those all your kids?”

The young teutonic guard didn’t like the joke, gave a laconical smile and changed the position of his Sturmgewehr, made in Oberndorf, a Swabian town near Rottweil, by Heckler & Koch (now a British firm).

I gave the khaki-clad customs officer her passport, who scrutinized it briefly and handed it back. She walked outside with her handbag to collect the main luggage which was somewhere in exit 415. Claudia and I were separated (different check-ins and exist) because she had an Asian passport and Claudia and I had European ones. It was a case of the Third World and the First World.

* * *

We Love You, Mr. Jackson (Satis Shroff)

Your longing for your mythical island:
Neverland,
Got the better of you.
We still hear your high pitched voice
Haunting us in our dreams.

Michael Joseph Jackson,
Born in Gary, Indiana
On August 29, 1958
Is at peace with the world,
Despite the persisting tumult
Here on earth.
We love you.

So long Mr. Jackson
Wherever you are.
The moment your soul
Left your body
And headed for the cosmos
At the speed of light,
Your earthly uncertainties,
Eccentric lifestyle,
Bizarre disintegration,
Angst,
Dollar debts, law suits,
The 100,000 dollar bill
For prescription drugs
From a Beverly Hill apothecary,
Suddenly became a thing of the past.

What remains are the shock, sadness,
Memories of your handsome face,
Ruined by plastic surgery.
What we cherish in our memories
Are your moonwalk,
Catchy rhythms,
Beat and split-second timing
As you danced, sang and thrilled us.
Your exquisite voice and haunting lyrics:
I’ll Be There,
Billie Jean,
Black or White,
Bad, Thriller,
Dangerous, History,
Heal the World.

If Elvis was the first white
Who could sing like a black,
You showed the world:
It didn’t matter
If you’re Black or White.
You were the global artist
Par excellence,
With a great soul.

We looked forward to
This is It in London,
But it was not to be.
Your global fans
Are moon-walking
To your infection rhythm
In Paris, London, Germany,
A jailhouse ‘Thriller’ dance
In a prison in Cebu.
Madame Tussaud has brought out
A Jacko in wax
At the Brandenburger gate in Berlin,
With a condolence book.
We miss you.

* * *

IMPRESSIONS FROM ZERMATT-MATTERHORN II (Satis Shroff)

As you go along the Riffelberg trail to Riffelalp in Switzerland, you’re following Mark Twain’s footsteps. He describes the trail in his book ‘Climbing the Riffelberg.’ Riffelalp has the highest ram in Europe, and when you reach the top you can see a breathtaking panorama of 29 four-thousand-metre peaks, including the Matterhorn. There are a few places in this world which leaves you breathless for you are overwhelmed and awed by the sheer beauty of what you behold. I had the same feeling when I gazed at the Khumbu Himalayas, and beyond the Roof of the World.

A feeling of humbleness and joy overcomes you. The thrill of having been there, seen, smelt and felt the greatness and magnificence of the lofty peaks rising sovereign above the thin milky mists ascending languidly from the vales and spurs below. You have eyes only for the glaciers and peaks.

When you descend to the Riffelsee, a picturesque lake, you cherish the sight of the Matterhorn with its jagged, majestic peak and you see the reflection in the Riffelsee’s turquoise water. Flanking it are 29 other peaks: all four thousand metres above sea level.

The Riffel lake is a nature reserve, a wonderful place with huge stones that have tumbled down from the slopes above, right down to the small lake. You can meditate on the many big rocks around the placid, blue lake and when you turn your eyes to the sky you are blessed by the great Matterhorn massif. Around the lake you find botanical specimens like: the floating bur-reed (Sparganium augustifolium), marsch horse-tails (Equisetum palustre), hair-leafed buttercup (Rananculus trichophyllus), small pond weed (Potamogenton berchtoldii), three bearded rush (Juncus triglumis), the surrounding fields and meadows are full of Scheucher’s cotton-grass (Euphorbium scheuchzeri) and the Sledge Darner (Aeshna juncea). You can’t help being fascinated by the pine and larch forests, moraine lakes, alpine vegetation, glacial moraines and the scree gather below. What I love to see are the tarns, glacial lakes that have been left behind when the glacier recedes.

Along the trail you come across people doing nordic walking, training their entire bodies. You can do intensive training of your upper extremities because you swing your arms in the process, and not only your legs. According to the American Medical Association, trekking along the countryside, be it in the high Himalayas or the Alps and Dolomites, is one of the best ways of improving your health. Yes, you can do something about your Musculus brachialis, deltoideus, triceps, latissimus dorsi, your gastrocnemius and other muscles.

Below the hotel Kulm Gornergrat I talked with a burly, friendly guy who spoke English softly and was selling his art, but when Japanese tourists came by he switched over to the tongue of Nippon. His name was Mathew Fletcher and was from York and had started painting local street scenes in his home town before coming to Switzerland in 1991. Mathew said: ‘I’m trying to capture the beauty of the alpine landscape.’ He has exhibited his work in Zermatt and other parts of Switzerland.

‘I did the Everest trek on November 11, 1993,’ he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
He went on to say: ‘I’ve been to Patagonia, painted in Tahiti, came back to Europe and fell in love with the Matterhorn (sic).’ He draws his works with a pencil first, then paints it with a fine squirrel-hair brush, using water colours.. You can’t miss Mathew Fletcher when you go to Zermatt-Gornergrat. I found his collection of drawings excellent and gave him a tip how he could digitalise his pics and upload them as an art book in one of the increasing number of publish-on-demand sites in the internet. We departed with a namaste, which means ‘I greet the godliness in you’ in Nepalese.

Zermatt is a fascinating place. You see Europeans, Americans, Japanese and Indians (with and without turbans) either trekking to the observatory hill on the Gornergrat, taking the cog-train to the summit or the cabin-gondola to Little Matterhorn which is the best alternative that money can buy. The visitors are old, young and very young and you can see them whezing, puffing, snorting and sweating up and down the many Swiss trails, stopping to take shots of peaks like: Cima de Jazzi, Gorner glacier, Nordend, Dafourspitze, Ludwigshöhe, Liskamm, Grenzgletscher, Zwillingsgletscher, Castor, Pollux, Schwärzegletscher, Breithorn, Theodul glacier and the Matterhorn.

After a hearty breakfast comprising Himalaya tea, cooked beans, scrambled eggs, Bircher müsli and croissants with cheese and crisp speck, you say goodbye to Zermatt (1605m above sea level). A friendly, overweight blonde Dutch lady tells you: ‘We didn’t see anything up at the Little Matterhorn. The rising mists and the thick, grey clouds veiled everything.’

It was bad luck. You hear this also in Darjeeling when visitors from the plains of India book jeeps to view the sunrise from Tiger Hill. Instead of the Kanchenjunga range they just see the heavy monsoon clouds that bring rain that is so good for the tea growing on the slopes of Gorkhaland. That’s hard luck for the tourists.

After a day’s trekking and a good Swiss dinner with rosti or raclette and a Swiss wine, you can go over to the wellness phase of a sauna or enter a hot bubbling whirlpool. I’m fond of the whirlpool for the tired and cramped legs, because the muscles of your lower extremities that have been slogging all day also need to be given a treat with an underwater massage followed by a cold shower.

Since there were a lot of Japanese visitors in the hotel it was a tranquil and serene atmosphere in the sauna and whirlpool, for the people of Nippon don’t frequent saunas and whirlpools when they’re abroad. I remember we had a young Japanese visitor from Kyoto named Takashi who used to play soccer at the local German club in Zähringen. After the match all players went under the shower but not our young man from Nippon. He had inhibitions about undressing in the cabin in front of all the German lads and walking around naked. The Japanese just don’t do such things in public. He’d come home and take a long shower. We in Germany would say: ‘Der ist so verklemmt!’ He’s so shy and inhibited. On the other hand two Indians came to the sauna in their street clothes and shoes. An unpardonable thing to do. A young blonde lady from Dresden named Romy, with whom I had a long chat after the sauna, told me, ‘The US Americans are even worse. They march into the sauna in their dirty trekking boots!’

‘Oh really?’ I said and couldn’t help emitting a chuckle.

