KALI PRASAD RIJAL
The Runaway Statues
When the evening was closing in,
I saw with surprise
The statues which were positioned inside Tundikhel
Alight from their cast – iron steeds
And , walking out of the main gate,
Mingled with the mass of men and women
Who were walking on the pavement
Or crossing the street.
I was struck dumb
The street was like a river
With the turbulent current of people
Surging forward , eddying and meandering
In noisy waves
Through the cross roads and intersections,
And bifurcating at various points
To enter the lanes and byways
The posts and railings of Tundikhel
Remained where they were
The cement work sentries
Were at their posts
In a state of full alert.
Only the statues had gone out of sight
Only they had absconded.
Since then my inquisitive eyes
Have never ceased to wander over the faces of men
In search of the runaway statues.
Be it in a procession , public meeting or polling booth,
Be it a government office, hospital or court of justice.
I scan each face.
I scrutinise it closely.
But I cannot be sure
Whether it’s a man or a statue
I go through the process over again,
And get bewildered more and more.
In some faces
I see glass eyes winkling away steadily ;
In others I see stone lips
Parting in a ferric smile
At some places I see someone
Standing solemnly like a statue;
I see a man of stone,
Sitting motionless on a chair,
Some lifeless hands scrawling something,
And some lifesize figures
Examining the patients
Whatever I do
However hard I try,
I cannot distinguish
Between a man and a statue
I am not sure which is which.
When I look at a man
I feel as if it were a statue:
And when I look at a statue,
I feel as if it were a man
And sometimes I wonder
Whether this country is not run by statues.
- translated by Pirtha Raj Tuladhar