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Progressive Humanist Poet Manas Bakshi
by Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B. Bookmark and Share

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 a very 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 nearing sixty is imaginative and at times a visionary and a sufferer. So far he has published nine collections, and won accolades and encomiums for being an exponent of the value of Indian English poetry.

Bakshi has composed some poems about poems and the explication of those few is attempted in this brief study. The poet’s idea of the creative process stands revealed in all these poems. Why the poem is not revealed beyond what emerges after which kind of thought. The thing that starts with a spark and opens up a vista or a mere vision is not always explained by the poet because it is simply forgotten and what remains. The flash has to be expressed only in words and words need chiseling, coloring and polishing too to be presented as perfected artifacts. There is no way to know how long the flash remains in the poet’s mind to put down on paper and what effort it needs for the rest of the process and activity. Not all flashes could even be remembered long enough to make the birth of a poem possible.

There are several things which without their telling anybody the readers consider even without their knowing while reading a poem. First the thematic novelty, its attraction and exuberance is considered which makes the poem memorable. Secondly the imagery used by the poet is considered. Its evocativeness is important to make it appealing. Thirdly the quality of the poet’s imagination is important. 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 that is conveyed or transmitted which is remembered long. There may be many more the perceptive reader may have.

Like a Poem is published in Contemporary Indian English Poetry brought out by P. Raja and Rita Nath Keshari in 2007. Here is the poem in full:

Every day like a poem
Begins with a solitude
In its reign.

Like a poem it unfolds the petals
Of simple and abstruse art
In all possible ways
Replicating what is self-love.

Like a poem it develops into vignettes of
Life and longings
That man and woman interweave
With all their earthly belongings.

And like a poem it ends
When emotional night creeps
Tired eyes sleep
Shadows beneath the lamppost
Play with a strange wind
For a wandering poet to realize his dream [1]

The reign of the poem begins with solitude. There is a comparison between the beginning of the poem and the beginning of the day and by extension the day may be the period of life too. First loneliness and next flower begins unfolding the petals, in day or growth in life copying ‘myness’, ahamkara, self-love. As time (day or life) forges ahead it develops into various scenes of beauty in its living and desires. The male-female relation and union takes place with their belongings and possessions increasing or diminishing. Thematically it is a comparison between a poem and the human lie. The beginning is in solitude. Like a flower the petals of which unfold the poem too grows in its self-love. Like life the poem too develops with pictures, desires and experiences. The poem like human life draws to a finale. The eyes, tired, close. The poet wants in his poem wants to realize his ambition/purpose, desire/dream.

The poet and the poem like human life and divine ordinance are closely related, one leading the other. The divine has absolute power and so has the poet. Who makes the poem begin, grow and conclude or come to an end. Ornamental designs and kaleidoscopic scenes are vignettes of life and longings, the weaving of man-woman relationship; their possessions are matters of unity and progress. The poem is a tale which has to come to come to an end or conclusion which is not always a closed ending. Shadows and tempests relate to the waning life and then are strong winds. The winds in life are also the subjects of the theme of both the poet and its creator, the poet. The inter-relationships, the beginning, the progress and the end are there both the poem and the day or time, as in human life too.

Life is a canvas of many pictures, of days and nights in it. The day has light according to the strokes of the sun. The poem has a period for ablution also. Cosmic excellence and strokes of the sun and shying all are images. And then there are so many when – periods of happenings or times: grief of the morning crow on the roof-edge – night fall immanent, the cat smiles at the night. Dinner is laid on the table. After eating the eaters leave and the cat has a feast, since the eaters are dieting, especially in dinner, on a very sophisticated scale. Not many eat large meals as in youth. It is usually a doctor’s prescription not so much an individual preference in the interest of one’s own well-being.