Zermatt is like an old western town and you can walk from one end of the shopping street to the other. And that was it. Since it’s August 1, 2009 which is Switzerland’s National Celebration Day, all Swiss huts, houses and buildings have the scarlet flags with a white cross on their window-sills, balconies and terraces between the equally scarlet geraniums. Flags in all sizes flutter everywhere, even on peaks and cliffs. The Swiss love their Heimat and are extremely patriotic.

I remember a Swiss lady in Freiburg named Heidi who was married to a Swabian who lamented that she was surrounded by the dominant German culture. She was a rather garrulous person from the Romand speaking area of Vna but became awfully depressed as time went by. However, on the Swiss National Day she’d hang out all the flags of the Swiss cantons and invite us to a champagne and raclette evening. You never saw her elated throughout the year. Some have a longing for religious festivals like Christmas or Tihar (Diwali) and others have just a feeling of sadness and nostalgia. Heimweh or Fernweh, as we are wont to say in Germany.

In Zermatt I ran into a Hippie couple. He reminded me of John Lennon and she a Cheshire cat with all those wrinkles akin to whiskers on her pale face. A pair round spectacles nestled on the bridge of her nose, and she scurried around her make-shift tent with wares from overseas for they were globe-trotters who’d settled down in Zermatt and were catering to the delights of customers who needed woollies in the higher reaches of the Zermatt-Matterhorn treks. They had a lot of souvenirs from Nepal: Buddhist prayer flags and statues of meditating Boddhisatvas, Indian textiles that the Hippie generations have worn, accessories that even find buyers among the current generation. Bollywood has become an expression of chic from the Land of the Maharajas. I’m amazed and delighted to see my German and Swiss students in Freiburg and Basle draped in Benarasi brocades and golden sandals with gemstones imparting and air of royalty from the Orient. Blondes and brunettes with pierced noses and diamond studs, multiple gold ethno ear-rings like the ones worn by the ladies of Rajasthan and Kirtipur. Ethno jewellery and tattoos in strategic areas of the human anatomy are ‘in,’ you know.

You can’t go to the hotels, shops and do a bit of sightseeing without missing overseeing the ads in Japanese in Zermatt. Even the TV in the hotels have programmes in Japanese. It’s amazing how flexible the Swiss are in Zermatt and have adapted to the demands of the tourism market: the Japanese bring a sizeable amount of income and even the shops have Swiss and Japanese saleswomen. If a Japanese buys an item in the shop the Swiss are quick to warp it as a present in special Nipponese paper. The visitors from Japan go around in groups with their own Japanese guides cum translators. It reminded me of the Junior Year Abroad students from the US colleges who bring their own text-books and teachers to Germany, and keep to themselves instead of getting to know the German students and people in general, and listening to native German speakers in the streets and the professors at the university, and earning their credits in German universities.

The train ride from Zermatt downwards to Visp via Täsch is wonderful, past a milky Matter-Visp river, with spurs guarded by pine trees, children playing golf, myriads of traditional dark wooden Swiss huts and piles of stones from the mountains. Alpine flowers sway in the wind along the way. Suddenly the mist clears to reveal a rugged peak.

From Herbreggen you can see the walking route painted on yellow boards with black letters indicating how long it takes for you to get to different destinatinations, and not in kilometres. The cliffs become visible when the misty veils disappear.: jagged silhouettes of the pines trees along the ridge.

The train goes along serpentine tracks, through tunnels and reaches St. Niklaus (1130m). The railway station was built in 1890. There are cute wooden houses bearing names like: Chalet Frieden (peace), Haus Elch. The chalets are small houses with diagonal laid flate stones, like the ones you find in the Gurung villages on your way to Jomsom.

After St. Niklaus you see mixed forests and tunnels galore. Since there’s only one track, your train has to wait and let another go by, which again is filled with Nipponese visitors clicking away frantically with their digital cameras for power point and slide projections in the winters months in Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku or Kuyushu.

Your red train proceeds and below you flows the turbulent, white Matter-Vispa river. The train tracks follow the right bank of the river, getting broader as you go over bridges. A great feat of engineering which was done with the help of guest-workers from Italy. You see evidence of landslides: huge and small rocks and waterfalls gushing down from the mountains. At Kalpetran, where there’s a Luftseilbahn (ropeway car) the train ‘stops on request.’ If you forget to press the red ‘Halt’ button, the red train with its big windows goes merrily to Stalden.

The wooden houses have pretty little windows decorated. with red geraniums. Since the houses are built on the slopes, the Swiss families have to battle against the torrential rains in summer, and snow and ice in the long winter months. Most people have additional stone and wooden walls along the slopes where they live, to control the wrath of the elements to some extent. You see small wooden huts being overshadowed by big houses with beton fundaments and wooden architecture above.

You arrive in Stalden-Saas, a tourist place with lots of chalets to rent. At the railway station you see young people relishing their warm soups, an ‘Il Buffeto’ sign of a pizzaria, decorated with more geraniums. There are vineyards along the slope. The people in the Alps, especially the older generation, are very conscious about God and written on a wooden board are the words:
Gott beschütze dieses Haus
Und all die gehen ein und aus.
God protect this house,
And all those who go in and out.

The Matter-Vispa changes its bed for a moment and flows again to the right. It’s swollen now and the water has turned grey with stones becoming rare. More vineyards appear along the slopes to the right. A cement factory appears with rich green meadows.

You reach Visp, a much bigger Swiss town with intercity railway connections. The houses are built atop the surrounding hills and almost on every slope. You change trains and board a comfortable double-decker intercity. It’s 2pm and the train is speeding towards north Switzerland. One tunnel alone is 20 minutes long. The Swiss do keep you often in the dark. A train conductor comes along the aisle and admonishes a bearded guy with a Jewish cap.

‘We call it trick number 17,’ he says to the passenger, ‘travelling without a ticket.’ But he’s kind and doesn’t throw him out. The passenger pays and that’s the end of the matter. Not so in Germany. The conductor ordered a school-kid who didn’t have a ticket to get off the train in the middle of nowhere. Poor fellow. In German trams Schwarzfahrer, as commuters sans tickets are called, are obliged not only to pay the fare but also a fine of 40 euros. An expensive ride.

In the lovely town of Bern you take the fast Swiss train to Basle. It’s 3pm and the sky is still clouded and misty below. It has rained and the streets are wet, with the vapour rising. There are men in orange vests moving around the platforms busy as bees, transporting luggage from hotels. An elderly trio in their seventies push a Kofferkuli towards platform no. 8. There are a lot of blondes and brunettes dressed and looking like Shakira and Britney Spears commuting to their homes. The styling is top and they all have that cover-girl look. You see Swiss blokes in shorts, sneakers and T-shirts walking down the aisle with ears plugged to their respective MP 3s.

The river in Bern has a greenish-blue colour as it snakes out of the town. Cute little two-storied houses appear as you speed by. An attractive woman in her forties, wearing tight blue jeans, glittering slippers and elegant features watches your truly as I scribble my microstories on my pad. She must be wondering what I’m writing. She has a hand resting casually on her thigh and the other is on the seat as she gazes at fellow passengers. A young blonde mother with her small son take opposite her and pack out their chicken nuggets with dips. She closes her eyes after a sigh. The smell of ketchup and sweet spicy dip floats in the compartment.

Outside it’s green again and the hamlets in the outskirts of Bern fleet by as pine trees begin appearing. Ah, pine trees have been following me since my schooldays in the foothills of the Himalayas and in the Black Forest where I live. It’s such an exhilarating experience to walk along pine forests. The smell of the green in the forest is a spiritual experience because it bears the smell of incense or Weihrauch, which not only the shaman-healers of Nepal and other parts of the world use but also catholic priests in the church.

The blonde woman with a city bag has her eyes still closed, oblivious of the mother opposite her who’s talking over her mobile, amidst the monotonous noise of the speeding train. A wonderful holiday in coming to an end: with trekking during the day and sauna and whirlpool baths in the evenings till 9pm. How lovely it has been, candle-light dinners, promenading in Zermatt, enjoying life without a care. Zermatt is worth the four-star hotel tab. You bet I’ll go there again.

