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

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's nice to know Meena Kandasamy has found a rather interesting name for the anthology that's going to have my poem among several others. (http://meenu.wordpress.com/2008/07/26/i-finally-found-a-title/#comment-3013) The name is such a one that has been hanging right on the tip of our tongues, it's that simple. Yet, I like it for its beauty and resonance. Also, for a English language poetry collection, this Hindi/Urdu title is very meaningful, full of zing and all that romanticism one can attach with the notion of CITY.

Here you go:


Urban Poetry by Indian Women"

The photograph here is the working cover. The final cover should be uploaded soon for all of us to see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blogging on Sulekha.com

I've been blogging on Sulekha.com for a while now. It's been okay, I'm probably not a prolific blogger, given I have other writings to do. And Sulekha is really huge and it's darn tough to find an author who can be a good read. Well, I don't mean, good writers are too few there, just that the overwhelming number of bloggers make it a huge task finding them. All of us love to think we write well, yes I do, but the truth is, not everybody can engage. Some day I will engage, a vast audience!

Also, it scares me to see the amount of rightwing blogging going on in Sulekha. Some are guarded and covert, but quite a few ones (some among them "longtime" and "prominent" bloggers) are rabid, odious and dangerous.

So did I not find any satisfaction while blogging on Sulekha? No, that's not why I'm writing this post. Quite a good number of people have befriended me on Sulekha, so I am convinced this is a pretty well-connected blogging community. Of all the 10 blogs I've written so far, a few that are worth any remote literary value have been liked by readers.

Three of my poems (actually five in all because one title contains three poems) have been read, commented upon, recommended. Even temporarily featured on the respective blog home pages. Not bad, huh? Although, this doesn't bring my work closer to publishing again. I need to wait, be patient, sharpen my skill and breathe deeply.

So, those Sulekha pages where my work is featured, are:




and (the three-poem set)


Now if you cannot see the pages, it's not my fault. Login to www.sulekha.com and you can probably see them.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Forthcoming: Urban Indian Women Poets' Anthology to Print my Poem in September

I am very happy to announce that my poem, CITYSCAPES, will be published by Frog Book publishers in September 2008 (hopefully without delays)in an anthology of urban Indian women poets. It's a great feeling to be in the company of names like Meena Alexander, Jane Bhandari, Imtiaz Dharker and Rukmini Bhaya Nair. Hey, Rukmini was my teacher at Jawaharlal Nehru University where I did my Masters in Linguistics. She taught us Morphology! And Kamala Das too?? The legendary Kamala Das?

Here's what guest-editor Meena Kandasamy wrote to me in an e-mail:

I loved your poem Cityscapes and it's been selected for our as yet-untitled anthology.
Could you send me a 100 word bio (ignore this if you have already sent it) and your postal address.
We'll mail you the anthology once its released in September.
Thanks for the submission once again, and the patient wait.
I am terribly sorry for getting back to you so late.
It's just that I was stumped with the submissions.
Do you have any title suggestions for this book?


On her blog site (see link in my bloglist ), she posted the details as follows:
"Sixty and Done

July 11, 2008 by Meena Kandasamy (blog by a 24-year-old Tamil woman obsessed with dr.ambedkar’s dream of caste annihilation)

The final line-up
Usha Akella, Meena Alexander, Anoopa Anand, Jane Bhandari, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Sujata Bhatt, Sampurna Chatterjee, Rimi Chatterjee, Pervin Chhapkhanawala, Roselyn D’Mello, Mamang Dai, Kamala Das, Nabina Das, Atreyee Day, Eunice De Souza, Mira Desai, Nandini Dhar, Imitiaz Dharker, Tishani Doshi, Reshma Ghosh, Uddipana Goswami, Anjum Hasan, Abha Iyengar, Mamta Kalia, Meena Kandasamy, Lajwanti Khemlani, Preethi Krishnan, Chicu Lokgariwar, Gayatri Majumdar, Sharanya Manivannan, Meena Menon, Monica Mody, Monidipa Mondal, Anita Nair, Sandhya Nambiar, Suniti Namjoshi, Gopika Nath, Marilyn Noronha, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Meher Pestonji, Joan Pinto, Anuradha Pujar, Ratna Rajaiah, Lekshmy Rajeev, Anupama Raju, Mani Rao, Mukta Sambrani, Bina Sarkar Ellias, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Anindita Sengupta, Shefali Shah Choksi, Yogita Sharma, Menka Shivdasani, Sushmita Srivastava, Arundhati Subramaniam, Pooja Susan Thomas, Sridala Swami, Payal Talreja, Pali Tripathi, Ruth Vanita, Annie Zaidi

