Runcible spoons and pea-green boats by Santosh Bakaya

Book Review by Satbir Chadha

Poet: santosh Bakaya 
Publisher: AuthorsPress, 2021 
Price  ₹ 295.00 INR

The very title takes you to the times of Victorian literature when language was rich, adjectives were powerful and metaphors layered. Santosh Bakaya like a chip of the old block, yet utterly modern in outlook, is one such writer, who can transport you to anywhere in the world with her exotic phrases and imagery, you could be in the verdant Kashmir valley now, and standing over the Russian countryside in the next verse, or be suddenly back in your childhood.

Satbir Chadha
How many poets still write lines like,

“A two-year-old, despite the dental dearth
Eyes dancing in mirth
Competing with granny’s”, so endearingly.

She says she wants to travel,
But where?— “To the sky, mountains and lakes blue, all of a different hue” where there’s a “boisterous brook babbling, where stands the horse nuzzling its calf,” and your heart says, “Papa”.

I found the most beautiful and lovingly written poem to be “Granny of the Red Roses”. It reads like an eternal classic. The aching ball of nostalgia in your bosom is like a refrain throughout the book, daintily aesthetic yet profound.

I adore the originality of Santosh’s work, always it is her own emotions, perception, and views, her own distinctive phrases and even adjectives that depict precisely what she wants them to, softly nuanced and imperceptibly layered.

She holds your hand with her soft phrases and takes you along, and you almost try to catch the walnuts falling, falling, falling. I block a tear when in a few lines she talks of her lofty father’s simple dream to own a car in the poem ‘The Black Beauty’ and so quickly he makes small of it saying, “ No, I cannot afford to buy it”, and cycles away to be on time for a lecture, while little Santosh suddenly grows up to a new reality, and nurtures permanent guilt, for no fault of hers, still feels the pangs, and I sob when she says,

“The towering figure suddenly travelled far
Sans car, and became a distant star,
The shards of his broken dream,
Well hidden,
Bidding us goodbye,
All of a sudden,
Leaving me with this overwhelming feeling of guilt”

Santosh amuses you with memories of her precocious behaviour as a child, her fancy wicked tantrums and nonsense

“looking sheepishly at the woman
Smiling empathetically at you, finding nothing new
In the woes of a harassed mother
And the pranks of a wild child”

And she makes you sigh with the words,
“Five years since you left us, mummy,
But why does my hand keep going to the cell phone
To tell you everything?”

It’s uncanny how you land up in the middle of a flock of sheep, surrounded by Asoka and pine trees, with dahlias, pansies, roses, and phlox smiling at you, and you sniff at the scent of unripened mangoes and lemons, like in a conjuror’s trick. 

Finally, maybe I would call myself a poet if I could write a poem like “And The Temple Waits” where she says, “ my mother became a prayer”. Ah, sublime even in her pain.

Hope to enjoy many more collections from her pen. Wishing Santosh Bakaya a big success with this one.

Satbir Chadha is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “For God Loves Foolish People”, for which she was awarded the Reuel International prize. Her second novel is “Betrayed, tale of a rogue surgeon”, a medical thriller. She has been published in over twenty national and international anthologies, containing poetry and short stories. She has three solo poetry collections to her credit, “Breeze”, “Glass Doors”, and the recent “The Last Lamp”. She was awarded the Litpreneur Award by Authorspress for her contribution to literature. 
She is also the founder of the NISSIM International Prize for Literature, awarded every year to upcoming writers of English prose and poetry. 

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