Zeitgeistlyrik: Between Prometheus and Surgery (Satis Shroff)
Preacher: Break your bread with the hungry,
Speak a word with the dumb,
Sing with the sad,
Share your house with the lonely.
Fire is important to us.
I have come to ignite a fire,
A fire that’ll remain burning.
But an open fire is dangerous,
For small children in Nepal.
Today we have a guest from Nepal.
A woman who has a big heart,
For the children of Nepal.
I greet the Godliness in you.
I’ve worked twelve years in Nepal,
As a hospital manager.
The role of a woman,
Is different in rural Nepal.
The women and children have to work hard.
I went to many Nepalese farmers
And their families.
In the farmsteads there’s always an open fire,
Which is the central point.
Children creep on their fours to the fire,
By the licking flames.
Bahun: What to you is fire,
Is Agni in our eyes.
Agni is the God of Fire.
We need Agni’s presence,
In Vedic rituals.
It is also a sacricifical fire.
The Nepalese home fire
Has to burn all the time.
Wedding celebrations and nuptial knots
Are tied around the open fire,
When a priest recites vedic prayers
Gives butter to Agni to make it bigger.
The funeral rites
At the burning ghats on riversides,
Are performed with fire.
Every step in life
Is manifested by rituals around Agni.
Fire is one of the most ancient
Sacred objects of Hindu worship.
Even today it plays
An honourable role
The Nepali kitchen-fire was always open.
Christa: People come with burns and deformities,
Injuries and infected wounds
From the decade-long krieg
In the Himalayas.
Maoists versus the royal forces.
12,000 surgical operations were performed
On 9000 patients in ten years.
The wounded Maoist patients
Couldn’t be quartered
Near injured soldiers or policemen.
A clash of ideologies,
A struggle for rights,
Repression against freedom,
Leftists against rightists.
Today, there’s a 50 bed hospital,
Built with the help of other nations.
In my western world,
It was Prometheus who stole fire from Heaven.
We are thankful to him for the precious flames.
The Nepalese houses are built traditionally,
But they have no chimneys.
The dwellings are full of smoke,
Emanating from the open fire.
Smoke gets in the eyes of the Ama,
The children’s bronchioles are clogged.
This leads to heavy lung damage:
Chronic pulmonary inflammation,
Cases of choking,
Massive blood circulation problems.
Year after year 500 patients came,
With burns caused by open open hearth fires.
Most of the victims are small children,
Who’ve fallen into the fire,
Or have crabbled to the hearth.
Small innocent hands
That clutch the fury of the fire,
For there’s nobody to mind them.
There are no qualified healers in the hamlets.
This leads to disabilities
For the rest of their lives.
I have seen so much misery and poverty.
The modern kerosene cookers explode,
And women burn themselves,
From the lips to their navels.
Mothers come with their charges
And say: ‘My baby fell into the fire.’
Stones are used outdoors to make a fire,
Or cookers with three legs at home.
Bahun: ‘Your surgeons are doing a good job.’
Christa: Plastic Surgery is good
But it’s important to prevent burns.
We even tried building a bamboo-fence
Around the fire.
It didn’t work.
Kriya means ‘to do something’ in Sanskrit.
Bahun: Yes, the performing of vedic rituals
At the right time,
As written in the Gita,
To attain a balance.
Christa: Would it not be better,
To prevent a child from burning
Or a mother from suffocating,
By using a new kind of oven?
Bahun: Righteous doing is without interest.
Christa: An oven that banishes the smoke
Out of the kitchen,
To the back of the house.
The origin of evil is thus eliminated.
Finally we made an oven with a chimney,
To be used by the Nepali mother.
The smoke-free oven costs only 8 euros.
For us in the west it’s little money,
But for a farmer it’s an enormous sum.
We gather money for the ‘Die Offenmacherverein’
To finance the smoke-free kitchen oven,
See to it that it’s used in Nepal,
And organise the training
Bahun: Datta, dayadhvam, damyata
Shanti! Peace be with you.
Peace which passeth understanding.
Christa: Yes, Frieden sei mit Dir.
Glossary of words & organisations:
Ama: Nepali mother
Gita: is the Bhagavad Gita
Datta: means you give alms to the needy
Dayadhvam: show compassion
Damyata: tells you to practice self-control
Satis Shroff's Other Poems
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