* * *
Satis Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Associate Professor in Creative Writing, University of Iowa).

Satis Shroff writes political poetry in his anthology of poems & proses (www.Lulu.com). He writes 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. In 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.

„Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Through Nepalese Eyes’ sind faszinierend und geben uns die Möglichkeit, unsere Welt mit neuen Augen zu sehen.“ (Alice Grünfelder von Unionsverlag / Limmat Verlag, Zürich).
Since 1974 I have been living on and off in Nepal, writing articles and publishing books about Nepal– this beautiful Himalayan country. Even before I knew Satis Shroff personally (later) I was deeply impressed by his articles, which helped me very much to deepen my knowledge about Nepal. Satis Shroff is one of the very few Nepalese writers being able to compare ecology, development and modernisation in the ‘Third’ and ‘First’ World. He is doing this with great enthusiasm, competence and intelligence, showing his great concern for the development of his own country. (Ludmilla Tüting, journalist and publisher, Berlin).
He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. He is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Nepal’s literary heritage and culture in his writings and in preserving Nepal’s identity in Germany. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.
———————————————————

ONLY SAGARMATHA 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 health and life
Armed with credits cards and pride
Storming the Himalayan summits
With the help of the Nepalis.

Hillary took Tenzing’s photo,
But Norgay is long dead.
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.

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 Sagarmatha knows
Only Sagarmatha knows.

Glossary:
sauerstoff: German word for oxygen
Sagarmatha: Nepalese word for Mt.Everest
sahib: European, Herrnmensch
sherpa: a high-altitude porter and also a tribe-name

* * *

WHEN TWO WORLDS MEET (Satis Shroff)

Thrust through the skies in a jet
From the Third World to the First,
From the Himalayas to the Alps
When two worlds meet,
In the Swiss village of Grindelwald,
The delight of a young man from Nepal.

A land where the people are proud
Of their Helvetic heraldry
And sing praises of Wilhelm Tell,
Who shot an apple from his son’s head.

A mountain world so familiar
With peaks, glaciers, tarns and scree.
The summits were not Sagarmatha,
Ama Dablam and Machapuchhare
They called them: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

The souvenir sellers spoke not Nepali
Neither Tibetan nor Newari
But English, French and Schwyzer Deutsch.
The money wasn’t paisa and rupees.
They bartered in franks and rappen.

No yaks roamed the green pastures
Only paragliders, lammergeiers circling overhead
And contented, languid, well-fed Swiss cows.
Cow-bells, church-bells and the smell of dung
This was landluft, fresh alpine wind.

Free from the monoxides and dioxides
From endless fuming car exhausts
Oh, to inhale a whiff of alpine air
After a prolonged sojourn in Europa.

Kilometres stretched the ski-lifts and tunnels
Sky-chairs for the tourists
And when there’s no snow
The snow-cannons will help Petrus.

No erosions, no avalanches?
No rape of the Alps?
Hush ,destruction was already there.

No fear of the yeti
Yet a host of alpine berggeister and demons
No lama monasteries,
Other than the one in Rikon.
No mane padme hum
But yodel-songs, Alp-horns and cheese.

When the familiar scene
Suddenly becomes strange,
The strange becomes familiar.
A foreign tongue and foreign customs
Foreign to each other.
A Nepalese meets a Swiss Fräulein
In the mountains of Grindelwald.
A foreigner in a familiar land,
In a world of sloping snow,
And yet a warmth glowed.

We thought the same thoughts
Without a common word.
The gesture and the mimic
Said: we understand you.

Namaste. Auf wiedersehen.
Auf wiedersehen. Namaste.
We shall see again.
I greet
The godliness in you.

Glossary:
Sagarmatha, Ama Dablam, Machapuchhare: Himalayan peaks
Mani padme hum: Tibetan religious chant
Petrus: St. Peter, who’s responsible for the weather
Namaste: Nepalese greeting

POLLUTION IN THE HIMALAYAS (By Satis Shroff)

Opening the doors to the world and tourists has brought not only advantages but also disadvantages to Nepal for instance. Tourism and foreign aid have brought not only dollars, deutsche marks, sterling pounds and yen, but also its share of environmental pollution or as the Germans prefer to call it: Umweltverschmutzung.

The ungainly oxygen cylinders, the PVC waste and the synthetic wrappings and empty bottles and other refuse lie strewn along the expedition routes, waiting for the non-existent garbage disposal team to come and pick them up. Tragically enough, in this case, we have only isolated cases of a few people in the West making a lot of noise in the international media-circuits and achieving and doing very little to keep the Himalayas clean.For the story of pollution in the Himalayas is as old as the history of mountaineering, when the first climbers from Europe came to ‘conquer’ the highest peaks in the world.

Pertemba Sherpa, the Nepalese who climbed Everest thrice, is of the opinion that the “oxygen cylinders left behind by Edmund Hillary in 1953 are still there:intact”. Hillary himself said that “there are an estimated 100 empty oxygen bottles, all spread around” in a Newsweek interview on May 3,1993.

Climbers flocking to follow Hillary’s footsteps have been carelessly dropping their plastic food wrappers, tins and empty gas containers all the way up to the Everest summit. Sir Edmund was of the opinion that that “the pollution problem was serious even on the South Col of Mt.Everest, and he thinks that legislation alone will not help to combat pollution. Prospective climbers should be educated about the need to keep the Himalayas clean. They should be taught to bury their rubbish and not throw it about”. But burying plastic, styreopor, bottles,and other PVC products in the Himalayas isn’t the right answer either. Organic wastes might be better buried so that they can decompose in a natural way, but the rest of the civilisation`s garbage has to be brought down by all expeditions and trekking groups.

The most popular trekking jaunts in Nepal are: Everest, Helambu, Gosainkund, Langtang, Jomsom, Dharund and lately Dolpo, which has been raised to new heights by the writer Peter Mathiessen in his book “The Snow Leopard”. In all these routes the trekking parties and mountaineering expeditions have in the past been leaving behind a trail of tins,cans,scraps of paper,rags,broken bottles,glass,wastes of the field kitchen,trash and garbage of all sorts. The routes in the Solukhumbu area,especially from Lukla via Namche Bazaar to the Everest base Camp or Kala Pathar (5545m)are visited by many international groups during the trekking seasons, and the groups range from 10 to 30 persons.Sherpas and porters are more than twice this number, and in some cases the high altitude yaks and mules carry the provisions. Besides the waste mentioned above, bottles and plastic bags are still used by the alpine residents.

“The empty bottles of our group were taken away immediately by the Nepalese”, says Eckart Tardeck of Munich and adds,”but in a short time they will have no more use for this kind of garbage, and the bottles will surely be crashed, forming as danger to the barefoot local people”.

There’s no denying that if this trend catches on, the trash of modern Western civilisation littered in the Himalayan landscape will become a permanent factor.

Some settlements like Namche and Phortse have forests that are alarmingly decimated, and the high terrain around the settlements has to be protected from becoming bare mountain tracts (karsts)and also to prevent landslides and rock-streams occurring. Moreover the young trees and shrubbery have to be sheltered from the yaks,sheep and mountain goats , as they have the habit of devouring any bit of greenery.

Soldering or Menial Work

Living in the Himalayan environment in poverty means the survival of the fittest at the expense of Nature.The trekking agencies might in the future bring their own kerosene but what chance does the average poverty-stricken Nepalese hillman have of affording to buy a biogas-plant to cook food for his family, when he cannot even give his children a decent meal, leave alone clothing and education? What alternative does the Nepalese in the hills have other than to leave his family and go to the plains in the south in search of a menial job by lifting loads for rich merchants,or working in a factory at Biratnagar or elsewhere as a seasonal worker?No wonder the young and sturdy lads from the hill tribes of Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai and even Chettris dream of a career as a Gurkha soldier under the Indian tricolor or even under the Union Jack.

But not all young people are taken into the armies of Nepal, India and Britain. The rejects have to contend with looking after the ancestral farms or acting as porters for trekking tourists and expeditions. They have to be mobile, because only mobility, flexibility and physical prowress guarantees success in finding jobs and thereby surviving. There is a regular seasonal migration of the population of the Nepalese hill population to the paddy fields of the Terai, and even further towards the Indian subcontinent in search of a livelihood.

