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

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This is taken from the SACW dispatch that I receive by e-mail:

-- by Badri Raina

Agreed you were Adi Indians,
Long before the Aryans came;
Agreed we made you Dalit
To set off the conqueror’s name.
Agreed you are illiterate,
Agreed you have no say;
Agreed you are untouchable,
Agreed you are kept at bay.
Agreed that our development
Makes you resentful, red;
Agreed, in fact, we prosper
Upon your sweat and blood.
Agreed we rape your women,
Agreed we stray, at worst;
Agreed you may not use our wells
To quench your low-born thirst.
Agreed our Constitution
Is ours and ours alone;
Agreed our hallowed temples
Will not let you in.
Agreed your land, your forest
We grab, we chop, we burn;
Agreed our banks, our markets
Will never serve your turn.
Even so, your villainous move
To leave the Hindu fold –
How could we ever forgive you
Betrayal so beastly, bold?
Go tell these priests who dupe you
That all plants, animals, men
Were created Sanaatan Hindus
The minute the world began.
Do you then prefer Christian ease
To family atrocity?
How traitorous, how ungodly
Can this world of vermin be!

The sarcasm is clean and ringing! For Badri Raina's writings, go to Badri's ZSpace Page >> at zmag.org.

On this note, it is astounding that the Indian Cabinet is divided on the demand for ban on VHP-Bajrang Dal-Sangh. More evidence is needed, is the refrain. Aghast as I am, I hope more evidence piles up from the rightwing outfit's past exploits. What's been going on in Orissa in the past few weeks, is only a glimpse into the dark deeds of the Sangh Parivar practised and honed through years (Gujarat is the golden age... Nanavati may not agree). Combined with it is the issues confronting the Dalit community and other under-privileged citizens of India and also the "intervention" by Maoist groups in rural areas of Orissa and Karnataka. India has a huge challenge here, only a rising GDP and a booming stock market does not guarantee smooth business while other matters remain highly discordant.

A lot has already been written about it ... but the "encounters" in Jamia Nagar in Delhi (pic below) after the recent bomb blasts have naturally put another community more blatantly under the scanner than ever -- the Muslims of India. Two young men and a police officer had died in the shootouts. It is said the bullet that killed the officer is not being found. Why? How do we then know who killed him -- terrorists or his own men or a stray or a ricocheted bullet? Do we remember in broad daylight in Delhi some years ago, police had gunned down two men on the suspicion of being dangerous antisocials? The whole case has been turned over and the dead men found not guilty! Forget that the police actually had planted "evidence" that these men were real targets and ultimately they were punished by the court. And wasn't there a report about the police faking tomato ketchup as blood to 'create' encounter scenes and have medals awarded to themselves? What encounters are these anyway?
I'm not trying to blame the police. The sodden force must be under Himalayan pressure. I just wonder what 'intelligence' leads to such incidents.
And oh, the name "Indian Mujahideen" is really popular now. Apparently they masterminded these blasts. So now there's an identity tag to it -- Indian -- as opposed to let's say Afghan Mujahideen or Pakistani Mujahideen!! Nationalism in terrorism at last, may I say?!


Moonflower said...

like Badri Raina's poem... didn;t know he wrote poems! Mostly his political writings I've read. Share your frustration on the 'encounters'...majoritarian rule, is it?

anu said...

Hi Nabina,
does poetry have the power to change ? words like Badri's should, isn't it?.........and did you read Mukul's take on the encounter? http://castory.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/mukul-kesavan-on-jamia-miilia-islamia-and-the-encounter-killings-of-students/
some days i just want to escape with a m&b happy ending book.....and stay there.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Moonflower sweetheart,
majoritarian rule for sure, and let me warn it can pose a huge danger we are flirting with right now. Ghettoization of Muslims is not just the concern. In the passing I mention Maoist 'interventions' in the context of Orissa where predominantly Dalits are at the receving end from either sides... Hitler's golden Germany was the result of majoritarian influence, and the world knows, not a happy one with millions frying in the oven and the world embroiled in a war. India must wake up.

fleuve-souterrain said...

I believe in poetry and its powers more than in any magic mantras! Spanish poet Lorca was murdered by the then fascist government who said Lorca's poems had cause more damage than any guns...

Yes I read Mukul Kesavan... see the points on which every thinking person is agreeing is that somewhere there's a slip between the cup and the lip. That has to be clearly stated. Takes time, unfortunately.

Happy-ending books, I love them! I mean nothing like Bollywood for that matter. Then, dreamboats too face storms, right? oops, I'm just waxing blankly eloquent!