Poem from Nepal

I wrote this column in the “Garden of Dreams” in Kathmandu, a glorious day during the Hindu festival of Dashain. I’d come from 5,614m (18,400 feet), after completing the Annapurna Circuit, keen to transpose so many stories from memory to paper.

We trekked eight days to reach High Camp, then out at 4am into an unexpected snowstorm. Head torches kept us in touch, just the shadows ahead and a long drop if you slipped. The oxygen decreased to 48% of sea level. At the summit, Thorung La, the world’s highest pass, the snowstorm abated. Dawn lit the several 8,000m summits, slowly unwrapping the mountains into magnificence.

It was a special trip. I learned so much from our guide Dashrath, and later from his daughter, Elina. The Nepalis put family first, with special attention to elders. Hindu, Buddhist and Christians are in harmony, keen to share their values. We six trekkers aged 62 to 74 mirrored them in looking out for each other, and we made it to the summit. Elina introduced me to Nepali poets, especially Laxmi Prasad Devkota. This excerpt is from “Crazy”:

I see the blind man as the people’s guide,
the ascetic in his cave a deserter;
those who act in the theatre of lies
I see as dark buffoons.
Those who fail I find successful,
and progress only backsliding.
Am I squint-eyed,
or just crazy?
Friend, I’m crazy.
Look at the withered tongues of shameless leaders,
the dance of the whores
breaking the backbone on the people’s rights.
When the sparrow-headed newsprint spreads its black lies
in a web of falsehood
to challenge Reason – the hero in myself –
my cheeks turn red, friend,
red as molten coal.

If you fancy the Annapurna challenge, email me. I’ll share my notes and contacts with you.

First Published in Swindon Link.

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