The soldier who writes poetry

He was only 18 while taking part in the Indo-Pak war of 1965. The airman was also at the war-front in Punjab in the 1971 war with Pakistan. He lives a life amidst the thundering sound of fighters, bombers and the rolling Patton tanks.

Despite such a gruelling career, P M Mani is a poet at heart. A glance through ‘Unlike the Sea-bridge’, the first collection of poems published by the retired Airman from Vadakara, depicts this point.

‘Salvation doesn’t come sans sacrifice/ Sacrifice all, except mind’, says Mani in The Link’. ‘Yonder truth no one knows./ He who seeks shall find it here/ Each death, is turning of a page from the book of future’s life,’ the poet describes life and death.

‘A flower can’t refuse by will/ The bees to scent its perfume’, he exhorts to take challenges in life in ‘Hazards’. ‘All things God desires/ Not for anything,/ but For a reason behind/ My birth has become a burden/ For parents to bury their sins,’ he touches the inner heart.

Though joined the Indian Air Force soon after matriculation, Mani never gave up his desire for reading and writing.

“Being a radar operator, I was always on a shift duty. And during free time, I used to read books. Those times, Russian literary works were available for cheap prices.

As I had a diploma in Russian language, I read a lot and used to narrate the stories to my colleagues. Gradually, I gained confidence in writing articles and short poems,” said

Mani, who served IAF for 15 years. He was also an officer with South Malabar Gramin Bank from 1980-2006. Published by Kozhikode-based Spell Books, the book has 34 poems on various topics written on different periods.

The poem ‘War and Wife’, which was written by Mani at Adampur in Punjab during the 1971 war, describes his escape from death. But it ends with a satire with his wife feeling sorrow for not dying the death of a hero. ‘…Enabling her the cash award And for me, a posthumous award’.

“Actually, the first part of the poem was written in 1971 during the war and I was not married then. I completed it after my marriage in 1973,” Mani chuckles.

In the poem ‘An Unidentified Man’, he pays tribute to the unidentified Khalasi of Beypore who died while rescuing people from water during the Kadalundi train mishap.

‘How nice man proposes! How soon God disposes!’ ‘That evening they brought him home/ Chopped into red, red pieces Wrapped in bloody clothes/ Yes Like a Lovely Red Frock/ Through these lines in ‘Red Frock’,” the poet reacts against the gruesome political killings referring to the murder of BJP leader K T Jayakrishnan Master in front of school children.

Rightly pointed out by writer and retired English professor of Government College, Madapally, Kadathanat Narayanan,  in the foreword, “Poetry is not only ‘Best words in the Best order’ but should contain the poet’s attitude to life.

 All the poems of Mani are worth reading, thought provoking and fill our mind with indescribable emotions.”‘Neither I died for me/ Nor for any one/ Then why at all One should die?

Never fight a losing battle/ B’coz you can’t always be a winner’, so says the sexagenarian private English teacher.

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The New Indian Express