Book Review: Experiences, encounters and flights of memory in this fine book of essays – The Sunday Guardian
Flights From My Terrace: The Boy in Yellow Knickers and Other Essays
by Santosh Bakaya
Price: Rs 595
Jaipur-based writer Santosh Bakaya, in her new book Flights From My Terrace: The Boy in Yellow Knickers and Other Essays, has penned down her experiences, encounters and flights of memory. The book is divided into three sections and comprises 58 essays connecting to different facets of her life.
In the “The Canine Sponge”, the author shares a funny memory of her beloved pet dog called Nipper. She writes, “Once at a dead of night, when the entire house was fast asleep, a burglar paid us a visit. A staunch believer in nocturnal hospitality, Nipper gave a hearty welcome, licking and hugging him, following him from room to room while he picked up a wallet here and a watch there. He shouted himself hoarse only when the burglar had made his good escape!”
Bakaya’s writing has the power to engage the reader emotionally, as later in the same chapter she describes Nipper’s death, which had a lasting impact on her. “Many a time I am jerked out of my slumber, even so many years after the horrific incident, as that mute plea of a hapless victim of insensate violence hammers away at my head.”
Tales of love and friendship abound in this book. In the essay titled, “A Chance Encounter”, the writer tells the reader of a friendship which formed in a very short span of time. The writer was able to develop a strong connection with this stranger only in few hours after meeting her. Reminiscing about the stranger, Dolly, the author writes, “My family was by my side but I suddenly realised that this stranger had also become part of the family.” “Now you will travel with me in spirit,” Dolly tells her, before leaving the premises of the mall — the setting of their friendly encounter.
Bakaya has been critically acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, and has also won the Reuel International Award in 2014 for her long poem, “Oh Hark!”. She has a doctorate in the Political Theory of Robert Nozick. But as a writer and essayist, she is drawn to everyday life. Ordinary occurrences appeal to her – such as an infant’s happy chortle, an octogenarian couple’s toothless grins and the serendipitous gleam in a rag-picker’s eyes keeps – these are the things that keep her going.
In Flights From My Terrace, Bakaya has been successful in giving voice to her various thoughts and observances. For instance in the piece titled “The Bread and Jam Guy”, the author talks about the annoying but loving kid who keeps irritating Bakaya’s daughter; but when this kid falls sick, Bakaya’s daughter prays for him fervently: “From that day onwards whenever I peeped into her room at night, I would often find my self-proclaimed atheist daughter deep in prayer—and I instinctively knew she was praying for the speedy recovery of the bread and jam guy.”
The book will hold the reader from start to end, and provides a sense of what it would have felt like had we ourselves lived the moments and incidents recorded here.