It has become the ‘in’ thing to do among the tourists of the richer northern hemisphere to travel to countries like Nepal and take photographs and thus document the poverty and helplessness of the people in the developing countries, to take shots of humans burning in the funeral pyres at the ghats of Pashupatinath,to prepare slide-shows on the “gaudy and macabre blood-sacrifices” at the Dakshin Kali temple, and to expose Nepalese and Tibetan children with running noses and and coy smiles. And it is no secret that the country being visited by the hordes of tourists are obliged to adapt to the delights, fantasies and whims of the tourists, with the result that there’s a total sell-out of the touristic land.

The tourists, hotelliers and the tourism-industry determine what they want to buy from that country to the point of dictating the form and finishing of the article concerned. The Nepalese carpet industry is one such example, whereby the designs are dictated per fax to Kathmandu and the buyer has naturally the right to choose what he or she desires to buy for his or her living room in Munich, New York, Stockholm or Tokyo. “Pastel colours please, and no gaudy fire-breathing dragons and snow-lions, no auspicious mandalas. Just plain borders with perhaps a wee bit traditional patterns at the edges, in decent mauve or anthroposophic teints, please.”

With wool imported all the way from New Zealand from sheep that grazed in the Canterbury Plains, and carpets produced in Kathmandu Valley, you have a true Tibetan to deorate your exclusive apartment. It shows that you’re a cosmopolitan indeed.I prefer the gaudy old carpets with their traditional ethno designs, with all their pecularities for the sake of their originality, and not because “friends might find them shocking, loud and indecent”, as though one would have to be ashamed to have a taste for bright traditional colours.

According to a spokesman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, each climbing expedition leaves on average more than 500 kg of garbage. The NMA estimates that there are more than 500 kg of waste piled up at the Everest Base Camp, and on the highest mountain in the world. The trend at the moment is to call for a moratorium on Mt.Everest, so that the much-scaled mountain, and other well-trodden trails may recuperate from the adverse effects of pollution caused by humans.

Though the big expeditions that assault eight-thousanders have done their share towards Umweltverschmutzung in the peaks of Nepal, Sikkim, India and Pakistan, it is the masses who take part in treks to see the Himalayan countryside and the snows, who have been leaving wastes along the mountain trails.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association was able to bring down 16 tonnes of garbage from the Sagarmatha (Everest) base camp at a cost of 24 million rupees (560,000 dollars), which is an expensive waste transport,and according to an estimate there are 50 tonnes of waste up there. There are existing laws for climbers but no one seems to adhere to them.

Tourism with Insight

What are the negative aspects of tourism in Switzerland? This was the question raised sometime back in a research paper with the title “Alpensegen, Alptraum” (Alpine Blessing or Alpine Nightmare?) by a team headed by Prof.Jost Krippendorf(Bern)under the aegis of a world-wide UNO-analysis. According to the report “the local Swiss people think only of money now. There’s no social cooperation.There are too many strangers,aliens,foreign visitors. The local scenery is vanishing and the towns bow to the pressure of tourism”.This could hold for Kathmandu and Nepal in general.

During a recent visit to Kathmandu after a decade, I was surprised to see Thamel turned into a flourishing tourist bazaar with hotels, lodges, curio and carpetshops catering to the demands and delights of dollar-toting hotel guests and low budget tourists. It just wasn’t the Thamel of my college days at the Amrit Science college. Along the Jhochey Tole (Freak Street) you could hear, “Sir,dollar change?”.The hasish shops had vanished.The Yin Yang tantric restaurant, a reminder of the hey-days of Hippiedom in the sixties and seventies still stood there. And according to an article in The Rising Nepal the number of drug-addicts in Kathmandu alone had risen to 15,000. Is this perhaps also a side-effect of the low budget tourist invasion? You have Nepalese organisations waging a losing battle against drug-abuse in Kathmandu.

Back to the Swiss report: the Alpine scenery and countryside has been raped in the last 30 years. An entire infrastructure of road networks and tunnels have been built across the alpine country with Swiss thoroughness.1200 ski-lifts, 500 ropeways and mountain-trains (the famous Glacier Express included)that transport 1.2 million tourists and holiday-makers.250,000 chalets and holiday-homes have shot up like mushrooms. In the Cantons Wallis and Tessin, every fourth apartment was turned into a holiday-home for the tourists for some weeks every year. This reminds me of the tendency to let “well-furnished flat for foreigners only”in Kathmandu due to the staggering incomes of the foreigners in comparison to their Nepali counterparts. The prices of all commodities have been shooting up in the Himalayan capital, and buying land cost a fortune in Kathmandu Valley in terms of Nepalese rupees.

On the other hand there are 350,000 Swiss people engaged in tourism. A Switzerland without tourism is unthinkable. There are 275,000 hotel beds in this beautiful alpine country today. Nepal needs its tourists too.
In 1986 there were 223,331 tourists in Nepal from India, USA, UK, West Germany, France, Japan etc. However, Nepal’s tourism history is very young, because the Tourist Development Board is a little more than thirty years old and the Ministry of Tourism even younger. Nepal has a per capita gross national product of 140 dollars per annum. The Nepalese government tries to compensate by holding seminars and workshops on the protection of the Himalayan environment. But discussing ecological matters in Kathmandu and implementing them in the mountains are two different things. It’s like blueprints for foreign-projects being planned abroad and implemented in a far-off developing country without the participation of the people actually concerned. To cite a noted and active Nepalese ecologist Dr.Hemanta Mishra, “There is no doubt that tourism has been a major cause of high rates of inflation in many remote parts of the country. This in turn antagonizes the local inhabitants who do not obtain any benefits from tourism.Tourism cannot survive in isolation. Rural communities should be encourages to produce goods and services locally”.

Taking the example of Switzerland, Nepal too must make a gradual turn to strike a balance between economic interests and Nature, between agriculture and tourism, between local inhabitants and outsiders (visitors).The mountain communities should also profit through mountain tourism and not only the travel and trekking agencies based in Kathmandu. Otherwise, as far as the mountain-folks are concerned, the tourist invasion only disturbs the tranquility, serenity and socio-economic, cultural and age-old traditional lives of the various ethnic-Nepalese living in the countryside in a negative manner.

Perhaps the much acclaimed “Sanfte Tourism” (tourism with insight) is the answer towards a better use of the beauty of Nature. Trekking,climbing and sight-seeing tourism has come to stay in a country like Nepal whose only assets are a ravishingly beautiful countryside and a heroic, proud folk even though they belong to the category of the LDCs (least developed countries). The insight has come rather belatedly, but it is welcome nevertheless, for the Himalaya environment is not only the heritage of the Nepalese but also of mankind in general. As in the Alps, the thousands of tourists who trek to the fragile Himalayas do leave evidence of their encroachment upon the mountains in the long run. The problem is to keep the damage due to this encroachment at a minimum.

There are 50,000 tourists going on mountain treks to Nepal at the moment. What is alarming is that even the Nepalese government wants to step up the number to 1 million tourists by the year 2000. Even Toni Hagen,a Swiss geologist-turned-development expert suggests that it is the quality tourists who bring in the big money, and not the masses. The Annapurna area alone has 25,000 visitors every year. The lodges and hotels catering to the tourist’s gastronomic delights have switched over from dal-bhat (rice-lentils) to pizzas, lasagne, hamburgers, vienna schnitzel and applestrudel, not to mention the video tastes of the tourists along the Himalayan trails. When the trekkers would take and show the same care and consideration that they do in their own forests and national parks, a lot of the damage could be averted and trekking-tourists would be welcome visitors in the Himalayan countries. The European or Western tourist must not forget that he or she has a pedagogic function even in the Himalayan environment of Nepal by setting an example of good trekking and woodmanship. The Nepalese will be only thankful if you give them an example worth emulating. What is the use of being a previleged Westerner with a better education and broadened horizon if you can’t give a piece of your knowledge regarding hygiene, garbage disposal and good human relationship to the poor, uneducated, unpreviliged but well-meaning Nepalese? It is this ‘insight’ that you have that should distinguish you from other visitors to this country.