This is the universal trend, the morbidity of the third millennium. There is more health consciousness and health care with the widest publicity. Then there is loneliness, solitude is the endemic. In the couple either the he or the she there is inordinate selfishness, ego and pride. In monsoon light there is breathing whispers alone. In the colourful eyes in the rising night there is meaningful silence, not much in communication or exchange of bright looks. Then comes nostalgia, moist memory, tepid and sad. That becomes an aging bird with the wings of a song. There are religious differences in the same history. Ram Rahim dichotomy is irreconcilable between no two individuals. The fields yield only subhuman crops of corns. The purpose of life is given the go by and existence losing its taste. The qualities of minds suffer degeneration and no radiance, no radiation is in sight. There is no beginning or ushering in of joy anywhere. No bang, no whimper: there are only lusty breathings and soulless complaints. All this is the picture of the poem the poet had in mind for the third millennium beginning with 2000A.D. The more you understand, visualize the more is the befuddlement, angst and everything in auspicious, unholy and abysmal.

The night canvas looks scratched
By some strange strokes of the sun
Shying at its own cosmic excellence
In the hour of ablution of a poem
The grief of the morning crow
On the roof-edge
Becomes the cat’s smile
At the dinner table
After they all have left
Dieting on a very sophisticated scale
His loneliness
Becomes her pride
Breathing whispers
Of a monsoon night
Into the meaningful silence
Of colourful eyes.
Nostalgia – moist memory
Becomes a primordial bird
With the wings of a sing
Dwelling on the same saga of Ram and Rahim
Around a field
Teeming with subhuman corns. [2]

To My Would Be Poem is about love. Poetry is experience of joy and hope of aspiration and ambition both for the creator, the poet and the reader. This poem is an address to a child. It is about the poet’s child of untold pain. From a wayward mind, wayward because of loveless attitude and emotional stress words drum beats. True love emanates not only life but also lights of various hues. From embittered life incoherent half-truths defying truth come out. Time’s wrath has to be borne by man for it is many a time a source and promoter of pain. Man is always tossed by conscience exiled at the crossroads of the opposites, good and evil, heaven and hell. There is no love even on valentine days. Plastic smiles are not love laden or love oozing. Plastic smiles are plastic flowers, not flowers of fragrance and scintillating radiance. The poem the child waits for from the poet is to be with peace and a declaration that blood must be blood relationship and love not from a wound of pain. Blood is not, never, the last word since it is blood relationship of love and concern. Amor vincit omnia, love conquers all. Here is the poem:

How to save you, my child
My poem of untold pain?
You might see the light
Of a world of words
With the appealing beat f drums
In a wayward mind.

Defying everything incoherent
As half-truths in a life embittered,
Braving the baneful scourge of time –
Time that is combust and insecure
More evil than ever before!

Now almost everywhere
Conscience is exiled
To the crossroads of heaven and hell,

Now almost everywhere
Plastic smile and not love
Serves the purpose of a velentine’s day

And my poems you are waiting
To be born with the cry:
Blood is not, never the last word … [3]

The poet’s emotional exuberance makes his expression go beyond grammar too – combustible becomes combust – an easily understandable prerogative.

The blazing mind in the starlit night, Manas Bakshi, came up with his collection of poems The Midnight Star in 2009 The title poem is a demonstration of his thought processes expressed in speed with precision:

Spare thought
For the inner-most act
In the mind
We often defy
Even facing
The loneliness of a bird
Flying into
An unknown sky;
Because it’s night
And someone is alone to see
The haunted quietness
Sweeping the mundane glee. [4]

It is an impassioned call giving an idea the reader. Be human, think deep about the callousness and defiance of our contemporary ‘modern’ man. He is like a bird flying into our unknown sky which is no less than stupid defiance owing to dismal ignorance or reckless callousness. There is no company, no help for the proud and haughty modern man. He is absolutely alone. The mundane, senseless pleasure, which the poet calls glee and the haunted quietness, bothers the sober and thoughtful man. Even before waking up, gypsy-like the mind has only longing to wallow. Calcutta or Rome, it is all a ground of the gladiator’s fight. The grabbing arms of capitalism make man help acquire and develop facilities and skills for devouring all money, all power and all luxury. People are mad of getting or climbing up jobs leading to traffic bottlenecks of jams. What is most perturbing is the concupiscence, senseless lust and related sins. The ideas about national economy and world economy contribute to squalor and sin, heartlessness and greed. GATT and consumer culture lead to degeneration of values and the destruction of right thinking and moronic minds.

