A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
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page 5    

Haiku in India

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 |

Our new young voices - Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune

– Kala Ramesh

Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts Pune, a constituent of Symbiosis International University, has introduced haiku as one of the subjects offered in their Floating Credits Program. 23 undergraduate students opted for the 30 hour haiku course module. As their guide, I decided to include both haiku and renku in the syllabus. I felt that the link and shift that we employ in renku would help newcomers to grasp the elusive haiku. As part of their final assessment the students were asked to create ‘kigo words’, suitable for Indian seasons, from their own experience:

scorching winds

“My hometown is Baroda, Gujarat - a place where summers are extremely hot. The heat is so dominant that even the winds that blow carry hot currents and when they touch your skin, you feel as if it burnt you. These winds are pretty harmful because exposure to them could cause heat stroke, even dehydration. My kigo word is ‘scorching winds’. ”- Krishna S. Gohil

white rain/naked rain & wood chopping

“Rains without the dark clouds. When it rains in the rainy season without dark clouds, on a bright day full of sunlight, it can be called ‘white/naked rain’. Wood chopping is mostly done in winter season for producing fire to warm the body. So ‘wood chopping’ can be considered as an activity for the winter season” - Disha Upadhayay


“For me the word ‘sharbat’ (sherbet) symbolizes summer and especially the summer holidays when I was in school. This is so because, growing up in Delhi, I have experienced extreme hot summers and sharbat was the first thing I used to have at home after a long day of playing in the sun.” - Vinamra Agarwal

cowdung cakes

“In India, ‘cowdung cakes’ signify late winter in the month of January when people enjoy the festival of harvest. In rural areas, during this time, the ladies of the house use cow dung cakes to ignite the fire and then dance around it. It is auspicious to keep a cow dung cake in the centre of a rangoli (rice flour designs), which is usually drawn everyday outside most traditional Indian homes.” - Lavanya Tadepalli

Each student was required to select the ten best haiku they’d written during the course. Haiku such as these were among those submitted for assessment:

starry night
a soft feeling in my hand
of numberless sands

space Baek Sung Hui
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  winter breeze
rushing through the veins
a numbness

space Kemy Danecha
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    spring winds
the cats try again
to tidy their fur

space Kayva Kavuri
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quarry depth –
pools of green

space Vinamra Agarwal
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Two ginko walks were arranged for the students as part of this module. The first was led by Mr. Kiran Purandare – a nature trail through Taljai hills with bird vocalisation for which he is famous. The second ginko was at the Bhamburda forest. At 5.30 am on 16th February frantic telephone calls got students to their feet!

More haiku were written during and as a result of these ginko:

windy morning –
dry leaves fall between
our conversation

space Disha Upadhyay
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  misty mountains –
the road through valley
a black Nile

space Gokul Krishna
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    bright sunlight
            a shadow beside
the shadow of a friend

space Aviral Gupta
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white mites ...
tunnelling their way through
a city of sand

space Aditi Puri
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10 haiku poems were sent by email to students and they were asked to write a critical appreciation of the haiku they liked best. I did get some outstanding responses:

‘New Year’s Day’

New Year's Day
the center of the chocolate
not what I expected

space Carolyn Hall [1]
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“The phrase ‘New Year’s Day’ immediately suggests that this poem is linked to celebration – celebrating a new beginning, perhaps. It gets us thinking about the kind of celebrations the poet is talking about and whether the connotation is positive or negative. As we read on, the poet shifts our attention towards ‘the center of the chocolate’ which suggests something sweet and builds our expectations. However, we realize that the outcome is utterly disappointing. After reading this haiku, the first thing which came to my mind was that it’s the beginning of a new year, and the poet has certain expectations, probably from someone who is close to her heart and he/she has failed to live up to them. It can also suggest an unexpected rough patch in a new couple’s relationship. Overall, this haiku aroused a lot of curiosity within me and even after it ended; it kept me wondering about what actually went wrong. The poet successfully creates suspense through these lines and the simplicity of words makes it more emphatic.”- Ritika Moolchandani

‘The Thief’

The thief left it behind:
                       the moon
                  at my window

space Ryokan[2]
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“I have chosen the above haiku because the three simple lines have a deep meaning in them. The 10 words clearly define the poet’s thoughts.

The line "the thief left it behind" portrays the backdrop that the thief has come and robbed the house. But he has left something behind. Our minds go into the thought about what he could have left behind. The wild guesses the readers make is the essence of this haiku. The line "the moon at the window" shows that its night and the room is empty. The person can only see the moon at the window and nothing else because the house has been robbed.

This haiku has put across the simplicity of the words used. It clearly shows what the poet is trying to convey. I got inspired by this haiku. Even I have used simple words to write my haiku.” - Kavya Kavuri

‘Migrating Geese’

migrating geese –
the things we thought we needed
darken the garage

space Chad Lee Robinson [3]
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“A flock of migrating geese following their natural instinct to fly south represents an ordered sense of freedom. Humans driven by their need to accumulate material things, end up with a clutter that acts as a weight, holding them in one place. Robinson juxtaposes weightlessness with gravity, while contrasting the image of an illuminated, open sky with the shadowy interior of the garage.” - Aviral Gupta

1. New Year’s Day - The Heron's Nest VIII:2 (2006).
2. The thief left it behind - as translated in The Enlightened Heart : An Anthology of Sacred Poetry (1993) by Stephen Mitchell.
3. migrating geese - The Heron's Nest XIII:1, March 2011