Book Reviews

Manas Bakshi's Latest Work: Soliloquy of a Sailor

I wrote a lot about Manas Bakshi and categorized him as a progressive poet and I recall that thus. The poet is verily a creator, Brahma. He creates both from his personal experience, his imagination and his ability to put across his emotions and feelings in an appealing way. He has the capacity of envisioning and the skill of communication. Poetic skill is a spark, holding in mind a flash of lightning which leads to an insight and revelation. Manas Bakshi, (now nearing sixty years young underwent angioplasty and living on a pace maker) is imaginative and at times a visionary and most importantly, a stubborn sufferer.

The poet’s idea of the creative process stands revealed in all his poems. He is highly imaginative and at times a visionary. So far, he has published twelve collections, and won accolades and encomiums for being an exponent of the value of Indian English poetry. First his thematic novelty, its attraction and exuberance are enticingly memorable. Secondly the imagery used by the poet is brilliant. Its evocativeness is important and makes it appealing. Thirdly the quality of the poet’s imagination is appealing. Fourthly, the propriety in the thinking and daintiness in expression are weighed. Fifthly, the basic stance of the poet and the vocabulary whether it is pretentious, loquacious, sober or purposeful is assessed. Sixthly the basic motive and the purpose of writing is also considered as to whether it is entertainment, promoting thoughtfulness, veiled, bald or subtle moralization.


What is remembered long is the spirit that is conveyed or transmitted. There may come many more poems for the perceptive reader. Now to the text on hand. The title is poetically pertinent and it is an invitation arousing the curiosity of the reader. It is a prologue and explains to the reader the purpose of the narrator.

The journey begins

For what?
Glued to reality
An earthly episode
Of living a life
Only self-realisation will unearth
Waves and waves
Surging around
Thought waves
Churning mind,
Scribbling on a blank sheet
Of dark nights,
Nocturnal ambivalence
Full of mystic lore
Haunting, archaic and also ecstatic
How does it all
Revolving around one
While in the flesh
End one day
So suddenly, so pitiably
As to render at once
The existing ones dumbfounded
At a tragic moment? (p.12)

The protagonist, the extremely thoughtful narrator, the sailor, his innate self is the poet himself. He calls himself a cast off. The agony, he says is a bit of relief -  his heart strives to acquire by hopeful imagination:

Earthly moorings cast off

“Look” commands his inner self,
“There’s water hyacinth
Flowing lifeless
It has no knowledge
Of either science
Or rebirth-like myth,
Lifeless, still
It can give
It’s born with
The underlying power to yield
A biofuel source:
Water hyacinth
Floating lifeless
Only to reappear afterwards
As fuel energy
From constant scientific search
Fuel from water hyacinth
Modern times need
For human beings to survive.  (p.17)

The speaker of the poem beckons his memory giving the title (Memory calls back”).

The speaker goes into ratiocination.

Speaking so long to himself
Almost in a trance
The sailor looks around
Looks back
Where-doubtless-he was
So far rooted to,
Nothing is visible
Past is dark, inarticulate
Still indispensable (p. 21)


Painful or delightful
Often reveals
Some fascinating contours
More imagined than explored
Imagination or no imagination
Memory’s flying bird
Unmindful of its destination
Getting absorbed into its orbit
Is to relax in momentary respite
Or, wail in personal pain
Of reopening a chapter
Perhaps not wistful
Even if it crawls on its own
To scratch on some chapters of life
Is it desirable
To drag on the last phase
Resorting to memory alone
All is memory
To flash once again
When wings of imagination
Are clipped,
So clipped as can’t spread anymore
Into the wonders of solitude
Inscribing the silhouette
Of the fleeting time,
Time brimming
From the beginning to the end
Assumes the hue
Of life-end blues :
A personal sky
Turns murky with
Blasphemy ascribed, betrayal contrived
And the innermost self seems
Stranded before a black well
Where the murmur of falling leaves
Resounding with the words
Of political gimmick
Had sunk long before
Humankind had a beginning! (p.22)

Vignette of Relationships

The sailor ‘mind back into relationships, brothers, sisters, near and far, friends thought of or and taken for granted. The vignette ends with a conclusion leading to painful dissatisfaction. The thoughts lea to the condition of numbness of the mind. True love, realization should be the touchstone for treatment and endurance.


