Some poets, with their exceptional world view and imagination, present a richness of experience that has an irresistible appeal. Some are explicitly emotional, somber, and haunting with their intensely truthful appeal. Some are modest in putting across experiences that strike a sympathetic chord in fellow beings. Kausthub Desikachar's Footsteps in the Heart fits eminently into such a category.
Desikachar's is a short anthology of 36 passionate lyrics born “out of his garden full of memories” which represent the most significant experiences in his life's journey. For him, as for most others who took inspiration from the countryside and nature, poetry is the most intimate mode of expression. In this sense, he fits into an easy comparison with the Georgian poets, a group of British poets of the early 20th century who wished to compose lyrics that would reach out to the lay reading public.
The title piece is typical of this brand of poems. When the poet is overcome with shame, when the joys of life had left him forlorn, a little angel lit the fire of life dispelling the darkness that had enveloped him. It is a simple lyric in four stanzas, with rhyming end-stopped lines. Twelve poems deal with the theme of love, all expressed in abstractions. They elude the grasp of the reader, for they appear as vague musings without any experience being concretised.
The other themes the poet is happy with are peace, patience, silence, death, faith and friendship. The poem, “one, two and three” in five stanzas speaks of the poet's longing for his sweetheart. The use of such homely expressions as hands, breath, knee, and heart help in reinforcing the idea of organic unity, with the refrain, “our love is as simple as one, two and three,” emphasising the uncomplicated nature of the love that gives as much as it demands. Which is what makes the poem memorable.
The contemplative lyric ‘death' is decidedly among the best in this collection. Death has always been the most desired theme of poets in any language. In five-line stanzas, with alternating long and short lines, Desikachar's lyric takes us on the soul's journey through the cycle of life recounting the various stages: death as change; death as transition; death as journey; death as acceptance; death as revelation; death as fusion; and finally death as a beginning.
The final stanza reminds one of arguably the best rumination on death by the 18th century theologian Joseph Blanco White named To Night that concludes with the telling rhyming couplet: Why do we then shun death with such strife?/If Light can thus deceive wherefore not Life? Desikachar is endowed with a rare poetic faculty that is capable of capturing and treasuring some of the best moments that tend to slip away and escape into realms unknown.
The lyrics in this anthology — intensely truthful and explicitly emotional — trigger our thoughts, taking us to lofty heights of joyful reflections.