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 2, 2008

Other India Stories: Indians win 'alternative Nobel' --- some recognition?

I would love some comments on the BBC news article: Indians win 'alternative Nobel' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7647718.stm)

During my tenures with NGOs in India, working on projects whose beneficiaries were the under-privileged, most often the human faces that would stare us in the face were Dalits, Tribals and other marginalized sections.

My former employer, the National Foundation for India (NFI) does terrific work with women, especially the Girl Child, and their proposals usually seek to aid both Dalits and Muslims without really determining a target group only by those specific configurations. As astounding as it may sound, the 'other India' is still a humongous mass of people who are not only low-income, but also inevitably low in the caste hierarchy. And it serves no good purpose to ignore any dialogue on this aspect.

The likes of Jagannathan and Krishnammal, from Tamil Nadu, may not be overwhelming in number in India, but there are significant ones who work without any recognition. Besides, how many of our silent crusaders work in order to get an award? At least from my NGO experience I can say, quite a few even have to weather threats posed by unfriendly population, dominant upper-caste groups, apathetic government officials and other infrastructural, monetary and logistical hurdles. The award to the Jagannathan couple is heartening for those of my friends who are trying to promote the condition of India's Dalits, through education, direct intervention, awareness programs and even Internet dissemination of information.

Cannot somehow stop here without remembering Sanjoy Ghosh, who was allegedly abducted and killed while working on Assam's Majuli island (the largest riverine island in the world) working among the locals -- not all Dalits -- to raise awareness about flood management and soil erosion. Some say he was picked up by ULFA, a raging bull on Assam's political landscape. Whether that's true or not, we haven't had another Sanjoy back there, a testimony to the fact that the situation is still terrible for Assam (see Sanjoy's Assam).


Old Man River said...

My dear,
I was reading Sanjoy's Assam and feeling very sad. It is simply beyond ordinary comprehension the way things have been allowed to deteriorate there. Still, there are stories of human boldness as this one and you are very prompt to mark those news.

anu said...

Hey Nabina,
I echo old man river here, how many Sanjays the remote and lost India needs......how often and with such ease this country loses them. Thanks for keeping his message and vision alive by writing about him.
While it is frustrating not to be part of on-the-ground-action......writing is useful and necessary part of activism....This piece also reminds me of a long ago article of yours that i read on the web........About ordinary lives, where you sketched out the life of an ordinary but Extraordinary door-to-door woman entrepreneur. I like your other India series.......see it as the OTHER MEDIA, the much needed one.
keep writing........

fleuve-souterrain said...

thank you Anu! The Other India series just happens to be the stories that concern common public. That article about the woman entrepreneur is a true story, name changed. And all that I wrote there about real life being pushed out by "reel life", is a something that some of us journalists faced like a nightmare. OTHER MEDIA is so needed, I agree.