Born of blood-link or love-ties
Sprouts amid percolation
Of thoughts and interaction of minds,
Grows amid
Thrilling revelry or biting isolation
Sometimes giving, sometimes claiming
Never clarifying the actual price
One should pay for
And the other be paid for
A relationship personalised
For, more often than not
It’s volatile in vacillating mind

To win over
The numbness of mind
And spur of instinct
Why not verify all relationships
On the touchstone of true love,
God like giving
Mother-like caring
Earth-like enduring. (p.26)

Life must be like a fountain sprouting water. It should aspire foe a blissful after-life.

Viewing Relationships from a Different Angle
Song of life
Its origin
Stream of love divine
Fountain-like the graceful one
Flowing down the hills
Intensifying with
The mesmerizing magnitude of His munificence
In the captivating bosom of Nature
Nurturing thousands of plants
Unknown, unidentified
Churning sensation
At the moment of efflorescence
In realisation of
The inner meaning of life
Even not being duly recognised
Nor being aspirant as some human beings
For a blissful afterlife. (p.30)

Relations are of various hues, must be dim, shady, bright and scintillating.

Variegated human relationships, variety in life
Known surroundings changing overnight
Known faces fleeing from sight
Rural pastures tinged everyday
With more and more urban imprints,
Spectre of murder after rape
Plunder of the already oppressed and wretched;
Future of civilisation at stake
Love adulterated; humanism mortgaged
To caricature human being
For being servile hypocrite
If not savagely lumpen
In self-deceptive existence
Till destiny takes its toll
Under one or the other pretext
Like anything else
A relationship may end at any moment
A latent layer of attachment remains
Remains often to interact
Even resuscitate till death.p.(31)

The sailor-read-speaker goes on and on with a bunch of metaphor of flowers

Wayside Wonders

Remember, O sailor
You have come alone
Have to leave it alone
None has accompanied you
Nobody’s your own,
What’s only your own
Is the very monograph
Of an earthly sojourn
Empty-handed come we all
Wherefrom we don’t know,
Empty-handed leave we all
This world forever
Is it for somewhere else?
Where to?
What’s the next destination?
That too ever unknown!
Surges inside always a glimpse
Of faces and figures left behind,
Of thoughts and events not reconciled!
At the crossroads of
Myth and reality
Transience and eternity
Life and death,
Ultimate emptiness is all
That mundane fulfilment entails! (p.34)

Musings could be nocturnal too. The sailing ship, poetry goes through days and nights. We are reminded of the witches in Macbeth. Double, double, trouble ….

Nocturnal Musings

Oh, what a glare!
The horizon in crepuscular attire
The homing birds in bardic view
The sundown-kiss of the welkin
On the plashing waves
Reverberating in mind,
As it someone asserts:
“It’s only for you”

Night steps in
Rhythmic rataplan
From a nearby tribal village
Transpiring, distinct
It’s night
Night of euphonic drumming sound,
Warmth of tribal dance
With traditional gaiety and nomadic stance
Majestic beauty of night
Possessing Nature’s eyes cervine
Mystic impasto of night:
Invigorating the latent metaphors of mind(p39)…
Today it’s different.
Human psyche has started boiling
In the cauldron of
showbiz civilisation
Long before we reach
The last stage
New-progeny of tribals forgetting
Their inherent songs
Vibrant in Nature’s own language,
Have switched over to Jazz and Pop !
Their thatched houses smell now
Of luxuries from shopping Mall;
Let it be so
Snatched is their right to forest
Crushed is the idyllic sylvan beauty
Enticed they are now
To the glare and glitz of urban sprawl! (p.41)

This takes to the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge. “Alone, alone”

