Where are the Lilacs?
A collection of Peace Poems
New Delhi: Authorspress
Pp 200 | ? 395 | $ 20
Poems redolent with soulful and salubrious fragrance
In the world where ‘mere anarchy is loosed upon,’ where the mighty man brings a train of melancholic songs into his mind like Sophocles did on the banks of the Aegean sea, where “two armies clash by night,’ not with the traditional weapons but with nuclear warfare and weaponry, what will the poet’s reed write save the writhing pain and pangs? The canvas is sure to be smeared with crimson hues of the corpse of agony, inviting the reader to “come and see the blood in the streets.” Every poet mirrors the ziet giest of the age he belongs to, and in our age the canvas no more reflects the colours of rainbow, bowery boughs, serpentine waters and the ilk.
Wading through the profusely luxuriant garden of Dr Santosh Bakaya’s, “Where Are The Lilacs?”, the reader does not miss a painful but concerned heart of a human being nor is the memory of the chiasmic and peace-yearning songs of a tender-hearted flautist effaced from his mind as he recollects them in tranquillity always and ever. The poet seems to have given language to a long trail of dreams after waking up from her sleep on the banks of Lidder, the Dal, under the shades of lush groove of verdurous tree- the nightmarish dream of sanguinolent streets, broken promises and curtailed flights of birds of peace.
The book comprising 111 poems is divided into two parts. Coleridge and Southey set their youthful scheme of Pantisocracy on the banks of the Susquehama, and Santosh Bakaya does it on the banks of serpentine Lidder, in the company of sun and showers, flowers and cooing birds. And it is in line with this that in the first part Nature has been deified the Wordsworthian way; and in Tennyson’s words the poet has “uttered nothing base,” where Nature like a mother brimming with ‘mamta’ soothes the vagabond and unhappy children through all her manifestations, seen as well as unseen:
The rain pours some more
Adding a new essence to my weary soul
(And the Rain Pours)
The moon was my friend, philosopher and guide
Willing to give my fantasies a ride
Then creeping to rest for the night
In my tiny heart”
(The Moon Hums a Peace Song)
The above are a few examples, among so many in the book, where Nature is portrayed as more bounteous than humans to foster peace and joy.
In the first part of the book, the poet gives us the idea of life that has been inundated by the deluge of sufferings, of a life laden with pain but still swimming in the sea of manifold bewilderments and benedictions of Nature.
The second part sets its painful tone that the auditory sense of reader is about to savour, albeit gnawingly, with the introduction by just two lines of HW Longfellow:
Over the whole earth
Still is Thor’s Day
The poet expatiates on the doom the whole humanity is heading to because of a mad rat race for arms and ammunition, nuclear war and colonial expansions, but simultaneously brings home a candid message to the reader and the world that if we don’t take the bull of the challenging warmongerings by its horns, the whole humanity is in for an irrevocable holocaust. The poet vociferatingly asks us why Thor should catch us unawares and why we should allow his destructive powers to unleash a reign of terror across all the crannies of the globe. The poet dares us if we have courage to tolerate the pain and shrieks in the refugee camps, in the blood-drenched streets, in the hospitals where scads of war victims and the oppressed lie bruised without eyesight, with their amputated arms and legs.
She proves a champion of peace and warrior against all kinds of tyrannical oppressions when she throws up the gauntlet and advocates the voice of a three year old Aylan Kurdi, Gowhar Nazir, Burhan, Danish Farooq and many others and protests:
How can I remain mum
In the face of so many dead?
Will you order the chopping off of my head
Because I write...?
The concluding line in the poem, “To Gowhar Nazir Dar,” “We have been unable to save ourselves too” sends shivers down the spine of all peace loving people with its forceful presentation seeping deep down our marrow.
Like Matthew Arnold’s way of saying “Ah, love, let us be true/ To one another! for the world, which seems/To lie before us like a land of dreams,/ So various, ...,” to come to terms with the Victorian Dilemma, Santosh Bakaya too invites all the peace and ‘love-mongers’ to be the messengers and ambassadors of peace and love and tell the modern Thor to his face that the countdown of his days has started so that a ray of hope is harboured in the parched hearts of the forlorn and the oppressed, a golden and peaceful dawn cracks to usher in an effulgent era from the east to the west. Let love beat in all the hearts and let lilacs breed in profusion and fill the whole ambience with their soulful and salubrious fragrance.
Reading Where are the Lilacs? reminds one what Shelley wrote in his Defence of Poetry that “poetry is indeed divine” retorting to Stephen Gosson’s denigrating epithet that poets are the “caterpillars of the Commonwealth.” The book is written in a language that in I A Richards’ terms carries “sense, feeling, tone and intention”, in a language that “pleases all and pleases always.”