Saturday, July 15, 2017



SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY:  What does the phrase “Back to roots” mean to you?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: A seed when planted, takes roots and eventually becomes a tree, spreading its branches in all directions. Similarly, human beings are born in a particular environment, they grow, spreading in all directions, and sometimes, leave those environs in search of greener pastures. Just as the roots of the trees go deep down into the earth’s womb, similarly, all of us have our roots in the place of our birth, and no matter how far, we are flung by circumstances, the heart keeps going back to the roots. Back to roots is almost like a melody, which keeps haunting one, until one has gone back to one’s roots. In old age, we often see people yearning to go back to their roots. That haunting melody does not fall silent, until it has prodded one into following its notes. But sometimes, those who go back to their roots, are in for a shock. In their bid to pick up from where they left, they realize that there are no threads to pick up from! But anyway, we are ambulatory human beings, and unlike trees, love to explore new lands, and form new roots elsewhere.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Where are your roots? Have you migrated far from your roots? Why?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: My roots are in Kashmir, it was my dad who migrated from there in the 50’s when he got a lecturer’s job in St. John’s College, Agra, [Uttar Pradesh], later to relocate to Rajasthan University. Relocation can indeed be a very difficult process.  The acclimatization process was indeed very heart-wrenching for my granny. Allow me to reproduce a few lines from an essay in my latest book, Flights from my Terrace, 
The heat of Agra was unbearable; the language was beyond her, the sari was cumbersome, but one day, things changed miraculously.
When the neighbourhood rooster emitted a lusty cock-a-doodle, she almost jumped out of her pheran [a gown that Kashmiris wear in winters], which she had refused to discard even in the sweltering heat of Agra.
 “Oh there are roosters here too!” The serendipitous ardour that now sheathed her wrinkled face was an indication that the acclimatization process had begun.
One fine day, when the donkey brayed, she again jumped out of her pheran! “There are donkeys here too.” She exclaimed in pure joy. A place which had no dearth of braying donkeys and crowing roosters could be no different from her beloved land! The acclimatization process was complete now. The figurative jumping out of the pheran was smoothly followed by the literal jumping out of the pheran!”

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In today’s fast-changing world, is it important to feel “rooted” to something, some place or some culture – or is the feeling just an impediment to progress?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: No, it is definitely not an impediment to progress, it is absolutely important to feel rooted, otherwise we will be forever haunted by rootlessness, but of course, the attachment to one’s roots should not impede one to explore new possibilities and newer avenues.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Do you think the urge to go back to one’s roots is at the root of global political disturbance today? Can you please elaborate your views for us?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: The global political disturbance is indeed a sad truth today .The images of uprooted humanity are indeed blood- curdling, with more than 60 million displaced people haunting the world. History has never been witness to so many displacements across the globe, giving rise to a grave problem: The accommodation of the uprooted population by the host country is indeed posing a great threat to world peace. Not only Syria, but Burundi, Eritrea, and Libya are also facing the crises of migration and it is only natural that uprooted humanity cries for a home, for its roots.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Do you have any such yearning for going back anywhere? Is that your pleasure or pain? We will be happy if you can share it with our readers.

SANTOSH BAKAYA: I have stayed in Kashmir, only erratically although, I have my roots there. Since I never stayed there, the urge to go back to my roots was never there, but yes, my father, had a very strong urge to go back to Kashmir after his superannuation from the University of Rajasthan. And this is exactly what he did. He got his ancestral house renovated and called it The Relic. But since I was born and brought up outside Kashmir , I have found new roots in Rajasthan , but , yes , I dream of the walnut groves , the almond blossoms , the apple orchards , the houseboats , the lakes , the streams and the Lidder River of Kashmir , because all our summer vacations were spent there.  That feeling of belongingness will never go.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: The feeling of being rootless is often equivalent to nostalgia which may be defined as a longing for a home that no longer exists or even one that has never existed. In your opinion, is it a longing for a particular place or a particular time? Can you please explain with some examples if possible?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: It is both. With the passage of time, one tends to get nostalgic about the good old times. Although, it is Kashmir, where I have my roots, after my father’s relocation to Agra first and then to Jaipur, we developed roots in Jaipur, and during my posting in Bharatpur, my heart kept harking back to  Jaipur, and, maybe this overwhelming feeling of nostalgia  pulled me back to our idyllic childhood in Jaipur. My father was nostalgic about Kashmir, his homeland, and I was nostalgic about Jaipur, which had become our home. The first thing that I did, when I got my posting in Jaipur, was that I revisited our old University house, the main thought in my mind being, would the Neem tree under which we spent so many of our childhood years [I spent many happy hours, not only below the tree, but also perched high up on the tree, with a book and an apple!]   be still there. For us, that tree was a metaphor of life, for me, the world rustled in its highest boughs. “In their highest boughs, the world rustles, ‘to quote Hermann Hesse. I don’t think I can describe the feeling, when I saw that neem tree of our childhood still standing in the lawn, as erect as ever, as if waiting for us to come back and begin our childhood antics under it , once again. It was as if, it had also been missing us.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Are your roots in the country or the society you live in? If not, then why? Is it because of political, religious or cultural reasons? Or is it related to your own value system? Please take some time to answer this question and illustrate with examples whenever relevant.