Whereas the European and American rules and regulations are strict and well-defined with negative-sanctions in the form of fines which naturally prevent people from becoming law-breakers, the forest departments in Nepal don’t have the money to put up enough sign-boards in Nepali, English, French, German and Japanese, where the tourists and Nepalese may tresspass sensitive natural habitats or protected areas during certain seasons. After an international seminar on the “Protection of the Himalayan Environment” in Kathmandu in which 102 delegates from twelve countries took part, it was decided that governmental agencies,non-governmental organisations, and multilateral agencies should promote the establishment of small, integrated projects that fully involve the local communities in the planning and implementation. The seminar also called for the propagation of the Kathmandu Declaration approved by the Union of International Alpinist Association (UIAA) in 1982 through different channels. It was advocated that a Code of Ethics be established by the mountain tourism industry throughout the Himalayan region to encourage “environmentally and culturally sound tourism”. It was also suggested that community-based models for environmentally-passive commercial campsites for trekking parties, environmentally suitable lodges for tourists, trekkers and climbers, and shelter for porters at hazardous locations. An average of 50,000 foreign trekking and climbing tourists visit Nepal every year, and the Nepalese Tourism Ministry has set a target of 1 million tourists by the year 2000. Even Toni Hagen admonished that this is dangerous for Nepal and suggests quality tourists who really bring in money and not all and sundry.

* * *

THE PROFESSOR’S WIFE (Satis Shroff)

My husband is mad
Er spinnt
Er ist verrückt!
Says Frau Fleckenstein, my landlady
As she staggers down the steps.

She arrests her swaying
With a hiccup
And says: ‘Entschuldigen Sie’
And throws up her misery,
Discontent, melancholy and agony.
The pent-up emotions
Of a forty year married life.

Her husband is a high-brow, an honourable man
A professor with a young mistress.
And she has her bottles:
Red wine, white wine
Burgunder, Tokay and Ruländer
Schnaps, Whiskey,
Kirschwasser and Feuerwasser
The harder the better.

She defends herself
She offends herself
With bitterness and eagerness.
Her looks are gone
Once her asset, now a liability.
A leathery skin, and bags under the eyes
Her hair unkempt, and a pot belly.
A bad liver and a surplus of spleen
A fairy turned a grumbler.

Tension charges the air
Pots and pans flying everywhere
Fury and frustration
Tumult and verbal terror
Rage and rancour
Of a marriage gone asunder.
And what remains is a facade
Of a professor and his spouse
Grown grey and ‘grausam’
Faces that say: Guten Tag
When it’s cloudy, stormy, hurricane.

To forgive and forget
That’s human folly.
I’ll bear my grudges, says milady.
And my landlord is indeed a lord
A lord over his wealth, wife and wretched life
A merciless, remorseless, pitiless existence
In the winter of their lives.
Too old to divorce
And too young to die.
What remains is only the lie…

Glossary:
Entschuldigen Sie: excuse me
Guten Tag: good day
grausam: horrible
___________________________________________________________________

BLUE ALLEMANIC EYES (Satis Shroff)

She had short, golden hair
Tied neatly behind
With a blue satin-scarf.
And yet I saw her
Wearing a diadem
And a flowing satin gown,
Like a princess.

A meek, submissive smile
A movement of her fair hair
Akin to a Bolshoi ballerina
In moments of embarrassment and coyness.
Her blue Allemanic eyes, sweet and honest
They knew no intrigue,
Neither treachery nor rebellion.
‘I was brought up to obey,’ she whispered.

Pure bliss and love sublime,
A book you could read.
Plain and straight,
And not in-between the lines.

An openness, and yet
She’s resolute and seeks
Perhaps stability
Or security?

A neglected childhood
With pain and punishment.
A legacy of the Black Forest
Nevertheless, she remained
Soft and tender, submissive and sincere.
Not demanding and aggressive
Ever alert and never omissive.

Murmurs and sighs filled the air.
Love became stormy and frantic.
Sweat and aphrodisiac mingled,
To create a moment of magic,
To recede in moans and whispers
And a thousand kisses.

Brought to reality
By the rays of the dying sun
And the sudden noise
Of birds coming home to roost.
A tranquillity after the tumult
Within our passionate souls.

Zeitgeistlyrik: GROWTH AND STASIS (Satis Shroff)

Lol!
Oh My God,
Das ist Toll,
Dear Frau Moll.

It comes from textese,
An English computer dialect
That causes teachers and language lovers
To sigh in anguish and despair.

Great feelings and words
Are compromised
Per SMS today.

Circumlocution has gone away.
Why beat around the bush?
Keep it precise,
Don’t waste words.
Lol!

When someone sends you
A message with ‘I love you,’
Don’t get worked up.
It can be an admirer
Or a pesky virus-ridden spam,
That sends love-you-mails
To your near
And dear ones,
And to all and sundry.

I agree,
That’s neither lol
Nor loll.
Lie lazily,
Hang out your tongue,
As we say in German:
Es ist nicht toll.

That’s language in metamorphosis:
Phases of growth,
Succeeded by stasis,
Dear Madame Moll,
Lol.

On Poetry (Satis Shroff)

An established bard motivated me,
A poet from the American mainstream.
Words of praise that soothed
And amused me.
He compared my lyrical fragments
With works of poets
Of whom I’d never heard.

A protest poem about a drunk landlady
Reminded of W. H. Auden.
A ballad about a Gurkha mother
He said: ‘the best of Auden
And E.E. Cummings in tone here.’

Namaste,
Auf wiedersehen.
Auf wiedersehen,
Namaste.
I greet the godliness in you.
We shall see again.

‘There is such a surprise and delight.
A triumphant moment (here).
A small miracle of revelation

* * *
Walking Along Goethe’s Path in Ilmenau (Satis Shroff)

Subtitle: Fragments of a Big Confession

It was on the evening of September 6,1780. Johann Wolfgang Goethe was writing one of his beautiful lyrical works with a pencil on the inner wall of the hunting-hut on the Kickelhahn. This particular verse was published in an anthology 35 years later.

A day before his last birthday, he went to the small hut, which was nailed together with planks, to recall the lines that he’d written in his younger days. That was in August, 27, 1831.

Today, you certainly will not find the inscription written with his hand, because the original hut was devoured by flames in the year 1870. But forty years later, the hut was rebuilt on the old foundation. In the year 1999, which was celebrated as the Goethe Year, the members of an international conference of Goethe-translators met at Goethe’s favourite hut to recite his verse in their respective languages. The translations were financially supported by the Stiftung Weimarer Classic and the Goethe Society. I’ve translated Goethe’s poem into Nepali, a language which is derived from Sanskrit and uses the Devnagari script.

The small, lovely town of Ilmenau lies on the north side of the Thuringer forest and is known for its mountain excavations, glass and porcelain industry, and is also known as Goethetown. Apropos porcelain, Meissen is the greatest place for those who want to gather exquisite works of earthenware art in porcelain, you know. He visited Ilmenau twenty-eight times. The town of Ilmenau has laid a path with the letter ‘g,’ which Goethe used to use when he signed his initial. Just a small ‘g’ for a literary giant.

We start the Goethe walk tour along the market in Ilmenau. To the left you see the imposing thre storied house. Goethe used to reside in the corner room on the first floor. He used to live and write there whenever he came to Ilmenau. Today it’s a part of the museum, which bears testimony to Goethe’s literary works and information about Ilmenau. The beautiful museum rooms, which have furniture from Goethe’s times, are used today for literary and musical events. If you’ve read Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meister’ then you’ve read about his description of the inns ‘Zum Adler’ and ‘To the Sun.’ Alas, these two houses were in a desolated, dilapidated state and had to be demolished in 1992.

A new one has been built with a similar façade. Let’s saunter from the marketplace through the Obertor Street to the graveyard. Near the entrance is the grave of Corona Schröters, who was a beautiful singer and actress in the court of Weimar. Corona was the first actress who played the role of Goethe’s heroine ‘Iphigenie.’

