By Reena Prasad
Title: Flights From My Terrace
Author: Santosh Bakaya
Publisher: Authorspress, 2017
The author warned me that I might like her latest book. I gave myself up to the pleasure of reading Flights From My Terrace with a boxful of pristine, white soft tissues under the cot. The last time I read a Santosh Bakaya book of poetry, I was tissue-deprived, due to someone’s poor housekeeping skills, and was forced to bury my face from time to time into a great, fluffy teddy bear that had not seen snotty times until then.
Having tried my hand at writing personal pieces, I know it is hard. Hard to know the limits of this genre, to know when to jerk back the reins and hold in the colts of memory. It is even harder to explain why your great granddad stuffed his cucumbers into socks and emphatically deny that insanity does not run in the family or in the writer’s blood. I must take tuitions from Dr. Bakaya, who combines the personal with the universal, and makes me laugh and weep for the warmth of family and the old world charm of home and hearth in this book of essays.
I climbed into her time machine and was instantly transported into a garden where a father stood watering the plants, and the noises of children playing mingled with voices of happy, simple folk. I smelt the aroma of innocence and found myself trying to say ‘ALIKBADKYOON.’ How quickly the present went into mourning for the past as the chariot flew. The melting watch in the sky, poor Nipper under the neem, and the furball Lazy, who I suspect just pretends to be so, are firmly entrenched in my psyche too. Santosh Bakaya’s time machine moves at a delectable pace through her memories, stopping long enough for the reader to have a satisfying glimpse of an ex-hurdles champion trying out a Gangam style modern dance with the svelte Sherry.
The essays echo with sombre loss, and a child-like bewilderment of mindless violence, and the changes wrought by passing time. I gorged on descriptions of gulmohurs, toothless duos and grannies in armchairs. The unseen but ubiquitous presence of a father stands as a shade-giving tree in every memory-bubble that the author bursts and I am filled with delight that I have known this person, if only through the narrative of his daughter.
Joyce, Jean, Dolly, Diana, and David come visiting but I could not tear myself away. The temptation to dive into and swim forever in the company of the author who made every meeting seem like a magical encounter kept me glued to the pages. The supportive Lalit and the lively Iha keep the narrative grounded when the time machine threatens to carry off the author.
The third section looks out into a world with empathy. Fear, fallacies and friendships, baton-welding characters with “betel juice erupting, like compassion from a benevolent heart.” I was transported to several parts of the world; Accra, Kunta Kinte, and Kashmir; each journey replete with her pen portraits and the ways in which clouds, skies, and the sun collude to lend their beauty to her text. Astute observation, experience and an uncanny ability to conjure up atmosphere in versatile and elegant language with humour, all made me feel that the last section ended too soon, but the magic of excellent writing still holds me in its thrall.
Santosh Bakaya has a voice that casts spells; it is distinctive and unique. She looks in and out with ease, never breaking the spell she weaves. Like rain, it drenches, like rain it refreshes and like rain, it weeps in hidden nooks. A compelling read that left me in even more awe of the power of this scintillating writer’s pen. When it comes to Ms. Bakaya’s writing, like Pooh says, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” And the epilogue? It is sheer poetry.
Flights From My Terrace is available on Amazon India.
Reena Prasad is a poet from India, currently living in Sharjah. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and journals such as The Copperfield Review, Poetry Quarterly, York Literary Review, etc. She is also the Destiny Poets UK’s Poet of the year for 2014 and one of the editors of The Significant Anthology released in July 2015.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Masculinities in Urban India’, edited by Madhura Lohokare, Shiv Nadar University, India.