‘Flights From My Terrace: A Treasure Trove Of Memories and Metaphorical Truths

Filled with vivid, veritable expressions, descriptions connoting the joie de vivre of life in its small, yet discerning moments, Santosh Bakaya’s treasure trove of 58 essays in ‘Flights From My terrace’ comes across as a remarkable odyssey of childhood memories, nostalgia, and a vivid internal journey capturing universal human feelings. The journey of these essays combined together in an unforgettable mosaic, in her own words, is “the outcome of my ruminations on my terrace” of her snug, cozy Jaipur home, a home which pulls her away to the other homes and their assorted images, homes and realms she has inhabited with her memories, opening the doors to her idyllic childhood, replete with delight, loss, wonder, and bewilderment cried to be put into words.

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Bakaya, the amazing storyteller, essayist and poet extraordinaire attains catharsis and makes perfect sense of the hubris of her mind and the memory chaos by documenting and depicting a series of diverse complex emotions in the book, starting from the exuberance of flying kites to the reminiscence of the sweet nothings of an idyllic Kashmir of her childhood to being a mother to delving in the other metaphorical truths of her life. Hers is a Bedouwin (nomadic) heart inside which churns the quicksilver flash of memories, and splashes across the zigzag crannies of the terrains she touches now, hungering, wreaking havoc.

In spite of the deeply synesthetic appeal of the flow of her words, never once does her sea of thoughts from Kashmir to Bharatpur feel too exhausting for the readers to handle. She has them always in her stride as she is in complete grip of her narration, whether she is depicting the romancing of sacred whispers, the sweet resonance of birds chirping, the sudden burst of the cacophonous world, or her untiring, persistent interaction with strangers and serendipity. Like a true memoirist and a flawless essayist, she absorbs the readers full on in the immediacy of her subtle life experiences, eclipsing everything else with the earnestness and the lyrical candor of a loving heart.

Yes, undoubtedly memories and their essence form the core and crust of ‘Flights from My Terrace’. The fervor with she describes her journey from Bharatpur to Jaipur in the essay ‘The Persistence of Memory’ as “…a chunk of memory here, a sliver of memory there,” forming “a memory avalanche” is truly remarkable and unforgettable. Also, one cannot help but reminisce the beauty and power Bakaya inscribes to the seemingly inconsequential subjects, like the neem tree of her childhood, the family dog, Nipper, the cat, Lazy, among other things, and all of them are incorporated so endearingly into the narrative that they echo in the minds of the readers like a delightful, richly woven symphony, long after they finish reading the book.

“I did not have to make any conscious effort, these slivers of memory just erupted from the subterranean depths, fitting into the narrative smoothly.” She said in an interview where I had asked her about the effortlessness and ease of her narrative journey in the book. The passages about her scholar father, her loving grandmother and other members of her kith and kin come together as delightful chunks of the unforgettable mosaic of her narration, along with all her other lyrical encounters that form the crux of the book.

The takeaway from ‘Flights of Terrace’ to a discerning lover of literature is the use of language, tender, lyrical yet robust and poignant, the pervasive and spirited voice of Bakaya as the narrator, the crisp, almost meditative beauty of her prose. To all who love powerful stories centered on the meaning and essence of home and one’s memories and nostalgia that spills over, spreads around the idea of home, childhood and the engrossing facets of humanity, this book will remain a cherished, treasured read always.

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Durga: The Light That Flickered and Blazed

 

Note: My poetic tribute to the relentless, unblemished spirit of the teenager Durga, a poetic celebration of her short, unceremonious, yet unforgettable life and the haunting reality of her untimely death in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song Of The Road), the award-winning cinematic adaptation of the master storyteller of Bengal, Bibhutibhushan Banyopadhyay’s magnum opus novel  of the same name.

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(1)

The light that had flickered and blazed had found its humble moorings

In the moonbeams of a brother’s quiet smile.

The light, naked, unabashed, glaring, rose and fell

between the crests and rims of an untamed want of ripe mangoes

and guavas picked up from neighbor’s orchards, her kith and kin

for whom Durga was the other name of a censuring reality.

The light, an all-pervading truth, had shone, wandering in those wistful eyes

Loosening in their shores like sea water, and she clutched the brother’s shoulders

And took in the delight of trains whizzing past the silhouetted fields, whistling,

While the kaash flowers swayed in those eyes in their ivory nakedness.

The moon of her newborn puberty ached in the dark edges of her kohl,

A dark ink that had craved for a morsel of pampering from a troubled mother,

Splotches and shades of a promise peeping by, whistling in her ears the provocation

Of a scrumptious feast of a wedding, the provocation of a sweetmeat

Of a fancy doll, a string of false pearls, which she could cling to, as her own.

