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).

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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.

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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.

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"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


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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.
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'"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.
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"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, October 21, 2008

TUPELO HONEY-- a poem by JOY LEFTOW

This is one of my favorite poems by Joy Leftow. Read more at http://joyleftowsblog.blogspot.com/ (clicking on the title too will take you to her blog)

JoAnne is one tough broad,
Italian Irish descent
from the Northeast Bronx
Through sacrifice and dedication
JoAnne is now a nurse at
Presbyterian Medical Center
***
This is her story
bout a methadone baby
born addicted
on JoAnne’s ward
This boy had tupelo
honey colored skin,
and hazel brown,
almond eyes
Birth mama’s blond and curly haired
A blue eyed Nuyorican
Daddy is a dark skinned African
***
Mama named the baby Shonequon
The nurses called him “Sweet”
Sweet’s a boarder baby who
lived on the ward
for 2 and a half months
BCW tryin to decide
what to do with that tiny
methadone addicted baby
***
Now me amiga esta sin ninos
she has no children
e quiere uno mucho
she wants one very badly
so she fell in love with Sweet
talked about him constantly
***
JoAnne said,
Sweet is cryin all the time
He holds his body rigid
his cryin is so fitful
Kindled by the pain
cause Sweet’s addicted to meth
and this is how he sounds
eeehhhhhh
eeeehhhhhh
eeeehhhhhh
eeehhhhhh
***
Sweet’s tiny fists
are always clenched
his spindly arms crossing
his scrawny chest
This baby can’t relax!
He’s got a monkey on his back
Sweet’s addicted to meth
***
The Doctor confides
he wishes he could
keep Sweet tranquilized
cause he’s screamin so fretfully
eeehhhhhh
eeehhhhhh
eeehhhhhh
***
JoAnne loves to nurture Sweet
She embraces him reverently
comforts him with the rhythm of her heart
she whispers soothing sounds
cajolingly,
***
her voice falls like soft waves
caresses tender hollows
of his frail anatomy
her soft warm breath
glides down his velvet neck
Sweet responds with purring sounds
***
JoAnne’s gentle devotions
linger on
like a mango blossom’s scent
fragrant on a breeze
Sweet watches her giddily
clinging with his
tightly gripped fists
***
Yesterday Sweet smiled for the
very first time
JoAnne bragged
as though he were her own
Sweet, my boarder baby
is delayed in his response
and yesterday was the
first time
God graced me with his smile
***
Her eyes rimmed with blurring droplets
Dewdrops silhouette
I love him, she said
I want him to be mine
***
Even though he’s HIV
and surely won’t survive
I want him to be mine
***
Child Welfare lets his Mama visit
she hardly came at all
Daddy was there
mostly every day
but he was always drunk
***
Today they let her come and
take my Sweet away
Honey, JoAnne said,
This baby’s in a lot of pain
he suffers from anxiety
***
You don’t have to hold him
24 and 7,
but you need to let him
see your face
smiling, talking
into his
***
Sweet’s Mama answered
I know mucho more than you do
let me tell you somethin’
You don’t know what I been through
All my kids are born on meth
and that’s the way it’s always been
***
The baby started fussin’ then
his spindly arms
clenched across
his scrawny chest
eeehhhhhh
eeehhhhh
eeehhhhhh
***
Sweet opened up his eyes
and focused on JoAnne
reaching out his scrawny arms
***
But Mama reached the baby first
and took him from his crib
Esta te quieto, nino
she said as she rocked him
dispiritedly
to her methadone beat
Esta te quieto, nino
***
It’s gonna be okay Mama said
Grandma said she’s gonna help,
She’s carin’ for my other five
My oldest girl’s gonna be there too
And like I told ya,
All my kids are born on meth
And that’s the way it’s always been,
but we know how to get by.
***
"Floodlight Reflection" and "Autumn Breezes" are among the other poems that I like on Joy's blog, also "Mimicking Marguerite Duras: A Tribute ". So, go there, and imerse yourselves, dear readers.

2 comments:

fleuve-souterrain said...

Finding Joy Leftow was a sudden grace that was heaped on me. She is a wonderful poet, a great benefactor and spreads love around for everyone she gets to know, even if it is a recent acquaintance. Poet, lyricist, essayist, she is Washignton Heights poet laureate and is a vibrant face of the NYC poetry scene... As soon as I read Tupelo honey, the stark reality of the poem struck me... an easy narrative tells this story about an infant born meth-addicted and it takes us to silently wonder how poetry can capture life, rude, unkind life so vividly.

Love the stanza:
"But Mama reached the baby first
and took him from his crib
Esta te quieto, nino
she said as she rocked him
dispiritedly
to her methadone beat
Esta te quieto, nino"

Rhett said...

I love this poem, too. The style is very original. To write beautifully in free verse is a sure mark of talent. She's a great writer.