Govinda Raj Bhattarai, PhD
I want to express my heart by extracting a poem “Raski” by Rakesh Kumar Jha, collected in the anthology Varied Verses: Representative Anthology of Contemporary Maithili Poetry compiled and edited by Ayodhyanath Choudhary. The poem contains these lines:
Living gods want to colonize my language
I will never let them colonize my
language Because my language is my identity, my pride
I am living because of my language
I will die the day that it dies
I breathe in my language; I live in my language
My language is my life.
The purpose of compiling this anthology is to let the world know that the love for one’s mother language is as deep as for one’s mother herself. She is neither rich nor poor, neither big nor small. She is only the dearest mother. The Maithili poems crafted by Nepali poets may contrast with those of India. There is no need to say that many people are Maithili native speakers in India, and its literature is significantly rich. Nepal’s Maithili speakers constitute a smaller population, yet its literature is remarkable. These situations are similar to Nepali literature in Nepal and India. The differences are created due to the soil and the milieu in which literature is made.
However, the present voices are not presented in the original language; these are rendered in English. In this globalized era, nobody listens to you unless you shout in someone else’s words of a more prosperous, substantial, or affluent populace that is English for us.
Ayodhyanath Chaudhary drafted this design of selecting the sixty-five best Maithili poems and putting his labour into this science of trans-creation. I have known him for a long time and appreciate his sincere efforts in creative arts. I have enjoyed reading his creative works, especially poetry. He has also contributed substantially to studying the history of translation between Maithili and Nepali language pairs, published in a volume titled Anuvaad Sandarbha Grantha (A Reference Book of Translation Studies 2020).
Broadly, literature sings the song of its soil. Many poets have sung the glory of the Terai, the plain land of Nepal, which possesses glorious heritages since time immemorial. The birthplaces of Mother Sita in antiquity and of Lord Buddha recently are in this land. Many poems refer to Janakpur, the cradle of Sita Mother and its surroundings. Mostly, contemporary voices are raised to show the problems faced and significant changes realized, and overall, the representatives of the woman poets are remarkable. They are new women and promise to live a new life. Many male poets realize the greatness of women’s power and honour their existence. This is a remarkable departure observed in our male-dominated society. Education is critical to all changes.
Like other anthologies, the present one also collects myriads of voices representing individual thoughts and opinions. Some of them, like Bhaskaranand Jha, sing the optimistic spirit of life.
I will possess only one aim-
Happiness and sorrow will keep coming;
Life is a struggle
Whether my limbs are cut off.
I will no longer live a tired, gloomy life.
Likewise, Anand Mohan Jha guides fellow men to follow a path of noble life, as in
Not the shining physical personality
But the good deeds alone
These are poems of moral strength, and naturally, these are expected positive themes, but such poems as claim the causes of significant change in society are appreciated wholeheartedly. Bhavana Navin, in her verse, says:
They want to teach that
Men and women are equal.
Many women writers have raised more vital voices in their poems. Even if the male society does not allow equality, Bibha Jha paints pictures of a fierce bull that threatens humanity:
Only new ideas
And new angles of thoughts
Come to my mind;
I want to become a revolutionary
And start carving out my privacy.
With my strong willingness,
I want to sketch a wild, wandering bull
And demolish his wilderness.
But the poets are worried about their freedom or living in chaotic societies that need perpetual changes and the international scene, especially war. One poet, Bibhuti Anand, writes a poem of universal concern on the battle raging now.
I have been living in perpetual terror
Sometimes in Ukraine and some other times in Russia
Sometimes, with the terror of attack by the atomic bomb, Breathing alarmingly in suffocation.
Every piece of the poem represents the artistic freedom inherent in an individual. So naturally, every poem has a different voice, a different ethos, a different rhythm, and a philosophy. That gets expressed in figurative language or simple words of everyday use.
The poems in this anthology represent the contemporaneity of the Maithili poems, and I feel delighted to know that these are on par with the recent trends in Nepali poetry. I had an opportunity to read 14 Madhesi poems (mainly Maithili) in an anthology titled Itar Kavita. The tile refers to the nationalities that are considered outsiders to the mainstream. The same poets plus fifty more make up this volume. Four male poets, including Binod Kumar, favour women’s rights or freedom. This is a tremendous monumental work to which Ayodhyaji has given true life.
Instead of extracting poems of great power and connotation, our valued readers go through the anthology and enjoy the essence. The collection has great historical importance. This will not lie buried and unnoticed before our Translation Studies Scholars and Nepali curriculum designers when they draft syllabuses. We must honour new efforts and voices from every corner of society. Kudos to Shree Ayodhyanath Choudhary. The great dreamer who brought this valued dream to life. He is a perfect translator and has performed his skill superbly.
It is a magnum opus that Nepali literature should feel proud of its craftsmen because every national literature should honour all languages it encompasses and their works with equal justice and love.
All brooks and creeks make a river big ultimately. I thank every poet.