From the graveyard you can take a short-cut to the upper exit, where you come across many memorial-stones for the prominent people of Ilmenau. You cross the B4 and climb up the Sturmheide to the middle and upper Berggraben. This is a path with different elevations along the mountain massif, which were previously hill-trenches in which water used to flow from the mountains, and was channelised to Sturmheide and Roda.

You reach Manebacher Valley after a comfortable walk through a thick forest and watch the splendid valley below. After sometime, you reach Schwalbenstein, a high rock with porphyry, where you can rest in the adjacent hut called ‘Schutzhutte.’ It was in the Schwalbenstein that Goethe wrote the 4th Act of his famous ‘Iphigenie auf Taurus’ on March 19,1779 and in the following years Torquato Tasso. On a rock you can read the beginning of this 4th Act, and you are reminded of the beauty of the German language and the rhythmical power of Goethe’s prose, which has a magical effect on you and moves you to the core.

You move on to the next inn in the forest called ‘Schöffenhaus’ and descend towards Manebach, past Emmastein and the house of the Cantor, in whose garden Goethe used to do his sketches and other drawings. You cross the railway tracks and the street and climb the small bridle path across the hilly meadow, and reach Helenenruhe. A resting place for a certain Helen. You look from there in the distance towards the forested hills behind Schwalbenstein and trek over to Big Hermann Stone. The route is rather steep and most demanding. When you reach the big rock on which once perched a castle in the Middle Ages, you are rewarded by the sight of a cave. Goethe wrote about this cave: ‘It’s my favourite place, where I want to live and work.’ Perhaps it might inspire you too.

This was where Goethe worked and did his drawings. He even brought his lady von Stein when she visited him in Ilmenau. Frau von Stein was a serene, tempered lady-in-waiting who influenced Goethe, and under her friendship Goethe developed into a mature and balanced man.

After the last steep ascent you reach the 861m Klickelhahn. You can see the magnificent Thuringer Forest from here. We know through Goethe’s letter to Ms. von Stein that he fled from the town to Thuringen’s cool forested area whenever he could and wrote to her in Weimar about the beauty of the forest of Thuringen. When words couldn’t describe the opulent beauty of a place, he sent her his excellent drawings, for a picture tells more than a thousand words: he drew the cave of Hermannstein, the misty valleys of Ilmenau, Manebach and Stützerbach. As though the drawings weren’t enough, he wrote further: ‘…there are drawings and descriptions everywhere.’ Perhaps he too found ‘sermons in stones and good in everything,’ like William Shakespeare did in the forest in his ‘As You Like It.’
Goethe was moved by the picturesque idyll of it penned his poems thus:

Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh,
in allen Wipfeln
spurst du kaum einen Hauch;
die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde ruhest du auch.

Goethe was influenced by Herder’s appreciation of Shakespeare’s genius, and thereafter he’s known to have written a pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy called ‘Geschichte Gottfrieds von Berlichingen, which was ill received by Herder. The school-kids have to learn this on their way to acquiring the high-school certificate.

The hunter’s hut, where Goethe wrote his night-song on September 6, 1780 doesn’t exist anymore, but you can see a remake of the same. And like they say on all guided tours: ‘On a bright day you can see even the distant Harz.’ You descend to the hunter’s hut at Gabelbach (fork-stream). That small house you see was constructed at the order of the Duke Carl August in 1983 when he expected prominent hunting guests. In the house itself you hear lectures about Goethe’s scientific studies in the forest of Thuringen. If you’re tired you can walk to the Shepard’s meadow (Hirtenwiese). From there you can take different routes.But since we ‘re walking along Goethe’s path, we cross the street, and descend to the pretty Schorte Valley.

In Frankfurt Goethe became the leader of a group of intellectuals, which formed the inner circle of the Sturm and Drang. He wrote stormy poetry in free rhythm such as the Wanderers Sturmlied (storm-song), Prometheus, An Schwager Kronos and drafted the scenes of a Faust play, namely Urfaust.

Goethe lived to be 82 and it was in this time that the French Bastille was stormed. Read also A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Goethe was 39 then, and told his companions at Valmy: ‘This is the beginning of a new epoche of world history and you can say, you experienced it.’ In his youth he’d been fiery, energetic and impatient and later he became an oracular figure of Olympian stature. Germany’s man of letters liked acting, drawing, even directing theatres, and is universally regarded as a writer of the first rank. About his own work, Goethe said: ‘All my works are fragments of a big confession.’

His diversity in creative writing was astonishing and he had a wide range of forms: lyric, epic, ballad poetry, drama, novels, short-stories, autobiographical works. The fragments are the essence of his literary genius.

* * *
Scheibenschlagen in Kappel

WOOD-SHOOTING ON THE MAIER HILL, KAPPEL
(Satis Shroff)

Schiebe, schieba, schiebo
Where should the slice of wood go?
The slice should go to Momo!
If it doesn’t fly,
Then it’s not true.

The Hill Spirits of Schauinsland staged the traditional slice-of-wood shooting on top of the Maier Hill in Kappel, below the place where the ores were washed previously. This big fire was to be seen from as far as the Big Valley street so that visitors could find their way to the hill.

Wood-shooting or as we Germans call it ‘Scheibenschlagen’ is an old pagan ritual to banish winter, which was later integrated into the Christian days of fasting called ‘fasnet.’ The date of this tradition goes back to the old calendar of fasting in which the people indulged in, even on Sundays, which is normally regarded as ‘the day of resting’ or Ruhetag. In Freiburg and the surrounding areas, the wood-shooting is carried out after Ash Wednesday. The ritual took place in Tuniberg-Orten and St. Georgen last week already and Kappel celebrated it a bit later. The Schauinsland Berggeister have good relations with their fellow knaves from the Dreisam Valley such as: the Firey Salamander from Ebnet, the Forest Spirits of Stegen (Waldgeister).

In Eschbach, for instance, only young men aged 18 to 26 years are allowed to take part in the wood-shooting. Their duties among others are: to uphold the old traditions, gather Christmas trees, cut wood, find a Schiebe girl for the Schiebe-dance later in the evening, cut the wood in shape (10 x 10 cm) and to alternatively work as bar-keepers. The straw witch placed at the tip of the stake is burned to symbolically drive away the winter. When the pyre of gathered wood really starts burning, its orange and red flames licking the sky, the boys begin to pray when the village bells ring. They go around in circles thrice, wearing their hats like punters at Oxford, with long white smocks.

Hitting a glowing piece of glowing wood cut in the form of a 10 cm square, is a traditional custom in the Black Forest. This takes place at the end of the Fasnet time, which is incidentally, the beginning of the period of fasting, and takes place normally on the first Sunday. You wait till it becomes dark and a fire is made at an elevation above the hamlet you’re living in.

For young men it’s fun and pride to take part in the wood-shooting ceremony. The flattened pieces of wood have a hole in the middle and are raised on four sides, so that they can fly like a small frisbee into the nocturnal sky like a wee meteorite. The route of the wooden plate depends on the strength and skill of the person hitting it. In Kappel there was only one woman who was allowed to take part in the ritual. She was a heavily built blonde lady and shot the wood with all her might. Either it must have flown to outer space or it never left the ground. The crowd gathered in the cold, starry night are young and old, and often jeer at the participants when their shots are flops sometimes. This is supposed to bring them bad luck and is inauspicious.

The wooden plates are made of birch, beech, alder or elm-wood. Each person shoots at least 20 such pieces, which are burnt at the end of a swinging stick in a separate, smaller fire till they glow. The slabs of wood are placed on a ramp and with a swing, away it goes into the starry, wintry night. Behind us, above the hillock with its rows of pine trees looking like sentinels, was the silvery moon appearing behind the grey clouds. Each slab of wood is dedicated to a friend, wife, lover, a couple, even firms and chefs, and people who have been engaged or have married since the last ‘Funken’ or spark Sunday.