I have included the names of the poets from whom I solicited submissions, and the names of the poets who probably decided to give this a try. I think this is just the collection that I have always wanted to read, and that I never imagined I would ever put together. There are a lot of new, new names and I am happy I did that. Someone decided to give me a chance because they liked my way with words and that’s why I am where I am today. So, I haven’t been swung around by established names alone. I loved doing the selections and I love the ones I have handpicked. I did love a few other poets (I mean, their poems), but sometimes the theme didn’t match. And to those who can’t see their names here, I am not sending any rejection mails. If it isn’t here, it isn’t in the book. That’s all. Besides, Sunil Poolani might be using a few great poems that didn’t go into this book for Urban Voice (with the poet’s permission of course). So, it is not a complete rejection, really. Thank you dears for making this so wonderful.

The pre-press will swallow the rest of July and some part of August. The book will be out in early September 2008."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My book pitch a winner at the 2008 Kala Ghoda Literary Festival, Mumbai, India

My book pitch entry became a winner at the 2008 Kala Ghoda Literary Festival, Mumbai, India, early this year. HarperCollins India and Palador publishing houses have expressed their interest in this novel. I have just finished up -- PHEW!! -- revising the 200+ page-long manuscript and have carted it off to HarperCollins India. Hopefully they'll see the sparks of genius in my work. In fact, the preliminary chapters of the novel have won a 2007 Joan Jakobson Scholarship for Fiction from Wesleyan University (where I workshopped it with the writer Josip Novakovich) and a 2007 Julio Lobo Scholarship for Fiction from Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass.
Details below:

Genre(s): Literary Fiction

Violence. Revolutionary passion. Change. FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA is about a young Maoist recruit, Muskaan from Bihar who meets Nora, a student-activist. Muskaan’s transition in belief, aided by Nora, through a series of staggering bloodletting and self-reflection takes her to America, reshaping her radical zeal through her newfound love.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA is a novel about Muskaan, a teenaged girl recruited by Maoists in a remote north Bihar village. Muskaan fiercely clings on to her ideology of change until she comes across Nora, a student-cum-theater activist from Delhi, who has her eyes set on studies and career in the US.

FOOTPRINTS charts the moment of transition – in belief and identity – in the life of Muskaan. It begins with how the young rebel and her comrades, while capitalizing on the presence of Nora and her theater troupe members in Durjanpur, carry out a bloody kidnapping and killing in the outskirts of the village. During this incident, Nora accidentally finds out Muskaan’s radical role – carefully concealed so far. The event pits them together in a new relationship where Muskaan turns into an adversary because of Nora’s exclusive knowledge about their rebel outfit.

Even as Maoists threaten her with death, Nora quietly convinces Muskaan of the possibility of a different world before she is released owing to political pressures from Delhi. Muskaan discovers that her reverence for her foster uncle and mentor Suryakant Sahay and her senior comrade Avadhut fail to pass muster when it comes to representing the real aspirations of the people around her. Her nascent passion for Palash, a comrade-in-arms, also suffers a breach as she finds him to be far situated from the idealistic plane she imagined. Confused yet adamant, she reaches out to Nora who is in New York by this time, studying and working.

Through a series of self-reflection and her lonely struggle to break out of her familiar web of violence and retaliation, Muskaan manages to arrive in the US as a student. All along, Nora’s friendship and support act as her mainstay. Their blooming friendship – even when they are miles apart – reveals to the young rebel a far more radical possibility for changing life, not only for her, but also for her community and society where century-old causes have always generated equally archaic and unsettling effects. Finally, when in love, and in a decisive stage of her life and friendship, Muskaan sees the path to change clearly in front of her. She returns home to follow the path, however forked it is.

This is the story of Muskaan’s bewilderment and untutored enlightenment, about the effects of globalization and its new economic mores spanning from the badlands of Bihar to Delhi’s elite environment and American ivory towers of intellectualism.

Through her new love and tough choices it offers, she sets out to stamp new footprints, this time not steeped in blood, but in intense hope and no less elemental desires to see life-changing dreams come true.