Memories From The Pandemic


Modnath Dhakal

Crises are fertile grounds where literary edifices are built upon, maintained and sustained. After about 18 years since the end of the Maoist armed conflict, books are being written, stories are being told, poems are being created, music is being composed, and movies are being made.

Writers and communicators continue to create new pieces of literature or entertainment with their ideas based on the 2015 earthquake, Indian blockade, Terai floods, and even the Panchayat era that ended more than three decades ago and the Rana regime that ruled the country for 104 years until 1951. Nepali writers have also created literature on international crises and challenges like the Afghan War, the Cold War, and Nepalis' plight in their work destinations.

Continuing that tradition, a new book, 'Lost Horoscope: And Other New Poems," by Yuyutsu Sharma brings back bitter memories from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when people locked themselves inside the four walls of their houses, either willingly or by the force of the government. 

It was a difficult time when people felt trapped, immobile, and helpless as there was no one to take them out of the crisis; they had to rely on their own instincts in most cases.

"Half a century later
caught up in a deadly fever 
in the Himalayas 
twisting my limbs
in a bed moist from 
my sweat, my head
throbbing from the dismal 
forecasts and my imminent doom,
the revelations of the horoscope returned."
Sharma gives vivid details of the pandemic and the hardships people faced in the quarantines during lockdowns. People were dying due to the virus, and every other individual was scared that they would be the next to be taken to the "ghat"—the cremation point. They were having hallucinations. There was a shortage of foods and medicines, yet the poet finds happiness and satisfaction in what he gets.
"Dalda milk rusks dipped 
in cups of bland tea and
relished like finest treats from Paradise."
The book is divided into three sections: lost horoscope, jasmine jewels, and out again. The latter two sections more often talk about love, affection, and travel. Sharma's poem features women from China, the USA, and other countries. Readers can also find instances of humour in his poems. The one that he tells after meeting his Beijing moderator can be a good example:

"When sixth glass arrived,
her Chinese husband turned into an ex-husband,
and a little later,
an ex-student
now living back home, in Australia."

Another moment of humour is found when he meets a girl from Chengdu, China, who has visited Nepal. The poet minutely observes the girl and begins to appreciate her features, but the girl addresses him as 'Dai," an elder brother. The poem ends with the line, "I was wondering how to address you." Likewise, in California, another girl finds him 'sweet' but can't make love because she has stitches in her vagina.

In the long inaugural poem 'Lost Horoscope, the poet also talks about religion, spirituality, and the things upon which he relied during the difficult time. The book has many instances where the poet talks about spirituality and supernatural powers. Readers can find lots of love stories in the poem that feature strong emotions. Meanwhile, he talks about the beauty of Pokhara, Annapurna, and the Himalayas of Nepal, as well as his childhood memories connected with his grandmother and birthplace.

Sharma has already published 10 poetry collections before the 'Lost Horoscope," including The Second Buddha Walk, Nepal Trilogy, Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems, and Space Cake.

(The author is TRN journalist.)
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