Free Press Journal

101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja-Review


Title:101 Haiku

Author: Dinesh Raheja

Publisher: OM Publishers

Pages: 94

Price: Rs 150


Rapes. Lynchings. Brutal murders. Terrorist attacks. You seek to know what’s happening out there in the world and these are the images that are lobbed at you from every cranny of the media and the entertainment world. Yes, the reality is also harsh, but then what of the human craving for beauty, a hunger which is as real and basic as the hunger for food, so succinctly conveyed in Raj Kapoor’s cry in Awara, “Mujhko chahiye bahar.” How do you deal with that need in today’s world of strife-and-bloody images? It is this craving that all good poetry and certainly Dinesh Raheja’s book of haikus (a minimalist form of poetry originating in Japan) addresses and satisfies wholly. Pick out any of the 101 haikus at random, like say this one:

Clouds empty themselves/into seas pregnant with hope/one empties, one fills Or My moustache is white/mountains have a beard of snow/they will outlive me In a trice, you are subsumed by a sense of peace, beauty, silence, and the joy of deep contemplation.

Launching the book recently in Crossword, director (of Raazi, Talwar fame) Meghna Gulzar commended the haikus “as being at once light, deep, soft and cruel. I have a big soft spot for brevity. As such, haiku as a form appeals and these haikus are truly beautiful.” Commenting on poetry or lack of it in today’s times, she said, “Unfortunately today’s songs have very little poetry in them. We need poetry as it is inherently soothing and uplifting for the spirit, being open to different interpretations.”

Raheja’s haikus (three-line poems of 17 syllables each) definitely elevate even as they create ripples of thought in our minds. Well-known as a journalist and author, Raheja confesses “how the haikus wrote themselves,” coming out of some deep recesses within him in a resplendent flow without any tugging. He acknowledges his debt to Japanese haiku masters who inspired him. “I love Basho’s classic haikus, most this one: Old pond/ a frog jumps in/A splash – Haikus reveal the innate beauty of nature, we’ve so much to learn from nature.”

Indeed, poetry and definitely haiku as a form of poetry, reveals underlying interconnectedness of all entities in this universe, both animate and inanimate. Sample these by Raheja:

He stands on one foot/the wise and silent yogi/—the pink flamingo
Facing each other —/the islands kept apart by/
a sea of ego
A tree drops a leaf/ silently in a forest —/ Tress don’t grieve lost leaves

Humans, flamingos, islands, trees — the same essence residing in every being — the truth emerges powerfully from the book, dissolving boundaries.

This silent walk into the woods of contemplation is greatly enhanced by beautiful theme-sketches made by the OM Publishers’ art team, not to forget the elegant cover by Arijit Ganguly. The sketches are as slight as the poems they juxtapose, and as communicative. The foreword by Vidya Balan and the afterword by Varun Grover further the book’s charm. With her usual frankness and warmth, Vidya Balan lauds Raheja’s poetic creations for their “alluring simplicity – the crisp three-line poems are easily comprehensible, yet profound… Feelings are all that matter to me in poetry, and honestly even otherwise. The more easily and simply those feelings reach me, the more I enjoy poetry.”

Singling out the haiku,
“Goldfish in a bowl/opened a Facebook account/she loves the spotlight.”

For praise, Balan extols the form: “I am fascinated by haikus because I can’t imagine how someone can express so simply and effectively in such few words…I am not very active on Twitter because a limit of 140 characters is too restrictive…I have always struggled to keep my answers short (in school).”

Story-teller, lyricist Varun Grover has the last word – as he observes in the afterword to the book: “Poetry is silence. Dinesh Raheja’s haiku add many new silences to this universal pool, with a mastery of the craft that’s heartwarming and thrilling at the same time…
The range of moods and epiphanies…here is huge.”

Grover ends with the hope Raheja will pen more haikus. After all, the human mind needs to be fed with such beautiful and pensive images, to translate in time into beautiful actions, contributing to human well-being.