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For this pop sensation, own biography is where motivation comes from

When 38-year-old Sugam Pokhrel listens to teenagers talk about their life, he reflects upon his own.

At coffee shops and canteens, teens talk about all that they have seen thus far, but they are unaware that a decade, or even two, is not enough to understand life, he says.

“Everyone, it seems to me, is in a hurry to define life,” says the pop star, who reached the peak of his career in early 2000.

“Everyone, it seems to me, is in a hurry to define life.”

Even as he steps on to his fourth decade, Pokhrel says he is just trying to understand what life truly is, without trying to define it. “Life, I have found, is like a road. It is never straight. You might encounter traffic, you might have to look for alternative routes,” he says.

“The only moment life becomes a straight road is when you have no pulse and the graph of your heartbeat also becomes a straight line,” says the singer, who rose to fame with his song ‘mero sansar timi nai hau’ back in the days.

“If life were a straight road, we would not understand the highs and lows.”

Perhaps the lowest point in Pokhrel’s career as a singer came in 2013 when he, along with friends, was caught with heroin in Kathmandu.

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His ‘arrest’ made it to the front pages of the newspapers, fans were left speechless, and the music industry was shaken. Even his family members were worried. Pokhrel has no qualms talking about the incident. He admits to using heroin. “Yes, I did not take life seriously those days. Now I realise that I had forgotten my family, my fans, my career, and everything to indulge in fun.”

The singing sensation says what he had to go through was akin to what a marathon runner goes through. “For a long distance runner, every fall is an opportunity to recharge, and that was exactly what I did after the episode,” he remembers.

“If life were a straight road, we would not understand the highs and lows.”

“The episode gave me the opportunity to understand who I really was.”

The fall was especially painful as it happened when Pokhrel, who has been in the music industry for over 21 years, was at the height of his popularity.

The journey had begun when a teenager Sugam Pokhrel decided to leave his hometown Biratngar and go to Kathmandu. He’d lived with his brother Sunil, an upcoming theatre artist, and weaved dreams of becoming a pop star.

The struggling singer would need a job to keep himself and his dreams alive. So around 1997, Pokhrel started working as a librarian at Radio Sagarmatha, Nepal’s first community radio.

What started as a gig to remain afloat in Kathmandu soon became a career-shaping experience. During his stint at the radio, Pokhrel had the opportunity to meet the who’s who of the music industry.

“When you are surrounded by people with a lot of grey matter in their heads, you come of age pretty quick,” he says looking back at the 13 years he spent at the radio. Pokhrel gave voice-overs for commercials, composed songs for others, and even wrote lyrics, while working for the radio.

His big break came around 2000, when ‘mero sansar timi nai hau’ (you are my world) and ‘feri tyo din samjhana chahanna’ (don’t want to remember those days) hit the airwaves big.

“The response from the media and the fans was amazing. I had never thought it would be so big. They say that in everyone’s life god grants one moment of high that can never be matched. For me, that was the moment,” says Pokhrel sitting at a recording studio in Kathmandu, a few days after returning from a concert in Malaysia.

The next time Pokhrel received a response equal, or even greater, in magnitude was during the heroin incident. Pokhrel had been using heroin for three years leading up to his arrest. But in the three months leading to the incident, the substance had grown on him.

Sugam Pokhrel (7)

    “They say that in everyone’s life god grants one moment of high that can never be matched. For me that was the moment.”

“Looking at the coverage of the story in the media, I realised that I was no ordinary man,” he says. “I must have done something for the country, that is why they are interested in my story.”

Pokhrel never went to rehab. He says his will and determination helped him overcome his addiction. After being released from police custody three-four days after being detained, he stayed at home for a few days.

“Within a month or two I was back performing at concerts.”

Many people talked about a ‘comeback’, but Pokhrel says comebacks are for people who are gone for a while, but he’s always been around. “Why would I need a comeback?” he asks.

Meanwhile, his quest to understand life continues, and for that he has figured out what suites him the best. “Other people read biographies of famous people to understand life. I flip the pages of my own years.”

Photos: Shreedhar Poudel/ Onlinekhabar

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