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

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Few Things of Remembrance

Okay, so there's a brothers and sisters festival coming up soon. It is observed mostly in the eastern part of India and is known by two or three different names. I had written the poem below not exactly addressing this sentimental occasion, but generally as a musing about my brother and me when we were kids, and above all, brats. The poem is an exercise in some kiddish recollections... but for a change I like it. Sometimes, a brief vacation from the adult world refreshes me. Hence this me-created nursery rhyme, edited a bit from the existing version on Sulekha.com...

A Few Things of Remembrance

He would always do
such nasty things,

My brother. He'd always upset me.
Once he had snuck open my sketchbook

And doodled a darn bird
That mocked my unruffled

sunrises and gregarious waterfalls

With that cock-a-doodle-doo trick.
Defiant, brash, energetic,

It showed me the lack of sound and movement in my art.

He had secretly scribed it in there with no one watching, not me.
A darn springy little chick.

I got hold of his toy train tracks,

vendetta of course!

And hammered it altogether
Just to make the point that I

did not need a plucky rooster
To animate the heart of my art
However immobile or inert.

I made sure his toy engine would
not puff and rush along like before

My hammer made sure it flattened them all,
a neat rejoinder
Against a scrappy bird mocking my part.

My brother stole my watercolor

tablets the next time

And soaked them well
In a plastic bucket; especially

his favorite ones – red and blue
So he could paint his tiny face
Usually cherubic and chaste.

He chose a droopy holiday
afternoon for the venture

Finding me tired doing those clock-time math
homework and sleepy,
He let the colors run without trace.

I coaxed him into acting in

my dance drama – a ploy –

He was made up as a girl.
Wearing pink frock and frills,

blue liners and painted ruby lips –
A fairy child framed on the walls
Of my Roman Catholic school.

Little did he know how I laughed with
my mischievous friends, called him names,

Punishing him for spoiling my watercolors,
have him dance and jig
Like a girly girl!

My incorrigible sibling stole my

new dolls, actually kidnapped them.

They were barely acquired.
Even before I opened the packing,

examined their tubby face and lace,
Georgette gown and pageboy hair,
Brother and sister –– an adorable pair,

He fed them gumdrops in captivity and
suddenly became a brother to them.

Then realizing something he surrendered to me
Entire cache! How rare!

I would always do this to make

you understand, he mewed:

I thrive in your playthings.
So I took your dolls, rainbow

paintboxes, sketchbook and games
Tiny balls of clay dough clinging
Candy-coloured blocks for building

Our pools of friendship where I’d swim
like a busy fish, with you

In the waters of life that perhaps would
recede steadily everyday

Until our parting.

My brother and I indeed left our

home of tales and so it feels now

I can let him have it all,
Visit it at will with his perky doodles,

funny designs and secret doors
Through where we now travel

To a childhood untroubled,
Every now and then together following

trails that he or I uncannily left

After all fights and quarrels were done and
stolen moments came home
never to double.

Looking at the broken engine, one-legged
carts, dollhouses, cracked fishbowls,

I want to tell him how our silly kiddish
capers now make me smile,

Coming back like dreams
All of it really seems
Coloured leaves we gather as we go on

into a prolonged autumnal spell.


anu said...

Love it, relate to every word and the cascade of memories they bring.......and i have two brothers and they are still doing it, only it is not my toys now, they mock my understanding of the world....with theirs..... :-)

fleuve-souterrain said...

I am sure you've had your share of "brother-some" attention! And sure, I know the feeling even we are grown-ups!

Hey, the Diwali party the other day was swell. Loved the evening. And later, relished the halwa even more!

Sonal said...

Grtgs aftr a very noisy n fun-filled Diwali..!

Just read ur musings.Very real n touching,also like the underground river one tends to flow wid ur poetic flow.


fleuve-souterrain said...

what a surprise, nice to see you in my space. So diwali must have been very good ... I remember aishi's squealings on the phone.
I am glad you like this one, thank you so very much. Hope to see you more here.

tanuj solanki said...

Hello ND!

This is really nice! Made me remember my fights with my cousins :)

How was Diwali?


fleuve-souterrain said...

hey TS
welcome back man! Will visit your blog and let ya know bout my diwali... glad u liked my nursery rhyme!

Joy Leftow said...

Proves how complex sibling relations can be and that they aren't always what they seem from a glance.
Now they're cherished memories to let you know you & he had shared childhood dreams.

Rhett said...

First, a poem that is liked by the author is a very special poem, I think. Special as in of high emotional/spiritual value, or high in some other quality/way. My opinion that.
Next, I liked the alliteration here:
doodled a darn bird
tablets' nostalgic! enough poetry in just these 2 words. and then again, here: 'Tiny balls of clay dough clinging
Candy-coloured blocks for building'. Oh my goodness!
Ends very beautifully. After so much colour, you say, 'coloured leaves' and all that colour so goes in those leaves.

fleuve-souterrain said...

yes these emotions are so priceless!

You really read well. I was told at a writing workshop that to write well, one MUST know to read well. and you have that, naturally. I never paid attention -- although I wrote it, ha ha -- to the signification of coloured leaves, that go off as the season/our life fades slowly away...