(2)

The light that had cradled her lap which hid sweet nothings for her ancient, dying aunt

A strand of forbidden silver which had carved her destiny, in a dilapidated hut

Where hope was but a shallow inhale, trading her brother Apu’s porridge

with her grim, corrosive punishments, a plate of squashed rice

and a mother’s wordless tears waiting for her, in an eager dusk of her return. durga-and-apu

The light, which had died out, in spurts, stumbling upon the dead aunt

In the lingering quiet of her way back home, chewing on rural titbits.

The light had taken in the world in the diamond drops of a torrential rain

Squandering in the open fields when she too hungered to live life

In bite-sized chunks of enduring moments, swirling, dancing around her.

The ashen sky of Nishchindipur, the nonchalant village

Where she anchored her tomfoolery, had flashed that one final grin

As she hung, loose, papery-thin in its sunless folds, taking in

Her wild breaths, hissing against the wind for one last time.

Death, her truthful, final kin had put his arm around her

While the brother listened to her last wish to storm out in the open fields

To see a stray train whizzing by….

The brother, the stoned mother, the bereaved father,

The starched cotton sari which she would never ever wear,

Waited and moved on in the bare-bone life, trudging on uncertain miles

Where her dim light, the dying vapors of her last breaths waved at them,

In a choking, molten surrender.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. February 28, 2017

 

Also, sharing a detailed, in-depth essay about the grinding reality of death and the philosophy of life as depicted in the Apu trilogy that I had published in 2014 in Cafe Dissensus e-mag. It is also archived in this blog (January 2014).

Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy: Celebrating Life Through the Vision of Death

 

The Kiss of Death

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Image courtesy: Google images

 

 

A tender, heartbreaking night
etched on life’s uneven canvas.
An unblemished face, swept away
with the moon’s tide, her last whisper
Lighter than a feather’s breath, 
she surrenders herself to her last lullaby
An undying flame as the silent womb
Of the mother bleeds open, 
trying to pluck every single star 
they had counted together.

In between the crushing moans of the night
the caustic smell of the hospital room,
sadly stumbling on shattered dreams,
Her heart, for once, did resuscitate…
Fairy tale murmurs, myriad hues, 
Countless rainbows smoldering
In the embers, engulfing twirled childhood…

In the crematorium, the charred meat 
Of her body, chipped edges of bones
and brain, lingering, one last thin scream 
Looking wayward, hungry for kisses,
the habitual bliss of midday meals, and wildflowers.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. January 21, 2015

 

This, I Believe, I Am

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Image source: Morselsandjuices.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short creative nonfiction piece of mine, in which I essay my internal journey, the conflicts on the way and how I am happy to break the mold of stereotypes, ‘This, I Believe, I am’, published at ‘Morsels and Juices’, an e-journal, a community showcasing stories, articles and poems by aspiring women writers and published authors.

Sharing an excerpt of the piece here:

“When I was the skinny little dreamy-eyed girl with braids, pleats and an awkward posture, I found myself growing up in a house cluttered with old furniture and the sternness of rituals, with a father always away at work and more away from doting his child, a silent mother cocooned in her daily worries, an aunt making up with her supernatural stories, a school full of classmates stealing lunch from my box and discarding me as ‘vague, imaginative and weird’. Months and years flew past, swallowing me up with devouring loneliness. The sky seemed to loom, gray and dead, above me. Yet, in my mind, a sulfur glow of a different sun gave way to streaks of opaque dark.  I’ve been threatened and insulted by the mediocrity around, but in rare moments of clarity, I saw the world as it should be. I broke the chains of mediocrity, and felt free. I felt free with redeeming, everlasting imagination, with the ever-growing, luscious vines of music which I discovered everywhere around me. In the beauty of my solitude which then, had overpowered me, I began to look for the mystery of colors and brush strokes, with the inspiration and creation of artists I seemed to know from my previous births.”

To read the full essay, do visit:

http://morselsandjuices.com/tea-room/this-i-believe-i-am/comment-page-1/#comment-1502

The Drunken Lovers’ Song

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Image source: Lopa Banerjee

For all those short wintry days, sheathed under

The soft blanket of the setting sun, they met,

Under the misty halo of twilight.

Their hands clasped, their tongues tied

Under the spell of the faint, blinkings rays

Of the hibernated sun,

Zipped by the pale, urgent moonlight.

They met, they wandered, withered with the moon,

In their own planet, love, the only language of the living.

 

The sky, a euphoria of lofty colors

Threw sparks upon their faces.

They looked up, and down,

Coiled in each other’s faces, sitting

Rapt beside a drunken, luscious river,

Counting baby faces in the translucent water bodies.

