"For poetry makes nothing happen."
Thus wrote Auden at the time of W.B. Yeats death. most of us may not be in agreement with this poetic truth but if you consider carefully the world around us, particularly the contemporary war-addicted one, you will realise how Auden put it together so succintly. Take for instance the poetry of Wilfred Owen ( the first world war soldier-poet). He put before us the real face of war, in all its macabrity and grotesqueness, shearing the war off all its romantic, patriotic and chivalric fantasies. He made us see (pardon my language) the shit and phlegm of the war trenches.
But did his poetry achieve anything? Did it stop the war ?
No. It made nothing happen. The War went one, gulping among millions of others, Owen as well.
Against this backdrop, when we consider, "Where are the Liliacs?" A collection of peace poems by Dr Santosh Bakaya, it seems an absurd effort-a cynical exercise in futility. Dr Santosh Bakaya originally hails from Kashmir and now stays in Jaipur, Rajasthan. She has a doctorate in political theory but is passionate about literature.
Poetry seems to be powerless against the war-mongers. So what does such poetry then intend to achieve then ?
The answer is again provided by the inimitable Auden himself in the same poem dedicated to Yeats,
"For poetry makes nothing happen:
In the valley of its making…
… it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth."
However the peace poetry of Dr Santosh is not there just to survive in its own valley of making. it refuses to be just a mouth – just a way of making, as she puts it in NO, I CANNOT REMAIN MUM, "But, i am no Ostrich/ hiding my face in the sand/ Why can't you understand ?" Her quest is to be a modern day pied piper, crooning a tune of peace in the alley on that dark and dreary day (The Petite Flautist), so as todrive out her so called peace-mongers. How far she will succeed, only time will tell, as for now it is this understanding of her intentions that gives sense and meaning to "WERE ARE THE LILIACS ?" Dr Santosh is literally and figuratively trying to find Liliacs of peace amongst graves and mortar shells. She is trying to find for us a place of sparows, billi bi chors, peacocks, finches, squirrels, gul mohars which might have us still believe that there can exist a brave new world instead of A Grave new world. It is based on this underpinning that the book is divided into two parts- Part 1 The peace of wild things and Part 2 The Thor's Day. Part 1 is thematically preoccupied with finding this idyllic peaceful wild world where The rain pours some more/ Adding a new essence to my weary soul. (AND THE RAIN POURS). It is a world that exists in little neglected corners of present time and (bygone) in the memory. It is here that Dr Bakaya creates a wordsworthian connect with nature. The Kashmir of past (and in some flashes in present) as symbolised by the Lidder becomes an eden of hope, peace and longing. It is this symbolic lidder in which the poetess wishes to dip her feet and by the banks of which the poetess yearns for a small fire outside a shepherd's shack which can serve as a beacon of peace for the rest of world ( A Juvenile fire.)
But the reality stands before us as the cold fuming Kalashinkov which Is obsessed with/ Changing names./ Like a bolt from the blue/ without any clue/ A married woman/ Is called a widow/ A toddler an Orphan. (Such a cruel thing this Kalashinkov.) This reality is more or less, the thematic underpinning of the second part of book. Herein we have the Aylan Kurdi who is also Little Burhan of Kashmir and Gowhar Nazir Dar and Shaista and Danish Farooq and the nameless other little ones and older ones of our world in general and Kashmir in particular who are caught in a world of cannibals who go on much munch ! (Munch munch, we go.) The Aylan Kurdi is a powerful composite symbol of our impotence to save innocence. He (or someone like him) gives nightmares to Santa Claus asking him for Kalashinkovs and bullet proof jackets and drones as christmas gifts. (Santa Claus' Nightmare.)
The only grouse that some (Not All) may have against this book is that one feels a little cheated intellectually after reading few of the poems, because they give us a feeling of incompleteness despite the promise and potential that they could have achieved so much more. Rain, Rain, Go away, for instance in the part-1 is a poem that has a very interesting premise. Heavy Rain- much loved by a kid, as it means a holiday, and abhorred by a farmer as it wrecks havoc on his harvest. thus the title itself, an adaptation from a nursery rhyme, becomes an ironic metaphor. The theme presents a potential for immense metaphysical and existential exploration, but the poetess has wittingly or unwittingly wrapped it up in what appears a superficial treatment. the reader's appetite whet by the premise, is left high and dry. Secondly, the poems throughout this collection have explicit or implicit connections with contemporary conflicts. The voice that emerges in these poems, though empathetic and heartfelt is strangely neutral. in any conflict, one does not necessarily have to take a side but one ought to take a stand. in her defense, it may be said that the poetess has made her intentions quite clear in her author's note by quoting Seamus Heaney, "History says, don't hope/ On this side of the grave./ But then, once in a lifetime/ The longed-for tidal wave/ Of justice can rise up, And hope and history rhyme."
All said and done, it's a kind of book that you wish to recite from when the sun is setting, bringing in fears of dark.
Bloated with Promise
A soft radiance ruptures the dawn
Has the dark and dreary night really gone?