Book Review: Birds Like Us

Santosh Bakaya

Santosh Bakaya

PP 128

This book, with 90 eclectic poems spread across 128 pages, is indeed truly representative of the zeitgeist, the chaotic spirit of our times as the poet himself says in the preface. Deepak. K Choudhary is a poet, translator, editor and blogger with a Master’s Degree from JNU. A polyglot, he writes with equal ease in English, Hindi and his mother tongue, Maithili. Birds like us, his debut poetry book, marked by thematic plurality, focuses on themes such as ‘erosion of values, generation gap, social segregation, ostracism, and inner conflict’. There are poems on nostalgia, natural calamities, Fate, Nightmare, Graffiti, Prayer, Infatuation and many more.
 On reading Marquez’s No one writes to the Colonel’- 1 and 2, [pp 56- 57] took me back to my reading of Marquez, and once again, I became a part of the old colonel’s existential angst, the unending wait for his pension and unending hope symbolized by the rooster.  My heart once again became heavy with the struggle for survival of the simple folk.

Writing with an exemplary dexterity, there is a certain intensity and depth in his poems, which is the hallmark of a sensitive poet. His words have the power
to saunter and scamper their way into the readers’ hearts and minds. The poems are multi- nuanced, having myriad symbolic dimensions and connotations. They appear to change hues with every turn of page ;   some are satirical punches which almost make the reader reel  under their impact, some have elements of Metaphysics, and in some poems it appears as though the poet has drifted into a brown study, indulging in a little loud thinking .

Very sensitively written, ‘Perhaps in a different way ‘[pp 7- 8] is a poem which continues to nestle close to my heart, making my eyes tingle. It is about a girl who said she could read the wind like letters, see the shadows of reeds, and hear voices coming from the moon; the world called her ‘possessed’, ‘mad’, and that ‘the Devil had overpowered her nerves ‘but the poet insists that he believed ‘she could  be true, perhaps in a different way.’

Some drops of empathy
blurred my vision,
And I realized with a heavy heart
How she had dared to differ from a world
Not used to understanding anything beyond itself

 This is so true of many mindsets, if we do not think like them, we are given convenient labels, convenient brands- convenient to them, of course, dove- tailing very conveniently with their preconceived notions. Yes, all of us can be true in a different way, only if the others realize it.  A very sensitive and apt poem, indeed.

Anomie [p 9p 73 ] is another poem which appealed to me greatly with its skillful use of words, like ‘boisterous anonymity ‘, ‘corrosive void, ‘colorless gestures’ etc.

‘Sneakily, I try moving on to
Reach the other side of darkness

Pocketing a bunch of soliloquies,
Remembering the smiles
You’ve gone away with
The sighs and
Silhouettes that tied some pasts together'

I was surprised to see that the book also has a poem about Shah Faesal,[ the young man  from  Jammu and Kashmir, who topped the IAS in 2009, and later quit   in protest against atrocities in Kashmir and formed his own party. Alas, he is in a makeshift detention Centre now. Hence the poem appears very timely. ]
 Getting into Faisal’s shoes when he was posted as Director, School Education, lamenting the fact that children have not come for months to school, he pours his anguish thus:

“Have they all lost their way ?
All of them?’
Stomping about
 Like a restless ghoul,
 I ask the motionless chairs,
 The dusty desks,
The screeching stairs……..”

“Corridors corrugated,
Empty, deserted
Often seen to be narrowing in,
As I glance through
The  window glasses
Counting the leaves falling
From the trees and
 Tiny petals wrested
From their floral habitat by
The blows of inclement wind”  [
Shah Faisal p 73]

The title poem Birds like us’ [p 128] was the poem which resonated with me in a big way, And I felt like adding my voice to the poet’s and saying, yes, we will neither ‘let our squeaks sink in the flurry of their blind diktats’, nor will we surrender the sharpness of our beaks or the strength of our talons, to the tyranny of the vultures and the eagles.

Armed with a sensitive pen, a compassionate heart and a vibrant vocabulary, the poet deftly traverses a wide range of experience and emotions. This is indeed an anthology which will definitely appeal to all lovers of poetry.  Not at all expensively priced, the book is highly recommended for all poetry lovers. 

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