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Meeting a Humanitarian Writer in a Selfish City

Some days ago, in a coffee shop in Shipal, Kathmandu, the city, I experienced my first face-to-face interaction with the Nepalese poet Bhoj Kumar Dhamala from Molung-1 Okhaldhunga. 'The Selfish City', a collection of poems by Dhamala, has recently been published. At that moment we did insightful discussions regarding the ways to create good poems: He mainly stated to me during our discussions that "there ought to be more quality than the quantity of books a poet credits or writes.”He talked on the process of composing the collection 'The Selfish City' and shared a perspective that it took approximately five years to compose before it was published. He admitted that those years had been spent as a conscious poet recognizing self-lapses and consistently evolving as a better version of himself. To say it simply, he purposefully took the time to compose, polish and publish this book. He thus, has a belief within himself that this book upholds the poetic quality and standard it promises to be.

During the conversation, I expressed my intention to teach at one of the top educational institutions of Kathmandu. Even though he has spent more than 15 years teaching and living in Kathmandu, he advised me to stay and teach in my own hometown, adding that “one is always well rewarded in their origin” Although I had not even read the book then, this remark made me vividly envision the title of his book, 'The Selfish City' as suggested by the book's title, I predicted that the book is loaded with dissatisfaction and desperation of city life.

After reading the collection of 54 very touching and thought-provoking short poems, I discovered that my hypothesis was on the right track. The collection was mainly centered on the exploration of city life, destructive city, alienation, loneliness, human nature, identity, pollution, lack of inner peace, practical life versus university education, and spiritually dead humans. The repeated images of city in the poems "The Selfish City," "Wake Up Kathmandu," and "Sweet Dream" remind readers of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land since both Damala and Eliot have used city as an image to uncover the true reflection of the so-called modern city and people living there through their poems.

“fear death by water

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring,

…unreal City,” (The Waste Land)

The passage cited above is extracted from T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land.' As we all know, water is a symbol of life or life itself, whereas in the city, one fails to live each moment to the fullest, worrying of drinking water. The way one loses oneself and then one's life. As such, for a multitude of reasons, city dwellers appear to have failed to cherish each and every moment.

“…You and I, this and that,

ever-growing demand, does not let you breathe…" (The Selfish City).

No matter how much a city habitant possesses, the poet says in this poem, it’s never enough for them because they are already the victim if materialistic tendency- like the vision of water for camel in desert; they are trapped in the mirage of material happiness. The city dwellers never happily live and enjoy their space. They automatically create distance from tranquil and cheerful life in the process of fulfilling their needs. Here, the poet indirectly praises or sings the tune of rural existence that seems to be far better than city.

One or another way, both poets connote spiritually dead people here.

“… Sweat in the foreign land…

Remembers his mother,

a degree under his pillow that he carried with him worthless,

full of remorse” (A Degree Holder).

This line from ‘A Degree Holder’ attempts to portray a reality of an educated man who holds a degree certificate yet is obligated to work overseas. The authorities of his own country seem to have been devaluing education, which is a key problem that the poet wants to emphasize so far.

“…But today,

Everyone is serpent…”

The above line has been taken from the poem Serpent. We all are familiar that the serpent is an ancient mythological allegory that has frequently been used by poets and writers from all over the world, but Dhamala's reworking of the serpent is really quite pertinent for this 21st century since human beings are growing wicked and heartless.

Two major assets of Damala's poetry are indeed the sophisticated language and content. His language can explain everything succinctly and the content is what enables ardent readers get the utmost pleasure out of the poetry when they unearth the references:

“Shakespeare’s black lady…

Wordsworth would eulogize your potency...” (Liberation)

Hence, these citations are also crucial confirmation of the poet's extensive grasp of English literature.

I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to read this exquisite collection and I personally believe that it is perhaps to this date, the finest one for anyone with a poetic spirit like mine who appreciates reading English poetry. This well-crafted collection introduces a vibrant new poet to Nepali English poetry, therefore owning it is undoubtedly worthwhile.


Bio of Reviewer:

Sushant Kumar B.K. is a Nepalese poet, translator, educator and freelance writer who resides in Gulariya, Bardiya, Nepal. He specially writes poems in English and Nepali languages. His poems have been featured in national and international anthologies, magazines, newspapers and online portals. He can be reached at

Meeting a Humanitarian Writer in a Selfish City

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