Vinita Agrawal on
Dances with The Cranes: Poems on Reincarnation
by Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi SM, VSM (Retd)
Pilgrims Publishing, Varanasi
Price Rs. 245/-
A poetic flight of mysticism
Dances with The Cranes - a book of poems written by Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi SM, VSM (Retd) is themed around reincarnation. All 66 poems in the book revolve around the mystical, magical personal experiences that Maj. Gen Bakshi has had relating to the transmigration of the soul. He shares these experiences in the prologue of the book. His unabashed confessions of self-discovery in a remote area of North Sikkim where the acrid smell of burning Rhododendron leaves wafting from a copper urn nailed the vague yearnings he had had all his life for the Himalayan Mountains. It was later pronounced by the Ying Ma Pa sect Head Lama Thin Ley Dorjey that the army man was a reincarnation of a Tibetan Lama from many lives ago. The announcement not only brought a deep feeling of homecoming in Maj. Gen. Bakshi’s mind but also gave birth to his book of poems. The book’s title has an apt reference to cranes because in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, migratory black necked cranes – the Grus Nigricolis - are believed to be the best motif of rebirth. The metaphor of transmigration springs from the migratory flight of these birds year after year.
...Black wings appear
They come year
to our valley
in the Hermit Kingdom
even as they come
from life to life
in our dreams.
The book starts with the poem called 'Dragon Kingdom'. Through this and a host of other poems, the poet’s words demonstrate a magnitude of insights on the cosmic cycle. The poetry is as fascinating as the subjects it delves into. Rich images of all things natural – birds, mountains, rivers, hues of precious gemstones and myriad foods are embroiled in the stanzas in a way that leave one slightly breathless. This retired army man’s poems make the reader yearn to grope into the mysteries of where they belong, who they really are… Lines such as
...do all birds sing but once to the full moon or is it the tune that waxes and wanes there, then and here again and again
Meals made of moon dust and the pale ambience of many moonbeams
lend a other-worldly charm and texture to the verses in the book. They ensnare and transport the reader into another dimension of time. This ethereal quality of Maj. Gen. Bakshi’s poems sets him apart from the genre of the flat, trifling, unemotional writing that is the hallmark of contemporary modern poetry.
Coming from the pen of a man whose hands have hitherto wielded only guns and cannons (Maj Gen. Bakshi has seen many years of combat and has had many near brushes with death), Dances with The Cranes is an incredibly imaginative and creative body of work. It brings to the fore the sheer sensitivity, artistry and spirituality of a man who many would not have believed was capable of such delicate thoughts because he belonged to a rough and tough cadre.
The language used is simple but imaginative – 'Prayers rise like foam to the heavens' to quote just one line. The poet makes a trademark use of the proverbial benefits of brevity. Most of the poems are under 10 lines and carry an average of three words in a line – such a short – form of poetry is an added impetus to read the book cover to cover for the readers.
As Krishna Srinivas, President of the World Poetry Society and Editor of Poet Magazine says in the Foreword to the book: '...all those vexed with the mysterious march of events in everydayness, craving for liberation from moral colican get solace in the poet’s poems'.
The pensiveness of human life is reflected in the following verse contained in the book:
The self migrates
It flies from life to life
Sparks migrate from fire to fire.
While the subject of reincarnation is understandably a matter of one’s belief, the power of these poems to stir the human mind is unquestionable. The poems per se may not lead us to salvation but they do permit us to link hands with someone who set out to meet his destiny and did not return empty-handed. The book brings home the age-old tenet of our soul being permanent even though its outer form may keep changing.
It would be fitting to quote the last few lines of one of his poems titled 'Two Golden Oreoles':
...One bird was free
from the cycle of births
The other returned
again and again
to the Tree.
Vinita Agrawal © 2011