Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sun re Siyaram! – Ode to the Kamlaris by Shrawan Mukarung

While the kamlaris were fighting for their rights on the streets of Kathmandu, Shrawan Mukarung’s ode dedicated to the kamlaris gained popularity in the mainstream media. Shrawan is famous for his creations, revealing the inequalities in the society and supporting the underdogs. His Bise Nagarchiko Bayan earned him laurels for his empathy towards the Dalits.

In his poem Sun re Siyaram, a kamlari sets off for a city leaving behind her love Siyaram. She says, “Listen Siyaram, I won’t wait for you now, I won’t return to the countryside again.”

“When I urged to follow me to the city, you wept and didn’t listen to me,” she says. “You never had an idea to elope together to a far-away place.”     

He describes the moment when the kamlari is boarding the cart. She complains that Siyaram didn’t pull her back when she gave her hand for the last time, because the peepal (a religious tree) in the village was dearer to him. In her anguish she tells him to plough the fields and fish alone, without her.

He describes her grief by using the metaphor “a well of tears” collected to show her true love. She is still happy in spite of being pregnant with her master’s baby. Here, the poet has illustrated how the kamlaris are sexually exploited by their masters.     

She is naive and innocent. “Now I will go to the police station, now I will appear in the court,” she says. “This is the city where government dwells, I’m confident I will win.” However, she doesn’t know the ways of the city and its treatment towards the unprivileged. 

She tells Siyaram to collect water snails and celebrate Maghi (the biggest festival of Tharus) all by himself. She repeats she won’t wait for him anymore; she won’t return to the countryside again.

If you know Nepali, you can savour the rhythm and melody of the poem in its original form. 

सुन रे सियाराम !
सुन रे सियाराम !
सुन रे सियाराम !!
अब म तँलाई पर्खन्न
अब म देहात फर्कन्न
सुन रे सियाराम !
सुन रे सियाराम !!
सँगै सहर जाउँ भन्दा
रोएर मान्दै मानिनस् ।
भगाई दूर देश लैजान
तैंले कहिल्यै जानिनस् । 
जब म चढेँ गाडामा
अन्तिम पल्ट दिएँ हात ।
तँलाई पिपल प्यारो भो
मलाई तान्दै तानिनस् ।

अब तँ एक्लै खेत खन्
अब तँ एक्लै माछा मार् । 
अब म तँलाई पर्खन्न
अब म देहात फर्कन्न ।

आँसुको इनार जमे नि
प्यार मेरो सच्चा छ ।
जीवन मेरो अच्छा छ
पेटमेँ मालिकको बच्चा छ ।
अब म जान्छु थानामा
अब म जान्छु अदालत ।
सरकार बस्ने सहर हो यो
मैल्यै जित्ने पक्का छ ।
अब तँ एक्लै घुँघी टिप्
अब तँ एक्लै माघी मान् ।
अब म तँलाई पर्खन्न
अब म देहात पर्खन्न ।
सुन रे सियाराम !
सुन रे सियाराम !!

(Poem courtesy: Nagarik and Setopati)

Watch the poet reciting the poem “Sun re Siyaram”.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guffadi's satire on state's apathy towards the plight of kamlaris

As of now, the government has inked a deal with the former kamlaris to put an end to the 10 day long protest and Terai bandh. While the state and the so-called human rights and women activists turned deaf ears, the kamlaris chanted slogans on the streets, were hit hard by the police batons and boots, and eventually survived to protect their rights.

However, a section of Kathmanduites showed their solidarity with the kamlari's movement. A regular contributor to The Kathmandu Post, the blogger Guffadi captured the plight of kamlaris and jotted this brilliant piece of satire.

Republished with Guffadi's permission

Heads and tales: The losers strike again 

Protesting kamlaris (c) The Kathmandu Post

The Losers of the Week award goes to our men in blue who have once again shown us that they are nothing but a bunch of savages. It seems like the only job for those who have sworn to protect the public is to prey on them instead. Our successive governments have failed to prioritise police reform and have instead used our chor-police to attack common citizens.

Once again our police wallahs have made us proud by not discriminating against anyone. They will not leave anyone from Tibetan refugees to former Kamlaris alone. It doesn’t matter if the protestors are young or old or bold or beautiful or whether they are wearing Prabal Gurung or a Britney Spears t-shirt from the street hawker in Sundhara.

The Nepal Police have become loyal servants of those in power since the beginning of time. Maybe our IGP saheb should change the training manual before he retires. The existing manual must have chapters on how to use foul language, harass common citizens verbally and physically, and ways to rob and rape vulnerable women.

