Kavis or Poets of Kantipur

The word poet or kavi has become a not-to-be-so-proud-of kind of word in my office. Guys address each other with the title kavi or poet.

Oh..kavi, the usual way of greeting goes like this, how are you today? And the kavi ji or Mr. Poet replies, Oh..kavi ji, why are you calling me kavi? Please, kavi ji, I am not a kavi. Kavi ji, you are the kavi, instead. For example, whenever Gunaraj Luitel, our pleasant and friendly News Editor smilingly greets kavi Devendra Raj Bhattarai, a clever reporter, with Oh..kavi ji, how are you?, the master gafadi Bhattarai (who sometime introduces himself as Rai. And you can guess why I am calling him Master Gafadi.) instantly responds with these words, Oh..kavi sir, I am fine. Kavi sir lai kasto chha? (how are you kavi sir?)

For all of us who lack kavi hridaya (another hit term) or poetic heart, it is very much difficult to decide who is kavi and who is not. Krishna Jawala Devkota was a famous kavi who wrote a long article (and recited that in poetic style making fool of so many veteran kavis of Nepali society) on Nepali politics that never appeared in the paper. I think he is showing his kavitwo or poetic skills somewhere in Europe these days.

Anyway, everyone is kavi in Kantipur’s editorial section. Balaram Bainya, senior reporter, is a published kavi. Devendra is a mahakavi (kavi of kavis) largely because of his wide network among kavis and literary figures of Nepal. Unfortunately, no one has seen Devendra’s kavita or poem yet. I hope we will soon see that. I am sure Gunaraj Luitel will soon find Devendra’s poems and let us read that. Yes, Hari Bahadur Thapa, our chief reporter is not a kavi. He proudly declares that he hasn’t read any kavitas (poems) yet.

Well, how can I forget to mention here that our very own Narayan Wagle, the editor, is a kavi too? But he kindly and shyly declines to be addressed as kavi or even declines to accept that he has written any poems. But no one who has read Wagle’s bestselling novel Palpasa Cafe can just forget the poem that one of the characters of the book writes.

Anywya, lets leave that there. So, with all respect, let me come to Guna Raj Luitel and Devendra Raj Bhattarai. The interesting and ironical relationship between these two Rajs always fascinates me. I have long been hearing Devndra Bhattarai mentioning that Guna Raj Luitel actually published a poem in Garima, a prestigious literary publication from Sajha Prakashan. Timi yeta bata aau, Ma uta bata aauchu was the punch line of Gunaraj’s poem that Devendra Raj would recite wholeheartedly whenever the talk of poems arise.

Gunaraj would never accept that he wrote a poem and published that in Garima. And Devendra would always challenge him that one day he would produce the copy of the magazine so as to prove his point.

And Devendra finally proved his point. Today he emerged in the office with a piece of paper. He excitedly showed that to me. That was the photo copy of the page from Garima that had not only the poem penned by Guna Raj Luitel but also his nice photo. Now its official that Garima magazine of Magh 5056 (6 years ago) actually contains poem of Gunaraj under the title Oh..meri priya Amina (Oh my dear Amina). WAW!

Salam Walekaum Amina
Yo sagarmatha ko chhora ko salam
Timi samundra ki cheli lai
Akhir ma sagarmatha pagladai pagladai
Timi bangal ko khadi mai aauchu
Aauchu amina ma aauchu

Devendra photo-copied the paper and distributed that to all friends. He pasted one at the notice board of Gunaraj’s room. (He was not there when we pasted that and later I found him taking that paper out of the board.) Devendra also pasted the paper on the notice board of Narayan Wagle. He distributed them among the Kathmandu Post people, including Ameet Dhakal, News Nditor, as well.

“You know what,” a smiling but somewhat shy Gunaraj came near me this evening, as I was busy with computer in business bureau.

“Ke, dai, ke?” I asked him. And he continued, “Devendra is a propagandist. He distributed my poem to all and people from Kathmandu Post are calling me. I am thinking about how to counter him.”

I am sure Guna Raj was also trying to find some poems of Devendra!

This whole kavi war is very much interesting. A few weeks ago when someone addressed Balaram Baniya as kavi, he, with a big smile, countered that with this question: “Oh..my dear friend. What crime I did and you are calling me a poet. Please do not punish me harshly by calling me a poet.”

But yes, Balaram Bainya too is a poem. How did I know? Well, when Devendra threatened him that he would bring Balaram’s poem published in Deshantar Weekly and distribute that among colleagues just like what he did with Gunaraj’s. Balaram too counter-challenged him instantly. “I wrote that poem for a cause,” clarified Baniya, the secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). “That was a political poem and if you want, I can give that to you now.” Devendra was instantly silenced!

But he kept talking about the Luitel poem. “I spend whole day looking for that particular issue of Garima in the offices of Sajha Prakashan,” Devendra just told me on the phone about his labor of the day. He read out those lines for me as I told him that I was finally writing about the poem in my personal blog (that was his original suggestion). “And I am very happy to find that issue.”

There is a saying that every Nepali is a kavi and they write too much poem. Many people come to the newspaper office wanting to get space for their poems. And the joke is that a poet is always after possible listener. He wants to recite a poem whenever he finds a person in front of him.

I think this all situation has made our good and bright poets in Kantipur feeling shy to come up openly with their brilliant kavitas!