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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout Tale from A Dump-Headed Village

Here's an interesting folktale:

Once upon a time, there was this group of moneylenders and shopkeepers who resided in a village somewhere in one obscure part of the world where people barely knew how the east was different from the west or north from the south. Although these folks did not bicker much about these issues, neither were they interested to know from where their food and articles of daily use came from, whether they had enough doctors or medicines in case they needed them or if their schools were teaching them stuff that would help them find stable jobs, have homes and later, a safe retired life. These were good people in this village, but because they truly believed the earth was flat, they rarely dared to go out far for fear of getting toppled at the edge.

The moneylenders and shopkeepers meanwhile, assured the good folks that they did not need to venture out far as everything the villagers wanted could be provided by this bunch of enterprising business people.

This is how it continued for several years until when one of the shopkeepers called E simply collapsed and people were surprised to find out that E had been indulging in bad business ethics, in essence, lying and cheating. This probably gave him heartburn and colon cancer, a deadly combination.

All that scandal was discussed animatedly but forgotten quite soon as other interesting things like an attack by a foreign enemy took place on the unsuspecting village. Laws, lifestyles and lot of other things changed owing to this dastardly incident. The village head was elected a second time and he led his army into another faraway village to punish the allies of the attackers. That war still rages today and costs a lot for the innocent inhabitants of our little village, but then, WTF, patriotism first, though our simple villagers.

To cut to the chase, very recently, the moneylenders and shopkeepers who have been regulating very important aspects of public life, business and politics, as well as funding the wars and several such important projects, found themselves without the expected returns. It appeared that the villagers were unable to pay back to the business community as per the high interest rates charged. Because the villagers did not have enough good jobs, enough assets and savings, also enough security that might prompt them to do timely paybacks. This despite the fact that the villagers often worked overtime, at two or more jobs, barely finished education or had little in healthcare or vacations.

So, when this situation continued, one by one the moneylenders and shopkeepers started to declare themselves "defunct" and asked the village head to bail them out. The amount they asked for was several times more than they could have spent in healthcare, education or environment for all these many years. Quite a few villagers found this a big joke and even protested. All that money the business community demanded was after all, supposed to be the money villagers paid in taxes so they could have improved governance. Some even pointed out the case of E, when it had gone bankrupt, causing irreparable harm to many villagers, taking their money with it. However, many others did not even understand what was going on and they thought the business folks must be re-instated. This is because the defaulters "constituted" the village economy.

Secretly, the moneylenders and shopkeepers were happy that nothing majorly punitive or critical was thrown their way. Even if they had lost out a bit, their core asset was intact and their leaders could still take home plump salaries, go for Caribbean cruises and buy land in Hawaii. After all, the villagers still believed in them. Goodfellas.

I'm stopping my folklore here. Because I ain't no crystal gazer. If the people of this village don't learn any lesson from this crisis, they sure are suckers for everything devious. Or else, it's chow-time again dudes!


Anonymous said...

aw come on, this is too simply put... while you write your fable, the bailout is happening, for the larger good.

anu said...

me alien in this village, landed on the side of the simple types and am learning a lot........if my ship had landed on the shopkeepers side i would have learned, earned, bailed out to buy land back in space ..... maybe, maybe not......alien and all, still very green, you know!!

fleuve-souterrain said...

Hail Anon!
the bailout failed out... well don't blame me. apparently more anti-votes were from the GOPpers. WBTW,wy don't you write a name for yourself next time? Just create one, a folksy one like Steely Steve or Poison Ivy if you are a woman...

fleuve-souterrain said...

me too me too... so alien that the folktale had to be stopped at such a critical juncture! And now we are all watching the news to see how market may undermine ordinary people's lives, still.