Our bideshi donors should send their overpaid consultants to train our chor-police on handling protestors. Where are our naari organisations when we need them? What happened to great dames like Arzoo Didi and Bandana Didi? Them ladies seem to get lots of funding from the kuireys to fight violence against women but I guess they are busy attending conferences around the world. Instead of  going on foreign junkets and telling the bideshis how our women are oppressed, why not take to the streets and help the real women to fight oppression?

And where are our ‘Occupy Baluwatar’ people, for that matter? Standing around, waving placards will not compel our incompetent government to listen to our demands. Shutting down the highways will only make it worse. We must ask our mothers and sisters to join the Kamlaris and arm themselves with brooms, sticks and whatever they can get. It’s time to fight back police brutality.

It’s a shame that our police wallahs were so aggressive towards our former Kamlaris and some were even molested and robbed. Where were our women police wallahs? If Nepal Police doesn’t have enough women personnel then this would be the good time to recruit a thousand more so that we don’t have to watch the men in blue lay their hands on women protestors. Where is the @#$!ing outrage? Where is Khilly Dai and his bunch of incompetent bureaucrats?

All of our political parties have their women organisations. Where are our women leaders? Maybe they are busy working on their speeches for the next convention. Our netri-nis like Sujata and Bidhya Didis have done nothing to help women in this country. They have only helped themselves to the all-you-can-eat buffets while they were heading ministries.

Our clowns are still fighting over how many buffoons can enjoy the buffet in the new Constituent Assembly. We wasted billions of rupees on 601 good-for-nothing lazy bums. Now, the Kangaroos and Unidentified Moronic Losers want to downsize to 491 freeloaders. Well, that would at least save us a few millions. When will we have competent folks who will refuse to take a dime for their time from the state coffer? Instead of writing the constitution, our buffoons were selling their own diplomatic passports and what not.

Our Foreign Ministry wants Rs 750 million to buy luxury vehicles for them big-wigs for the SAARC Summit. Yes, we will be hosting them sharks sometime in 2014 and all them neighbourhood leaders will need to ride around in bullet-proof Mercedes Benz. We should go green and save millions by getting rickshaws. Instead of purchasing bullet-proof vehicles, why not ask them VIPs to bring their own bullet-proof vests and full-body armour? 

Maybe we could save all that money if we hosted the summit during the monsoon season. We can then take them heads of states around the city on boats. We have failed to become the next Singapore or Switzerland. Maybe, we can try to be the next Venice.

Baidya uncle and his crew have decided to halt their protest programmes during the monsoon season. They do not want the farmers to suffer or maybe they just don’t have enough funds to buy enough gumboots and raincoats for their cadres. The angry birds have been having a tough time collecting money and muscles for their protest programs. They could do us a favour if they gathered all their cadres and armed them with buckets. And when it rains and our streets are flooded, they can jump into action and clear the paths. That would certainly win the hearts and minds of Valley residents. Then we wouldn’t mind pitching in a rupee or two for their chiya-paan karyakrams. But no shutting down the country, please!

Guffadi is a grumpy old man who blogs at www.guffadi.blogspot.com. You may contact him at maguffadi@gmail.com

(Courtesy: The Kathmandu Post. Click the link http://ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2013/06/07/onsaturday/heads-and-tales--the-losers-strike-again/249697.html to read the original post.)

Before you wrap up, listen to this song of sorrow, sadness and pain by a former kamlari Suma Tharu. She opened the third annual Women in the World Summit at the Lincoln Centre with this poignant song about her time as an indentured servant in Nepal


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Unique enclosures for domestic birds designed by Tharus

Domesticated birds make an important part of Tharu households. Depending upon the location, you will find pigeons, chickens, ducks, and even geese in the house premises. The method of keeping the birds and design of enclosures were unique in the days of yore.   

With the passage of time, I have been observing that the traditional enclosures for domesticated birds are being replaced with modernised versions. The influx of ideas from neighbouring communities has largely been responsible for the change.

However, some uniquely designed enclosures are still in use. Few months ago I was in the Eastern Nepal and Rana Tharu villages in Kailali district of Far Western Nepal. It was interesting to see different types of cages and coops for domesticated birds there. 

Lohoda is a beautiful coop mostly made of clay mixed with hay and cow dung. It has two parts – the base and the cover with openings for air. There is enough space for a rooster inside. The coop is cleaned, the hay kept as litter on the base is changed every day and the enclosure is tamped from time to time.
Jhauwa is made of cane/rattan and is usually large enough for half a dozen roosters. It can be easily moved around and is generally used as a temporary means of keeping the birds safe from cats and other predators. Besides, it prevents the birds from moving around the house, dirtying and nibbling vegetables in the kitchen garden. 

