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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Post-Harvest- A Poem

The CSMA Gallery reading on Sept. 27 had very few participants, sigh, perhaps owing to the fact that the Apple Harvest Festival was in full swing outdoors and people preferred being out especially after the nagging rain throughout that morning had finally stopped.

The good thing is that apart from poetry we also talked about different ways of getting folks to read and appreciate poetry and making it a part of an oncoming CSMA project called Arts Marathon where, with a meager donation of $2.62 from individuals, there'd be a workshop on writing 26.2 line poems, etc. etc. It's still in the process of being finalized. More later.

The theme was "apples", the meaning extended. Katharyn Howd Machan, first Poet Laureate of Tompkins County, read several lovely poems from her book Redwing as well as from a chapbook and her little hand-written diary. Mary Beth O'Connor too read some of her very interesting compositions including a great pantoum. Both Katharyn and Mary Beth teach writing up at Ithaca College.

The other participant, Ruth (I missed her last name), read only one, but it kept ringing in our minds. Some other people came and went in between. Later Anu, my scientist-poet friend came in, but she just heard the others (I really hope she reads next time...). Mo was there, naturally, to keep me company! My reading was pretty well-received in that small group. Anyway, one of those, APPLE PIE, is already on Sulekha.com and this other, I'm posting here. Suggestions are welcome, as this happens to be the second or third draft (I have a habit of going through several drafts):


Japanese lanterns or food for thoughts?
Reared and harvested by hands or hoes
Apples – they hang over homely farms
In orchards from Freeville to Candor
Topped in barrels, baked in
Subcutaneous oven stores.
We mix honey and ginger
Proven wonders
Raised from other gardens of calm
Along warm shores
Just so the shades mingle easily with textures
On our tongues and embalm
A toasted taste for which
They please
Our knack for orbs and oblong treats.

My bushel is never full because
I tend to stare more than use my hands
And when it’s over
Others noisily sip coffee they dislike
After the rain leaves splashing on the window of
Little barns where apples clutter
Like dreamy heads.

Meanwhile, the orchard sings alone
Only leaves play with memories.

Katharyn asked me to repeat the two ending lines and said she liked the mood of forlorn. Mary Beth said she liked "Our knack for orbs and oblong treats", which I thought, was a bit heavy-handed.
(I decided not to post the other two because of magazine submission regulations.)


Moonflower said...

okay Fleuve, what I like about this poem is the gradual shift of 'action' and the final plunge into the "forlorn mood". In the first section, there is a sense of hectic activity, rearing, hoeing, harvesting,storing -- subcutaneous oven, yoo hoo! -- from F'ville to C... pretty intense huh, to be involved in transporting, plucking and packing... and then the second portion slows down the flurry and the voice of the poem is already upset that it is is 'post-harvest'... rain lashing while others noisily drink something they detest sums up the detachment too. Apples cluttering like 'dreamy heads' is interesting. Is it the poet or other harvestors that dream, or is it the trees, the orchard. of course, then, we see the lonely orchard. Good job, keep revising it,although I have no other suggestion right now! -- Moon.

Anonymous said...

why call them japanese lanterns?

fleuve-souterrain said...

you are pretty insightful in dissecting the poem... yes as I was writing it, I was slipping into gradual langour of harvesting and life after... to be truthful, I haven;t harvested much, that's what the 2nd portion honestly states, ha ha!

perhaps this is my "anglo-saxon" education seeking some exoticism in calling apples japanese lanterns... I'm kidding. No sure answer there.

anu said...

What can i say? i was scrambling in my head to see an equal affair that Indians might have 'with a fruit' the biblical references, Eve, nature, food..... nothing came to mind, except a mango and some elephant God! Me, I am like :-)....this...

Autumn brings thoughts of spring
not winter.
Old leaves I pick gently
Press between pages with care
Pick the edge of my Saree
To see if it matches color
the rust-green of new leaves.
I come from another planet
In my home,
There is no winter between
old and new leaves.


fleuve-souterrain said...

Anu, terrific!! I want to have this poem on my site as a post. Yes! and then we will talk about it, okay? Ooh, can't wait!

fleuve-souterrain said...

what beautiful thought, the last bit: "There's no winter between/old and new leaves"! And so true. your 'Indian' eyes etch out the seasons you know so poignantly vis a vis the seasons experienced in North America.

And the very color scheme that is 'supposed' to be a marker of autumn is also the marker for spring in the subcontinent! Old is not old, new is perhaps old, just love that analogy.

"Press between pages with care..." is very much the salutation you can give to the spirit of the season. Do we not exclaim always with surprise when we open up our notebooks where leaves are kept pressed, because they still look not-old, almost-green, perhaps rust... but still carrying the memory of the spring-ness of the autumn.

Also, the very sense of movement that you depict in the passage of seasons as well as the physical passing by of the narrator gathering leaves, does delineate the gentle fashion in which time rolls...

I don't say all this because we are friends, this is indeed a lovely composition.

Please consider writing more, for yourself and for all others to read. Poetry may be a private ting, but it is also a source of joy to those that learn to love it.