Flights From My Terrace : Dr Santosh Bakaya -Book Review

Flights From My Terrace
The Boy in Yellow Knickers and Other Essays
©Santosh Bakaya, 2017
ISBN 978-93-5207
First Published in 2017 by Authorspress, New Delhi

The author warned me right at the onset that I might like her latest book. Giving myself up to Flights From My Terrace was a pleasure now that I had a boxful of pristine, white soft tissues under the cot ready to make up for the last time I had read a Santosh Bakaya book (of poetry) and being tissue-deprived due to someone’s poor housekeeping skills, was forced to bury my face, from time to time into a great, fluffy teddy bear that had never seen worse times till then.

Having tried my hand at writing personal pieces, I know it is hard. Hard to know the limits of this genre, to know when to jerk back the reins and hold in the madly dashing colts of memory and even harder to make sense when trying to explain to a larger audience why your great grandad stuffed his cucumbers into socks and still emphatically deny that insanity did not and does not run in the family and in the writer’s blood. Reminds me-I must take tuitions from Dr. Bakaya, who combines personal anecdotes with the universal with flair and makes me laugh with her and yet weep for the bygone warmth of family and the old world charm of home and hearth in this book of essays.

I climbed into her time machine and was instantly teleported into a garden where a father stood watering the plants, where the noises of playing children mingled with voices of happy, simple folk. I smelt the aroma of innocence floating around and found myself trying to say ‘ALIKBADKYOON’

“He never rested, but now he was resting –peaceful and quiet.” and how quickly the present went into mourning for the past as the Chariot flew.

The melting watch in the sky, poor Nipper under the neem and the furball Lazy, who I suspect just pretends to be so are by now firmly entrenched in my psyche too as Santosh’s time machine moves at a delectable pace through her memories, stopping just enough for the reader to have a satisfying glimpse of a lovable ex-hurdles champion trying out a Gangnam style modern dance and the svelte Sherry!

The sombre tones of loss, of a child-like bewilderment regarding mindless violence and of the changes wrought by passing time could not be overlooked even while I gorged my fill of Gulmohurs, toothless duos and Grannies in armchairs and resolved never to titter when one could guffaw for the unseen but ubiquitous presence of a father stands as a shade-giving tree in every memory-bubble that the author bursts and fills me with delight for having known this person if only through the narrative of his daughter.

Joyce. Jean, Dolly, Diana and David come visiting and go but I could not tear myself away. The temptation to dive into and swim forever in the company of the author who made every meeting seem like a magical encounter kept me glued to the pages. The supportive Lalit and the lively Iha keep the narrative grounded when the time machine threatens to carry off the author.
The third section looks out into a world not voyeristically but with empathy. ‘Fear’, fallacies and friendships, baton-welding characters and “betel juice erupting, like compassion from a benevolent heart”. I was transported to several parts of the world- Accra and the quaint Kunta Kinte island and to Kashmir, the journey replete with her brand of pen portraits  and the wonderous ways clouds, skies and the sun collude or connive to lend their beauty to her text. Years of experience in astutely observing the world and its minions coupled with an uncanny ability to conjure up atmosphere with the power of versatile and elegant language with no dearth of humour, all made me feel that the last section ended all too soon but the magic of excellent writing still holds me in thrall. Santosh Bakaya’s voice, the potion that casts spells everywhere, is distinctive and totally her. She looks in and out with ease, never breaking the spell she weaves. Like rain, it drenches, like rain it refreshes and like rain, it weeps in hidden nooks.
A compelling read that left me in even more awe of the power of this scintillating writer’s pen.  When it comes to Ms. Bakaya’s writing, like Pooh says, ” Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart”. And the epilogue? It is sheer poetry.

©Reena Prasad

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