Khudela is an earthen enclosure, large enough for a pair of birds. Generally, lids woven out of bamboo culms are used to cover these coops. They are hung at a height so that dogs and other animals don’t reach and harm the birds. I have seen these arrangements in Eastern Nepal as well where the whole room is used to keep domestic animals and birds together. The goats occupy the base of the room and the birds are kept in these enclosures hung at a height.

Khop is a temporary cage made of bamboo culms. It is generally used to pair pigeons. The pigeons are kept in the cage for almost a fortnight until they bond well and form an inseparable pair. After that they are transferred to the permanent mud enclosures. It is also used to take birds to markets to sell.  
Perwa ghar is a permanent mud house for pigeons. They are kept at a height so that other animals don’t reach the pigeons. It has many compartments with each having enough space for a pair. It’s a common sight in Tharu households throughout Nepal.   

Called dhok or khop, it is a wooden coop mainly for ducks and roosters. They have wooden doors and are big enough to hold at least half a dozen birds.

So, next time you enter a Tharu household, ask for the traditional enclosures for domesticated birds. And if you come across any interesting and unique design, add it to this list.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book Review – The Tharu Barka Naach: A Rural Folk Art Version of the Mahabharata

The Tharu Barka Naach: A Rural Folk Art Version of the Mahabharata is probably the first book on Tharu folk dance, written in English for international audience. If you have not yet heard of the book, read the review by James Laine of Macalester College.  

The Tharu Barka Naach: A Rural Folk Art Version of the Mahabharata
Kurt Meyer and Pamela Deuel, eds. Los Angeles: Deuel Purposes, 1998. 120 pp.
Reviewed by: James Laine, Macalester College

This book will have two audiences, scholars interested in the Tharu culture of Nepal, and scholars interested in regional variations of the classical Sanskrit epic.

For the first group, the book provides a version of the Mahabharata that was reconstructed from manuscripts collected by an illiterate farmer over several decades and passed on to his son in 1970. The farmer, Rup Lal was also responsible for organising performances of the Barka Naach ("big dance") on numerous occasions from 1922-1963. One might presume that the tradition of performance had been neglected for some time when Rup Lal undertook his work of reconstruction and preservation, but unfortunately, the present book does not provide any information about whether the text in its current form, or its ritual performance, preserves something quite old, or simply purports to revive the timeless tradition. The editors of this volume, Kurt Meyer and Pamela Deuel, discovered Rup Lal's son in 1994 and worked with him to raise the funds necessary for a complete performance in 1998. That performance and this book, which translates the ten song cycle that tells the Tharu version of the great epic, are thus part of an effort to preserve a culture which is not, in fact, surviving. Although it deserves more study, this text provides a window on aspects of Tharu culture that are specific to the Dangaura Tharu who inhabit the Dang/Deukhuri district.

For the second group, the epic story is full of distinctive regional variations. In this brief retelling of the epic story, the most striking feature is the central role of Bhima, who is praised throughout as the greatest of heroes. The celebration of Bhima makes the text a truly martial epic rather than an epic modified by brahmanic religious concerns, and consequently, neither Arjuna nor Yudhisthira is given prominence. There are charming twists on the story, for example in the tale of the village of Ekachakra, when Bhima goes to meet the demon who annually demands of the village folk a human sacrifice. (In this telling, the story is blended with the story of the five brothers going to a pond for water where they are accosted by a crane who will grant water only in exchange for answering his riddles, Mahabharata 3.296). In the Tharu version, Bhima allows himself to be swallowed whole before exploding out of the demon. He returns home and is unrecognized by his mother before she performs a ritual of sprinkling her breast milk on his mouth. Other Tharu variations include the assumption that Kunti is the mother of all five Pandavas (rather than mother of only three), and that the secret knowledge which allows the escape from the House of Lac comes from Sahadeva (and not from Vidura).

Dinesh Chamling Rai has provided a fluent translation of the collected manuscripts. Scholars may be put off by small inconsistencies in transliteration (Vidur; Bidur; Shadev; Sahadeva) or the lack of notes which might explain confusing passages (why, for example, is the demon of Ekachakra referred to as Kunti's brother, the Pandavas' uncle? p.26). The value of the book, however, lies not in the scholarly advances it makes, but in the fact that it provides a serviceable translation of a preserved text of a revived tradition.


Read a more detailed review by Pradip Bhattacharya