neena singh


Haiku is the Soul of Poetry

A book with the above title has been lying on my desk for more than a year. I have opened it several times, but could not make much headway. It contains nearly 200 three-lined poems which have no titles. The poems are not in verse, and they can be recited in one short breath. The author, Ms Neena Singh is a renowned banker who rose very fast in HDFC to the highest level in the hierarchy. Her husband is an equally astute investment expert. In the prime of their careers, the couple decided to quit and since then they have been pursuing social issues. They enjoy a formidable reputation as intellectuals and social service supporters. And that is what impelled me to make repeated attempts to comprehend the form of poetry chosen by Neena Ji, known as Haiku. In this format, the author merely gives you a clue and invites the reader to create the poem. Indeed, these compositions are not meant to be sung or even recited in concerts. And yet, they leave an impact similar to reading ballads. Given below is a scanned image of the cover.

 one breath poetry

A General Introduction to Haiku, Senryu and Tanka. 

A haiku poem in the English language is often written in three short lines and read out aloud in about six seconds. It is written in the present tense, in ordinary language, and works particularly well when two different images are used to spark off each other. The word ‘haiku’ is derived from ‘hokku’ which means starting verse or the opening stanza.

Haiku don’t tell or even describe anything. They allow the reader to enter the poem in their own way. Subtly, the writer dares the reader to discover the truth beneath the whitewash.  They are ideal for non-fiction observations, or as a kind of short-hand for remembering events or incidents. They can be therapeutic since they exercise both the right and the left side of the brain. Traditionally haiku are rooted in natural history and the seasons, and make us co-conspirators with wildlife, as nature half-writes the haiku before we’ve even put pen to paper. Senryu are written in the same format, but the senryu compositions tend to be about human foibles while haiku is about nature. Senryu are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are solemn and earnest. Tankas are similar to both the above formats, but in they are five-lined. When I read a few of these poems, they began to grow on me.

I have been receiving a regular stream of the poet’s compositions in e-mail. More recently, she has begun to embellish the words with pictures. Given below are a few sample pieces out of the many that I have received. I have deliberately chosen to give no label or title to her opuses.






drop on banana leaf 


dragonfly pause


daily morningwalk 



(The picture given below is awaiting words from the author)

 awaited caption


Suppose I was asked to write a Haiku.

I am not a poet and at the age of eighty-one, it is unlikely that I can make headway into this elite category of authors. However, ever since I started reading the above book, I have been toying with the idea of composing a Haiku. After a lot of effort, I cobbled up a few words, inspired by a well-known Urdu couplet. Given below is the result of my amateur effort.

I’m wizened,

but tell lies, if asked

“How’re you, uncle?”



Slowly but surely, I have begun to savour the Haiku format. The Japanese have a way of evoking or even provoking people into action. Their country was ravaged by the Second World War. Two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely devastated. They have built them back, and in the process, they have also taught us how to manage automobiles as well as the electronic industries. More and more poets are using this ‘nano’ form of poetry. I carried out a bit of research on the shortest poems ever written in English. A two-word poem is attributed to the invincible heavy-weight boxer, Mohammed Ali runs as follows:

Me? Whee !!

(The word whee is used to express exhilaration or delight)

Indeed, the shortest inspirational message is contained in the following words:





Copy of the Introductory e-mail :

Dear Friend,

Men of few words have always been held in high esteem and people listen to them with rapt attention when they speak. The same is true of written text, especially poetry. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The Japanese have carried this truism to its ultimate limit while designing the ‘haiku’ format of poems. In this design, the poet is impelled to compose poems whose length does not exceed a dozen words. Indian poets have joined the ilk of haiku writers.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Ms Neena Singh, whose book “One Breath Poetry” has been reviewed in a piece hosted on our website. The link is given below:

We seek your comments.




  1. Arun Mishra says:

    More is invariably less but indeed Less is More .

  2. Zal Kabraji says:

    Zal Kabraji
    Dec 10, 2022, 10:43 PM (14 hours ago)
    to me

    Yes sir–you are very correct & quite a few very famous ones convey a lot of authentic meaning.


  3. Surjit says:

    The word haiku (pronounced hahy-koo) is derived from the Japanese word hokku meaning “starting verse.”
    I find it more than a coincidence that the Mool Mantar of Siri Guru Granth Sahib conforms to this format. I am attaching an image of the sacred words picked up from the Internet.

    • Neena Singh says:

      Dear Surjit Veerji,

      What a beautiful observation! Only an enlightened soul like you could have perceived this as haiku.
      Grateful for your keen observation and perception.

      Warm regards to both of you.

  4. Dave Sood says:

    A great introduction to Haiku. Late in life but enjoyed it .

    I will try



  5. Kirpal Singh says:

    kirpal singh
    Mon, Dec 5, 6:28 AM (1 day ago)
    to Gurpal,

    Dear Sardar sahib,

    Sat Sri Akal,

    I read your mail, the poetry and all the encolours. Your efforts to propagate writing for the average mortal are admirable and praiseworthy. Kindly accept my sincere thanks. I wish you all the success. Maybe one day, I might send you something for your consideration.

    With kind regards,

    Kirpal Singh

  6. Zal Kabraji says:

    Zal Kabraji
    8:44 AM (11 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear General,
    Another good one from you—poetry at its best!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Warm regards,

    • Surjit says:

      However, I personally feel that our own poets, especially Urdu ghazal writers have produced some profound compositions.

