Book review: 101 Haiku by Dinesh Raheja

Gaurav Achpalea

Just in time before the year ends, we happened to stumble upon a book named – 101 Haiku. The book is authored by Dinesh Raheja, and it isn’t common to find a haiku book penned by an author of Indian origin. If that wasn’t enough to grab our attention, the book cover mentioned that it has a foreword by Vidya Balan. So we picked the book to confirm if it is the Vidya Balan of Bollywood fame whose foreword is said to be mentioned on the cover. And guess what, we weren’t misled or disappointed as the book had a foreword by Bollywood actress Vidya Balan. By this time, we started to think that this book is a combination of rare occurrences! The first being an Indian author penning down haikus and second being a Bollywood star writing a foreword for a poetry book that isn’t authored by another Bollywood actor.

Now, for the uninitiated, haiku is a term that might sound alien to you. So what exactly is haiku? Well, to answer it in a desi layman style, when Japanese first wanted to do some shayari they ended up calling it haiku. That said, it is important to know that the Japanese also set some rules for haiku poets. These rules can be described to be, a non-rhyming three line poetry of 5-7-5 syllables. While such rules might seem to curb the creative freedom of poets at first glance, they actually add a unique sense of beauty to this popular minimalistic form of  Japanese poetry.

Now that you know a little about the book and its content, let’s dive a bit deeper into it. Dinesh Raheja, the author of this book has been a journalist, author, poet and screenplay writer for the past 34 years. He is a self-confessed admirer of the Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). As mentioned in the introduction of the book, it wasn’t long ago that Raheja got introduced to the world of haiku and this is his first attempt at it. After having instantly fallen in love with haiku since introduction, Raheja further mentions that he used to write one haiku a day from the time he got the idea of authoring this book. He also mentioned that at first, he used to work on software programs available over the internet in order to keep a count of syllables, but that wasn’t long before he could keep a count of syllables all by himself.  

The first ever haiku he penned is –

drops blur window panes
pain stains the walls of the heart…
wipe them, wait for rain

Vidya Balan in her foreword states, “Happily, what charmed me about the 12 haiku that Dinesh initially shared with me was their alluring simplicity – the crisp three-line poems were easily comprehensible yet profound.”

Her favourite haiku from the book, the one that she found to be ‘particularly evocative’ is –

goldfish in a bowl
opened a Facebook account
she loves the spotlight

The book shares haiku on human life and almost everything that surrounds it. If you are new to haiku, then this might be the book you would want to first pick up, as the writer himself has made a humble first attempt in haiku writing with this book. This shall ensure that you get well acquainted with haikus, before you pick up the extremely profound ones written by Japanese masters. Overall, this one is definitely a read worth your spare time.

We would like to sum up this book review by sharing three haikus from the book, that we found to be impressive, intriguing and thought provoking.

the wilted daisy
floats in the river Ganges…
desires salvation

he stands on one foot
the wise and ancient yogi –
the pink flamingo

the boat has set sail
for a planned destination…
winds will change its course

– editor@thebigbinge.com


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