About FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA (Cedar Books, New Delhi); By Nabina Das

"Fittingly for a poet, Nabina’s novel also has a strong lyrical core. 'Footprints in the Bajra' takes the homely image of the millet field as its central metaphor. ... But the novel is less a thriller about guerrilla action than a subtly colored character study of a fascinating group of individuals who intersect at various points in their lives ..." -- DEBRA CASTILLO, author, editor and distinguished professor (Cornell University, April 17, 2010).

Footprints in the Bajra is a serious book that moves at a smart uncontrived pace. It voices deep concerns about how and why the deprived and the marginalized in certain parts of our country join the Maoist ranks; how they adopt desperate and often terrible measures to wrench justice and to make their voices heard... a confident debut novel, a good read, which will leave you with plenty to mull over. -- PRITI AISOLA, author (See Paris for Me, Penguin-India, 2009) in DANSE MACABRE XXXIV.

In her debut novel, Nabina Das writes about an India where social divides stand taller than multistoried shopping malls. Footprints in the Bajra, inspired by what she saw while touring the interiors of Bihar as part of a travelling theatre group, inquires into why the Maoists have an influence over a large section of Indian society. Das talked to Uttara Choudhury in New York about her book, and its protagonist Muskaan -- DAILY NEWS AND ANALYSIS, Mumbai, March 28, 2010.


"The interspersion of references from both the West and India do not clash. Shakespeare and Lazarus as reference points are brought in with ease, as also Valmiki and Goddess Chhinnamasta, and nothing jars ... The language is poetic and creates visual images of beauty and ugliness side by side." -- ABHA IYENGAR, poet (Yearnings: Serene Woods, 2010) and fiction writer in MUSE INDIA, May-Jun 2010

Shwetank Dubey says Nabina Das ably recreates the milieu of Maoist-infested regions of India -- Nabina Das has chosen the first person account of narrating a story from the main characters of the novel, Nora the sheherwali (urban dweller), Muskaan the rebel, Suryakant Sahay the crafty clandestine planner and Avadhut the frontrunner of all the operations... the book deals with something that no urban resident is bound to know on his own — the life and times of people living in Maoist infested areas and why do they give in to the temptation provided by the Red Brigade. -- PIONEER newspaper, April 25, 2010.
'"If you misrepresent them, they'll abduct and kill you," says Muskaan, our hostess'... goes the first line with which Nabina Das settles everything about her novel -- style, subject and pace... Excellent plotline. Wonderful detail. A beautifully crafted book. -- Karunamay Sinha; THE STATESMAN, Sunday supplement "8th Day", May 16, 2010.

"This is bitter-sweet, if a rather longish tale of a modern-day Maoist revolution and the seeds of destruction and betrayal that lie embedded in it." -- Business World, May 17, 2010

Monday, January 14, 2008

Whispers in the Attic


That’s a place
Where I saw
Summer-grown sunrays
Sprinting through a
Colored pane half-shattered,
Not fallen though
Glass not scattered,
Holding time in their hands
Like wooden strips
Chewed by termites
Pockmarked, tattered.

That’s a place
A little cubbyhole
Crammed with crazies
Inhabiting my dreams
From where a child me smelled
Fried eggs sticking
To the pan when
Forgotten in the kitchen
To answer the cat’s mew
For morning milk or
The mynah’s harsh reprimands
For householders not meeting
Her shrill demands.

That’s a place
I grew up dazed
Learning shimmering tales of
Fairies and grandmothers
Waving through photo frames
And crumbling old books
No eyes can decipher.
Memories rose from garden ferns,
Stuck to attic walls
Compelling me to hear
Their endearing calls.

That’s a place
Where days became
Empty unused vessels
Wherein I kept
My loose change
Of imaginations wild.
Surprise, nothing got lost!
Dipping my hands
I would bring them up –
A diver counting cowries,
Lost rings and treasure maps.

That’s a place
From where I heard sounds:
Cautious footsteps leading
Up to hidden stairs,
Screeches of vehicles
In the jolted street,
And derelict shouts;
Rankle of tin cans
Pulled by tiny unruly hands,
A distant roar through the sky
When airplanes flew
Knocking crying birds down
Aged and new.

That’s a place
Where time
Grew in an overarching vine
Leaves peeped at
Knick-knacks strewn
In that crowded spot:
Soiled sunset copper plates,
Sooty ceramic toads
Jostling with broken statues,
Dusty rugs, glimmering pellets –
To me all looked like gold
By the attic window,
But never old.

That’s a place
From where tender
Earthy vistas begun
Unfurling as home or hearth,
Before it all ran away quick
To ride a worldly ship and swim
With dead shells on a salty beach;
Where names became
False while the day sank deep
Down in a valley
Called mind
Inviting afternoon sleeps
And mighty high winds.

That’s a place
From where I did not ever
Want to leave,
Slip out of the broken pane
Like the impudent cat
Or a dusty feather floating off
To be caught
In other cobwebs
Inside aloof homes
And garden troughs
That sudden rains filled.
I needed that attic window
To stay with me
Like my deserted doghouse,
A veritable spot of glee.

That’s a place
I don’t want to go away from,
I don’t want to forget,
I don’t want to forfeit,
I don’t want to be released from
My seat by the broken
Berry-hued pane and junk
Shining like
Accidental fireflies
When the day departs
Breathless with a song,
And the attic window yawns
Like an ancient gong.

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