Here constantly bleeds
From the womb of history
An unidentified ulcer. [5]

Blinded and blinding lust and voluptuousness adds to penury and the increasing numbers of orphans of unknown parentage. The orphans look up to a blank sky originally benign but now cannot answer any question. In the stinking bog only the money moon is duly reflected. Man’s greed grows by leaps and bounds with sky being no limit.

Every individual
Not so firm on his stand
Seems inconsequential
Still opting for an isolated island- [6]

The possession of even a whole bank does not assuage greed. Everyone wants an empire – at least an island to be his own. Individualism reigns. Hotels are there only to satisfy the lust of all kinds.

Here it is easy to offer
the sizzling sight of female body
Amidst the city’s empty coffer
Democracy bleats shoddy [7]

City is the empty coffer because all the wealth is drawn into money bags of the fat bellied. Democracy is a bleating sheep. Children are corrupted and all the young lost their childhood.

Burning his eyes
The small child
Turns one day
Unruly, ruffian
If not wild. [8]

It is impossible to indict man for all this contemptible ‘modernity’ with a more wiry virulence.

Tomorrow’s Poem is an expression of severe mental turmoil, an existential angst.

Beneath the skin
The inner-bones
And the spur of metaphor
The living substance
Is much like
A passing tremor [9]

The anguish goes right into the bones all thoughts are passing tremors. Dreams occur – but those of yesterday go down along with the leaves and twigs washed away. Even today they mark a beginning of a protest which is dying. The horror is further agitating that even tomorrow does not bring any substantial change. Faith and even God seem to be helpless. God Himself is so miserably ordained; it seems, in the tribulation and turmoil with utter despondency.

But for another blow
As a handful of fresh sacrifices
To bring down
A discriminating heaven
Where the ido – God so far
So miserably ordained. [10]

Man’s mind, once in a slough of despond, loses all capacities for hope yesterday, tomorrow, or the day after lies mothered.

A Verse Bird is about a poem. A realistic poem taking another life, reincarnated, is like a bird. It goes up high into an endless sky. It is surprised seeing rain even in the sunshine (Perhaps even in youth man’s mind passes through the darkness of night of the soul. Hunters want the blood of the same bird and ensnare it. The bird or the verse bird sings a song of love alone. It has no hatred and in its desire for life and living believes only in love. Its ambition and ideal have been all along far from deceit, hatred or betrayal. This is what the poet, the verse bird sings about the ideal:

That sang one day
Its own song
In a world full of love
And less of hatred
For a reason to live
Far from being betrayed. [11]

The tragedy is that the world is now a different one with love lost and hatred reigning.

A Lonesome Poem is again of pain, the pain of loneliness and unhappiness. The mystery of survival is perennial and unending. The poet has an urge in him to know the language of loneliness. The secret bird desire creeps like a moving shadow in the poet’s drawing room. Beyond the usual direction of its movement the mind races and collapses. There is a shadow, more sadly a silhouette, in the symbolic hour of hope and radiance. Then:

It picks up grain
From the world of lonesome attachment
When happiness fell to the brim
And the search id for an explicable origin. [12]

The bird of loneliness touches the poet’s heart and haunts his second entity to reach out to a world far, far away.

Not knowing what is,
Where love exists in the metamorphosis
Of untold worlds.[13]

The bird flies to unknown higher regions for a total change of the poet’s mind-heart, manas, (what he calls second entity) of love, for love and with love. Here the poet is squeezing his thought into words wide and deep making his expression crispy and brief.

Designing a Poem begins with another bird, the crow, now to be a symbol.

A tray crow flies away
Following a rain drop on the roof-tile, [14]

There are many images: a pluvial message occult, bulrush in water facing a disaster, cloistral feelings – all these make the trickle of words into the pattern of feeling. The vocabulary is not reader-friendly but it is not the poet’s responsibility to talk in controlled vocabulary. His job is different in that his expression should be supple, crisp brief and extensively suggestive. The images are agents to convey the trickles to build the pattern. The verse bird sang a song of love. It had no hatred in heart and less of it in its desire for life and living. The choice of the words for the images is apposite for sensitive, slender expression. Now to the poet’s expression:

A pluvial message occult
In the austral wind

A bulrush in water facing
The disaster of the lake silting up

A bimble-bee of a lost empire
In the larder of a lost empire,

A moment of cloistered feelings
Trickle words into the pattern of the poem. [15]

Autumn Poem is the poem of a season considered an entity in exile – moving away, repaying, returning, discharging debt. It is the harvesting season with the colour of lotus flames behind a lone fortress, the image of a granary with yellow paddy. The poem is very short and that reason communicative with an imagery that is stacked.

