I never dreamt of becoming poet laureate: Madhav Prasad Ghimire

On his nineties and preparing for his100th birthday, Poet Laureate Madhav Prasad Ghimire is living an active life. Recently felicitated with Doctor of Literature, Ghimire is the centre of attraction in different literary and academic programmes. His books including Gauri, Malati Mangale, Himalwaari Himalpaari and Rajeshwari have been highly appreciated by critics and readers. Especially his book Gauri, an elegy about his first wife, touched heartstrings of many readers. Lokaantar decided to cover such a respected personality in its opening issue. Ghimire shared his life experiences with Correspondents Niranjan Sapkota and Nimesh Adhikari Wednesday afternoon.

How are your days?
I used to work the whole day when I was strong. Now I work a little. But I am a flowing river. I keep flowing. A poet, I keep composing poems. It is a poet’s duty to write poems. I am doing my duty. I write poems in sunshine. I also write poems when birds chirp. I am elated to visit a new place like a child going to its maternal uncle’s house.

When did you feel aged?
I felt young till I was 81. After that I felt a bit aged but did not care. Now I am 97. But I was a bit anxious when all my contemporaries passed away. You cannot deny your aging. Nineties is an amazing decade.

Do you feel happy or bored crossing 90?
It is all about life. I am happy to have lived to such an age. Nothing is fixed but living itself is a fixed thing. But there is no point in living with disease. Another thing is that I feel bored when I continue to live while people younger than me die.

Do you still remember Gauri?
Certainly. When have I ever forgotten her?

Which memories of her come to you the most?
Memories of young days.

Is there any sweet memory with Gauri that you remember every day?
She used to know I was hungry just by looking at my eyes and prepare food. Only the mother knows this, doesn’t she? This I could never forget. Doesn’t this touch your heart? Every other thing is mere talk. You have to set an example. Some people don’t give a damn even when you cry out with hunger for several times.

Did Mahakali make you remind or forget Gauri?
You give birth to a child and love it. Another child is born to you and you love it equally. Gauri became divine, I shouldn’t talk behind her. I’m grateful to her. But it is harassment for the husband and injustice for the wife when you have two wives while living. I don’t compare Gauri and Mahakali. I would be a petty man if I do that. It is better to sing praises and forget any shortcomings of the dead.

Did you think that you would scale such height of fame?
I had ambition regarding certain things but not of such height. I expected people to recognise me as a poet but I never dreamed of becoming poet laureate. People and nation found me worthy of the title. I’m happy.

How was your relationship with great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota?
Very good. We two participated in Afro-Asian Writer’s Conference in Russia. He liked all of my books. I also loved his books.

Did the members of the fair sex chase you being charmed with your poems?
Chasing the other sex is current fashion. A person following ancient values and convictions like me wasn’t engaged in such things. Only the one whom I married chased me. My uncle had chosen second wife for me.

How do you see the relationship between system and literature?
System affects all things good or bad. Poet has his own thought process. If the system does not like a poet, a poet also does not like that system. It’s a mutual thing. It is all right if the system does not stop a poet form expressing himself. Poet is an intellectual and thereby aware of the system.

What is your take on your song Nepali haami rahunla kahaan (How can we Nepalis exist)?
I am one of those poets incorporating national spirit and honour in my creations. How relevant is this song these days? I wrote this song some 45 years ago. Natikaji sang it and all Nepalis loved it. They still do. There is another song as well–“Gaaunchha geet Nepali” (Nepali sings a song). This song will win people’s votes as a great song even now if you conduct a referendum.

What is the difference in writing content in the past and the present?
In the past we used to write Puranic things. What did Bhanubhakta write? Read Lekhnath Paudel’s creations, they contain ancient customs and mores. Devkota and Balkrishna Sama are influenced by the west. With the change in epoch Nepal opened itself to the world and writers were affected likewise. Despite this, poet has his own thought and he remains steadfast to it whether it is democracy or autocracy. A poet does not compromise with his philosophy and thought.

Which poets in the new generation have touched your heart with their creations?
Don’t ask me this question; ask the critic. This is difficult for me to answer. There are many poets but few of them are good. I have pinned my hopes on them. There were few poets in my generation and all were good. Competition is stiff now.

Has metered poem been pushed to shadows?
No, I don’t think so. Who can say my Gauri is not read today? Who has learnt a prose-poem by heart? Writing prose-poem means that poetry is in danger of disappearing. Poetry in all is slowly disappearing with development of technology. Everyone has to sustain their lives. No one is ready to become a poet.

Do you still like to write?
Why not? I’ve been writing. I’ve written four songs about the earthquake. One line of a song is out of place. I’ve been playing it in my mind. Let’s see when I have a brainwave. I’m dedicated to creation. I even wrote an elegy about my wife.

Have you any complaints against the state?
Why should I be dissatisfied when the state has granted me such honour? It would be injustice against state from my part if I express dissatisfaction. I’m grateful to people for showering honour and love on me. But I worry about the country not getting a true leader.