  7. Very beautifully narrated , sir love to read the book

  8. Ranjit Lina says:

    Ranjit Lina
    4:37 AM (13 hours ago)
    to me

    Beautiful, Sir.
    Warm regards and best wishes always


  9. Dhiraj Mullick says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for introducing me to this fascinating type of poetry. I find it simple and refreshing. And yes, if we ponder over the lines – they do lead us on to the unexplored bylanes of our imagination.

    I have just placed an order for this book by Ms Neena Singh (on Amazon) and look forward to enjoying it.

    Warm Regards,

  10. Neena Singh says:

    Dear Surjit Veerji,

    What a beautiful surprise to receive your mail. Delighted to read your review of my book—”One Breath Poetry” with images of my published haiku too! You are a wise and generous human being and an extremely talented writer and poet. I am indeed fortunate to have you as a friend and mentor.

    Your introduction is excellent and those who have not heard of it will be enthused to learn more about this genre of poetry.

    Warm regards,

  11. Jasdeep says:

    Amazing way of putting across much beyond what lies just on the surface!

    And love your poem too Uncle – you remain precious to all of us

  12. Maj Gen MPS Kandal says:

    cs Institute of defence and management Bhopal
    10:15 AM (7 hours ago)
    to me

    Different strokes

  13. Lt Gen Raj Mehta says:

    Raj Mehta
    10:04 AM (7 hours ago)
    to me

    Loved it.
    Thanks for sharing.


  14. Shivinder Sindhu LA USA says:

    Shivinder Sindhu
    8:40 AM (8 hours ago)
    to me

    Thank you Surjit Chacha for sharing
    Missing you all
    Love and Regards

  15. Col HS Dhaliwal says:

    Harjit Dhaliwal
    3:28 AM (14 hours ago)
    to me

    Hi General
    Thanks for your email. Liked it very much.
    Tell me more about you and Haiku. Which city do you live in?
    Auckland. New Zealand

  16. Dr BV Prabhu Bengaluru says:

    Prabhu B.V.
    Nov 29, 2022, 9:53 PM (19 hours ago)
    to me


    Thanks for sharing. Quite informative and also well written as always.

    As I read, I just had the imagination of you speaking to me that too in MDC.

    Best Regards / Dr BV Prabhu

  17. Lt Gen RK Gaur says:

    R K Gaur
    Nov 29, 2022, 8:31 PM (20 hours ago)
    to me

    Hearing from you after a very long time dear Surjit.
    Very inspiring and commendable work. Thank you for sharing it.

  18. Col Dr SS Malik says:

    S S Malik
    Tue, Nov 29, 7:10 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Good day Gen,

    Wanted to send you a complimentary copy of my book HiBo,

    If possible may I have your Postal address?

    With regards,


  19. Lt Gen Vijay Madan says:

    Vijay Madan
    Tue, Nov 29, 7:06 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Thanks for sharing.
    ” Very educative,
    Cooling at my age”.
    Vijay Madan.

    • Surjit says:

      You have always carried your years with grace, ever since we saw you in the IMA in 1961. Hope to see you like this until the end of our lives!

  20. MK Aggarwal says:

    maharajkrishan agarwal
    Nov 29, 2022, 6:57 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Gen. Surjit,

    The excerpts of Haiku poetry by Ms Neena Singh sent by you seem like a breath of fresh air. Many congratulations on the splendid work. A picture, it is said, speaks a thousand words. But when captioned by an artist, it acquires ethereal quality.

    As an example of the brevity of thought, let me give an example. Define in one word that is also a sentence. You rack your brain for an answer. But let me whisper the answer to you – it is Marriage.

    Best wishes.

  21. Col Gurkirpal Virk says:

    Gurkirpal Virk
    Nov 29, 2022, 6:43 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Sir
    Nice to hear from you after a long span of time.
    I shall go through the material & revert back to you shortly
    Thanks for sharing.
    Kind regards
    Col Gurkirpal Virk (retd)
    Mob. 9960788371

    • Surjit says:

      Gurkirpal Virk
      Sat, Dec 10, 10:24 PM (15 hours ago)
      to me

      Dear sir
      Apologies for the late reply, perhaps being too heavy, a literary material, beyond the cerebral faculty of a simple foot soldier and more so hailing from a very rustic rural academic life backdrop.
      I feel comprehension of such one-liner hints of life secrets & mysteries are not everyone, a cup of Tea. Yes, they excite you or kindle your imagination and grasp of life,s minute wisdom.
      The poetry material May be challenging for a few curious or alert minds and may go overboard for the vast majority of poem/reading lovers.
      God bless ms Neena Singh’s endeavours towards this poetic imagination height. I can only appreciate her great ideas, and say nothing beyond my humble expertise or wisdom
      May she be blessed for higher literary glories in futurity.
      God speed
      Col Gurkirpal Virk (retd)

  22. NN Bhatia says:

    Narindra Nath Bhatia
    Nov 29, 2022, 6:39 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Very interesting. In my Punjabi’ Haiku’-
    ‘ Tu Chaal,
    Mein Aiyi,
    Ayangi Jaroor’.


    ‘ Tu Chaal,
    Mein Aiya,
    Ayanga Jaroor’.


  23. GANGADHARAN says:

    Appears interesting but it will take time to sink in.

  24. A totally new and refreshing experience.Loved it.Thank you Sir for introducing to Haiku.

    My attempt – Solitude – Soul – Attitude!

  25. niloufer says:

    Love it! You are a talented Haiku poet too.

  26. COL S S MALIK says:

    Just beautiful innovative poetic experience .

    Jai Haiku


  27. J Thomas says:

    Thanks Surjit.

    Me ?

    No poet.

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