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 2, 2008


The September issue of KRITYA poetry journal is out. Three of my poems are featured in the section "Poetry In Our Times". Follow the link: http://www.kritya.in/0404/En/poetry_at_our_time.html to read the first one titled "Lost Landscape" and then click on "More poems by Nabina Das" to read the rest -- "Buddha's Children" and "Dialogues With Dilli" (you can click on the title of this post too, it'll take you to the relevant page of Kritya).
A very close friend asked me why I chose these three poems, and if there was any link among them at all. At a first glance, the three poems are geographically located in three different places -- Assam, my birthplace; Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, where I did my field-work for a Masters dissertation in Linguistics, and Delhi, where I lived for a decade or so studying first at Jawaharlal Nehru University and then working as a journalist for several years at several places before marrying a 'Delhiite'. The poet's voice, if there is something like that, is personal in "landscape" and "Dilli". When I shared these poems in an informal forum, I was told how the 'pain' of the first got re-generated in the third, in an altered form. The normative gesture of missing a lost landscape (birthplace) and another landscape (home away from home) where I lived for a considerable length of time, is iconized, according to my commentators. A few identified readily with "Dilli" because it is iconic of anybody's uprooting -- if roots are the only 'imagined' links -- from a place of utter familiarity. Nice supposition. But all the while, I contended that Delhi as a city had not enhanced my so-called rootlessness. What it had done is cast my own beliefs and fears into a complex relationship of unfamiliarity that I was ready to understand and to some extent, absorb. Hence, the question: "Dilli do you love me?" And this love is a new love, a grown-up love, somewhat carnal in flavor, as opposed to the sense of love's loss in "Lost Landscape" -- a love that is a child's attachment with her pleasurable as well as reviled things from the past (flute, Borgeets, bloodshed, death); a love that is now anecdotal in her contemporary memory; a love that she doesn't sanctify but showcases for sure. When finally my readers mentioned the words 'love' and 'roots', it was interesting to see the kind of symbiosis the words formed in the context of these two poems.

As for "Buddha's Children", the poetic voice there I think is pretty much a 'fly on the wall'. It's a documentary poem. Perhaps it should have spoken about the beauty of Tawang, the golden monastery, the breathtaking mountains all around, etc., if the poem were to follow a traditional descriptive route. But I'm glad it speaks about the people, the villagers, who make up the spirit of Tawang -- every morning as they trot up in a file along the precarious mountain roads to find work and come back exactly the same way. It's almost a set routine. What is not is the lavish monastery, the cheerful monks and their larder full of grains and food. The latter, therefore, never interested me. The villagers did, while they carried on building roads, scrubbing the Tawang courtyard spanking golden, minding their mules and children, chewing on their paltry meal and waiting patiently for the divine blessing to come.

In the same section of Kritya (second from the bottom), do read the wonderful poems of Vera Zubarev. Also, in the section "In the Name of Poetry", see Eileen Moeller's work. Absolutely refreshing.


Barsha said...

nabina, this is wonderful! They are like a whiff of frsh air! brillian, looking forward to more and to your book.
all the best

fleuve-souterrain said...

Barsha dear
thanks for the time you took to read and then comment. This makes me ever so hopeful of better work ahead.-- Nabs

Bluefins Moonflower said...

Say what Fleuve (I like calling you that)... Dilli is more like my experience. Buddha's kids is very meditative. i wish the first poem, about lost landscape was little more introspective... and give us more!

sunitaB said...

Hey Nabina, way to go girl! you make me so proud! wow! lovely poems i must say...i liked "dilli" the most. you have put Dilli's mentality beautifully in words, and how truly!...i never knew you write such wonderful poems... keep writing and keep rocking girl! it felt so good to read your intro on the site as well...best wishes always and always....

maks said...

Nabina, I read poems after a long time and although I should be the last one to comment on them, I feel they are all very very good :) If I were to choose one among the three, I think I will choose Buddha's Children.

anuradha said...

I Like Buddha's..... those images may never be seen by a madrasi who only twice has taken a straight route to Dilli, east and west of this st. line, i have to depend on poets words, I guess. Indebted truly!

fleuve-souterrain said...

Bluefins, I shall try be more introspective the next time. meanwhile, keep coming to this site!

Sunita, you are in my heart. I left you a message on FB.

Maks! Love that you read them. I trust you to show patience with my work... more later.

Anuradha, it's so important to hear from you. Absolutely necessary, given your own work and range of expertise.

Thank you all!

Mutu said...

I loved Dilli the most. So evocative. Keep writing and sending on comments.