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Bhupi Sherchan (1936-1989) Bhupi Sherchan, who died in 1989, was probably the most popular and widely read Nepali poet of the previous twenty years. The reasons for his popularity are easily identified: his poems are written in simple Nepali ; they address issues crucial to all Nepalis, not just to the educated elite; and they are distinctivefor their humor and anger. Bhuperidraman Sherchand was born in 1936 into a wealthy Thakal! family of Tukuche, a settlement on the banks of the Kali GandakI River in the remote districtof Mustang.The Thakall are a distinct ethnic group in Nepal, and their cultural orientation isbasically Tibetan. Because their main townsand villagesare all situated on an historically important trade route leading to Tibet, they have become one of Nepal's most enterprising and prosperous communities and in recent years have sought to distance themselves from Tibetan culture and to identify more closely with the mainstream of Hindu Nepal. Initially, Bhupi seems to have rebelled against the commercial traditions of his family and community. It may be that he felt some sense of rejection when his mother died in 1941, a feeling that could only have been heightened when he was sent to Banaras in India to begin his college education before he reached his teens. In 1956, when still a student in Banaras, he published a book of songs in the jhydure meter of Nepali folk songs. This collectionexpressed views that reflected Bhupi 's conversion to communism,a fact also evinced by his adoption of the pen name Sarvahdrd, "Proletariate."1 Some four years later, he came to live in Kathmandu, where he was subsequentlyjailed for his activities in an obscure political group, the Bhadra Avagya Andolan (Civil Resis1 . Tanasarrna (1970, 192) sums up the tone of this book with a slogan: "materialism is yours, socialism is ours, one day we will compare them" (italics added). 119 120 THE POKTS OK N K P A L tance Movement). In jail, he developed colitis arid several other related complaints and was never completely healthy again. At about this time his second book, Nirjhar (Waterfall), described by Subedl as a "collection of lyrical poems" (1978, 73), was published. Neither of Bhupi's early collections seems to be at all well regarded; both are unobtainable, and none of the poems they contain has been reprinted elsewhere. Bhupi did not make any real impact on Nepali poetry until he dropped his pseudonym, shortened his name to Bhupi Sherchan, and began to submit his startling poems to literary journals, notably Ruprekhd. As he explained to Uttam Kunwar, "I used to give importance to an '-ism' when I wrote, but later I began to write about whatever theme attracted me—although I must say that I still do not believe in 'art for art's sake' " (Kunwar 1966, 93). A collection of forty-two prose poems entitled A Blind Man on a Revolving Chair (Ghumne Mechmathi Andho Mdnche) was first published in 1969 and was awarded the Sajha Puraskar. A Blind Man on a Revolving Chair has since become one of the most influential and acclaimed collections of Nepali poetry and is already in a fourth edition of 2,100 copies. Despite the fact that no subsequent volume of his poems was published, A Blind Man established beyond dispute Sherchan's reputation as one of the most important Nepali poets. The poems translated here are all drawn from this collection. Sherchan was a man tormented by the great questions of his age and by the contradiction between his family's wealth and his own strongly held socialist beliefs. Comparing the poetry published under the pen name to Bhupi's more recent work, Khanal observes, "Gone is the easy and confident feeling . . . of having found answers to the questions that he asked as a teenager. The question returns and continues to plague him" (Khanal 1977, 272). Kunwar (1966, 96) claims that Sherchan often felt suicidal. Whatever the truth of this suggestion, his addiction to tobacco arid overindulgence in alcohol became almost legendary during the last years of his life. Sherchan worked for most of his active years in the family business and as a building contractor. His duties took him to various parts of the country, particularly Pokhara, Kathmandu, and Bhairahava. His intense dislike for Bhairahava was expressed in the poem "Bhairahava," which sums up like no other the hillman's contempt for the plains: You can hear only transistor radios, Swimming on ihc air, The cough of bronchitic: trucks...


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