BOOK EXCERPT

Three poems of longing, despair, and hope from Tibet that tell the inner stories of its people

An anthology of new poetry from Tibet reveals astonishing voices.

Farewell Prostrations

Khawa Nyingchak

Evening wind burns the sun’s braids

Fingers of darkness guide the night wings
And on its lap I alone sleep –

Only the thoughts of you striking my mind
You have left and moved to a faraway place.
I am where I was, waiting.

The springtime has returned again
Stretching the eyes of hope wider and wider.
Though the flock of birds has returned from Mon
You’ve left permanently never to come back,

The gait of time hits against my eyelashes

Wails of the heart fall on my palms,
I am left staring into the blue skies

Teardrops languidly rim my eyes,
Letting this life fade to its closing stages
Wishing to reach the shores of the life beyond.
Wings of the heart stretch across the space
Where the strong wind howls in its borders.
I stand stiff near the river alone

Raising my hands high to signal
That if in time I do not go back,

I’ll sleep forever in this riverbed

Where my flesh and bones become offerings

To nourish budding trees and blossoming flowers.

(Note: Mon, the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama, is located in Arunachal Pradesh.)


Lhasa Diary

Chen Metak

In a day, cold wind may blow,

A colourless and intangible wind

Rising through the openings in your stones,
On the walls of your house and iron fences,

Making hundreds of holes for spiders and scorpions to sneak in,
Fangs of darkness crowding in the dark holes will

Cut your sunrays into pieces,

Bringing the second black night
That even the lamps of your history cannot extinguish.

In a day, it may rain
Teardrop-like rain falling from your golden canopies
Hues of your white and red colours may turn

Into long bloody footprints left by scorpions,

Each imprint turning to a document,

Your emperors and princes will have

No stone pillars for their final testament, only elaborate tombs.

One day, from the walls of your water tombs
Yellow ducks will fly out in terror,

Singing you a skeleton-coloured poem

With a tiny little hole in it, and
Through this hole

You may be able to see once the world in which you live.

One day, a tongue of flame may shoot up from the crown of Iron Hill

The flame may hear the laments of your chained sunrays,
It may taste the sour air coming and going across the stone bridge,
Furthermore, it may feel the hunger of birds and fishes of Yarlung Tsangpo
It may see the sons and daughters of aristocrats decked in corals and turquoise.

One day, it is possible that I will see the white walls of Tsuglakhang

Hidden behind the garden of willow with its smooth walls,
It is possible that I will see the low terraces of the stone houses,
Seeing them I may have to follow your pointing finger to
A valley of history where the sunlight does not penetrate.
On a day like that

Silently I may call your name one more time.

(Note: The Yarlung Tsangpo, aka The Tachok Khabab, is the highest major river in the world, rising from a glacier near Mount Kailash in Western Tibet. The 2,900 kilometre-long river flows through the heartland of Tibet, including the Yarlung Valley, hence the name Yarlung Tsangpo. Yarlung Valley was the citadel of Tibetan civilisation and Tibet’s capital from about 127 BC to 630 AD. The river is a lifeline for Tibetans who farm along its banks.
 As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation and, ultimately, to a conifer and rhododendron forest. Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth’s alternating magnetic field current.
 The Yarlung Tsangpo flows in the world’s largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, which is more than twice the depth of Colorado’s Grand Canyon. It flows into India and Bangladesh to become the mighty Brahmaputra river, finally emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
)


Do You Know The Tales Of Our Forefathers?

Dhi Lhaden

To my niece Gangzum,

Before the sun’s rays hit the smiling peaks
You are ready to hit the road.

Following the hooves of yak singing a sad song

With the day’s provisions stored in the fold of your chupa,
This is when my heart turns weak like the tunes of your song.

If you have to spend your life
On the plateau like animals in the wild,

I never want to say “Farewell” and leave.

Instead if I can turn you into a student holding a book and a pen
Will you be a girl in the service of our country?
Will you be a woman who loves her people?

Let me ask you:

Do you know the troubled tales of your forefathers?
Did you see their footprints in the mountains you roam?
Do you recognize the mountain peak

Where your forefathers’ vital blood dissolved?

Write this single word called “Freedom”

On the mountain peak where your forefathers have

Shed tears for livelihood and
Sacrificed their lives for their rights.

This will be your first proof to be with the people of the world
On an equal footing.


All poems translated by Bhuchung D Sonam.

Excerpted with permission from Burning the Sun’s Braids: New Poetry from Tibet, Blackneck Books.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.