Homesick Nepalis Gather Around Love Poetry

In 2010, Binod Roka noticed his children trying to hide their Nepalese heritage in hopes of fitting in at their school in Queens.

To help them appreciate their roots, he co-founded a series of poetry readings in the area, DNAinfo reported.

“We want to preserve our culture,” Roka said. “If you write poetry which other people can easily understand, that can be a powerful method.”

Thousands of miles away from their native Nepal, a growing group of immigrants in Queens have gathered around these readings, using poetry to express love for others and for their birthplace. Earlier this month, members of the community¬†held the Nepali Love Poem festival at Chautari Restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue, an event held every year close to Valentine’s Day. (Video of the event is above.)

The celebrated Nepali poet Govinda Giri Prerana traveled to Queens from his Virginia home to headline the event, he said, because of the area’s “strong” Nepali community.

Organizers say the love poem readings, launched in 2010, have become a cherished emotional outlet for Queens residents who are homesick for Nepal.

“Poetry is one of the best mediums to express the feeling about our culture and our love of our nation,” said festival co-founder and host Sahadev Poudel, who added that he has longed for Nepali culture since immigrating to Ridgewood, Queens, in 2004. He said he often thinks about his parents, who still live in Nepal.

One of the participants, Bikash Bista, shared his poetry and thoughts.

“Oh Valentine’s Day! I beg you with all my heart. Retreat the birds who are wandering around without a purpose. Eliminate the ants with hot ash, who are celebrating around the house. Hold and support the old house which will crash. Rescue the nest and lovely flock of birds. Let the flowers bloom, and let it spread the scent of those flowers in the garden.”

Bista, who left Nepal in 2008 to live in Woodside, Queens, said moving to New York City at a time when the borough’s Nepali community is growing has eased his transition. He said events like the poetry festival help him maintain a connection to his native land.

“Everyone needs their country’s culture, their tradition,” said Bista, 36. “We are thinking always of our country.”

Poudel has posted video of the event on his radio station‘s YouTube channel.

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