[33] In Between the Mountain and the Sea, Mukul Dahal

When you came abroad,
You brought with you
A flute, a madal* and a murchunga**.
You brought gundruk***,
You brought sinki**** pickle
In an airtight bottle
Wrapped in a plastic bag, fearing
That their smell might hit
The noses of customs officials.

How could all things go
Into the suitcase?
While coming to a place
Where it rains through all seasons,
You couldn’t bring a ghum***
Nor could you bring a raadi****
Which you could spread on the cold floor
And sit upon it.

But whatever you brought,
Out of them
You made a little country of your own
Where the way of thinking
Has not changed, and the heart
Sings the same tunes as back home.

Now wherever you are,
You’ve those same Caucasian neighbors.
You repeat ‘hello’ to your neighbor;
And smile at him.
But you never show him
Your living room;
You never invite him to dinner.

To your place come people
Of your own tongue
To laugh with you,
To eat together with you.
There come people
Who can identify your voice
And crave to listen
To your songs and poetry.

You work together with the others
Eight or ten hours in the office,
But the songs they hum
Do not affect you. You need those
Who sing your own songs
And who can dance with you.

Your competition too
Is with the people of your tongue;
Though, as in home country, the boundary of the yard
Is not adjacent, the boundary of the heart is
What these people of your tongue encroach.

You walked for years here
But where are the imprints of your footsteps?
Your footprints are in the home country …

I sometimes hear you talking
Of sherbet, taking juice,
And hear you talking
Of a path on the cliff, walking up the tiny hills here.

Perhaps a picture of your own country will be seen
If your heart is X-rayed,
But I wonder why
You’re so scared
To lift your feet
From the soil
Of this newfound place.

Every day you arrange your memories,
Keep on folding the images,
Keep on caressing the sweet flashbacks,
And even worship God
Of your own country.

But when
A plan of going back to your home country is made,
You cannot just get ready
Unless you’ve a ticket
To return to where you are.

The mountain is so close to your heart
But you cannot say ‘goodbye’
To the waves of the sea.

*Nepali musical instruments; **fermented local vegetables; ***a traditional Nepali umbrella; ****a local rug

Translated from Nepali by Haris Adhikari
Reprinted from Snow Jewel 2018, Volume 9

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