This analysis delves into Bina Sarkar Ellias’ Haiku collection “Ukiyo-e days…Haiku Moments.” It explores themes of mindfulness, human existence, and the interplay of simplicity and complexity. The haikus are enriched by references to Wole Soyinka, “Game of Thrones,” and philosophical concepts, bridging gaps between worlds and epochs. With period paintings, the collection becomes a poignant exploration of life’s intricate tapestry.
The prime necessity of a book is to make us visualize the world that lives inside us. The writer is just a medium to magnify the cupcakes, closets and corners. Wole Soyinka’s prose poem named ‘Chimes of Silence’ is a rendition of the power of small things. He writes, “At first there is a peep-hole in the living. It sneaks into the yard of lunatics, lifers, violent and violated nerves, cripples, tuberculars, victims of power sadism safely hidden from questions”. Bina Sarkar Ellias’ collection of haiku ‘Ukiyo-e days…Haiku Moments’ works as a peep hole to figure out our refractive wisdom.
Ukiyo simplifies the study of human existence – it literally means to be in the moment, shedding the distractions of life. The monastery of Tawang solidified a lesson in my head: to be in the moment one does not have to go for a reboot. One can simply function by being mindful of everything – it is the best kind of robustness. Bina says the same, through a haiku, using the skill of house cleaning as a metaphor. Buddhist monks are trained to clean the area surrounding their monasteries with a broom to develop the habit of thinking in the presence of a ‘mobile singularity’.
“Clean the dusty world
dust away the grime of hate
wash your dusty heart.”
The whore (appropriations nullifies grief) named Ros of King’s Landing in the show Game of Thrones sets a perfect example of the life where a woman’s body is a component. Little Finger, on the other hand, sells pleasure through their private possession. Ros’s helplessness to quieten her companion’s pain – the way she is pushed away from being in love, sets a contrast from the pride she portrays for being the queen of whores. The courtesan in Bina’s haiku is a poet, and as we know, the write-ups of a brothel either lives longer than anything or dies without being a sound.
The poet writes:
“within the prose
of her pleasure-house living
she breathes poetry.”
Jack Kerouac’s book, ‘The Dhamma Bums’, writes about a journey where the wine tasted better than any advice – steps fermented better than wine – the road led to a place better than the steps – and the lessons were better than the roads of urban civility. Dhamma, according to Buddha, is learnt through four noble truths of life: suffering, cause of suffering, end of suffering, and the path that leads to the end. In the philosophy of Sanatana, Dharma is expressed as Sat-Chit-Ananda (truth or Satya, consciousness or Chitta, and bliss or Sukha/Ananda). The Haiku poet beautifully expresses the same using the ultimate happiness (bliss) of a treasure boat, and writes:
“life’s a brief journey
with beauty and learning
let’s travel with grace.”
We do not write books to quench our ego. We do not even do it to make an impact on our career. Even a trash writer does it to be with people, to find a companion, or to just be. The famous Irish philosopher George Berkley writes: ‘the taste of the apple is neither in the apple itself – the apple cannot taste itself – nor in the mouth of the eater. It requires contact between them’. Words come out of our mind to get to a receptor in someone else’s mind. Bina’s haiku traverses the heights of Goliath and the depths of devouring oceans with the objective of finding a good friend.
“winds fly with our words
across mountains and oceans
freight of kinship.”
Amidst violent upbringings and treacherous social understandings, we have become fond of loss. It affects us only when it gets really personal. The complexity of this scenario is alarming, but the simplicity of its nature is horrifying. It is quite surprising that the shift from our innate innocence to what we consciously turn into never becomes a topic of deep introspection. Thus, modern influencers have positioned themselves as justifiers of rage and flattery. The poet’s appeal to realize the worth of self, and to not be fake ourselves before our own existence is quite sharply warm.
we were not born violent
let’s repair ourselves.”
‘Ukiyo-e days…Haiku Moments’ is, for certain, a collection of compassionate haikus which complement the old and the new world, its order and chaos. But its element of gorgeousness grows with the period paintings, selected by Bina Sarkar Ellias, by various Japanese painters of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Each one of them never fails to coalesce with the write-ups. Its glory emanates from the progressive expressionism of these very underrated painters. Sometimes nature itself likes to keep something hidden, so that it germinates, develops, and dies on its lap – in the most wholesome manner – without any hunger.
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Kabir Deb, a recipient of the Social Journalism Award (2017), the Reuel International Award for Best Upcoming Poet (2019), and the Nissim International Award for Excellence in Literature (2021) for his book Irrfan: His Life, Philosophy and Shades, is based in Karimganj, Assam. He also runs a mental health library named ‘The Pandora’s Box to a Society called Happiness’ in Barak Valley.