SANTOSH BAKAYA: My roots are in the society I live in, and it is not because of political- cultural – religious reasons, it is because of my attachment to the place where I spent my childhood days.  The springs and winters, the shared camaraderie, the mutuality of childhood pranks, and the love –hate relationship with the peers, that is what has strengthened my roots.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In the country or the society you live in, have you witnessed the ‘Diaspora’ phenomenon? If yes, then in what form? What, according to you, are the main values and concepts shared by a particular Diaspora?

SANTOSH BAKAYA:  A particular diaspora, I believe, is left with divided loyalties, the seniors still crave to go to their roots at times , but the young ones , who are born outside , do not have any affection for the land that their parents left behind. I have seen parents living abroad, trying to instill Indian values in their offspring, to impart the culture of the country of their birth, but they do not feel the same loyalty as their parents, hence are often contemptuous. At times, they simply do not understand their parents ‘love for the land that they left behind. They simply do not identify with the country of their parents, whereas the parents, in their heart of hearts hide two identities, and also want their offspring to feel , at least some loyalty for their roots , but alas, their parents ‘ roots are not their roots .

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In your opinion, is this nostalgia of going back to roots a direct consequence of globalization and technological progress? What are the specific reasons for your opinion?

SANTOSH BAKAYA: In my opinion, it is sheer nostalgia, but sometimes it can be that one is so fed up of the rat race, that one wants to go back to the roots.  The reasons may vary from person to person, but, to me, the pulls of this craving, yearning, this nostalgia, by whatever name it is called, ‘would smell as sweet’, but turn out to be sour. The mind is always harping on those memories, those stories, those dreams, that tree, that eatery, that boy, that tuck –shop – but it is indeed a great shock when one realizes that , on reaching back to reclaim those roots , everything seems to be  changed. This surreality can be quite traumatic. Those moments are long gone, but we keep harking back to them, which can also be regressive in the sense that one again wants to see oneself as that prankster teen, now viscerally cherishing those very moments, one used to scoff at.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Finally, do you think that the concept of ‘back to roots’ is ultimately derogatory to progress and unity in any given country or society? Why?

SANTOSH BAKAYA:   No, definitely not. Some leave their roots in search of greener pastures, but some are uprooted from their home and hearth. My father left his roots in search of better job opportunities, and found a new home in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Till the time of his superannuation , he never thought of going back , but the moment he retired as professor from the university of Rajasthan , the yearning to go back to his roots became so strong a force , that , despite  disapproval from family  , he did not bow down , and was back to his roots . This was not derogatory to unity or progress, but, yes, it did not meet with our approval, it was his adamant stand that ultimately won. These lines of Hermann Hesse have always been there somewhere at the back of my mind: “You are anxious because your path leads you away from mother and home .But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.”----------------------------------------------“It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.”

SANTOSH BAKAYA: An academician - poet -essayist - novelist , Bakaya , recipient of the Reuel Award for literature [2104] for her long poem Oh Hark ! 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. 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. She has also been published and interviewed in Cafe Dissensus and  has contributed in national and international anthologies, like those published by Poets, artists Unplugged [Colours of Refuge and Resonance] many of them having figured in the highly commendable category in Destiny Poets, a U. K based poetry website. Her poetry has also appeared in Learning and Creativity- Silhouette magazine, in Incredible women of India, in an Australia based e-zine, Mind Creative, In Brian Wrixon’s anthology, the online magazine Episteme, [Mumbai], in Setu – an international e-zine published from Pittsburgh, USA. She has co-edited UMBILICAL CHORDS: AN ANTHOLOGY ON PARENTS REMEMBERED, published by Global Fraternity of Poets, Gurgaon, Haryana. Where are the lilacs? [A compilation of her 111 peace poems] was launched in 2016 and is getting rave reviews, so is Flights from my terrace [2017], a book of 58 essays [Authors Press]  Under the Apple Boughs, her second compilation of poems, will soon hit the stands. She has also been a featured poet in Pentasi B World Friendship poetry and was conferred with the Universal Inspirational Poet Award jointly by Pentasi B and the Ghana Government in May 2016. She   also received the INCREDIBLE WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2015 award instituted by The Incredible women of India blog. The Poet Laureate Award instituted by Poetry Society of India was conferred on her for her book Ballad of Bapu, Where are the Lilacs? , and her long poem , Oh Hark !. She received The AAGMAN TEJASWANI AWARD 2017, instituted by the AAGMAN GROUP on International Women's day in Delhi. Although hailing from Kashmir, India, she stays in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India with her husband and university going daughter.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen


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