Some of the truest literary expressions of Nepali life today are coming not from works in the Nepali language, but from poems and stories written in the national languages.
As former Gurkha soldiers engage in legal battle to win compensation that equals that earned by their British counterparts, Bairagi Nata Magar's poem, below, reminds us of the losses that Nepalis have suffered fighting foreign wars. The poem was originally written in the Magar language, and then translated into Nepali before it found its way into English, below.
An aged mother begs for blood alms
Bairagi Nata Magar
An aged mother begs for blood alms at the embassy
Hajoor, give me something She cups her palms
With tears streaming down her face she sobs
keeping her hands turned up Hajoor!
My son went to the battlefield and died
He disappeared, he never came back That's why
I've come begging, a supplicant of pity
The wound in my heart is infected
My perspiration congeals like pus
I, a mother who has withstood birth pangs
can't withstand the pangs of a grieving parent
My son who till yesterday filled my lap, playing-
a share of my blood, a morsel of my flesh,
my love, my joy, my womb, my affection, my child
-my son who cuddled against me is lost today:
where has he gone? Selling his blood
to beg for the alms of a life while wandering foreign lands
all in return for a chance to fill his empty pot
all in his eagerness to receive a handful of alms
Hajoor, my son has now mingled with the field of duty
He's received death alms The cannon has swallowed him
And I no longer feel hunger
I feel no desire to patch the rags on my back
All I need now are blood alms
See how my back trembles I don't want to die-
I'd rather bear these pangs of a grieving parent
That's why I've come to this embassy
begging for the alms of my blood son
Pointing to a nearby statue she says-
That statue bearing a khukuri that is my son
See: there's no blood on his body He has turned into stone
daubed with the colors of modernity
His eyes stuffed with sapphires my son is now blind
Give me my blood son I want to clasp him to my heart
and extract the scorching bullet that killed him
Because my son, that piece of my blood,
appears in my dreams these days Lying on the battlefield,
splashing in a pool of blood he tries to extract the bullet
he says, Mother! I'm dying and cries before me
And then my tears wash him away-
It's all blood! He says save me, mother
and my son flows downstream, away from me
The aged mother sits crying at the embassy
begging for her son
Another poem for the times is the one below by Urmila Kumari Chaudhari 'Udasi', who writes originally in the Tharu language. The melancholy she expresses is one that women throughout Nepal would easily identify with, living as they do with the constraints posed upon them by society, their own families, and their own colonized minds.
My mind is not at peace
Urmila Kumari Chaudhari 'Udasi'
How can I walk forward to dispense faith
when I am mired in a society of disbelief?
How can I start to grow scented flowers
when the behavior of our society is fetid?
How, with my inner soul, can I take pity
on those who play with the lives of women?
How can I struggle to truly define life
before a society which idealizes falsehood?
My mind is not at peace for a moment
An uproar is taking place within me
I had wanted to laugh with a brightly lit heart
but a row of tears always dims my eyes
I had wanted to traverse a world filled with flowers
But thorns and needles always bar my way
Both these poems, and other works from the national languages, are found in Rastriya Bhasaka Kabita published by the Royal Nepal Academy.