Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Santosh Bakaya of 'Ballad of Bapu' fame speaks to Sanchita Sen

Author Santosh Bakaya

It's Gandhi's non-violence that's the need of the hour. And to get a particular student to read Bapu, Santosh Bakaya took on this journey that finally shaped the 'Ballad of Bapu'.

The boy was smug enough to retort that he finds prose very boring and he would read about Bapu only if I write a poetic biography of Bapu. Well, that set me thinking, and that very day, on reaching home, I started the poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi.

Sanchita: ‘Ballad of Bapu’, an interesting poetic saga of none other than the ‘Father of the Nation’ !When and how did you conceptualize this, considering a lot has already been written about Bapu?

Santosh: Well, I had always been enamoured of Bapu and his teachings, many of my essays on him had been published in reputed journals, and I had also presented many papers on him in international and national conferences. Once I was talking about him in my MPhil class, and asked the students some questions, which none of them could reply. But one of them, a wannabe poet, sprang up from his seat to tell me that Gandhi had no relevance in the present scenario, and that Hitler was the need of the hour.

“Have you read their autobiographies?” I asked.

The boy was smug enough to retort that he finds prose very boring and he would read about Bapu only if I write a poetic biography of Bapu. Well, that set me thinking, and that very day, on reaching home, I started the poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi. Since I had been writing limericks since school, the rhyme scheme, aabba , was the rhyme scheme used in this 300 page saga .

Sanchita: According to you, which chapter is the most inspiring in the life of Mahatma Gandhi?

Santosh: The chapter which I find the most inspiring in his life is the Pietermaritzburg train incident, in South Africa, where he was thrown out of a first class carriage, although he had bought a first class ticket. In Ballad of Bapu, I write thus:

“A constable came to push him out of the carriage
Leaving him on the platform, bag and baggage
He was in a sorry plight
On that bitterly cold night

The railway authorities took charge of his luggage
He reached Charlestown where he intended to ride
By coach to Standerton, but there were Europeans inside.
He was rejected rudely
With the driver he sat moodily
Asked to mount the footboard, human rights denied

Mohan stared down the officer, whose eyes were cold
For his seat in the train, insisted the twenty four year old.
The Maritzburg incident
In his heart made a dent
The blows to his self-respect made him bold.”
[Ballad of Bapu, Vitasta publishers, New Delhi, pp 18-19]

This injustice strengthened his resolve to fight for his rights.

Sanchita: Of all his ideals, which one are we getting out of touch with the most and is critically the need of the hour?

Santosh: Non-violence, peace and love are the need of the hour. There is so much violence all around, and the youth is filled with bitterness, rancor, ill-will, intolerance and hatred, and there is a crying need to make Bapu a way of life.

In the author’s note of 'Ballad of Bapu', I write:

“In the crosscurrents of hatred, let us prick up our ears and allow ourselves the luxury of listening to his powerful words. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth will make the whole world blind.
Let us not yearn for this blindness.”

Sanchita: How did your tryst with writing happen?

Santosh: I was in the sixth grade in Sophia School, Jaipur, when a girl joined my class. She would sit hunched over her notebook, scribbling something. I realized that she was writing poems, and later she also graduated to writing short stories. That triggered me into writing my own poems, and short stories.

Sanchita: Sneak peek into your next project.

Santosh: My next projects are two novels [already completed] One, a satire on higher education, and the other a light-hearted romance, a collection of poems, Under the apple boughs , and a surrealistic- spooky – scary long narrative poem Oh HARK , which fetched me the Reuel International award for writing and literature 2014. Already part of The Significant anthology, but now, I plan to bring out an illustrated version of it.

Rapid Fire Round (The first thought that comes to mind on hearing these words)

a.       Non-violence: Bapu
b.      Principles: Gandhian
c.       Freedom: An uncaged bird.
d.      Pen: The pen is definitely mightier than the sword.
e.      Cotton: Untethered clouds, fluffy and feisty.

About the Author

Although  she has a doctorate in modern political theory, Dr Santosh Bakaya has always been intensely passionate about Literature.   An academician , critic - poet -essayist - novelist , she has made her mark both in prose and poetry. 

Her three mystery novels, [The mystery of the Relic, The mystery of the Jhalana fort and The mystery of the Pine cottage] for young adults were very well received.  Flights from my terrace, her e-book of 58 essays was published on Smashwords in October 2014. Ballad of Bapu, a poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, published by Vitasta publishers, Delhi in 2015, is also being acclaimed internationally. Her essays on Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.have been published in Gandhi Marg, a quarterly journal of GANDHI PEACE FOUNDATION.

Although hailing from Kashmir, India, she stays in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India with her husband and university going daughter.

You will find all her books here:

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