Lonely in Life, Lonely after Death

A reflected self
No, not on water
But on whatever bubbling
Whatever glowing
With or without a spark of life
Soliloquy of the sailor begins the way
A child plays with his broken toy
Finding nothing else at the moment
To grapple with and enjoy;
Oh! what a destiny!
Somewhere somehow
Everybody’s adrift, boat like
The unseen Atman pulling the oar
Inscrutable remains the moving force,
The sailor thins it’s all
At his behest
Is the sailor aware
Whose body he’s carrying himself;
A journey?
A struggle for enlightenment
After probing lifelong into oneself
Very very alone
It’s indeed – all along. (p.44)

I can hear
The innermost sound
Of whoever sleepless
Facing the interludes
Of so far suppressed sequences
In the whistling
Of unidentified birds flying above,
In the mournful cry
Of the dead body bearers,
In the piercing scream
Of the jackal and the hyena
Reaching the brink of extinction. (p.47)

The skilful poet plays with words and figures of speech

Voice of the River

Voice of the river
Echoes the voice of a restless self
Seldom was anybody aware to mark
How the innermost voice was suppressed
While one left the battlefield
Failing to fight against
Own shortcomings,
The voice now vivacious again
With the curving waves
Distinct at midnight
Recalling some eventful moments (p.49)

Human psyche is unpredictably changeful; vacillating, maddened and driving others mad.

Mystified Human Psyche

Human beings
Humble or boastful
Of their look,
Amiable or snobbish
In attitude
Seldom ponder over the day
When it all will end
With nothing to convey! (p57)

WE remember the ancient mariner

The Shapless Divine


It’s much like a deity.
An image of God or Goddess
Imagined, shaped, worshipped and hallowed
Sometimes with desire
Sometimes with devotion.
Chanting hymns, offering prayers,
Rites and rituals over
The deity’s immersed
Clay melts into water
Merges with clay in wait
To be reshaped again,
Only the structure takes time to wither away.
A fine shape is lost
In the fragments of all
It sustained as a replica of God or Goddess
That’s never responsive
To the thousand queries of a probing mind!
Likewise, this embodiment
Has all the earthly elements imbibed
Moving, floating boat-like,
Microcosmic between life and death
To find out the eternal truth
Behind all living / non-living elements:
The divine, shapeless. (p63)

Extremely thoughtful is the poet thinking of and making the sailor soliloquising about the ultimate reality.

An Eternal Quest

Like a sea-bound river
Stream of life – flowing – and flowing
Sometimes against violent strife
Sometimes with rapt delight
Passionate urge, emotional upsurge
All’s needed for what’s rolling within,
Seeking an articulation of the finite:
A language of expression.

Stream of life
Craves for a rhythmic effluence,
Stream of love
Wards off communal outrage
One day, perhaps not far away
Neohumanism will make its way,
One day, everyone will see
The celestial light at the end of the tunnel;
Visible is the body
Not the soul,
Transparent are the worldly phenomena
Not the invisible urge
Of a burning charcoal!(p.66)
Forget not
All you have left
All you have to leave
Are feathers
Adorning so long your look
You can’t brag about any more,
All you thought
And believed to be your own
Were the traits of transience
Graceful for the time being,
Responding to all
That Time conjures (p.69)

A condition of maturity: the development is evident.

Self-Realization Begins

The sailor alone sleepless
Awake as the stars
Awake as the trees
Seems hounded by
The chiaroscuro-wilderness
Of an emergent nemesis-
Why is it so?
Is he beset with the thoughts?
Of a beyond-life sojourn?
Carrying like others
The burden of existence all along
Knows not how long
He will have to do it alone. (p.71)A

All the poems are very, very, appealing. Long live the sailor the soliloquist!!! Any way what is imminent is realised.


“Crematorium or graveyard
Here ends everything
May from here or somewhere else
Spring up the seeds
Of a new beginning:
Spark of life
The reason of being. (p.76)

Today-my rendezvous with destiny,
I too have this world to bid adieu to
Burnt or buried like any of you
Death always colourless
Sky-blue or ocean-blue
It means sinking into an engulfing abyss!
A meeting point sans appointment
With the full moon of life itself,
Its eclipse preordained
Into the inexplicable cosmic vastness
All around’s water
Endless and deep
A wandering self, a sailor myself
Awaiting the final dip. (p.78)

Manas Bakshi has climbed high. He would be remembered as a high flown poet of this age.!!!


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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