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

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This is a very personal poem... I feel infinitely better having it posted for my blog readers. Death, dying, decay etc. have occupied a portion of my mind lately. Hope to derive strength from my readers' supportive reading, so please do comment:

You shirt flutters in the afternoon air
On a clothesline in the yard, sweat evaporating as
You sit under the toiling rotating fan under a humid roof
In your undershirt, smiling.
From you boots (Ma allowed you to keep them on) drop
Dust and grey grass, scatter in the musty breeze
On our living room rug.
Ma couldn't stop exclaiming: boots in this heat, you must be crazy!

You must be crazy, I reflect now,
To take your own life.

We are your little cousins who stare in bubbling adoration
As you tap your boots and strum a lonely guitar
Sing with eyes eying the wooden beams above that define
Our human menagerie, outline the ceiling.

Similar wooden beams where
One day you would sling your shirt in a loop.

Or was it the bright scarf you wore one placid winter
Working on tomatoes in your precious patch?
We giggled around ecstatic in touching the red round forms
And squished ourselves with blood of fruits while you sung.
The tunes stutter in my ears
As though they were butterfly wings broken and stuck
Still throbbing with the music of life that wished to live.
So young, yet you sing of pain! Ma had exclaimed.

You must have been pained
To die while we still hummed your song.

You let me play the strings once
You let me touch your colors that kept you busy through night
I marveled at your sculptures so lifelike
Perhaps life was elsewhere for you, I think.

Love is everything, it’s all up there, you had said winking
Before you were gone that summer day, waving at us kids,
Shirt back on. We practiced the springy steps you taught
And howled to see you go, Hawaiian guitar and all.

‘It’s all up there’ meant nothing to us then
Until we heard you were dead, my dead cousin.

They had brought your body down, flower dangling from a twig
Laid you beside your friendless guitar
Ma told us after many years the meaning of your songs –
He was a child of another world, she said, shy and alone.


Too much to lose said...

An extremely touching piece....I would just like to point out some amazing lines which made me read it again and again....

Sing with eyes eying the wooden beams above that define
Our human menagerie, outline the ceiling.

A definite contrast ....

The tunes stutter in my ears
As though they were butterfly wings broken and stuck
Still throbbing with the music of life that wished to live

An excellent metaphor.....just brings alive the desperation and the pain...

You must have been pained
To die while we still hummed your song.

The level of feelings for a person to commit a particular act against his will leaving back his best creations....


anu said...

So fantastic to adoring children, shy and alone to Ma! Your memories and verses for your cousin are throbbing with life and animation........for such a title.

Uncanny, my thoughts have been on death by suicide of young people.

Ritu said...

This is haunting. "He was a child of another world" .... did she really say that? Truly insightful

tanuj solanki said...


life lay elsewhere for him is a dangerous statement...

fleuve-souterrain said...

THanks so much everyone. Your comments really calm my mind. This was indeed a very favorite cousin of ours, exptremely gifted -- an artist, singer, sculptor, painter -- and god know why he did that. These incidents in the family are usually kept under wraps as if they are shameful secrets, but my take was that because I used to love him so much, I had to write this down and put it out too.

Your comments show me my own poem in new lights:
I guess the word menagerie I used pretty spontaneously but yes, it has summed up our existence, those that live, as opposed to him, who was gone... And crushed butterfly wings, for those who have seen them, can be the only way i could imagine what my cousin must have experienced, in life or death. Whew!

Am glad animation is showing through the verse. the best way I could remember him is by showing what an artist he was, blowing life into music, paintig and sculptures...

You know, i think my mom was the one most hurt at this incident. She loved him like an elder son. When we barely understood what happened, she used to tell us that our cousin was a dreamy child, aways, even when he was a young man, before he took his life...

I know what you mean. Disturbing it is. it took me many many years to know more about my cousin and then write about him. I don;t think I can ever show his parents this poem.

Anonymous said...

i got a lump in my throat as I read each word of your poem ..felt as if I have lost someone my own ..glad I found your link from Subir's ..

Anonymous said...

I had a lump in my throat as I read each word of your poem through misty eyes ...just dont know what to say ..glad I came across your link through Subir's .

joy leftow said...

clearly shows the fragility of life, literally here one moment gone the next.

Rhett said...

wooden beams above that define
Our human menagerie

OMG! Whatta suweet expression of family life.
'friendless guitar' and other expressions were very nice.
I loved it so very much.
BTW, it somehow reminded of the character portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Honky Tonk Man. Seen that movie?

Rhett said...

I'd second Tanuj, too. It was disturbing and in some ways reminded me of me. Now don'yt speculate. he-he.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Kush my friend!
(where have you been this longgggg???)
No, you are way smarter and more drunk on life to pretend to be otherwise!! Your writings are fresh and inspiring. So yes, use this life for pursuing these great virtues you have.

Ok, now sermon over, "human menagerie" is so used to describe the 'caged' existence we have. My cousin uncaged himself, rather shockingly... thanks for liking the metaphors.

Yup have seen HT Man, what a nice movie!