On International Haiku Poetry Day, author of 101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja, DINESH RAHEJA expounds on this poetic form
On April 17, 2019, Haiku lovers all over the world will be celebrating this beautiful form of Japanese poetry, an art that is barely 400 years old. There are many who delight in the subtle interpretative pleasures of these non-rhyming poems of three-lines comprising 5-7-5 syllables.
I stumbled upon this fascinating form quite accidentally. A couple of years ago, I wrote a few lines of free verse. As I often tend to do, I dashed off my latest creative effort to Jitendra Kothari, my friend since the last 30 years, for his opinion. He promptly wrote back: “This could be a wonderful haiku.” Always a bit of a Japanophile, I read up on this intriguing poetic form originally from the land of the rising sun; and promptly fell in love. The haiku’s minimalistic, mystical appeal enchanted me. I made some changes to my verse and I shared the haiku on Facebook.
My first haiku was:
drops blur window panes
pain stains the walls of the heart
…wipe them, wait for rain
I got an overwhelming response and began writing a haiku a day. Soon, my readers, who comprise my family and friends, began contributing by way of beautiful images, eye-catching sketches and perceptive remarks. One day, my friend Nainesh Gosalia asked me with a straight face: Haiku, kaiku? (Why haiku?). It drew a hearty laugh from me, and after ruminating over it, I concluded: The world of haiku makes me aware of the immense beauty and innate wisdom of nature. More importantly, it makes the joy of being in the moment crystal clear to me.
Like with most haiku aficionados, my all-time favourite haiku is the marvellous creation of Japanese haiku master Basho (1644-1694) about a frog leaping into an old pond, resulting in a splash!
The splash may be interpreted to mean worldly desires that momentarily disturb the state of spiritual equanimity or, conversely, the very onset of spiritual realisation. I lean towards the latter. My list of favourite haiku is long but in keeping with the spirit of minimalism exemplified by the haiku, I will mention only three more: Basho’s haiku about the clouds affording respite to moon gazers; Sokan’s evocative haiku about how a fluttering moon would look like a Japanese fan were a handle to be attached to it, and the haiku in which Basho cautions his followers against imitating him by comparing them to one half of a muskmelon facing the other.
The haiku masters wrote more than 300 years ago, while I have been intractably drawn to this alluring art form for barely a few years.
Here are a few haiku extracted from my book, 101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja (Om Books International), which I have handpicked for the readers.
goldfish in a bowl
opens a Facebook account
–she loves the spotlight
clouds empty themselves
into seas pregnant with hope
one empties one fills
owl, eerie but true:
my conscience stares at me
through your yellow eyes
a tree drops a leaf
silently in the forest
–trees don’t grieve lost leaves
they sit in black robes
in a plateau of silence
pigeon struts atop
Empire State Building, New York
…without a ticket
facing each other
–the islands kept apart by
a sea of ego
There is a slow but steadily growing club of haiku fans. When Vidya Balan was introduced to Haiku by me, she was drawn to their alluring simplicity. She said, “The crisp three-line poems are easily comprehensible yet profound.” Lyricist Varun Grover, who has penned the beautiful song, “Yeh moh moh ke dhaage” as well as the afterword to my book said, “In his haiku reside many worlds of empathy, sensitivity, and gentle humour.”
Meghna Gulzar, the acclaimed director of Raazi and daughter of the renowned poet-lyricist Gulzar said she is drawn to Haiku because she has a soft spot for brevity. When she released my book, she added, “To be able to communicate a thought in as little as possible is something after my heart.”
Happily, haiku has a following across all walks of life now. A recent convert to haiku, finance professional Aniket Ghatnekar opines, “Haiku is an epiphany in 17 syllables. It has made me observant and consequently appreciative of nature.”
Dhrupad Karwa, the co-founder of HaikuJAM, a group launched in March 2015 to encourage Haiku writers, says, “At HaikuJAM three people write a haiku together; they jam to create a haiku. Haiku captures the essence and is very precious in our exceedingly fast-paced and complex world. We take the principles of haiku and apply them in a digital collaborative context at a huge scale to help people find their voice, be heard and understood, and ultimately feel less alone.”
Haiku, for me, is a three-line seduction into the world of aesthetics and art. I recommend it to all poetry lovers.