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

Friday, May 16, 2008

Walk like a Mexican!

So there was I, flying to the West Coast last year, my first visit that side of this vast landmass we call America. ‘We’ meaning, Americans who travel very little, and the likes of me, not-American, living in the US for some time. A six-year long East Coaster, I was aware of the difference in the weather, culture and sundry other things made accessible knowledge by news, the Internet and the like. I was headed to San Jose to visit my sister-in-law. Mo and I were in the three-seater row with a middle-aged lady by the window side. Now middle age is a tricky word in the American context. She was easily in her fifties but she may not have liked me calling her middle aged if such issues were raised.

It was I think a five-hour long flight with a connection to catch at Minneapolis, Minnesota. I settled down in my seat, the middle seat, feeling good about my California vacation.

The lady on my left smiled. Amiable. She muttered a little when the aircraft took off. Perhaps she was nervous. Then she said to me: “Always this part is the hardest.”
“Yeah.” I nodded.
“How else would I travel back home? It’s too far to drive from North Carolina.”

Yes it is a long drive. In a car-loving, long-driving country, NC to MO would be too much indeed. Although people do things like that. A friend of ours recently had driven from New Mexico to Illinois. Take that!
“I was at my daughter’s,” my co-passenger said.
“Must have been nice.” Polite conversation should never be avoided.
“Yes, so different from Minneapolis. Warm, green!”
“Is it not so in Minneapolis right now?”
“Um, it’s a bit soggy, you know,” she said uncertainly. “So where are you going?”
“San Jose,” I said brightly. “My first West Coast visit.”
“Must be tough to stay away,” she said, a little ambiguous. “From New York City?”
“No, no. We are from Ithaca, not too far from New York actually.”
She nodded although it didn’t appear that she knew about Ithaca.
“Working or studying?”
“Both. We live in the Cornell University campus.” I went on to explain about our Ivy League shelter without lacing my talk with any arrogance.
“That’s a good college, I’ve heard about it.”
Who hasn’t?
“Your English is very good.”
I knew it wasn’t bad. But to be reminded was nice. Thank you.
“Do you feel at home?” It was so kind of her to ask that.
“We try to be cheerful. You know, miss the food at times, or festivals.”
“But to go back to Mexico must be exciting! Maybe I should take a trip there.”

No, what? She said Mexico. I heard her right. She thought I was Mexican.

“Er, I’m going to San Jose. That’s California.”
She shook her head. Gave a benevolent smile. I doubt if she realized I was trying to correct her.
“You must visit Minneapolis some day.” The plane was landing and she pointed out the sprawling flat city skewing on the horizon. “It has a twin city. And there are nice spots to vacation close to these cities. Lakes, camping grounds.”
I certainly will note that down. I love lakes although I haven’t camped much.

We ran along the terminal. She said her sister would be there to pick her up. My connecting flight to San Jose was waiting to leave soon.

“Bye then, enjoy your stay in Mexico!”
“Thank you. Bye! Enjoy back in Minneapolis. By the way – ” I wanted to tell her again I was headed to California and that I was Indian. Oh well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that is so weird! adios amigos...