If you speak to any publishing house these days, they will tell you that poetry books belong to niche market. One reason might be that the average reader is simply too distracted to settle down and read poems. The other has to do with the inherent difficulty of reading poetry: in order to comprehend and fully absorb a poem, one needs to read it not once but several times; and also one needs to understand the context in which a poem operates.
Often, that context is autobiographical as well as political, as is the case with Dr Santosh Bakaya’s Where are the Lilacs: A Collection of Peace Poems. It took the poet around three months to finish writing all the 111 poems collected here, she tells Guardian 20. “My daughter calls me a ‘Mad Hatter’, for I write about anything that catches my fancy. The inspiration behind a collection of poems on peace came to me thinking about how humanity cannot sustain without peace. And that is something which is really missing these days. The news is filled with stories about some war or some riot or some killing, and all this makes me very nervous and uncomfortable. In fact, I wrote a few of my poems while watching the news,” Bakaya says.
She has a doctorate in political theory and is “obsessed” with writing that is not limited to poems; it extends to prose. She is also the recipient of the International Reuel Award (2014), given for her long poem “Oh Hark”. Her poems have also featured in several national and international anthologies, besides having been featured of the highly commendable category in Destiny Poets, a UK-based poetry website.
“I received a lot of acclaim and praises for my poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu,” Bakaya says. “It took me two and a half years to write it as it was a biography, and required extensive research. The idea to go about writing a poetic biography came when a friend in passing told me he would only read about Gandhi if it’s in the form of a poem. I feel I did get carried away and went on for 300 pages but the topic was so vast that I couldn’t stop myself.” Then, there is her e-book of some 58 essays, Flights from my Terrace, published in October 2014 on Smashwords, which was again very well received. As were her three mystery novels written for young adults.
A lecturer by profession but a writer at heart, Bakaya today lives in Jaipur, with her husband and daughter. “As kids we all dream of growing up and changing the world and these poems are my way of creating awareness of peace, a subject that seems to be on the verge of extinction. All that we writers have is a pen, which is mightier than a sword, and a tool to help mould minds and bring about a change, no matter how long it takes,” she says.