Lotus flames
Against its own image
When the eyes of autumn
Lurk behind
A lone fortress;

Paddy field prepared to know
The genesis of a time-crop;
The sickle sounds radical:
Crop-loan has to be paid off –

Entity in exile
Now it’s your turn
To return. [16]

The farmer has to pay back the loans after the harvest. This is the sad reality of our poor peasantry.

The poem with the most urgent relevance in this collection is Situation Vacant. The poem is devised as an advertisement calling applications for a gardener. There is pathos here the ever present anguish in the humanist poet. For the hard reality of the contemporary milieu god needs hands to work for him. The garden that is the nation – world is too big but the greatest things must have the smallest beginnings. The garden must have flowers, fruits, birds and beauty everywhere. The garden needs a gardener too for protection, upkeep, and maintenance. The urgency for the classified is here:

For reasons beyond control
Every day
Some get trivial
Some get rotten
And most of the good ones
Are more misused and wasted
Then used
In the hands of the powerful. [17]

For powerful read for truth and reality few fat money bags.

Water in recent decades has become a saleable, much in demand, commodity. Agricultural lands became housing estates and flats are the order of the living people.

Metropolitan cities are prone to a condition of un-inhabitability not far away now. Mindless deforestation led to soil erosion and we are learning to live with scarcities of everything. Pollution is another devouring python.

Polluion beyond measure
Urbanizatioin engulfing
The mellow pastures
Of human relations, [18]

Scarcity, inequality, plunder and power-politics and uncivil administration are destroying societal harmony fast, almost every day. The qualifications wanted for the gardener are simple and are only for the presently unemployed: ‘ability to test and purify the soil and the mind.’

It is almost asking for the moon. How can unemployed people who are themselves pure in mind to test and purify the soil and mind could be found! Then the nature of the job is this:

An eternal base of salvation seekers
Between heaven and hell
Now decaying,
Has to be restored
To its primeval origin. [19]

Then as for age there is no bar and the only experience needed is being a true human being. Salary and other allowances would be fully commensurate with performance level. Then there is the usual instruction, to apply in strict confidence. The last instruction is the most liberal – to apply within life time, to … (not specified). Obviously, the advertiser is the heaven bound almighty. But can He find even a single applicant? This is the million dollar (only dollars – not rupee or fake currency) question which sends every one of the readers to with head between the knees.

This is social poetry and Manas Bakshi is the progressive humanist poet.

Works cited

  1. Raja.P and Keshari R.N, Busy Bee Book of contemporary Indian English Poetry, Pondicherry, 2007, Bakshi Manas, Like a Poem, p.433
  2. Ibid. A Poem for 2000 A.D., p.441
  3. Bakshi Manas, The Midnight Star, Cambridge Edu. Publishers, Kolkata,2009,p.17
  4. Ibid. The Midnight Star, p.1
  5. Ibid,p.3
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid. p.4
  8. Ibid.p.5
  9. Tomorrow’s Poem p.23
  10. Ibid
  11. A Verse Bird, p.30
  12. A Lonesome Poem, p.38
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Designing a Poem, p.59
  16. Autumn Poem, p.61
  17. Situations Vacant,p.64
  18. Ibid
  19. Ibid.p.65
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April 06,2013
More by : Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.
Views: 2543      Comments: 1

Comments on this Poem Article

Comment Manas Bakshi is rarely apparent and obvious in what he talks about life and its urban proclivity. He establishes a deep relation with a serious reader at the existential level. Contemporary sufferings of man disturb him. He meditates on human predicament and then tries to find out solution which remains elusive and there he exhibits immense maturity. Bakshi is impatient and pensive. You have been so clear in bringing out these aspects of this contemporary poet.

Very impressive reading indeed.

p c katoch
(pck prem)

Prem Chand Katoch
04/08/2013 00:00 AM

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