The faces, playful, indolent, unbound, never knowing

The toxins, foul smells, the ground zero of the city.

They laugh, rolling, rippling, flowing,

Tiny petals of music, poetry and love,

Fingers kissing dewdrops, evolving

Into a saga of childhood love,

Twinkling dim, blinking out, withering away.

In a tangle of two souls, spread out

Like a flowered skirt, the drunken lovers

Surrendered their lavender blossoms.

The stale night whispered, venom sprung

Out of the earth’s crust.

And while the green pastures waxed and waned

With the pale, cold moon,

Deadly ghosts spitting misery, trampled over

Their flesh, bones and honeyed dreams.

The drunken lovers and the moon, consumed in embrace

Quivered, fluttered wings  beneath the deadening cacophony.

The river called them out in ripples

And the unwavering smell of love.

And they gripped, grouched in the dark planet,

Love, the only language of the living.

(C) Lopa Banerjee. October 23, 2014

The Scarlet Rain: Celebrating Womanhood

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‘Femininity’. Image courtesy: Yogayomu.com

Feeling so happy, fulfilled and empowered from within, having completed my first poetry compilation of 60 pages, ‘All My Plain, Earthen Songs’. In this compilation, I attempt to present the image of the body in its various forms and manifestations, being a metaphor for both life and death. The poems in the collection are poems of the body, bruises and blood, words coming out of the strained ribs of our Mother Earth, words giving expression to the hollowness and inviting quiet of cities, landscapes and terrains in our dreams and waking. The poems also speak about the phenomenon of death, and the quiet, voiceless cessation that comes along with it. 

‘The Scarlet Rain’ is a poem which is a part of of this recently finished poetry compilation. It celebrates a woman’s body, the first shock of knowing about our menstrual cycle when we are very young, and the gradual surrendering and discovery of our body, our sexuality. It has been recently published by B’Khush.com in their section B’Creative, showcasing poetry and short stories written by women across the globe. To know more about my monthly column at B’Khush, and to read the entire poem, do visit:

http://bcreative.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-scarlet-rain

Lullabies and Birth Pangs: Journey of the Womb

 

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This piece happens to be the first full-length personal essay/narrative that I had written, in the form of a diary or journal entry during my first pregnancy. Today, five years after my elder daughter Srobona (Mithi) is there in our lives, I continue to revel in the countless joys, glories, the small milestones of victory and failure of our lives together, holding on to this precious bond called ‘Motherhood’.

This piece marks the beginning of my journey as a mother, and is also the stepping stone to other longer/shorter personal narratives in which I have celebrated this journey marked with awe, admiration and self-exploration. This piece is my humble tribute to God’s amazing gift—motherhood. 

It is my pleasure to include this personal essay in my recently completed memoir, where it resides along with other long-form, mid-range and short narrative nonfiction pieces in the section/volume ‘On Being A Mother’. 

It is also a pleasure to share this personal journey of mine recently published at B’Khush.com. To read the full essay, please go to:

http://www.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-journey-womb

The Tanpura

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A short chapter from my dream project, my first memoir that is yet unpublished, finds a home today at Cafe Dissensus, a journal published from New York. The chapter, ‘The Tanpura’ which is a story about my childhood, is based on a sudden awakening, a sudden revelation that I had at that tender age, involving my mother and her compromises. I had started it as a writing prompt that I worked on in a coursework named ‘experiments in creative nonfiction’. Later, I went ahead and developed the story and now it is a chapter of my memoir. I have toiled for quite some time to find a home for this piece, and now that it has found one, I dedicate this to the loving memory of my mother whom I lost to a sudden stroke in August 2013. 

Do read the full piece in Cafe Dissensus and leave your comments:

http://cafedissensusblog.com/2014/04/16/the-tanpura/

Ode to Sweet Dreams and Fairy Tales

Author’s Note: For my daughters, the apples of my eyes, Srobona (Mithi) and Sharanya (Rimli), a small gift from Mamma on their birthday.

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty waltz with their prince charmings

In the painted carnival of cherry blossoms and butterflies,

In the wonderland of your dreams, sweet dreams,

Every night, starry starry night, where I behold you in your silky slumber–

With tender kisses and cuddles,

I seal my enduring trust in your tiny bodies–

My mind, a wanderer in the dark, lustful world,

Yet craving to embrace your sweet nothings….

Soon the wonderland of your dreams will fade away,

The mud and soil of this giant world will surround you,

Howl in your ears to grow up, let go.

Let there still be room for the serenity and magic of your dreamland,

Let the fragrance of human love and life be yours’ still,

In the vain world where you may open your eyes tomorrow.