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, August 9, 2008

NFI Northeast Media Exchange Programme Fellows

2000; Shillong, Meghalaya; NFI Northeast Media Exchange Programme Fellows.
Its amazing how a photograph can make you feel good. This one above is taken years ago. At the Northeast Media Fellowship's grand conference held in Shillong by National Foundation for India, one my former employers. Their flagship project used to be advised by Sanjoy Hazarika, the noted journalist and writer from Assam (Fellow, C-NES, New Delhi; he blogs at http://hazarika.c-nes.org/) and at that time was just handed down to me as the media coordinator, from Sunita Bhadauria, my former colleague and a very good friend.
We are standing outside on the front lawn of the famous Pinewood lodge in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. It's sunny and pleasantly warm because of Shillong's calm hilly weather. The only women in the photo are Sunita and I. She is far taller than I am, so you know who's who!
Apart from Sanjoy Hazarika, there are our prominent Media Consultants in this picture -- D N Bezbaruah, former Editor of The Sentinel newspaper in Guwahati, Assam, where I began my journalistic sojourn as a fledgling reporter and subeditor in 1988 (ahem, I'm really that old!); Dileep Chandan, Editor, Asom Bani (affiliated to The Assam Tribune newspaper) in Guwahati, and A J Phillips, another media stalwart.
Of the Fellows from the "Northeast", the one standing next to Sunita (in dark shawl) was from Nagaland. A fine man with a great sense of humor. He told me about his recovery from substance abuse and his experience of violence from insurgency in Nagaland. He had to leave the conference early and I kind of missed him. Also, the Fellow from Manipur, don't remember his name, was apparently an active member of an underground outfit. I used to notice him a lot during our sessions. A very quiet and surly man, he barely spoke or replied to questions. When I tried making a conversation, he told me very briefly how aghast he was at the "incorrect reportings" by the mainstream media in Manipur. I felt I had to apologize on behalf of the "mainstream media". But I was a northeasterner too, I understood his points.
I thought this man will never open up, never really participate in our fantastic sessions because he was such an angry man. Well, at the after-party, I was proven wrong! At that informal gathering at the lovely guesthouse at the majestic Barapani reservoir of the Umiam river, when we began to read poems and sing songs, one of us strumming a guitar, he began humming too. Then clapping. And singing loudly. He even requested me for a particular song (when I told my colleagues with sufficient embarrassment that I tried singing for the radio and TV a couple of times) -- I think, Old Man River. I think I saw his eyes get moist and he quickly turned his face away from my curious gaze.
Subir Ghosh, a fine reporter and writer (married to my former schoolmate Richa Bansal, a journalist too), is standing fourth from the right in the picture. He is the one who posted this memorable photo on his facebook page! Thank you Subir (he blogs at http://www.write2kill.in/ about politics, media and art)!

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