If he piece of glowing wood flies far and wide, this is regarded as a good omen. The fireball can attain a distance of 120 to 150 metres. Unlike the Scheibenschlagen in the Black Forest, in Allgäu (Bavaria) they differentiate between Ehrenscheiben for friends and people higher up in the social ladder, and a curse-wood (Schimpfenscheiben) in which certain people who have done something bad or forbidden in the hamlet or have not been brought to court yet, are lampooned. In the early days, if a glowing piece of wood reached a house roof, window, or even the hay in a stall, it was not retrieved and held as auspicious, according to the old folk’s belief: ‘A burning slab of wood doesn’t cause a fire.’

Clemens Fruttiker, a thick-set guy, with greying hair at the sides like George Clooney, who is in charge of Kappel’s Fire Brigade says: ‘We’re ready for any fire and always on standby when there’s a wood-shooting ceremony in the area.’ He sure knows what he’s talking about because he’s my neighbour and a big reassurance to us all.

Schiebe, schieba, schiebo
Wenn soll d’ schiebe go?
D’ Schieba soll der (Name) go!
Fliegt’s nit,
So gilt’s nit.

Glossary:
Go oder gehen: to go
Schiebe, Scheiben: wooden slices or slabs, 10 x 10 cm
Schiebetanz: dance after the wood-shooting ceremony
Schlagen: hit, shoot
Ehren: do someone the honour,
Funken: spark
Schimpfen: curse, rail upon someone
Schauensländer Berggeister: Hill spirits of the Schauinsland
Fliegt’s nit: doesn’t fly
So gilt’s nit: It doesn’t count, it’s not true
Funken: emit sparks

© 2009 satisshroff
http://www.zfs.uni-freiburg.de/zfs/dozent/lehrbeauftragte4/index_html/#shroff.

* * *

Lyrik: A GURKHA MOTHER (Satis Shroff)
(Death of a Precious Jewel)

The gurkha with a khukri
But no enemy
Works for the United Nations
And yet gets shot at
In missions he doesn’t comprehend.
Order is hukum,
Hukum is life
Johnny Gurkha still dies
Under foreign 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
Argentineans 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 brigade.
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.

Glossary:
gurkha: soldier from Nepal
khukri: curved knife used in hand-to-hand combat
hukum: Befehl/command/order
shiva: a god in Hinduism

******
‘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 Earths 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 6/4/2007.

‘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, http://www.Gather.com)

* * *
Der Verlust des Sohnes einer Mutter (Satis Shroff)

Der Gurkha
Mit einem gefährlichen Khukuri
Aber kein Feind in Sicht,
Arbeitet für die Königin von England,
Und wird erschossen
Für Einsätze,
Die er nicht begreift.
Befehl ist Hukum,
Hukum ist sein Leben
Johnny Gurkha stirbt noch
Unter fremdem Himmel.

Er fragt nie warum
Die Politik ist nicht seine Stärke.
Er hat gegen alle gekämpft:
Türken, Tibeter, Italiener, und Inder
Deutsche, Japaner, Chinesen,
Vietnamesen und Argentinier.

Loyal bis ans Ende,
Er trauert keinem Verlust nach.
Der Verlust des Sohnes einer Mutter,
Von den Bergen Nepals.

Ihr Großvater starb in Birmas Dschungel
Für die glorreichen Engländer.
Ihr Mann fiel in Mesopotamien,
Sie weiß nicht gegen wen,
Keiner hat es ihr gesagt.
Ihr Bruder ist in Frankreich gefallen,
Gegen die teutonische Reichsarmee.

Sie betet Shiva von den Schneegipfeln an
Für Frieden auf Erden, und ihres Sohnes Wohlbefinden.
Ihr einzige Freude, ihre letzte Hoffnung,
Während sie den Terrassenacker
Auf einem schroffen Hang bestellt.
Ein Sohn, der ihr half,
Ihre Tränen zu wischen
Und den Schmerz in ihrem mütterlichen Herz
zu lindern.

Eine arme Mutter, die mit den Jahreszeiten lebt,
Jahr ein und Jahr aus, hinunter in die Täler schaut
Mit Sehnsucht auf ihren Soldatensohn.

Ein Gurkha ist endlich unterwegs
Man hört es über den Bergen mit einem Geschrei.
Es ist ein Offizier von seiner Brigade.
Ein Brief mit Siegel und ein Pokergesicht
„Ihren Sohn starb im Dienst,“
sagt er lakonisch:
„Er kämpfte für die Königin von England
Und für den Vereinigten Königreich.“

Eine Welt bricht zusammen
Und kommt zu einem Ende.
Ein Kloß im Hals der Nepali Mutter.
Nicht ein Wort kann sie herausbringen.
Weg ist ihr Sohn, ihr kostbares Juwel.
Ihr einzige Versicherung und ihr Sonnenschein.
In den unfruchtbaren, kargen Bergen,
Und mit ihm ihre Träume
Ein spartanisches Leben,
Das den Tod bringt.

* * *
German Academic Prize Winner Satis Shroff teaches Creative Writing at the elite Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg. The author and lecturer lives in Freiburg and writes about themes like longing, love, the agony of war, the discrimination against Gurkhas, togetherness, dignity of humans, tolerance and one-world in his poems, articles and books.

* * *
Zeitgeistlyrik:
Trauma (Satis Shroff)

Trauma.
‘I am not a boy,
I’m a girl.’
She won the gold.
Her mom says:
‘She’s my girl.’

There’s high testosterone
Soaring in her blood.
Cholesterin at its peak.
Anomaly of chromosomes?
Hormones gone awry?

There was once a Heidi Krieger
Who was pumped with anabolica
For the glory of the German
Democratic Republic.
She became so masculine,
That she changed her name.
Heidi became Andreas Krieger.

A man can be a woman,
A woman a man.
Chromosomes and hormones,
Playing Yin and Yang.
Women have X,
Men have Y.
Alas, when Y is there,
A man is still
Not masculine.
There are also men without Y,
Women with Y chromosomes.
Why?
Masculine women,
Feminine men.
Between the ovaries and testes
Are a melange of tissues.
A man with big breasts,
A woman with a strong beard.

What remains is an athlete
With a trauma,
Around a gold medal.

GORDON STILL WALKING 2009 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
‘I will not walk away,’

Said PM Gordon Brown.
His ministers had walked out on him.
Disgusted with his inner circle
Of soccer-fans
And other fads.

Manchester is United,
Labour isn’t.

Was he walking by a rule?
Mr. Brown ruled with two circles:
His soccer-crazy inner circle
With Ed Balls,
An outer one with grey mice.

He was walking down a lonely road,
It seemed.
When he walked in,
He walked into Blairites.

Gordon was walking into his political savings.
Could he steer Britain’s economy
Out of the big recession?
He walked his legs off,
Pleading to Labourites to stay.

It wasn’t a walk over
For Brown’s pride,
When ministers refuse to walk
Together with him,
After the debacle at the Euro polls.
He racked his brains,
Came up with a belated inquiry
Into the Iraq war,
To save his skin.

In a last bid he reshuffled
His cabinet cards:
Darling, Miliband and Balls
Held their jobs.
Gordon promoted:
Johnson, Jowell, Mandelson,
Cooper, Burham, Ham.
Eh, was it worth to promote Ainsworth?
A soap-opera supper,
Where guests prefer
To sit and walk out at will.

Gordon is certainly walking on air.
It’s become more a walk
On a razor’s edge.
If this silly Labour circus goes on
In Downing No. 10,
He is most likely to walk
On all fours.

The battle is lost,
Er steht auf verlorene Posten.
The rats have sprung overboard.
Councils like Lancashire, Derbyshire,
Stafford, Nottinghamshire
Have become Tory counties.
Labour lost 250,
Conservatives gained 217 seats.
Captain Brown remains adamant,
And runs his ship.

I’m afraid it’s not Trafalgar.
Perhaps Cap’n Bleigh?
He clutches his crutches
And mutters:
‘I will not walk away.’

Brown has a strategy:
He hopes to limp towards autumn,
Defying the wind against him.
Can he bend it like Beckham?
Captain Brown, still at the helm,
Insists: ‘I will not waver,
Or walk away.’

Britain doesn’t know:
Whether to be awed
Or amused.
And thereby hangs
A tale.

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,
Drink Darjeeling,
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.

Gunslinger Metaphor (Satis Shroff)

Steinbrück’s speaker said:
‘Switzerland should be bought
To accept the rules of OECD.
He didn’t show disrespect.’

To use Indians and Cowboys
As a metaphor,
Is indeed a folly.

The Germans aren’t cowboys,
And the Swiss no Indians.
Steinbrück has identified himself
Not with Old Shatterhand,
Who was a friend of Winnitou,
But with someone else.
Which caused Chief Watahomigie,
Of the Havasupai-Indians,
All the way from Arizona,
To proclaim:
‘The German should not speak
About things, he doesn’t understand.’

Swiss Chief Merz replied,
With a straight tongue:
‘The danger of landing
In the Black List of the G20
Has been averted.’
He sees now only positive
Smoke signals from the EU.

Ja, Grüezi!
Switzerland is no longer
A tax-dodger’s oasis.
It’s an oasis for petro-rich sheiks,
People who declare incomes,
And Bollywood film crews.

The finance ministers
Of the USA, France, Japan
Are knocking on Helvetia’s door,
For new agreements.
German ministers come and go,
The Swiss bank business remains.
Es lebe Helvetia!

Glossary:
Merz: Hans Rudolf Merz, the Swiss Bundespresident
Steinbrück, Peer: German minister of finance
Steuer: tax.Switzerland cooperated with the US financial authoriy IRS and handed over the data of 255 UBS customers.

Macha & Rhodoimage001.jpg
Memoir:
Kathmandu Valley Legend (Satis Shroff)

“I have a strong interest in the legend of Manjushri,” said Fumio Yonechi, a geo-morphologist from Yamagata city, when I met him in Kathmandu a long time ago. We were talking about the origin of Kathmandu Valley, which is located in the lap of the Himalayas.

“I have heard similar popular legends in Kashmir, Tibet and in Khotang,” he said.

Basically it is always the same, that is, a holy person cuts a path across the grilling mountains and draws out the water, resulting in the appearance of a new and fertile land from the bed of the lake. And Kathmandu Valley is not only the heartland of Nepal but also the most developed area in the Himalayas, due primarily to its physical setting. The Kathmandu Valley is a basin, and has a mild climate and fertile land. It is an amphitheatre in shape about 24km across, around the headwaters of the Bagmati River. Most of the rivers of Nepal have their origin in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, and they cut deep gorges through the Midland Region. But the Bagmati is an exception, rising in the Midland itself and having higher valley flow.

“I’m studying similar basins in Japan and Nepal, that is, low lying areas surrounded by mountains,” said Fumio Yonechi. “My hometown Yamagata Valley is a basin much like your Kathmandu Valley. And I find that once upon a time, the north-eastern lakes of Japan were drained of their water and became small fertile plains. These lakes are known to have existed 50,000 to 10,000 years ago during the latter part of the Pleistocene often referred to as the Wulm Ice Age,” he said.

“In Japan we have the same kind of legend centred around a Buddhist who is known to have cut a mountain and drained out the water, leaving a rich land behind. Personally, I feel that our ancestors in Japan could have made that legend as they had not seen real lakes at all, because the Pleistocene lakes were too old, for in those days there were only marshes in Japan. So it is probable that our Japanese ancestors made legends out of these existing marshes “he said.

“When I first came to Nepal I heard about the legend behind the Chovar Gorge and I developed a great interest and wanted to find out the facts behind the legend.” According to the Nepalese legend, once the place where Kathmandu Valley now stands there was a vast lake called Nagahrad, which was then drained by Manjushri, a Buddhist missionary ,and then the bottom of the lake dried up. However, deposits of the former lake were identified as Pleistocene through paleontological evidence. To confirm the Pleistocene age of given to Kathmandu Valley’s fertile soil, Fumio Yonechi sampled peaty clay from lacustrine deposits at the road cutting near Khajal hamlet, located in the vicinity of Budanilkantha, which was found to be 33,200 years old. The age was determined by using radiocarbon measurement carried out by K. Kigoshi of Gakushin University, Tokyo. It is a well known fact that most sediments in the Kathmandu basin are lacustrine, and peat layers are exposed at many places.

“I surveyed Kathmandu Valley and found many peat layers,” said Mr.Yonechi.

“From the peat sample, we found many pollens of tall grasses that are normally specific to Steppe types of grassland. From that bit of information we deduced that Kathmandu Valley then was not a stable lake, but that it changed seasonally from lake to dry grassland. At that time, the climate of Kathmandu Valley was far more clearer than now: dry and rainy. Since all this took in the last Ice Age, the temperature must have been very low as compared to nowadays.”

In 1966 two Nepalese geologists discovered the jaw of a fossilised elephant: Stegodon ganesha. In order to qualify as a fossil, the remains of a dead animal or plant have to be at least 10,000 years old. Perhaps in the hoary past there were elephants in Kathmandu Valley itself, even though they are confined to the lowland (Terai) area of Chitwan today. Perhaps they roamed and fed in the grasslands of Kathmandu Valley during the dry season and went in the rainy season to other areas because the Valley would then have been flooded with water. Mr.Yonechi went on to say, “In Japan too, fossil records indicate that in the Ice Age there were elephants in existence, but now there are no elephants in our country. Archeologists have made several important excavations of prehistoric sites, and it is my dream that in future we may be able to get more information on the pre-history of Kathmandu Valley and Japan.”

The drainage pattern of the Kathmandu Valley is the most typical instance of centripetal system, according to the geologist Arthur Holmes. The Bagmati River has many tributaries from every direction: Vishnumati from the north, Manohara and Upper Bagmati from the south-east, small tributaries from the east, Godaravi from the north-east, small tributaries from the west and Nakhu from the south. Nakhu is the only river in the entire Kingdom that flows from south to north. And the Bagmati River leaves Kathmandu Valley through the 500 meter long Chovar Gorge.

The Chovar Hill is composed of limestone and there’s a cement factory also located there.

Mr.Yonechi said, “The Chovar Hill resisted the erosion by the river and dammed up the water of a big lake once upon a time on the northern side of the hill. And gradually over a span of time, the groundwater must have made a kind of karst tunnel under the Chovar Hill. A part of the water was drained through this tunnel. By and by, the roof of the cave fell and formed the gorge.

Nepal was not Nepal then. We only know about the pre-historical periode which was 200 BC, the Licchavi dynasty from 200 till 750 BC, the Thakuri dynasty from 750BC, the early Malla dynasty from 1200 till 1482, the later Mallas from 1482 till 1768 and the recent Shah dynasty since 1768 till 2007. The human history of modern Nepal began towards the end of the 18th century with the Gorkha conquests, even though the fertile, culturally rich Kathmandu Valley was the object of conquests at all times in its past and they had a tough time thwarting the marauding people from the craggy mountains. Even after the establishment of the monarchy and later democracy, the old saying that ‘Kathmandu is Nepal’ still holds, for the country is still centralised. Will the future governments bring more decentralisation to the people of this land-locked country? It would be only in the interest of the Nepalese people to do so.

Time will tell us.
* * *

20170520_224539_Burst04

About the Author:

Satis Shroff is a prolific writer, poet & artist. He teaches Creative Writing at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. http://www.zfs.uni-freiburg.de/zfs/dozent/lehrbeauftragte4/index_html/#shroff. He is a lecturer, poet and writer and the published author of five books: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelogue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff), and two language books on the Nepalese language for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag. He has written three feature articles in the Munich-based Nelles Verlag’s ‘Nepal’ on the Himalayan Kingdom’s Gurkhas, sacred mountains and Nepalese symbols and on Hinduism in ‘Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) and his poem ‘Mental Molotovs’ was published in epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt). 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 “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer.

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. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and 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 in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Academy for Medical Professions (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Center for Key Qualifications (University of Freiburg, where he is a Lehrbeauftragter for Creative Writing). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.#

Satis Shroff: Neruda Award 2017

What others have said about the author: 
„Die Schilderungen von Satis Shroff in ‘Through 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).#

1463992258596
‘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, Germany).

‘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 Earths 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.

Kopie von no waybut down
‘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, http://www.Gather.com)

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One thought on “A Poet’s Journey to the Outer World (Satis Shroff)

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